Red Velvet Cheesecake

20160105_202659True, this was a December goal, but I had all the ingredients, and who doesn’t like cheesecake regardless of month.

I chose a Red Velvet cheesecake after a coworker (who gets to enjoy all my experiments) asked me to make one.  She loves Red Velvet, so I agreed.  I did not, at the time, really know what Red Velvet was.  Some research indicated it was a light chocolate flavor with red food coloring.

The chocolate was easy enough, with two tablespoons of baking chocolate mixed into the batter.  I added in the red food coloring in an attempt to make it a rich red color: but as I have little experience with coloring food, it turned out looking like a multi-berry smoothie.

Taste?  Well, I like it, but I don’t find it to be distinct from other cheesecake.  I would add more baking chocolate next time, try to bring out that flavor.  That being said, the coworker who requested it did love it, so I’ll chock that one up as a win.

This was the last of the 2015 Cheesecake challenges.  I’ll do more cheesecakes in 2016, but expect more experimentation with other types of food.  For example, I got a tart pan for my birthday.  At some point, there will be tart.

Mmm…tart.

Double Post: Eggplant Parmesan and A Man for All Seasons

Eggplant Parmesan

20150904_224347Making eggplant Parmesan was an interesting experience.  Eggplant is one of those vegetables people seem to love or hate.  I looked up how to prepare eggplant, salting the vegetable for half an hour before I started the process.

I used this recipe here, the simplest recipe I could fine.  Two layers of sliced breaded eggplant with tomato sauce, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  Baked, I thought of it like making lasagna with eggplant instead of noddles.

How did it turn out?  Well, it turned out okay.  Eggplant is an odd vegetable to get used to, and I’ve never tried it in a restaurant, which may explain why it tastes so odd for me.  Also, the lower level (immersed in sauce) came out much differently from the top layer, which had the cheese baked right onto it.

In the future, I’d spent some more time prepping and breading the eggplant better, use a homemade sauce, and only one layer.  But I do get enough leftovers to play with.  Maybe I can puzzle out some of my own touches for the dish.

A Man for All Seasons

A_Man_for_All_Seasons_(1966_movie_poster)Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake! – Sir Thomas More

A historical movie about the conflict between Sir Thomas More and King Henry VIII, based off the play of the same name (adapted to the screen by the playwright and staring the same actor in the role of More).

This is one of those movies that has really great dialogue.  Sir Thomas More comes across as a very calm, confident man, who turns the arguments of his opponents on their heads.  His opponents come off as petty, corrupt and broken, and King Henry as childish.  As a historical movie, it certainly made me want to read more about what actually happened.

Beyond the dialogue, the movie is pretty solid.  It lacks any huge productions of King Henry VIII’s court, instead using period buildings and rooms.  There is very little time lost in the story, delving right into the conflict and ending with the same.

A good movie, one I want to watch again.

Free Goal: My time as a vegetarian

My goal was to spend seven days as a vegetarian.  Why?  Well, a number of reasons come to mind:

  • Try out the new confidence with vegetables.
  • Avoid the cost of meant
  • Cut the extra calories
  • And, just to see if I could do it.

In the last two weeks, I’ve only had one meal which I knew I was having meat, and two which were surprises (I’ll explain below).

In all honestly, switching to a vegetarian plan was not as difficult as I thought it would be.  My breakfasts are often cereal or some baked good, I had some plans for homemade meals, and the Minneapolis sky-way has more than enough options to explore.  Every once in a while, I had some cravings (pepperoni and hot dogs were the most common), but I did not succumb.  As I said above, I had one meal I knew I was having meat in, and that was after I finished the Warrior Dash.  I thought that warranted a burger with bacon and blue cheese.

So what did I learn?

Vegetarian food can be very delicious…

I’ve discovered that I enjoy vegetarian burritos.  The local taco shop makes a decent one.  I also tried Chipotle’s sofritas (spiced tofu).  Not bad.  Pasta without meat can be pretty good, though considering how much cheese I add I shouldn’t be too surprised at that.  There were a couple of recipes I didn’t get around to trying, but there’s no reason I can’t attempts them in the future.

…but it isn’t always

A recommended vegetarian sandwich at a chain shop was very difficult to get through; not only was the bread thick and rough, but the filling wasn’t very good.

Beware bacon!

Both instances of unexpected carnivorous meals happened because of bacon.  The first time, I ordered a salad without realizing that it included bacon bits (which, someone pointed out to me, might not have actually been bacon).  The second time, little bits of bacon were in a soup.  That time, I’m sure it was bacon.

It is amusing to consider that bacon has become so prevalent that it is used as a garnishment in many meals.  It was the one meat I thought I would have cravings for over the week, but it wasn’t.

Post-Try considerations

As I sit here, at lunch, eating a piece of Pepperoni and sausage pizza, I reflect on my experiment.  I’m definitely glad I did this.

I don’t think I could go full vegetarian for long, but I’m certainly willing to try several days a week.  Not only is it (probably) healthier, but it should cut down on expenses, as meat has been consistently one of the more expensive items on my grocery list.

About the only annoying thing was group events.  When we get together for gaming or whatnot, we sometimes order food, as many groups do.  I lucked out that when we did, we ordered Chinese food (where we each got our own thing), but I worried about having to order a pizza just for me, or having to avoid eating with my friends.  In the future, I’m giving myself a pass for social meals.

I’ve made the comment to my friends before that there is a difference between knowing something (intellectually) and Knowing something (making it a part of your life).  This experiment showed me that vegetarian food could be really good, which I knew, but had not experienced.

I’ll have to keep my eyes open for vegetarian options from now on.

