Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Baking

Four dozen cookies, two pounds of candied almonds, and about ten dozen muffins, all baked in two days. The complete list:

  • Candied Almonds
  • Green Tea Cookies
  • Modified these into Chocolate Blackberry Cookies
  • Russian Tea Cookies
  • Carrot Cake Cookies
  • Blueberry Muffins
  • Strawberry Cinnamon Sugar Muffins
  • White Amaretto Muffins
  • Rainbow Cupcakes
  • Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Butterscotch Muffins (which are possibly my favorite)
  • Cinnamon Sugar Muffins

    It took hours and would not have been possible without a lot of help, but they all came together, and I think everyone liked everything.

    Merry Christmas, everyone!
  • Monday, December 19, 2011


    I'm doing a lot of baking for Christmas. A lot. As in I'm planning on doing absolutely nothing but going to work, the grocery store, and to my kitchen on Thursday night so I can be ready for the EPH exchange on Friday night.

    I'm trying a lot of recipes I've never made before, so I'm definitely nervous things won't turn out. I can't share the full list of what I'll be making, but here's a tease as to some of the ingredients that will be featuring:
  • bananas
  • almonds
  • butterscotch
  • blackberries
  • powdered sugar
  • green tea

    Hopefully I won't be too tired to share everything about the hours this will take.
  • Monday, November 21, 2011

    "You're making old person muffins?"

    In case you couldn't tell, I'm making a bit of an effort to start updating sort of regularly again. I'm not going to promise any sort of schedule, because this blog is supposed to be for fun, and schedules stress me out. I'll be sharing a lot of older stuff for a while- stuff I made and didn't share because I was too lazy to type.

    These may be the first muffins I've made that I didn't like.

    I made these thinking that I wouldn't really like them. Hoping, but thinking 'wow, these certainly sound... interesting, I hope they're good...' Mama Bird looked at the recipe and assured me that if I didn't like them, she'd eat them. So I decided to be brave and to try it. I like new food, right?

    They don't even really look good.

    I tried to like them, and I did eat two before I gave up and declared that they were all for Mama Bird. She did eat them all, to her credit, but I don't know how she did it. I'll be sticking to sweeter muffins from now on.

    Recipe from Teaspot NYC.
  • 2 cups applesauce
  • 2 ounces dates
  • 1 cup wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1.25 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
    1. Preheat oven to 375.
    2. Heat applesauce and dates over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is reduced to about 1.25 cups, or 15-20 minutes.
    3. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
    4. Transfer applesauce to bowl, and mix in bran, buttermilk, egg, honey, ginger, and vanilla.
    5. In separate bowl, mix flour, flaxseed, baking soda, salt, allspice, and 1/4 cup oats.
    6. After letting stand for 10 minutes, mix ingredients together.
    7. Transfer batter into muffin tins.
    8. Bake 20-23 minutes.

    Makes 12 muffins, with 90 calories and $0.43 per serving.
  • Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Smoky hummus!

    This is a ridiculously easy hummus recipe. Although honestly, all hummus is easy once you've made it. I posted about it a while ago, but didn't have any sort of recipe to share, so I decided it was time to experiment again until I could come up with this.

    Sister Bird loved this hummus. As in she would go out and buy me the ingredients for it so I would make it for her. Now that she's back at school, I guess I won't be making it as often, but that's only because I know I'll be the only one who ends up eating it, since Papa Bird hates anything that has curry powder in it, and Mama Bird claims it's too spicy.

    They're both wrong, it's delicious.

    Smokey Hummus
    (Makes 5 servings, with 178 calories and $0.60 per serving)

  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 15.5 oz chickpeas, half drained
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Frank's red hot
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha
    1. Mince garlic.
    2. Combine everything in food processor.
    3. Blend until smooth, adding additional liquid from chickpeas if hummus is not smooth enough.
  • Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Butternut Squash Soup

    Mama Bird has been pretty amazing recently.  Not only did she magically produce a brand new immersion blender from our basement when I mentioned I was thinking of buying one, she signed us up for a Community Supported Agriculture.  If you don't know what that is, it means that every Wednesday for the next two months we get a box of locally grown vegetables.  I was quite excited about it when she brought the idea up to me, because I knew that it meant I'd be getting vegetables to play with that I had never cooked.  Sure enough, last week we had a butternut squash and some leeks.  I haven't messed with the leeks, although Mama Bird stole the potatoes that were meant to become the chips for the fish and chips I'll be making sometime this week.  Hopefully Thursday or Friday, if Skyrim doesn't steal my entire life.

    I wasn't sure I'd like this soup, because I've never been a huge squash fan, and I don't tend to enjoy sweetness.  But I liked this.  I dipped some bread in it at first, but I don't think it needs that.  It tastes thick, like it has cream, but it's all healthy.  I'm hoping to eat it for lunch this week to make up for the amount of naughtiness I've been eating- remember that coconut ice?  It's all gone now.  I throw out the remaining third after I gained enough strength to resist it.  Sadly, I didn't ever take a picture of it...   nor do I have a picture of this soup.  It just doesn't look great, sadly.

    But it tastes good.  If you want a light healthy soup, give it a shot.

    Recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking.
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 apples
  • 1.5 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    1. Cut squash in half longways, microwaving if the skin is too tough.
    2. Scoop out seeds.
    3. Coat in olive oil and roast at 400 for 15 minutes.
    4. In slow cooker, combine cubed and peeled apples, onion, broth, and spices.
    5. Cover and cook on high while waiting for squash.
    6. Peel squash, and cut into cubes.
    7. Cook on low for 8 hours.
    8. Blend.
  • Saturday, October 29, 2011

    Halloween Coconut Ice?

    I've been cooking a lot, still. Tons of muffins- I made over fifty muffins for a little trip to the Run for your Lives 5k recently. I made whole grain pumpkin and morning glory muffins, and they were pretty much destroyed. The morning glory ones almost didn't make it to the next morning, actually.

    I didn't take any pictures of them, because I am both an idiot and still don't have a camera.

    Then I decided I wanted to retry the failed coconut ice I made so long ago. I got a different recipe, and mmmm, I think Prehistoric Bird will agree when I say that it's good. It's terrible for you, no doubt. But it melts in your mouth, and it just tastes like delicious sugary coconut.

    I'll take pictures of it later. But for now, just know: I am still slowly trying to cook through England.

    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    Bad things come in more than threes, these days.

    My laptop's hard drive completely crashed last week. As a computer person, you might assume that I had the foresight to back up all of my important files, but you would be slightly... incorrect in that assumption. I'm hoping some of my things can be recovered, but for now, everything is gone. That means all of the pictures I had taken in the past months are gone.

    I'm going to start working on replacing them with new pictures but between having mono and a huge homework load for my graduate class (not to mention all the other things going on in my life!), it certainly won't be getting done this week. I promise eventually things will start updating again!

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Sick Birds don't Blog...

    Sorry for the silence again, but I've been very busy. Between starting a new job and then catching mono, I've hardly had the energy to function, let alone be witty enough to write blog posts. I have plenty of posts half written, and plenty of pictures taken (jumbo muffins! You've no idea how much that excites me.), but right now I just don't have the energy to write anything lengthy. In fact, I'm about to go crawl back in bed and take a nap... and yes, I know it's only 10 in the morning.

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    You win this round, peanut butter.

    I know this picture doesn't look that appetizing. I took it with my phone while starving and not really willing to take the time to figure out how to make it look pretty.

    I've made this recipe twice now since discovering it. I wasn't sure I'd like it at first because I used to think that peanut flavor belonged in nothing but dessert, but recently I've been craving it. I have found myself eating just peanut butter and nutella, spread on graham crackers.

    You should try that, by the way, because it is delicious.

    But the point is, I used to seriously judge my friends whenever they would eat peanut butter out of the jar, and I have many friends who do. And suddenly I find myself thinking 'huh, that isn't such a bad idea after all.' What's happening to me? Next thing you know I'll be not eating meat for days at a time without even trying.

    ...Oh, wait...

    Anyway, enough rambling. Ignore my poor photography, and give this a try. I have changed the recipe slightly in that I added a marinade step, because I think it gives the chicken a lot more flavor. I also think that you should steam the peas before so they aren't SO crunchy, but that may be a personal preference. Some people like them super crunchy.

