An Accidental Try-Me-Night: Grilled Artichokeby Angie

12 Mar 2008
2:03 pm

I decided to cook an artichoke for us to share last night to go with dinner, and I did everything I usually do: clipped the prickly ends with kitchen shears, cut off most of the stem, and placed it stem-down in a pot with about an inch of water over medium heat, then lidded the pot to let it steam. Then, I curled up on the couch with my Relief Society manual to work on my lesson.

30 minutes later, I noticed an interesting smell – almost like a charcoal grill. A few minutes later, I realized that it was stronger… Odd. Suddenly, I realized what it must be. I dashed to the kitchen and uncovered the artichoke. There it was, sizzling in a bone-dry pot, with its bottom layer of leaves burnt and curling at the edges. The pot was burned black. I cut off the charred stump at the base of the artichoke and pulled off all the burnt leaves. Nothing else looked damaged, so we still ate it – I really liked it, actually! I thought the flavor was more intense than usual with a little bit of that something else that grilling tends to give things. Jim, on the other hand, didn’t care for it and I guess that’s for the best: if we had both loved it, I’d feel compelled to try it again.

So, what happened? Well, this wasn’t the pot (or lid) that I usually use, because I usually make two or more artichokes at once. I’m guessing that the lid must not be air-tight enough for steaming. As for the pot, well, we’re not sure yet if it’s ruined for good. It’s been scrubbed, soaked, scrubbed again, and now the dishwasher is giving it a go.

Where there’s smoke, there’s… Frisco burgers?by Angie

24 Feb 2008
11:02 am

So, I made Frisco Burgers* for dinner last night. We don’t have an outdoor BBQ grill or a stove-top grill plate, so I used our flat griddle. I make the hamburger patties with 1 part ground sirloin to 1 part ground round or chuck (with no seasoning except salt), which makes for very tender, juicy burgers… however, those cuts are pretty fatty, and on a flat griddle there’s no way for the grease to drain away. Instead, it just sits there getting so hot that it reaches the smoking point and, obviously, starts smoking. A lot.

So, yeah, the smoke alarm went off. It was kind of embarrassing, but we (Jim, Jon, Justin, and I) opened all the windows and turned on the vent over the stove and laughed about it. And then it went off again. So, we turned on the ceiling fan and laughed about it some more. And then it went off again, and I was rolling my eyes instead of laughing. And then it went off again, and I was exasperated to the extreme.

I fully believe in having smoke detectors and I know they save lives – I just wish they had a button labeled, “I know there’s smoke, but it’s only because I’m trying to cook and making a wretched mess of things, so I really wish you would quit screeching and making me feel even more incompetent than I’ve already proven myself to be!”

At least the burgers tasted good.

*For those of you who don’t know what Frisco Burgers are, let me explain this marvelous Hoffman Family tradition: Instead of using hamburger buns, you place your patty and fixin’s between two slices of toasted sourdough bread. Hence the name “Frisco” Burgers, as in “San Francisco” – I have to admit, I didn’t “get” the meaning of the name until we had moved out here to the Bay Area :P

Good Eatsby Angie

6 Feb 2008
10:02 am

I love cooking. I think I’ve loved it ever since I was little and learned to make the best homemade macaroni and cheese in the world with my sister Emily. However, since I was a fairly picky eater growing up, I had a very limited selection of dishes I knew how to make (because, frankly, how silly would it be to cook something I didn’t like?). Going on a mission and getting married did a lot for expanding my culinary horizons, but I think my confidence in experimentation has mostly come from my favorite TV show (really, the only one I watch regularly): “Good Eats.”

“Good Eats” is hosted by Alton Brown – the Bill Nye of the culinary world. It’s all about the science behind cooking, the history of various foods, safety and hardware in the kitchen, and learning methods rather than just recipes. Lots of puns and visual aids make it extra entertaining. Watching this show inspired Jim to try making homemade jam… and now we never buy store-bought because making our own is both cheaper and tastier. When we can find flank steak for a good price, we make Good Eats beef jerky on our homemade drying rig (rather than a dehydrator), which tastes fantastic with no scary chemical preservatives. Even my baked potatoes will never be the same since applying tips from Alton Brown.

Anyway, just to experiment, I’m going to try embedding a video of the Good Eats theme song right in my post. Enjoy!

Try-Me-Night Review: Chiliby Angie

3 Feb 2008
11:02 am

This recipe was a fantastic success! Several weeks ago, the Bradleys invited us over for dinner and served us this chili – Jim and I both loved it so much, I asked Kristyn for the recipe and she had emailed it to me before we even got home. I finally had everything I needed to try it out this week and it turned out great! I doubled the batch, because we were sharing it, but went a little light on the beef and heavier on the veggies. It still turned out meaty and delicious. I used the little “sweet peppers” we found at Costco, which have a great flavor with just a little more heat than regular bell peppers. This week, I also purchased and potted some cooking herbs to keep handy on my porch, so we happened to have cilantro – a favorite of Jim’s – to sprinkle on top. It was perfect for the cold, rainy week we’ve been having.