Recipes: Three in one night

For whatever reason, I felt the need to just cook up a storm last night.  Today, I’m looking at the piles of dishes I need to do, but last night, I was well fed.

Recipe One: Farro Salad with Fava Beans (Kind of) – Vegetable Goal

20150606_184326I say kind of because I didn’t follow the recipe exactly.  First off, I used spinach instead of Kale, because I was buying spinach for another recipe.  Second, I completely forgot to get Farro.  Third, my garlic was bad, so I substituted garlic salt, which was my best choice under the circumstances.

The result was pretty salty, but not bad.  I’m going to buy some more spinach and mix it in to try and dilute the saltiness.  And, later one, buy the actual ingredients I need to be able to make it right and proper.

 

Recipe Two: Bacon Spinach Feta Muffin Loaf – Bread Goal

20150606_183352 I debated making this as either 12 muffins or one loaf, but went with the loaf because reasons.

In truth, I forgot the onion for this recipe (I needed two, I bought one, and used it for the third recipe).  I’m also not sure I baked this one all the way.  True, the knife went in and came out clean, but the dough was just not 100% firm.  Solid, but spongy.  20150606_193120

Still the result is incredible, and I’m glad I pitched in a few extra bucks for the thick, black peppercorn bacon.  I’d make an effort to cut the spinach into smaller batches, or even use less spinach.

Definitely a recipe to make again…when bacon is on sale.

Recipe Three: Slow Cooker Red Thai Chicken Curry – Sauce Goal

This one started first and finished last (‘Slow Cooking Takes Time’ – Captain Obvious).

20150606_221519A friend of mine has made this several times and sent me the recipe.  She still makes it better.  I actually followed this recipe all the way, so at this point it’s just practice.  Luckily, the almost intimidating mass of ingredients are largely things that’ll last for a number of batches, so all I need are the veggies, meat and coconut milk and I can try again.

Maybe on a stove-stop, next time.

Recipe: Cinnamon Apple Bread

20150531_150450This weekend I did manage to make Cinnamon Apple Bread.  I found a nice recipe that only required a few extra ingredients, so I could keep making such breads without undue purchases (except fruit and more butter than I’d otherwise use).

The recipe for Apple Bread was much like the recipe for Raisin bread I tried a few months ago.  Batter is made separately from the fruit.  Half the batter in the bread first, layer of apples, batter and apples.  It took much longer to bake than the recipe said (75 minutes to 50 from the recipe), which is either an effect of not having a stand mixer or having a inaccurate oven.  In any case, the bread was not burnt or inedible.  Indeed, it was quite delicious.

Recipe: Salmon and Mushrooms

20150519_165840Today’s meal was pan cooked salmon with a side of mushrooms in a Teriyaki oil saute.

The mushrooms were easy.  I’ve done them before.  Though I have decided that next months I’m going to experiment with some sauces.

The salmon was a bit more difficult.  The fillet I got had scales on one side, which I wasn’t expecting (they came off after some frying).  It was also pretty thick, so by the time the middle was cooked the outsides were a bit crispy.  The fish flaked into slivers which I used to my advantage in cooking thoroughly.  The process (sprinkled with salt and peppercorns, pan coated in olive oil) worked, and the fish was good.  I think I will have to make sure to keep a steady supply of lemon juice around, as most fish recipes recommend it.

I’m still an amateur at fish, but I think I could get used to them.

Recipe: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

I can’t remember where the idea for this came from. Maybe I came across it in a search for 20150424_222101recipes, or maybe someone recommended it to me.  I really can’t remember.  But I though the idea was cool.  A pizza crust made of vegetables and cheese.

Using the recipe of cauliflower and cheese, I went to work.  I made a double-sized batch.  I realized after the fact that I mixed up the sequence a bit (something to remember for next time) but I finished the crust, poured on the sauce and toppings, and made a pizza.

Was it a success?

The pizza is edible.  The crust is off, not firm like bread but spongy.  Much like when you’re eating cauliflower hot wings or carrot jam, it just doesn’t taste usual.  But I think it’s a good start.  I feel like playing around with this recipe a bit, see if I can’t get something a little closer to bread, or at least something I don’t need a fork to eat.  And I can experiment with pizza toppings as I go.

Free Goal: Ethnic Food – Korean

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Between work and hanging out with friends, I made a detour to a Korean restaurant in Minneapolis to try some Korean food.  I told the hostess that I had never tried Korean food, and if she would recommend anything for me.  After asking about my level of spiciness, I ended up with a healthy meal of Dolsot Bibimbap.

The earthenware bowl sizzled for ten minutes.  I couldn’t name all the vegetables involved, but it tasted great.  I may have been a little disappointed in the small amount of Beef involved, but it was very little as I ran through the bowl.

The side dishes were equally fun.  Kimchi, sweetened potatoes, seaweed, cucumber and fish strips.  I even added some of the hot paste to mix things up a bit.

I’m interested in learning more about Koran cuisine. I’m even more interested in earthenware bowls.  Perhaps homemade kimchi is not to far in my future.

Free Goal: Ethnic Food – Thai

20150409_185836I mentioned to a friend of mine I wanted to try Thai food; she told me I had.

I didn’t realize Thai food could include curry.  And I fully admit this is a ‘stupid American’ moment, but that’s one of the reasons to try new things.  Even if that includes a surprise.

During a writing night she made this red curry based dish, with rice and a chutny side.  Thankfully she put the cilantro to the side.  Holy crap was this good.  I seriously need to revisit this and learn how to make it myself.

We also discussed other Ethnic dishes to try.  Hopefully, they’ll turn out as awesome as this did.