Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Decorating for new year

As we see the tail of tiger retreating and the twitching nose of the rabbit waiting in the wings we know that 2011 is upon us. We're preparing food to take to a New Year's eve party but a year ago I was in Hawaii with my family preparing our traditional New Year foods: soba, ozoni, pig's feet soup, konbu maki, nishime, yokan (homemade this year), namasu and sekihan. Alas, I'm on the east coast and the nearest shinto shrine is over 200 miles away. So I participate in my new traditions: spending time with my friends, black eyed peas and Scotch whiskey (not necessarily a New Year's thing but it seems to happen when we get together). I hope that you and yours have a safe and happy New Year. Proceed with diplomacy. Be calm and gentle, but persistent.

Warm Wishes,

Photo by Otodana "Decorating for new year."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

As if My Innards Are Fighting a War With My Food

Life at Blackbird Tavern has been interesting, to say the least. DBF is on his second round of cough syrup with codeine...and I'm in denial that I'm sick beyond the help of OTC medication. Last week was a wash, I actually took a sick day for the first time in over a year, so we ate a lot of take out. It's difficult to write about cooking or finance or environmentalism when you're not practicing any of the above. Eating out means that I'm not cooking, I'm blowing the food budget and there's take out containers full of food that is probably bad for me.

What happens when you're sick? Do you have a pantry set up that allows you and your family to continue having a normal life when you can't cook? Do you go for the easy solution or do you stick to your diet plan? What's your favorite thing to eat when you're sick?

I'm going to have some hot tea and toast...hopefully I won't spend the next half hour laying on the couch thinking that I'm about to recreate a scene from Alien.

Warm Wishes,

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from Blackbird Tavern

Merry Christmas from DBF and Kitchen Penguin! We hope you have a safe and happy weekend.

Friday, December 10, 2010

KP's Completely Arbitrary but Possibly Life Changing Project

We are 22 days into the month of December and I am 22 days into my project. What's the project? I don't have a catchy name so we'll call it "KP's Completely Arbitrary Project." (Can you think of a better name? Leave a comment.) It's a little bit like Sharon Astyk's Anyway Project and a little bit like Andrew Wilder's October: Unprocessed. Basically, I'm fixing DBF's and my health by changing how and what we eat. My kitchen is where I find my center in, what I perceive to be, the chaos of my life. Change happens slowly for me; I am like the river slowly eroding the rock...and meandering. I have no illusions of completely changing DBF's eating habits, he won't suddenly start liking salads, but I intend to improve upon the quality of the food that he consumes.

Twitter followers will notice that I've been doing a lot of baking this month. Well, it's December and I need to make gifts. I'm also trying to use up all my mixes because that's phase one of the project, "use up the prepared/pre-packaged foods." Thus far, I have used all the cake mixes and I'm down to my last packs of brownies and muffins. The challenge is using the big box of pancake mix that I bought right before Thanksgiving; in hindsight, I should have purchased a box from a store other than Costco. We also have a good collection of canned soup but I can always take those to the food bank. Cleaning out the freezer will be difficult because we're down to the store bought frozen entrees that I don't like, ie. orange chicken with too much peel. I don't want to throw out food and I can't donate frozen meals so these items might end up in other people's freezers.

Some Guidelines
  1. Eating out should be avoided. That being said, I will not turn down a free meal but all unplanned free meals must have a planned meal as a back-up (ie. I cannot go to work without a packed lunch because they're having training in my office and I might be able to snag something). In an effort to be sociable, I can have one planned meal out once a week. Starbucks can happen two times a month.
  2. Every effort should be made to make meals from scratch. I will eventually find something that I can't make myself or the equipment/materials to make the ingredient is cost prohibitive on a home scale. Balsamic vinegar comes to mind.
  3. Comparisons of commercially produced products to the homemade equivalent will be documented. I really enjoyed doing the pumpkin pie test.
  4. Food must be prepared for travel lasting less than two days. This is actually an extension of guideline #1 but I log a good number of frequent flier miles and I don't like ending lists on #4.
  5. DBF is exempt from guideline #1 if he's spending his own money but I will offer to pack him breakfast and lunch Monday to Friday.
Phase 1 (Using Up the Open Mixes) will extend through the end of January since I keep finding more processed food as I clean the pantry.

Phase 2 will involve baking, lots of baking. I make an OK white bread and quick breads but I need to work on replacing the hamburger and hot dog rolls that I purchase from the store.

Phase 3 is getting into serious canning. I'll be making sauerkraut between Christmas and New Years but the major canning goals for 2011 are: apple sauce, tomato sauce, strawberry preserves, bread and butter pickles, corn (creamed and regular), and green beans. This will replace the majority of the canned goods that I purchase.

I'm still trying to figure this out so things will change. What are your food plans?

Warm Wishes!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Rarity In These Hectic Days

I just received a call from Ueshima Coffee Company (UCC-Hawaii)i, my favorite Kona coffee producer, to make sure that it was OK if they put the receipt in my box...because it's being mailed to an address other than my billing address. This makes an impression because it's the sort of thing that I would think about. This is going to a different address, is it a gift? If so, it's tacky to have the receipt with dollar amount, a gift receipt for returns OK, in the box.

I'm getting ahead of myself...every year, I order a pound of good Kona coffee for future father in-law's (FFIL) Christmas gift. I order from UCC because I've been to the plantation, done the tour and roasted my own coffee. In short, I know they have good product...just the sort of thing to give to a FIL.

Did I mention that they called me last week to apologize for their ordering system thinking that they had ground pea berry in stock? And they understood why I couldn't order the whole bean (whole bean pea berry is in stock)'s a gift and I'm not buying a grinder to go with the coffee.

Anyway, I was impressed with their customer service. Not e-mails...personal service, something I find a rarity nowadays (especially when you consider that it's just a $30 order). If you're in the market for high quality Kona coffee then I recommend UCC. They're friendly people that are passionate about coffee.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bucking Tradition

We will not have a turkey at Blackbird Tavern for Thanksgiving. DBF is cooking the meat and he doesn't do birds...which is fine because I don't do roasts. We picked up two boneless legs of lamb over the weekend and DBF should be picking up the last of the marinade ingredients. I don't have the recipe but I do know that the marinade involves 1 bottle of port wine (per leg), fresh garlic, rosemary, and ginger. And...Kahlua for the cook (apparently it's cheaper than Sheep Dip).

I will be making corn bread (more on that later), mashed potatoes, minted peas, asparagus and pumpkin pie. I was going to make buttered carrots for some color contrast but DBF's mom doesn't like cooked carrots. We sat down to dinner last year and, to my horror, I realized that other than the broccoli and cranberries we were eating a meal in shades of brown. Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn bread and sausage dressing...brown, brown, brown... So this year we'll have two greens.