Try-Me-Night Review: Crock-pot Chicken Enchiladasby Angie

18 Dec 2007
9:12 pm

Becka’s mild chicken enchilada recipe is one I’ve made many times before, but altering it for the crock-pot made it a try-me night. I wanted to try making the enchilada filling in the crock-pot (for those who have Rachel’s crock-pot chicken alfredo recipe, the method is very similar), then rolling the tortillas and cooking them in the oven to finish them off. It actually worked really well, and I felt like it took much less effort on my part. I thought that using all dark meat might make it too greasy (since all the fat would be stuck in the crock-pot as it cooked), so I used a combination of chicken thighs and breasts. The meat was cooked beautifully after four hours on high in the crock-pot! I also warmed up the tortillas before rolling, which made them easier to handle.

Overall, it was a great experiment, and I think I’ll keep doing it this way in the future. Thanks for the original recipe, Becka!

Mikulás Feast (and Try-Me-Night!)by Angie

5 Dec 2007
9:12 pm

Today was wonderful! I spent – literally – most of the day preparing for this evening’s Mikulás Feast. We invited our friends, the Bradleys, to join us and I planned to make five dishes – three of which, I’d never made before! Jim’s favorite part of the traditional feast is the Ham Stack, so I had to go to a specialty meat market this morning to buy ground ham (because a regular supermarket butcher is not allowed to grind both raw and cooked meats). The gentlemen at Kelly’s Meat Market were so helpful and pleasant! Anyway, besides that, I already had all my shopping done, so I could go home and get right to work. Here was our menu:

Our Mikulás FeastA 16-layer Ham Stack – Alternating layers of palacsintas (kind of like crepes) with a mixture of ham in bechamel sauce. I’ve helped with this one in past years, so it was familiar. I made the ingredients and Jim stacked it up.

Voros Kaposzta – Red cabbage, braised in butter & vinegar. Kristyn took over for me on this one and it turned out great! Well, those who like red cabbage thought it was great.

Kathy’s Goulash – Beef in a sour cream red sauce over hot buttered pasta. This is a regular favorite at our house, especially because it cooks in the crock pot all day and is super easy.

Krumpli Nudli – Potato noodles rolled in breadcrumbs. These are a lot of work! I know, I was forewarned . . . but Jim loves them, so I thought I’d give them a try. By the time I was done rolling the noodles, I thought my arms were going to fall off! They tasted wonderful, though, so I’m afraid I’ll be making them again in the future. :)

Hungarian Stuffed Peppers – Bell peppers filled with meat, rice, and aromatics. This was not one of the traditional dishes Jim grew up with, but I wanted to try it. This link goes to the original recipe, but (of course) I played around with it a bit. Instead of ground meat, I used kielbasa (polish sausage) and it was delicious! The recipe also calls for “paprika gravy,” which looked pretty strange to me, not to mention huge…so I changed that a lot. I left out the anaheims, only used 2 cups of beef stock (instead of 6), and a few tablespoons of corn starch (instead of 3/4 cup flour). I ended up with a tangy, creamy paprika gravy that we used on our peppers, with plenty left over. It was also great on the krumpli nudlis, actually.

The Cooks of the Mikulás Feast!

After dinner, Jim read us the Mikulás chaper from Kate Seredy’s “The Good Master.” Kathy will be gratified to know that the very same parts that always make her cry got Jim a tad choked up, too. When he finished, we discovered that Mikulás had left treats in the Bradleys’ shoes, which we had set out on the windowsill! Their two-year-old daughter, Emily, loves toy cars, so that was her present. She played with them while Jim & Justin played Guitar Hero and Kristyn & I played with little Maddie (and chased Emily around). When it was time to go, Emily was pleasantly surprised to learn that she really got to keep the cars and take them home! All in all, it was a wonderful evening. I’m glad our first Mikulás Feast was such a great success!

Try-Me-Night Review: Tuna Casseroleby Angie

30 Nov 2007
9:11 pm

This recipe is familiar to the Hoffman family, but it was the first time I made it myself, so it was a try-me-night for me. I always cut down on salt, so I only added about a teaspoon and a couple of grinds of black pepper…but that was obviously not enough of either of them. I probably should have used twice that much salt and lots more pepper. I also think I overcooked the pasta a bit: I should have remembered to pull it a bit before al dente, since it would cook even longer in the oven.

Besides those things, it was great! I didn’t think I would like the cheese on the top (the first time I had it at the Hoffmans), but I really love it! Medium cheddar adds a good amount of tang without being too sharp.