Archive for December, 2006

So, Christmas and stuff.

This Christmas, my family changed up its plans completely – we celebrated Christmas at my aunt’s house Saturday and, instead of having another ham/stuffing/sweet potatoes Christmas dinner today, we ate tex-mex. Pictorial evidence follows.

Isn’t Chey gorgeous?

You’ll have to excuse me. I’m a proud aunt. I’m proud my sister somehow managed to make such adorable kids. Heh heh.

My present to my sister – I taped a picture of Matthew McConaughey working out on each gift I gave to each of my family members. I also used Precious Moments wrapping paper, just to push her buttons. She accused me of actually paying money for Precious Moments gift wrap. Anyway, her gift is a chocolate fondue fountain, and we would be playing with that right now but we have no chocolate chips.

She gave me a creme brulee kit with ramekins and a kitchen torch. <!!!!!!!!!!!!!!> I don’t have any butane for my kitchen torch, though, so I shall not be playing with it today.

I may play with this, though:

My parents got me this. Aren’t they awesome?

Cheyenne, however, got the coolest present of all.

EZ BAKE OVEN. Yo.

Oh, and a bit more food related… We didn’t cook anything fancy. We used lots of convenience foods for Christmas this year. And we’ve been having a ridiculously excellent time together.

Nice, dark breakfast photo… Here, we have caramel sticky buns, jalapeno cheese sausage pigs in blankets, a pepperjack cheese ball, crackers, muenster, swiss and cheddar. Mm.

And for lunch… We had the ever-present rotel/velveeta dip, chili sauce, chips, mini beef chimichangas, mini chicken/cheese quesadillas, cheese taquitos, beef taquitos, tortillas, refried beans, lettuce, tomato and Stouffer’s chicken enchiladas. Yeah.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and all that jazz!

Try these pita chips. Trust me.

Stacy’s Pita Chips are awesome.

I picked a bag up at lunch today – I got the Simply Naked kind, which means they’re just tasty, crunchy pita chips topped with sea salt. Boy, are they good. They’d be awesome with some good hummus. I urge you to try them. All of you.

I think it’s funny that they have a “Texarkana Hot” flavor.

Baked custard fun

Today, Randi (my sister) and I were flipping through some old cookbooks I’ve recently acquired and found a recipe we were determined to try – baked caramel custard. Sounded easy enough…

First, I caramelized the sugar. Unfortunately, I burned myself along the way.

Never touch caramelizing sugar, says Mr. Potato Scrubby!

I don’t have any ramekins, so we poured our caramel into a 2 quart baking dish (we had 1 and 2, but no 1.5. Grrr).

We replaced half of the milk with Creme Brulee flavored coffee creamer, mostly because we didn’t want to use all of my niece’s “white milk.”

Almost smelled so good I wanted to drink it… but I held back.

Both myself and my sister have problems with leaving things alone while they’re baking. Here, Randi takes a sneak peek at the custard.

After we removed the custard from its hot water bath in the oven, this is what it looked like – and it slid around in the caramelized sugar like crazy.

So we cut it into circles and drizzled the caramel syrup on top of and around it…

And our mother approved!

I’ve always wanted to make custard, and it wasn’t disappointing. We added a little almond extract along with the vanilla, which was a nice flavor, but we think we cooked it too long – the bottom (or top, after we inverted it) was a little too brown. The custard had a nice texture, but it was too thin – if I had ramekins, I’d definitely use those instead.

Baked Caramel Custard

Caramelize 1/2 cup of sugar. Pour a little into each custard cup (or whatever you’re making the custard in). Move cups about so that caramel will coat sides. When caramel is hard, fill cups with custard.

Beat slighty to mix…
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Scald 2 cups milk. Stir into egg mixture. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla if desired.

Pour into 6 custard cups or a 1 1/2 quart baking dish and set in pan of hot water (1 inch deep). Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or just until silver knife inserted 1″ from edge comes out clean (soft center sets as it stands). Immediately remove from heat. Serve cool or chilled in same cups on dessert plates, or unmold and serve.

– Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook, 1956

Oh, eBay…

I’ve been purchasing entirely too many things on eBay lately, including OLD COOKBOOKS! Here’s a smattering of my random purchases:

Here are some random things I have made this week that I do not have photographs for:

  • Almond hazelnut tarts. I made some prepared puff pastry and filled them with a mixture of Nutella, almond filling and flour, and I sprinkled the filling with hazelnuts. They were uber yummy and simple.
  • Lemon donuts with homemade blackberry jam frosting. I used the lemon donut recipe that came with my Donut Express baking pans, and I used some of my mom’s homemade blackberry jam to make frosting. I found the donut recipe quite disappointing, but I ate some of them anyway.
  • Truffles! I didn’t make them the traditional way. I used an old cookbook my mum gave me. The recipe called for Eagle Brand milk, 3/4 cup of cocoa, a half cup of butter and some vanilla. I made them in the microwave. I thought the cocoa powder would make them very bitter, but they were delicious. My guy couldn’t stop eating them, my roommate approved and my coworkers all loved them.
  • Fresh tomatoes and basil (and some seasoning like garlic powder) simmered in some olive oil then tossed with angel hair pasta. The boyfriend tried it and suggested I use sauce, but I was going for something light and fresh tasting, thus the olive oil mixture. I thought it was yummy, at least.
  • Surprise muffins. I took a package of wild berry muffin mix, used buttermilk instead of water to mix them up, stuck a Hershey’s Kiss down inside each one, and sprinkled the tops with brown sugar. Mmm.