    Recipe modified from The Cooking Photographer.
    (Makes 5 servings, with 289 calories and $3.11 per serving)
  • 1 tablespoon light colored oil
  • 5 thin sliced chicken breasts
  • 2 cups snap peas
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 2 green onions
  • pepper
    1. Cut thinly sliced chicken breasts into strips.
    2. Marinade chicken in chicken broth, Sriracha, brown sugar, fish sauce, some pepper and lime juice for at least three hours.
    3. Begin steaming snap peas.
    4. Heat up oil, and saute chicken.
    5. Add snap peas to skillet and cook for two to three minutes, then add marinade and peanut butter, and cook for about five minutes.
    6. Add chicken back to wok, and cook until marinade has boiled down.
    7. Plate, serve with rice and additional lime wedges.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • Steam snow peas. Or they stay crunchy.
    • When did peanut butter get so delicious?!
  • Friday, September 2, 2011

    Pitas appear to be beyond me.

    Aha, and ya'll thought I forgot about my mission to re-cook everything I ate in England, didn't you? The one I gave the ridiculously British-sounding name to? Well, I didn't forget at all!

    I'm just bad at cooking things in a timely manner, it seems.

    The original version of this dish came from the Jazz Cafe, and it was one of the things I was most looking forward to. And it turned out deliciously. Everything except the pita, which I attempted to make on my own. The bread tasted fine, but you know how pitas are supposed to have little pockets, for putting food inside...?

    Mine were just sad and flat. I didn't even take a picture of it, because it made me so sad.

    I did take a picture of the final product, though.

    So many colors! If I had not made whole-wheat pitas, then maybe there would have been even more, but I appear to be obsessed with whole-wheat. I think that's a good thing, it makes me feel healthier.

    These are really easy to make. Mixing together the tabbouleh and tzatziki can be day the day before, even, and the lamb patties only take minutes to throw together. It takes a while only to chop everything up by hand. I'm a horrendously slow food chopper, so it still took me about half an hour, but Mama Bird could have done it in probably 10. I guess that should be my next goal: improving my chopping skills...

    Recipe from All About You
    (Makes 8 servings, with 338 calories and $2.02 per serving)
    Lamb Patties
  • 18 ounces ground lamb
  • 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    1. Mix all ingredients but olive oil in bowl until well combined.
    2. Shape into eight patties.
    3. Place on tray and chill in fridge for at least 15 minutes.
    4. Heat oil, and fry over medium to high heat for 4 to 5 minutes each side.
    5. Drain on kitchen towel.
    6. Serve with tabbouleh, pita, and tzatziki sauce.

  • 2 ounces couscous
  • 2 ounces fresh parsley
  • 1 ounce fresh mint
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
    1. Put dry couscous in bowl and pour in 1/2 cup of hot water.
    2. Stir, then cover and let sit until water is absorbed.
    3. Fluff with fork, and add remaining ingredients. Chill before serving.

    Tzatziki Sauce
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 green onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon mint
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
    1. Peel and dice cucumber.
    2. Combine all ingredients and stir well.
    3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • I chop things very slowly.
    • Pitas without pockets are a lot like naan.
  • Friday, August 26, 2011

    Almost Vegetarian Lentil Stew

    Since my nest is located in the upcoming path of the lovely Miss Irene, Mama Bird and I took a trip to our local grocery store at 10:30pm today. I expected the store to be completely crowded with nothing left on the shelves, and she thought I was being silly and that there'd still be plenty of everything and no one there.

    It wasn't nearly as packed as I thought, but the almost complete lack of bottled water was not surprising. I don't think it's going to be as bad as we're preparing for, but owning another 32 bottles of water can't be a bad thing as long as we make sure to recycle! Mama Bird and I then spent a ridiculous amount of money on groceries. It wasn't because we were trying to stock up, it was because I had a long list of make-ahead meals I wanted to try. I intend to spend at least a few hours tomorrow making my own freezer burritos, and I want to try to recreate my own version of Amy's pizza pockets, which I was in love with all through high school and college. If I could make my own, I would be able to die happy. As long as I could eat them first. I also want to make my own granola in a slow cooker, because everything is better that way.

    So tomorrow is going to be quite a day for cooking, hopefully. I must be stressed.

    But today I'll be sharing a lentil stew that confuses me every time I eat it. It's delicious. It may be too spicy if you're me and just start tossing peppers in without thinking about it. But no matter what you do, if you don't eat this with bread or rice, then I just don't think it's very filling. Note the calorie count.

    It's a very easily modifiable recipe. You don't want it to be spicy? Don't put in as many peppers- heck, don't put in any! You don't have celery, but wow you have a bunch of carrots? Not really an issue. It's a vegetable lentil soup. It won't judge you, you can do what you want.

    And even better, if you want to make it vegetarian, just switch out the chicken broth. Instantly vegetarian! And the only thing you'll miss out on is that delicious chicken flavor.

    Recipe modified from Red Chillies.
    (Makes 6 servings, with 75 calories and $1.18 per serving)

  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 potato
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 3 serrano peppers
    1. Heat 3 cups of water in pot, and put lentils it.
    2. Bring to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.
    3. Set aside, but do not drain.
    4. Heat a little oil, and saute garlic and bay leaves.
    5. Add onion and mix until lightly cooked.
    6. Add ginger, celery, carrots, potato, and spinach.
    7. Cook until slightly less firm.
    8. Add broth, spices, and peppers.
    9. Simmer for 40 minutes.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • Different peppers have different levels of spice!
  • Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread.

    I love cornbread. Love, love, love cornbread. I recently went to Boston Market with someone I'll dub Model Bird, and he commented that I must not like cornbread because I didn't touch the piece they gave me.

    "No, I love cornbread," I replied modestly. "I just know that I can make much better cornbread than they can."

    So I did. And if anyone thinks this isn't better than Boston Market cornbread... well, then they certainly aren't any friend of mine.

    My mother was concerned about the jalapeno being in it. I was disappointed to realize that the jalapeno lost its bite once cooked. I should have known that, but I forget things sometimes. It still had a pleasant little kick.

    This is definitely not healthy cornbread. I have a separate recipe I do for that. You could probably half the amount of cheese in the recipe and still be happy with it. But if you're gonna make unhealthy cornbread, you may as well go all the way...

    Recipe from Food Network.
    (Makes 16 squares, with 295 calories and $0.60 per squares.)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 pound unsalted, melted butter
  • 8 ounces aged extra-sharp Cheddar
  • 1/3 cup chopped scallions (3 scallions)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh jalapeno peppers
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
    3. Combine the milk, eggs, and butter in a separate bowl.
    4. Mix wet and dry ingredients carefully, not over-stirring.
    5. Mix in 2 cups of grated cheese, scallions, and jalapenos.
    6. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
    7. Pour batter into pan and sprinkle with remaining cheddar.
    8. Bake 30 to 35 minutes.
    Today's lessons learned:
    • Jalapenos lose some of their kick when they're cooked.
    • Bread gets moldy if you don't take care of it. It gets moldy faster if it's laced with cheese.
  • Sunday, August 14, 2011

    Time to turn the oven back on...

    I haven't posted in a while, I know. Since when I went to Spain. A lot has happened since then, and I mean a LOT. I lost my job four days before I left for Madrid. When I got back, Boyfriend Bird and I decided to end our relationship, and for a while I just decided that I didn't want to be responsible for things. I went on a family vacation to North Carolina, then went to Indianapolis with some friends to go to GenCon.

    I'm upset about some things. It's obviously devastating to lose a job, especially in an unstable economy. Boyfriend Bird and I dated for four and a half years, and it's hard to walk away from something like that. I'm going to call him Troll Bird here from now on. Which isn't meant to be a negative thing, as strange as that sounds. In fact, I think he'd possibly appreciate the nickname. But all that change so quickly... depressed me for a while. I didn't want to do anything, I just wanted to sort of mope.

    Things are becoming more stable. I don't have a job yet, but I've been looking, and I have plenty of interviews lined up, as nervous as that makes me. And with my return to being an adult, I want to return to updating this blog. I won't make any promises about twice weekly posts, or even weekly posts. I have been cooking a lot still, I just haven't been sharing it. And even if I don't write long and witty posts, I at least want to be taking pictures and remembering what I've been doing.

    I have plenty to share. A carrot cake, pancakes, cookies, muffins, not to mention everything I ate in Madrid.