Corn bread...corn bread...corn bread. I will be making 5 pans (that's 2.5 recipes) of corn bread this year. Two pans for DBF to take to his office party, two for a Thanksgiving dinner I'm not attending and one pan for the one that I'm hosting. I made the first two pans last night and they do not want to pop out of their pans...hopefully this is not foreshadowing of events to come. I only have two pans! I can't afford to let them leave the house, I need at least one for my own dinner, and I don't want to pre-cut the cornbread because that will lead to dryness. Seriously, the recipe starts with melting 3 sticks of butter...and lubing up the pan...and they're still stuck!

DBF's parents will be here tomorrow. The house is almost FMIL clean and I narrowly avoided being sick. Hurray for OTC cold medications!

I'd like to wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving. I hope that you're able to spend the day with people that you care about.

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What evil lurks in the heart of a pumpkin?

None, it's just seeds and stringy stuff. As mentioned in my Monday post, I'm doing a test run on pies for Thanksgiving. DBF vetoed the gluten free pumpkin pie recipe (part 1 and part 2) so I used the recipe on the back of the can of organic pumpkin. My "family recipe" is the one of the back of the Libby's can. In my experience, the can recipes are all very similar...1 can puree, 1 can condensed milk, a couple of eggs and spices.

The crust was store bought, I'll probably make it from scratch for the big day, so the only difference between the two pies was the puree. Yes, the fresh puree was more yellow than the canned. They both...tasted like pumpkin. But when one's entire pumpkin experience is likely based upon consumption of the canned does not have a good baseline for comparison. The consistency was the same, I was very careful to remove the stringy bits prior to puree.

A day of puree draining and an hour in the oven later...pies! As you can see, I used my ceramic pie plates. Can you guess which one is which? Hmm? Can you? The one on the right, green pie plate, is the one that I made from scratch.

As exciting as preparing to bake and actually baking the pies was...eating the pie is better. I conducted a blind taste test with DBF and Evil Minion.

Scratch: Spicier. More bitter.

Canned: Molassesy. Sweeter.

Evil Minion
Does not want me to watch her as she eats the pie...a reasonable request.

Canned: Tastes more vegetably. Sweeter. Molassesy.

KP Verdict
I don't know if it was worth the work to process the pumpkin. Either my pumpkins weren't very sweet to begin with or there's something in the canning process that causes the puree to become sweeter, probably the extra heat. If the goal is to capture the flavor of the harvest then yes, it is worth the extra work to prepare the puree yourself. If you believe, as I do, that the intentions of the cook can influence the flavor of the food then yes, cut out as much of the external processing as possible. If you only need to make one pie a year to keep the future mother-in-law (FMIL) happy then...make it from scratch or at least make it look like you made it from scratch. I have enough puree to make this year's pie from scratch but I might be dumping out a can of puree into a container that I can conveniently remove from the refrigerator when FMIL watches me bake. Me? Evil? Never...

Happy Cooking!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Could Have. Should Have. Didn't.

“I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn't like it.” - Samuel Goldwyn (1882 - 1974)

I have a couple of posts of actual substance kicking around in my brain but they aren’t fully formed, at least not enough for me to communicate to somebody that doesn’t know me in real life. What happened to the posting schedule? I could make excuses about how I had to work late, or how I’ve been cleaning the house, or I was agonizing over my contributions two “light lunches,” or that I might have had a gallbladder attack (bad Penguin didn’t go to the doctor). But I said I was going to do something and I didn’t do it; that seems to be a recurring theme in my life lately. I could have…should have…but didn’t…prepare a month of standalone posts that I could use if I didn’t have time to write a post prior to the “re-launch” of Kitchen Penguin. The past is past and the future will be here all too soon, the present situation is that I don’t have filler posts so I’m four posts behind.

What I do have is three pumpkins worth of puree sitting in a cheesecloth lined colander draining into a large bowl in my refrigerator. There will be pie in the office tomorrow! I used the method described on Eating Rules to process the sugar pumpkins. I also have a can of Farmer's Market Organic Pumpkin so this will be a side by side taste processing the pumpkin worth the effort? My initial observation is that the fresh pumpkin is yellower, because it wasn't heated in a can, but I don't generally go around eating unadulterated pumpkin puree so I don't have a good comparison on the flavor. The fresh puree pumpkin. I wouldn't call it sweet but I wouldn't call it flavorless; it would make a good soup. There will be photos and reactions from my test subjects...DBF and co-workers...

T-10 days to Thanksgiving...are you ready?

Happy Cooking!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Waka For My Rice Cooker

I have mentioned my rice cooker before. The one I have isn't fancy; it doesn't have a warm setting, a timer, or fuzzy cooks rice and that's all I need it to do. It knows when the "sushi" rice, the basmati rice, or the brown rice is done and it has a home in the kitchen away from the active prep/cooking area. My rice cooker is probably the most utilized small appliance in the kitchen.

Steamy tendrils rise
One less thing that I can burn
Three cups rice washed plus
One knuckle water, press start
Itadakimasu, yum!

What's in your kitchen that's worthy of counter space?

Happy cooking!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Manic Monday

The kitchen is a mess and I have a migraine. No post today, check back Wednesday. Did you all have a happy Halloween? We had 10 trick-or-treaters at KP HQ...lots of leftover candy.

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Small Changes

If you're reading the on the main site then you might have noticed the new widget on the right side of the screen "What's Cooking?" I've started putting my menu planning on the kitchenpenguin Google calendar so you can see what's coming up. Yes, my breakfast is very boring: oatmeal (1/2 cup rolled oats, 1 T ground flax seed, 1 t brown sugar) and the occasional fruit. Also, my lunch is usually a repeat of the previous night's dinner. I put my lunches in nice bento boxes but the food isn't artfully arranged; this is why I rarely talk about the first two meals of the day.

The calendar widget is also a real time window into the scheduling part of my brain. The lentil soup moved a day back and the lunches shifted around to accommodate the glut of leftovers. I'll eventually expand the calendar entries to include ingredient lists as well.

Small post for today, I'm working on something longer for Friday. In the immortal words of Bill S. Preston, esq "Be excellent to each other."

Happy Cooking!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wegmans Woodmore (aka, How KP spent her Sunday)

Firstly, I do not work for Wegmans...or in the food industry in general. However, I am now considering applying to work part time at the future Crofton, MD location; I have seen the sign for the future site and I am excited. I have shopped at five Wegman's locations, 3 in VA and 2 in MD, so I have a baseline for my Wegmans experience. The new store in Woodmore, MD felt like it was the biggest one that I have been in.

It was a mad house in the store at 9 AM. Thankfully, my shopping companion and I already had our cards so we didn't have to stand in the 20+ people deep lines at all the entrances. The main entrance, as with every Wegmans that I've ever been to, funneled the crowd into the vegetable section and that was a huge bottle neck. However, I must commend Wegmans on signage, traffic control, and having an employee in every aisle.

