Saturday, August 24, 2013


Ugh. Why do I do this to myself? I definitely was overreaching today with my goals.

Fordski made his amazing salsa, and it was a hit.

The banana nut bread turned out GREAT. Then it was all downhill from there.

I misread the instructions for the cake, and while it turned out and tasted great, the look was off. Also, I have not had success in the past in trimming cake for layers, so I didn't bother this time, making it look even more goofy. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, though. The icing was pissing me off. I don't have a double boiler, so I put a small pot in a bigger pot full of simmering water. While mixing the condensed milk into the chocolate chips, I dipped the upper pot too low and a bunch of water seeped in, ruining it. So I made another batch, and almost did the exact same thing. But I saved it by dipping a paper towel to soak up the bit of water.

Next was the rice and beans. Arroz con gandules, or rice with pigeon peas. First I put the rice in before the water was even boiling. Wrong. Then the rice was about done, when I realized...I forgot to put in the damn pigeon peas. The rice turned out great, but what the hell was wrong with me at this point?

Fordski's pork tenderloin turned out FANTASTIC.

I had not time to make tostones.

Drunk Kris commented as I was making quesitos that I seemed a little wound up. Ya think?! Ugh. The recipe for quesitos was stupid. I'm sorry, but the size of the pastry and the amount of filling don't work out. I used a third of the amount that the recipe calls for and it was still WAY too much filling, spilling out everywhere. And the time in the oven? Uh, NOT EVEN CLOSE. Seriously, the author of this recipe fails.

This is why there are no pictures. Everything was delicious (or so my friends told me), but in my opinion none of it stood out visually. (With the exception of the salsa and pork.) I promise, when I make each of these again, ON THEIR OWN, I will take pictures and share the recipes. The quesito recipe is going to require some tinkering. They still tasted AMAZING, but the even after doubling the time in the over, the dough was chewier than it should have been.

I made butterbeer, thought, and it was GREAT.

Sometime this autumn I will have my friend Drunk Kris guest post on here. I've promised him a couple of my pumpkins to make wine and beer with.

Good night!

Saturday afternoon, August 24th.

It is a day of culinary ambitions for yours truly. My birthday is on Tuesday, but we're celebrating today. Even Fordski is getting in on the cooking action.

For dinner, we're having:
arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas)
habichuelas rosadas (pink beans)
tostones (twice-fried plantains)
grilled pork tenderloin marinaded in Mojo Criollo, a citrus-based Goya marinad, courtesty of Fordski

For dessert, we're having:
chocolate cake with cream filling, from scratch
banana nut bread, from scratch
quesitos, a cream cheese-filled pastry treat that is popular in Puerto Rico's mom-n-pop bakeries

And at some point I'll tell you all about the tomato basil chicken I made us for dinner last night. Holy mother of gawd, it was delicious.

The banana nut bread is in the oven now. I'll start the cake next, and save the quesitos for last. In a couple of hours, I'll start dinner. Fordski is making a run to the store for a big hunk of pork loin to marinade for a few hours.

This was not supposed to be an actual birthday party. I wanted to a bake a cake to share with my friends after eating some delicious dinner, and leave it at that. But my dear Heather had other ideas, and stopped by the other day with some decoration. (sigh) The birthday song is still forbidden.

The pumpkins are growing beautifully. I finally got out there and cut back some of the excess vines so I could see the rest of the garden again. By my last count, I have 12 tomatoes finally growing, and my oregano is slowly but surely bouncing back. The lettuce is looking great, the green onions are slowly coming in, and the carrots are growing.

You guys have a wonderful Saturday.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Adventures in Poultry: Parmesan-Crusted Chicken.

Before deploying, Fordski put most of his household goods into storage, leaving only his TVs with me. Yesterday they finally finished moving Parodi out and into a friend's house down the road, and Fordski finally emptied out his storage unit. Needless to say, the house is a mess, and there is a lot of organizing to be done as we swap beds around and finish putting the master and guest bedrooms and my "woman" cave together.

While all that manly work was going on, I was occupying myself in the kitchen, quickly whipping up a satisfying yet healthy dinner.
Here is what I was working with. Feel free to substitute the adobo for salt and pepper. I preheated my oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and got to work.
That's probably about a cup of breadcrumbs liberally mixed with some freshly shredded Parmesan. I dipped the chicken in a mixture of egg and 1 Tbsp of water, then ran it through the dry mix. Once on the pan, I shredded some more Parmesan on top, and ten lightly sprinkled it all with adobo. Or you can top it with sea salt and freshly ground peppercorns.
Here it is going into the oven for 20 minutes...
...and here it is served up with some shredded romaine lettuce and a sliced roma tomato, topped with sea salt and freshly ground peppercorns. I ate my tomatoes, and then drizzled some raspberry vinaigrette on top of the lettuce. So delicious! So easy! So quick! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Adventures in Pasta: Meatball Marinara

Seven years ago, my dear friend P. John taught me how to make a delicious meatball marina from scratch. He wrote the recipe down for me, and I've made it a handful of times. I seem to have misplaced it yet again, though I am sure it will turn up again soon.

