Monday, March 29, 2010

Follow Through on Historical Statements & Other Startling Surprises...

For those of you bleaders & lurkers (yes Bonnie, I mean you) that have been here since the beginning, you know the story of why this blog was started. Well, if you have been wondering where I have been...behold, follow through on statements made early in Jon's and my relationship...

Kolache Lesson 101...Finally

   So sorry to be gone so long, a lot of things have been happening. The good news is, the long awaited face-to-face kolache lesson has FINALLY happened. No, not with Jon's gran but with a "kolache master" in the community.
   I have spent the last 6 hours making 6 dozen kolaches. Sorta. More like hovering around when Ann (aka Kolache Master) was making them and getting underfoot like a preschooler. I took 3 pages of notes in order to not miss a single thing. That way, my first solo attempt post-lesson will not be a re-enactment of the circa 2007 incident. So behold, the ten things I learned for perfect kolaches:

The 10 Rules of Kolache Making:
1.) Beating the dough by hand is for suckers. Use a nice KitchenAid Mixer with a whisk and dough hook attachment.
2.) NEVER use water or evaporated milk when making dough. Ever. EVER! End of story.
3.) Be patient. So patient that by God you will complete a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle before the freakin' dough rises enough times to work with.
4.) Use free-range chicken eggs if you can get them. The yolks are bigger.
5.) Measuring is for wimps. Man up and use judgment. Three sifters full of flour is approximately 10 cups. You can go to hell Polly Perfect.
6.) Rise the dough in a crockery bowl. There is magic kolache dust in them for some reason and metal bowls just won't cut it. Heat the bowl up in hot water prior to putting in the dough.
7.) It really does make a difference if your melted butter is hot versus molten.
8.) Did I mention being so patient that watching the grass grow will seem like watching Olympic Speed Skating in comparison to watching the dough rise?
9.) Use unsalted butter, but add salt in the dough. Irony? Not sure. Confused? Definitely.
10.) When spooning the dough out of the bowl you almost have to cut it with the edge of the spoon. Rolling it out with a pin and using biscuit cutters is for lazy asses. If you are going to do something, do it right or take you bowl and go home.

So, I took part in this ordeal by forming and filling the kolaches. Unfortunately, due to some horrible downloading incident, the finished picture of all the beautiful kolaches was ruined. *weeping silently to self* However, I do have some "in the process" shots for you to enjoy. I am so sad I can not show you the rows upon rows of completed ones. Stupid computer. Such as waste. What an unjust universe...

Baby Kolaches before they grow up

Teen-aged kolaches ready for filling.

Beautiful Kolaches that are all grown up and camera shy. They are like the leprechauns or Loch Ness Monsters of the dessert world. Did you REALLY just see the most kick-ass kolache in the universe? Not sure. The photo of it and its kinsman was obscured by radical Czechoslovakian extremists who will not have their cooking secrets exposed. Damn you computer. DAMN YOU!!!!

If you like what you see, please Follow Me for more recipes and cooking related antics.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Food Posing a Veggie Lasagna and Other Mediocrity

     So it is a little late in the vegetarian scheme of things to have not learned how to make vegetarian lasagna. However, having realized that I have eaten this during date night no less than 3 times during Lent at a local restaurant led me to re-evaluate my priorities. So tonight, between cleanings and sanitizings, I prepared veggie lasagna.
    I *ahem* loosely followed this recipe.  As I am sure you are well aware, it did not go according to plan. For one thing I shopped before reading the ingredient list, so there was no carrots. I used yellow squash instead. I also bought a zucchini, which turned out to really be a cucumber, sadly. Got the spinach right at least. I substituted their sauce with my favorite jar sauce to save some time. I also tossed in some red onion. In my opinion, red onions (which are purple by the way) are sweeter and more mild than other varieties. Great for "onion haters."
   So basically I chopped the squash, onion and zucchini impostors and sauteed them in some olive oil. I threw in a few large spoonfuls of minced garlic for good measure. Some spices from the rack mysteriously labeled "Italian Seasonings" came to the party. Then I wilted some spinach into the mix.
   I mixed the egg with some ricotta, though not as much ricotta as they called for. Why do you have to do that anyway? Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed there is egg in lasagna. It's not like you are trying to leaven it.
   Then, I went to layer it in the pan to discover that my 9x13 pan is MIA. I had to use a tall, fat Corningware dish instead. Oh well. So, this recipe calls for uncooked shells. Unusual again, but I rolled with it. Instead of the Monterrey Jack cheese it called for (in italian!?), I used mozzarella and Parmesan and layered sort of how they listed it it, but a little more willy-nilly.
  Then comes the oddest part of all: You add 1/2 a cup of water around the rim and cover tightly with foil. I assume this is to steam the noodles. I used whole grain noodles by the way. Cook for an hour at 350* and this is what you get:

I know it looks like most of it squished out the side, but it held its shape pretty well in the cutting-to-plate logistics. A lot of the water seemed to rise to the top in the cooking process. If I had used the right pan, I am sure it would have worked semi-beautifully. It did not taste watery though. It was really good and a lot cheaper than the snooty Italian joint downtown. At least the garlic bread I made out there to the side looks pretty.

