Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Chewy Experiment

Today, I decided to try to make chocolate chip cookies. I wanted to make them for Boyfriend Bird, because he has finals around now and he is stressed. And cookies are good for that. So after a long decision process (mainly realizing that I had no oatmeal and couldn't make oatmeal cookies), I decided on just simple chocolate chip cookies.

And then I realized I should make Alton Brown's The Chewy, since so many people have said it is amazing. So I made the batter at my nest, and then flew on over to Jujyfruits Bird and Dot Hack Bird's apartment, where I actually baked it. And the first batch came out burned.

I was quite upset, as I hadn't burned cookies in quite some time. I turned the oven down and watched the other batches, which all came out much better. Boyfriend Bird, Jujyfruits Bird, Dot Hack Bird, and Fleur Bird all happily snacked on them. And then I packaged them up and sent them with Boyfriend Bird, who ate them sadly while studying.

Ah, college.

You are not a Carnivore!

One thing that has always driven me crazy has been when people refer to someone as a 'carnivore.' It's normally vegetarians who do it, in my experience, although I know other people do it as well. It drives me crazy because no one is a carnivore, no one. No one eats only meat. So why say something so inaccurate?

Of course, the reason this mostly irritates me is that 90% of the time it comes up, it's a vegetarian describing a dish, saying 'this dish is so good it'll trick even carnivores!' No, it won't trick carnivores, I don't care how good your veggie burger is. That doesn't mean they won't like it. If I eat a veggie burger or something, I know it's not meat, but that doesn't mean I'm going to spit it out and hate it.

I guess what really bothers me is just people who refer to others as carnivores. They're not. They're omnivores, even if they like meat more.

But, in case I annoyed anyone with my rant, here is a vegetarian recipe! In fact, I would say it's almost vegan, but I top it with cheese. The other day I made a black bean soup from A Year of Slow Cooking, which is obviously my favorite cooking site. I made it because I wanted to have something healthy after having a few days of rough dieting, and I was tired of eating boring lunches. So I made this for just Mama Bird and I, as well as some cornbread, and it was my lunch for more than a week.

I was nervous about it at first because the texture took a little getting used to, and it really looks like chocolate pudding. But it tastes delicious. With hot Rotel and just normal taco sauce, it had enough of a kick to satisfy me. I put a little in the freezer, but I feel like defrosting it watered it down a bit, which was a little disappointing. I really liked it, overall, and am definitely going to be making it again, maybe in a month or so.

And now my family migrates north to visit more birds. We'll see how much I end up eating. (Hint: it will be a lot.)

Black Bean Soup from A Year of Slow Cooking
(Serves ~6, approximately $1.43 per serving)
  • 46.5oz black beans
  • 10oz diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups of broth, vegetable or chicken
  • 2 tablespoons taco sauce
  • 1.5 cups frozen vegetables

    1. Blend vegetables together in blender.
    2. Empty all ingredients into crockpot, without rinsing, and stir.
    3. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
    4. Blend everything to a smooth texture.
    5. Serve with some cheese and cornbread.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • If you try to puree the vegetables directly from the freezer, be prepared to wake the whole house.
  • Thursday, December 9, 2010

    Spinach Stuffed Chicken

    Last week, I went above and beyond the call of duty and planned a whole week of menus for my family, which was mostly just Mama Bird and I. I also went above and beyond the Call of Duty to fight Nazi Zombies, but that's hardly related. (We only survived to round twelve. I am not very good at fighting Nazi Zombies, apparently.)

    One of the things I had planned on making last week was Broccoli Stuffed Chicken, not that I had any particular recipe picked out for it. It just sounded cool, and I wanted to try it. But Mama Bird pointed out we didn't have broccoli, just spinach, and both of us were too lazy to go to Giant to buy any. So we decided to make spinach stuffed chicken. It's got more alliteration to it, anyhow. And because I am brave and bold, I opted to not use a recipe. (Mama Bird advised me a lot. A lot.)

    And it turned out pretty good! You can't tell from these pictures, as I'm a terrible photographer, but... use your imagination. They honestly weren't complicated: pound some chicken breasts so they're sort of flat, put cheese on them, and then put spinach on the cheese. Fold it, toothpick it, put bread crumbs on them if you do desire, and put em in the oven until they're done! Then eat. I'd advise you let them cool, but hey, what do I know.