Bigger than a bread box differences:
  • There is a sit down restaurant. I had the mahi mahi sandwich and my companion had the crab cake sandwich, both very tasty meal options. We would have stayed for dessert but the band was starting their set and it was VERY loud in the Market Cafe. I understand that the restaurant is where they hold the cooking classes.
  • The store layout is flipped. The bakery, meat and prepared meals are to the left of the entrance; these things are to the right in the Hunt Valley and Potomac locations. Yes, there are other locations with these things on the left of the entrance but I usually shop at Hunt Valley so it was initially confusing for me.
  • Where are the penguins and cow? The model train was there but no penguins and cow.
Other things I noticed:
  • Still too far north for Cheerwine. Also, they don't have Diet Canada Dry Ginger Ale in anything smaller than a 2 liter bottle (important to my shopping companion).
  • Fabulous cheese department. OK, I admit to being biased because I have a friend that works in this department.
  • The only non-"baby" carrots in bags were Organic. While I do tend to prefer to purchase organic vegetables, I found the lack of options interesting.
  • Maybe I don't pay enough attention in the fruit section of the Hunt Valley Wegmans...they have passion fruit in Woodmore.
  • I really need to take a walk down the aisles in Hunt Valley because I didn't know that Wegmans includes the UK in their international foods section. They have McVitie's Penguins! Also, Jamaican guava jelly (a possible alternative when I run out of my supply from Hawaii).
So what did you buy?
  • "Baby" carrots (on the short list of vegetables that DBF eats)
  • Red seedless grapes
  • Bananas
  • Mushrooms
  • Pacific Vegetable Stock
  • Pacific Low Sodium Chicken Stock
  • Pretzel rolls
  • Bagels (plain, egg, blueberry, raisin & marco polo)
  • Gluten free pretzels (for a picnic next week)
  • Cream cheese
  • Eggs
  • Milk brie (should have used the $1 off coupon in the magazine but didn't see it until we got home) (for a picnic next week)
  • Port Salut (for a picnic next week)
  • Prosciutto (for a picnic next week)
  • Sirloin steak ($1 off coupon)
  • Butter (Free with $10 purchase)
  • Bread (Free with $10 purchase)
How was your weekend?

Happy Cooking!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Planning Ahead

I've been thinking about what I need to do in the next month and it isn't prudent to start a challenge right now. I need to clean the house, re-organize the kitchen (should have taken before photos), set up the new pantry space, plan the menu for Thanksgiving and get started on brewing Christmas gifts. Real life friends, I am NOT making any promises of brewed beverages for Christmas because I have never been able to pull this off...but I'm going to try one more time.

What's happening in the kitchen? We have acquired a side board that is now storing the service for 8 that DBF's mother gave us, my teapot & tea bowl collection, and eventually the crystal glasses (I'm making DBF help me move those from the cupboard). I'm getting rid of a small George Foreman grill (an item from my college days), Sunbeam Hotshot, and V slicer (it's a pain to clean so I don't use it). All this freed up enough cupboard space so that I could get the big Cuisinart and Kitchen Aid stand mixer off the counter. Small appliances still on the counter: toaster oven (needs to be replaced), electric kettle (used every morning), coffee grinder (also used every morning), and rice cooker. Once I get the crystal out of the cupboard next to the sink then I can move all the cups and mugs that don't live on the display/book shelves into the same cupboard. Why am I doing all this? After three years, I'm finally organizing the kitchen in the way that makes sense to opposed to how DBF set it up when he bought the house.

I have a very strong suspicion that I'll be receiving some small kitchen appliances for Christmas from DBF and his parents. His mother doesn't believe that I would actually want a waffle maker, stick blender, or blender...but I do...I REALLY do!

What about cooking? Oh yeah! There will be a pie comparison, homemade pumpkin puree vs canned. I need to test out side dishes. DBF is making lamb so I don't need to worry about cranberries this year. I was thinking about making a chorizo and mushroom strudel as a stuffing alternative for the turkey but I don't think chorizo and lamb go together very well. Or am I mistaken? Maybe some 3-Cheese Baked Cauliflower, this recipe looks promising and DBF just said that he might eat it. What do you like with your lamb?

Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The 4 Fs and 1 E

As previously claimed, I have not abandoned the blogoshere and I do intend to make some changes here at KP HQ. The posting schedule will change from the original Monday to Friday to a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. This will help to stop the burn out that I would have by Thursday when writing posts was scraping the bottom of the mental barrel.

I had planned for this return post to be about a personal challenge that I want to undertake but that will have to wait until Friday so that I have a chance to run my idea past DBF first, he eats my food so I think it's only fair. Instead, I'm going to expound a bit upon the philosophy of this blog.

What is the point of this blogging experiment? Um...I'm not exactly sure yet; there is no mission statement for Kitchen Penguin. I was reading the article "There Is No Competition If You Build Something That Matters" and I'm going to start working on #1 Solve Your Own Problems. What are my problems? Caviar tastes on a canned tuna budget. I feel stagnated as a cook. Working 80+ hour weeks for the past five months means that we've been eating takeout at least twice a week and there has been little variety at the dinner table when I do cook. I worry about the environmental impact of the food that I'm buying; how does buying cheap, possibly pesticide laden, vegetables grown on the other side of the country balance out with saving other people's plastic bottles from the landfill?

Which brings us to the four Fs and 1 E of the KP philosophy. Family. Friends. Food. Fiscal responsibility. Environmental stewardship.

Family & Friends - I hope this doesn't need an explanation; these are the people that I care about most.

Food - This is a food blog. I like to eat. I like to cook. Once upon a time I fancied myself a journalist so I'm going to write about what I'm cooking and eating.

Fiscal Responsibility - Eating at gourmet restaurants and cooking with fancy ingredients using the best gear is fabulous...if it fits into your budget. Me? Not so much. I'd rather pay my credit cards in full at the end of the month and save for retirement. Debt makes me extremely stressed and I want to be semi-retired by 50 so I need to find balance in my food budget; not just good for the wallet but good for the waistline. I've learned that when I live large, I am large.

Environmental Stewardship - I recycle. Heck, I pick other people's bottles out of the trash can so that I can take them home for recycling and I collect my friend's Brita filters and take them to Whole Foods for recycling. I compost. I air dry my clothes. I try to support local and organic farmers. I am in the process of replacing my personal grooming products with more earth, and body, friendly alternatives. My friends say that I'm a little crunchy granola. I cried while watching No Impact Man because following his blog gave me hope during a rough patch in my life. Buy good quality food and eat less of it; Michael Pollan is right.

