Eggs Benedict, or “I hate making hollandaise” for dinner

I haven’t participated in a Daring Cooks challenge in a long while, but here it is and with one of my favorite dishes!

Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num.

I have been poaching eggs for a while now, so it turns out that the challenge for me was the hollandaise sauce. I had to make it twice. That doesn’t happen a lot but then, I generally try to avoid things that need absolute precision. Hollandaise does. I still have no idea where things when wrong the first time around, but I ended up with a curdled globby mess.
The second time was the charm, though! I’m glad to say that I have perfected the Hollandaise but I think I’ll still keep this as my go-to dish when eating breakfast OUT. It takes far too long to make for breakfast for myself. That said, take a look at this, and tell me that doesn’t have you looking forward to your next breakfast out?

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Marshmallow Fluff

Breaking eggs is easy, separating eggs is only slightly harder. Today, however, I had a real issue with it. I went through two eggs before I stopped breaking the yolks and actually separated out four whites. Not to be wasteful, I made some scrambled eggs.

Then I really got cracking (pun completely intended) on the recipe for Fluff. I got the recipe out of Retro Desserts by Wayne Harley Brachman. It involves bringing corn syrup, sugar and water to 246 degrees (what’s known as a “hard ball” state, it says) and then adding it to stiff egg whites. Not being the pastry chef of the family, I was a little weary of the turn sugar into a hard ball state, as that is pretty darn close to candy making. I did it, though! The fluff was warm and delicious and now lives in my refrigerator. When it runs out, I think I’ll be making more. There’s only one downside to the ooey gooey goodness is the clean up, which I am putting off for a little while.

Things I’m considering doing with the fluff:

Buying (Baking?) Brioche and making a sandwich of fluff and nutella. If I French Toast that, do I go to diet hell or breakfast heaven?

Fluffernutters, of course.

Spread on top of brownies and the ganache the whole thing.

Scoop it up with my finger.

Melt a little and pour it over ice cream, or blueberry pie, I’m not sure why, but that just popped into my head and now I must have it.

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Casseroles

Growing up with an Irish/American mother, I naturally ate fantastic home cooked Italian dinners most nights of the week. No, my dad didn’t cook. My mom was lucky enough to have been taught by a lovely Italian woman who lived in her building. I never tire of my mother’s cooking and I love to cook Italian food myself, but I as I grew older, I wondered about “American” food. When I was a kid, I dreaded eating at friend’s houses. I had seen mothers preparing Hamburger Helper and Tuna Noodle Casserole, and I was less than interested. As I grew older, those classics begin to pique my interest.

John works in really nice places filled with really great food. It didn’t intimidate me too much, just a little. After trying to compete for a while, I decided that what he needed was the furthest thing from fine dining that I could create. So, I started to learn how to make casseroles. I will grant that one doesn’t “learn” casseroles, rather one figures out which ingredients taste nice together when thrown into a dish with condensed cream soup. It all started with Summer Zucchini Casserole. John loved it and so did I (I will admit I had flashbacks of tuna noodle casseroles – I hear people really enjoy them, but I don’t like tuna so I’ve never tried it). Since then, I’ve assembled many a casserole and highly recommend them especially for busy moms. All you need is a mixing bowl and casserole dish. You don’t have to worry about dishes, you can use up leftovers and they’re done in about 30 minutes. It’s also a great way to pack a lot of veggies into yourself (or the kids).

Tonight, I made possibly the best casserole yet, even if it was the least healthy. It included Velveeta Cheese, Stove Top Stuffing, Cream of Chicken Soup, Roasted Broccoli, and Leftover Chicken. I still am a little frightened of hamburger helper, but I do make a lot of meals that involve cheese sauce, ground meat and noodles.

Do you make casseroles often? Do you have happy childhood memories of them? Are you skittish about trying them? What’s your favorite recipe?

Please let me know by leaving a comment!

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Happy Hanukkah or, May the Force Be with You

Is there a better way to begin the festival of lights than by eating latkes and Star Wars cookies?