My goal from now on is to stop making so much dessert and start making some REAL food.
And now for my Christmas wish list. I don’t really expect to get anything on this list, persay, but it’s fun to pretend and ponder!

Oh, and I’m going to Little Rock tonight.
I miss Little Rock food. I mean, it’s definitely not the culinary hub of the South, but it has a lot more to offer than, say, Texarkana. Like Gaucho’s Brazilian grill, where you can get slice after slice of hot, fresh meat (sounds racy, eh?). And Ciao Baci, the only bar/restaurant I’ve ever been to that has a porch with a PORCH SWING. Hanging out on the porch swing of a bar that looks like a house… such fun. I was underage back then, too. Oh, the Flying Fish, Iriana’s pizza, Gusano’s pizza (can you tell I like pizza?), the crazy little places in the Rivermarket… what’s not to love? Almost makes me want to move back to the Little Rock area. Yes.

I’m not going for the food, though. My former college newspaper editor is throwing a shindig for her significant other, so my roomie and I are driving up there after we leave our respective techy jobs today. We’re off to see the wizard!

Persimmon pudding!

I think I’ve eaten persimmons once in my entire life – when I was a kid, I remember walking down the road with my dad (they live out in the boonies) and eating a persimmon straight from the tree (or from the ground, I guess, if it was ripe). I don’t remember its flavor, but last week during downtime at work I was surfing food blogs and kept seeing PERSIMMONS. I figured if the foodbloggers were using them, they must be in season, so I commissioned my dad for help.

Today we drove out to the lake and found a few persimmon trees. Either people or raccoons had already scavenged most of them, but we managed to gather enough for me to get a cup of persimmon pulp to use in a recipe I found for persimmon pudding. I’m sure it was a comical sight. I followed my dad around with a big bucket while he whacked at high branches with a stick. Eventually we gave up that mode of operation and he just started throwing sticks at the highest branches. Whatever – it worked. Great father-daughter together time!

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Aren’t they wonderfully ugly? I picked out a bunch of persimmon seeds with sticky hands until I had enough pulp.

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I’m not sure if this was more or less difficult than normal… seeing as how I used wild persimmons, or native persimmons, or whatever you want to call them.

I looked up this recipe for Gram’s Persimmon Pudding earlier this week. I chose this one because it focused mainly on the sweet flavor of the persimmons – I didn’t want to add raisins or walnuts or anything else that might detract from their flavor. However, when I made the pudding, I added more cinnamon than it called for, because I’m a cinnamon freak.

The result?
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Even my niece Cheyenne (pictured to the right of the pudding above) liked it – and Cheyenne normally lives on a steady diet of macaroni and cheese and “white milk” (she feels the need to specify whenever she wants a glass of milk. it’s adorable).

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This persimmon pudding is sweet, moist and wonderful. It’d be perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas, depending on when the first frost is (down here in Tejas, it took until last week for the first real freeze). The recipe suggested you bake at 300 for about an hour, but I lopped almost half an hour off the cooking time because it had already set and browned. The middle’s a little moist, and maybe it isn’t supposed to be, but I have a history of underbaking things because I like cookies and such just a mite underdone.

Last night, when I was a bit inebriated in various manners, I attempted to make a sticky toffee pudding and failed horribly. However, the results were still edible and, according to my dad, quite good.

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I know exactly what I did wrong, though, and I’m going to try to make it correctly when I’m completely sober. First of all, it called for dates, but I didn’t have any. I had some frozen dried cherries, and I soaked them in hot water while I mixed up the rest of the pudding and used those instead. As an afterthought I threw in some dried cranberries. When I was preparing the pudding mixture, I didn’t whisk the brown sugar and butter together for a long enough duration. And when I was preparing the sauce, I forgot to add water at first, so the topping you see is crunchy toffee. Still yummy, even if it’s a horrible mistake!

As a side note, I made an interesting grilled cheese Friday night. I used fresh Italian bread, havarti with dill, sliced tomatoes and fresh basil. Now THAT’S a grilled cheese, dammit! My roomie pulled the tomato and basil off hers, but I forgive her.

And I’d provide you with a photo of the DELICIOUS RASPBERRY OATMEAL COOKIE BARS I made last night, but I had a few friends over and, well, they gobbled them all up. I’ll take that as a compliment. I didn’t expect them to be as popular, because instead of using raspberry jam, I used the black currant jam I’ve been saving for a special occasion. I know I’ve never eaten any black currant-flavored baked goods, so I expected my friends to be a bit wary. They weren’t. It was great. Luckily, I have enough to make another batch of those yummy cookie bars. They’re uber simple, you can use any damn kind of jam you please, and apparently people LOVE THEM.

After all our father/daughter togetherness time today, my dad and I went to the grocery store to pick up the sweetened condensed milk I needed for the persimmon pudding, and he said, “Get whatever you want.” He should know better – get whatever I want in the grocery store? I’m young and don’t make a lot of money and am single, so I don’t always have as much money to spend on cooking stuff as I’d like. I did contain myself, but I ended up with some Nutella, baking chocolate, almond and butter and vanilla and lemon extracts, some almond filling, hazelnuts, powdered sugar, dark brown sugar, puff pastry and buttermilk. Oh boy!

Until next time, my friends.

– Cheese on a Stick