So there you have it, the 4 Fs and 1 E of Kitchen Penguin. It's a little late in the year to restart the garden but I can start planning for next year. Thanksgiving is coming up in 36 days; DBF is cooking lamb and I'm doing the side dishes. I am completely reorganizing the pantry and kitchen. There might be a personal challenge announced on Friday. Lots happening here at KP HQ, stay tuned for details.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Long Time No Cook

Stay tuned for a reorganization of Kitchen Penguin...OK, it's mostly a new posting schedule. I realize that, as a new blogger, I was too ambitious with my Monday to Friday schedule; I was scraping the bottom of my pots by the end of the week...metaphorically speaking.

So, what's happened since the last time I posted?

  • Went to and returned from a month in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM).
  • I am continuing to support our GOM operations from my home office.
  • As a result, DBF and I have been eating out WAY too much.
  • My bestest GF is moving to WA at the end of the week so we've been spending a lot of time together.
  • Our garage freezer iced over, thus causing the door to wedge open, and we lost the contents while I was in GOM.
Happy cooking!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Calm Before the Storm

My employer has graciously allowed me to take my planned vacation even though we're in the middle of mobilizing a small army of people to the Gulf of Mexico. Yay for a company that understands the importance of family! So I'm back in Hawaii and that means food pr0n :)

Happy Cooking! - KP

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Until We Cook Again

I am very sorry but due to recent events in my industry, I am unable to devote the time necessary to keep up with this blog. I hope to resume posting once our operations are out of flux. Thank you very much to my loyal readers; I had hoped to last more than a month.

Happy Cooking! - KP

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


As you may have noticed, I haven't been posting as often. There's a number of reasons for this: I haven't been cooking as much (we have a lot of leftovers that we're trying to eat through), I'm a little blue so I'm not motivated, and I didn't have a clear plan for this blog.

I thought that I could turn my sporadic posts on LiveJournal into a full fledged cooking blog and did alright, for the most part, for a month. But now I'm at a loss because, frankly, I don't think my cooking is that exciting. So I'm turning to you, my friends and readers, to figure out where this blog is going. I'd like to continue to create content but the more I write about cooking the more I realize that I just cook the same handful of dishes every month. Yes, I occasionally pull out something new or something that I haven't made in awhile but for the most part it's the same go-to meals.

Brewing is turning out to be a dud. I haven't made anything since last year and I still haven't bottled that stout, it's going down the drain. I also still haven't finished my ice wine kit, hopefully it isn't skunked because that's a $100 kit.

Things are stuck at KP HQ and something needs to change. Due to some budget constraints, I need to save up for a trip in October, we're going to eating out of the pantry and freezers for a few months with supplemental fresh produce from the farmers' market and eventually the garden (if I ever get around to buying top soil).

Bueller? Bueller? Anybody out there?

Happy cooking! - KP

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Thoughts On Things Not Happening and Happening In the Future

The sustainable eating class at Anne Arundel Community College was canceled due to low enrollment. I should have seen this coming, there were 11 of 16 spaces available yesterday. I was really looking forward to the class because I was hoping to learn about local resources. Yes, I can teach myself about eating locally, knowing where my food comes from, knowing what I'm putting into my body...but I was hoping to find community. At least the Bowie and Annapolis farmers' markets start up next month.

It has been quiet here in KP HQ. We just bought a new washer and dryer so I was focusing on researching the purchase. Work has been hectic and the days are flying by; I think I lost Monday and Tuesday last week...I was shocked when Wednesday rolled around. Unfortunately, the house doesn't clean itself and I haven't had the inclination to cook. I'm in a funk but I have an upcoming project to pull me out of the haze.

I'm doing a day board in August. Nothing fancy, just little finger foods for a local event. There isn't a specific theme, no time period or country, so I'm looking to Eastern Europe for inspiration. The tentative menu includes:
  • Cucumber & yogurt dip (I might make the yogurt from scratch)
  • Hummus
  • Flat bread (not sure if I'm buying or making my own)
  • Spiced and plain feta
  • Eggs stuffed with mushrooms (really tasty, I made it for a feast years ago)
  • Chicken with walnut sauce (cold)
  • Tiny meatballs with pine nuts and raisins (kept warm in a crock pot)
  • Eggplant caviar
  • Desserts
  • Tea and lemonade (from syrup of lemon)
I'm not going for authenticity, I'm cooking things that look tasty. What is everybody else up to?

Happy Cooking! - KP

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Gear: Whisk

I never realized how much I take my tools for granted until I was standing in a foreign kitchen trying to prepare meals for 14 people. I should have brought my 5 gallon stock pot and a carving set but that's another story. Today I want to talk about whisks and how if you're only going to have one then you should have a good balloon whisk.

What is a whisk? It's a tool that aerates and blends your food. The precursor to the modern whisk was a bundle of twigs; I don't even want to think about making Snow with a bundle of twigs.

Why a balloon whisk? Their shape is ideal for whisking things in bowls and in most pans. There are many different shapes, most of them for specific purposes or pan shapes, but I think this is the best all purpose option.

What should you look for? Firstly, a comfortable grip/handle Nobody is going to want to use a tool that doesn't feel good in the hand. A heat resistant silicone coated model would be useful if you intend to make a roux or use the whisk on any of your nonstick or enameled cookware. The loops should be sturdy and the piece that keeps them separated should also be sturdy.

What can you do with it? Make whipped cream, mousse, meringue, roux, Snow, matcha (powdered green tea)...

Happy cooking! - KP

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Meal

As I mentioned yesterday, I went to David's Natural Market to see if they have a larger local selection than the MOM's Organic Market. Unfortunately, none of the produce at David's was labeled as local. I ended up picking up some Roseda Beef hamburgers and a pack of organic buns. Yes, it's terrible...I'm eating what is probably the highest carbon footprint meat for my Earth Day dinner.Then DBF and I are going shopping for a new washer and dryer. Does anybody have any suggestions? Consumer Reports seems to like Kennmore.

So yeah, hamburgers with homemade gouda that I got for Christmas. I still need to pick up some lettuce and organic condiments.

Things coming up: gear post tomorrow, oyako donburi post on Monday, and Brew Moon on Wednesday.

Happy Cooking! - KP

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Eating Local is Harder Than I Thought

I took a trip last night to the organic market by my house and it looks like none of their produce is grown locally. They have signs showing that their organic produce was grown in the USA but no "Locally Grown" signs like they do in other sections of the store. Additionally, Trickling Springs Creamery is a 103 mile drive from my house but I'm willing to bet that it's within 100 miles as the crow flies. Yes, there are other local dairies but South Mountain Creamery still doesn't deliver to my area.

I'm going to check out the David's Natural Market in Gambrills on my way home tonight and will hopefully have more luck. If not, I'll have to go to Whole Foods where I know they carry local eggs, dairy, meat and some produce.

