Sunday, September 8, 2013

Postponed Challenge...NOOOOOOO!

As some of you might be aware, the great food challenge of 2013 has been temporarily suspended due to circumstances out of the boyfriend's and my control.

After the great spicy mango fiasco, he discovered a leak under his kitchen sink resulting in a quick departure of the apartment.

Management had found mold and moved him to a two bedroom apartment within the same complex.

As a result, we have been trying to get our lives back to a somewhat normalized routine.  However, its a very slow process.  He is still sorting his old stuff out, and I'm no where near moved in.  Between working full time, him going to class in the evening, and I started a new job in June, we haven't had much evening down time.  I'm also traveling every other week at the moment for training so that makes things difficult to do anything related to the apartment until the weekend.

It is our sincere hope we are back to somewhat normalization of the challenge by October, but when I see the current state of the kitchen, I'd be lucky to get anything challenging out of it but remembering where I put dishes and serving flatware.

Do not loose hope in that we will have the challenge back in full cycle mode before the year is up.  If not, well, there's always 2014, right?

Keep posted as I will try to get at least a challenge in by October!

Forever me,

Silly Beans

Spicy Mango Fiasco

This challenge left me a bit sore.  Not in the sense that I had a tough time make it, but preparing it yes.  Mango isn't meant to be spicy, but sure as hell, not painfully spicy either.

I mistakenly cut the jalapeno and touched my eyebrow with my finger after sweating a little.  Felt a little tingly so I stopped with that idea and continued prepping the rest of the spicy mango shrimp.  I kept tasting it to make sure it wasn't too spicy for the boyfriend, not realizing that the jalapeno was still on my fingers.  I had washed them in between tastes and thought it was completely gone, the jalapeno part.

The dinner itself by this point was too spicy for me to handle and I was beginning to think, I need some milk.  The milk didn't sit right so I opted to take a shower since that normally makes me feel back to normal.

BIGGER MISTAKE!  I tried to take my contacts out.  As I did so, I didn't get all the jalapeno out of my fingers!!!!  I quickly hopped into the shower and with the running water, I flushed out my eyes with contacts in.  I was able to get my contacts out after drying my eyes out completely.

The next day, I stupidly tried to put the same contacts in (after a night of soaking in their solution).  Dry eyes and contacts don't mix, especially after jalapeno contact.

I've learned my lesson and to that, and found that if I am going to have any contact with chili from here on out, I was going to wear gloves and my glasses, JUST TO BE SAFE!

Peaches, Custard, Meringue

I finally got the whisk for my kitchenaid!  The right size too!!!

I also picked up an old and I mean, old cookbook from one of the antique stores nearby and decided, why not experiment.

I found a recipe with fresh peaches, custard and a some-sort meringue The recipe dates over 80 years and old and is probably just as tasty today as it was when it was first published or even served. If I've learned anything on this experiment, it was that old recipes are a great way to keep history interesting.

Spinach is Tasty

The boyfriend returned from Japan, and was craving something non-Japanese.  A friend of mine also had just recently moved to Austin, and I was feeling nostalgic for a dish that she always craved with a mutual friend who is Peruvian.

The boyfriend requested spinach and so I prepared a Peruvian spinach pesto.

Not bad, just had a hard time getting the Peruvian spinach pesto to stick to the spaghetti for some odd reason.  Nevertheless, it was a good welcoming home dinner for the boyfriend.

Red Pepper isn't Hot

Red pepper.  Tough call.  Again, the boyfriend was out of town for this ingredient.  I decided to experiment once again with something I hadn't before.

I did a gnocchi with with red pepper cream sauce.  Not of the traditionalist recipes I followed, but I did make a fuddy duddy's day with this one since he was getting sick of goat being an option for food.

Goat Goes Bahh Like a Lamb..

Goat.  Seriously?!  The boyfriend requested I do goat while he was away.  Goat to me is the tougher game meat.  Lamb to me is a lot more tender and tastier than goat, but while he was away, I was tempted to to just use lamb.

I thought better of it, and besides, I was given a recipe to use for the goat.  The Indonesian traditions knocked at the door for this tradition.

As tasty as it was, I was only able to get one serving out of it since the mother decided that this dish was designated just for her.  Which was fine by me, because I don't mind trying to give a small portion of what I've learned back to her.

Kale a Healthy Green but Difficult to Chew

Now I'm not entirely certain as to why, but the boyfriend picked the ingredient kale while he was gone.  Just because he was gone, didn't make my challenge lighten up any that's for certain.  If anything, I was trying to feed a more difficult crowd.

