Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

What's Stuck On Your Stucco?What’s stuck to your stucco? Possibly, a lot more than you think. My stucco patio overhang has been a pit stop for praying mantises, dragon flies, pipevine swallowtail caterpillars and their chrysalises, and even an injured squirrel. Whenever I walk out my back door, I always look around to see what interesting critters might be stuck to my stucco!

#1 – Swirling Paint
When my brain gets stuck on overload, I give it permission to rest and play for a little while. I like to give it a break by doing mindless, yet creative things. One way I do that is to create instantly-gratifying art or what I call art-for-the-moment on my computer. The best part about art like this is that it’s not around long enough for anyone to judge it — not even myself! There are many sites where you can paint or draw computer-generated designs. Here’s one I found today. It’s super easy to do: you just move your computer mouse around to create swirls of colored patterns. You can experiment with three different “trails” or versions.

#2 – Cinder Block Projects
Cinder Block Centerpiece When I was a college student, all my friends made bookshelves out of cinder blocks and planks of wood. Well, cinder blocks and concrete, in general, have come a long way in versatility. Take a look at the projects shown in Rethinking Concrete – 5 Cinder Block DIY Projects and 12 Awesome Concrete and Cinder Block Outdoor DIY Projects!.

#3 – Common Cooking Mistakes
Sometimes cooks are stuck with a culinary problem and need a quick fix to avoid a disaster. According to Cooking Light’s article The Most Common Cooking Mistakes, “A creative cook can often cook her way out of a kitchen error, but the smart cook aims to prevent such creativity from being necessary.” Yes, a little knowledge can prevent big mistakes. I liked looking at the photos of “good” versus “bad” examples and reading the helpful tips. Want to know the best way to keep guacamole green? Check out tip #43.

#4 – Playing With Food

Food Art by Hong Yi

Red Cabbage Marchesa Salad by Hong Yi

Artists like to think outside of the box. For a month, Malaysian artist Hong Yi did that by playing with her food. For her project 31 Days of Creativity With Food, Hong sliced, boiled, chopped, stirred, etc. to create her artwork. Picasso’s quote, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up,” inspired her to “see joy and fun in ordinary everyday items that I come across, and to paint and create objects as I feel and imagine them, not just as I see them.”

#5 – Don’t Get Stuck In The Box
“They say to think within the box, but it’s funny how those in the box never go anywhere, where those outside it, get to see the world.”
Anthony Liccione

Enjoy your weekend!

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Continuing to “attack the stack,” I pulled a newspaper clipping out of a pile and looked at the date of May, 2008. “It’s time to check out this baby,” I thought to myself. Perusing the very short list of ingredients – only four – I noted that I had everything that was required. Nothing extraordinary on the list except for b-e-e-r! How great is it that the yeast in beer acts as a mild leavening agent, so we can use it in our baking?!

One of the comments provided by the newspaper recipe contributor was,”This bread is a canvas for you to flavor any way you choose.” Being a risk-taker in the kitchen, I decided to give my loaf a Tex-Mex type of flavor by adding a can of diced green chilies and some shredded cheddar cheese to the flour, sugar, salt, and beer. In my head I thought the flavors would meld together well.

When I sampled the final product of an inviting golden-brown-crusted loaf of bread, I was amazed. I was amazed at how awful it was! I had my volunteer food tester, aka my husband, taste it. I knew it was as nasty as it could get when my lover-of-everything-I-prepare husband said, “This is inedible!” It was bitter and had a slimy texture. So, on my Ick-Scale of one to ten this was a ten-ick. Wow, where did I go wrong?

Reviewing the recipe and the entire process, these are the possible errors I made:
1. The beer was a light beer and possibly did not have enough flavor and did not add enough body to the batter.

2. I accidentally added baking soda instead of baking powder to the flour mixture. The recipe stated that if you did not have self-rising flour you could add 3 teaspoons of baking powder to the flour to achieve the same results. Remember, I’ve mentioned this before, I am not beyond screwing up recipes by not reading them thoroughly.

