Saturday, July 26, 2014

Rocky Mountain Adventures, Pt. Two

My dislike of eating birds has been mentioned before.  While I have definitely made peace with the idea of eating winged animals, I would never choose chicken or turkey over pork or beef.  (I would include lamb in that list, but I'm too poor.)

My exceptionally low tolerance for spiciness has also been mentioned before.  I love salt, but most other spices are too much for me to handle.  I say progress has been made on this front.  Joey says I am a baby.

In Colorado, we took turns making massive dinners.  One of the last nights, Joey's lovely first cousin once removed (also known as his mom's cousin) made a chicken dinner.  With jalapeños.  Progress or no progress, I definitely do not eat jalapeños.

But I am adventurous now!

All those green flecks are potentially deadly.  Or they're bits of parsley.

So I cut off a piece of Joey's chicken of death.  And I tried it.  It definitely had a kick, but it actually wasn't too bad.  The little bits of jalapeños were easy to avoid.  I managed to get the gist of the spiciness without any of the real fire.

It would have been better with pork, though.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rocky Mountain Adventures, Pt. One

On our recent vacation to Colorado, Joey and I ate what might be considered by some to be too much.  But we were on vacation!  We were allowed to over-indulge!

Because vacations are meant to be relaxing, I didn't make adventuring a priority.  When we went out to eat, I ordered the cheapest thing that I knew I would like.  That's my usual restaurant strategy.  And it's a good strategy.  When we ate the house, I ate whatever I felt like from the large group meals that were prepared (one of ours was a very successful previous adventure!).

Nevertheless, two adventures were had.  One at a restaurant and one at the house.

Let's talk about the restaurant first.  There were fifteen of us, so (to save money) we only ate out twice as a big group.  The first time, we went to a restaurant a few miles from downtown Estes Park.

I picked a pretty safe entree and the table ordered some appetizers.  One of the appetizers was a pretty delicious Hummus.  Joey also put in an order for Spicy Corn Dip.  He's a sucker for anything that says "served with sour cream."

The aforementioned sour cream on top of slightly digested corn--I mean corn dip!


As an appetizer, I was allowed to adventure with very little financial risk.  It did not look particularly appetizing.  But it did look adventurous.  So, knowing I could wash any foul tastes out with yummy Hummus, I sampled the Spicy Corn Dip.

Kind of a disappointment.  Not the adventure I had been mentally preparing for.  It was very mild.  The sour cream immediately balanced out all the spice.  The corn was too sweet for the whole combo of sour cream and mildly spicy.  It was like those pizzerias in the Midwest that will throw corn on your pizza for no additional charge just because it's lying around.

As much as I like corn, there are things I wouldn't pair it with.  This dish either needed more spice (the first time I've ever said/written that!) or no corn.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Pre-Vacation Adventure

Few things are as American as baseball, apple pie, the Ferris Wheel, or barbecue.  So when Joey and I ate out before heading to the Rocky Mountains for more adventures, barbecue seemed a natural choice.  Except that barbecue is scary.

Barbecuing is not grilling.  These two cooking methods are very different.  You grill a hot dog or hamburger.  You don't barbecue them (adding sauce after cooking is not barbecuing).  Grilling is applying open flame to a meat to cook it.  Like pan cooking but without the pan.  Barbecuing is steeping meat in sauce and then applying the smoke of an open flame and some of the heat to cook it slowly for hours till it's so tender it practically falls off the bone.

I can hear your confused cries.  "But that sounds delicious!  Meat so tender it falls off the bone!  How can you possibly go wrong?"

I'll tell you.  It's the sauce.  The sauce is what makes barbecue so scary.  It's also what makes barbecue so popular.  There are so many different sauces.  America has practically a thousand different barbecue sauces.  Most of them involve scary spices such as pepper or mustard.

"But, Kayla," you say, "you have come so far!  Surely a little mustard or pepper doesn't scare you anymore!  This a meal where you don't even need teeth!"

You see this was not a meal I was eating in the comfort of my own home, where I could make another dinner if I didn't like this one.  This was not a meal that I assembled at a fraction of the cost of what I would pay in a restaurant.  I paid to take the L to this restaurant where I paid to eat food that someone else made and, if I didn't like it, I was just going to go home hungry.

Thank God I know I like cornbread and mac and cheese!

I ordered Carolina Pulled Pork.  Joey said I would probably like.  He's known me long enough that I trust his judgement.  Also, I really like pork.

I was nervous when it was brought out to us, and not only because I would be one of those people who takes a picture of their food in a restaurant.  I had gambled a lot of money on this plate.  I really hoped it would good.

It was better than good!  It was delicious!  Carolina Pulled Pork seems to use a lot of brown sugar, and that cuts the bite of any pepper or mustard.  It was super tender and delicious, and I was so glad I ordered it!

I think I can say with confidence that I enjoy Carolina barbecue.  Maybe Kansas City will be next....

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Excuses, Excuses

Here's the part where I make excuses for my lack of posts.

Firstly, I've been watching a lot of Netflix.  A lot of Idiot Abroad, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, and some D- and C-list horror movies.  But that's not my only excuse!

Secondly, I've been eating a lot of salads and stir-fries.  Not super adventurous.  Especially now that I kind of love green peppers.  (In fact, they were in every meal I had yesterday!  Talk about progress!)

Thirdly, it has been outrageously humid this whole week.  Chicago has been itching for a giant thunderstorm since at least Monday.  The forecasts have predicted rain every day.  We've had about two itty-bitty little rainstorms.  Nothing to really break the humidity.  Last night, it finally stormed.

What we've all been waiting for.

