Sunday, August 21, 2005

Oh to hell with it!

So I decided I was going to make those Boston Cream Cupcakes today. The ones I was going to make a month ago, and never did. I'd already flung some Cheesy Potatoes (of doom!) in the crock pot, and figured what the heck...

So I assembled my ingredients. I grabbed 3 eggs out of the fridge, and a stick of butter. Got myself out a cup and a quarter of water, and popped my cake mix into the bowl of the mixer. Melted the butter, and poured that in, along with the water. I let the Kitchenaid do its thing, and about 2 minutes later, was scooping batter into the cupcake liners with my ancient ice cream scoop*.

Into the oven these evenly filled tins went, and I started to clean up after myself. That's when I discovered the three eggs sitting on the counter. That's right, I'd forgotten to put the damned eggs in.

After cursing, a lot. I pulled the eggless cupcakes out of the oven, and promptly emptied them into the trash. (Because there is NO way I'm scraping all the batter off those little paper liners. Sorry. No.)

I figured maybe I'll make chocolate filled cupcakes instead, and search the cupboard for another cake mix. Lo and behold! There's another butter yellow mix! Sweet! I melt another stick of butter, measure up another cup and a quarter of water, and dump in the cake mix, along with the eggs this time, and all the other necessary ingredients, into the mixer bowl. I turned that bad boy on, and put a few things into the sink. When I turned back to the mixer, I wasn't greeted by batter. I was greeted by a lemony yellow soup.

Cue even MORE cursing.

In fact, I believe my exact quote was "What the fuck did I do wrong THIS time, goddamnit!?"

(Note: I'm a decent baker, and a darned good cook. I don't need remedial home ec, so this stuff? REALLY pissed me off.)

That's when I looked at the back of the box and it dawned on me.

That's right. I used two separate brands of cake mix.**

This one only needed 2/3 cup of water, not a cup and a quarter. DUHHHHH. So yes, I was a wee bit angry. And the second batch of batter went buh-bye. And at this point, I decided to say "Screw the cupcakes" and settled for just beating my head against the counter till I didn't crave sugar anymore.

Tomorrow, I shall try again, armed with a fresh cake mix, and some more butter. If you hear about some twit blowing up her kitchen, it'll probably be me.

* The ice cream scooper is pink aluminum, and came free with a container of ice cream some time in the late fifties/early sixties. I've had dibs on this ever since I was a kid. I joke with my mom about it, but when she goes, damnit, I get the scoop.

** If they're going to make all the boxes look the same, the least they could do is keep the ingredients consistent. Fuckers.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


So I had some leftover peeled tomatoes, and tonight I whipped up some homemade salsa.

You can too, y'know.

You'll need

7 or so tomatoes, peeled (you know how to peel tomatoes, right? If not, scroll to the end)
3 Jalapeno peppers (or more, if you're into that sort of thing)
1 bell pepper, chopped
probably about 1/2 a medium onion, chopped
The juice of 1 1/2 limes
salt, sugar, Cilantro to taste

Dice your peeled tomatoes (fairly small dice) and send them on a trip through your salad spinner. If it's a cheesy model like mine, you'll probably have to do it in two batches. You're doing this to get rid of the tomato guts, so the salsa's not too watery. Turn your stick blender loose on the tomatoes, puree some, but leave the whole mixture REALLY chunky. (If you made your chunks too big, you can puree part of the maters, and pour off some of the puree.)

If you've got a food processor, use it to chop up your onions and peppers. It's so much easier. If not, chop them finely.

NOTE: Yes, I know, everyone warns you that you should wear rubber gloves when you're playing with Jalapenos. They're not kidding. If you don't have rubber gloves, use plastic baggies (I used the produce bags that my peppers and limes came in). If you don't like a lot of heat in your salsa, be sure to de-seed and de-rib your peppers thoroughly, as all the heat lives THERE. And for the love of Elvis, wash your hands well, and repeatedly, once done with the peppers, especially before you take out your contacts, masturbate, or pick your nose. Ok?

Mix the chopped onions and peppers with your tomatoes, top with the cilantro, salt, pepper, and lime juice, and mix the whole shootin' match together. Let it chill for an hour, more if you can. Feel free to add some garlic too, if you're so inclined.

Peeling Tomatoes: Pop a saucepan full of water on the stove, and get it boiling. If you're doing a LOT of tomatoes, fill your sink with water and ice, if you're doing a normal number of tomatoes, just take a big bowl of water and ice, and set it aside. Core your tomatoes, and make a shallow X on the bottom of your tomato (maybe an inch long).

When the water's boiling, drop your tomato in (carefully!) and leave it in there for about 15 seconds or so, then fetch it with a slotted spoon, and drop it immediately into the icewater bath. After the tomato has been in the cold water for a few seconds, take your paring knife, and gently peel the skin off, starting at the x. The skin will come right off. :)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Mum's Mater Soup.

We canned a whole cubic buttload of soup today, diced tomatoes too. I can't help it, we found good tomatoes for 6.00 a box, and it NEEDED to happen.

I cannot begin to describe to you how wonderful this soup is, or tell you how much I love it in the middle of winter. It's perfect with macaroni, a tiny shake of parmesan cheese, and some pepper (or just plain.) And you don't necessarily HAVE to do this with fresh tomatoes, but it IS summer, so why not make a big old batch, and freeze some?

