Tag Archives: Cooking

Cooking Kat Style

11 Feb

I haven’t cooked for myself (and posted the results here on the blog) for some time.

I admit, I am not a good cook, or even a mediocre one.  I can pretty much mess up any recipe, and there are only a handful of things I cook without a recipe.  One of them is not pork chops.

But I love pork chops!  So tonight I grilled some porkloin chops on my Cuisinart indoor grill (only masochists grill outdoors in Florida; the local population of blood sucking mosquitos can go feed themselve somewhere else!).


I steamed some tender asparagus and whipped up a lo-cal margarita.


You can find the recipe for these Chesapeake Bay Pork Chops here.

As you can see, I only made four chops and the recipe is for eight, but how can too much marinade be a problem?  I doubled the garlic (‘cuz I love garlic), guestimated the liquids, and use bottled lime juice and dry basil.  If I ever decide to have an herb garden, then I will use fresh; until then, dry it is.  The chops marinated in the frig overnight because, although I took the chops out of the freeze the day before, I didn’t give them another thought until around 4 p.m., and didn’t want to eat between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. so they could marinate 4-6 hours.  Again, how can too much marinade be a bad thing?  When I make them again, I’m going to following the recommendation to add some of the Old Bay spice while the chops are grilling.  I’m sure I’ll love the extra kick!Snoopy

Spaghetti and Meatlessballs

17 Sep

Well, not exactly spaghetti; I didn’t have any, so I used whole wheat medium shells instead.  I actually like shells better because they become little pockets of sauce.

I’ve finally eaten all the dishes I prepared for freezing and will be back to cooking fresh for a few days, building up a new supply of heat-and-eat vegan delights.

Tonight I prepared a large amount of shells and meatless meatballs in marinara sauce.  The meatless meatballs were made by Veggie Patch and were a little bland for my taste, but I’ve been eating such spicy foods lately that an Habanero chile would probably taste bland.  The sauce was rich and full of mushrooms, onions and garlic.

On the side I prepared a red leaf lettuce salad with the last of my veggie snack cache of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and bell peppers marinated in a delicious balsamic vinegar.  I swear, any vegetable you can think of tastes fabulous with a good-quality balsamic vinegar and nothing else!

To round out the meal, I enjoyed a glass of 2009 Ravens Wood old vine zinfandel, described as “big and unapologetic…a robust red, brimming with mouthwatering flavors of spicy ripe raspberry, cherry and boysenberry.”  I usually prefer a light rose zinfandel that is crisp and fruity (like Foxhorn), but, given this dusty bottle was all I had in the house, it was Delicious!

Because the spicy meatless sausage I made a few weeks ago (and that I used in everything from lasagna to pizza) were so easy to make, I’m going to make my own meatleassballs and freeze them, just as I did the meatless sausage, so I can up the spice content.  I’m happy with how the whole wheat pasta came out; I like my pasta al dente, but whole wheat pasta tastes nasty al dente and even more nasty mushy.  You have to keep sampling to get it right.  And sampling the wine while you’re cooking is definitely helps, too!

What’s my favorite pasta?  Brown rice pasta.  Better than semolina any day!

Sushi Noir

31 Jul

I love raw fish, but because fish have faces, along with mothers and fathers, I’ve decided to forgo traditional sushi.  While all of my favorite sushi restaurants offer veggie-only maki sushi, I seldom ordered it.

Now I can pick up two rolls of vegetarian brown rice maki sushi at my local grocery (made fresh hourly), but I wanted to learn to make my own.  My first try was an utter failure.

Problem One:  I used a whole sheet of nori.  Not even my dogs could chew through the layers of seaweed!

Problem Two:  My brown rice, although flavored correctly, was cold and hard.

Problem Three:  My rolling mat wasn’t covered and my technique didn’t take into account that you need to tuck the leading edge of the roll.

Now I’ve corrected all these problems, and even made my maki with the rice on the outside of the roll, something I always thought was beyond hard.

First, I used a half sheet of nori.  The ends of the nori meet precisely and create a nice seam with no overlapping seaweed.

