Wookiee Cookies

24 01 2009

For his birthday last year Isaac received Wookiee Cookies: The Star Wars Cookbook.  It was apparently written by someone who, like me, is both a foodie and a Star Wars geek.  It’s complete with pictures of Star Wars action figures posing with each dish.  I thought this was an awesome birthday present.  Oh wait, it was for Isaac, wasn’t it?

They're called that because they're chewy.

I decided to make the title recipe from the cookbook and Jonathan wanted to help.  The Wookiee Cookies are basically chocolate chip cookies with cinnamon added.  Perhaps Wookiees like cinnamon, I don’t know.  I never could understand Chewbacca.  But the cookies turned out well and they were enjoyed by all.  In fact, they were made so late in the evening that I thought they’d go well with a relaxing cup of decaf.  

I cleaned the table just for this picture

They did.  But, like most things, I got impatient toward the end and the cookies got bigger and got squished together in the oven.

maybe I should just eat these now

Oh well.  I took a page from the cookbook and got out our LEGO Star Wars dudes for a quick photo shoot.

Han shot first you know

your cookies are weak old man

The cookies make for very realistic looking terrain, don’t you think?

How do I cook a cardinal?

19 01 2009

Last year I used my cooking to predict the winner of the Super Bowl.  (Click here for the link)  It worked with amazing accuracy, but I had no idea just how much affect my cooking has on the outcome of football games.  Let me explain.

We had a friend over to watch the games this weekend and so we decided to cook as if there was a party.  I made a bunch of food that was heavy on the prep work and light on cooking effort, so we could watch the game relatively undisturbed.  Then the Eagles started to play badly and Arizona took a big lead early in the game.  It was then that I realized something.  Our menu consisted of chili, cornbread, and chips and salsa.  Southwest food!  

super chili

Then I realized something else.  Even though Ben was dutifully wearing a Steelers jersey, Karen had dressed Nate in red.

getting him Troy jersey tomorrow

See? Even Nate was shocked that the Cardinals won.  These two minor infractions cost Philadelphia the game, I’m sure of it.  So now I understand that my cooking has some mystical powers to it, giving me the power to change the fates of NFL teams.  I apologize to the city of Philadelphia, but I didn’t discover this power until after halftime.  Perhaps it was the wings I made a little  later that sealed the win for the Steelers, I don’t know.  I took Bobby Flay’s dry jerk rub recipe and made some jerk wings, and these were some birds that really bit you back (just like the Ravens) when you bit into them.

Have no fear, Steelers nation, I won’t be cooking again until I find a recipe for Primanti sandwiches.  And also, does anyone know, are cardinals game birds or something?  Maybe  close to pigeon, I could cook a squab.  

I’m even afraid to heat up the leftovers.


10 01 2009

I’m no chef, and that’s probably why you should never take my cooking advice.  But it seems as though you need to have a good reputation to garner any respect around the dinner table.  Let me explain. 

One of my favorite shows it Top Chef, and season 5 is currently showing.  And one of my favorites this year just got voted off.  His name is Eugene, and he was born in Hawaii and trained in kitchens in California, but never went to culinary school.  He started out as a dishwasher and worked his way up to being head chef in a restaurant.  To me, he’s already beaten the odds.  But this past week he made a dish that had everyone scratching their heads.  He used daikon, which is a Japanese root kind of like a radish.  He used a vegetable peeler to make thin strips of daikon and then cooking them like fettuccine and serving them with a tomato and basil sauce.  EVERYONE HATED IT.  I believe the sentiment was “What was he thinking?” by both the chef-contestants and the judges.  They made it sound like the worst food idea ever.  

But here’s the thing.  When I saw him introduce this dish I recognized it.  I saw it in the cookbook by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto (the most awesome chef in the world).  

It's my life's goal to eat at his restaurant.

I also saw him demonstrate the dish on Emeril Live.  Here’s a link to the recipe from Emeril’s show.  Here’s a video of the same demo on Martha Stewart’s show.

So here’s the question. Does Morimoto have enough authority that everyone gave him the benefit of the doubt, but Eugene doesn’t rate as much?  Or was everyone thinking “The old man’s gone crazy!” when his book came out?  Or didn’t they hear about this at all? 

Whatever.  I’m making this dish in the very near future to see if it is really that terrible of an idea.  I’ll keep you posted.

Making the new year happy

4 01 2009

“This is the worst Christmas vacation ever!”  said Isaac on Friday evening before bed.  And he was right.  Starting Christmas day, somebody in the family was sick every day, and for a few days it was three out of the four children.  And when that happens nothing gets done.  The dishes don’t get washed, the floor doesn’t get mopped, the boxes don’t get recycled, and the blog doesn’t get updated.  But here, on the eve of their return to school, Daddy made up for all that by making a grand dessert.  

