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