Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What a crock of crap

My mom gave me a Hamilton Beach slow cooker a couple of years ago.  Sometime last year I noticed that the glaze had crazed.  I've seen crazed pottery in the past and so I didn't think anything about it.

However, the next time I took it out to use it, I opened it to discover mold.  The mold was growing from between the teeny cracks caused by the crazing.  It was white and powdery.  So weird.

I filled the moldy crock with hot water, added a splash of bleach, and left it to sit overnight.  The next day I cleaned it thoroughly with hot, sudsy water, and left it to air dry for a few days on the counter.  Then I put it away.

A while later, I took it out of the cupboard to find that the mold had grown back.

Stupid ass mold.

I bitched and moaned a lot to my mom about that moldy crock.

Then I put the crock aside, meaning to write to Hamilton Beach.  My good intentions stretched out over several weeks, which became months.

Christmas came and went, leaving behind a Crock*Pot from my mother.

About two weeks ago, I got it in my craw one day to email Hamilton Beach to complain.  I took a ton of photos of the mold, submitted my complaint online, readied myself for a fight, and waited.
The next day there was an email from Customer Service: "We're sending you a new crock.  It should arrive in a few weeks."  Days later I found a large box on my front porch. 
Moral of the story: complain to customer service before complaining to Mom.  Kudos to Hamilton Beach for taking care of me!
The old slow cooker is going to a friend of mine.  As soon as I remember to put it in my car and take it to work, that is.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was a set of copper pots and pans.  They had been lovingly acquired, one each Christmas over a period of several years, from an upscale grocery store called "Queen Anne Thriftway".  Each one bore the mark of its homeland - "Made in France" - and of the store that had imported them.

For the first few years of their lives, their mistress lovingly polished them.  They were proud and shiny.

Slowly, their lives changed.  Their mistress decided that it was more important to do something called "commuting" than to maintain their luster.  After a few years, they looked like a handful of old pennies.

They continued to slave away in the hope that one day their mistress would be reminded of how beautiful they could be.  They had been, after all, the inspiration for the orange-y wall color in the kitchen.

One day a fire-breathing dragon came to reside next to their nest on the wall.  They knew that their time would soon be at hand.

They teamed up with the dragon to prove themselves and to remind theiir mistress of why she had purchased them in the first place those many years ago.  They distributied heat evenly, simmered easily, and seared new foods while showing that their years working with the electric dragon had left them with solid, flat bottoms.

And so it came to pass that their mistress, while avoiding real cleaning one day, decided to scrub them and return them to their former glory.

The pans and lids and pots rejoiced!

But not the cranky saute pans.  They dug in their heels and were kind of jerks about the whole affair.

This pair ganged up in the mistress when she was at her most tired and sore from scrubbing the others.  They decided that they had worked too hard to get dirty.  They weren't ready to be shiny again quite yet.

She vowed she'd return for them one day soon.

The end.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A tale of eggs & banana bread

We got a ginormous egg about a week ago.  It weighed about 100 grams, which is about 50% larger than our normal eggs. 

Here it is next to a medium egg from one of our Polish hens (btw, who says Polish hens can't lay big eggs?).

Some people insisted it was a double-yolker.  We don't get those very frequently, so I cracked it open to see what was inside.

That has got to be the biggest yolk I've ever seen.  The yolk next to it is a normal size.  The big one was probably 1.5 inches across.  Massive!

It did, however, make some pretty awesome banana bread.

BANANA BREAD (adapted slightly from CookingLight.com)
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup lowfat sour cream
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3.75 ounces all-purpose flour
3 ounces whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Cooking spray
Chocolate chips - optional

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add granulated and brown sugars; beat until combined.
3.  Combine flours and next 3 ingredients. Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended. Pour batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; cool completely.

This is a bread plate I bought for my grandma in Bavaria some years ago.  I recently retrieved it when she moved into assisted living.  Perfect for a small loaf of bread while paying a visit to friends!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pancetta and bacon update

My pancetta started out on February 19 at 1043 grams, or a little over 2 1/4 pounds.  I'm glad I wrote down the dates.

As you can see, it's just 868 as of last weekend whereas it should be closer to 730.

Our weather went through a very dry and cold spell.  According to what I've read, the meat may have developed a crust on it, which isn't allowing the moisture to escape any longer. 

The remedy is to wrap the meat in plastic, put it in the fridge for a few days to allow the moisture in the meat to redistribute, then hang it back up again.  And that's what I've done. 

My bacon, on the other hand, is a whole other delicious story.  Last weekend I cut off a few slices and cooked them on the griddle.  The meat is much leaner than store bacon.  Nicely done, Lisa!

