Cheesebooker

Posted in Random, Reading with tags , , , on August 15, 2011 by dreamingofmercy

I didn’t make anything new yesterday.

In my own defense, it was a fairly… tumultuous weekend. I shan’t bore you with the details, but it was one of those rare times when going back to the ol’ 9-to-5 was something that I was actually looking forward to.

I couldn’t be bothered to do much of anything on Sunday. I made sure I had clean work clothes for today, and for dinner I threw some frozen hamburger patties on my indoor grill that’s named after a former boxer.

Don’t judge me.

I love burgers, especially homemade, and comfort food was definitely in order.

GO GET YOUR OWN, JOSEPH DUCREUX! IT'S MY CHEESEBURGER!

But the weekend wasn’t all internet memes and 70’s era Bowie.

Who are we kidding? David Bowie IS the Goblin King. He just did that movie in funny clothes to throw off his enemies and protect his loved ones.

I’ve been planning a trip to Florida in the near future to do research for Trenchcoat, among other things. It’s kind of exciting.

Also, you might notice the nifty new Blog Quilt badge on the right. That’s right, this blog has been quilted!

I’m also doing Blog Treader, as soon as I can figure out how to get the code to work in wordpress.

And what else….oh, yeah.

So the other day I had some time to kill and I found myself walking past the dollar store. I went inside, mainly because it was air conditioned. Stuff for a dollar and FREE air conditioning? Count me in!

I’m wandering around the store, looking at all the off-brand merchandise and Mexican toothpaste, when I notice that they sell books. Actual, honest-to-God books. Covers, pages, words, everything. I was very surprised.

...or in some cases, not so surprised.

I did buy a book because the cover was neat. I know, I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But it was a really neat cover:

Isn't that a neat cover?

I read it this weekend. It was ok. I’m going to wait until I’ve read it again to decide how I feel about it, but I definitely got more than a dollar’s worth of fun out of it.

And hardcover books for a dollar? You just can’t beat that!

 

Eggs in Wonderland

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , on August 8, 2011 by dreamingofmercy

So I decided to make quiche yesterday.

Random? Yes.

I was wondering what new thing I could make for Sunday, but I don’t have a lot of money. What’s cheap? Pasta. But I’m really, really sick of pasta. As it turns out, eggs are pretty cheap too.

I did a lot of research about quiche. I’d never made quiche before, but I knew that sometimes quiches could be watery and I wanted to avoid that. Plus, after last week’s pie fail, I decided to be extra cautious about this pie.

I never did find a recipe that I really liked, so I adapted this recipe. I used a lot of the information I learned here.  This is the closest I’ve ever come to actually writing my own recipe, so bear with me if it’s weird. I’ll post the recipe in its entirety at the end of the post.

I started with a deep dish frozen pie crust. I didn’t want to get a deep dish crust, but all the regular pie crusts were all crumbled up. It turned out to be a really good thing that I did get the deeper crust.

Blank canvas

I decided I wanted spinach in my quiche. I got frozen spinach because I knew that fresh spinach would give off water when it cooked and that would make a watery quiche. Once the spinach was thawed, I wrapped it in two layers of paper towels (though if you’re one of those fancy types, you could use cheesecloth) and squeezed the everloving hell out of it. Thawed frozen spinach gives off A LOT of excess moisture. I definitely didn’t want that in the quiche.

The original recipe called for shredded Swiss cheese tossed with a little flour. The recipe doesn’t specify, but I think the flour is a little insurance against the moisture/oil from the cheese separating out.  I kept that step because I figured it couldn’t hurt. I used cheddar instead of Swiss for two reasons:

1. The local Mega Mart didn’t carry shredded Swiss and while I’m sure that I, technically, have a cheese grater somewhere I just couldn’t be bothered.

2. Cheddar and eggs are fantastic together.

Once the cheese and the spinach were ready, it was time to start assembling the solids.

Sliced mushrooms

Carefully dried spinach

Diced ham. Yes, I bought the ham already diced. I could never have made the pieces this uniform. I'm not proud of it, but there you are.

