Packaged Food Oddities

I’m not sure who decided it was a good idea to package these bay leaves with that particular lid, but I’m pretty sure these suckers are getting out through those holes!

Bay Leaves

And, this was a fortune I recently got, last time I went for Chinese. I’ve, uh, never had a cookie hit on me before.

Fortune Cookie

Bizarreness!

Nutella Cookies from Pinterest

Oh hey, it’s been forever since I last posted here. See, January’s kind of a crappy month – I feel lucky if I can manage to get out of bed every day, much less do something productive like writing. Pretty sure it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder, though this hasn’t been confirmed in any medical sense. I got a lamp to try some light therapy, and that plus the fact that it’s almost March means I’m more inclined to actually go do things. Like, I guess, write here.

Anyhow, I’ve got all these blasted pins on pinterest, all of which I’ve added after fully vetting that their linking content is actually a thing I’d realistically try making. Meaning I pin things that look good, have ingredients I’m apt to have around, and don’t look like they’d take too much time. So, along comes this pin for some Nutella cookies, and considering there’s three ingredients, I figured I’d have a go.

Nutella Cookies from Pinterest

I mean, the pin claims they’re the best cookies EVER, so I’ve gotta try making them, right? Turns out I don’t have a cup of Nutella. Cleaned the jar out, and was left with around 2/3 cup. But, you know, Nutella’s pretty powerful stuff, so I decided to wing it. Added the egg and the cup of flour, and added a second egg for a bit more liquid – figured the egg would just make them a bit more fluffy.

Tried sprinkling some powdered sugar on top in that sorta lazy “don’t feel rolling these into balls and powdering them the proper way” kinda manner.

Unbaked Nutella Cookies

Baked for 7 minutes, and took them out when they had that “I kinda want to leave them in a bit longer but know that if I do, they’ll be super hard” look to them.

Nutella Cookies

So yeah, they weren’t too bad. Nice and soft, and remained soft even after cooling. Not too sweet either. At the same time though, nothing too special. I suppose it’s a drawback of a recipe with three ingredients, you can sort of imagine what the flavor of those ingredients combined would be. They were, well, Nutella in cookie form. Not as intense as they’d be if I’d used the whole cup, of course, and a bit fluffier than in the pinned photo thanks to that second egg.

These reminded me of a recipe for peanut butter cookies I made back in the day with two ingredients, peanut butter and sugar. Which seems awesome on the one hand cause, hey, two ingredients, how simple is that? But the resulting flavor is also just that – simple. Think I prefer to put the extra effort out there to get a cookie with more complex flavor. Like, in terms of a Nutella cookie, I bet some variety of sugar cookie with straight Nutella as filling would be a bit more pleasing than these. Actually, I bet these would be great for kids, come to think of it. Kids don’t really seek out complex flavors (some are actively turned off by them) and in terms of a baking project, three ingredients is about as kid-friendly as you can get.

So I finally made some minestrone soup

minestrone soup

I’ve been wanting to make minestrone soup for awhile now, actually. I eat the Campbells canned version on occasion, and while I enjoy it, it’s really salty and I figured homemade would be better. I’ve also been known to enjoy Olive Garden minestrone, so I figured that would be a good starting off point. And thus I found this imitator recipe to try.

Since I have a slow cooker that I try to use for as many things as possible, I decided to use the recipe more as a loose set of guidelines rather than following accurately. So, I started by gathering together all of my non-seasoning ingredients into the following pile.

ingredients

I didn’t really use exact proportions, but to summarize, here’s the above ingredients in list form:

-Can o’ kidney beans
-Can o’ diced tomatoes
-olive oil (used a few dollops of it)
-a mix of pinto and northern white beans
-some leftover broth (which was still in the process of unfreezing when this photo was taken)
-cilantro (the recipe didn’t call for it, but I had it, so hey)
-green beans
-onion
-zucchini
-celery
-carrot

One of the reasons I deviated a bit from the recipe here is also because my slow cooker isn’t particularly large, and there were a great number of plants that needed to be shoved in there. So, when chopping up the vegetables I just used my best judgement as to how much to use, so proportions would be even and such.

chopped vegetables

And, for fabulous efficiency everything went straight into the same pot.

pot

While the recipe called for basil and parsley, turned out I had neither. Luckily I’d added fresh cilantro earlier, and I also swapped in rosemary as well. They’re similar, right? Right?!?

seasonings

So, I guesstimated when adding all of those in, and cranked up the slow cooker to go, setting it on high for 2 hours and 50 minutes.

slow cooker

The shells would come in near the end. The advantage of adding the shells in later (aside from the obvious “no ginormous squishy shells” benefit) is that any seasoning can be adjusted at that time, since the shells will still need to cook in there for another 30 minutes anyhow. This is especially important with salt, as I have a habit of putting in far less salt than I actually want due to trying to avoid putting in too much salt!

soup!