No, we didn't save any for you.  Sorry.

Karen started things off with the perfect dinner, as usual.  Then I got to make the dessert from a cookbook received as a present from my now-favorite sister in law.  It’s by George Duran, the “Ham on the Street” guy, and he calls it Chocolate Soup.  I can see already that I’ll get a lot of use out of this one.  When describing this dish George says “I love soup.  I love chocolate.”  And yeah, it was good.

But really, is it possible to mess up a recipe with this many ingredients?  

Don't make fun of my brittle vanilla bean

Probably, but this was good.  It wasn’t silky smooth or divine or anything, but it got rave reviews around the table.  It was like eating really good hot chocolate with a spoon from a bowl.  You know, like fancy people do.  So thanks to Aliyah, I promise we’ll make this the next time you visit.

See? It wasn’t my fault.

14 12 2008

Okay, so maybe it was.  I don’t know, but when I made this recipe from Giada for zeppole (I posted about it here) it was a disaster.  Then I saw her make zeppole on a different episode of Everyday Italian, and this time she used half the water as before.  Hmmm…..  I smell something fishy.  I told Karen that I had to make it.


So first of all, here’s the recipe.  

Now, this time I was so sure it would be perfect that I had the boys to help me.  They’re always good for a blog post.  Jonathan helped me with the batter.

Jonathan made the batter

And Isaac stirred the bittersweet chocolate chips and warm heavy cream together to make the ganache.  

Isaac made the ganache.  Did I do anything?

But then he got a better idea.

This part isn't in the recipe.

Nate watched all this transpire from the safety of his swing.

Just gimme some of that chocolate stuff.  That's all I'm asking.

I followed the recipe to the letter, and here’s how the batter looked just after I added the eggs.

What kind of peaks are these?

A HUGE improvement from last time.  They were not so runny this time.  I was relieved and set to work cooking them.  Except one thing.  Giada used a mini ice cream scooper to dispense the batter into the oil.  We don’t have one.  So mine were still ugly.

They even skipped across the water.

Karen decided she could do a better job, and she did.  It’s apparently all in the wrist.  Or something like that, she could do it and I couldn’t.

Orangey goodness with sugar on top

So they came out well.  Maybe it was the different recipe, maybe it was the fact that I didn’t do much.  It doesn’t matter to me; they were good.  I keep thinking about Top Chef and how nobody can make a decent dessert.  Why doesn’t anyone make these?

My new favorite mushroom soup

6 11 2008

I’m always up for trying new soup recipes.  I already had a recipe for cream of mushroom soup and I liked it, but I wanted to try a different one anyway.  Why, you may ask?  Because it calls for morels.

Eat them straight out of the bag!  They're crispy!

A while ago I purchased two packages of dried morels off the internet.  Each of these wonderful little 1 oz. packages is equivalent to 8 ounces of fresh mushrooms.  I had one left and I was itching to use it.  So when I saw a recipe calling for wild mushrooms like morels or porcini I knew I’d be in fungus heaven.  

The first step was to make a veloute.  I have no idea what that is, but I followed the recipe.  He said to puree the mushrooms raw and add them to the soup at the end, so that’s what I did.  I’m not sure why, though, because there was another whole step after the veloute was complete.  So if you’re not confused enough, here’s what I did:

Morel Soup

1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Madeira
1 quart chicken broth
1 8 oz package white button mushrooms
1 8 oz package cremini mushrooms
1 cup heavy cream

Cook the onion in butter in a soup pot over medium heat, stirring often to prevent browning.  When the onion turns translucent add the flour and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes more.

Add the Madeira and broth, whisk the soup to get rid of any lumps, and bring it to a simmer.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

Put the mushrooms in a blender and add 1 cup of hte hot soup base.  Blend the mushrooms on high speed.  Add liquid as necessary.  When this is done, add everything back into the soup and add the cream.

That’s the Veloute (I guess).  To finish the morel soup, place the dried morels in a bowl and add just enough Madeira (Yay!) to cover.  After about 20 minutes, remove the morels. Transfer the soaking liquid to a saucepan and simmer the morels in it for 5 minutes.  Carefully lift them out and into a bowl with a slotted spoon so that any sand stays in the pan.  Pour the liquid through a strainer lined with cheesecloth to remove any sand.  Place some morels into each of four serving bowls.  Pour the soaking liquid into the soup base to combine, and serve over the morels in the bowls.

Madeira soup, i mean mushroom soup

I’m not sure if it was the Madeira or the morels (maybe both?), but this was one awesome soup.