...and the floured cheese.

At this point, the crust was getting pretty full. I was beginning to worry that the crust wouldn’t have enough room for all the egg mixture that I was about to make. I pressed on, figuring that I could just not add all of the egg mixture if I had to.

Now I was ready to make the egg mixture. While doing research about quiche, I learned that people mix a bunch of different types of dairy with the eggs. Milk. Light cream. Heavy cream. Half and half. I’m pretty sure I’ve even found a couple recipes with buttermilk.

I don’t know why, but I don’t really like to cook with cream. I wanted to add some creaminess to the recipe, but I just didn’t want to use cream. Instead, I substituted half the milk in the original recipe for sour cream. After all, sour cream is how you make delicious things more delicious. I also thought that adding something thicker than milk would help avoid watery quiche.

After softening the sour cream in the microwave, I whisked it a little. I figured it’d blend more easily with the liquid ingredients if it was somewhat smooth. I don’t know if that’s the case, but I did manage to whisk everything together.

I poured the egg in the pie crust. It all fit.

Barely

I had forgotten one crucial thing that my mom had taught me when making pumpkin pies. When you’re making a pie and you know the crust will be very full, you put your cookie sheet with your empty pie crust on an oven rack and slide the oven rack out slightly. Then you can pour your liquid inside. There’s a lot less chance of it spilling that way. Whoops.

Thank God for cookie sheets

After the quiche came out of the oven, I sprinkled some leftover cheese on top and let it sit for a little while.

Yum!

The verdict: fantastic, if I do say so myself. It came out creamy and delicious with a little bit of a tang from the sour cream. It was pretty simple to make, once I’d decided on the recipe.

Ok, so it's not a photogenic quiche. It's very tasty, though.

I’m already planning on making this again. I think next time I’ll skip the mushrooms. I like mushrooms, but I’m not sure they really added anything to this dish and they took up a lot of room.

Also, I think I might do chicken instead of ham next time (like a mother and child reunion thing).

I had the quiche with shredded hash browns and orange juice, with fresh watermelon for dessert. It was a great meal.

As promised, here is the recipe in full for your cooking pleasure:

Ham and Mushroom Quiche

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

4 teaspoons flour

4 oz. diced ham

4 oz. sliced mushrooms

1 cup frozen spinach (thawed)

4 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground dry mustard

9 inch deep-dish unbaked pie crust

  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Wrap spinach in cheesecloth or paper towel and wring excess moisture from it. Place aside.
  3. Toss cheese with flour.
  4. Arrange cheese, mushrooms, ham, and spinach on the bottom of the pie crust.
  5. Microwave sour cream in a medium bowl for 10-20 seconds until slightly melted.
  6. Whisk slightly melted sour cream with the milk and eggs.
  7. Whisk mustard and salt into egg mixture.
  8. Place pie crust on cookie sheet, and place cookie sheet on oven rack that has been slid out.
  9. Pour egg mixture into pie crust and carefully slide oven rack back into place.
  10. Bake quiche at 425 for ten minutes, then lower oven temperature to 325 and bake for about 20 more minutes. Quiche is done when butter knife inserted into center comes out clean. If the center still looks wobbly, don’t worry. The quiche will finish cooking while it cools.

Epic Pie Fail

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , on July 31, 2011 by dreamingofmercy

I spent this weekend at my grandparents’ house. It’s a three hour drive away from home, and I make the trip with my mom about once a month. We never went last month, so this visit we finally celebrated Father’s Day and Grandpa’s birthday (87!).

His request for his birthday dinner was salmon cakes, creamed peas, and butterscotch pie for dessert. Upon hearing this, Grandma said we might as well not bother making butterscotch pie because it will never be as good as his mother made.

I, however, have been experimenting with butterscotch pudding from scratch (because butterscotch is the new chocolate) and have been achieving increasing pudding success. I really like butterscotch, but the first time I made the pudding from scratch it did not go well.