Anyhow, the resulting minestrone soup was pretty good. I’m glad for the variety of beans, and the seasonings seemed to work themselves out well. Also, while the soup cooked, it made the apartment smell like the inside of a Subway for some reason. Bonus? Next time I think smaller shells might work out better – I only had medium ones and went with that. I could also see the addition of potatoes to this being tasty as well.

Whereupon I have a little pumpkin with my onion, in soup form

So I bought this pumpkin awhile back. Initially, for Halloween-related decor purposes, but with the ultimate intent of baking that sucker and eating its innards in various formats. This was successful, and I ended up with 8 cups (i.e. 4 cans) of pumpkin innards, ready for the using. Thus, I’ve been exploring new and exciting ways of making things out of pumpkin.

I’m pretty sure I’ve had pumpkin soup before, and I’m pretty sure I liked it. So, I decided since it was getting cold, it was also optimal soup-making season. So I found this pumpkin soup recipe and forged ahead.

So, here’s the basic list of ingredients (not that I completely stuck to it, but we’ll get to that later):

1 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp melted butter
2 cans chicken broth
1 can pumpkin puree
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup heavy whipping cream

The original recipe also had some steps for a crispy soup topping of bread, but I totally skipped that out of laziness.

Anyhow, first up, I had to chop all that onion.

chopped onion

Let’s just say that 1 cup of onion is a rather large amount. This was my first hint of what might become, to be honest. Though, at this point I was assuming that any excessive onioney-ness would be overwhelmed by the spices.

seasonings

So I was supposed to sautee the onion in butter, but I’m a bum and totally didn’t do that. Actually, I sorta made up my own part for the middle of the recipe. Dumped the onions and butter together in a bowl, along with spices. I wanted to make sure the soup had a nice pie ambiance to it, so I went ahead and 1/8 tsp of both cloves and nutmeg along with the other seasonings. Also, I sometimes use strange containers for seasonings (that would be salt on the far right).

pumpkin and broth

I’d recently baked a cornish hen solely with the goal of generating some broth (with the side bonus of having meat left over!) so I went ahead and used that for the broth, guesstimating at the amount of broth (note: I didn’t use all of that broth pictured). I’m pretty sure that 2 cans = 4 cups, but I used a bit less than that from the fear of watery soup. And, that sack to the right would be my bag-o-pumpkin.

Milk & creamer

The recipe called for heavy whipping cream, which I totally didn’t have. However, I did have this delightful pumpkin spice creamer, so I decided to to a “half cup milk, half cup creamer” approach here, and figured the “pumpkin spice” flavor would only help things.

brown sugar

So the recipe didn’t call for brown sugar, but multiple comments on this recipe mentioned that it needed to be a bit sweeter to really work right, and that brown sugar worked well for that. So, I dumped some in – no idea how much though, I just sorta eyeballed it.

So, my basic process of this recipe was – dump most the ingredients into a bowl, then dump into the blender. There wasn’t room for the broth, so I added everything else, pureed, poured the puree into the slow cooker bowl, and then mixed in the broth. I then set this to slow cook for about 3-4 hours, which seemed sufficient.

Soup!

The soup looked, smelled good, had a great texture, and tasted a bit too much like onion. It might be ideal for onion lovers out there, but I was really hoping the onion would be overpowered by everything else involved. Course, I still ate all the soup, so it was good enough I suppose – I strategically ate it for breakfast when my tastebuds are less demanding. However, likely won’t try making this version again. There’s still several bags of pumpkin in the freezer though, and I might try another pumpkin soup – am thinking a curry type soup with coconut milk and NO ONION. We’ll see!

