This past weekend I spent a considerable amount of time in the kitchen. Truth be told, that’s about my favorite place in the whole wide world. I’m not so sure why I like cooking so much. Maybe it’s the thrill I get when the people I’m feeding are so enthusiastic about the food they are eating. Maybe it’s just because I like to eat. Anyway, that’s a topic for another day I think. I wanted to talk about some of the things I did this past weekend.
Saturday we were going to have some friends over (which was derailed by the little snow storm we had) but I had most of the items already working in various forms before they cancelled so we ended up enjoying some of the items anyway.
I planned to make spring rolls as an appetizer for our meal, mostly because I was curious about them and I wanted to see how hard they were to make on my super scientific difficulty scale. Seriously, I was shocked how easy they were to make. They took some prep work, and some tedious work with phyllo (fillo) dough (however you spell it), but they were fun to make and super tasty.
During my college days I worked at the campus cafeteria and one of our most enjoyable tasks was to make all the crab rangoon for the Chinese diner on campus. (other great tasks consisted of cutting up 50 lb sacks of onions, making bacon bits and bread crumbs and slicing steaks. Ok, that last one was OK because we took some home, but the rest were horrible. If you are cutting up that many onions your hands will stink, even if you are wearing 8 pairs of plastic gloves. Trust me.) You wouldn’t think making crab rangoon would be that bad, until you had to make about 1200 of these little suckers. It took two people 4 hours each to make them all. But, that must have given me some good practice because I didn’t have much trouble whipping up these spring rolls. Even better, since the company didn’t come they are safely stored in the freezer for retrieval the next time I make up a stir fry. Oh boy!!
I would recommend two sheets of dough for the rolls though as one is a little flimsy.
Notice the lovely Tupperware in the picture? I don’t even know where that came from. Is that yours Mom? If it is let me know and I’ll make sure to make a note in my will so you can have it back when I die.
That same day we ended up having soup for dinner because that was on the stove to serve to the company. It was a Latin Chicken soup. I don’t have a picture, but it was a pretty good soup. I wouldn’t say it was the best ever, but we liked it well enough. The recipe did call for Cilantro though and that was a little bit of an overpowering flavor in the soup. I think it came from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, as did the spring rolls recipe.
Then our power went off for a while.
On Sunday we had soup again, only this time it was Italian Wedding Soup (follow link for recipe and a Midwest version of the Soup Nazi). I cut the recipe way, way down and didn’t add any escarole, but this soup was quite good. The Parmesan cheese the recipe calls for added some great flavor and we even put some freshly grated Parmesan on top in each bowl. The boys really liked it so that’s a good sign. Of course, any chance for them to eat crackers is one that they are very enthusiastic about. Not to mention it was really easy to make. I had previously frozen meatballs and homemade chicken stock so I just put those in the pot to heat up. After they simmered for a while I added the cheese and eventually the noodles. It was quick and easy.
At the same time the soup was working over on the stove I was getting some preparations ready for a second attempt at bread making.
I decided this time to follow a fairly simple white bread recipe in the cookbook/manual that came with my mixer. I did mix in a little whole wheat flour though, what the heck. Bread came out pretty good. Still not perfect but quite an improvement over the previous one.
One difference this time is that I added the right amount of yeast. Yes, upon further research it appears that last time I shorted the yeast by roughly half. (Perhaps explains why there was not a lot of rising in the bread.) I also used my handy dandy thermometer to measure the water for the yeast and to measure the internal temp of the bread and removed them from the oven when they hit about 195.
They turned out with a lot less crust and more spongy. And we ate them warm with some fresh butter I made. Man, that is some good eats. They were still a little too crusty and dense, but we haven’t had a problem eating them. I perused the King Arthur Flour website yesterday and they had even more tips about baking successfully so it should be even better this weekend. (Incidentally, if you live in the Cedar Rapids area King Arthur is putting on two bread making seminars tomorrow, one from 12-2 (yeast, sweet and whole wheat breads) and one from 7-9 (artisinal breads). I’ll be attending those, probably the only guy there, and learning even more. Now registration required and they’re free too!! I LOVE free. They are at the Longbranch Convention/Meeting room on Twixt Town road.)
And yes, I did use a parenthesis inside a parenthesis. Deal with it.
Sorry for the long post.