    But I think my primary focus is going to be finishing cooking by way through England.

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    More meat, more stuffed

    This will be my only post for a while. As you are reading this, I am sitting in a plane, on my way to Madrid. Madrid! I don't speak Spanish at all well enough to be going to Madrid!

    Once again, I'm sure I'm going to take pictures of every meal I eat, even though my faithful camera is now broken. For the time being, I'm borrowing one of Mama Bird's old cameras, but I'll probably have to buy a new one soon. I guess I'd mentioned doing it a few times already, so it's not too big of a deal.

    But before I go, I'll leave you with one of the things I've been meaning to share for a few weeks now. I made these for friends months ago, and it's high time I shared them. I originally thought that they'd be light, that everyone would be able to eat two zucchini boats apiece and it'd be a nice healthy meal. I didn't realize how much meat that would have been for everyone. Next time I make these, I may half the meat, or at least drop it to 3/4 of a pound.

    Recipe from The Homesteading Housewife
    (Makes 8 servings, with 250 calories and $1.94 per serving)
  • 4 zucchini
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound ground beef (or 1/2 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound Italian sausage)
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
    1. Preheat oven to 375.
    2. Wash zucchini, but do not chop stems.
    3. Put in a pot of cold water, and bring to a boil.
    4. Let boil 6-7 minutes or until tender, and remove and set aside to cool.
    5. In a skillet, brown meat and add garlic, onion, oregano, and peppers.
    6. Slice zucchini lengthwise, and scoop out seeds.
    7. Chop extra zucchini 'meat' and add to meat mixture.
    8. Mix bread crumbs, Parmesan, and eggs in with meat, and mix well.
    9. Fill zucchini boats with meat, and top with mozzarella.
    10. Bake until cheese is hot and bubbly.
    Today's lessons learned:
    • Stuffed anything is much more filling than you think.
    • Sometimes, more meat is not the answer. But only sometimes.
  • Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Chocolate Peanut Butter Heart Attack

    You wouldn't know it, but I've been baking a fair bit recently. And according to Sister Bird, making food she can't eat. Not because it's bad. Some of the food she has legitimate reasons for never wanting to eat. Like the habanero spiced potatoes. I was the only person in the family who could handle the amount of heat in them, but I didn't like them enough to write up a post about them. Making something I haven' liked enough to share has been happening a fair bit, aside from the incredible response the jam muffins got.

    On an unrelated note, am I the only one who uses jam and jelly interchangeably? I know, one is chunky, one isn't, but really?

    But as I was saying... I have an enormous backlog of things to post about. Two more muffin recipes, stuffed zucchini, jalapeno cheddar cornbread, chicken and cannelinni soup, hummus, sloppy joes.... I've stored up plenty of pictures and thoughts, but I'm just slow about typing them out. I liked all of those things, but I don't think any inspired me to immediately share them with the world.

    This cake, on the other hand, needed someone to write a public service announcement about it.

    I wanted to make it for Papa Bird for Father's Day, because I know he has a soft spot for chocolate and peanut butter, and I've currently got a soft spot for any cake that'd let me practice with my leveler. So when I looked in my crazy collection of recipes and saw Smitten Kitchen's chocolate peanut butter cake, with three glorious layers, I knew it was a match made in heaven.

    After I did the nutrition information for it? It was still a great match. But it certainly wasn't made in heaven.

    One of the great things about this cake is that it was a one bowl recipe. Obviously, the frosting and the ganache were done in separate bowls. But the cake batter itself was whipped up in one bowl. Which, by the way, I did without the aid of Mama Bird's Kitchen-Aid mixer. I've been slowly shifting away from using mixers, and back to beating things by hand. It's easier to fold things like delicate berries into batter without breaking them, and it's easier to ensure that every part of the ingredients have been mixed. Or maybe I'm too lazy to get the mixer out. That would be impressively lazy.

    I still made the frosting in the mixer, though. Whipping butter isn't fun or easy.

    The whole thing took me most of the day to make, but most of it was waiting. Make the batter, wait for the cakes to bake. Panic when the edges bake too quickly and look burnt. Fret that they're not done after half an hour, and wait even more impatiently. Pull them out and wait for them to cool. Get impatient and put them in the freezer. Level and frost the bottom layer, and shove it back in the freezer.

    Go bother the neighbors because you clearly need a break from all this hard work.

    Frost the other half, put it back in the freezer, make ganache. Forget to put it in a double boiler and sort of accidentally make fudge. Break the corn syrup bottle and have to make the glaze without any syrup. Then finally serve the cake.

    I was so proud of it. It looked professional. Sort of. It tasted either professional or like it really wanted you to have diabetes. It was extremely rich, and just tasted like peanut butter chocolate love. Papa Bird loves those things. Home run for Father's Day, right?

    Well, not exactly. He was... okay with it. He was tired and not really hungry. He complained it was too rich, too many calories, even with such a small piece. He was tired and dare I say, possibly even a bit grumpy. I was sad I was forcing him to eat a cake he didn't want. I ate an entire huge piece out of spite for everyone who complained.

    But really, it is delicious. Fleur Bird loved it so much he had two pieces and asked me to make it for his wedding. Papa Bird told me last night that he loved it and was sorry to see it all gone. So if you know anyone who loves peanut butter and chocolate and want to see them struggle with an amazingly rich piece of cake.... here's your cake.

    Recipe slightly modified from from Smitten Kitchen
    (Makes 16 slices, with 695 calories and $0.86 per slice)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
    1. Preheat oven to 350.
    2. Mix together four, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
    3. Add oil and sour cream and mix well.
    4. Mix in water 1/2 cup at a time, beating well.
    5. Add in vinegar and vanilla.
    6. Add in eggs and mix very well.
    7. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
    Peanut Butter Frosting
  • 10 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 ounces butter
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter
    1. Beat cream cheese and butter together until fluffy.
    2. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating well each time.
    3. Add peanut butter, and mix well, being sure to scrap all parts of the bowl.
    Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
  • 8 ounces chocolate
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup half & half
    1. In a double boiler, melt chocolate and peanut butter.
    2. Cool, being careful to not let set.
    3. Mix in half & half.
    4. Pour over cake as quickly as possible.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • Cake is not always a great present.
  • Saturday, June 11, 2011

    "These are the best muffins you've ever made."

    I made these muffins a while ago, using apricot jam that I had leftover from making thumbprint cookies. I had a whole second jar of jam, so I brought it to my friend's house to use up more and to leave it with them.

    I made the muffins while they were working on dinner, which was a delicious fish of swordfish steaks, crab cakes, and green beans with garlic and onion. The meal was fantastic, but I won't go into details about it because I did nothing to help prepare it, and it seems unfair to take their credit.

    Around 4:30, I decided I was too hungry to wait for dinner. So was Kendo Bird. So I decided to make the muffins I had promised Darth Bird, while they worked on making the crab cakes and the swordfish.

    They came out of the oven around 4:40.

    Except for the second one that I spent a while resisting, they were all gone by 4:46.

    Everyone ate two muffins, while they were still steaming from the oven. I had almost burned my hands getting them out as quickly as I could. And they were instantly destroyed.

    They're also delicious in the mornings, microwaved to the point where the jam is once again hot and bubbly. They're light and, dare I say it, fluffy, with a slight hint of cinnamon in the dough. We've used six different jams now: apricot, black cherry, red plum, peaches, raspberry, and blackberry. I've only eaten the apricot and red plum. We played muffin roulette. Made two dozen muffin, with four of each, put them all on a giant plate, and spun it around. I got red plum, but my diet stopped me from taking two or three more, like I really wanted to.

    These are certainly a new favorite. I can see making these for parties, although I'd love to find a way to make them look prettier...

    I dunno, they look pretty good on their own.

    Cinnamon Jam Roulette Muffins
    (Makes 12 muffins, with 126 calories and $0.21 per muffins)
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup jam
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1. Preheat oven to 375.
    2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt. Mix well.
    3. Combine yogurt, butter, milk, and egg in separate bowl.
    4. Add wet ingredients to dry, just combining.
    5. Spoon one tablespoon batter into each liner.
    6. Top each with 1 teaspoon jam, and then top with remaining batter.
    7. Combine extra tablespoon sugar with extra cinnamon, and sprinkle over batter.
    8. Bake for 15 minutes.
    Today's lessons learned:
    • My friends really, really like muffins.
    • Six varieties of jam, and no one can decide which was best....
  • Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Parsley smells delicious

    I wish I could tell you that tonight's dinner was a well-planned out meal I had been intending on eating for the last few days, but it wasn't. I decided it was going to be my dinner at about... 7 o'clock. Mama Bird, Sister Bird, and I went to the grocery store at 7:30, and we sat down to dinner at 9:30. It was one of the worst meal planning days I've had in a few weeks.