I still need to buy dirt for my vegetable garden because 3 years of compost doesn't amount to enough to fill my planter boxes. Yes, planter boxes because I'm not building raised beds this year. Why? Because I forgot that I have daffodils in the front of the house, where I was planning on putting some lettuce, so I need to spend the year recording what comes up in what bed. Self watering planter boxes made from recycled plastic. I can put the boxes on the lanai and hopefully won't forget to water them. The little basil plant that DBF got me is still alive and I'm trying to grow some green onion that I bought at the store. I buy the green onion for cooking then save the bottoms, that usually have some root left over, and let the roots grow out a little in a cup of water before planting them in a pot. This is how my great grandmother grew her green onion so I know it works.

Ideally I'll cook something locally sourced tomorrow. If not local then organic. If not organic then from  a locally owned store.

Happy cooking! - KP

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Earth Day is Coming Up

I want to challenge you to do something for Earth Day. Something, anything, even something as small as using a reusable coffee cup when you visit your local coffee house. There's still two days to think about it and here's some suggestions:

  • Use a reusable bottle/travel mug/grocery bag.
  • Buy and eat locally grown products.
  • Cook a vegetarian meal.
  • Bring a lunch from home in a reusable container and skip the packaging associated with buying lunch.
  • Eat a piece of fruit instead of drinking the juice, you get more fiber and generally less packaging this way.
  • Plant some vegetables or herbs.
I plan to cook 100 mile dinner. What about you?

Happy Cooking! - KP

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Challenge: Asuparagasu

Asparagus is probably my favorite word to say in Japanese. It's written in katakana because it's a "borrowed" word and sounds like the English word. It's also one of my favorite spring vegetables and that's why I've chosen it for this week's challenge.

Some people prefer pencil thin stalks and others prefer the more mature thick stalks; I like them all! Cleaning asparagus for cooking is simple, cut or break off the ends on and you're done. Some people like to shave down the thicker stalks. The important thing is to have stalks of similar diameter so that you have even cooking.

Asparagus can be steamed on the stove or in the microwave. The photo for this post is from the feast kitchen at an event I attended recently. The cooks had tied up the bunches with aluminum foil, you can also use string, so they could stand the asparagus up in the pot for steaming. I walked past the door and thought that the little bouquets of asparagus were so beautiful that I had to take a picture.

How do you like to prepare your asparagus? DBF will only eat it if it has been pickled in balsamic vinegar. I like mine chilled and dipped in mayonnaise, on a salad, in a stir fry, wrapped in bacon...I just plain like asparagus.

Happy cooking! - KP

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Still Here

I have not abandoned the blog. I'm still recovering from the weekend of cooking and the chaos that always ensues when I take time off from work. I think that Saturday was a success. The attendees really liked the pumpkin pie and I came home with a really cool carving board and Beanie Baby mammoth... for my mammoth task :)

I hope to do a better update later today or tomorrow. Until then, happy cooking!

- KP

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Emergency Lunches and Bakery Outlet Stores

I'm finally starting to explore the area after almost five years at my office. I knew about the H&S Bakery outlet store and had been there once but I didn't realize just how close it was to my office until we started ordering lunches from Attman's. The outlet store is so much fun. They've got discounted bread on the edge of their expiration dates. There's all kinds of bread, rolls, cakes, pies, cookies, donuts and the trays of unpackaged bread. I walked out of there with nine loaves of bread for $8.30. 1 half loaf of marble rye with a sell by date of tomorrow, 1 loaf of white bread (I hear that people eat this stuff), 2 loaves of multi-grain bread (BOGO), 4 loaves of unsliced raisin bread ($1 each) and a steaming hot loaf of unsliced multi-grain. I strongly advise checking out your local bakery outlet, if you have one, to help stretch your grocery budget. Yes, it would be better to make your own bread...but I'm not baking bread so I can make bread pudding.

As I've mentioned before, I like to cook multiple batches of food then freeze the leftovers for future meals. I have containers of various soups, baked pasta, and things on rice sitting in my freezer at home; but I don't have any at work. DBF and I went over to our friends' house for a monthly gathering and I made a batch of tuna tofu patties. I packed up a lunch for DBF but didn't pack one for myself because I thought that we were ordering out at work today. We ended up not eating out so now I'm eating this California Pizza Kitchen frozen pizza for one and a Naked Red Machine that I picked up at Safeway. The moral of the story? Don't eat the last emergency lunch at work without replacing it.

Happy cooking! - KP

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

T-3 Days to the Workshop

As I mentioned in previous posts, I'm cooking lunch and dinner for approximately 11 people on Saturday. The menu is set and I've started purchasing ingredients. I talked to the teacher and we'll do the majority of the produce shopping by her house. I already have the corned beef and need to take it out of the freezer tomorrow night to start the defrosting process.

To Buy Here
  • Lunch
  1.  Lunch meats & cheese (pick up on Thursday after work)
  2. Avocado (so it has time to ripen)
  3. Lettuce (I have a salad spinner and she doesn't)
  4. Alfalfa (I like the stuff at the organic market)
  5. Frozen spinach
  6. Bacon bits
  7. Bread (from the bakery outlet by work and a loaf of gluten and dairy free at the organic market)
  • Dinner/Dessert
  1. French vanilla soy creamer
To Buy There
  • Lunch
  1. Baby carrots
  2. Cellery
  3. Broccoli
  4. Sweet onion
  5. Cucumber
  6. Sweet peppers
  7. Squeeze bottle mayonaise
  8. Squeeze bottle mustard
  9. Chips
  10. Fruit
  • Dinner/Dessert
  1. Graham cracker pie crust
  2. Cabbage, carrots & potatoes (for the corned beef)
Things I Already Have
  • Lunch
  1. Sour cream (for the spinach dip)
  2. Mayonaise (for the spinach dip and egg salad)
  3. Ranch mix (for the spinach dip)
  4. Eggs
  5. Chickpeas
  6. Olive oil
  7. Sesame oil
  8. Garlic
  9. Lemon juice
  10. Sugar & Splenda (for syrup of lemon)
  11. Spices
  • Dinner/Dessert
  1. Corned beef (16 lbs)
  2. Pickling spices
  3. Chocolate chips
  4. Coconut milk
  5. Sugar
  6. Cornstarch
  7. Milk
  8. Canned pumpkin
  9. Brown sugar
  10. Molassas
  11. Gluten free AP flour
  12. Spices
Things Being Prepared at Home
  • Hummus
  • Spinach dip
  • Syrup of lemon
  • Pumpkin pie
Yes, I'm probably preparing too much food for the expected number of attendees but I'd rather have leftovers than have people leave hungry.

Happy cooking! - KP

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What Might Have Been...Mushrooms

Hobbits have a passion for mushrooms, surpassing even the greediest likings of Big People. A fact which partly explains young Frodo's long expeditions to the renowned fields of the Marish, and the wrath of the injured Maggot. On this occasion there was plenty for all, even according to hobbit standards. - J.R.R. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings

First, an apology for not posting on Friday or Monday. I want to say that it's because I had two busy days at work and my computer at home doesn't like to edit photos but that's a lame excuse. I had intended to make the Friday Challenge mushrooms but Friday has come and gone. I had intended to do the Challenge follow-up with beef stroganoff but Monday is also come and gone. So, dear reader, what follows is my big catch-up post.