Humidity doesn't sound like it should be such big deal.  But in a house with a gas stove and no central air conditioning, it means you're not going to be doing a lot of cooking.  Most adventurous meals happen to be hot meals.

Next week, it should be less humid.  Hopefully I'll be able to adventure then.  And less lazy....

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Adventures in Westeros

I have a new found respect for women who existed before modern appliances.  (And I say "women" because the home/kitchen has traditionally been the woman's sphere of influence.)  I don't know what I'd do without a crock pot.  Especially if I had small children to take care of.  There's a reason I make cupcakes when I babysit and not soup.

But, yesterday, I did make a soup.  I also made a dinner pie and lemon cakes.  Because, yesterday, we had a Game of Thrones party.  And I own A Feast of Ice and Fire.  (The authors' blog is here!)

We feasted on Bowls of Brown, Medieval Cheese and Onion Pie, and Elizabethan Lemon Cakes.

Joey and I decided on the dishes together.  However, I had the final okay on the menu because I'm the pickiest.

There is an insane amount of meat under those apples and carrots!

Bowls of Brown involve pretty much every type of meat imaginable.  It's rumored in King's Landing that sometimes they fill the bowls with a bit of human meat.  I used pork chop bits, beef ribs, top round bits, chicken thighs, and a whole Cornish game hen.  It was delicious.

I also made the pie dough myself.  I was feeling very domestic yesterday.

The only dish I had any qualms about, the Cheese and Onion Pie called for 4 onions.  That's a lot of onions.  I'm getting better with onions, but I still wouldn't choose to eat them.  At least, I wouldn't choose to eat them a year ago.

The recipe also called for cheese (obviously), fresh herbs, 8 eggs (I know, right?), and dried currants.  I love dried currants.  In fact, dried currants were the reason I okayed this recipe for our feast.

When I tried the Cheese and Onion Pie, I was very prepared to hate it.  The onions had been cooked enough to be a bit soft, so they didn't have a bite to them.  The cheese was very light and helped play up the sweeter notes of the onions.  But the best part was easily the currants.  They plumped up during the baking and were little pearls of concentrated sweetness.  Delicious!  They helped make this my dish of the night!

A little bigger than they were supposed to be....

The Lemon Cakes were also delicious.  The lemon flavors were much more subtle than modern lemon desserts.  My completely unresearched guess is that lemons were not easy to come by in Elizabethan England.  So maybe they flavored lemon treats a bit more sparingly.  The lovely people at the Inn at the Crossroads would probably know better than me.

The main courses of our feast!

The citizens of King's Landing definitely know how to eat like royalty.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Adventures in Etiquette

I work with two very lovely people.  We share an office and a love of eating.  Recently, one of my coworkers made pasta salad for our little office.  I was super excited because I love mozzarella cheese.  But I was also nervous because her pasta salad had olives and grape tomatoes as well.

Raw grape tomatoes.  I've come around to cooked tomatoes, but raw is an entirely different story.

So colorful!  But I only eat half of the foods pictured.

I figured I could get away with not eating the olives.  Olives are a controversial food.  It's pretty acceptable to dislike them.  However, most people like tomatoes.

So I ate maybe a third of the tomatoes.  And I hated them.  But the big old hunks of mozzarella made up for the grossness of the tomatoes.  And the fact that I even ate that many tomatoes is a testament to my need to be polite.  I didn't want my coworker to see me eating her pasta salad and think that I didn't like it.

I'll give raw tomatoes another chance sometime in the future.  I'll try them in a salad filled with other things.  Maybe I'll try them again this summer.

I think I'm going to need at least a year to work up to olives.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Brits and Jim Beam

As someone of legal drinking age, I enjoy legally drinking.  I enjoy vodka, gin, wine, hard cider, and schnapps.  In the past couple years, I've really come around to beer.  But I cannot stand bourbon, whiskey, scotch, or Tennessee sippin' whiskey.  They are gross.

But I had a whole bunch of pork belly to cook up.  And this lovely recipe from the BBC for Bourbon-Glazed Pork Belly Chunks.  It's British, I'm American.  I had to adore it unquestioningly.  It's what Americans do!  The British have never made mistakes!!

So I went to my beloved 7-Eleven and bought the smallest bottle of Jim Beam they had.  And I baked my pork in bourbon.  And I made a bourbon-honey-ketchup glaze.  And then I continued to bake my pork in bourbon and covered in the bourbon-honey-ketchup glaze.  And I thought, "I'm going to be so pissed off if this ruins my delicious pork belly."

Then the timer went off for the final time.  I took the pork out of the oven.  I set up a little dish of sour cream because the Brits said so.

It looks beautiful.  But we all know the Brits can be quite deceptive.  You could also ask Native Americans.

First, I decided to try the pork belly on its own.  I loved it.  In fact, I wish I had more than the five pieces right there!  The bourbon was almost drowned out by the honey and soy sauce.  Combined with the ketchup, it tasted like a sweet barbecue sauce.

Barbecue flavors are not something I expect from the people who sell Tangy Cheese and Cool Original Doritos.  And barbecue flavors are not usually something I enjoy.  But with the sweetness of the honey (and the fact that bourbon is sweeter than my true nemesis whiskey), it was a very soft barbecue taste.

Then, I thought, "Well, the BBC said I should eat it with sour cream."  So I tried it with sour cream.  Even more delicious!  The sour notes of the cream combined in perfect harmony with the somewhat sweet bourbon glaze to make a ying-yang of absolute tastiness in my mouth!

I just need to remember to hold off making this recipe again until my un-air-conditioned kitchen isn't 80 degrees.  This is a recipe for a cooler night.