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.