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Archive for the ‘Apartment Cooking’ Category

Recipe Anxiety…

In Apartment Cooking on December 25, 2008 at 6:51 am

Definition: Recipe Anxiety is when you cannot stop thinking about the meal you are about to prepare.

Causes: Its onset is most likely to occur the day or night before a major feast you are preparing and hosting, commonly on a holiday. Situations such as trying out a new recipe(s) for the first time for your guests, preparing your menu last-minute, shopping at the last minute, not reading through your recipes in advance, trying overly complex recipes, cooking on a day when stores might be closed preventing you from getting items you may have forgotten, or an intimidating crowd you want to impress, are all known to heighten the occurrence into all-out stress.

Symptoms: Can’t stop thinking about your recipes, can’t sleep because you are thinking about your recipes and preparing them, waking in the middle of the night to read through your recipes, a general uncertaintly about how the meal might turn out and what your guests will think of it.

Treatment: There really is no cure other than to get through the cooking experience, get the meal on the table, and see what your guests reactions are. Only then can you either rest easy, or admit defeat. Allowing yourself plenty of prep time will help. Enlisting a helper may also help. But most likely, you will still have a case of Recipe Anxiety until the event is over.

Prevention: Only cook dishes you’ve prepared before. Don’t try to do “too much” or attempt recipes that are above your experience level. Read through your recipes in advance. Create your menu, shop, and prepare well in advance.

Case Study: Lana was extremely excited to prepare Christmas dinner for her family and boyfriend, a reasonable guestcount of 5 people. Normally on Thanksgiving she keeps things traditional, but likes to experiment with the Christmas meal. Lana knew she had to do grocery shopping on Christmas Eve, and finally found the time and focus to find great recipes and combine them into a menu the (late) night prior to Christmas Eve. She was happy with her menu. Shopping on Christmas day went well, she felt confident she had everything. Lana went to bed around 11:30am and found herself awake at 3:30am, thinking about her meal. She was envisioning and tasting the various dishes in her head, with satisfaction yet curiousity of the unkown. At 4:15am, Lana still could not sleep and decided to get up and read through her recipes carefully, something she’d not yet done.  In doing so, she realized one of the dishes needed to be refridgerated overnight. She contemplated preparing it first thing in the morning, but realized she couldn’t sleep anyway and especially now knowing she was already behind. Lana went into the kitchen and spent about 40min preparing a casserole, it went perfectly. Lana then went back to the bed, but still couldn’t sleep, again envisioning the processesand final products of her recipes. Stay tuned to find out how this meal turns out.

Lana’s Christmas Menu:

Honey Baked Ham w/ Brown Sugar Glaze

Sausage & Leek Casserole

Potato, Zucchini, & Rosemary Latkes w/ Lemon Cream Cheese Topping

Black-eyed Peas & Rice (aka Hoppin’ John)

Carrot, Orange, & Apple Coleslaw (aka Christmas Coleslaw)

Dessert: Lana’s Sweet Potato Pie (already made!), Cheesecake, & Mom’s Xmas Treats

Can't get enuf Mexican food!

In Apartment Cooking on March 25, 2008 at 7:29 pm

I would like to note that we have discovered THE BEST Mexican trailer (aka roach coach) that serves the most amazing tacos. Recently tried the burritos, they are also heavenly. Of course this Mexican food is as close to Mexico as we can be. The focus is on the meats, the salsas are complex, and the sides of roasted onions and jalapeños and also raw onions and cilantro, and radishes–great sides! Aw they are so good…I almost want that for dinner tonight now ugh.

But onto my version of delicious Mexican food, these tacos were pretty phenom. The reason for that is my tortilla technique. It really brings out the flavor of the tortilla and melds with the ingredients inside.

It’s called frying haha. Well you don’t fully fry them until hard, just a quick dip in some several inches of canola oil and they are ready to go. I used the small round tortillas and pushed them down into the oil with a wooden spoon. The fry-bubbles were rushing up pushing the torilla up everywhere other than my spoon forming a taco shape! Let them drain a bit and stuff em up. Then eat!

Oh man…this lasagna…

In Apartment Cooking on March 25, 2008 at 7:18 pm

 I’m telling you, this lasagna was incredible. I felt the need to make a sausage lasagna with sauteed veggies, ricotta, and lots of eggplant and tomato sauce. It turned out amazing, easily the best lasagna I’ve ever had.

