Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cassarole and the job

I take great care in choosing the pictures I put up on my blog....teee heee heee! If only that were true. I haven't mastered the art of keeping a camera handy so I can take pictures of the stuff that I cook. However, I do take time to search for a picture that best represents what I am talking about....because really? Who doesn't like a blog with pictures? It gives you something to look at while you read. (You can thank me

Tonight I made a chicken noodle know, instead of tuna I used canned chicken. Sharon (for those of you that are new to my blog - Sharon is my newest sister-in-law) and I were talking today about looking at stuff in our cabinets and not wanting to eat it because you stare at it too long. Well, after this conversation I was determined to use the pesky cans of chicken that have been sitting in the cupboard for the last couple of months. Anyway, I made up my own recipe....again! It was macaroni, cream of mushroom soup, milk, cheese (but not too much), spinach (which I don't think I would use again, but instead use peas if they are available), corn, celery, onion (grated) and panko breadcrumbs and cheese on the top. It actually came out pretty good. I was surprised when Shawn said that he like it....amazing! I really think the panko breadcrumbs were a winner as was the thin layer of cheese on top. I can't say for sure what quantities I put in the casserole because I used the "what's in the house and what can I dump into this thing" method. I can honestly say though, out of the 29 years of my life, I don't think I have ever made a casserole. My next stint in casserole making is probably going to be something Mexican. Maybe a taco/tortilla casserole or something, who knows?

Note: In case you wanted to know...I grated the onion so it was in small pieces, cut the celery into little cubes and sweated it until soft. Added the spinach and corn to heat them and set it aside. Cooked the noodles at the same time I heated the cream of mushroom soup and milk. Then simply dumped all of it together into glass bakeware, topped it with a thin layer of cheddar cheese and panko breadcrumbs and baked it on 375 for 30-40 mins. or so. I then broiled it on high for a few minutes to get the breadcrumbs a bit brown.

On the job front...I called Sierra College today since they were supposed to call me yesterday but didn't. The Dean said that they are going to offer me a class during the summer and at least one class during the Fall. I was actually expecting 3 classes during the Fall since this is what she told me on the phone a month ago when she originally contacted me, but apparently they are hiring more than one person to fill those classes (which she did not originally tell me). But hey, at least I have something right? And for that I am thankful! My class during the summer starts in mid to late it looks like I have the next 3 months off. Well, that is unless I find another job before then. :)

Blessings for today:
1). My husband - simply because he is the greatest man in the world and puts up with my crap everyday. :) And let me tell you, I am NOT an easy person to be with sometimes.

2). Family - we spent the day with Shawn's dad, brother and new sister-in-law at a tool show and then lunch. Then we all came back to the house and talked for a while. It was nice!

3). The job that I have lined up. Even though it's not what I was expecting, it's still something!

4). God - for throwing me head first into the fire...and while I absolutely HATE the fire - I will come out the other end refined and stronger...and probably a bit shinier. :)

5). My dog - because she is stupid happy all the time, even when she doesn't feel well. I have a lot to learn from her. What a cutie!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Food Fetching

Sometimes I don't sleep too well and last night was one of those nights. Shawn woke up and was playing with his cell phone to see what time it was at o-dark-hundred......3am, and of course, this was the very thing that woke me up. About a half hour after he woke up to check his watch, he sat up and looked at me. I asked him, "what's going on baby?", and he promptly responded, "There's lots of food fetching going on". I obviously questioned him to see if I had heard correctly, and he repeated, "There's lots of food fetching going on". Of course I thought this was hilarious (and when asking him if he remembers this later on this afternoon he confirmed he had no idea what I was talking about). Hmmmm, maybe I've been experimenting in the kitchen a bit too much lately...what do you think?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thanksgiving is long over.....but....

As you probably know, I am searching for a job due to our recent move 3 hours away from the place where I spent the last 20 years or so. I no longer have any business contacts, no academic contacts, and friends are few and far between. Sometimes I feel completely lost...but all in all I feel blessed. I know that this was a necessary move for us to take, and it will all work out in God's timing. I know that sounds so Christianese, but it's kind of true. There are so many things I am thankful for:

*The friends that remain, and of course family.
*The gift of being able to get out of bed and walk.
*The house the we were able to buy.
*My husband, even though on occasion he drives me crazy (but I always remind myself that I drive him just as crazy at times).
*The gift of new things. New house, new town, new opportunities.
*My doggie - because I know she is in pain just like me a lot of the time (her arthritis, my back), yet she is stupid happy even though her hips bother her.
*The ability to pay for bills.
*The opportunity for entertainment when we feel like going out.
*The continuing information we find out about our house...that's it's built extremely well. :) (This is a double blessing since we bought the house 'as-is' because we knew this is where God wanted us).
*The vision that my husband has about the house....knocking down walls, floor plan etc....
*The party we are able to have in June (June 2nd to be exact....and if you are in the area, please stop by), I will be turning 30
*The opportunity to interview for jobs even though I may not get the job, at least I am getting better at interviewing. :)
*The job that God has for me....even though I may not know what it is, He does, and really, that's all that matters right now.
*Many many many other things I am thankful for.

