Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers' Mallows and Milanos

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

I did the challenge with my sister. And I'm glad I did. The Milan cookies were really easy to make and the batter went together in a snap. But apparently, I'm super bad at sticking them together with chocolate. I personally prefer the smaller and crunchier cookies, but I ate the bigger chewier cookies too because they were also delicious.
Then we did the Mallows. The recipe said 10 minutes of prep time, 5 minutes of inactive prep time, and 10 minutes baking time yields 2 dozen. I think that's wrong. We spent the entire day making these cookies. Trying to roll the cookies out was like trying to roll out chocolate chip cookie dough. We solved the problem by splitting the dough in thirds and continuously rotating pieces we weren't using into the freezer. And I think you can see we got a LOT more than 2 dozen. We got 2 gross. Super G and I are math geeks and when we finally counted the cookies we had 200 and we had been sampling cookies all day. So we figured 244 was probably not a bad estimate. I think if the base cookie had been tastier these would have been excellent cookies. But to me, the base cookie just tasted like pie crust. blech.
Photos curtesy of Super G. I forgot my camera.
You can find the recipes here and check out the rest of the Daring Bakers and see what they did!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cheap Pork and Pea Pods

Um, okay, so if you haven't noticed, we're in a recession. The unemployment in my county just dropped down to 15.0% from a high of 18.3%. I think we can come to one or two conclusions here. 1) the economy is getting a teensy bit better and/or 2) recessions are not good in rural areas that depend on the automotive industry. Either way, it pays to be cheap.

I'm very very blessed that my garden is flourishing and that we have a chunk of pig and lamb to eat up before the county fair next month where we will most likely be buying a new pig and lamb to eat. We also have what seems like 30 pounds of green beans in the fridge. Anyone know something good to do with green beans?

Last month, while hunting for a job (which I've pretty much been doing all summer), I just happened to be wandering through the Borders ( fyi- you need to apply to them online) and found this book Eat Cheap but Eat Well by Charles Mattocks. Charles Mattocks is apparently "TV's The Poor Chef" but I'm sorry to say I've never heard of him. Anyhow, I've made a couple recipes from the book and they are tasty! He has a recipe for Stuffed Pepper Jack Peppers that's worth the cost of the book, but we ate those so fast I didn't have time to take a photo.

On the next page is a recipe for Beef with Pea Pods. Now, we do have a bunch of beef in the freezer also, but we don't buy a cow at the fair. And remember that chunk of pork? Well that's what I used instead. I believe it was a fresh ham steak package. The peas in my garden had become home to a family of rabbits by this point so I bought the peas. I have to tell you that this was delicious, cheap, and really fast to make. And I really like Mr. Mattocks' idea that just because you are eating cheap, it doesn't mean you have to eat crap (like a certain TV "chef" who decorates her kitchen to match her "tablescape" and uses prepackaged processed garbage instead of just chopping a vegetable).

Cheap Pork and Pea Pods
as adapted from Eat Cheap but Eat Well

1 pound pork (I used a fresh ham steak, but I think any cut would work)
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp canola oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 pounds fresh snow peas, stemmed
1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
2 cups hot cooked white rice

Cut the pork into bite size slices about 1/4 inch thick. Set aside

In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch, sugar, salt, and pepper. Blend in the soy sauce and 1/4 cup water. Mix well with a wire whisk to remove any lumps.

Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until a sprinkle of water causes it to "pop". Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry until they begin to release fragrance, about 30 seconds. Add the snow peas and water chestnuts and cook, stirring until the pea pods are crisp tender. 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Add another 1 or 2 Tbsp of oil to the skillet and then add the pork. Cook, stirring, until the pork is done, about 3 minutes. Pour the soy sauce mixture into the pan, stir with a whisk, and then add the cooked vegetables. Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute.

Serve with the rice.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Faux Creamsicles

I'm at a baseball game today, but if you don't live in the Northeast, and you are living somewhere where the temperature might actually be scorching, try a popsicle. These tasty and delicious popsicles are way more healthy than those delicious orange and ice cream popsicles. The recipe is super easy, super delicious, super cheap, and pretty much made from stuff I had on hand. If you don't have popsicle molds, you could try just freezing the popsicles in dixie cups for about an hour or two and then sticking a popsicle stick in until it freezes solid.

yum yum yum!

Vanilla-Orange Freezer Pops

1 1/2 cups orange juice
1 1/2 cups nonfat vanilla yogurt
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl. Pour among 6 popsicle molds and freeze until solid.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Steamed Clams and Tomatoes with Angel Hair Pasta

So, I've had a couple exciting days since I posted last. I had another interview for a teaching position teaching 7th and 8th grades (which I would LOVE to teach), but I didn't get it. Sigh. I found out that I passed my Praxis II PLT (which was a really hard and huge test). Yay! I got to spend some time with my baby sister. My mom made me an awesome sundress for the annual Family Vacation with the in-laws. The Brain and I spent a day boating and I almost went overboard (don't worry, I'm fine) and then at a baseball game. I also purchased some fun stuff this week that hopefully I'll be blogging about fairly soon. Hooray for summer!

Today was no less exciting. Today I got to meet Lisa.

You know. THE Lisa. Co-creator of the Daring Bakers. The extraordinary talent behind La Mia Cucina. Yeah. HER. Wow. And you know what? She's awesome! After a moment of fear that I was going to miss my exit and end up in Pennsylvania, I arrived way over on the other side of Cleveland and met Lisa, her terrific husband, and 6 of her good friends for breakfast. We then spent the day shopping at the West Side Market and Trader Joes and we ate lunch at this neat little Polish restaurant.

I took advantage of being around Lisa and picked her brain pretty thoroughly on how to steam clams. See, if I am going to buy seafood, I want good seafood. And pretty much, I don't think I'm going to find good seafood in rural North Central Ohio. (If you know of a place, please fill me in!) So I decided to take the West Side Market and meeting Lisa opportunity to be daring and make clams. I should also interject that I don't think I've ever had a clam before. I mean, I've had clam chowder and those battered fried ones that taste like rubber bands. But I've never actually had a steamed clam before. So I was a teensy bit nervous. Okay, nervous isn't the right word. Scared would be a better word. Teensy probably isn't right either.

But after much reassurance from Lisa, helpful hints from her husband, constant ice, and a friendly fishmonger, I'm happy to report that these were not hard at all. Yay! The fishmonger gave me some pretty clean clams. Lisa let me know that I should scrub the clams before cooking them. Her husband reminded me that if a clam is open before cooking it (and doesn't shut after tapping it) that I should throw it out, and if it is closed after cooking to also throw it out. And then I sort of followed the Cooking Light recipe that I had. They were not hard at all and super delicious! Yay!
Steamed Clams and Tomatoes with Angel Hair Pasta
inspired by Cooking Light

8 oz. uncooked angel hair pasta
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
2 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 Tbsp butter

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and keep warm.

Heat oil in large nonstick pot over medium high heat. Add tomato, garlic, and pepper to pan; saute for 1 minute. Add wine and water and bring to a boil. Add the clams and cover. Cook for 7 minutes or until shells open. Remove the clams from the pot with a slotted spoon. Add the butter to the cooking liquid and stir until it melts.

Combine the cooking liquid, pasta and clams and serve.
Oh and I also have FINALLY managed to mail out those prizes that I owed people. I am so sorry it took me so long.