Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

Update: The Pumpkin Chronicles

Posted: October 29th, 2008 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 1 Comment »

Ok, I’ve kind of decided to enter into that whole NoNaBloPo or whatever it is, where you commit to blogging every day in November.
Admittedly, food blogging Thanksgiving when I’m going to my Mom and Dad’s house is going to be a bit rough, but maybe this year they’ll let me help more with the cooking!! :) Glee!!
But anyways, I’m going to try. And to get myself all up in the sperrit, I’m mentioning this now, while I’m on my lunchbreak:

I am eating reheated pork chop and pumpkin polenta, and it’s official. I am a convert. I am obsessed. It didn’t get dry, it didn’t get gross, the polenta is just about as wonderful as it was last night (not quite though, because it’s microwaved and well…..we know how I feel about that).
I’m obsessed. I’m totally adding canned pumpkin to basically everything that I can. I am a canned pumpkin lover.
I will take and attempt any and all suggestions that I deem reasonable. I might even make chocolate pumpkin bread. Glee!!!

Ok, back to finish up my delectable delicious pumpkin polenta.

Envy me.


In which we are whelmed

Posted: October 28th, 2008 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 1 Comment »

Since my first foray into the world of non-cured pork went so swimmingly, I decided to get tricksy and go for a second shot. This time, I changed basically everything except the cooking method. And y’know what? I liked them better the other way.
Balsamic and Sage Pork Chops with ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS PUMPKIN POLENTA!!!!
Recipe calls for 4 1-1/2 inch thick boneless center-cut pork chops. What you need to do, in my opinion, is get them with the bone in. Or, in retrospect, maybe just go for the thickness which the recipe recommends, which might have been my mistake.
You heat up olive oil in a big skillet. Meanwhile, you preheat your oven to 375.
Drizzle about 2 tablespoons (a few big glugs if all your measuring spoons are *cough* dirty) of balsamic vinegar in a bowl, as well as dropping in a chopped up garlic clove (or a shallot if *cough* for the first time in history, you find yourself out of garlic), 5 or so chopped up sage leaves, and some chopped up parsley. Drizzle in some olive oil too. Sprinkle in some salt, and some pepper of course.

About this time, also put about 2 and a half cups of chicken stock(or vegetable stock), and a cup of milk into a saucepot. Add some salt and pepper. Open a can of pumpkin PUREE (NOT pumpkin pie filling!!!!!) and add it into the milk/stock mixture. Stir and put it over hte heat until it starts to simmer. While it’s getting all warm and friendly, swirl your pork chops around in the balsamic/garlic/herb mixture, and drop them in your skillet with your olive oil. Sear them for about 2 minutes on each side. After your 4 minutes are up, you’re going to want to put them in the oven for a few minutes, until they’re cooked through.

Just before you put the chops in the oven, pour a box of quick-cooking polenta into your stock/milk/pumpkin mixture. Whisk like crazy, and then put your chops in the oven in your skillet (wrap the handle in tinfoil, or even better, get a silicone skillet-handle-cover like I did!!!). Whisk whisk whisk and when it starts to get thick, add butter, parmesan, more salt, more pepper, and my secret best friend for this: ricotta. About a tablespoon of the ricotta. More if it’s not creamy enough for you.
I definitely had to add more milk a couple times. Polenta is good like that, though. It will take all the buttery, milky love you give it and absorb it. And it will give you back something even more amazing.
As an aside, I am now a canned-pumpkin convert. I’m probably going to make macaroni and cheese with some really sharp cheddar and pumpkin in the cheese sauce. Yum!! Also, this is a SAVORY DISH, people. Don’t go adding any brown sugar, maple syrup, etc. You can do that to your pumpkin pie filling. But your canned pumpkin is a beautiful thing in this polenta.

So basically, you take your chops out when they feel done to you. Mine felt like when I poked them they gave a little and then sprung back. Mine were also pretty anemic pork chops. But that’s ok, because it meant I got to eat more polenta!!

In all seriousness, I didn’t love the pork chops. They were ok. They were not great. They were too thin and a little dry, because they were so thin. The seasonings were nice. I think, if given the choice, I would have done something involving a creamier sauce, and maybe finished with balsamic instead of marinating them in it. But, for a first try, this created many new ideas and learning opportunities. AND a really bitchin’ dish of polenta.

