Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Great Caramel Sauce/ Fudge Fiasco

It's a universal truth that sometimes things just don't turn out the way you planned. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our most careful planning, research, and testing, it all just goes to shit. And sometimes you get the Red Rider BB gun you've been pining after, but you end up breaking your eye-glasses and the neighbors dogs eat the Christmas dinner and just when you think all is lost, you discover chow-mein for Christmas dinner really isn't such a bad thing after all, it's just a little different than what you were expecting. 

Such was the case with the pumkpin pie fudge turned caramel sauce turned fudge. Let me backtrack for a minute: a few weeks ago, I asked my wife to pick up a can of pumpkin from the store, as I was planning on making a pumpkin risotto. She came home and proudly presented me with a can of pumpkin pie filling; the next day had a lesson in the grocery store about the variety of canned pumpkin products and we chocked it up to a learning experience. That can sat on a shelf in the pantry for a few weeks, until I decided there just wasn't room for it, and something had to be done. 

Pumpkin pie fudge sounded good, so I gathered my rice-mellow creme and vegan white chocolate chips and set to work. Truth be told, I should have done some testing, but sometimes I have no patience (which is what really screwed me over in the end here), and I should have realized something was bound to go wrong when the white chocolate wasn't melting properly. But I pushed through and folded in the rice-mellow creme and poured the gooey mixture into a pan. 3 hours later I discovered, not a set fudge, but a brilliantly smooth pumpkin spice caramel sauce, perfect for topping a brownie or ice cream. I poured the sauce into pretty little jars and placed them in the fridge to store them, and went about my business. a few hours later, i grabbed one of the jars to give to my mother as a gift, and discovered my brilliant caramel sauce had set and turned to fudge. Awwwwwww fudge! The experiment may not have been a success in a conventional sense, but now I have two options: heat up the jar and have a caramel sauce, or just dig in with a spoon and eat fudge from a jar. In the end, it might not be what I was expecting, but it'll do.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stuffed Winter Squash

Cooking is as much about eating as Friday Night Lights is about American football. I'm sure everyone who knows me and reads this silly little blog just did a double take when I said "football" since I have never exhibited the slightest interest in football and often go out of my way to avoid American football to watch more civilized sports like hockey and roller derby. Yes, American football is central to the story line in Friday Night Lights, it's the glue that binds the characters together, the engine that drives the story line, but it's the character's attitudes and struggles that transpire off the field that suck us, the viewers, into this weekly teen drama with a capital D. It's like that with cooking. It's the act of supporting the community you live in buy buying from local farms. It's prepping a meal for friends, driving down to their house and having conversations in the kitchen while you spoon out the guts of acorn squash, setting the table together, laughing, debating, and yes, eating, that make cooking more about community than food itself. Food is something that makes it possible for a group to gather around a table, raise a glass of wine, and toast "Here's to good friends living large in Texas" (or where ever you happen to be).

Stuffed Winter Squash

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Peanut "Beef" Maifun

Apparently I tripped and fell off the blogosphere this last week. In my adventures off the web during the last week I've quilted, turned the Christmas music off and turned Amy Ray up, took my wife to A Christmas Story: The Musical (which I hope makes it to DVD eventually so I don't have to watch just the movie 500 times during the month of December, because the movie doesn't have pirates, and the musical does), was taken to Maurice Sendak's Nutcracker Ballet, took a trip to Oly to visit friends and share a squash dinner and my reasoning behind why December is my least favorite month of the year (really, America, do you need an excuse like Christmas to have goodwill and compassion? Can't we just have it regardless of what season it is?), I made a damn good faux beef stew, played slots with my mother-in-law, kicked it at Seattle's best les bar with new and old friends, saw Narnia: the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (which, btw, is not worth seeing in 3D, or perhaps even in the theater for that matter, but IS worth seeing for Will Poulter of Son of Rambow fame, who pretty much saved the movie), met with the tattoo artist that will be inking my arm in Banksy, found out I'm not shaped like a lemon, read quite a few chapters of the Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, made a small dent in the 80 oz. jar of chunky peanut butter residing in my apartment, had coffee at Cafe Vita while watching an uncharacteristly Seattle type monsoon, drew on a napkin, and made a KICK-ASS asian inspired beef noodle dish.

See? I've been B to the U to the S to the Y. Maybe a little to busy, which is why it may have taken me 'til today to realize I was ignoring my computer on non office hours. The break was swell, but the swellin's gone down, and I'm back with vengeance. So here's one of the dishes I made this week, which I have affectionately dubbed Peanut "Beef" Maifun, and it's even more fun if you make it, share it with a friend, and hit the movies after.

Peanut "Beef" MaiFun

Monday, December 6, 2010

Celery Pear Soup

Yesterday’s post was about Christmas, so it’s only fitting that tonight I would post about Hanukkah. A few nights ago, night two of Hanukkah, to be exact, I wandered up to my good friends apartment (a whole 3 floors up from my apartment. Boy, life is hard…) with some stuffed squash (I’ll post the recipe soon. Scouts honor. ) and a celery pear soup. I know, I know, it sounds weird. But there was celery root in the stuffing of the squash, and a sweet soup sounded like an ideal pairing with the earthiness of squash, wild rice, mushrooms and celery root. The soup was light, sweet and spicy with after notes of fall with the pear and celery subtly dancing. We lit the menorah, drank some red wine, chowed down, and, as always when good friends get together, our conversations lasted into the wee hours of the morning. Good food and wine will do that.

Celery Pear Soup

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bah Humbug Gets a Christmas Tree

We got a tree. A real noble fir that stands slightly over 5', smells like the forest, and left a trail of needles from the side door of our building, up the stairs, through the door of our apartment, and down the hall to the living room. My childhood is filled with memories of real trees– going to Auggie's U-Cut X-mas trees, a small tree farm on Vashon Island, and walking through the trees until my mom and I found the perfect Blue Spruce. We cut the tree ourselves (well, dad cut it while uttering on long string of "jesusmaryandjoseph-thesefuckingblades-neversharp-whatapieceofshitsaw-christ"), strapped it to the top of the car, and drove it home where it was promptly set up up in the living room, lights and ornaments were hung, and I made myself sick on candy-canes. This tradition continued until the year my mother and I picked out a ten foot tall beauty of a Blue Spruce which was a bitch to cut down and broke 2 tree stands. It then got thrown on the front lawn and a fake tree was erected in its place.

My wife, on the other hand, has never had a real christmas tree. She has never
known the allergy inducing magic of an evergreen smelling house, the joy of sweeping up thousands of dried brown needles from the floor, or the bliss of figuring out how exactly, to dispose of a dead tree. So when she asked if we could have a real tree this year, I knew it was high time for her to partake in the experience. We started out slow this year, forgoing a u-cut tree for a tree lot, and only getting a 5' noble fir that would fit in the back of the car. 

The only time I channeled my father's wit/ bah humbuggery was when we were putting the tree in the stand and dearest wife was being all a-type personality and tried to tell me how to tighten the stand. she got a snide retort of "oh- how many live trees have you put up? that's right, none. So let me do what I know how to do. Thanks." But the lights and ornament hanging went off with a hitch, and when she walked in on me this morning, smiling at the little lit tree as the sun rose, and said "See? You do like Christmas." a small part of me begrudgingly had to admit she was right. even if that small part of me really only likes A John Waters Christmas Album, spiked vegan egg-nog, and the after x-mas sales on twinkling lights.