“You can’t mess it up” isn’t a challenge.

31 10 2008

It’s been a while since I really messed up something in the kitchen.  I was getting overconfident I suppose, so when I saw this recipe for zeppole I knew I could do it.  

Zeppole are little Italian donuts that look like donut holes, and they looked great.  What’s better, they looked easy.  Giada made the batter – start to finish – in front of the camera so I knew I could do it.  She actually said “It’s one of the simplest doughs to make and you can’t really mess it up.”  Yeah, they said the Titanic was unsinkable too.

Most of the comments online talked about how easy it was to make.  You add some stuff to the pot, bring it to a boil, add flour, and stir.  Except mine never really firmed up.  It thickened a little, but that’s it.  I added some more flour, but that didn’t work either.  When I took it off the heat and added the eggs it looked like pancake batter.

This is not really something you can drop into oil with an ice cream scoop.  In the end we decided to try making them funnel-cake style.  They had some very interesting shapes.

I wouldn’t say they were good.  But if you add a cinnamon and sugar topping to just about anything it will taste good.  I suppose there’s a very important fundamental concept that I’m missing, so I’m going to try these again.  I’m sure that post will be just as entertaining.

My first fry

24 09 2008

A while ago I posted about eating chili cheese fries from the Hot Dog Shoppe back home.  Since I’m not back home any more I decided to try my luck making my own chili cheese fries.  I say luck because things don’t always go so well when I try out a new cooking technique.  I’d never deep fried anything at home, and the possibility of me burning down the house (again) added a little excitement to the kitchen.  And I needed the distraction since Big Ben was getting sacked 147 times by the Eagles on Sunday.

Step one of my quest involved tweaking my chili recipe.  I decided on something less chunky than my usual awesome recipe, and to use ground beef because it would allow the chili to flow down into the fries, melding the flavors and, wow, I’m making myself hungry again.  ANYWAY since I’ve been making my own Italian tomato sauce for a while now I figured it’s a simple thing to make a more midwestern tomato sauce.  Of course I did.  Here’s how it went:


1lb. ground sirloin
2 Chipotle chiles
1/2 red bell pepper
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1Tbsp. Chili powder 
1 1/2 tsp. Cumin

FIrst thing I did was roast the tomatoes.  Don’t ask why, I just did.  Until the skins were charred and easy to remove.  Then I diced up the onions, bell pepper, and garlic and put them in the pot with a little canola oil to sweat.  Once the onions were translucent I added the tomatoes and Chipotle chiles.  I let that simmer for about a half hour and then pulverized it with a stick blender.  In a separate pot I browned the ground beef and then combined it with the tomato sauce and added the chili powder and cumin and let that simmer a while.  Done.


I shredded some orange cheddar and monterey jack cheeses and tossed them together in a bowl.  Done.


1 gallon canola oil

This was the fun part.  I went out and got a mandoline slicer just for this occasion.  Check out those blades.

Very cool.  It slices fries like this:

Impressive, huh?  Here’s where I originally put the plate to catch the cut fries.

Yeah, that first set of fries ended up on the table instead of the plate.

So I went to my source for all things culinary (That would be Alton Brown) for advice on deep frying.  I learned that peanut oil is most used for frying, but we’ve got a peanut allergy in the house so we’ll just play it safe and get something else.  Safflower oil (whatever that is) has the same high smoke point as peanut oil, but we can’t get that out here in the country, so I had to use canola oil, whose smoke point is 435°, which was a surprise to me.  

The very first thing you read about deep frying in Alton’s book is that it’s scary.  Hot fat contacts the water in your potatoes and causes bubbles, and if that overflows your pot and you’ve got a gas range your house burns down.  Because of this I kept my fire extinguisher handy and I didn’t take any pictures during the frying process.  Two reasons: I didn’t want to be distracted, and I also didn’t want any evidence for my homeowner’s insurance to use against me.  Alton says to use a two step frying method.  He suggests 2-3 minutes at 300° then take out the fries and let them cool to room temperature, then back in the oil at 350° for another few minutes until they brown.  That way they’re flaky on the inside and crispy on the outside.  Here’s the problem, though.  When I did this the oil went back down all the way to 215° when I put the fries in the first time.  And the second time the oil went down to 275° or so.  As a result they were in there for 10 minutes or so the second time while the oil got back up to temperature.  So I’m thinking if I ever do this again I’ll ignore that first frying step.  The potatoes will steam on the inside while the oil is heating back up.

And then, right after I put the second batch of fries in and the bubbles reached all the way to the tippy top of the pot, when my horror was at its zenith, my sister called.  Karen told her politely that I’d call her back, I was too busy screaming.  She didn’t hear me shrieking in terror, but trust me, I did.  But alas, the oil did not boil over and the house did not burn down.  I didn’t need my trusty fire extinguisher.  And the fries were darn good.

