Archive for Cooking

Cooking

Recipe Hoarding

While I’m stuck at home, I’ve been working on a massive organizing/optimizing project, going space-by-space in my house to sort through things and arrange them in a logical way to make it easier to find things. I’ve already sorted through my media racks to arrange my DVDs and CDs. Now I’m tackling my recipe collection.

I’ve come to the realization that I have a serious recipe problem. I collect so many recipes, and I end up using so few of them because I tend to repeat the usual favorites. I could make a new recipe a day every day and still never get through all the recipes I’ve saved from the Internet, and then there’s my clipping habit. I had whole folders, two recipe boxes, and a photo album full of recipes I’ve cut out of newspaper and magazines over the years. I have made a number of them. I have a fat file of recipes I’ve made and liked. But still, there’s a huge pile I’ve never even looked at after clipping them.

Over the past few days, I’ve been sorting through all the clippings. There are way too many recipes that fall into the “why did I ever think this would be good?” category. There are also cases of me collecting dozens of recipes for the same thing, and never making any of them. I seem to find the idea of tomato-basil soup, apple cake, and chocolate cake appealing. I’ve made some of the soup recipes, but I don’t think I’ve tried any of the apple or chocolate cake recipes. When I’ve made those things, I’ve used recipes from cookbooks.

Some of this has been an exercise in nostalgia, since there are whole newspaper food sections and magazine pages going back to the early 90s in this collection. I think of the 90s as being recent, but the graphic design and ad pictures now look really dated. Even the papers from the late 90s and early 2000s look old-fashioned.

After all this work, I have a trash bag full of newspaper and magazine clippings and newspaper food sections. All the recipes that I think I really might want to make are sorted by category in an accordion folder. I’ve also sorted the recipes I’ve made and actually use into another accordion folder, and the ones I use most often are in the photo album so the pages are protected by plastic. I’ve emptied one recipe box that I can now use for other things, and I’m in the process of putting the smaller clippings on notecards to go in my recipe box. This should save me a lot of time because a big part of my cooking process was digging through my recipe folders to find the recipe I needed.

Will I make any of all the recipes in my remaining stash? Looking through them has given me ideas. When the stores are a little more back to normal and I’m able to more easily get ingredients, I may start a routine of trying a new recipe every week. There is a summer (no-bake) cheesecake recipe I want to try that I may get ingredients for next time I go shopping, and there are a few salad recipes I’ll have to try. This fall, maybe I’ll actually bake one of those apple cakes.

Cooking

Weekend Cooking

We had a cold, rainy weekend, and it was glorious. I did some cooking and read, did a little book brainstorming, and was delightfully lazy. It was just the kind of time to spend snuggled up under a blanket with a cup of tea and a good book. Lately, it’s seemed like every time we have a cold, rainy weekend, it’s a weekend when I have to go somewhere or do something, and for once I didn’t have to.

I was even so lazy that I decided not to do any baking, as I’d planned, aside from the biscuits I made for breakfast. Not that I needed to bake, given that I have a freezer full of stuff from past baking binges. I have a couple of bags of blueberry mini muffins and a bag of pumpkin mini muffins, plus some shortbread cookies, and I found some chocolate mini cakes in the back of the freezer when I was looking for something else.

I’ve discovered that the whey I get from draining my homemade yogurt can be substituted for buttermilk in baking, and I think the results are even better. It makes for fluffy, flaky biscuits and really fluffy waffles. I didn’t really need to know this. It’s dangerous knowledge.

But I did do some Instant Pot experimentation. I wasn’t totally crazy with my initial attempt at using it to make a pot roast — the meat wasn’t as tender as it is when I make stew, and the vegetables were mushy. I did some more research and tried pressure cooking it for less time (about half an hour less than most of the recipes, since I was using a smaller roast) but letting the pressure release naturally. I roasted the potatoes (white and sweet) in the oven. The meat was just right, fork tender and juicy. But then for Sunday lunch, I thought I’d try something else I’d seen for the vegetables. I scraped the fat off the liquid, put it in the pot and let it heat up on saute, then put in some potatoes, carrots, and green beans (not traditional with this, but I had them, and they were good cooked this way) and cooked for four minutes, then did a quick pressure release and put the roast in with it all to warm up. The vegetables were just right, soft but not mushy, and they tasted like they’d been cooking all day with the roast. So I will have to fine tune this recipe and cook it again. For science.

Oh, and I also made pizza this weekend. I won’t have to cook a meal until later this week, I did so much cooking this weekend.

Cooking

Bread

It seems that my hobby this fall and winter has been baking bread. I’ve always loved baking, and I love making bread, but it’s a time and labor-intensive process. Not only is there the time involved in mixing the ingredients, there’s generally about ten minutes of kneading (which can be therapeutic, but it’s still ten minutes), and then multiple rising times.

Well, last fall I discovered the wonders of no-knead bread. You stir up the ingredients, let it rise, shape it, let it rise again, and bake. It still takes time, but most of that time is rising, so I can be doing something else. Now I don’t remember the last time I bought bread because I’ve been making my own.

It all started with this recipe for a Harvest Bread full of nuts and dried fruit. One of my local grocery stores used to make something like this, then it stopped. One day last fall, I was procrastinating, so I did an Internet search to find a recipe along those lines and found this one, which also introduced me to the idea of Dutch oven or bread crock baking. That makes things even easier. I’ve made the rustic/artisan breads before where you have to put a pan of water in the oven. This avoids that step and still gives you that crusty European bakery effect. You just put your dough in a Dutch oven or bread crock, bake it in that with the lid on for most of the time, then remove the lid for the last few minutes. The steam builds inside the pot for most of the baking, and then you finish browning at the end. So, the night before I want bread, I stir together the ingredients, let it rise overnight, shape it and put it in the pot in the morning to rise again, then throw it into the oven. With this recipe, you put the pot in a cold oven, and it finishes rising as the oven heats.

So, since that one was so successful, I tried a crusty white bread recipe that makes multiple loaves. You pull off the amount of dough you want to use and keep the rest in the refrigerator, up to a week. The longer it stays in the refrigerator, the closer it comes to a sourdough taste.

Yesterday, I tried a skillet wheat bread that I’m still iffy about. It has the shape and a similar density to corn bread, but it’s a whole-wheat yeast bread. I guess it would be similar to a heavy peasant bread, but it’s a little too dense for my taste. I might tinker with the recipe some, and we’ll see how well it reheats or works split and toasted.

There’s a French bread recipe I want to try that I may bake in the Dutch oven. And a skillet cinnamon bread that looks lovely.

One weird thing I discovered in researching all this baking stuff is that supposedly, you should let a loaf of bread cool completely before slicing it because it alters the texture if you break the crust before it’s cooled. Is it actually possible to resist eating fresh-baked bread right out of the oven? Who does that? I do let it rest about 10-15 minutes, but then it must be at least tasted while warm, maybe with some butter and honey.