Gene and I had that bacon with fresh eggs from our girls, Poulsbo bread toast, and blueberry citrus conserves I canned (they're my favorite).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Corned beef & Irish soda bread

March's Charcutepalooza challenge was to brine something.  With a cabinet full of pickled cukes, squash, beans, and cabbage, and Saint Patrick's Day not far off, I wanted to try corned beef.

I concocted the brining mixture a week ago and set my locally sourced brisket for a soak.  The recipe called for a five-pound slab but that's a LOT of meat.  I settled on one that was a little under three.

BTW, one of the Charcutepalooza rules was to not include the recipes because they're in a copyrighted book.  Check out Alton Brown's corned beef, which you could do in five days.  Change out Alton's herbs & spices for pickling spice available in the bulk spices section of the grocery store.

If you start yours next Saturday, it'll be perfect for a Saint Patrick's evening meal.  Go on, do it!  The brining takes just five minutes to get going.

After the requisite five-day period of brining the meat, I rinsed it and put it unceremoniously into the crockpot with some fresh water and about a tablespoon of this vegetable bouillion.  Gene and I had a million errands to run, not one of which was in the same part of town.  The corned beef was left on its own for a few hours.  When we came back it smelled good but was rather tough.  I cranked up the heat in the hopes of breaking down the connective tissues before we left for our friends' house.

While that was cooking I whipped up a batch of Irish soda bread, adapted from this recipe.  I was completely out of white flour and made it instead with whole wheat.  I increased the leavening agents to lift the heavier whole wheat flour.  It turned out really well and I'll definitely make it again.  This is a bread you could make the night before and reheat.

As soon as it came out of the oven I wrapped it in a linen towel and we dashed to our friends house, bread and beef in hand.

I am relieved to report that the corned beef did tenderize and was quite good.  The flavor of the pickling spices had permeated the meat.  Our friends, parents of two young children, welcomed us - and the culinary offerings - with open arms.  They had made boiled potatoes, carrots, and cabbage.  With spicy brown mustard and a local red wine, this was a warming meal shared with good friends.

I regret that I have no photos of our completed dinner.  We were enjoying our evening and completely forgot.  I can say, though, that the corned beef retained a nice pink color and had great flavor.  The kids loved the bread, too!

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 tablespoons baking powder
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar (or use buttermilk if you have it - I didn't)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup dried currants, such as Zante

1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
2.Combine dry ingredients. Blend wet ingredients together, and add all at once to the flour mixture. Mix just until moistened. Add currants gently.  Pour into prepared pan.
3.Bake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the bread comes out clean.

Note for convection ovens - my loaf was done at 55 minutes. 

The original recipe says to let this cool & wrap overnight.  Blah blah blah.  Screw waiting for it to cool down.  It's utterly delicious served piping hot with butter.


A year ago today I started this little blog.  Thank you so much for reading.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sausage and chickpea soup

This is one of the best soups I've made in a long while.  It's an interesting combination of flavors that I wouldn't have come up with on my own.  The result is a hearty dish that's spicy and fresh at the same time.  We liked it a lot. 

I'd like to make a vegetarian version at some point, as the sausage adds a lot of calories to this soup.  I think that replacing the sausage with carrots, parsnips, and sausage-esque seasonings (think: fennel, red pepper flakes, paprika, parsley) would be delicious.

From Dinner with Julie

Sausage & Chickpea Soup

1 lb. hot Italian sausage
1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled and chopped
1 pickled jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp. cumin
1 quart canned tomatoes
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
1 quart chicken stock
a squeeze of fresh lime juice
fresh cilantro
1 avocado, peeled and chopped

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook sausage and garlic and sauté until the sausage is golden brown and cooked through, breaking up with your spoon. Add the jalapeño and cumin and cook for another minute or two.

Add the tomatoes, chickpeas and stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes, until everything is cooked through and the broth has thickened slightly. Add a squeeze of lime, season with salt and pepper and serve hot, topped with fresh cilantro, chopped avocado, and extra lime wedges alongside. Serves 4.

LOCAL: chicken broth, tomatoes, pickled jalapenos from my garden, garlic, sausage
NOT LOCAL: Bob's Red Mill garbanzo beans, cilantro, avocado, lime

As an aside, this is a great use for pickled jalapenos.  I grew 2 plants on my parking strip and didn't know how hot they would be as I'd never had luck with jalapenos before and it was a cold summer.  I gifted a jar to a girlfriend at work for her birthday and she later told me that even her heat-loving son thought that they were really hot!  I'm thinking of giving a jar to our department head who was raised in India.  Last fall he brought a viciously hot pepper puree of some kind, which made me cough and sputter when a seed affixed itself to my esophagus, much to his amusement.