    But it was good enough I am writing a post about it only hours after eating it. So at least it was inspiring.

    I've been stealing Mama Bird's camera for more and more pictures. I think she's going to notice soon.

    Now, as for what this fish actually was... it was very, very easy to make. Perhaps that's why I picked it, because I didn't want to be in the kitchen all night. We had most of the ingredients: we still had fresh parsley from a salad I had made previously, we have an insane amount of lemon juice, and the rest is staples in our house. Except the fish. That we bought fresh.

    And really, this is incredibly easy to make. You blend some parsley, lemon juice, garlic, and then marvel at home wonderful your kitchen smells. Maybe you even call your mother into the kitchen to make her smell it too. She'll agree, but be annoyed you aren't finishing cooking everything else.

    With some green beans and pierogies, it's a a pretty quick meal. I doubled the amount of garlic in the original recipe, and didn't count the exact amount of parsley I used. Next time I would have used slightly less, because I thought there was a bit too much. Maybe that's just because I wanted to use the rest of the parsley mix as a sauce for my green beans.

    And sadly, my family did not enjoy this meal as much as I did. Mama Bird and I liked it, but Sister Bird and Papa Bird didn't. Sister Bird doesn't like fish, and Papa Bird chowed it but said he'd rather eat some 'real meat.' Oh well, I guess not everything can please everyone.

    Recipe from Budget Bytes
    (Makes 4 servings, with 170 calories and $2.32 per serving)
  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    1. Preheat oven to 450.
    2. Rinse parsley and put in food processor with lemon juice, olive oil, pepper, and garlic.
    3. Put fillets in baking dish and pour parsley mixture over them.
    4. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • Sister Bird and Papa Bird don't like fish. That is sad.
  • Friday, June 3, 2011

    Not eating meat has not killed me.

    I feel obligated to post under that title because it's been a full week and I haven't updated, which makes me sad. A week without cooking? The only thing sadder is a week with no reading, which I would be totally unable to endure. The more observant of you may notice I posted a button for a 'Books' section, which remains... empty. I will be posting some stuff there once I have a few hours in the evening, because I haven't had a night at home since last Thursday. Which is also why I haven't really been cooking.

    My meatless month is still going well. I don't really crave meat unless someone mentions a specific dish, like my coworker telling me about the rub he used to grill up a few steaks, or smelling fajitas when sitting in a TexMex restaurant. Other than that, I've not missed it nearly as much as I thought I would.

    And as someone pointed out to me, yes, I know it isn't actually vegetarian to eat fish. I'm technically pescetarian for the month. And I have been eating a lot of delicious fish.

    So what have I been eating? Stuffed peppers, tuna-cannellini spinach salads, some pizza, some pasta... and a lot of just mixed veggie salads. Baby corn, red onion, carrot, cucumber, spinach, lettuce, green pepper, and other things I can't even remember. Oh, and I tried a veggie burger from a new local burger joint. Boyfriend Bird ordered a tuna burger, partially because he likes eating things he can't make at home and partially because he'd feel bad eating a huge burger in front of me. The veggie burger was nothing like the ones I would occasionally eat as a child, and it was not bad. But I didn't love it like I wanted to. I'm hoping to make my own and see how they turn out.

    I do have a few recipes to share with you, as well as some pictures of my dog getting filthy in our backyard, but Blogger is being mean about uploading the pictures, so that will be for later. I won't be home until Sunday, but hopefully I'll have the time to bake the next round of muffins and share some of the things I've made.

    After a brief but passionate fling with Mama Bird's camera, I'm thinking of spending a few hundred dollars and buying myself a nice one. Is it crazy to buy a nice camera solely for pictures of food? Something tells me definitely maybe.

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Caramelized Onion Sandwich

    The vegetarian adventure is going well. My grandparents are visiting right now, and my grandfather enjoyed eating his Denver steak- not the cut, but a recipe I will share here someday- as slowly as possible, and discussing how delicious it was with a big grin. They're here for a week, and I'm thinking it's going to be a very difficult week. But it's nice to see them.

    The decision to make this came from my looking at the archives and realizing I had not made anything off my list of things I had eaten in England, other than that coconut ice I tried to recreate.

    Y'know, that's probably vegetarian too. Maybe I ought to make that this week.

    Anyhow, I realized that re-creating that list was a goal I had set myself that I had made no progress on. Granted, it's not exactly a pressing goal, but... I said I would do it, darn it, and I was going to do it. So the first meatless dish I came to was the onion sandwich, and I cringed slightly.

    I remember how proud of myself I was when I ordered that. A sandwich with no meat? Just vegetables? Well, darned if I wasn't the most cultured American in all of London. Who cares if it came with fries? I was still cultured and proud of it. The smug pride lasted until I took the first bite, and realized it was sweet and served cold.

    It wasn't bad, mind. I ate most of it, as you can tell by the quarter that was left by the time I remembered to take a picture. But it wasn't something I would ever order again. So why would I want to cook one for myself?

    Because I made mine savory. Worcestershire sauce (also, how English!) instead of sugar, and on toasted bread with melted cheese. And a bit of mustard, because it sounded good. Instead of the fries, I served it with enough broccoli on the side that my sister asked if it was the serving plate for everyone else. She was disappointed. My family was amused by my sandwich, but I enjoyed it.

    It could have been less calories if I had used lighter bread, but I decided I wanted something firm to stand up to the cheese, and because I thought at first the onions would be very oily. They weren't, but the bread was still delicious.

    Hopefully I'll be making more England food after this month is over. But so far, I'm really enjoying the lack of meat. Hopefully Darth Bird is holding up!

    Recipe from Closet Cooking.
    (Makes 1 sandwich, with 500 calories and $2.38)
  • Half a large onion
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 slices cheddar cheese
  • 2 slices oatmeal bread
    1. Slice the onion thinly.
    2. Heat up oil, then saute onions until no longer firm.
    3. Reduce heat, add water, and stir occasionally for 15-20 minutes.
    4. Toast bread.
    5. Add Worcestershire and thyme to onions, and scoop on top of bread and cheese.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • I have come to really like onions, but perhaps not enough for daily onion sandwiches.
    • Savory onions are much more delicious than sweet onions.
  • Monday, May 23, 2011

    Strawberry Banana Muffins.... and a necklace.

    For some reason, I wanted to take my picture of this muffin with the necklace that I had recently bought. So I did.

    Sadly, I don't have any pictures of the muffins that don't have the necklace, and none of them came out terribly well, so... I wish I had realized that before I ate all of the muffins. The necklace is gorgeous, and can be found on Lisa Leonard Designs. Her pictures of it are much, much better!

    And please, I already have been informed of the irony of a bird wearing a bird necklace.

    As for the muffin... well, I am not a big fan of bananas, so it amused Mama Bird that I would opt to make muffins with bananas. Especially since I had to fight Papa Bird for the bananas, which caused some tension for a few days. But she makes delicious banana bread, so I knew I liked banana flavor, just not something else about them.

    These were much more successful than the cherry muffins. I'm not a huge fan of when I get a bite that's all banana and no strawberry, but I'm sure normal people who like bananas would disagree with me. Even with my disdain for bananas, I thought these were pretty delicious, and they will be staying in the breakfast rotation.

    Recipe from A Pookie Pantry.
    (Makes 17 muffins, with 140 calories and $0.25 per serving)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large ripe bananas
  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 2.25 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teapoon salt
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Whisk together brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and mashed bananas.
    3. Add applesauce and melted butter and stir to combine.
    4. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
    5. Gently fold in the strawberries, making sure they are coated with flour .
    6. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
    7. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.
    Today's lessons learned:
    • Bananas: sometimes acceptable.
  • Friday, May 20, 2011

    Mother's Day Baked Ziti

    The blog layout finally changed! It's got 99% less birds, 100% less stripes, and 100% more food. Looking at that picture does make me wish I had more of those tacos, though... I'll add them back onto the list of recipes I need to make. First on the list is everything I ate in England. I swear I'll get to that before it's been a full year.