Mr. Brown suggests storing fresh mushrooms in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator. Moisture can condense on mushrooms stored in their Styrofoam containers wrapped with plastic and moisture can lead to accelerated decay.

I pick up a container of crimini mushrooms almost every week at Costco. They're a little more expensive than the white button mushrooms but I think that the crimini have more depth of flavor. I like to use my egg slicer to make quick work of fresh mushrooms that need to be sliced.

What can you do with mushrooms?
  • saute slices with some butter, onion, salt, pepper and red wine to serve with meat
  • added texture in spaghetti sauce
  • remove the stems, fill the cavity with minced garlic, wrap in bacon (securing the bacon with toothpicks) and broil or cook on the grill until the bacon is crispy and done
  • sliced raw on salads
  • portabella mushroom sandwitch
  • a lovely gift for your friendly neighborhood hobbit or penguin ;-)
The following recipe is adapted from the Curves Members' Guide.

Beef Stroganoff
1 bag egg noodle(cooked)
2 t olive oil
1 lb lean beef sliced or 1 lb of lean ground beef formed into meatballs (the original recipe is for meatballs)
1 small onion, diced
2 T AP flour
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cup beef broth
Salt, pepper, & Worchestershire sauce
1/2 cup sour cream

Brown the beef in the olive oil until cooked through. (Above photo is of the meat first going into the pan.)

Remove from the pan and add the onion. Saute onion until translucent.
Sprinkle the AP flour over the onion and remaining fat. Stir and cook the flour until it starts to brown.
Add beef broth, mushrooms, a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste then simmer until the mixture is thickened. Add the beef back to the mixture.
Turn off the heat and gently stir in the sour cream.
Serve on egg noddles and enjoy!

Happy cooking! - KP

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Monthly Confession (April 2010)

Welcome to a new month at KP HQ. This is the first post in a new confessions of a Kitchen Penguin. I am not perfect and there are some things that I eat/cook that aren't very "foodie." We've already established my love of SPAM.

Forgive me Mr. Brown for my taste buds doth deceive me...I like to eat Vienna sausage. Why do I ask Mr. Brown for forgiveness? He made the following comment on The Man Food Show episode.
By the way, the word 'wiener' comes from 'wienerwurst,' which is German for 'Vienna sausage', which is American for 'little meat stick you feed kids who don't know any better but to eat them.
Vienna sausage is one of those things that I grew up eating in the 80's. My mom would pan fry them when we had pancakes. Slice them up into little rounds and add them to a can of pork and beans over rice for a quick meal. Is it good for me? Probably not. There's 1.5 g of saturated fat and 155 mg of salt in one link. Maybe it's the nostalgia, I did grow up eating them. Maybe it's the mouth feel, the silky smooth texture rolling over the tongue. Maybe I just like canned meat. But I am NOT eating that can of bison in the back of the cupboard that DBFs mother brought bask from Alaska.

Food challenge tomorrow, get your cutting boards ready ;-)

Happy Cooking! - KP

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

No Gluen No Dariy Pumpkin Pie (Part 2)

We tried the pie last night. I wasn't hungry enough for a whole slice so I had a taste of DBF's piece. The filling tasted like pumpkin pie but the crust left something to be desired. I almost want to say that it tasted like uncooked flour. It was not flaky, just crumbly. I understand that this is a result of there being no butter or shortening in the crust.

DBF's review was that it was OK but I should actually use the dark corn syrup instead of the molasses that I substituted. He liked it enough to eat 2 slices so I'd say that it was successful.

I also need to find a good egg salad recipe. I happen to like my bare bones boiled egg, mayo, relish, salt and pepper egg salad but I don't know if other people will want something fancier. Perhaps some mustard powder? Does anybody have an egg salad recipe that they like?

Happy cooking! - KP

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No Gluten No Dairy Pumpkin Pie (Part 1)

I spent $8.67 on ingredients to test out the pie recipe. $3.99 for a bag of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free AP Flour, 1 15 oz. can or organic pumpkin puree and 1 pint of Silk French Vanilla Creamer; I had everything else at home. I probably could have saved some money if I shopped around but I purchased everything at the organic market for convenience sake, I was already there investigating the no gluten no dairy bread options. Well, I haven't tasted the pie yet because it had to be refrigerated overnight and I didn't want pumpkin pie for breakfast.

The recipe was easy to follow. I made the pie crust and pressed it into my ceramic pie plate. I brought the crust up to the lip but not over because I thought that it was getting a little thin. It baked for 15 minutes in a 400°F oven to a lovely golden brown. Then I dropped the oven temperature to 350°F and added the filling. There was some filling left, my pie plate was thrown on a wheel so it isn't exactly 9", so I had a little taste and it was edible. It wasn't as thick as the Libby's recipe but the pumpkin puree I got was thinner and there's no eggs or evaporated milk in the recipe I was testing. The spicing was milder than I was lead to expect from the reviews but I'm sure that the flavor profile changed after cooking.

Yes, I need to take more photos of what I'm cooking. I also need to find an auxiliary lighting source because all the lights in the kitchen seem to cause my food to look jaundiced.

Happy baking! - KP

Monday, March 29, 2010

Small Scale Event Planning

One of my friends is holding a class at her house in a couple of weeks and I offered to take care of the food. I'll be doing lunch and dinner for 15 people. Of those people, 3 have a no dairy and no gluten diet. One of those three is also a vegetarian. And a fourth person can't have oranges.

The original plan went like this:

Lunch - quiche (1 spinach and 1 with meat); make your own sandwiches, pita pockets or roll-ups (lunch meats, tuna or chicken salad, cheese and vegetables); and crudites with spinach dip and hummus.

Dinner - corned beef (I already have a 16 lb piece), potatoes, carrots and cabbage

Dessert - I need to plan a dessert because I keep forgetting that people eat dessert, I rarely do.

Nibbly Bits (to be left out throughout the day) - mixed nuts, fruit, and the crudite platter

Drinks - water, tea, coffee (possible logistical problem since she doesn't drink coffee and I don't have a large coffee maker, possible DD purchase) and lemonade

Dinner is fine for everybody but the vegetarian. Lunch will be fine if I can find a non-gluten bread or wrap. My friend says that they sell really good gluten free chips at the store by her house and she'll pick up a couple of bags.

All my go-to desserts involve dairy and one of the no dairy no gluten people is an 11 year old girl so I want to make sure that I can accommodate her needs. Fruit pie with a gluten free crust? Wheat free, dairy free pumpkin pie? I'll try out the pumpkin pie recipe tonight. Does anybody else have any ideas?