This has just fueled my pudding ambition. Excellent homemade butterscotch pudding is my Everest right now. I’ve been talking about butterscotch pudding the way turkey farmers talk about…turkey things. You know what I mean.

Flush with the paltry pudding success I have managed to achieve, I volunteered to make the dessert. After all, butterscotch pudding and butterscotch pie should be very closely related, right? What could go wrong?

The first mistake was not making the pie when I first arrived on Friday afternoon. Butterscotch pie is a type of custard, and every schoolchild knows that custards need to set overnight to get maximum custard satisfaction. Alas, upon first arrival to my grandparents’ house I got horribly distracted.

The birthday dinner wasn’t until Saturday night, and the pie would’ve been better if it had had more time to set. I didn’t start making the pie until early Saturday afternoon.

The second mistake was the recipe I used. Grandma had found three different recipes for butterscotch pie in one of the cookbooks she owns.

Seems legit.

It's an antique!

Let me just say that I have nothing against club cookbooks, or church cookbooks, or anything like that. I have found, however, that these cookbooks tend to be somewhat imprecise in measurements and instructions:

Rolled pecan meats? What is this, I don't even...

"Butter, size of walnut?" Was there seriously a time when "walnut" was a measurement of butter?

I picked the recipe that was closest to my favorite recipe for butterscotch pudding. The recipe for pie I used only called for one egg yolk instead of the two whole eggs that the pudding recipe I had used had called for. That’s fine, whatever. The problem was that the recipe didn’t specify when exactly the egg yolk should be added. I used my best judgement, and I know that that wasn’t solely responsible for the horror that followed but I know it didn’t help.

So I brown the butter and start adding the other ingredients. I put in the egg yolk with the brown sugar, but I think I was supposed to add it when I whisked in the bulk of the liquid (milk whisked with cornstarch). Of course the recipe didn’t specify.

It’s ok, at this point, though. Things are looking good and smelling amazing.

...if only my camera took pictures with smell....

It was at this point that things started going to hell.

After many, many minutes of careful watching, constant stirring, and fervent prayer, the butterscotch mixture would…not…thicken. I am dismayed by this, but I am lured away from the stove by Mom and Grandma, who tell me that I should just let it cool for a little while. “It’ll thicken as it cools.” they tell me.

I return after an hour or so to pour the mixture (which HAS NOT THICKENED) into the prepared pie shell. I put the whole thing in the fridge while crossing my fingers for thickening.

Spoiler alert: this did not happen.

One thing that Grandpa wanted was a layer of meringue on top of the pie. The recipe even called for it, even though it didn’t specify how to go about it. I guess a normal housewife from 1955 knows very well exactly how to make meringue.

I have never even tried to make meringue before (my friend J makes great meringues, but that’s neither here nor there).  Mom said she’d make the meringue part of the pie, and I gladly let her.

Shortly before dinner was served, she was furiously applying a hand mixer to a bowl full of egg whites.  They refused to peak. She kept calling for more cream of tartar like a twisted dessert surgeon. She manages to get some peaks and pours the egg whites on top of the butterscotch mixture.

Now, this is the exact point where the pie goes from bad to worse. The recipe, of course, did not specify how you were supposed to brown the meringue on top of the pie, just that you were supposed to do it. Grandma turns on the broiler and puts the pie in.

The table is set and we are all ready to eat, when we notice a burning smell. Mom runs out to the kitchen to save the pie (which we have all forgotten about) from the broiler. The picture I’m about to show you is graphic, and may be disturbing to pie-loving readers:

The horror!

We, of course, being a rough-and-tumble gang of eaters peeled the burnt layer off the top and ate it anyways.

Fail pie. You will notice that the filling never properly set.

The butterscotch part tasted good, despite the fact that it was soup and not pie. Even the white part of the meringues tasted burnt. It’s been a long, long time since I failed so hard at a dessert. At least Grandpa appreciated the effort:

Grandpa holding the pie. Bless his heart.