To make a human-sized batch of soup (starting from tomatoes)

Get enough tomatoes to fill a nice sized dutch oven (or small stock pot, or whatever you use to make chili). Eyeball it. If you have some tomatoes left over, have a sandwich. Whack up the tomatoes into chunks, and when your pot is about 3/4 of the way full, get your hands in there and squish them up. (This is best done with tomatoes that have just come in from being outside- they're still warm, and extra gooshy.) If you're prissy, you can use a potato masher to do this, but I'll ignore you on the street. (unless you have arthritis or carpal tunnel. Then you get a pass.) Add in a cut up onion. (1 small or 1/2 large) and a few bay leaves (4 or 5).

Pop the pot onto the stove, and cook over medium/high heat stirring frequently (so the bottom doesn't scorch) till you smell the bay leaf, the tomatoes have fallen to bits, and you've been boiling for a bit. Turn off the heat and grab your handy dandy food mill. Yes. Food Mill. NOT A BLENDER. NOT A FOOD PROCESSOR. They will not work, and you will be smited by hot tomato guts. And yes, the mill in the picture is expensive. You can get one for around 25 bucks, less if you scour yard sales.

Pop the mill on top of another nice sized pot, and ladle in a good bit of your hot tomato, bay, and onion mixture. Turn the crank, and get to processing. Think about your grammy & your granny, and how they did this shit without air conditioning and possibly on a coal stove, not because they wanted to, but because they HAD to, or they weren't gonna eat in the winter. When you get down to just seeds and skin in the mill, keep going- grind them as much as you can, because they're what helps to make the soup thick. Repeat this process till you've squished all the tomatoes into juice. Pop your juice filled pot back onto the stove and start to heating it again.

Now's the time to season your soup. Add in about a cup or so of sugar (white is fine). Start at a half cup, and taste it, adding more till you're satisfied with the sweetness. Salt's next, and it's kind of a personal thing, so add salt till you're happy. Next up, take some of the hot juice in a pyrex measuring cup, or another bowl, or a coffee cup even, and add a few tablespoons of flour. Stir it well with a whisk, and add it back into the soup. Heat back up to a boil, and see if it's thick enough for your liking. If not, do the flour thing again.

That's all there is to it. It's work, but it's super delicious soup. :) Freeze it if you'd like, in plastic bags (once it's cooled) or can it according to the blue book, or eat it all in one sitting- whatever floats your boat. :)

This is where the lazy people/people who don't have access to good tomatoes come in.

I'll warn you, this isn't going to be quite as good as the real thing.

People who are not starting from fresh tomatoes should get a nice big bottle or two of good quality tomato juice (if you can get it without salt, so much the better).
Slice up a small onion really thin, and pop it into your pot, add the juice and a few bay leaves to it, and bring the whole shootin' match to a boil. Keep it going, stirring frequently, till the onions are soft. Fish the majority of the onions out, plus the bay leaves, and use your stick blender on the rest. Season with salt & sugar to taste, then do the flour trick you saw above. It's not perfect, but it will do in a pinch.

Serve either one with cooked macaroni, or grilled cheese sandwiches, or just pop it in a mug and be happy. :)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Yay! Leftovers!

I don't usually go to restaurants, lately because I've been too broke, and generally because I dislike eating alone. Well, last night I went to the local Ruby Tuesday's, because I had gift certificates from last year's birthday to use, and didn't feel like cooking at the Monkeyhouse. (side note, those Lean Cuisine pizzas? Tasty.) About a zillion years ago, I had the best portabello mushroom sandwich there, and wish it was still on the menu. I got the asian peppercorn salmon instead, and wow, it was good. It was also surprisingly inexpensive. I was quasi-well-behaved, and ate half the samon and snap peas, but demolished the rice (to say nothing of the blondie a la mode I took home with me, because I'm going to pass that up?). Today, I looked forward to the leftovers.

And what, pray tell, was dinner this evening?

Peppercorn Salmon Noodle Bowl. That's what.

I cooked a portion of multi-colored veggie pasta, tossed it with a little margarine and lime juice, and mixed in the (reheated) snap peas, and chunks of the salmon (with a little of its sauce still on it). Deelish. Now if only I had the blondie to go with it. Heh.

And the birthday cake this year? Excellent. Very light, moist, and tasty. My only complaint was that the peaches we purchased were a bit underripe.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Mmm. Cake.

So my birthday's coming up, and I've been asked the question. "What kind of cake do you want?" While buying a cake is damned simple, and not ridiculously expensive, I hate commercial frosting. (Unless it's peanut butter or ganache) And if it's my birthday, I get the cake I'd like, right?

Traditionally, I've asked for the lemon cake (of doom). Lemon cake layers, lemon pudding in between, whipped cream frosting, lemon slices and mint leaves on top. None too sweet, just like me. But this year, I want something different. Not cheesecake. Not tiramisu. Not Tom's really good chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting from the codger corral. What, pray tell, have I decided to make for the (not so very) big day?

Butter cake, vanilla cook & serve pudding (made with half & half to make it super creamy), fresh sliced peaches, whipped cream frosting, and more slices of peach on top. I'll bake the layers tomorrow, and split them so it's more like a torte (so the breakdown would be cake, pudding, cake, pudding and peaches, cake, pudding, cake) Freeze the layers, and tackle the whole shebang closer to the day.

Fat Elvis (whose head is resting on my left hand as I type this) approves.