Drew’s Denver Deli is pretty amazing

I’m lucky enough to live near a range of restaurants, and even luckier that some of them are pretty good! Drew’s Denver Deli just opened up about a month or two ago, and is conveniently about 3 blocks away from where I live. And thusly, my new hobby is throwing dollars at them!

flatiron

This would be the flatiron sandwich, with beef brisket, cheddar, carmelized onion, and horseradish sauce, along with everything else you see there. So first off – actual lettuce leafs! Like, romaine lettuce! None of this iceberg crap. The horseradish really brought this sandwich together for me, gave the sandwich a nice kick that balanced out the sweetness of the onions quite nicely.

potato pancakes and corned beef

I had to try this one for the sheer strangeness of it. Titled “Jimmy’s Favorite”, it’s a massive blob of corned beef, with swiss cheese, 1000 Island dressing and sauerkraut, with potato pancakes instead of bread. So, a reuben with potatoes. It was a tad salty, though this was mostly due to the immense volume of corned beef on this sandwich. I’m not normally a sauerkraut person, but with this combination of ingredients it seemed to work out quite well. I definitely am a fan of using giant flappy potato disks as bread, and would love to try more sandwiches that make use of said giant flappy potato disks. They’ve also got a turkey version as well as a falafel version, so this may indeed happen for me.

turkey sandwich

And, as I work my way through the menu at Drew’s Denver Deli, the turkey sandwich will likely be the only sandwich that Chris ever gets. It’s pretty good though, based on the bite I had!

Anyhow, stay tuned for next week or whenever I remember to post next, whereupon I’ll talk about my recent attempts at making pumpkin soup!

I bet you wanna win a NottaTin full of popcorns!

And I totally fell off of the blogging bandwagon, sorry about that! I call it “Vacation + NaNoWriMo Strikes Again!” But, I have something to make up for the looong lack of words on this thing – free popcorn that you can enter to win!

So Rocky Mountain Popcorn sent me a small Nottatin, which is apparently a tin of popcorn except made of cardboard, hence the “notta” part. And, it looked like this!

popcorn!

A fairly big sucker, all things considered. So, I popped it open, and its insides looked like this!

popcorn sacks!

There’s 7 bags inside, 7 different flavors total. I crushed through the white cheddar rather quickly, which was rather tasty, and I rather appreciated that it wasn’t overly salty (which is one thing I often have against eating popcorn). The caramel corn, a bit heavier, is something I’m still working my way through, and that’s pretty good as well. Chris up and crushed the butter popcorn bag, so that’s long gone (and he dubbed it tasty).

I’m still looking forward to trying the cinnamon and sugar popcorn bag, as well as the kettle corn bag – I’m mostly a sweet popcorn eater, after all. From there, there’s also a jalepeno chedder, which I will either eat or trick Chris into eating, depending on how much emphasis is on the “jalepeno” part. And, there’s a plain variety, which I may just cave and drench a bunch of caramel/chocolate over, cause sweet popcorn is tasty.

So anyhow, how’d you like to win a holiday Nottatin chock full of popcorns? The contest is for a full size one (with 15 bags inside), bigger than the small one above! Please leave a comment on this post saying something about how awesome popcorn is. I’ll close the contest at the end of the day on December 9th, and select a winner at random from the comments. Please use an email address you check, as I’ll need to reach out to you for your mailing address!

GB Fish & Chips, and what the heck is “ethnic food”, anyhow?

I’ve been eyeing GB Fish & Chips for a little while now. I drive by it over on Broadway on a regular basis, and I do have a weakness for seafood, as well as deep-fried things. So, we ended up eating there for my recent birthday. Hooray!

mixed fish & chips

They’ve got a range of serving sizes for their fish & chips, which works for those of us whose appetite tends to range. I went for the half serving with fries, which I was unable to finish as I am bad at eating large pile of food, it seems. There’s a bunch of different types of seafood you can get deep-fried, and I went with the combination, which came with a piece of each type (two, in the case of smaller items like scallops). I’m glad I went for the combination, as it was tasty to try the range of fishies, but next time I think I might just get the cod, as the cod was the tastiest of them all.

