Monday, January 26, 2015

It's a Cake in a Jar....Well, Sort of

This post is brought to you by a reader request. Yes, that's right. I don't know how many of you have been following since day one, but I initially declared that this blog would be calling out the Liars of the Internet and Pinterest. (Let's face it, since the internet has become a space for bragging to try to make yourself feel good about yourself, there have been many lies posted on the Internet, haven't there been? Since actually most of us feel like shit about ourselves and need external consumerism and instant gratification to make us pretend to be happy or at least drug ourselves enough to forget we're actually deeply unhappy, right?)

Whoa. That got way deep way fast. Back to food blogging. 

Those of you who do recall that (or if not I'm telling you) part of the mission statement of this blog is to call out the internet liars, and in the process of that I invite people to send me things to test.. 

I'll bet you didn't know I did that, right? Maybe because this is the first time. I know a few of you have actually sent me things to test and I haven't gotten around to it yet because I was busy bragging about how awesome I am being a stereotypical foodie DIY blog. Sorry about that. As an apology, have this video that a friend and reader sent me about another guy out there discovering one of the more prevalent lies of Pinterest, supposedly about how to make drinking glasses out of wine or beer bottles (spoiler alert: it doesn't work.)

So getting back to that mission statement, today's blogpost is brought to you by the letters A and B (thanks, AB!) and the attempt to bake a dessert in a jar. Without further ado, I bring you:

GRRRR clickbaiting title!

I haven't even tried this yet, and already I'm pissed off about the title. There are TWO LIES in the title, and that pisses me off and does not give me high hopes for the recipe. 

Lie 1: "She Fills Old Jars With Fruit And Oil."

The actual instructions of the recipe read as follows: "Whisk it together with a fork and pour it on the fruit, and then top with butter." BUTTER, dumb clickbaiter, BUTTER. Not oil. I really can't trust you, can I?

Lie 2: "I’m Never Baking Again!"

Instructions: "Bake it at 350 for one hour." ZOMG. I swear to god the next clickbaiter to use the 'I'm never baking again' line and then proceed to BAKE SOMETHING is gonna get hurt reeeeeeal bad.

And now to actually try this recipe.

I can already 100% guarantee, that I'll be baking again. 

(Oh, and lie 3: "minutes later." By minutes they mean over an hour later. LIARS!!!!)

During the course of testing this clickbait, my ever tolerant spouse walked into the kitchen and saw me putting jars in the oven.

"What's that?" he asked.

"This recipe says to bake in jars," I answered.

"Uh-oh," said he. "That sounds dangerous."

He's right and it does, but I believe the logic to be sound. This part of the recipe seems to get it right. I'm no expert on canning, but I'm pretty sure she's right when she says that canned glass jars are subject to high temperatures, so it stands to reason that they could be used to bake in. I don't know *how* much heat, and throughout the course of this recipe I handled the whole thing as if I was French kissing a vampire - very carefully.

I am pleased to report that the jars did not explode. Tfu tfu tfu, this method seems to work nicely.  (You may want to carefully remove all stickers from the glass. I make no claims whether burning stickers works or not. I didn't test it.)

Veracity of technique: 10/10

As far as the recipe goes, it could stand to be tweaked, both in outcome and in instructions. The actual recipe is as follows: 

- fruit
-1/2 cup flour
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/2 tsp salt

1. Put fruit in four jars.
2. Mix flour, sugar, and salt together, top fruit with mixture.
3. Top with butter. 
4. Bake at 350 for one hour. 

If I were to give this recipe to aforementioned patient hubby, he would probably implode. "How much fruit?" I don't know. "How much butter?" Some. "What size jars?" Medium? Who the hell knows. Plus, there is no mention of preheating the oven. Now, I'm no professional chef or nothing, but not a single solitary recipe I've ever heard of tells you to go ahead and bake without preheating the oven for a loooooong time. This does not. So I'm unimpressed.

Reliable instructions: 2/10

Finally, taste. Yes, this holds up. It's not an original recipe, but it tastes very good (If you want more exact amounts and instructions, the BBC looks like it has this precise recipe, with actual amounts.) I was a little concerned about not mixing the flour with the butter, and the fact that the flour sunk to the bottom of the jar, but it turns out that worked out just fine. 

So, basically, this is a crumble recipe...baked in a jar. A little (a lot) too sweet for my tastes, but probably fine for your typical American dessert.