Happy cooking! - KP

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Gear: Rice Cooker

The first thing my father bought me when I announced that I intended to go to college in Maryland was a rice cooker. In fact, this is the exact one that he purchased. We've always had a rice cooker in the house. I remember seeing one in all my friends' and relatives' kitchens growing up. When you grow up in Hawaii, you tend to eat sticky rice on a regular basis. For example, a common breakfast is rice, eggs and Portuguese sausage or SPAM. You can order this at McDonald's, Jack In The Box, Liliha Bakery and at most places that serve breakfast. Rice is essential for my favorite form of "heart attack on a plate," the Loco Moco...a mound of sticky rice topped with a hamburger patty, maybe some grilled onion, a couple of eggs and brown gravy.

I purchased a rice cooker for DBF when we started getting serious because I knew I'd be spending a lot of time in his kitchen. It's the exact same model that my father purchased and I think that a 3 cup rice cooker is perfect for two people. 1 cup is enough, if I do the portioning, for one night's meal. 2 cups means that DBF can eat as much rice as he wants with dinner and we still have enough for 1 lunch. 3 cups means that I might have some leftover after packing lunches. Leftover rice is great, it's the central ingredient in fried rice and sticky rice reheats well in the microwave.

Supposedly one can cook things other than rice in a rice cooker. Mine came with a steamer insert that I've used to steam small quantities of vegetables. Some of the fancier ones have settings for soups and I've read about people making oatmeal in their rice cookers, something I need to try this weekend. So, technically one CAN make other things in a rice cooker...and thus it isn't a uni-tasker :)

I hope you all have a great weekend! - KP

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I Got Nothing

I wish I could say that I have this great post planned for today but I don't. Even yesterday's post was disappointing. I haven't cooked much since I got back from my trip last weekend. Sunday's dinner was Chinese take out. Monday I made chicken long rice. Tuesday was curry stew from the freezer. I went out with friends last night and DBF ate leftover stew; DBF has eaten stew for 3 days in a row. Tonight we're going to Costco to look for a new TV so I'm either having a chicken bake or hot dog with sauerkraut. Friday is free (back) crack day at my chiropractor so I'm going there after work and DBF is again on his own.

I go through these periods when the entertainment category of my budget far exceeds my grocery category because I'm just not home or I don't want to cook. I debated re-posting something I wrote about mindful eating on my personal journal back in December but since most of my readers cross pollinate I didn't want to do that to you. So, I'm sorry but I do not have any recipes or cooking adventures to share with you today. I am thinking about you, dear readers, and that's why I wrote a post about not cooking. There will be a gear post tomorrow and hopefully a trip to the Asian market this weekend.

Happy eating! - KP

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Magazine: Eating Well

I was at the chiropractor's office yesterday and noticed a magazine on the reading stack, Eating Well. The articles were well written and OMG the food porn. The first 1/3 looks like the sort of magazine that I'd want to publish if I was in that industry...and it doesn't hurt that there's a Welch's ad with Mr Brown in it ;-) The receptionist let me swipe the copy, they get it for free, so I'll do a mini review later. It looks like I'll be adding another magazine to my list of subscriptions. Has anybody else come across Eating Well?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happy Free Pastry Day!

It's free pastry day at Starbucks. Do you drink coffee from Starbucks or do you think they burn their beans? I read somewhere, I think it was The End of Overeating, that people are drawn to establishments like Starbucks because they serve caffeinated sweet warm milk; baby formula for adults. Not only is it free pastry day but it's week 3 of the bold coffee passport and another star towards the gold rewards level.

I finally ran out of pre-ground coffee so I picked up a Cusinart DBM-8 Supreme Grind at Costco yesterday. It was $19.97, about the same price as a blade grinder. However, a burr grinder should create a more uniform grind. We'll see how this goes.

Office Ninja requires coffee. - KP

Monday, March 22, 2010

Friday Challenge Roundup: Cornmeal

I hope that everybody had a good weekend; I know I did. So, what did you make? As I mentioned in my post on Friday, I made cornbread. Isn't that pretty on DBF's mother's silver?

There is some debate in my family as to where this recipe came from; I swear it's from Girl Scout camp and my mom claims she got it from a friend. Either way, it makes a sweet moist cornbread that usually earns me rave reviews.


3 blocks butter
4 c Bisquick
1 1/3 c sugar
1 t baking soda
4 beaten eggs
2 c milk
1 c yellow cornmeal

Melt butter, add to milk and eggs. Add sugar and dry ingredients. Mix. Pour into greased 9"x13" pan. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

 I usually do a half batch in one of my unglazed pie pans from Ironwood Pottery. Best cornbread pan EVER!

And I leave you with a picture of DBF's mother's cat Dickens.

Happy cooking! - KP

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Challenge: Cornmeal

This is the first "Friday Challenge." The purpose of these posts is to build community and maybe get some people to step outside of their comfort zones. I will suggest an ingredient, technique or tool that I want you to try out and we'll all report back on Monday. Suggestions for Friday Challenges can be posted as comments and I'll add them to the list.

I've been reading Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and so far it reads like corn is in everything. What can you do with cornmeal?

  • They're like little ball bearings under your pizza and bread helping to keep it from sticking to the peel.
  • Polenta.
  • Grits.
  • Thickening agent in creamed corn.
  • Cornbread.
I'm making cornbread and will have photos and a recipe on Monday. Real life friends will probably call me on doing something that I've made many times but I'm out of town this weekend and I already have to make cornbread for DBF's mother. It's my blog and I get to pick the secret ingredient :-P Have a great weekend!.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Of Lists Big and Small

I will admit it, I have some control issues; I have been accused of being a Type A personality. I like to make lists. I've got the rolling grocery list stuck to the side of the refrigerator where I jot down ingredients that we're running low on so I can start keeping an eye out for sales. I've got my ingredient lists when I cook for large groups so I can shop effectively; I have the master ingredient list that I take when I go grocery shopping so I can make up a price book then I put all those prices into a spreadsheet to figure out where my best bargains are. Then I work out my time lines for prep-work, shopping, and what we're doing on the day of the event. I have a few short kitchen related lists that I'd like to share:

Things I should have but don't. (This is NOT a request for my real life friends to buy me any of these items; this is list parking.)
  • Melon baller.
  • Grapefruit spoon.
  • Honing steel.
  • Flour canister (I currently measure my AP flour directly from the 50 lb bag then vacuum the area around the bag).
  • Kitchen shears.
  • Juicer (one of those wooden ones).
  • Strainer (for when I need to dust things with powdered sugar or sift flour).
  • Basting/pastry brush.
  • A stainless steel pot somewhere between the 5 quart and the 5 gallon capacity.
Things I wish I had.
  • Mandolin.
  • Fancy bread pans.
  • A bigger kitchen and pantry.
  • A grill
  • Gas appliances.
  • Double bowl sink.
  • Shun knives.
Things I have but don't use.
  • V slicer (it's a pain to clean and the blades aren't very sharp).
  • George Foreman grill (it was useful in college but now just sits in the cabinet; something for the April yard sale).
  • Pipkin (but it's so sexy on the shelf with my other medieval replicas...).
  • Two shelves of cookbooks.
So, what do you think my lists say about me as a cook?