    I wasn't sure what I should have shared today. As the first day of my meatless month thought it'd be fitting to share something vegetarian, but I don't have anything vegetarian I've been waiting to share. I was tempted to post the last muffin recipe I have stored just to make it three muffins in a row, but I decided a real meal every now and then is a good idea too.

    Not that I couldn't live off muffins. You can put fruits and veggies in those, so don't let anyone tell you a muffin isn't a complete meal.

    Mother's day was almost two weeks ago, which is years in blog time. But I never shared when we cooked up for Mama Bird, and that's really a shame, because it was a very filling meal that lasted us for quite a few days.

    Yes, I said what 'we' cooked up. Sister Bird and I told Mama Bird that we would take care of dinner for her on Mother's day. I originally was hoping to make her stuffed zucchini, but Sister Bird isn't quite on-board with my desire to be trying new food, so she vetoed it as soon as it was suggested. But since Mama Bird been's bragging to her about what a good cook I am now, she still wanted me to come up with something for us to make.

    One thing I've learned about my sister over the years is that she loves meaty, cheesey pasta dishes. So I told her we should make ziti. She vetoed the meatless version, too. It was not a terribly healthy dinner, but you can't win them all.

    We also decided to make garlic bread. If I had thought about it more, I would have prepared it differently, but I am rarely known for thinking ahead.

    So I just melted some butter, minced some garlic, and stirred them together for a little, then put them on the bread. It was super garlic-y.

    Luckily everyone in my life loves garlic. A lot.

    So, if I had thought ahead for the garlic bread, I would not have melted the butter, but just left it soften. Then I could have stirred the minced garlic into it, spread it on the bread, and then broiled it. That would have made sense, instead of spooning melted butter and slightly cooked garlic onto pieces of bread.

    The baked ziti was HUGE. I don't mean 'oh, it fed our family and we had leftovers the next day' huge. I mean it fed all four of us, Sister Bird took another fourth of it to school with her, and Mama Bird and I ate it for lunch for another four days. It was so bulky that when I put it in the oven it scraped up against the top. There's still melted cheese in the oven now, and you smell it whenever you use the oven.

    It's been annoying Mama Bird quite a bit. Happy Mother's Day?

    These pictures were extremely rushed, because we were all quite hungry by the time it came out of the oven. Well, I saw all of us, but maybe it was just me. It's so hard to tell sometimes.

    Overall, it was a little sweet for me. I don't care for sweetness in most main dishes, and although I think my family agreed it was slightly sweet, no one else had that problem. Don't get me wrong: this was still a meaty, cheesy, pile of delicious pasta. I would have just upped the red pepper flakes and most likely included Sriracha if I had been making it for myself and friends instead of Mama Bird. I also think this was really closer to 16 servings than 12, but we had eaten signifcant salads and a fair bit of super garlic-y bread before we really got into it.

    Recipe from Simply Recipes.
    (Makes 12 6 ounce servings, with 441 calories and $2.37 per serving)

  • 1 pound ziti pasta
  • 1 pound ground beef, pork, sausage, or a mix
  • 1 onion
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 tablespoon basil
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 32 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 1 cup parmesan
    1. Preheat oven to 350.
    2. Bring a pot of water to boil, and cook pasta.
    3. Brown the meat, adding onion and garlic whenever desired.
    4. Add herbs once meat has been browned, and stir well.
    5. Cook about a minute, then add tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.
    6. Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of casserole pan.
    7. Spread half of the ricotta over the sauce.
    8. Mix some of the sauce with the pasta, and then add to pan.
    9. Spoon the remaining sauce over the pasta, and layer with cheese.
    10. Bake in the oven until top is browned, about 20 minutes.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • When putting stuff in the oven, make sure there's enough room for it. If not, move the racks down.
    • Don't get cheese inside the oven, it will smell like burning for weeks.
  • Thursday, May 19, 2011

    I'm not a Carnivore... nor an Omnivore.

    I've been quiet this week. Sorry, it's been a stressful week, and I really haven't cooked much. The basement that I live in flooded, so all of my belongings are waterlogged and scattered through the dry part of the basement. Which is really everything but my room. Papa Bird has become very displeased with the fact I never really unpacked when I came home from college, and I have agreed that it's about time I go through my belongings and either keep them or get rid of them.

    But most importantly of all that, my favorite stuffed animal ever, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, got wet. He still hasn't forgiven me. I don't blame him.

    Other things have been happening too, but suffice to say I just haven't felt like cooking. Not that I've had the time, anyway. But hopefully next week, things will be much calmer, and I'll do some posts I've been meaning to share for a while.

    I'm also finally working on a different layout that makes me feel less like I'm in middle school. This one has started driving me crazy. The beginning of the 'remodel' is up at the top, although I haven't gotten my act together for that new section you see.

    What I really wanted to say is that starting tomorrow, I've decided to not eat meat for a month.

    I wish I had some noble reason for this. A stand against animal cruelty, a desire to make people really think about how unsustainable our current meat 'production' methods, or so on, but there's no noble reason here. I just think it will be interesting to try. If nothing else, it will force me to try some interesting recipes that I wouldn't have otherwise tried, so I think I'll be happy.

    Unless my friends taunt me with food. Which I already know they will.

    I haven't worked out a full meal schedule yet, which isn't too surprising. But trust me, I've collected PLENTY of vegetarian recipes to try out. And a lot of beans.

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Muffins for... Dessert

    When I took the first bite of these muffins, I was sort of concerned. They were... sweet. Not sugary, but definitely sweet. I got worried. I had been doing such a great job at staying away from sweets (let's pretend Easter candy doesn't exist for a moment, please.), and surely these would tempt me back over to the Sweet Side.

    Let's also pretend that I haven't been wanting to make homemade Pop-Tarts for a long time.

    But I was over-reacting. These are cornbread muffins; even sweet cornbread isn't sugary. So I happily munched on them for a few weeks, until I made an amazing discovery.

    These muffins are delicious with jam on top. Strawberry is the best, trust me. Sadly, I discovered this information too late, as there were only two muffins left. So while these may not be the greatest for breakfast, they make amazing snacks. Heck, I'd eat this as a dessert. Just warm up the jam before you put it on. Or if you're me, get up in the middle of the game you were playing with your friends, go into the other room, and pretend they don't think you're crazy for taking pictures of a muffin.

    Or you could just eat them for breakfast. Whatever you want, really.

    Recipe from Cooking on the Side
    (Makes 18 muffins, with 142 calories and $0.14 per muffin)

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1.25 cups milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
    1. Preheat oven to 350.
    2. Combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.
    3. Combine milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and butter in separate bowl and mix well.
    4. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until well blended.
    5. Pour into muffin cups.
    6. Bake for 18-20 minutes.
    Today's lessons learned:
    • Muffins can be eaten for dessert. Just like their cousin the cupcake.
  • Monday, May 9, 2011

    Too Many Cherries

    Here's a little secret about Ms. Brown Bird: I think those chocolate-covered cherry candies are disgusting. There. I've said it. I do like cherries, though. So when I found a bag of frozen cherries that time had forgot in our freezer, I decided they'd be delicious in my next batch of muffins.

    The cherries are lucky I didn't just throw them in a cobbler, frankly. It was so tempting.

    These muffins... were not what I expected. Maybe that's because I messed up. Well. Almost definitely because I messed up, honestly. Let's be fair. Where did I go wrong? I'll let you head over to Tastorama first, so you can see what I thought I was going to be making.

    Aren't they pretty?

    At this point, I realized I shouldn't have chopped the cherries. But it was too late to fix that, so I just kept going until I had put the whole bag in. Mama Bird and I had an interesting conversation right about this point.

    Mama: "Wow, that's... pink. How many cherries did you put in?"
    Me: "Two cups..."
    Mama: "Really? That bag was only two cups of cherries?"
    Me: "Well, it was 16 ounces."
    Mama: "...And?"
    Me: "Well, 8 ounces is a cup, so 16 ounces should have been two cups. So I didn't measure, I just put them all in."

    I was feeling very smug right then. I could do basic math, I knew a lot of conversions, and I had saved myself from having to wash a measuring cup. A complete victory, right?