So something I was thinking about – would GB Fish and Chips be considered “ethnic food?” Google tells me it’s food that a particular racial, national, or cultural group prefers, so I’d say it falls into the category, it would be British Ethnic, right? Meaning that, technically, Thanksgiving dinner, or a burger & fries, would be ethnic food because it’s food that Americans prefer? Would this mean that the only non-ethnic food would be fusion food? Hmmmmm.

Shephard's Pie

Chris went for the shephard’s pie. Even without my awful photography skills, it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing of pies. However, it was pretty darn tasty. The few bites I had contained peas, and I did not mind the peas, which is a good sign, as I generally mind peas. And again, the plate presentation left much to be desired, but it is also already in a “to-go” state, and this is a pretty casual restaurant, so it’s not really something to judge too harshly on, I think.

And, Chris also decided to get fries on the side.

fries

To be honest, the fries were wholly unnecessary. Neither of our entrees got finished as it was, and these poor fries didn’t get finished either. I mean, they were pretty tasty as steak fries go, but it was just way too much food. Anyhow, I want to go back there again sometime soon – the prices are great, and I’m rather curious about the bangers & mash, as well as the pasties. Also, they have a gazillion soccer jerseys decorating the ceiling, which is really neat. Be wary of going on a Friday evening, hover, as seats are tricky to come by!

Angel Food Pineapple Cake = Easiest/Messiest Recipe Ever

So I wanted something quick and easy, and came across this brilliant recipe. Angel food cake, mixed with a single can of crushed pineapple. Two ingredients total, brilliant!

ingredients

I’d never actually made angel food cake before, home or boxed. I’m not sure if it’s the nature of angel food cake, or the addition of the pineapple, but this stuff was crazy foamy!

foamy!

For whatever it’s worth, I suspect I should have used a smaller can of pineapple. Anyhow, I’m feeling a bit questionable regarding this super foamy pile, but I dump it on into the cupcake pans all the same.

foamy cupcakes

There was some extra, so I dumped it into a bundt pan.

So I never considered that, hey, maybe I should grease the pans? For some reason I was thinking the foaminess would somehow make them not-sticky? Big mistake!

cupcakes stuck to pan

So it was mostly the top edges that stuck to the pans, but it was still a serious mess to get out. I had to chip around each cupcake with a knife to get those suckers out. Same with the bundt pan as well. There wasn’t a whole lot to the bundt pan, so that came out pretty thin.

baked items

So, despite the mess, these were actually pretty good. Light and fluffy and super pineappleicious. Next time, I might try to use a smaller can of pineapple though, as well as hefty amounts of grease on the pan!

Lemon Tahini Quinoa With A Crapload Of Things In It

quinoa in bowl

So I got this bag of quinoa awhile back. I was up in the mountains, some town I’ve never been to before, and did some sightseeing. And my souvenir purchase? The bag of quinoa. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Still seems like a good idea, actually.

Think this is just my second time working with quinoa, so I didn’t remember the cooking strategy off the top of my head, but it was fairly easy to find some directions after googling around. It’s a 1/2 liquid ratio (so, 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of water), and you pretty much cook it like rice.

So I decided to make this delightful looking recipe for Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Lemon and Tahini. I totally made my own chickpeas from dried beans, this is my new hobby apparently, and definitely requires overnight commitment. That, or remembering to start slow-cooking the wee guys early in the day.

I totally ignored the quinoa cooking instructions in the recipe, and just made a half cup in the ole rice cooker.

This recipe seemed a bit sparse on the vegetables. And, the comments on the recipe seemed to agree with me. So based on some of the recommendations in the comments, along with what my taste buds and refrigerator recommended, I added these to the bowl of chickpeas:

-chopped green olives
-avocado
-tomato
-cucumber
-green onion
-cilantro
-shaved carrot
-feta (believe this was the only thing that made this salad not vegan, for whatever it’s worth)

plants

So next, you gotta mix together the dressing. I tweaked the recipe a bit, partly because I didn’t have much lemon.