He requested kale and I was to cook it for some old folk.  I visited my parents for this dish, and was restricted to the ingredients I'd find in the mother's pantry, including the kale.

The kale was fresh from the mother's garden so I knew it was organic, and I combined it with white beans and bacon for a southern green dish.  I do have to admit that kale was a bit tougher to cook, literally, and not like mustard greens that wilt as the heat continues to cook it.

In future, kale takes a little more to get down the stomach and a little more heat to cook to a chewable consistency.

Roman Chicken for the Japan Bound Boyfriend

This Roman chicken was the last of the challenges before the boyfriend left for a company trip to Japan.  This was also out of his grandmother's cookbook.  An oldie but goodie that's for sure.

I found this dish to be rather tasty as well, surprisingly, though if I were to improve the dish any, I'd use fresh apricots and not canned.  Although the recipe calls for the apricots' juice to be used, I'm sure a standard Chardonnay would've done just fine in terms of using for a rue.

Served over couscous instead of standard white rice, I am going to try to substitute some of the ingredients on the next go-round.  Either way, this dish made the day of the boyfriend after a long day's work and before having to leave for Japan. 

Tofu the Meatless Wonder

Tofu is one of those ingredients that is vegetarian and vegan friendly.  Supposedly the healthier version of protein.

I experimented with making a vegan cheesecake.  I can't say I was overly impressed with this experiment due to the graininess in texture but the boyfriend like it.  However, its not on the highest priority to repeat.

Tofu will be left to taste another day...this day was a bit of a flop in my mind.

Ground Pork isn't Grounded

Ground pork is one of those ingredients I sometimes don't always understand the purpose of.  Aside from the constant comments from the boyfriend and the boyfriend's brother saying, "its just tasty," I really haven't cooked pork.  The boyfriend requested that I ground the pork in his meat grinder.

While researching what cut to ground, I found that the best cut to ground was the shoulder.  I also decided to do a bit of an experiential meatball with the ground pork since I really just had no idea what to prepare with it.  Egg rolls were a bit overdone in my history of ground pork so I experimented with Italian meatballs and fresh spaghetti.

I combined the ground pork with ground beef to make meatballs, and fresh spaghetti consisted of egg, flour and salt.  I cheated when it came to the sauce, but the rest tasted pretty darn close to what I have tried in an Italian restaurant.  I was personally impressed and don't mind trying to do this again!

Just as long as the boyfriend isn't in the mood for quick fresh pasta for a challenge...

Shot of Whiskey is a Shot in the Dark

A shot of whiskey will cure any aliment you have.

Don't quote me on it since I'm not a doctor.  I have a hard time cooking with alcohol since I never know what its paired with.

I tried a baked brie with apple, apricot and walnuts.  I nice little combination with fresh oat cakes.  Since the oat cakes didn't go very far, I picked up a loaf of fresh French bread.  Never knew how much I missed fresh baked bread until I took a bite out of the sliced piece with warm brie.

Nevertheless, the baked brie didn't last long and we have since had this again on the nights we feel like something rich but way too lazy to really cook anything extravagant.

Yogurt not so Plain

Sometimes I wish that the challenge I set before myself was as simple as pouring something out of the container and call it finished.

Unfortunately, that's not how my brain functions.

For this ingredient, the boyfriend picked plain yogurt.  Smoothies and my favorite lassi were out of the question due to a broken blender so I picked an Indian dessert: bhapa doi

A nice light dessert that isn't overly sweet despite the sweetened condensed milk incorporated into the dish itself.

Rosemary...California's Herb Abudance

I didn't realize that picking a dish with fresh rosemary was harder than picking a needle out of the haystack, no pun intended. Well maybe a slight pun since the rosemary I picked up was out of the boyfriend's apartment complex.

In California, rosemary can be widely found and so I don't ever find the need to go and buy it for the various dishes I prepare that call for fresh rosemary.  Also, fresh picked rosemary to add to some olive oil and fresh garlic adds the extra kick to most dishes without being over powerful.  If the rosemary is dried, it is just as potent.

In any event, I was at a bit of stumping point when it came to choosing something I hadn't done before when I wanted to cook with this ingredient.

I chose to do a batch of cookies.  It isn't often I feel like baking since it is an art form out on all its own.

These cookies are essentially sugar cookies with rosemary added to them.  A Victorian era favorite and apparently, instead of rosemary, one could use lavender too.

Either way, a good cookie to pair with a spot of tea.