Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Not a real update

Well I survived Christmas. My mom has some AA batteries that I am stealing so I can finally start updating with not-gross pictures! Which is good because I have a lot of material I would like to update about. I made Never Bashful's bacon chocolate chip cookies and they were a big hit at my family's xmas eve celebration. And my mother got me a hand-held mixer! I would love to have a stand mixer, but I need to wait until I either graduate college or at least move to a more permanent location instead of moving every 9 or 12 months. Before this I've been mixing everything by hand with a fork (I don't like wisks) or cutting in butter with a knife. I don't mind doing it by hand but now I can easily whip cream or egg whites so yay!

My roommate's birthday is on New Year's Eve and I am thinking of making him a vegan chai cake again. Everyone devoured it last year and I don't know what else to get him since we exchanged Christmas presents a few days ago as well. I don't think he reads this but if he does, oh hey David! Act surprised on Monday, alright?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No-Tuna Casserole

For the past few days I've been craving my mom's tuna casserole. The only hitch? I don't eat fish. Today I came up with this experimental recipe for a vegetarian-friendly tuna casserole on the fly and I think I did alright. Sorry, I don't measure when I very often so just experiment for yourself. It's kind of hard to mess this up.

No-Tuna Casserole

1 can chickpeas, drained with liquid reserved
1 can cream of mushroom soup
a few handfuls of egg noodles, probably ~2 or 3 cups
frozen peas, about 1/2 cup
small handful of green olives, sliced + 1tbsp of olive juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp minced red onion
garlic salt and pepper
potato chips

Preheat oven to 350*. Cook egg noodles to al dente and drain. While noodles are cooking, mash chickpeas in a bowl with a fork. Stir in soup, frozen peas, onion, and olives. When noodles are done, add them to the soup mixture. Add the olive juice, soy sauce, and chickpea liquid to water it down a bit and mix carefully. (I think I added about 1/3 cup) Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread into greased casserole dish or 9x9 baking dish. Crush potato chips on top and sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

I thought this was pretty good, but would be better with some shredded cheddar in the chickpea-soup mixture as well as sprinkled on top before the chip layer. That's how my mom makes hers, but I forgot to buy some at the store. She doesn't add peas but I felt like I should at least have a vegetable in it, hah. Additionally I only had about 5 large olives so I would definitely add more next time. It needs more salt, but then again I love everything way too salty.

This was a really quick dish to make. It probably took me 35 minutes total. You could easily make this ahead to freeze for later. Just leave off the chips and add them when you reheat it in the oven.

Chickpeas as a tuna substitute may sound weird, but it's pretty common especially in mock tuna salad recipes. In a cold recipe it is so delicious! I wasn't sure how it would work in a baked dish, but it was good. Just be sure you get all of the chickpeas when you're mashing because it's a bit strange to bite into a whole one along with noodles and olives. With a little tweaking I think I could have an amazing recipe.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce

It's no secret that I love me some garlic. Today I stumbled upon and subsequently decided to try a recipe I found on Food Network's website. Except for I forgot to write down an ingredients list before walking to the store. I kind of remembered everything, except for I didn't the correct amount of tomatoes so I was forced to halve the recipe. That's okay though since I cook only for myself.

Here is the recipe I used with my modifications in italics.

(Again, I cut the quantities in half.)

Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce

Recipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2004
Show: Emeril Live
Episode: Holiday Food Gifts

1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic (omitted because I got lazy and didn't want to mince it)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (I used a Taco Bell "hot" sauce packet, haha)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (omitted because I don't have any)
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning (omitted because I don't have any)

1/4 teaspoon dried basil leaves (substituted with other random spices I had onhand)
2 (28-ounce) cans whole Italian plum tomatoes, with their juices (Used diced with basil, oregano, )
3 whole heads roasted garlic, cloves removed from peels (I used 2 whole heads)

In a large saucepan saute the onion in the olive oil over medium-high heat until soft and lightly golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, salt, balsamic vinegar, hot sauce, crushed red pepper, Italian seasoning, and basil, and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you place them in the pan, and their juices. Stir to combine well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the roasted garlic cloves and stir to combine. Continue to simmer for 30 to 45 minutes longer, or until the flavors have come together.