3. My husband thinks the sliminess came from the diced green chilies, but I’m not sure if this is true. The recipe contributor had commented on friends adding chilies to their breads.

4. I should have gotten out two bottles of beer – one for me to drink first and then one to add to the bread!

Not wanting to accept that I had been bested by a six-ingredient Beer Bread, I decided to start over. I was more diligent about reading the recipe through and decided to forgo the Tex-Mex route for an Italian-Herb type one. I made a few other changes to the batter and stuck the second Beer Bread loaf in the oven. With trepidation, I carefully sliced the second crusty loaf and put a piece into my mouth. Okay, this is what a successful Beer Bread is supposed to taste like – finger-licking good!

So here’s my adaptation of successful Beer Bread:

*1 12 oz. can or bottle of beer. (I used a bottle of Foster’s the second time around).
*3 cups of sifted self-rising flour (If you don’t have self-rising flour at home, you can make it by sifting together 3 cups of all-purpose flour with 4-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt).
*1/3 cup of sugar (upped from 3 T in original recipe and I would consider increasing or decreasing the sugar amount depending on what ingredients you are adding to the basic batter).
*2 2.25 oz. cans of sliced olives
*1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
1/2 cup Italian Blend Cheese
Butter, optional

1. In a large bowl mix together the sugar and the sifted flour. Stir in the Italian seasoning. Make a well into the flour-sugar-seasoning mixture and slowly pour in the beer. Mix until just moistened. Add the cheese and olives. Mix until just combined. Do not over mix.
2. Pour into a greased 9″x5″ loaf pan. Let sit for a bit to let the yeast in the beer get settled (15-30 minutes).
3. Bake at 350 degrees for a total of 45 to 50 minutes. Test with a toothpick or cake tester after 45 minutes.
4. If desired at the halfway baking point, brush melted butter on the top of the bread and sprinkle with a little garlic salt. Repeat the brushing of butter and sprinkling of garlic salt when the loaf comes out of the oven.

Cheers and good luck!

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Not that I’m a party animal, but in about a week’s time I have made food to take to three different events. Here’s an easy recipe to make and take over to friends or to a potluck that originated from Steamy Kitchen’s Jaden Hair. It’s a spin-off of Chinese steamed pork buns, but uses puff pastry instead. The delicate puff pastry surrounds a savory meat mixture that has a little kick! I always double or triple the recipe, because these pastries don’t last long in my home! The delicious meat mixture would be fabulous, not to mention more healthy, if used in lettuce cups or lettuce wraps, too!

Linnell’s Adaptation of Chinese Pork Pastries
1/2 pound ground or minced pork* (I coarse chop pork butt in a Cuisinart)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Shaoxing wine (Dry sherry works as a substitute)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/4 cup minced green onion
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced canned bamboo shoots
1/4 cup diced Chinese black mushrooms** (first soaked in warm water until softened, and then stems removed)
1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce
1 tablespoon Hoisin Sauce
1 teaspoon garlic-chili hot sauce
1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water (egg wash)
One small handful of cilantro, chopped
additional cornstarch + cold water

* Ground chicken or minced chicken could be substituted.
** If you don’t have dried Chinese black mushrooms, feel free to use dried or fresh Shitake mushrooms.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Marinate the ground pork in the soy, wine, sesame oil, cornstarch and sugar for at least 15 minutes at room temperature.

In a wok or large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add regular onion. Fry until onions are softened, about 1 minute. Add the green onions, garlic and ginger. Fry another minute until fragrant. Turn heat to high.

Add the marinated ground meat, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Fry until the meat is almost cooked. Add oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, and hot sauce. Stir thoroughly. Adjust seasonings if needed: Add soy or oyster sauce if it needs more salt; if it needs to be more sweet/salty add more hoisin sauce; if you like it with a kick add more chili sauce.

If the sauce needs to be thickened, mix 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with about 1/4 cup of cold water and stir into the meat mixture. You want the sauce to be slightly thick so that it does not run out of the puff pastry. Let meat mixture cool.