    Mama Bird then pointed out a few important things to me. 1) Two cups of chopped cherries and two cups of whole cherries are very different amounts. 2) Most objects aren't exactly 8 ounces to a cup, that's just a generally accepted conversion.

    So. I had a lot of extra cherry flavor in these.

    And my cutting board vaguely reminded me of a scene from Dexter.

    They looked... sickly when they came out of the oven. There's really no other word for it. I was quite upset about it, because I am far too cheap to throw away muffins.

    Oh. Did I mention I burned them slightly? Not really burned, but they were browned on the bottom, and I would always rather under-bake something. I've been on a streak of over-baking, it would seem...

    But, honestly, they aren't actually bad. The flavor is very cherry-ful. Mama Bird is a fan of them, so not all is lost. They also freeze wonderfully, so my dream of eating muffins for breakfast every day continues. Next up will be a banana-strawberry muffin, but before I post them I'll have to share what else I made last week, and my mother's day gift to Mama Bird!

    Recipe from Tastorama
    (Makes 24 muffins, with 136 calories and $0.19 per muffin.)

  • 3 cups minus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 cups cherries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1. Preheat oven to 385.
    2. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in one bowl.
    3. In separate bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, vanilla, egg, and yogurt.
    4. Add the wet ingredients to dry, then fold in cherries.
    5. Scoop batter into muffin pan.
    6. Bake for 25 minutes.
    Today's lessons learned:
    • 8 ounces is not always a cup.
    • Not all fruit in muffins is diced.
    • Measuring chopped fruit and whole fruit is very important.
  • Friday, May 6, 2011

    Seis De Mayo

    So I didn't get this up last night like I wanted to, but... one day off isn't too bad.

    Someone told me that putting beans on a fish taco was a cardinal sin. And that I would certainly burn in whatever circle of foodie hell it is that they punish people who pretend that their Tex-Mex food is authentic.

    Although apparently fish tacos aren't anything like traditional Mexican food anyway, so... why did I make them for Cinco De Mayo? Well, in the future I'll have to do more research into my meals. Maybe next year I'll use it as an excuse to make tamales. I'm not sure you can get much more authentic than that.

    Maybe putting the beans on the tacos was not very authentic of me, but you know what? They needed it. I had three little tacos for dinner. And a margarita. Mama Bird decided if we were gonna have fish tacos for dinner, they would be incomplete without margaritas to go with them.

    I like the way she thinks.

    Now, these tasted fine. They certainly aren't that interesting to look at, though, are they? The white plate, the corn tortilla, and the fish all sort of blur together. The only splash of color is the tiny bit of red cabbage poking out from under the fish. But even if it didn't look that interesting, it taste good. Not amazing, but pretty good. I had two tacos in this style, and I was about pleasantly full.

    Then Mama Bird reminded me I had bought cilantro for this, and the pot of beans I had been simmering for the last hour finally felt soft, and I decided that in the name of Science, I had to eat another fish taco.

    And I was not disappointed by this decision. The beans really gave more texture, and mixing the cilantro in certainly helped.

    Our fish tacos were corn tortillas, salt-and-peppered tilapia, cilantro, a mayo/sour cream/lime/seasoning cream, and some black beans. The beans were actually dried beans that I soaked during the day, and then realized that the directions said 'simmer one to two hours.' I was too hungry to wait for them, so I tried to just boil them, and... look, if you're gonna make dried beans, don't be a idiot. And don't think they're just magically ready to go as soon as they've soaked for a while.

    On a related note, I now have about a pound of black beans just waiting for me to devour them.

    But as far as 'authentic' goes for fish tacos, I think these were pretty on target. Sadly, I am still not a huge fan of corn tortillas, although I'm glad I gave them another chance. But the next time I make fish tacos, I think I'll just ask Boyfriend Bird's father for his recipe. Because those tacos are delicious.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • It's okay to cook something you know.
    • Dry beans take a while to cook if you make all of them at once.
    • Beans are delicious on tacos.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    California Chocolate Cookies

    A friend of mine recently moved to California. I'm at that age where it isn't unreasonable of my friends to move across the country. We're not tied down by anything more than a sense of familiarity, and as much as I'm sad to see her go, I hope she finds what she's looking for over there. And starts posting some pictures to Facebook. How am I supposed to know she's doing well if I don't have pictures?

    The last time I saw her, I made cookies. They were Martha Stewart's Outrageous Chocolate Cookies, only with white chocolate chips instead of more milk chocolate. But I messed up.

    I overbaked them.

    I wish I had paid better attention to the site I first found them on. When I first went to take them out of the oven, they seemed so undercooked. So I just put them back in. Then they were black on the bottom, and I was bitterly disappointed.

    My friend still ate probably 2/3 of the cookies. But I was upset. I'll redo this disaster sometime, because I can see how delicious these would have been. Nothing tastes sadder than burnt chocolate.

    The night wasn't a total failure, at least. We had a lot of fun sending her off.

    When I say 'we had a lot of fun,' I mean 'we bought a lot of alcohol.' We also bought popcorn, The Emperor's New Groove, My Little Pony fruit snacks, and ate a mountain of pulled BBQ chicken. Which was absolutely delicious, by the by. I will be recreating that sometime not too far in the future.

    But the best part of the night, to me, was when we were all giant nerds. We made colored drinks. Grenadine with Everclear, Blue Curacao with Schnapps, and Absinthe with... a whole bunch of things. Arranged artfully, they made the Triforce of Booze. Power, Courage, and Wisdom. Color-coded and everything.

    We are all huge nerds.

    And next time my friend is back on our side of the country, I will make her chocolate cookies that haven't been burnt to a crisp.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • Don't overbake cookies. Ever.
    • Everclear is vile.

    Friday, April 29, 2011

    Sick birds don't cook

    A lot has been happening, but not in my kitchen. I've been sick and incredibly grumpy because of it. Grumpy birds are dangerous. I've been downing cough drops, tea, and every cold medication I can find, but nothing seems to be helping. I just hope I'm not contagious, or my office is going to be very angry at me.

    The week hasn't been a total loss: I beat Portal 2. Yes, this is a cooking blog, and I probably shouldn't dedicate an entire post to video games. But I don't think you really want me to detail how I ate nothing rice and beans this week, either.

    Ye gods, that game was absolutely everything I could have hoped it would be. GLaDOS was perfect and witty all over again, it was a full-length game, there were more than two characters, and my Cube, my beautiful angel returned, and... oh, too many amazing things. It's inspired me to go play through the Half-Life series. I've started Half-Life: Source twice now, but never gotten past the 'Blast Pit' chapter. Hopefully this time I'll pull through. I'm also probably going to do something crafty in honor of the Companion Cube, but don't expect that for a few months. I'm rather slow.

    I'm also extremely tempted to make Portal cupcakes, but my ideas aren't terribly creative right now. I'm also only 12 pounds away from my weight-loss goal, so cupcakes aren't exactly the best idea right now. Maybe if I made whole-wheat cupcakes. Although I think muffins are much better suited to being whole wheat, don't you?

    I think that whole-wheat bread tastes much better than white. Many of my friends agree with me, but I know at least one who thinks whole-wheat is disgusting. For a while I thought he was absolutely insane, but then I remembered bananas nauseate me, and I can't stand the taste of egg. We've all got our food quirks, and I didn't really think the 'whole-wheat versus white' would ever be a problem. And it hasn't been. Until I decided to make calzones for our weekly get together, and I showed up with four pounds of whole-wheat dough.

    I mentioned a few posts ago that I had bought a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and I bet you thought I hadn't used it yet. I've only used it once so far since our house is usually swimming in carbs, but I can't wait until I have an opportunity to make it again.

    I am curious/nervous about using generic flour instead of King Arthur for making dough, though. I'll have to experiment on it and see how much of a difference in taste it makes.

    This time I used 90% King Arthur flour. I had to top off the last cup of unbleached flour with some generic stuff, and this turned out fine.

    I've read on a few blogs now that measuring out and preparing all of your ingredients before starting to actually cook is a big time-saver, and a much better way to cook. I'm trying to get in that habit, so we'll see if it really helps me. We'll see if I remember to do it more than once.