At least it wasn’t fatal and I live to try another day. Someday I’ll get it right…

The Great Burrito Adventure of 2011

Posted in Food with tags , , , on July 24, 2011 by dreamingofmercy

One of my favorite things about the weekend is making a new recipe on Sundays. It’s usually a giant, elaborate meal, even though lately it’s just me here (which is a blessing because the person that used to live with me had a whole list of strange and difficult diet rules).

This way I don’t have to cook on Mondays or Tuesdays, which works out because those are the two days a week that I’m busiest at work. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I’m lucky to get home in one piece. Leftovers are definitely welcome on those days.

Lately I’ve been in the mood for tacos. This is a problem, because even when I was cooking for an entire household, taco leftovers lasted for DAYS. For those of you that don’t think you could ever think you could be sick of tacos, you totally can. I have lived it.

I love taco leftovers as much as the next chick, but I’d literally be eating tacos for two weeks (or nachos, or taco salad, or quesadillas).  I know I could probably scale down the amounts, but I think that’d be way too depressing.

Plus, tacos (at least the way I make them) are a lot of damn work. Browning the meat, making the beans, the chopping, dicing, draining, mixing…..bleh. And the amount of things to buy for it….double bleh

But there’s a great blog about food called F***ing Badass Recipe Box (Warning: Swears) that’s just fantastic. The gentleman that runs it makes food that’s unfussy but tasty. I made his recipe for Spicy Black Bean “Mexican Standoff” Burritos, and that’s the recipe of the week.

I was so glad to find this recipe. It definitely satisfied my taco craving, it was super easy, and super cheap. I liked how he used canned black beans, because I find traditional bean preparation to be tiresome and irritating. The beans were really spicy, but they had a great texture.

Look at that spicy, beany goodness

I made cilantro lime rice to go in the burritos as well. I like cilantro lime rice, but every recipe I find for it tends to disappoint. This time I just guessed at everything and it turned out really well.

Best. Rice. EVER!

I started this batch in the rice cooker like I always do, because me + the rice cooker= true love for life, but this time I squeezed a lime into the cooker when I put the water in. The last couple times I made the rice, I used the little lime-shaped squeeze bottle of lime juice but I think fresh really is better.

When the rice was finished cooking, I stirred in chopped/minced cilantro, the juice and some flesh of two more limes, and a tablespoon of butter. The rice was still hot enough to melt the butter and the flavors melded really well.

I’m really glad that I decided to make the rice. It cut down just enough of the spiciness for my taste. The finished burrito:

Burritos, man

A little fresh mango for dessert and I’m good to go. The best part is that I have enough left for two more dinners. I think on the second night I’ll make nachos. I bet these beans would make kickass nachos.

That 90’s Post

Posted in Writing with tags , , , on July 22, 2011 by dreamingofmercy

I, despite all possible distractions, have managed to keep up with my Google Reader for the past week. I’m ridiculously proud of this. You think I’d built a house for the homeless out of dryer lint. No, nothing so useful or difficult. I managed to click things. Where’s my medal?

This is a slammer, kids. Look it up.

Anywho, I was reading over at The Rejectionist (like you do, because it’s awesome) and they had a guest post earlier in the week by Bryan Russell.  The post, here, was simply fabulous. I cannot recommend it highly enough to everyone, writer or not.

It was kind of a wake up call for me. I know that I’ve been drifting and distracted since graduation. I told myself it would be OK to take some time off and relax, but the whole time I’ve been putting off writing it’s been knocking around in my head that I’ll never have this amount of free time again. Someday I’ll have a family, and somehow even more responsibility. I need to write now, while I can, and I need to be serious about it.

I’ve been trying to make bargains with myself, but it turns out that I won’t write a thousand words a day. I won’t write a page a day. When it got to the point where I assigned myself a sentence a day (with the (vain) hopes that I would actually write more) I stopped and asked myself what I thought I was doing.

I can’t even write a sentence a day? What is wrong with me?

I don’t even know why I can’t just sit and make myself write. Why does it have to be so difficult?