The other day I got it into my head to just wing it. Why not? I grabbed fresh herbs from my garden, threw in some tomato sauce and paste with some water to thin it out, and recreated the meatballs to the best of my ability. The flavor past Fordski's quality check, and it was served with success.

I didn't write down what I did.

So last night, I winged it again. I did it differently, but again it past the quality check, so we feasted happily. This time we made twice as much meatballs, and we used a mixture of ground chicken and turkey. The recipe I'll share here will use only a pound of ground meat, tho, versus the two used last night.

1 lb lean ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey, pork, veal, lamb, or some mixture thereof)
1 egg
1/2 as much bread crumbs as beef
1/4 cup Parmesan, or a mixture of Parmesan and Romano
2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the whole mess together and form meatballs that are between an inch to an inch-and-a-half in diameter. Place them on a baking sheet or stone and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the internal temp is 5 to 10 degrees cooler than well done. (Temperatures vary depending on the meat.) Add them to the sauce at this point and let them finish cooking through as they become one with the sauce.

They're easy to make. Here is the man love helping me out. Quality control manager AND a sous chef? I'm a lucky girl.
Here are the meatballs before going into the oven...
And here they are after as I was placing them into the sauce.

I love using the herbs in my garden in my cooking. I go out with scissors and a collander, so that it's easier to rinse them off all at once. Here we have some basil, parsley, rosemary, and chives.
My basil plant is so awesome. It has so many leaves; as a result, I tend to go overboard when I harvest them. But I also like a strong basil flavor. Here I have 17 leaves, but you could use less.
My parsley is thriving as well. This is about a handful right here after cutting off the excess stems.
I am not a big onion fan. However, it is a necessary evil because it enhances the flavor of the marinara and many other dishes. I like to think of chives as a friendlier substitute, because they have the onion flavor, but are more pleasant for someone like me to consume. These are garlic chives; even better! There's about six strands/stalks here.
Sweet bebeh geezus, I love rosemary. My plant isn't as big as it's siblings, but it's still healthy. I grabbed two springs for the sauce and just plucked the leaves off to throw into the food processor with 3 sliced garlic cloves and 7 roma tomatoes.
Here are a few other things I used for flavor. I love the Goya brand; Puerto Rico doesn't feel so far away when I can buy these locally. Adobo is a finely ground dry seasoning consisting of salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano. This is fortunate, as Fordski didn't make it back from the store in time with the fresh oregano; then tried to trick me into thinking he had actually picked up dill by mistake.
Sazon is another finely ground dry seasoning, and is made up of salt, garlic, and coriander.
Sofrito is a flavor base made of onions, bell peppers, garlic, cilantro, and oregano. These are staples in traditional Puerto Rican cooking, and I grew up watching my mother put these in everything, whether it was Puerto Rican or not. I used 4 Tbsp of adobo, 1 packet of sazon, and 2 Tbsp of sofrito.
I didn't throw everything into my food processor at once. I like to use The Pampered Chef's (tm) Manual Food Processor, which is on the small side.
It has a pump handle that allows you to process the ingredients to the desired consistency. Fordski likes to use it for his salsa (which I am now told is a recipe he will never share; but he's happy to share the guacamole recipe). I processed a few ingredients at a time, and threw them in the pot.
More Goya! This is the most affordable can of tomato sauce for it's size at the commissary on base. Two of these and 2 Tbsp of olive oil joined the hot mess that was forming in the pot. If you want a thicker sauce, feel free to add tomato paste. Let it all simmer, covered, for an hour or so, stirring occasionally and tasting it to make sure it doesn't need less or more of any of the above ingredients per your taste buds.

I failed to snap a photo of the finished product, but rest assured it was successful. I served the sauce and meatballs over small portions of spaghetti, and we enjoyed the meal with our friend and landlord Parodi.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Adventures in Baking: Irish Brown Soda Bread.

I rarely buy sliced bread anymore. I still buy whole wheat thin bagels, which are excellent for my Breakfast Power Sammich; and I buy whole grain English muffins, which I love for my healthier eggs Benedict. But I don't buy sandwich bread anymore. Instead I'll bake biscuits and loaves of bread. I'll let them cool completely to prevent mold, and store them in the bags of past store-bought baked goods.

Today I finally tried this recipe; I would have tried it sooner, but I didn't have buttermilk. The only adjustment I made was the addition of flax seed; needless to say, the extra dry ingredient meant I ended up having to add a little extra liquid to compensate, so I am adjusting the recipe accordingly.

I use flax seed in a lot of things: brownies, corn muffins, pancakes, scrambled eggs. It's a nice little fiber, protein, and healthy fat boost.

This is one of those recipes that makes me want a Kitchen Aid mixer with all of the accoutrements. I'll explain why further down.