Cheers! - KP

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Applied Laziness

One of the basic tenants of my meal planning philosophy is "Cook once, eat 2+ times." I have a number of friends that work in the IT sector and they sometimes use the term "applied laziness." I'm sure the term has its own meaning in the IT and engineering world; but in Kitchen Penguin HQ, it means minimizing my per-meal effort. Preparing and cooking a double batch of something generally does not take twice as much effort as making a single batch. So I plan my weekly meals around maximizing my resources to produce as many meals as possible from each kitchen adventure. It does help that I have a separate freezer in the garage and DBF doesn't mind eating leftovers.

Example #1 I have a hunters stew that I like to make but it usually takes me at least an hour to do all the prep. I have to cube the stew meat (it's generally cheaper to buy a roast), cut up bacon, cut the kielbasa, slice the onions, slice the mushrooms, peel and slice the apples, and rinse the sauerkraut. Then there's two hours of simmering everything until the meat starts to fall apart. So I make a triple batch and freeze any leftovers in both single serve containers for grab-and-go ("oops I forgot/don't have leftovers to pack a lunch" or "honey, I have to go out of town/have a doctor's appointment after work this week and you're on your own") meals and larger containers for a lazy weeknight dinner.

Example #2 I'm making corned beef hash for dinner tonight. I know that one can of corned beef, half an onion, two medium sized potatoes and an egg makes enough corned beef hash patties for both of us to have dinner and a lunch the next day (assuming DBF doesn't decide to eat more than usual). I cook two cups of rice, make some extra vegetables and we're set for two meals.

I made a double batch of pizza dough on Monday night so we had four medium sized pizzas. Enough for dinner, lunch the next day (with enough to share with my Minion), and a whole pizza left for dinner on Thursday.

This is how my kitchen works. I haven't had to prepare a separate meal just to pack lunch in over a year and that makes me happy.

Happy cooking! - KP

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chicken Refrigerator Velcro

Originally written on 03/11/10

DBF is on this weird diet for some stomach discomfort. Basically, no dairy, onions, bread, tomatoes, carrots, and some other things that I can't recall off the top of my head. He has been filching pieces of the chocolate haupia pie (essentially the same recipe that I use but I don't have coconut extract and I used a graham cracker crust) that I made on Sunday and swears that it isn't causing discomfort. But I digress.

I had thawed two packages of chicken breasts, 2 breast halves per package, with the intention of making teriyaki chicken for dinner last night. However, I didn't want to start the oven for 4 little chicken breasts. So I dug around in the fridge and freezer to see what I had available.

  • a handfull of cremini mushrooms
  • a bag of frozen peas
  • a bag of frozen broccoli florets
  • a bag of carrots
  • the dregs of the Yoshida bottle (I have a fresh replacement bottle)
  • maybe half a cup of sake
  • oyster sauce
  • sesame oil
I started the rice pot then I cubed the chicken breasts and started cooking them in the frying pan while I: sliced the mushrooms with the egg slicer, peeled and sliced the carrots, nuked a couple of handfuls of the broccoli florets, and separated out half the bag of peas. I threw in the mushrooms and carrots after the chicken was browned and let that all cook for a couple of minutes so the carrots would have time to soften. Then I threw in the rest of the vegetables and the Yoshida sauce. I poured a couple of shots worth of sake into the Yoshida bottle and swirled it around to clean it out then added that to the pan. A few shakes of oyster sauce and a good stir. A splash of sesame oil to finish. What do you have?

Enough food to feed 2 adults 3 meals each.I need to start taking more photos of the cooking process.

Happy cooking! - KP

Monday, March 15, 2010

Brew Moon: March 2010

Happy Brew Moon! Today is a new moon and the debut of the monthly "Brew Moon" post. One post a month dedicated to home brewing. I rarely drink alcoholic beverages but I do enjoy making beer, wine and mead; plus my friends are more than happy to help me dispose of the product.

What's in the carboy? Well, right now I have a stout that needs to be bottled and a Riesling ice wine that needs to be racked. There's 3 gallons of mead at my friends' house that I need to check on. I've got grain for another stout, I want to do a recipe comparison, and some soda extract for DBF.

Rule #1 of brewing is sanitation. Cross contamination is bad in cooking and it's equally bad in brewing. Rogue microbes can lead to skunking and unwanted growth. I remember the first time that my former brewing partner tried making beer, he got one of those beer kits from know the ones with the plastic carboy and the screw on cap? They don't make a very good seal and something got into the wort that created white tendrils. It was gross, I teased him about having a yeast infection.

However, primary fermentation is often done in a plastic bucket and the home brewer needs to be aware that plastic is a porous material. If you have scratches inside the bucket then you might want to consider replacing it, the same goes for hose; I replace my hose every year. Soda extract can be very potent and can permeate a plastic bucket so it might be a good idea to have a dedicated bucket if you want to make soda. How do I know this? The #1 comment about my latest batch of beer is that it "smells and faintly tastes of root beer." The batch was a crap shoot anyway, I bought the wrong ingredients, so it might still taste like root beer if I tried to replicate the batch. Either way, I can smell the root beer extract even when the cap is on the bottle so I'm going to have a dedicated soda bucket.

"Relax. Don't worry. Have a home-brew." -Charlie Papazian

- KP

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Gear: Fire Extinguisher

While is is always best to have a fire extinguisher and not need it, it's very bad to need one and not have it. As Mr. Brown says, the fire extinguisher is the only uni-tasker allowed in the kitchen. According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking fires are the #1 cause of home fires and home fire injuries.

For those of you that didn't pay attention during fire safety month, usually October, in elementary school; a fire needs four things to burn (the fire tetrahedron): oxygen, heat, fuel and a chemical reaction between the other 3 elements. Take away any of those and the fire should go out. As I mentioned previously, we had a small oven fire in my kitchen a couple of weeks ago. We closed the door to the oven and the fire stopped but when we tried to open the door again, the fire came back. Why? Closing the door deprived the fire of oxygen but opening it again completed the tetrahedron. We probably could have just closed the door, turned off the broiler and waited for the oven to cool down (taking away the heat side of the tetrahedron).

I have two, I had three, fire extinguishers in my house and I know how to properly operate them. They come in different varieties but an ABC will take care of most fires in the home. Be safe, use your brain; it's better to ruin a meal than to watch your dwelling go up in flames.

Please be safe when you cook. - KP