    I put pepper jack in mine, and Mama Bird got swiss, since she tells me I make things too spicy sometimes. I thought it was awesome with pepper jack, it gave it a little kick that it totally needed.

    A not so artsy picture of them coming out of the oven. Notice the pool of melted cheese, breadcrumbs, and chicken juice in the middle. Poor planning on my part.

    And this highlights the other problem I had with it: the folded end was just entirely chicken, no spinach. So I think next time I might mess around with cutting the chicken and trying to make a chicken sandwich. Yes, I know, not quite the idea, but it'd be interesting, wouldn't it? We'll see what happens.

    Spinach Stuffed Chicken from the Bird
    (Serves 2, approximately $4.93 per serving)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 3 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon onion flakes
  • 2 slices Pepperjack, or desired cheese
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

    1. Boil or steam spinach.
    2. While spinach is cooking, flatten chicken breasts as much as possible.
    3. Place a piece of cheese on each breast.
    4. Remove spinach from pot or steamer, and mix with Italian seasoning and onion flakes.
    5. Spoon spinach onto cheese, and fold chicken breast over.
    6. Secure with toothpick.
    7. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over top.
    8. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or until done.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • 'Flatten chicken' does not mean do it until you're bored, it means flatten the chicken.
  • Friday, December 3, 2010

    Rainbow Cake: my lesson in baking cakes

    A few months ago, a good friend of mine moved. It wasn't a cross-country move, just an hour or so away, but far enough that seeing him for a quick lunch wasn't an option anymore. We will name him Darth Bird. He'll probably never read this, but I think he'd appreciate that name. I was worried about him moving; he's been one of my closest friends since high school, and after recently losing another close friend, I was concerned about not seeing him as often.

    Luckily, Darth Bird thought ahead, and got me as well as four other birds involved in a game with him before he moved. The game is still on-going, and we aim to play every other weekend. So once a month we drive down to his apartment, and he generally cooks us something.

    The first time we did, he made an amazing homemade lasagna. The only part of it that was store bought was the noodles, and it was quite awesome.

    If you read the title of this post, you are probably wondering what on earth this has to do with rainbow cakes. Well, I decided to make a rainbow cake for his apartment, figuring that a cake was a perfect thing to bring to a dinner gathering, and that the directions that I found over at Omnomicon were so simple it'd be hard to mess up.

    Well, I was mostly right about that. I have a lot of learning about baking to do.

    I opted out of the diet version, despite being on one, because I figured no one else was. The whole 'double the batter' thing was also rather confusing, but I got it all sorted out. And dirtied a lot of bowls in the process.

    Mama Bird helped, and did a lot of the color mixing. 'That's nowhere near blue enough! You need more blue! Here, let me do it!' That sounds like a pretty accurate transcript, and we had a lot of fun. We're very sarcastic to each other, but it's okay because we like each other. She is the best Mama Bird.

    I took a lot of pictures of the process, because it was fun, and amusing. This was the batter before it went in the oven, but right after this is where everything went wrong.

    You see, I was impatient with the cake. I needed to get it iced and ready to go. I did not give myself adequate time to prepare it. So it came out of the oven, and I tried to pull it from its little pans. One split in half, and the other just lost some off the top. Then I tried to ice it while it was still warm, and we lost more. Beyond 'we lost more,' it started completely falling apart. I got so upset I almost didn't bring the cake, until Mama Bird told me I was being an idiot and made me. It had many toothpicks stuck in it, holding it together. As I pulled the lid off the container, I was actually embarrassed, and all over again wished I hadn't brought it. The sight that greeted me was the cake, split wide open, hardly sticking on its tray. I (almost) tearfully presented it to my friends.

    And did my friends care that it was falling apart?

    No. They still ate most of it. Our tongues were purple for the rest of the evening. And I learned a few crucial things about baking: wait to remove your cake, wait to ice your cake, and just really, be patient. My friends also taught me that "If it tastes like cake, we are going to eat it."

    It's been a few months since Darth Bird moved, and we still see each other frequently. In fact, I'm going to go see him in about twenty minutes, so I should really stop typing and go brush my hair. But it's nice to know that some friendships aren't so easily ended.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • My friends will probably eat anything.
    • Food coloring definitely has a flavor.