I’m honestly already thinking about ways that I can use this in breakfast tomorrow. Pumpkin porridge. Mix it in wtih our oatmeal. Eat it cold while no one’s looking. Cut it into squares and fry it in butter. I don’t know. But I officially need more pumpkin polenta in my life.


In which we veer

Posted: October 26th, 2008 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | No Comments »

I know that this is a blog about cooking.
But it’s also a blog about food, and food is something with which the majority of the females I know have a contentious relationship. 98% of us have said the phrase “I shouldn’t eat this” or some form of it at one time or another. And really, if we’re being honest here, it generally doesn’t keep us from eating whatever it is. We say we shouldn’t, and then we do, and we feel badly about ourselves because of it.
The majority of the girls that I know have body image problems. We think we’re fat, or that our bodies are imperfect. We think that losing 15 pounds, or growing 3 more inches, or whatever it might be, is going to make us perfect, make us happy with our bodies. But honestly…. the kind of things that we’re angry with our bodies for are the kind of things that won’t change by losing 15 pounds or growing 3 inches.
My body has changed shape significantly over the past 5 or 6 years. Only one of my readers knew me then, and frankly, she’s my mom. Through it all though, I’ve never had a problem about food. I mean, I’ve been happier since I started cooking for myself. I’ve discovered better things, and I feel like I’m eating better, because I know what’s in my food.
No matter what else I worry about regarding my weight/shape/etc, I never worry about food. I blame myself for getting chubbier than I was before, but I don’t think about cutting down on the butter intake. I don’t resolve to join a gym, or work out in any other way. I just get mad at my body for not metabolizing as quickly as it used to. Weird.

It’s not pro-active. In fact, it’s hardly active at all. But I’m still not mad at food. I understand that I can eat whatever I want, as long as whatever I want is in moderation. I need to remember to moderate a little better, but in general I’m ok. I just need to remind myself of that from time to time. My doctor told me that I’m in perfect health. I need to be a little more active, but I’m healthy. I’m strong. It’s time for me to enjoy myself and not blame my body, or my food.
Maybe it’s that time for all of us. To just be healthy, to be active, and to not blame our bodies for what they’re made to do. Let’s try and just… be happier. be healthier. be calmer. be prouder.


Posted: October 21st, 2008 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 27 Comments »

Cooking activities have occurred over the past week, never fear. I’ll try to bust out a recap as coherently as possible. Stop me if I go to fast.

Monday

I love long weekends. I don’t love long weekends where Jesse has to work and I don’t, but I love when he comes home.
The best part about having Monday off? Laura and Steele came over, bearing beer and wine, movie theater snacks, and movies. I had thrown together a Crock Pot Roast that I found on a very fabulous blog that I have been trolling for ideas lately since I realized that my crock pot is a ROCK pot!!!
The pot roast fed 4 people. It was tender enough to shred and fall apart. It involved a powdered packet of grill seasoning, a powdered packet of Italian dressing mix, and a powdered packet of ranch dressing mix. Next time, I’m making my own spice blend.
If I had a bigger crock pot, I would have been able to add more veggies. I would have been able to get a bigger roast. Which would have been nice because next time, I want left-overs. But, I recommend this. It’s pretty basic. I’m a big fan. :)

Tuesday

We had fried chicken. It was Jesse’s request, and of course I complied. We’re working on a side-project right now, which will hopefully be up and live soon for you all to enjoy, and since he’s going to be doing a lot of the work on it…. but not getting a lot of the credit…. I’m going to acquiesce to most of his food requests for now. :)

The fried chicky was pretty good. It’s generally pretty good. It wasn’t transcendent, but I’m content to make good fried chicken.

Wednesday

Jesse had plans on Wednesday night, that involved bicycles and a bar. Not together. So I bought some mussels, some cambazola bleu cheese, and some bread, opened a bottle of wine, and had myself a party!!
Actually, it wasn’t much of a party, but it was still nice.
And then Jesse came home, and that was nice. :)

Thursday

My friend Marla came over for dinner!!! I made this recipe from Rachael’s website — it seemed like a really good way to embrace both the lingering warm (white wine instead of red) and still aknowledge the snap to the air. It worked out brilliantly, although it had no leftovers, which was sad because it was damn delicious. I did not use frozen pearl onions. But basically I followed the rest of the recipe.