If you remember, please pray for me. I have a test with the county tomorrow morning. It's for a a Personnel Analyst position, a job that I really want....but then again, I only want what God has in store for me.

To follow up with the pizza competition, we made pizza the other night again (no more pizza for a while, thank you).....and Shawn, his brother and I tested both pizza's. The vote was 2 to 1.......they both like Alton Brown's recipe better since it crisped up on the bottom nicely. But, they did say that Justin's recipe had better flavor. I agree with them, but I think taste is more important than a little crispiness. I still haven't asked if I can post my brother-in-law's recipe....but like I said, Alton Brown's recipe is available on the Food Network website.

Until later......

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Preliminary Pizza Results Are In!!!

So, Shawn and I have eaten pizza for the last three or four days. Ugggghhhhh, I am so sick of pizza. The bright side though, is that I have kept up with the exercising to counter balance my pizza consumption. I bet that you don't really care about my exercising though do you? You just want to know which recipe won right? Ok ok are the you will notice from my blog below, there were three different doughs that I used to make pizza.

1). Store bought bread dough that can also be used for pizza. I give this a meager 4/10. This is because it's plain dough, not really meant for pizza, but meant for high production and pretty much should be used for white bread.

2). Alton Brown's pizza dough recipe. This was a really good recipe. I liked it very much. It had a good flavor to it for the most part, and had I not been closely comparing three pizzas back to back, I would have said this was a perfect pizza dough. It cooked up nice and crispy on the bottom, but not too crispy and chewy in the middle, which makes for a great pizza. Overall I give this recipe about an 8.5/10.

3). Justin's recipe (my brother-in-law). He used to own a pizza place, so I'd say this guy knows his pizza! This dough had great flavor. You could taste the depth of the crust and the flavor was not flat at all (which, after tasting all of the pizza's, Alton Brown's was a bit flat after comparing the pizza's back to back.....sorry A.B. .......I love your show, think you are brilliant in so many ways....but my brother-in-law's dough was a bit better this time around). This dough rose a bit better overall, had a great consistency and overall had a much better 'mouth feel' than the other two (ha ha ha....'mouth feel' if I actually know what I am talking about). If there was one improvement I would make with this pizza though is the crispiness of the bottom crust. After cooking the bottom came out a bit soft. I like a pizza with a tiny crunch on the bottom. Don't get me wrong, I DO NOT LIKE crispy pizza, I like it chewy, but the bottom has to 'feel' like it's cooked when I bite into it. I think if I tweek the temperature and cooking time a bit, this will correct itself perfectly. As the recipe stands now, I give Justin's recipe 9/10.

I know, I are probably thinking.....

1). Did she cook them the same? Yes. Same temperature, same time.

2). Did she use the same pizza sauce? Of course! Justin's recipe for pizza gosh...sooooo good!

3). Did she use the same toppings? Duhhhh! I used the same everything.

4). Was there any difference in the pizza's except for the recipe? To my shame, yes. I prepared one for cooking and Shawn prepared the other. This is the factor that could have affected the outcome of the pizza's. So, in order to make sure the pizza's are the same, Shawn and I are going to invite his brother over tomorrow to make the pizza's. Jonathan used to work at a pizza place preparing pizza, so we are going have him prepare the pizza's with the same amount of dough, sauce and cheese. Then we are going to cook them together and do one more retest. I would like to test them again, and get the opinions of Shawn and Jonathan as well, then I will post a final result on Tuesday (or Monday if I feel up to it).

In addition, if I can get permission from Justin, I will post the recipes up here. If not, then I am sorry, those recipes will go with me to the grave (although, you can find Alton Brown's recipe on the Food Network website). Until then.....