Our ingredients!
4 cups whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I used organic, unbleached.)
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2-1/4 cups buttermilk (I used lowfat; it was all they had at the store.)
4 tbsp flax seed
This is what I was attempting to replicate.
Here is my trusty old stand mixer. I've had it for 8 years. It only comes with two sets of attachments; the default ones for cake batter and the like, and they curly doohickies. These are the ones I use for bread. O, if I only I had a Kitchen Aid with the bread hook attachment!
I tend to be messy when measuring dry ingredients; I find this to be the easiest way to measure flour with a way to put the extra that falls out back into the bag.
The recipe tells you to mix until a ball forms. Well, without a dough hook, no ball will ever come from this mixer. I definitely struggled to form this loaf.

1. Preheat the over to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease your baking sheet. Combine your dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and stir in enough buttermilk to make a fairly soft dough. Turn onto a work surface dusted with whole wheat flour and knead lightly until smooth. (Unfortunately, nothing about it was "light"; I was attempting to get the crumbly bits to stick together.)
2. Form the dough into a circle, about 1-1/2 inch think. Lay on the baking sheet and mark a deep cross in the top with a floured knife.
3. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the base. (There was nothing hollow about mine.) Cool on a wire rack. If a soft crust is preferred (which was, in my case), wrap the loaf in a clean dishtowel while cooling.

Fordski approved. So I guess it was a success. Yay!

Adapted from "The Food & Cooking of Ireland", by Biddy White Lennon & Georgina Campbell
ISBN: 978-1-4351-4537-5 

Monday morning, 19 August.

I've told myself the last few days I was going to bake, and I keep putting it off. Not today! I'm gonna finish up some paperwork for the new job, and then bake a brown soda bread, a white soda bread, and maybe some pita bread. The soda breads are from an Irish cook book I have; the pita bread is off of Pinterest. If they turn out, I'll of course share the recipes on here with photos and sources and what have you.

My garden is completely out of hand. I can finally see some pumpkins growing, and now that they've been spotted, they are growing quickly! I have two small tomatoes finally, and my sage needs to be harvested.

I try to send Fordski to work each day with breakfast and lunch, but I slacked off the last few days. I managed breakfast for him this morning, though. There wasn't a lot of time with him running late, but I whisked an egg and dumped it on a small plate, and placed it in the microwave for a minute. It needed an extra fifteen seconds for the center, but with a toasted English muffin, two slices of lean ham, and a slice of cheddar, he had a breakfast sandwich to go. I threw in a banana and two plums to snack on.

For dinner I'm planning on using a mix of ground chicken and turkey, one pound each, to make meatballs in a homemade marinara. I winged a homemade marinara the other day; I'll try it again and maybe write it all down this time, minus the tomato paste. I love harvesting basil, parsley, and chives from my garden for these recipes, and I picked up some lovely roma tomatoes at the commissary.

Fordski doesn't cook, but he has a couple of recipes up his sleeves that have been great successes in the kitchen. There are his salsa and guacamole, recipes from his mother; his orange creamsicle shakes, a recipe from his father; and his Bachelor Sandwiches, for starters. There's a big old bowl of his salsa sitting in the fridge right now. I'll have to have him share those recipes on here.

You guys have a great Monday.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

In the beginning, there was Davi.

I guess I should tell you a bit about myself.

I won't bore you with too many details, but the basics are as follows.
  • I am an Air Force brat who grew up on the east coast and went on to serve 6 years on active duty with the same branch, followed by 3-and-a-half years in the reserves. I'm trying to motivate myself to get back into shape so that I can go back to active duty; I never should have left. 
  • I live with the love of my life...let's call him Fordski...who is himself an active duty member of the Air Force for the past 6 years. He is my number one guinea pig for my recent kitchen shenanigans, and as far as I can tell, he enjoys every minute of it.
  • I am unemployed at the moment, and getting ready to start a part-time job. It sucks not having money, so I try to cut corners and save us some cash where I can. For example, I made laundry detergent yesterday, rather than going to the store for some expensive pods. This is why I'm only semi organic; going full organic can, unfortunately, be pricey, so I compromise. 
  • We have animals. 
The alpha is Simi, a friendly Siamese and benign overlord. He loves visitors and scavenging for leftovers, and thinks very poorly of me for only feeding him twice a day.
Next is SoCo, a snooty Russian Blue. She loves to cuddle, on HER terms, beats up on our puppy, climbs anything and everything so as to survey her dominion without mingling with us commoners, and will run out the door every chance she gets to lead us on a merry chase through the neighbors's yards. Zero fucks are given by this cat on a regular basis.
The youngest, the interloper, the New Guy, is Thor. He is our German Shepherd-Labrador-possibly Pitt Bull? mix. When we adopted him, we picked up a third cat. He loves to play and tear around the backyard, but is content to sleep his day away. He gets wicked jealous when I pay attention to the cats.
  • I have a garden. It's my first garden! And it's out of control. It's a 4' x 8' plot, and we could have planned it a bit better, but otherwise I have no complaints. I just wish I'd known how much room pumpkin and watermelon plants require...because WHOA. I'll dedicate a separate post to my gardening shenanigans.
So that's me. Hi. Hello. We'll get to know each other better on this journey. O, here's a picture of my hawt man-love.
I'm a lucky girl, yes?