Cooking vs Cleaning Conundrum

  Howdy bleaders & lurkers. For those of you who don't know, I have had a hell of a Lent (um... no pun intended). I have been home long enough to shower the important bits and fall into bed. My apartment is SO dirty that it is probably illegal. The EPA should be called on my kitchen. I resolved when I got home from work today to clean this disaster up. That is, after I went to the grocery store and to the library.
  SO I got home and immediately started a load of dishes. *vom* and then set to cleaning out the fridge, which was sealed with a biohazard sign by the dust bunnies that lurk under the couch. Nothing like a plop of currdled milk on your foot to make you lose your lunch. Three bags of trash later, I have a place to put the new groceries.
  A little divergence here: I HATE the fact that I have leftovers that go bad constantly. I have EVERY intention of eating them but it somehow never happens. Is this some strange scientific phenomenon at work? Do they get swallowed up in a worm hole and transferred to some other parallel universe before they are rediscovered by man 3 months later? Every time I go to the grocery store I resolve that I will eat EVERYTHING that I buy. Then I throw away an unopened tub of sour cream expired circa 1996. *Sigh*
   So I am now on dish load #2. I am finally washing the punch bowl from the girl's party. Yeah, I know that's bad. Don't tell anyone. I still have at least one load of dishes to go.
   The problem with a clean kitchen is that is always inspires me to cook...hence it get's trashed again. I tried to subscribe to that whole "clean as you go" mantra. Yea right, it's me we're talking about. I'm lucky to find my *ahem* "aspic" with both hands on a good day, let alone trying to clean and cook at the same time. So be on the look out for a new food post... the smell of fresh dinner is wafting from the oven....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Making Frenchmen Vomit & Other Insults to My Cooking

Sorry for the abundance of wordlessness. I have been going out to eat so much that it has left much to be desired in my kitchen. So, I did some soul searching and remembered this gym from the end of last year. Enjoy.

    It was the end of last year, not so long ago when a group of friends went out drinking to celebrate birthdays and whatnot. It must have been November. Dang alcohol-induced memory loss. It was getting about that time when bar fights were break out, so we all skidattled back to my place for some Wii and whatnot.
    Little known fact about me: when there is alcohol in my system, I like to cook. Don't know why. Maybe it's because drunk people are so happy that they will eat anything you dish out. "Fried SPAM with Raspberry jelly over runny-egg toast? Sounds delicious." "Perhaps some ketchup for dipping! PERHAPS Indeed!" (BLECK!)
    So, amongst my buds I have pseudo-famous (often referred to as "kick-ass") biscuits. As every Texan knows, there is only 1 cure to settle your stomach when you have had too much to drink: Bread or eggs.  Okay, well, I guess that's two but I usually eat them as a unit so there! Well being that there weren't enough eggs to go around, biscuits it was. So I whip up a batch from a recipe my mom taught me that my Grandpa corrected her on circa 2001.

Pioneer(R) Brand Biscuits
Pioneer  Baking Mix in a bowl

A medium steady flow of milk while you spin the bowl at a moderate speed. Gently blend.
(how do you like them measurements?)

If is too thick, add a little more milk, to thin add a little more mix.

     When it gets thick and sticky, pour a little Pioneer or flour on a counter/butcher block/etc. and pour the thick blob on it. Sprinkle a little pioneer on top for good measure. Take off any rings you may be wearing lest they get permanently coated in goo. Use your hands to press the dough out to about 1" thick or a little thicker (never thinner). If your rich and have the right cooking implements, use a medium-sized biscuit cutter to cut little Polly Perfect circles. If your poor, use a glass larger than a shot glass, but smaller than a tumbler to cut your circles. Reform scraps and cut additional circles as long as the dough remains 1" thick. When you finally get only scraps, form them into a sort of ugly wad of dough roughly 1" thick, maybe a little more. Don't over work the dough or you will have tough biscuits.
    Here is the trick for soft, moist biscuits: They must be cooked in a pan where they can touch each other. My grandpa's tip saved our teeth. My mom's biscuits used to be so hard that if they rolled off the table they would kill any animal begging under-foot. I prefer a square cake pan. NEVER use a cookie sheet; that is biscuit sacrilege.
   Arrange the dough circles around the outter edges of the pan, working inward. Put the ugly one in the middle. Bake @ 450* until they start to just brown on top. The ugly duckling biscuit in the middle is always the softest and fattest. (Hence most delicious). Eat it yourself and savor before serving the perfect round ones to guests.

   Back to the story. So I had these yumsters all made up and was dishing them out with butter and honey. The crew is chowin down. A visiting Frenchie who will remain nameless was chillin' with us while he was here on work. He takes a bite of my biscuits and thinks they are unusual. He takes a few bites and says he is going to check on his girl in the other room. Next thing I know, I have a Frenchmen puking biscuits in my bathroom sink. THE SINK! Not the toilet only a 1/2 a foot away. Now, he runs every time I cook them...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Non Sequitur Authorship Notices and Other Things to Brag About

Just in case you were interested in my other musings, I FINALLY got published! God Bless Science.

Now if the other journal would publish my art therapy study I would start to feel a smidgen like that Masters was worth it.