Second, I used Chinese black rice at room temperature.  I don’t know how this rice is supposed to be cooked, nor how it is supposed to taste, because I made mine in a rice cooker.  The rice turns a fabulous shade of deep, dark purple when cooked, has the perfect amount of stickiness needed to make sushi, and actually needs no sugar because it’s really  sweet!  Drizzling a little brown rice vinegar and folding the rice with a paddle is sufficient.

Third, I covered my bamboo rolling mat with a sheet of cellophane wrap and, after watching a few YouTube videos, succeeded in producing this beautiful maki of cucumber, red bell pepper, avocado and asparagus:

Not perfect, but the taste was fabulous!  This is definitely a good way for me to get a few green veggies into my system, plus it looks pretty (my second most important factor after taste).

Fritter Fun

31 Jul

In my continuing quest to teach myself to cook healthy meals, I learned how to make “Greek-Style Tomato-Zucchini Fritters with Fresh Herbs” accompanied by “Mediterranean-Style Cashew-Cumber Dip”.  I found these recipes in “Veganomicon:  The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook” by Moskowitz and Romero.  I chose to bake my fritters instead of frying them, not because I don’t like fried food but because I am dangerous enough in the kitchen without adding boiling oil to the list of accidents just waiting to occur!

I also steamed some thin fresh asparagus to increase my intake of all things green.  I don’t like asparagus when it’s thick and woody (not even the tips); this pound of lovely skinniness means I have left-overs chilling in the frig, ready for a healthy snack.


Drink Your Greens

28 Jul

If you need to increase your intake of leafy green veggies, what could be better than a green smoothie?

It’s delicious and the recipe can be found in Linsay Nixon’s “Everyday Happy Herbivore”.  It’s loaded with baby spinach and fresh mint combined with  some vanilla and lime juice, and agave and nondairy milk, but it’s sweetness is derived from a fresh, ripe banana.

It’s a virgin Mojito that is as lovely to drink as it is lovely to look at!

Tricky Tofu

28 Jul

As I’ve stated before, I am no cook, but I have new reasons for at least trying to learn.  When I was in hospital back in December, I emerged an anemic and, despite trying the least objectionable of the iron supplements, I am still anemic.  How was I to increase my intake of dietary iron?

Well, first my step-mother Annette told me about a film, “Forks Over Knives,” which I watched with great interest.  I even watched the follow-up, “The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue.”  Maybe, I thought, I would enjoy (and actually be able to “cook”) a plant-based whole-food meals, since my greatest failing is the inability to cook flesh without burning or drying it into unpalatable leather.

Here is my first attempt to make an entre with tofu:

I found the recipe for this Baked BBQ Tofu in “Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero; looks yummy, huh?

Well, this is not how it’s supposed to look, at all.  First, I had no idea there were two different kinds of tofu, with different levels of firmness within those two.  Regular tofu is more dense and only comes in refrigerated cartons (we won’t bother with dried tofu), where Silken tofu is more creamy with less body and comes in shelf-stable cartons.  Not knowing when (and if) I would get the nerve up to cook a tofu meal, I opted for the shelf-stable Silken tofu.  Wrong!

This recipe calls for regular very firm tofu that you must “press” to make dry (and increase its absorption of whatever flavors you use).  Guess what happens when you “press” silken very firm tofu?  A crushed mess of what looks like runny egg whites, not a nice, dry block of tofu.  I was supposed to slice the pressed regular tofu into eight strips, and then bake them.  I had what looked like what you might get if you let a 2-year-old serve up the turkey on Thanksgiving!

However, I wasn’t about to toss the mess and try to find a different recipe.  I soldiered on and sort of followed the cooking instructions; I didn’t have peanut oil so I substituted toasted sesame oil.  I had made a batch of BBQ sauce that morning (just try to find a good tasting BBQ sauce whose first ingredient isn’t sugar or filled with corn syrup!) and gamely “drenched” my baked tofu pieces.  The book says this is good to serve with rice or potatoes, but I’d endured as much cooking experience as I could take by that point.  I had leftover black beans and lots of romaine, and since I’d used both of these ingredients the day before with BBQ sauce, I made a bed of lettuce and beans on which to heap my catastrophe.

