December 30, 2007

sticks of leathery dried meat, anyone?

Almost the first thing I saw this morning was heaven on a plate:


For some inexplicable reason, it reminded me of the vile pictures I took of my brother's jerky project.


Yes, friends and family, that is a pot of raw meat. Little Bro got a jerky blaster for Christmas and immediately used it on some of his venison.

Here are his top-secret ingredients:


He ended up getting a little creative with the spices; I was so proud of his culinary ambition.

The blaster in action:




Pretty neat I suppose, but I find the finished product (actually, the whole smelly process) to be completely unappetizing.



To each his own. I'll take the baklava.

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December 29, 2007

“You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”

You said it, Homer.

It’s amazing how quickly my confidence in my culinary skills can disappear. I was super excited to make some tasty treats for our Christmas gathering. My first endeavor was some truffle-like creations called snowballs.

The ingredients:


First, I creamed ¾ cup of softened butter.



Next, I added 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar in 1-cup increments so as to avoid dusting the kitchen walls and my face.



At this point, I divided the filling into two equal parts because I wanted two different flavors. Half #1 was made pink and peppermint (using 1 teaspoon peppermint extract).


Half #2 was made green and butternut-flavored (also with 1 teaspoon extract).


Isn’t it festive? So far, so good.


After chilling the filling (ha, that rhymes), I used a baby spoon to make balls:


I popped these into the freezer for about an hour and then proceeded to plummet toward failure. The end goal was to cover each ball in dark chocolate (the peppermint filling) or white chocolate (the butternut filling). Easier said than done, my friends. Live and learn, I guess, but my method didn’t work. I melted 6 oz of the chocolate with ½ tablespoon of oil, but it ultimately cooled too quickly for me to accomplish much. I had to keep nuking it and nuking it and got so frustrated that I put my camera away before I could inadvertently unleash my anger on it.

They tasted all right but were super sweet. Regardless of my difficulties, I finished, and here they are with some homemade toffee that was stellar (I should've documented its creation instead):


End verdict: Not worth the trouble.

Fortunately, the Maminator made some luscious white chocolate-peppermint fudge and regular chocolate fudge that satisfied my sweet tooth:




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December 16, 2007

fun with fiber and flatulence


As the locals say, there’s a nor’easter coming. In preparation for the snowstorm that will render me stranded in the apartment, I have decided to break in my kitchen and make and document my first dish. My options are a bit limited, as I have only two pots, a cutting board, and a cookie sheet with me. Given the lack of supplies, and the fact that it’s freakin’ cold, I decided to make chili.

First things first—protein. I have been EXTREMELY blessed in that I have never had to purchase beef at the grocery store. My grandparents have always provided us with all we need. I foolishly bought some once, was very disappointed in its quality, and have been hesitant to buy more. I’ve said all this to ease into the fact that I used fake meat in this recipe. That’s right, I used soy veggie burgers. Sorry to let you down, ardent meat-devouring friends and family.


For me, chili must contain beans. I happened to have black beans and kidney beans (of the white variety, which I had never seen before) in my oh-so-poorly stocked pantry. Tomatoes are also a necessity. One of my all-time favorite ingredients is diced tomatoes with green chiles, so I used those and a huge can of regular diced tomatoes in lieu of tomato sauce.


The spices. If you know me at all, you know that I love spiciness. I often make dishes that are too spicy for the average palate. But this dish is mine, all mine, so I can make it as fiery as I want. I used cumin (a must with anything containing black beans), chipotle chile pepper (an exciting and yet-to-be-tried recent purchase), red pepper flakes, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Yes sir, that’s a lot of fire power.

This happens to be an exceptionally complicated dump, stir, and cook recipe, so that’s what I did. First the beans and tomatoes went into the pot:


Then the chopped burgers:


Then the spices:


Lovely, right?


Stir it up.


Let it simmer over medium heat* until it reaches the consistency you desire. I like mine thick and hearty.


*I won’t lie. It took me about ten minutes to realize that I had no heat coming from the burner. It was another three minutes before I realized that I had to manually light it up. Leave me alone, I’ve never had a gas stove like this before.


Anyway, here’s my bowl of fiberful and flavorful chili. For best results, top with pepper jack cheese.



Disclaimer: Clearly, my photography skills have nowhere to go but up. Bear with me.

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December 12, 2007

The Afghan Grill


From time to time, I plan to go to new restaurants and review them. I shall critique the food, service, and atmosphere. When possible (and not entirely inappropriate and awkward), I will also take discreet pictures of my food. Prepare for review #1.

Many, many moons ago (back in November), one of the first things I did was seek out a restaurant with good Mediterranean food. I found one on my first try—The Afghan Grill in Latham (about 45 minutes away). I went for the very reasonably priced all-you-can-eat lunch buffet, which offered soooo much deliciousness. There was a dish called jujeh, an Afghani classic of saffron-marinated chicken with bone. (I would’ve liked this better had there been no bone involved, but it was good.) There was a wonderfully spiced ground beef dish called kofta, and it looked something like this (I didn't have a camera yet):


There were two vegetarian offerings (a tasty chickpea/potato concoction and a marvelous cauliflower/onion creation called gulpi--my favorite), as well as rice, salad, amazing hummus (I'm a sucker for good hummus), and fresh pita bread (good, but not as good as the best pita bread ever at More Than Coffee in Blacksburg...yum!). It was incredible. I truly could've gone back for 4 plates. I also got an appetizer because I’m on a squash kick and this sounded irresistible--roasted butternut squash in a yogurt-dill sauce (also known as kado borani).


Indeed, it was a scrumptious experience. I was the first and only patron until I was almost done, so the service was sensational. The decor was interesting and appropriate for an Afghan restaurant. The utensils, plates, tables, and floors were clean and the buffet was orderly. Things might be different two hours after opening, but I was completely satisfied and plan to return again and again (and try the baklava).


Food: A+
Service: A+
Atmosphere: A+


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