My first Zinger

27 08 2008

Since this is a family and food blog it could be easy for me to just ignore the Olympics. But Karen and I did watch a fair amount of events, and we did enjoy most of what we saw.  But nestled in there tightly among the hours and hours and hours of beach volleyball televised by NBC was something I truly found inspiring.  I was inspired by an athlete who did what few others in his situation could do.  He celebrated his silver medal.  

It never ceases to amaze me when sportscasters and TV hosts act all disappointed in people who “settle for silver.”  Like Bob Costas could do better.  But there, after the men’s 100m dash final, was Richard Thompson from Trinidad & Tobago celebrating his silver medal as if he’d won gold.  It was obvious that he felt he’d run the race of his life, and he was truly proud of his accomplishment.  All Karen and I could do was wonder how long the fete would be in Trinidad.  I’m sure nobody went to work for a week.  

So, being that a Trini won the title of the World’s second-fastest man, I got to thinking once again about Trinidad food.  In particular, what kind of Trini food makes me get up and run.  This usually includes a fair amount of pepper.  Actually it most likely only involves a little pepper, but humor me, okay?  So I thought of the one food that has scared me off by its very name: The Zinger.

The Zinger is a fried chicken sandwich from KFC with plenty pepper.  I’d never heard of a Zinger before, and I’m pretty sure they don’t sell them here in the States.  Here’s KFC’s website from the United Kingdom talking about the Zinger.  Yes I know that KFC sells the Zinger in other countries too, but I first heard about it in Trinidad, where half the street vendors have “Flame” or “Fire” in their name.  

I started with a basic chicken marinade found in the Naparima cookbook.  It includes the following:

Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Pepper sauce
Trinidad green seasoning

After marinading the chicken breasts I dredged them in some flour, paprika, and cayenne pepper and pan fried them.  They came out crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.  

Okay, maybe the outside was a little charred, but it was crispy.  

Sliced up and put on a bun with some lettuce, ketchup, and mustard with fries chips on the side.  How yuh like dat, boy?  The sad thing was, there really wasn’t much zing to this sandwich.  The pepper sauce in the marinade never really made its way into the chicken, so the only trace of heat was in the breading.  And since I sliced the chicken I took away most of that.  Let’s call this one a work in progress.  

Next time I’m going all out.  I’ll trim the breasts down so I don’t have to slice them.  I’ll use a real batter with serious pepper, and they’re getting deep fried.  Oh, and I’m also making my own fries chips.

I’d have taken a picture, but where to begin?

28 07 2008

Ever have one of those meals where you don’t just ruin one thing, you ruin everything?  Read on.

This is (for the most part) a PG-rated blog, so I’ll say that dinner Saturday evening was a comedy of errors.   Karen and baby had come home from the hospital on Thursday, so I bought some steaks and was ready for a good cookout.  A friend had given us some vegetables from his garden, and coupled with some stuff that we’d grown, I could make a nice grilled vegetable dish, and all that was left was corn on the cob.  Karen wanted some mashed potatoes too, so that was her physical activity for the day.  And lastly we decided to steam some broccoli for the boys since they don’t like the grilled vegetables.

While shopping Saturday morning I assumed we’ve got most everything for the grilled veg.  I got a red onion just to be sure, but that’s it.  Come to find out all I had from my friend’s garden was two yellow squash.  Oh yeah, and the red bell pepper we’d grown had gone bad this week while we were at the hospital.  So now my grilled veggies consist of two yellow squash, a red onion, and some tomatoes.  No zucchini, no red pepper, no roasted garlic.  I suppose that’s when I gave up on it.  Karen tried it, but that was about it.  I went ahead and steamed enough broccoli for all of us. 

I then set about undercooking grilling the steaks.  I grilled them, covered them, and let them rest.  When I started slicing them I realized that they weren’t rare, they were in fact raw.  Nice.  Back on the grill they go.  After the second time they were at least cooked to temperature.

Broccoli.  Let’s see, it’s green and looks like little trees?  You cut them up and steam them for, how long is it again?  Maybe I didn’t cook them long enough, maybe the water stopped boiling.  Whatever.  They were undercooked as well.  I’d say it was like biting into a stick, but I didn’t even try it.  All I had was the steak, corn on the cob (made by Aliyah), and Karen’s mashed potatoes. 

I was so frustrated I left the dishes where they lay and cleaned up the remnants of my failure the next morning.  I’d blame this one on the new baby, but you’d never buy it.  What’s this blog called again?