I think what made this lasagna stand out as one of the best were these things:

– it had a single layer of caramelized onion and garlic with Parmesan

– eggplant and mushrooms were sauteed separately, and layered separately

– cheese used was ricotta layered, Parmesan in the one layer, and mozzarella on top

– chicken sun-dried tomato sausage

– LOTS of sauce!

Sorry, I realize I never include recipes. I always just create them myself and don’t remember to write anything down. I can normally recall them when asked tho, so if you ever want one…please just ask!

Baked Hawaiian Salmon

In Apartment Cooking on March 25, 2008 at 6:58 pm

I personally only like salmon baked or grilled with a good amount of basting to keep it moist and tasty. I love when it forms a crust and locks in all the flavor. I definitely accomplished all of that with this Baked Hawaiian Salmon. I seasoned it myself, but this was a weeknight meal, so I used the pre-made Lawry’s Hawaiian Marinade, it was delicious with the salmon!

Comfort Food: Shepherd's Pie

In Apartment Cooking on February 25, 2008 at 9:26 pm

I had been wanting to try Shepherd’s Pie for quite some time. You know…the pie with ground meat and veggie, with mashed potatoes on top? Kinda like a Chicken Pot Pie, but with ground beef instead of chicken, and mashed potatoes instead of a biscuit crust.

You can’t really see what’s inside…but take my word for it.

It was warm and comforting and very flavorful. My favorite part was the mashed potatoes on top–I shouldn’t have made them, because they were just too darn good and not the least bit healthy. I don’t think I can ever make them less healthy again they were so good.

I also had the need to use the little baking pots I got from Sur la Table.  The actual serving size of these little pots was a little bigger than I’d preferred, even though I didn’t fill mine all the way. I’ve noted that I’ll need smaller pots for my bread pudding souffles!

Valentine's Day Dinner Party!

In Apartment Cooking, Party Planning / Entertaining on February 25, 2008 at 9:20 pm

I invited a few of my favorite loves over for a Valentine’s Day Dinner Party! I had so much fun shopping for the decorations, putting them up and planning the menu. The menu just HAD to be Italian, because it was romantic without even having to try at it.

Although my menu had several courses, it really was less expensive than I thought it’d be…and all the food I’d bought for the meal fit on my island, as you will see below:

I cooked for about 4 hours leading up to the time my guests were to arrive (I’d said 8pm, they said 6pm, but they didn’t get there until after 8pm ha). It’s important to be extremely flexible when you are entertaining guests.

Before the first couple arrived, there was a need to get some kind of food out because nF was hungry. So I got together my Antipasto Plate with cheese, salami, bruschetta and he started munchin. I served everything with the most delicious cheesy herb baguette I picked up at “Paris Tokyo”, the popular Koreatown bakery. Baked them up with some olive oil and seasoning and they were a MAJOR hit. I also roasted garlic for over an hour prior to the guests arriving and added it to the plate to cool, and also because it looked beautiful. Too bad I didn’t get a pic of this.

After the first couple had made their way thru the antipasto plate, but the second couple still hadn’t arrived, it became necessary to move on to the second course, which was an appetizer. The appetizer I made was a major hit…it was really good I must say, and really easy to assemble while guests are there. I made them in about 3-4 shifts throughout the night:

Pancetta (Italian Bacon) and Cheese Pizzas 

While we continued to wait for the couple who was still on their way, everyone became hungry again! I had to think quick and decided to make Roasted Garlic Cheese Bread using the remaining baguette and the garlic I’d roasted up previously. Sprinkled it with a little freshly ground pepper, ample seasoned balsamic vinaigrette to dip the pieces in, and I think this course came close to stealing the show!

I insisted on waiting for the final couple to arrive before I served the main course and my specialty cocktail of my night, and I was happy I did. The champagne cocktail I made, (in addition to the beer, whiskey, vodka, and tequila we had that night), was great…but would have been better consumed earlier in the night before everyone was already pretty immune to any more liquor. Still, they were lovely and sexy:

Strawberry Champagne Cocktails

I had planned on making a Caesar Salad by making my own salad dressing…but that late in the meal, still having not prepared it, and really not wanting to work with mayonnaise, I decided instead to make a Caesar Salad with a vinaigrette based dressing (highly recommended). Added to the salad was Parmesan cheese and homemade croûtons from the infamous bread that I bought from the K-town bakery.