Taste: 7/10

Bottom line: If you want to bake in a cute gimmicky way, yes, this works. Take to a picnic, watch people oooh and ahhh. They probably will. People are easily impressed. 

The only thing I haven't tested is how difficult it is to wash those jars afterward.

...I think I'll let the hubby test that.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Here's the thing about food blogs

Just FYI, I wrote out this entire post on the blogger app, scrolled away, and then it got erased. WAAAAA. Don't you just hate it when that happens? 

So here's the thing about food blogs. 

They lie. 

They are there to make you feel bad about yourself and about that burger you just ordered in for dinner, because THEY just had burgers for dinner, and they made the buns from homemade spelt flour that they ground themselves, the lettuce from their organic locally fair traded food garden, and the burgers from a cow they knew themselves (they called her 'daisy.') 

Yes, yes, guilty as charged. I too am part of the problem. 

Here's the thing, though, and here's what I firmly believe about food blogging: WE NEED MORE IMPREFECTIONS.

I say this to you just a few days after ruining a smitten kitchen recipe. I had this cream that was going to go bad, and I thought, aha, here's this ricotta recipe, let's turn the leftover cream nto cheese and it will be delicious and perfect and everyone will admire me.

It was not perfect, and there were no bunnies and rainbows.

Ok, so I didn't quite follow the recipe - I used too much cream and not enough milk - but that shouldn't really have mattered. Maybe I needed more lemon juice. Maybe the cheesecloth wasn't thick enough. I don't know. The point is, I've been cooking for 24 years (yes, that's right, 24 YEARS. Who know I had that kind of work experience?) and I still get imperfections. 

There's this axis, you see, of perfect vs. imperfect in cooking and blogs. Obviously you want the pictures to look nice. Obviously. Nobody wants to see that burger you made last night that looks like the cat threw up on the bread. But on the other hand, and I'm citing some very real examples here, when I read online about that mother of ten who just threw together a simple weekday dinner comprising of raw carrots with an organic truffle balsamic glaze, curried quinoa pilaf with raisins and cardomam pods, and creme freche a lá fancy shmancy organic duck bird glaze, lightly braised with the tears of unborn children, I just want to shoot myself. Ok, shoot her then myself. Ok, just shoot her. 

My point is, ain't nobody that perfect. And food isn't meant to be perfect. Food is meant for you to think that your grandmother made THE BEST matzah ball soup. Food is for feeding your family and friends, so that they love and appreciate you more and would be sad if you died because who would feed them. Food is for sustenance, so we don't go around in the world looking like Twiggy (or whatever that super thing model's name is.) 

These days, food has become for bragging about. I've got two words to say to that, and I'm also saying them to myself: 


Less food bragging. More imperfect food. 


So, on that note, I'm going to give you the recipe for one of the most disgusting, barely edible things I've ever cooked, so you don't have to try it yourself. Seriously, don't try this at home.

T'was the day before the day before pesach or so. We were cleaning out the fridge (and that's a 'we' being myself and spouse, so it wasn't even that many years ago) and had barely any food left in the larder. This is what happened for dinner:

- spinach from freezer
- cheese from freezer
- bulgur from cabinet
- can of butter beans from cabinet 
- maybe an egg?
- probably some cheese, though not a lot and not a good cheese
- maybe yogurt? 
- some strange herbs, like dill
- an onion or garlic, because there's always an onion in the home

1. Fry onion and garlic.
2. Ok, so I know that spinach and beans is a recipe, and that would work well together. Put that in.
3. Ok, so that would go well with cheese. Sure. Put cheese in.
4. Well, I have a recipe for bulgur and, beans and spinach, yum, spinach and bulgur, yum...spinach and bulgur and beans yum?
5. Ah what the heck, let's just empty the entire contents of pantry into this pan. I'm sure it will taste good eventually.
6. Eat. Not good. Choke it down, because pesach.
7. I mean it. Do not try this at home.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Winter is Coming - Never Fail Soup Recipe

Let's talk about soup.

Soup is good for three reasons that immediately come to mind:
  1. It's cheap
  2. It's good to eat when it's cold out
  3. It saves old vegetables when they're about to die.
In this blog post, forgive me, but I may delve into those horribly irritating superlatives that you often see in food blogs. YUM! Delish! NOMNOMNOM. OMG this is an amazing never-fail soup recipe!