Guess what?  It tasted GREAT!  It was like eating moist, tender spareribs (without the ribs).  The edges of the tofu were crispy and the sauce was delicious.

Score one more success in my goal of becoming a vegetarian!

I Learn to Boil Water

5 Dec

I received a new Simpson & Vail catalog today. S&V is my favorite Internet supplier of tisane and tea.

A few weeks back I saw Ocean’s 13. In it, a guy orders green tea and tells the waiter to get the water temp right and not “burn it.” The S&V catalog contains brewing instructions, which include some really specific temperatures like exactly 175°F.

Now, I did not know you could “burn” tea (apparently too high a temperature will extract too much caffeine and impart a bitter taste). Since I didn’t see any thermometers offered in their catalog or on the website, I’m left wondering, “How does one tell when the water is the right temp?” I could use a candy thermometer (it uses honest-to-goodness mercury, which I’m told is the best), but I’m saving my quarters for the penny bubble gum machine (alright, you caught me; I own a candy thermometer, but it seems like a whole lot of effort to drag it out every time I want a cuppa).

So off to the Internet I go and [shock and awe] I find out there is a real art to boiling water (who knew!) and there is even [gasp!] a recipe:

  1. Choose a pot that’s large enough to hold the amount of water you want to boil and has a lid that fits. You might be tempted to use water that’s already warm or hot from the tap, but this water has been sitting in your pipes for some time getting stale. Use cold water if you’re going to drink it or cook with it. (As opposed to when you are going to be rendering and disposing of an unwanted body you have lying around the house.)
  2. Don’t fill the pot all the way up – keep in mind that anything you add to the boiling water will increase the volume and you’ll need to allow room for those bubbles to do their thing. Without enough room in the pot, for example, rice or pasta will boil over. (Scrubbing burnt lard off the burners does get to be so annoying! And the smell — whew!)
  3. Place the pot on the stove and turn the heat to high. If you want to speed up the process, put a cover on it. (And we all know that speed is of the essence in today’s society; when was the last time you disposed of an unwanted body slowly?)
  4. Check for steam escaping from under the lid, then lift the lid carefully to see how the water is doing. (Be sure to ask how it is doing politely; there’s nothing worse than pissed off hot water.)
  5. Look at the water. If large bubbles are rising from the bottom of the pot to the surface, the water is boiling. (Do not stare at the water’s big bubbles; staring is impolite! And never comment on how big a water’s bubbles are; your mother taught you better than that.)
  6. Small bubbles that stay at the bottom or sides of the pot are air bubbles present in the water; they don’t necessarily indicate that boiling is imminent. Wait for bubbles that rise to the top of the pot. (Make sure bubbles are the only thing that rises or you will be in a world of hurt.)

Here are the highly technical descriptions for temperatures of water (but only if you live at sea level, which I do; if you don’t, I feel sorry for you (and if you’re nerdy enough to want to know how to adjust all these temps, click here)):

  • Tepid Water – 85 to 105°F. The water is comparable to the temperature of the human body. (Provided it has not been stored in your freezer.)
  • Warm Water – 115 to 120°F. The water is touchable but not hot. (However, it doesn’t really like you, so keep your hands to yourself.)
  • Hot Water – 130 to 135°F. The water is too hot to touch without injury. (Go ahead, I dutch double dare you to touch it!)
  • Poach – 160 to 180°F. The water is beginning to move, to shiver. (It is just faking that it is cold, so do not go get it a sweater.)
  • Simmer – 185 to 200°F. There is movement, and little bubbles appear in the water. (If you start to sing “Tiny Bubbles” at this point, you will be summarily executed.)
  • Slow Boil – 205°F. There is more movement and noticeably larger bubbles. (This phenomenon is very similar to when little boys fart in the bathtub.)
  • Real Boil – 212°F. The water is rolling, vigorously bubbling, and steaming. (It is at this point that both the teapot and the fat lady will sing.)

What I have learned from all this is that I will be drinking my white and green tea “poached” from now on. (And that it is perfectly okay to use stagnant water to get rid of people you never liked in the first place~and if you are faint-hearted, bring it to a “real boil” and use it to make their tea. They’ll never come back to you for seconds.)

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