I’m thinking that part of the problem is that I’ve never written a book before, and it seems like a daunting task. I’m not making the amount of progress on Trenchcoat that I’d like. As in, I’m not making any progress at all. I’m getting frustrated because I don’t know how to go about things, and that frustration causes me not to try. The less I try, the more frustrated I get. It’s a vicious cycle.

It’s at this point every day that I just start watching Lost (Lost is awesome. There shall be no argument.)

Sonic weapon fence all up in your grill!

A Word About Acronyms and Code Names

Posted in Video Games, Writing with tags , , on June 25, 2011 by dreamingofmercy

Oh, yeah…I have a blog!

Whoops!

I was plugging along ignoring the blog and thinking about things, when my home situation changed quite drastically. Things are more settled now, though.  I’m getting used to living on my own. It’s been quite an adjustment, but I think I’m gonna make it.

I had been playing a lot of video games lately. In my own defense, I do my best thinking while playing video games. Especially this one. Or even this one:

Pictured: insight. Also, the vanquishing of evil.

I was trying to work with a fiction idea that I have, but I’m just not sure I’m any good at fiction. To me, writing fiction is like trying to do algebra with my left hand. It’s all backwards and awkward and difficult. I like the fiction idea. I’ve been chewing on it for a while now, and I think it has potential.  I just don’t think that I’m capable of doing it justice at this point. I’m officially shelving fiction at the moment.

I’ve been kicking around a few ideas for some nonfiction. As a matter of fact, I was playing a video game when suddenly the road became clear. I understood how the separate ideas for small memoir pieces I’d been thinking of creating could be linked. A theme. A theme for a book. Not just any theme, but a theme so amazingly perfect that it must have been heaven sent. I think the book could be wonderful, if I do say so myself.

I’m not going to go into specifics, partly because I’m paranoid about idea theft, but mostly because talking too much about it seems like a jinx. I’m still in the planning stages of what I’m going to call Project Trench Coat.

So, yes, I might just have to ignore the blog more while I’m off trying to make PTC happen. I’ll try not to be so neglectful, however. No promises.

A Metaphor

Posted in Obvious with tags , , , on March 19, 2011 by dreamingofmercy

So let’s imagine you’re a chef.

You’ve worked hard studying different types of foods and different methods of preparation. You’ve dedicated yourself to the art of cuisine.

You’ve eaten as many different types of cuisine and foods as you could to expand your palate. You’ve tried foreign cuisine and foods most people wouldn’t ever consider eating.

You’ve created your own recipes, and served them to friends and family and fellow chefs.  This has allowed you to refine them through trial and error.

You know all throughout your course of study that you probably won’t get rich through your cooking, but you’re OK with that. You try your best anyway, slaving away obsessively in search of an excellence that you may or may not ever attain for the sake of your passion.

Eventually, you feel confident enough in your cooking to want to share it with the world so you start looking for a restaurant that you could possibly work at. You know your cooking is not absolutely perfect, but it is edible and made with passion.

You find a job…washing dishes. In your spare time, you continue to work on your craft and hope that someday the right opportunity and the right dish will come along.

One day, after a long day on your feet and covered in food scraps, you watch the news to find out that there’s a new popular food  that’s sweeping the nation. Come to find out that this new food is nothing more than a plastic margarine lid stapled to a saltine. It’s called a farealy. Farealies are especially popular with teenagers and children. This causes you great dismay.

A friend of yours, a fellow chef named J, shares your dismay. J was forced to try a farealy as part of her chef training. She assures you that it is pretty terrible, but she’s looking at the bright side of things. “At least these kids are becoming interested in fine cuisine” J tells you.

You know, though, in the bottom of your heart that this is bad news for your passion. Yes, J is right and kids are now more interested in fine dining, but they think that farealies are a good example of fine dining. It has lowered the bar for all cuisine. Chefs begin to change their menus and recipes to pander to farealy fans, and you begin to think that your food has  no place at all in modern fine dining. The bar has been lowered, and it’s a bad thing for the art of fine cuisine.

And, as a writer, that’s why I hate Twilight.

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