Ok, I hate myself already. I'm going to stop that now.

Back to soup.

I believe there are two types of people reading this entry - those that really do not know how to make soup, and are chomping at the bit to get my soup recipe tips; and those who think they already make the best soup, so why on earth should they read this because they already know how to make amazing soup.

If you are of the second sort and I haven't lost you already (or never had you in the first place) bear with me, this soup technique makes a TRULY DECENT soup that....drum roll please...uses no MSG or broth.

Allow me to get back up on that soap-box of mine for a minute, please? [get up on soap box]. One of my biggest, awfulest, most guaranteed to bug the crap out of me every single time, is PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE SOUP WITHOUT SOUPMIX. OMG. SERIOUSLY. Soup-mix has not been allowed in my home in years. Years, I tell you. For all you trepidatious readers who do not know for the life of you, what to do when a soup recipe calls for broth, I have three words for you: Just. Add. Water.
There. [gets off soap-box. Or would that be soup-box? heh heh. Get it? Soup box?]

This soup is a blended soup, and it's delicious every time [fights to not slip back into annoying food blogger mode.] Here are the approximate instructions for this soup, and you will see why I love it so much:
  1. Take all or most of the vegetables that are about to go bad out of the fridge.
  2. Put them in a pot and cook them.
  3. Stick into a blender and dzudzh (sp???)
  4. Eat soup.  
 In short, this is a great recipe. Bookmark-worthy, even. There. I said it.

Now for the slightly longer version:

Really Decent Vegetable Soup in about 30 minutes

Originally I thought I stole this soup recipe from my guru, Alton Brown, but I just rewatched his soup episode and it turns out that I diverged quite a lot. That's ok - that means this may even be an original recipe! And really no-one better to trust with blended soup recipes than yours truly, considering I had my jaw wired shut for seven weeks (don't worry, it was years ago) and had to live off of blended soup for quite some time.

  • Oil - a few tbs
  • Onion - always an essential to soups, in my not so humble opinion
  • Several different kinds of dead or dying vegetables - can include vegetables like: 
    • radish (yes, radish! I am so glad I learned that radish makes a good soup, because before I kept thinking I should make it into pickles, never did, and kept throwing them out.) / fennel / tomato / daikon / cabbage / potato or sweet potato / carrot / celery or celery root / turnip
  • Probably should not include vegetables like:
    • lettuce / cucumber (yes yes, officially it's a fruit. I know. Get over it) / endive
  • Can also include spinach or mushroom, but then I wouldn't blend it and/or add them at the end.
  • Water
  • Kosher salt
  • Optional seasonings (turmeric, cumin, nutmeg, that kind of thing)

  1. Take a medium or large pot, set over medium heat. Add a little bit of oil, just enough to cover the bottom of the pot, and heat. 
  2. While the oil is heating, roughly chop the onion and plonk it into the the heated oil.
  3. Now, take your time. In order of hardest to softest, roughly chop up your vegetables and chuck into the pot with the onion. When you've got enough veggies in there that the bottom of the pot is covered, add the kosher salt. Stir. Keep adding veggies and stirring every now and again. The heat should be on medium-high, enough to start browning the veggies but not enough to burn them. Keep cooking like this for about 10 min, including chopping time. 
  4. This here is the step that I added that I firmly believe makes the soup go from just ok to pretty damn good - clomp on the lid. That's right, no water. Just lid. Turn the heat a bit lower and keep cooking, covered, for another 10-15 minutes. Stir every now and again to make sure it doesn't stick. What this step does is stew the veggies in their own juices - literally - and gets them all nice and tender and tasty. What it also does is trap that steam inside the pot, which probably keeps things hotter and retains the taste. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it. 
  5. Finally, now that veggies pretty much cooked at this point, add the water and seasonings if you want to. You do NOT want to boil the water. I know many soup recipes tell you to, but this soup doesn't need it, and somehow I think it wouldn't taste as nice. If you want to add some soft veggies, do it now. Cook on a SIMMER, not a boil, for another 10-15 min.
  6. At this point the soup is pretty much done. I like it blended, though, so I now take either all or some of the soup, stick it in my plastic blender, and blend. If you only have a glass blender, probably a good idea to wait until the soup cools (but who can wait that long??). Also a hand-blender would do the trick, I just happen to not own one. 
  7. Blend. Add salt if needed. Serve. Great soup, every time. I promise.