Friday

We like to do a Friday night burger. It’s a nice end to the week, and a good kickoff to the weekend. And this week was an especially good week for a burger, since after work I picked up a Zipcar to go to the Fed Ex pickup place and get our copy of ROCK BAND 2!!! Woohoo!! Burgers and rockin’ were most definitely in order. So burgers and rockin we engaged in.
I made Rachael Ray’s Thanksgiving turkey burgers. The best part of these things, by far, and these were delicious burgers, was the cranberry-mustard spread that you spread all over the rolls. It’s delicious. I plan to make this and smear it on everything. Toast. Kittens. Sandwiches. Anything.
It’s delicious. It’s literally 1/4-cup of whole berry cranberry sauce, and 2 tablespoons of grainy mustard. I used less mustard. It was glorious. Make this. spread it on….. anything. Seriously. You will thank me.

Saturday

This doesn’t really have to do with food. But it’s my blog, so I’ll do what I want.

GO SEE NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST!!!!!!! We saw a Saturday matinee. It was wonderful. GO see it. Seriously. Why are you still reading. Work is not as important as this movie.

Ok. Till next time.


In which it comes full circle

Posted: October 12th, 2008 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 20 Comments »

My parents came down to Brooklyn yesterday, to visit. I was pretty excited, because after 24 years of my mom and dad cooking for me, and me coming home to see them, it was happy for it to come around and for my parents to come see us, in our house.
I decided that I would make my RoniCheese for them – it’s easy because I’ve made it so many times, and it’s always delicious, and it’s something they’ve never had my way. I also planned to make an apple pie, because my dad loves apple pie with sharp cheddar cheese — it’s a New England thing, try it sometime.

They came down and their visit was a lot of fun. They brought Chloe, which was wonderful because of course I love any chance to see my puppins:
She’s checking life out, getting used to the Brooklyn vibe.

After a nice walk in the park and a lovely afternoon of guacamole, chips, and fried pickles at my father’s request, we set in to the pie-making and RoniCheese making.
I actually timed it just about perfectly, putting the pie in as I started making the macaroni and cheese. I finished the roni under the broiler as the pie was finishing baking, although I had to throw a little broiler at it after the pie came out.
My parents loved the food. They loved it. My dad loved it so much that his first remark, after a mouthful, was ….. “This is damn good.”
That means a lot, because it was said in a tone of absolute honesty. And it was a new one for my dad, who generally has two settings, His cooking and Everybody Else’s cooking:
His Cooking: “This is pretty good, huh??? Hey! This isn’t bad!!”
Everybody Else’s Cooking: “That’s ok. Yeah, that’s fine”
Heheh we tease him about it. But, it’s true.

He loved it so much that he didn’t give Chloe any noodles until almost his second helping. He hardly spoke until his second helping, at which point he started asking questions.
My mom really loved it too, but she was of course pre-conditioned to love it because I made it, which is a carryover of the Christmas Present Principle (you are my kid and I love you, so I will love anything you buy/make/give me). I’m really proud of it – it was delicious, the Asiago that I used on the top was perfect, and basically, it was a win. Even Chloe thought it was nommy.
I was so happy to cook for my parents. I was so happy to help them understand that this really is what I’m best at, and it’s the best way I can show people that I love them…. have them sit at my table and eat something I made with them in mind.

I was so happy to hear my mom say that she was proud of me for our place, that she was happy about how these events had turned out, that she was happy to see us here and like this.

And I was happy to see my dog!!!!!


In which we get stuffed

Posted: October 12th, 2008 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 23 Comments »

Ok, so I’m not the world’s biggest appreciator of pork. My mom makes pork chops with cream of mushroom soup and they’re good. Gie makes pork chops some other way, and they’re good. The occasional pork roast finds its way onto my plate when it’s cooked for me, and I’ll eat it.
But like so many things which I don’t love wildly, I’ve never cooked any pork products with the exception of bacon.
My friend Marla and I were discussing cooking one day, and she mentioned that she made a mean pork chop. I remembered my friend Alyssa (a fellow Pretty Girl) telling me about some pork chops she once stuffed with pancetta and proscuitto. Leah mentioned pork tacos to me. Basically, I was thinking pig when I went to the store on Tuesday to try and figure out what we’d eat for dinner. On the train, I thought again of stuffed pork chops. For a while I was fighting the image of cornbread, asiago, and sage, which of course is a traditional stuffing but wasn’t really what I was thinking for stuffing these chops. Eventually, I got to spinach, asiago, and mushrooms.