    I hadn't really messed with yeast before arbitrarily deciding to make four pounds of dough. Except that time I made naan. I'm still trying to gain confidence in working with yeast, so... I took a picture at what the yeast mixture looked like at this point so I would know what to look for in the future. I swear I'm not crazy, just planning for the future.

    Do crazy people say that? I hope not.

    One thing I've learned in my short bread-making experience is that dough is always stickier than I expect it to be. Without fail, it will stick to my hands in new and creative ways, and I will be stuck with half of the dough on my fingers. I keep saying I've learned my lesson and that I'll use more flour in the future, but... it hasn't happened yet.

    I made this dough on a Sunday night, for dinner on Tuesday. I kept it covered in the fridge, and it was very hard for me to not check on it every hour on Monday, but I managed somehow. Not that peeling the top back would have hurt it, probably. Bread is still a mystery.

    For some reason, I've been on a vegetarian streak this week. I haven't had any meat since Sunday, when we had Easter ham. The truth is that I haven't wanted to cook because I don't want to spread my plague, and since I dislike cooking for just myself I've been eating incredibly simple dishes, à la rice and beans. But I promised to not bore you with those details.

    In all seriousness, I've been eating more meatless meals because I know how many calories meat can bring to the table, and I've realized it doesn't have to be the focus of every meal. There was plenty of chicken available for the calzones, and I opted to not use any. Just sriracha, spinach, onions, and cheese. And I didn't miss the meat at all.

    Mind you, I still could happily eat nothing but meat for an entire day. I've just learned that meat isn't the end-all be-all of culinary experiences.

    Remember to poke holes in your calzones if you don't want them to explode. Because they can, and they will. These were incredibly simple to make, and were pretty fun to do with a group of friends. I'm curious if they'd freeze well. I really hope so, because I've been crazing a buffalo chicken calzone and if that turns out well, I see many in my future...

    Today's lessons learned:
    • Dough is sticky. Use a lot of flour on your hands.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2011

    Boozey Brownies

    I'm, uh... a little late to be doing a St. Patrick's Day post. I know, I know. More than a little late. But I made these, they were tasty, and I'm going to share them. You can make them next year. Or if you're just feeling particularly alcoholic someday and need some chocolate.

    Boyfriend Bird threw a little party on St. Patrick's day. He and his roommate grilled some burgers, and I made Sriracha Joes because I am incapable of not making food for parties these days. I promise one day I will share that recipe, because it is my favorite sloppy joe ever. I could eat them for forever. But I took no pictures of them, so that'll be for a later post.

    St. Patrick's Day is possibly the only holiday that is acceptably celebrated by getting black-out drunk. I didn't celebrate it this way, but I definitely watched some people doing so. And that wasn't even at the party; I saw some very inebriated people at two in the afternoon. Four of us went into a local city for a festival we had heard of. I personally knew nothing about it; I was just told there was some Irish festival where a bunch of bars had stuff set up outside and live music. Booze and music? How could that be bad? This was the day after I got my tattoo, so I was super nervous about it being outside and ruined in the sun, and it was still red and extremely sore. But I had a green halter top, and I couldn't resist showing it off. I'm so simple-minded some days.

    Sadly, the 'festival' was a huge letdown. We couldn't find anywhere to park, had to walk pretty far (although we did see a lot of cute dogs), and once we got there, we realized that there wasn't really anything outside other than lines to get into bars. There were plenty of people in green, though. So we went to the only semi-outdoor tent, where we could hear live music, but once they had verified we were of age, they told us there was a $20 cover.

    We just laughed and left. We ended up eating cannoli and tiramisu from a local Italian bakery. It's technically a chain now as it has 4 locations in the city, but it's only in the city, so it still counts as local! My family used to go there every time we went to the city, so it'll always have a special place in my heart, and it was nice to get to share it with some friends who had never experienced it.

    After our little trip, we went home and made these brownies, ate, and drank. And all was well. The brownies reminded me of the black bottom cake my mother used to make, only the chocolate was lighter. The taste of alcohol didn't come through for me, so if you're a fan of booze-taste, make sure you brush the whiskey on afterwards! I just dumped the whiskey in the Guinness batter as I was mixing it, because I didn't have anything to brush with and didn't want to be bothered.

    Recipe from Confessions of a Cardamom Addict
    (Makes 20 brownies, with 165 calories and $0.50 per serving)
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons Bailey's
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Guinness
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 3 ounces chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup and 2 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Jameson

    1. Preheat oven to 350.
    2. Mix together 2 tablespoons butter and cream cheese.
    3. Add 1/4 cup sugar and Bailey's until fluffy and delicious.
    4. Beat in 1 egg, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon flour. Set aside.
    5. Bring Guinness to a simmer.
    6. Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder, then mix in chocolate chips to melt.
    7. Stir in 2 tablespoons melted butter and oil.
    8. Mix in other egg and egg yolk, then 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, and salt.
    9. Sift in 2/3 cup and 1 tablespoon flour.
    10. Mix until batter is smooth.
    11. Mix batters together in brownie pan.
    12. Bake for 30 minutes.
    13. Brush the top with more whiskey if desired.
    Today's lessons learned:
    • Don't trust word of mouth.
    • Cannoli are worth every calorie.
  • Monday, April 25, 2011

    Chocolate Eggs, Chocolate Bunnies, and Popsicle Molds

    What's this? Getting a holiday post up around the actual date of the holiday? How unheard of. Maybe I'll get a Cinco de Mayo post up before it's done and over with. But let's not count on that kind of planning from me.

    I had a lot of big hopes for Easter this year. Mama Bird and I had three slow cookers at our disposal, and I was armed with an alarming number of recipes which may have included a few for Cadbury creme eggs knock-offs.

    I love those creme eggs more than almost any other candy. Which is saying a lot, because I love mint. But those eggs... a shell of milk chocolatey goodness, covering the delicious, creamy center... oh, such fond memories of insane sugar rushes. I used to just eat the four packs in one sitting. This year, I bought myself a four pack, and have only eaten one so far, and it's been more than a week.

    Sometimes I feel like a responsible adult. Then I remember I spent Easter hunting for my basket, just like I did when I was five, and realize I am going to be a child for the rest of my life. Although my parents have certainly gotten better at hiding the baskets over the years.

    So despite my big hopes for cooking Easter dinner, I ended up contributing very little. I gave Mama Bird my slow cooker to use for the ham, and a scalloped potato recipe she ended up not using. I did get her to agree to have asparagus, make straw-berry spinach salad, and said I wanted to make hot cross buns. Fine, except I was away with friends all weekend, and got home around 2 on Sunday. When I walked in she had already made some egg bread dough in the bread machine, since I had told her none of my plans.

    I was slightly disappointed. Because I have developed some sort of cooking compulsion to make things from scratch if I have the time and ability. I had been looking forward to being crazy and making hot cross buns completely from scratch. I whined to her about how my hopes and dreams were being systematically destroyed. Then she told me we didn't have any raisins, and I decided that the grocery store was too much work for a Sunday afternoon, and I'd have to mess with her dough until I liked it.

    I am lucky Mama Bird loves me.

    'Messing with the dough' involved me taking some cinnamon and some sugar, and kneading the dough until I decided I was done kneading it. I have yet to master the kneading process, and obviously have no clue how to apply flour to my hands so they aren't just... a doughy mess. Every two minutes spent kneading right meant at least 5 minutes of trying to get the dough off my hands and back to the ball. But it worked well enough, and we had a delicious lump of cinnamon-sugar smelling egg bread.

    I let it rise as our family did our Easter celebration. For our family, that means the annual hunting of the Easter basket. We used to do egg hunts every year too, but since none of us seem to love the taste of hard-boiled eggs, we've slowly stopped doing that.

    Sister Bird and I hid Papa Bird's basket very well. It took him all of twenty minutes to find, and we delighted in his frustration. Then when it was our turn I found Sister Bird's basket in under five minutes, and left her to keep searching while I went to pop the hot cross buns in the oven.

    They came out of the oven before dinner was ready, but they had to cool they could be frosted. So we had our delicious dinner, and as Papa Bird and Mama Bird fluttered around putting away leftovers, I mixed egg whites and powdered sugar to use as frosting. I should have just used milk, because the amount of powdered sugar I would have needed to really thicken the icing was insane.

    I didn't want to use it all, so I opted to not make the icing thick. So we didn't really have crosses made of icing on. Meaning we didn't really have hot cross buns.

