Friday, January 28, 2011

Makeshift Curry

I did not grow up with spices. Herbs I know and love, but I am very unfamiliar with spices. So when I ended up with half a can of coconut milk in my fridge that I needed to finish, you might be surprised to know that I decided to make curry.
I looked at 4 or 5 different recipes, then gave them all up, and went from memory of what I had just read. Exciting, no? I looked at my spice rack and grabbed everything that sounded familiar. I think I ended up with a nice curry powder too. Thai or Indian curry you ask? Neither, it was "Nathalie" curry, but lovely nonetheless. I threw in a bit of this, a bit of that based on what I thought smelled nicest. Turmeric smells a little funny to me, so not too much of that, and I'm not huge on anise, so I went easy on the fennel seed. But there's a whole bunch of cumin (my favorite!) and I may have put in about a tablespoon of dried chili peppers. Um, yes, it was spicy.
I also had a bit of pre-made curry powder, but I thought this would be a fun time to experiment, so I made my own and compared. Mine was a bit less sweet and a bit more intense. Hmm, maybe it was those chili peppers...
Curry powder
Anyway, I chopped up some onions, and cooked those with chicken tenders. Once they were cooked, I pulled them out and toasted my curry powder, along with the store bought stuff. I added 4 teaspoons of lime zest (I keep it frozen in ice cube trays) and about 7oz of light coconut milk.
My sauce
I would have left it at that, but it was so overwhelmingly spicy that I had to add about a cup of sour cream too. Even with the onions, chicken, and some chickpeas in the sauce it was much too spicy.
Caramelized onions!
So I added about a tablespoon of brown sugar and a can of diced tomatoes. Finally a dish that wasn't so spicy it would burn all my taste buds off! It was pretty tasty, especially for my first spice experimentation. Maybe next time I'll actually use a recipe, though, or at least write down the amounts of ingredients that I used!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Onion and Bacon Pizza

I might have a thing for onions. Maybe. OK, definitely. I love onions, they are sooo good! Caramelize those suckers and they make everything taste delicious. So I took a cue from Deb at Smitten Kitchen (what else is new) and made some pizza with the delicious buggers along with bacon.
I used Trader Joe's whole wheat pizza dough, and made one with tomato sauce, and another with a mix of sour cream and cream cheese.
I sprinkled some herbed fromage blanc on top of the white one, and the red sauce pizza got mostly mozzarella with a bit of that "pizza cheese" you can buy pre-shredded at the grocery store. I like cutting corners, what can I tell you.
They were pretty good, but perhaps there were too many flavors. We decided that the white sauce pizza was definitely better, but both were really much too busy. I've come to the conclusion that I like my pizza simpler. I'll save the caramelized onions for tartes and soups. Oh and maybe curries. Or, my bastardized version of curries... To be continued!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

New Camera..err..Phone

Both my and Nick's cameras have been malfunctioning recently. I thought of buying a new camera after Christmas, but Nick had the ingenious idea of getting fancy new phones with higher quality cameras included. Brilliant, said I, since my then current phone was about two years old. So we got HTC Evos. They're indeed very fancy.
Phone on sleeve
Unfortunately the camera lens sticks out on the back, so if you put it down on a table, it could get scratched.
We bought cases for our phones, but they would take a while to arrive, so I made some quick and dirty little pouches for our phones.
Phone sleeve
Mine is made of fabric remnants of a dress I made las summer. Someone saw it and thought it was a Vere Bradley design. I don't know about that, but it is easy to find in a big black bag.
Phone sleeve
Nick's is made out of remnants from a pair of PJ pants I made him last year.

I think these each took me about 15 minutes to make using my sewing machine, but because they are so small, you could probably make them entirely by hand too. If anyone is interested in seeing a tutorial for how to make these, post a comment and I'll write out the tutorial.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Birthday Dinner

Every year, my birthday sucks. Not because anything goes wrong, but because it never feels special enough. Maybe it's because my birthday is right around the corner from Thanksgiving and no one is around to celebrate. When I was younger (read: still able to stay up past 2am) I used to throw these wild parties. Every person who walked in the door (and there were dozens) would wish me a happy birthday, and look honestly happy to say it. Now, I get one real smile (my husband) and one excited phone call (my mom) and two pages of "happy birthday" on my facebook wall. Um, that doesn't count. So I tried to make my friend Kaitlin's birthday a bit exciting for her. With cake. YES!
She watched our cats while we were stuck in the blizzard over Christmas break, so we had her and our friend Jen over for dinner. I tried an old recipe I had never used before, "chicken pilaf" and it had way too much tomato paste. Also, in my excitement, I forgot to take pictures while I cooked, or even before I ate, so here is my half eaten plate:
And here are the half gone serving dishes
The chicken may not really be that exciting, but the Brussels sprouts were very tasty. So far, I have converted two people to a vegetable they thought they hated with this recipe. I always feel so powerful when that happens.

Golden Brussels Sprouts
1. Clean up the sprouts by rinsing them, and peeling off the outside layer of gross leaves. Cut out any other gross bits, and trip the ends.

2. Cut sprouts in half. This makes caramelizing them in a pan easier.

3. Steam sprouts for about 5 minutes. They should still be a bit crunchy.

4. BUTTER! Put some butter in your sauté pan. If you really want to be healthy, olive oil works OK too, but it doesn't taste nearly as delicious.

5. Sauté the sprouts for 5 to 10 minutes, until they've gotten nice and golden brown in spots.

6. Season to taste: I used salt, pepper, and slivered almonds, but you can use whatever you like best.

That's it! If you have always hated Brussels sprouts, consider giving this recipe a try. I have never witnessed anyone not like these.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Prelim Defense

OK, so it's been a while. In my defense, I've had a lot going on. One of those things was my prelim defense. After 20 hours of exams, I had to defend my answers to my committee. Sounds fun, right? I was stressed nearly to the point of tears - in public! But it's over now, and I passed, so I can look back and tell you all about the lovely spread that I made for people to snack on.
I thought that if I made tasty snacks, I could improve my committee members' moods, and even possibly distract them from asking their most difficult questions. Hah! Was I ever wrong. They didn't even eat anything! I had to force cookies in their hands on the way out to get rid of a few things.
But Nick and I ate very well that night. We had a roasted red pepper white bean dip, from smitten kitchen, some fromage blanc with garden herbs I've been saving from the last farmer's market of the season, carrots and fresh bread to dip, and a caramelized onion tart, which fell apart on the way to school, but tasted very delicious. I also made my signature chocolate chip cookies.
caramelized onions
The onion tart was really very lovely, and completely uneaten at the end of my defense. I guess I must have actually deserved to pass, because if they had eaten the tart, they may have just agreed to just about anything - so delicious.
I started by slicing about 5 yellow onions nice and thin. I caramelized them which took about 30 or 40 minutes.
Cooking onions
I used a pre-made pie crust. I know some people are into making their own pie crust, but really, I don't taste the difference, and the pre-rolled stuff is just so easy.
pie crust in tart pan
With the onions in the crust, I filled the tart with a combination of about 3 eggs and a cup of whole milk and some salt and pepper.
Fill onion tart
This went in the oven at 350 degrees for about half an hour. There it is. So delicious.