I consulted Alyssa to find what kind of chops she used, bone in or boneless, etc. I consulted Leah for any input she might have vis a vis cooking pork. And then, I procured my spoils and began the process. The rundown is as follows, before the photos: I sauteed garlic and sliced mushrooms, with a little lemon zest, then added the spinach and several handfuls of asiago.
I let that cool while slicing pockets into my pork chops (I sliced along the line of fat that is opposite the bone).
I salted and peppered the inside and outside of the chops.
I seared them for about 4 minutes a side, then put them in the oven to finish cooking (400 until my internal temperature thermometer went off).

I made mashed potatoes, and somehow managed to make them perfect. I think this was the result of a lot of pepper, plenty of butter, not too much milk, and no cream. Or something. ANyways, it was brilliant.

And now, the images:




In which I cook to help myself will the Red Sox into the ALCS

Posted: October 6th, 2008 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 27 Comments »

Basically, I’m stressin. The Sox lost last night. They need to win tonight, because I don’t wan them to have to go back to Anaheim or LA or wherever the hell the Angels’ stadium is….meh.
I don’t want to type too long because I’m afraid that it’ll upset the balance, so here’s some pictures instead:
Fried Pickles… Yer doin’ it right!! See?


God Bless Heinz Dill Pickle chips.

Also:
Ain’t no thing but Alton Brown’s chicken wings.

Also, big shout out to Jon Lester, Dusty P is still my boy, and stupid grocery store, eff you for only including one drummette in the package of chicken wings. But big ups for stocking Heinz pickles.


In which I make a leap

Posted: October 5th, 2008 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | 43 Comments »

When I was a kid, I remember my mom occasionally making use of her CrockPot. I remember one special dish that she used to make that for some reason was the most delicious thing I’d ever had. I used to ask for Crock Pot Chicken, but of course, I would ask when Mom asked, “What would you like for dinner?” and by then, trust me, it was too late to begin making Crock Pot Chicken.

Today, the original plan was for me to be circumnavigating Manhattan (traffic free, thankfully) on a bicycle, to benefit MS research. However, today dawned rainy and cool, and the idea of a relatively inexperienced bike rider traveling 30 miles in a bicycle in the rain and on wet streets is frightening at best. At worst, it might cause me to never ever want to ride a bicycle again, because I have reasonably creaky knees (result of an unfortunate situation where an opposing rugby player decided my knee needed to go a way that knees do not normally go, plus a lifetime of ballet) in the cool and damp, and it raises the possibility of me getting in a crash, and the weather is still miserable as of this writing.
Anyways. The original plan was for me to be on a bicycle for 30 miles, starting at 7:30am. After I survived the grueling bike ride, I was to pick up my friend Kim from home, and bring her back to my house, where I would recuperate and we would hang out and talk about her upcoming wedding (gleeee!!!!!!!). I figured I would be too exhausted and possibly too sore to stand around cooking dinner, so I decided that we would have Crock Pot Chicken for dinner.

I’m a little frightened of recipes that rely heavily on canned or pre-made ingredients. I don’t like condensed canned soups (with the exception of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle), and I’m not a fan of granulated gravy mixes. This is purely a personal choice, and I don’t judge anyone for using them… I understand that canned cream of mushroom soup is basically an ingredient these days in its own right, and I definitely understand that when you need to get dinner on the table for family and kids post work and pre homework, canned cream of chicken soup, some veggies, chicken and rice is a casserole that requires no thought. In fact, I just came up with ten different variations while typing that sentence.
That being said, I’m not wild about things that can last in a can up to 5 years.

Happily, I’m not riding a bicycle on wet streets for 3 hours this morning. I’ve been awake for 3 hours. I’ve washed several dishes, and I decided to make the Crock Pot chicken becuase I already had the ingredients and I’m pretty sure I don’t know how else to use Cream of Mushroom soup and powdered gravy.