Take your thawed puff pastry and place on a lightly floured cutting board. Cut each sheet into 4 squares for full-size puffs. Spoon filling onto one side, brush egg wash on the edges and bring over to fold into a triangle. Pinch to seal tightly, place on baking sheet. Brush egg wash on the tops of the pastry. Repeat with remaining.

Bake 350F degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Note: By reducing the size of the pastry squares and the amount of filling, these pastries could be scaled down to appetizer size.


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#1 – Can You Guess Which Birthday My Husband Just Celebrated?
Using paper punches and glue, I made this simple birthday card for my husband. I layered the hearts on top of the circles to create the symbol of five as they appear on dice. It’s an easy design that could be used with other numeric combinations. By the way, my husband’s older than ten!

#2 – Simple Color Theory
When trying to figure out what the general complementary color of another color is, whether it is for an accessory you’re adding to an outfit or for a piece of furniture you’re selecting for a room, just think about primary colors. Red, yellow, and blue to be precise. Here’s a simple formula: If the primary color you have is A, then B + C = complementary color. For example, if you are wearing a blue sweater and want to select a scarf to wear with it, then combine the two remaining primary colors, red and yellow in this case, and you get orange as the complementary color. The hues will vary, of course, depending on your color selections.

#3 – A Meat Market Tip from Bob
Have you ever had a recipe which called for skirt steak, but all you could find in the market was flank steak? Or have you ever ordered grilled hanger steak in a restaurant and wondered where it came from? What’s the difference between these cuts of meat? In very simple terms, the main difference between flank steaks, hanger steaks, and skirt steaks is a matter of proximate location. All three cuts of beef come from the belly area of the cow – between the forequarter and the hindquarter. Skirt steaks and hanger steaks come from the forequarter and flank steak is cut from the hindquarter of the animal. All are prized for their flavor, but are less tender pieces of meat and must be sliced across the grain. Fajitas and Chinese stir-fry are popular main dishes made with these cuts of meat.

#4 – Keep Your Fingers
To prevent your cutting board from slipping away as you slice and dice, slip a damp paper towel or a damp kitchen towel between the board and the counter surface. Also, you are more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp knife. Keep those knives sharpened to make ease of your kitchen work. Your fingers will thank you!

#5 – A Nice Sentiment Sent By a Friend
Life is beautiful especially with good friends: Good friends are like stars, you don’t always see them, but you know they are there.

Thanks to all of my “stars” and have a great weekend!

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Hello everyone! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and for the positive feedback! If you like my blog you can subscribe to it by clicking on either “Posts” or “Comments” at the top right hand corner of my blog. A page will appear and there will be a section at the top asking you to subscribe to this feed using Google, My Yahoo, Bloglines, or Bookmarks. Select one of the programs and click on the subscribe button. I find Google or Yahoo both work well. New posts to my blog will show up on your Yahoo or Google home page automatically.

Something new to my blog every week will be my Friday’s Random Five post. Every Friday I am going to post five short random thoughts or ideas. David Letterman has his Top Ten List and Jay Leno has his Ten at Ten, so I figured I could do at least half of what they do! Hope this first installment of Friday’s Random Five gives you some food for thought.

#1 A Nice Thought:
Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy. -Thich Nhat Hanh-

#2 A Recycling Idea:
Straight from a Hints from Heloise column – recycle your empty tissue boxes by using them as trash containers in your cars. The cube size would be great if used in this capacity.

#3 An Idea from the Kitchen:
Peeling fresh ginger root is a breeze if you use the edge of a spoon and scrape the thin skin away. It’s the easiest way I’ve found to do it.

#4 A Fashion Tip:
This tip is for petite gals. Even though the oversized boyfriend look is really in vogue right now, keeping clothing proportions correct is essential for petites. Be careful not to wear your tops too long. Petites tops should not extend below the crotch. Remember this: The longer the top, the shorter the legs appear.

#5 A Kind Deed:
Take a bouquet of flowers over to a senior citizen’s care center and ask that it be given to a resident that needs some cheer.

That’s this week’s Friday’s Random Five. Have a great weekend!

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