    We had warm cinnamon biscuits with icing. But they were delicious, so I'm okay with that. I am dreading making more icing to eat the rest with, though. Hopefully Papa Bird will take them away and spare me.

    Mama Bird did an excellent job of listening to me ramble about all the stuff I've been wanting to buy for the last few months. I had been planning on buying some popsicle molds so I could make fresh fruit popsicles, and have a steady fruit intake over the summer. So she bought me an adorable little set! They're already sitting in the freezer with some strawberries/milk, and hopefully I'll get to sample one tonight. I've already decided I'm going to have to try to make my own pudding so I can make pudding pops. Sadly, if you search 'pudding' on Tastespotting, you get a lot of desserts, so I will have to be creative in my search, But oh, there are so many possibilities...

    She also got me a mortar and pestle. That, combined with the 8 pounds of chicken sitting in my freezer, means I am going to be making something else out of the Indian slow cooking book. I'm sorely tempted to just make the vindaloo again, but I know I should try other recipes from the book. Either way, Mama Bird gets to benefit from my gifts, so she will know how grateful I am.

    I have a lot of food I need to share with this blog... I've got two muffins to post, some cornbread, something from St. Patrick's Day, some cookies, some calzones... I've certainly been eating well, but I've been holding out on you. And I may even change the layout (yet again) to something with less sparkles. Either way, it looks like my kitchen adventures are only picking up speed.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    'Authentic' Chicken Vindaloo has habaneros, right?

    I have led a sheltered life in terms of Indian food. Papa Bird dislikes curry, and so our family never really experienced Indian while I was growing up. The first time was in England, when we went to The Eastern Eye and I took terrible pictures. And I was smitten almost instantly with the foreign flavors.

    When we came back, I dragged Boyfriend Bird to a local Indian place, and then went to a different place with the family. And then I discovered The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes, due to my obsession with cooking blogs. The book was written by Anupy Singla of Indian as Apple Pie.

    I'm proud to say I didn't immediately one-click purchase the book, because I'm trying to work on my impulse buying. Why, just today I managed to talk myself out of buying a box of cookie cutters. I looked through it on Amazon, saw a few things I really wanted to try, and decided that I'd make one, and if I liked it I would buy it. Like a little test-taste. And oh, rest assured, I purchased the book the same day I made the dish.

    I picked out Chicken Vindaloo, because I remembered a waiter telling me that it was one of the spicier things on their menu. I had been disappointed once I actually got the dish- it tasted wonderful, but spicy? There was absolutely no spice to speak of. So I decided that I was going to test and see just how spicy this could be. Besides, the group of friends I was cooking for this time enjoys spice quite a bit.

    They probably deserve bird names by now... I shall dub them Ninja Bird, Uncountable Bird, and Ocarina Bird. There. Moving on.

    I think Uncountable Bird and I have similar spice tolerances, despite him saying he had a very low one. I think mine is actually lower than I want to admit. Ninja and Ocarina Bird seem like they have a higher but also similar level, and Darth Bird's spice tolerance is absolutely stupid.

    Obtaining everything I needed for this was slightly tricky, in that it called for black mustard seeds and I didn't know where to buy those, and the Giant and Harris Teeter near me don't carry the chilis I wanted. Or any of the other peppers she listed. Darth Bird scored the mustard seeds, but I decided I wanted to make sure this vindaloo was spicy, so I just decided to get habanero chilis instead.

    Well, that plan certainly worked.

    Let's do a quick review of the levels of spicy here... the recipe called for 6-10 bird's eye chilis, serrano peppers, or cayenne peppers. The spiciness of a pepper can be measured with the Scoville Rating. In fact, if you're planning on substituting some peppers for another, it's not a bad idea to try to grab one from the same place on the scale. Bird's eye chilis rank from 50,000 to 100,000, which is nothing to joke around with. Serranos are only 10,000 to 25,000, and cayenne are only slightly hotter at 30,000 to 50,000. So I would have been disappointed if I had got a hold of serrano peppers after all. The only pepper that would really have given me heat would have been the birds eye.

    Habanero are ranked at 100,000 to 350,000. So the hottest bird's eye is as potent as the weakest habanero. Thank god I only put three of those suckers in.

    Cutting up the onions was actually one of the most time consuming parts of this. Partially because I cut up 12 onions, and partially because I realized I was starting to run behind and I sliced my index finger in the middle of the ninth onion. I then danced around my house, sucking on my finger and whining to my dog. It was nearly five minutes before it stopped bleeding enough for the neosporin to stick to my finger and not just the blood, and then I had to put a big band-aid on it. And call Mama Bird and ask her to chop the habaneros, because there was no way I was touching them with that big of a cut.

    I think my pain amused her.

    We had nearly uncountable onions.

    I also made homemade naan for this little adventure, which I think turned out pretty well. It was slightly less flavorful than I would have hoped, but it was received well enough. Mama and Boyfriend Bird both thought it went really well with hummus, so I guess I know what to do next time I want to mess around with hummus.

    This is where two of the major changes to this recipe were made. One was on purpose, the other was entirely accidental. As I said earlier, I switched habanero peppers for serrano, because that was what I had and because I wanted it to be spicy. The accidental change was a direct result of my inability to read, and instead of putting EIGHT inches of ginger root in the mixture, I only put one. That's a lot of missing flavor.

    I know this is a bad picture, but I just wanted to make sure that everyone was aware that you cannot grind peppercorns like this. It will not work. Just measure out ground peppercorns next time, unless you have a real mortar and pestle. And then, if you don't, don't dump this mixture in with the onion and watch with despair as they aren't ground at all, and you end up with pureed onions with some peppercorns and mustard seeds.

    But if you do, the peppercorns will soften up in the six hours of cooking, and it will be okay. Not perfect. But trust me, it really will not be as bad as you think it will.

    Overall, I was pleased with this. I thought it was a great level of spice; it wasn't overpowering, but it built with time so by the end of the meal I had a wonderful burn going. I made the mistake of giving myself too much rice, so I was completely stuffed and couldn't even finish my plate. I tupperware'd it up and it was just as delicious the next day.

    When Mama Bird told me that it wasn't spicy at all. Mama Bird is definitely insane.

    But Ocarina Bird's father, who dislikes curry, tried this and enjoyed it. So hopefully I'll talk Papa and Boyfriend Bird into trying some too. Otherwise, I guess I'm going to have enough leftovers to last me a week.

    Note: I am reprinting this recipe because you can already view it through the Amazon 'take a peek!' feature, and because I accidentally made a few changes anyway. If anyone tells me I really shouldn't post this, I'll take it down.

    Chicken Vindaloo adapted from The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes
    (Makes 13 servings, with 260 calories and $1.65 per serving)
  • 12 medium yellow onions
  • 6 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 20 cloves garlic
  • 3 habanero chilis
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seed
  • 4 pounds chicken
  • 1/2 cup water
    1. Cut up onions and saute, then add vinegar and cook until vinegar has evaporated.
    2. Puree the onions with rock salt, peppercorns, and mustard seed.
    3. Puree ginger root, garlic, habaneros (with stems removed), turmeric, coriander, garam masala, and cinnamon.
    4. Put chicken, ginger puree, and onion puree in slow cooker. Add water, and cook on low for six hours.

    Naan from Budget Bytes (Makes 8 naan, with 213 calories and $0.44 per naan)
  • 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
    1. Combine yeast, sugar, and water, and let sit for a few minutes.
    2. Stir in oil, yogurt, and egg until well mixed.
    3. In separate bowl, combine 1 cup of flour with salt, then wet ingredients.
    4. Continue adding flour at a half cup at a time until it's impossible to stir with a spoon and doesn't stick to your hands.
    5. Knead dough ball for about three minutes.
    6. Loosely cover dough and let rise for about 45 minutes.
    7. Cut into 8 equal pieces, and shape those into balls.
    8. Cut a skillet over medium heat and PAM it.
    9. Roll out one dough ball at a time, and place on skillet.
    10. Flip once the dough is golden brown on one side.
    11. Remove and serve warm if possible.

    Today's lessons learned:
    • Just use ground peppercorns.
    • Habaneros are spicy. Mama Bird is wrong.
    • 8 inches of ginger and 1 inch of ginger are very different.
    • If you let your friends draw on your hands with fountain pens, it may take a full week to come off. Very odd.