-garlic powder
-2 tbsp lemon
-2 tbsp tahini
-1 tbsp olive oil
-salt
-pepper

Actually, I may have added some bonus tahini, cause tahini is amazing. Whisk all these until mixed.

all ingredients

Mix together the bowl of “dressing” and the quinoa until thoroughly combined.

cooked quinoa

From there you dump in your vegetables, again mixing thoroughly. Then, you’re done.

quinoa salad

This was really freaking good. Probably because the tahini is like 90% fat. Yay fat! Seems most flavorful at room temperature for some reason as well, so for leftovers, I might recommend letting it sit out for a few minutes before eating. Also, one downside of dumping in a gajillion ingredients is that some of those ingredients don’t survive the test of time very well. This mostly means that your cucumber will get a bit mushy, and your avocado will get a bit brown. Still tastes just as good, though!

And, considering the ingredients used here, I’d be very curious as to how it would work if you just dumped a bunch of hummus into some quinoa, and added vegetables.

The best thing about a mutant calzone is that it still tastes like a calzone

I lust after calzones on a rather regular basis. I consider them a comfort food staple. And, after all, cheese is one of the four food groups. Err, I mean, one of those categories in the food pyramid. Err, rather, it’s one of those slices on that pseudo pie chart with the person hustling up the stairs. Annd, dating myself here!

partially eaten calzone

So, I needed to first prepare the dough. I totally was lazy and bought a packet of pizza dough mix from the grocery store.

balls of dough

Pretty easy, I just followed the directions on the box, mixing the dough with water and letting rise for a bit. I initially had visions of making extra calzones to freeze, but a single packet o’ pizza crust wasn’t gonna cut it – I felt lucky that there was enough to make 2 calzones.

So, while the dough was sitting in two balls doing dough-rising things, I got the sauce together.

calzone ingredients

That’s a vague representation of all of the ingredients that came together to make these bad boys. For the sauce, I started with a base of tomato paste from a teeny 50 cent can. I wanted something vaguely resembling homemade sauce, but didn’t really have the patience to fully make homemade sauce, so I figured I’d just use the paste as a base and add crap to it.

boiled tomatoes

So I had a few tomatoes, needed to get the skin off of them for saucy purposes. Boiling tomatoes is the best thing ever if you wanna skin those suckers. They boil for a few minutes and that skin gets super loose, rinse the tomatoes in cold water and slide the skin right on off. So, after that I tossed the tomatoes in a blender, along with the tomato paste, some onion, olive oil, dash of vinegar, bit of sugar, salt, pepper, and a bunch of various Italian herbs.

Oh, and garlic.

garlic

The little one is growing! I totally set that one aside to stick it in a pot and grow a garlic tree or whatever.

Anyhow, I blended up everything in a blender, dumped into a pot, and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes or so until it looked nice and marinara-ey and saucelike.

marinara sauce

So next, the cheese. I had some ricotta I had frozen from the last time I made cheese, so I dumped some of that in a bowl, along with a bag of shredded mozzarella and grated romano, and mixed it all together.

ricotta plus other cheeses

So I went ahead and squashed down a ball of dough onto a pan with my hands. Squished it out until reasonably wide and round, and put down sauce.

calzone with sauce

After snouting around in the fridge for a bit, I settled on pepperoni, spinach, and olives for my calzone ingredients. On a related note, green olives in a calzone are freaking amazing. Though, green olives are freaking amazing in general.

calzone wrapped

So yeah, the dough. It’s been many moons since I’ve made calzones, and for some godawful reason I didn’t think it would be necessary to grease the pan. Well, that dough really liked sticking to that pan. I did manage to get the ingredients more or less successfully covered with the dough, but the end result was…less pretty than I’d hoped. Chris commented that the calzone looked like a Binding of Isaac monster, in fact.

So, yeah, decided to oil the pan for Chris’s calzone. I also gave it a better base layer by doing a layer of pepperoni to start.

pepperoni

After that, some sauce, then some cheese, more pepperoni, and more cheese. Wrapped it up, and this one went much more smoothly. End result looked much nicer, too.

calzone wrapped

So I baked these guys for about 35 minutes or so, until they were nice and burbley.

lumpy baked calzone

So yeah, this one isn’t exactly a pristine looking calzone. Tasted pretty good though. Did I mention that olives are apparently delightful in a calzone? I might add a bit more mozzarella next time, though.

baked with pepperoni

And this one actually looked like a real calzone, which was delightful.

But yeah, apparently when making calzones, it’s important to lubricate. Also, having enough dough. I didn’t like having to stretch the dough to fit the pieces, would definitely rather err on the side of too much dough rather than too little dough!