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The competition continues

I'm taking it to the next level!!! Over the next couple of days I will be preparing a pizza cook-off in my kitchen. Yes, that's right, I've lost it! I will be making a very involved Alton Brown pizza dough recipe, a recipe my brother-in-law has graciously shared with me (thanks Justin), and the last recipe is not really a recipe at all, but a store bought frozen pizza dough. There is another dough I would like to try though. I have gone to Trader Joe's a million times over the last 10 years or so and have noticed that there is pizza dough in the refrigerator section that looks mighty tasty (and thanks to my sister-in-law Sharon who has tried it and gave it good results, I may go and purchase some to test out), but I will have to leave that for another day.

I will also be making Justin's recipe for pizza sauce and using that on all three pizza's so the only difference is the dough. I would like to find a good dough recipe, ideally one that is super easy, but for really good, mind-blowing pizza, I am not sure that's possible. All of the recipes that I have found have a resting time of 4-24 hours for the dough. And let's face it, that's simply too much time to wait (or plan for that matter), for a simple dinner of pizza.

So, as it stands, I have borrowed a Kitchen Aid Mixer (which I can't justify buying since I would only use it like twice a year because I don't bake that often - or let me rephrase that, bake out of a box.......but, to tell you the truth, I am a great baker, just don't like to do it too much), and will be utilizing it for the next day or two to make the various pizza doughs. Once I figure out which is the winning recipe I will post the results. :)
(on second thought, since I have borrowed the mixer, maybe I will make those brownie cheesecake bars I love so much....hmmmmm, I will have to think about that one a bit more before committing to such a task.....but from what I hear, they are super easy to make).

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The results are in

If you are one of my many and continuous blog readers, you will know that I underwent a tumultuous competition yesterday. Yes, that's right, it was a pot roast competition with myself. And the winner is.....ME!!!! LOL If you recall, I used two recipes, one from a notable chef, and one of my personal favorites, Mr. Alton Brown. The other was a simple recipe I found on the internet. Here are the recipes:

Alton Brown:

1 (2-pound) blade cut chuck roast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons cumin
Vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
5 to 6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup tomato juice
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup cocktail olives, drained and broken
1/2 cup dark raisins
1-2 cups of beef or chicken broth (if you use the slow cooker)

Preheat the oven to 190-200 degrees F. Place a wide, heavy skillet or fry pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, rub both sides of meat with the salt and cumin. When the pan is hot (really hot) brown meat on both sides and remove from pan. Add just enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan then add the onion and garlic. Stir constantly until onion is softened. Add the tomato juice, vinegar, olives, and raisins. Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid by half. Create a pouch with wide, heavy duty aluminum foil. Place half the reduced liquid/chunk mixture on the foil, add the roast, and then top with the remaining mixture. Close the pouch, and wrap tightly in another complete layer of foil. Cook for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or until a fork pushes easily into the meat. Remove from oven and rest (still wrapped) for at least 1/2 hour. Snip off 1 corner of the foil pouch and drain the liquid into a bowl or measuring cup. Add some of the "chunkies" and puree with an immersion blender. Slice meat thinly, or pull apart with a fork. Serve with sauce.

Super Easy Pot Roast Recipe
5 1/2 pounds of Pot Roast
(2) 10.75 oz. cans of condensed cream of mushroom soup
(1) 1 oz. package of dry onion soup mix
1 1/4 cups of water

Throw everything in the slow cooker on low for 8-9 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

The Super Easy Pot Roast came out very good. The meat was tender and the sauce was really good (after thickening it with some Wondra). It tasted very 'down home cookin'. Really good though. The Alton Brown recipe I didn't finish until this morning. After cooking it per the directions, the meat was tough, so after I was done with the other recipe I put it into the slow cooker and left it there for a few more hours. It was late when it finally finished cooking, so I threw it back in the slow cooker for a hour to heat it back up and finished the sauce this morning. If I do the Alton Brown recipe again I will start the recipe the same and then throw everything in the slow cooker for 8 hours instead of taking the oven step.

I know you are not going to want to hear this, but I really can't compare the recipes. The easy recipe had a steady taste, very traditional, nothing too notable....but very good! The AB recipe had some very robust flavors involved, and the gravy was sooooo good! Of course, that is, if you like really robust flavored foods. I must leave you with one other recipe was of the cheddar mashed potatoes that I made at the last minute. Here you go:

3-4 large russet baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
5 cloves of garlic crushed
1-1 1/2 cups of milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes until tender, about 10 minutes. In another pot add milk and rushed garlic. Bring up temperature slowly so you don't scorch the milk and let sit on very low heat until the potatoes are done cooking. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Add milk (you may not use all of the milk/garlic mixture, so add slowly), salt and pepper and mash with fork until smooth. Stir in cheese and butter until melted.

This recipe makes the YUMMIEST cheddar garlic potatoes EVER!!! And they are sooo easy to make.