Ok, this might not be the most logical pairings, but does it help to know that I’m not actually Jewish? One of my friends called me an honorary Jew once, but only because I genuinely like matzohs and always remember her holidays. Does anyone really need a reason to make latkes? I’ve never really made latkes before, but I had an idea: potatoes, onions, fried. How hard could it be?

Turns out, not hard at all. I had my husband grate the potatoes, I chopped onions, added salt, pepper, flour and baking soda and it worked! They turned out delicious and went really well with the leftover apple sauce that my sister made from Thanksgiving. If everyone had latkes tonight, it would be a happy first night of light indeed.

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And what about the force?

John got some Star Wars cookie cutters for his birthday and we never had a chance to use them. Our toddler has wanted to make Christmas cookies since we put our tree up on Sunday. I couldn’t think of a better way to make her happy and get myself some Star Wars chocolate gingerbread cookies. Despite burning the first batch, they turned out very nice. We undercooked the 2nd batch just a smidge and they were chewy, spicy and chocolatey. I found the recipe here.

So, Happy Hanukkah and I hope everyone has a great holiday season!

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Battle of the Bulgar

John likes to bring interesting ingredients home from the store. Occasionally, I like them. When he opened the shopping bag to proudly pronounce his purchase of bulgar wheat, I was less than thrilled. He was cooking, though, so I would have to try whatever it is he came up with, and be happy that I didn’t have to cook it.

He cooked up a nice stir fry with the last of our CSA’s greens: bok choy and tat soi. The gorgeous greens, beef and sauce all worked together to make me forget that underneath it all, there was bulgar wheat instead of brown rice. When I remembered, I stuck some of it on my fork with the greens. It wasn’t horrible, so I tried it all by itself. Never mind “not horrible,” it was actually delicious! John had seasoned it with onions, garlic, ginger and citrus and it was the perfect compliment to the asian-style stir fry. The taste was not dissimilar to brown rice and the texture (it’s always the texture that turns me off food) was nice, a lot like short grain rice.

I highly recommend trying Bulgar. A lot of the more nutritious alternatives to rice are more of an acquired taste. Quinoa sounds cool and is easy to cook, but after a few bites, I can’t take the texture. Couscous is all right and fast, but again, the texture gets to me eventually. Barley is good, but really only in soup (for me, again, John loves it). I think Bulgar is similar enough to rice in texture that I can really have it with everything I would otherwise have rice with. Yay nutrition!

Here are some photos of our dinner.

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Something for Everyone

Tonight we had an orange sort of dinner. John and I had pumpkin risotto (his garnished with fennel and mine with carrots) and the baby had a nice carrot puree. “Wait, what about the toddler?” you ask. She had a red dinner. Red-faced angry that she was supposed to eat anything at all.

At least the baby eats.

 

 

 

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Butter!

As a kid, I remember Thanksgiving being boring. I didn’t like football, the grownups always booted me out and I wasn’t that into sitting and eating for hours (I learned the error of my ways on that one, eventually).
Now that I’m a grown up who loves cooking and eating all day long, I try to remember what it was like for me as a child and think of some ways to keep interesting for my children, as well as my niece and nephew. I remember being in kindergarten and shaking a jar of heavy cream until it was butter. Every student in the class has to shake for one minute until we had butter. And then we all got to taste it on some bread my teacher had brought in. Since it stuck with me, I figured I must have thought it was pretty fun/cool.
I told my niece and nephew the day before that we would be doing a food science experiment on Thanksgiving, without telling them what it was exactly, and they were pretty excited. So excited, in fact, I thought the “truth” would disappoint them, but thankfully it didn’t. We all took turns shaking the jar and after about 20 minutes, we had butter! We had postulated that it would take 30 minutes and it was very exciting to test the theory that cream would make butter when shaken, and the time it would take.
Then, not only did we taste the butter, but John and my nephew tasted the buttermilk!
Here’s a little photo essay of the experience:

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