In addition to the salad, the main course featured what you see below. A Chopped Caprese Salad, Baked Pasta Shells stuffed with ground turkey, mushrooms, and ricotta, and a delicious Lemon Cream Shrimp Fettuccine. I think the diners really enjoyed this course…lots of compliments flowing, and serious focus on the food…it was really great and I loved cooking for this company.

 

I intended to serve a decadent and interactive dessert with this meal of love. I decided the perfect dessert would be my first attempt at chocolate fondue. I had strawberries, poundcake, and pretzels for dipping. However, everyone was super full and it had become so late that I decided to pass on preparing the dessert…next time tho!

I loved spending Valentine’s Day weekend this way (the party was on that Saturday)…and I hope it becomes a tradition. It reminds me kind of being this cupid chef…I like it.

 

A little Tex-Mex…sweet and spicy!

In Apartment Cooking on February 25, 2008 at 8:50 pm

A perfect tex-mex combo…spicy, buttery roasted Corn on the Cob paired with spicy and sweet Carnitas Tacos with plenty of jalapenos and the lightness of Montery Jack cheese to temper the spice a bit. All of that inside those delicious blue corn tortillas from Trader Joe’s…mm!

Super Bull Sunday (yes, I'm this behind…)

In Apartment Cooking on February 25, 2008 at 8:42 pm

nF and I decided to spend our Super Bowl Sunday alone, despite a few options that seemed sorta fun…but not as fun as us watching it alone.

for this momentous occasion, that was really sucky considering the Packers weren’t in the Superbowl despite their greatness, I decided it was imperative I made some good ole’ Green Bay, WI party favorites.

Here we have the Never-fail Cream Cheese Taco Dip…which I did experiment more with than what I’d been served as a child…you can see most of the ingredients used in the first pic. It also includes ground beef (needed some protein with the carb-overload).

While the taco dip was my favorite, nF was all about the Cheesy Baked Bean Dip.  This was a dish that only certain Green Bay moms did…it turned out way too good.

Greek Family Style Meal w/ Sarah!

In Apartment Cooking on February 25, 2008 at 8:29 pm

Another cooking feast with Sarah and her beautiful family! We decided to take on something challenging–Mediterranean food. Neither of us had pretty much ever cooked much Mediterranean food, which I discovered is quite similar to Italian food (not that surprising when you really think about it). Because of that similarity, I’m now eager to make more Mediterranean style meals.

Another one of Sarah’s amazing salads…this one had a Ginger dressing, mm!

 

Roasted Potatoes with Lemon Garlic Vinagrette

 

Minty Feta Stuffed in Grilled Eggplant

 

Tomato Basil Baked Butter Beans

 

Garlic Roasted Leg of Lamb!

 

a proud moment in experimental cooking!

In Apartment Cooking on January 28, 2008 at 8:36 pm

 okay…this is one of those dishes i made and couldn’t stop raving about it while i ate it.

from the moment i thought of this app (that was ate as a meal)…i was ready to shop and cook, excited to see if i could replicate the flavors and look that i was envisioning!

the plan was to create a Crab & Pepper Jack Quesadilla with a Jalapeño Lime Creme Sauce. doesn’t that just sound  like something delicious? what really grabbed me was the juxtaposition of milder and more intense flavors and how to balance them so they interact perfectly. or at least, that was my intent.

so basically what i did was purchase some delicious crab meat from Whole Foods and layered it between Pepper Jack Cheese and two tortillas. Into the oven, I lined the top and bottom with foil, layered the quesadillas on top of each other, and a weighed it all down with a small skillet on top of the stack. that has proved to be my most successful quesa making technique thus far, as far as form is concerned.

as the cheese melted and the crab meat heated at 400-degrees, i prepared the sauce. the thought was, i wanted the crab meat and cheese to be warm and gooey and crabby…and the sauce to cut in very cool, creamy, and spicy. the appetizer i’d dreamed up ended up pretty much perfect. actually it was better than i had envisioned.

to make the cream, i basically purreed 1 jalapeno, 1 clove garlic, 3 limes, sale, pepper, and 1tbs canned jalapenos…along with cayanne pepper (to taste). after it was blended and chopped up, i added the sour cream…about 1cup. blended it all and it became the gorgeous green sauce you see below. it was creamy and limey and had an exciting kick to it! paired perfectly with the flavors within the crab quesadillas.

this is one i’m definitely making for the crowds (well…might need to use shrimp or something, that crab is costly!)

 Crab & Pepper Jack Quesadillasw/ Jalepeno Lime Creme Sauce