Serve over pasta of choice.

Sorry for the gross cell phone picture! My regular camera is still AWOL.

Now I have never roasted garlic before and I don't recall ever making pasta sauce myself before so I'm not sure what makes a sauce good or bad. *shrug* I thought it was pretty good, but I was expecting an "in-your-face" kind of garlicky taste since there was so much in there. It was surprisingly mild. Since it didn't specify what to do with the garlic before adding it to the sauce I decided to chop it into quarters after slipping each clove out of its skin. Then when it was simmering I sort of mashed them against the side of the pot with the back of the spoon. The large pieces of garlic looked kind of ugly and seemed a bit intimidating. Biting into a smaller garlic chunk was amazing each time it happened!

The finished sauce was chunky and just thick enough. Jarred sauces always freak me out a little because they're so smooth. I think this recipe has a lot of potential. It just seems like it's missing something. I think that's where the red pepper flakes come in. Maybe I'll go out and buy some for next time. This recipe is time-consuming, but most of the time is spent simmering so you can clean up the kitchen or something while you're waiting.

A side-note: I feel sort of guilty for using one of Emeril's recipes since I sort of hate him and his show. I can't really explain it. I really don't like him, that woman from Semi Homemade (forgot her name), or Paula Deen on Food Network. I love Giada de Laurentiis, Ina Garten, and Alton Brown. Rachael Ray is awful but provides lulz. I am not familiar with any of the other people on the channel. Oh Emeril. I know he loves the garlic as much as I do, but I just don't know.

Also if you do not know how to roast garlic, you could use this recipe, but I used the one in the reviews of the sauce recipe. It's the first comment when you click on the "Reviews" button.

One more tip: If you're like me and are forced to buy tomato paste in a can rather than in a squeezable tube, you can store leftovers by dropping spoonfuls onto some wax paper and sticking it in the freezer. When it's frozen dump them in a plastic bag and keep frozen until you need some again.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Homemade Flour Tortillas

I've been wanting to bake cookies for almost a week now, but I don't have all of the ingredients and sadly I can't afford to buy them at the moment.

I saw this recipe for homemade tortillas posted somewhere else and I really wanted to give it a shot. It wasn't as satisfying as baking something, but I was still delighted with the results. It was pretty easy too.

(Sorry for the awful picture. The batteries for my camera are dead and I don't know where I put the spares.)

Flour Tortillas (recipe from Fine Cooking magazine, no. 79, July 2006)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for kneading and rolling
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening or lard, cut into small pieces [I used Crisco]
2/3 cup warm water

In a medium bowl, stir the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the shortening or lard and cut it into the flour with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir in 2/3 cup warm water with a fork until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and soft, 3-4 minutes, reflouring the surface as necessary.

Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Cover the dough balls loosely with plastic wrap and let rest on the counter for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to cook the tortillas, heat a large (11-12 inch) dry cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat until hot. Take one ball of dough at a time out from under the plastic and roll out on a lightly floured surface to 9-10 inches in diameter.

Lay the tortilla carefully in the hot skillet and cook until it starts to bubble and puff and light brown spots appear on the underside, 45-60 seconds. Flip with a spatula and cook until the second side gets brown spots and any translucent, raw-looking areas become opaque, another 45-60 seconds. Adjust the heat if the tortillas seem to be cooking too quickly or slowly.

Remove the tortilla to a clean dishtowel and cover to keep warm. Repeat with remaining balls of dough. Makes eight 9-10" tortillas.

I rolled out a ball of dough while the previous one was cooking and that worked well. However I do not own a rolling pin, so I used a POM tea glass because it's tall and thin. I also didn't want to flour up my counter so I layed out a sheet of freezer paper, wax side up. The dough didn't stick to the glass. I didn't make them perfectly circular, but I guess if you were really anal about it you could trim the edges with a pizza cutter before putting it on the skillet.

When my tortillas were done, I chopped up some veggies and sliced off thin pieces of cheese from the wedge to make quesadillas. It would've been a lot better with the addition of black beans, but I'm out of those as well.

The outcome? Delicious! This is pretty cheap to make and not as time-consuming as you would think so I'll probably be making these again next time I've got a hankering for quesadillas or tacos.