Cooking Notes – May

This month’s cooking notes are below, and will be updated throughout the month as usual. A couple of items are from April – just too lazy to edit a separate post. With the Man gone I tend to cook large amounts, freeze some, and live off the same dish for several days. The second half of this month will be a little boring. I’m getting my wisdom teeth out and don’t plan to post a week’s meals based on ice cream, yogurt, popsicles, smoothies, and other variations on soft-and-cold. Publicly available recipes are linked. If not legally available on the internet, I include cookbook names. You can see previous months’ cooking notes by clicking on the “Cooking Notes” link in the right hand column.

Baking and Desserts

  • Mocha Layer Cake A very rich, tasty cake. I melted two ounces of bakers chocolate into the coffee butter mixture, doubled the cocoa in the frosting, and cut the powdered sugar by about a quarter. It went like hot cakes at my Bible Study group’s Memorial Day barbeque.
  • Chocolate Pudding Four days of post-oral surgery ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, and juice had me banging my head against the wall with boredom, missing cooking, and still unable to chew. I pulled out The Joy of Cooking and tried making pudding from scratch for the first time. So easy, so rich, so good – I don’t know why I’ve spent years using the Jell-O stovetop packets. Carl loves butterscotch pudding from his days at summer camp, so I’ll have to try that once he’s home.
  • Banana Bread Bananas never get a chance to go bad when Carl is home – If I want bananas saved for a dish I have to surround them with an armed guard. Without him, any leaning toward over-ripe get peeled, tossed in pairs into ziplocs, and stored in the freezer for future baking. I usually use the Joy of Cooking banana bread recipe, skip the nuts, and toss in 2/3 cup of chocolate chips.
  • French Lemon Tart The Lemon Sabayon filling for this tart is amazing! It’s transferring straight over to the “make often” recipes list. As suggested by commenters, I added a bit of zested lemon rind, upped the recipe by 50% for an 11-inch tart pan, and found I needed two to three times as long as predicted for the sabayon to thicken. $15 worth of pine nuts for one crust seemed excessive, so I substituted a shortbread crust from another tart recipe. It was disappointingly hard. Next time I’ll make a normal pâte sucrée, or possibly a graham cracker crust. The filling would also be delicious poured into small cups, chilled, and served with a dollop of cream and simple cookies for a summer dessert. Despite the crust failure, this one flew off the pan at the church picnic this weekend.
  • Strawberry Jam  I canned two and a half batches of my own (twenty-four jars), plus two more batches with a friend who came over for an evening to learn how to can. Strawberry season is over, so we have a week or two to regroup before starting in with blackberry and blueberry picking.
  • Whole Wheat Bread using the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day light whole wheat bread recipe – one loaf for home, one loaf for a church potluck, and one last hunk of dough waiting to be baked. The bread came out a bit too dense this time around – next time I’ll play with the flour/water ratio.
  • Hot Cross Buns – Pretty obviously from April, given they’re Holy Week food. I stopped in at my parents’ home for a whirlwind Easter visit and tried making these for the first time. Dad liked them. I wasn’t a big fan…but then I don’t know what they’re supposed to taste like. If you’re uncomfortable with the raw egg in the frosting (as I was) you can substitute a bit of butter or vegetable oil for a similar sheen in the frosting.

Main Dishes and Sides

  • Homemade tortillas with beans and cheese Our last posting, San Antonio, is only a couple hours from the border. It boasts some of the best Mexican food in the nation, and I’ve been missing those meals badly since moving. The fresh homemade tortillas there put the grocery store’s thin rubbery packs to shame.  A former coworker told me that her Latina grandmother always made fresh tortillas daily using a mix, but I never found one in our current state until this week. Thank goodness for a large population of hispanic migrant workers on the local farms – they bring their fantastic cooking with them, and our local grocery store stocks up for them. Tortilla mix is a Mexican household staple. It’s about $1.50 for a 4 Lb sack. Just stir 1/2 cup warm water into 2 cups mix, knead for five minutes (adding mix as necesarry if dough is sticky), let rise covered by a damp cloth for 15 minutes, divide into eight pieces, roll to 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface, and fry on a griddle or medium heat non-stick pan until the first side begins to puff, then flip and fry until brown spots begin to appear on the other side. Thick, warm, fresh tortilla heaven awaits.
  • Salads I’m on a vegetable kick. Lots of salads with romaine lettuce, a sprinkle of feta, and a drizzle of dressing or olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Tomatoes with fresh mozzarella Thin-sliced tomatoes layered with fresh mozzarella, seasonings, and a drizzle of olive oil. Great summer potluck food or a nice light lunch.
  • Cornmeal Griddle Cakes Another breakfast-for-a-non-breakfast meal. I like them best with butter and honey.
  • Egg & Biscuit Sandwiches Breakfast for dinner never fails. Cheated and used canned biscuit dough rather than making them fresh.
  • Chili with Cornbread The father of a family at church just had surgery, and the meals team coordinator called asking if I could provide a dinner for them. No problem, I’d be cooking anyhow, but it’s definitely a shift from cooking for one (as I have since the fall) to cooking for a family of seven, four of whom are hungry teenagers. Big pot of chili, 13×9 of cornbread, a couple packages of cookies, and there’s a vague hope that it’ll hold the teenagers for..oh…an hour? I’m having flashforwards to my future right now.
  • Pesto Pasta My first “real” food post-wisdom teeth extraction. I planted three varieties of basil in our garden and harvested the first batch for this dish. After several years in apartments, it’s very exciting eating food grown in our own yard.
  • Broiled Tomatoes An odds n’ ends from the fridge meal: thin sliced tomatoes, topped with leftover pesto, a dribble of olive oil, sliced mushrooms, diced bacon, crumbled feta, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and a little shredded swiss, broiled until the cheese on top began to brown. Flavorful, with minimal chewing required.
  • Braised Beef Short Ribs with Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for beef short ribs piqued my interest several months ago, and I finally got around to it. It’s a delicious base recipe, and, bonus points, I got to use the first fresh herbs from our garden! I’m not a huge fan of all the fat on a beef short rib. Next time I might just cube another cut of beef. Also, I’m minimally knowledgeable about wines but after cooking this I figured out that Zinfandels are the wine world’s equivalent of Kool Aid. Do not use in cooking unless you want slightly sweet beef (I don’t). I’ve made the goat cheese polenta three times in the last two months. Yup, addicted.
  • Leek and Mushroom Quiche This was the best quiche I’ve ever head, despite the fact that I went the lazy route and used a pre-rolled pie crust rather than from-scratch pâte brisée. The cup and a half of heavy cream might have something to do with the deliciousness. I agree with the recipe writer – skip the surface pats of butter – they leave greasy soft spots among the perfect browning.
  • Basil, Tomato, and Brie Summer Pasta An old summer standby from The Silver Palate Cookbook. I find the flavor a bit scant when I use their recommended amount of pasta, so I usually cut the noodles by a third or a half and throw in some diced prosciutto. Even halved this makes a huge amount. Go check out the cookbook from your local library – you won’t regret it! It’s the perfect fresh dish for summer potlucks and Sunday dinner when tomatoes are in season. I chop up the ingredients before church and leave them to marinate all morning. All we have to do when we arrive home hungry for lunch is boil the pasta and toss everything together.
  • Bacon-Maple Roast Pork with Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta and Green Salad This was my second time making this recipe, and it was even better than the first time. This dish is deliciously flavorful, and the brining (even with reduced salt) keeps it perfectly moist and succulent. I skipped the garlic this time around and used white vinegar since that’s all I had on hand. The sauce is mop-it-up good.



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