So basically, here is the recipe:
Chicken pieces – this recipe calls for boneless, but I like bone in. I used drumsticks and thighs.
Powdered chicken gravy – 1 packet
Canned cream of mushroom soup – 1 can
White wine or chicken broth – 1 cup
Cream Cheese – roughly 1 package.

You put the chicken pieces in your crock pot and sprinkle the chicken gravy powder over like so:
Then, you mix together your canned soup and your broth (didn’t have any white wine to hand) and you pour it over the chicken business, throw the lid on your crock pot, turn it on low, and walk away. Just walk away. 7 1/2 hours later, you come back and add the cream cheese. 30 minutes after that, you remove the chicken, whisk the sauce until smooth, return the chicken to the rock pot, and serve the lot over rice.

Here is a picture to prove that instead of making a bechamel and mixing in mushrooms, and using poultry seasoning, ground herbs, and real salt, I used canned soup, canned broth, and powdered gravy mix:
I’m excited, nonetheless. I hope this is as good as I remember it. Also, I’m using my brand new rice cooker to make the rice for tonight!!! :) Bonus points for this rice cooker meaning that we can now try making sushi, because while I make bitchin’ risotto, I’m not so good at regular old ….rice. And I’m certainly afraid of making sticky rice for sushi.
SO, here it is. There it is. Everywhere it is.

I’ll be back at a reasonable hour to let you know how the food went! And how Kimmy’s visit went!!! :) GLEEE!!!!


In which I learn to like squash

Posted: October 1st, 2008 | Author: johanna | Filed under: Johanna | No Comments »

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t actually like butternut squash. I think it’s disconcerting when a vegetable’s most commonly-served state is puree. Puree sweetened with brown sugar and maple syrup, no less. Bleh. I’m all for mashed potato, mashed turnip, any other mashed vegetable you offer me, as long as you make sure there’s plenty of salt and pepper, and NO BROWN SUGAR!!! I LOVE brown sugar, except in vegetable applications.
I stand by this.

I definitely pushed my squash puree around on my plate at Thanksgiving and Christmas the entire time I was growing up. Around my senior year of high school, I learned that I could put gravy on it, mix it in with my mashed potatoes, and almost convince myself it wasn’t there. But I just. didn’t. like it.
About 5 months ago, I ventured into my local Hale and Hearty Soup, and had their butternut squash soup. It was recommended to me by someone behind me in line. It wasn’t bad, although I remember it needing a lot of pepper and salt. Nary a hint of brown sugar or maple syrup. Encouraging.

Since then, I’d been thinking about how that soup needed some cumin. I think everything needs cumin. I love cumin.
I’ve been adding cumin, garam masala, and curry powder to things lately… and thinking about adding them to other things. Witness, my meatloaf. So today, I decided to buy a butternut squash, and on a whim, bought some turnips. I had promised Jesse an apple pie, so I got the apples and flour for that as well.

I started out by halving and roasting the butternut squash, and cutting the turnips into chunks. I brushed them with curry butter…. 3 tbs butter and some curry, cumin, and garam as listed above. To taste, obviously. I brushed the veggies, sprinkled them with salt, and put them in to roast for 40 minutes at 425.

When they came out, I let them cool.

When I started making the soup, I cut up a carrot, a stalk and a half of celery, and half an onion. I cooked them until they softened in butter and olive oil (about a tablespoon of each). I added more of the seasonings listed above, and of course, salt. Then, I added the soft smushy veggies, which I cut up into chunks. Then, I added a lot of chicken stock, and let it simmer. I re-seasoned, and eventually, I pureed. (In retrospect, this is all reminiscent of the roasted tomato soup I made a while ago.) Then, I added a little coconut milk, and re-seasoned.

As you can see, yet again, nary a hint of brown sugar and maple syrup.

This is honestly, delicious. I’m really proud of it.
If seasoned differently, it could make a respectable sauce for a veggie lasagna – It could go over rice with some chicken and slake your curry craving. Basically, it’s versatile. And it’s happy.

Please undertake this. The roasting doesn’t take too long, and you could definitely do the majority of the soup prep during the roasting. Try this soup. You will like it. I hope.