Gingerbread mischief

December 10, 2011 at 17:54 | Posted in Desserts, Experiments, Tried and True | Leave a comment
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This is Rapunzel's Tower!

Hansel and Gretel caused a cranky old woman to come to a bad end by enjoying a life-size gingerbread house. Despite the bad precedents, gingerbread houses are a traditional holiday food craft enjoyed by many modern Americans.

This is my favorite. It appears to be from Alice in Wonderland.

The smell of spices is an olfactory hit of holiday nostalgia, taking many of us back to childhood and rolling out gingerbread dough, using Lifesaver candy as windows, and an abundance of frosting to hold the thing together.

Every December the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner hosts a Gingerbread House Contest. The community embraces the opportunity to display their creativity with candy, frosting, baked goods, and an abundance of patience. Thematically most embrace the holidays, though some are simply exercises in imagination.

A delicious Mt. St. Helens.

I love judging. I have been known to look down my nose at things like gingerbread house kits, but they are a good idea for the family that isn’t comfortable in the kitchen, but wants to participate in a tradition.

This is a storybook castle. Regular. Run of the mill awesome.

Why didn’t I enter the competition with an Occupy North Pole offering?

Maybe next year.

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I’m never gonna go back to Ohio!

November 30, 2011 at 23:49 | Posted in Desserts, FAIL | 1 Comment
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Jason Robert Brown wrote a musical several, several years ago called The Last 5 Years. I’m currently (again) very into the song A Summer in Ohio. The lyrics are set to a bouncy tempo and describe the female protagonist’s hellish 90 days in Ohio. Again. It paints a picture of disappointment (and paying dues) as she sings about all the things she could be doing instead of spending time in the O-H (I-O).

Ultimate noms about to occur.

Anyway the connection is the lyric, “I guess I’m doing something right. I finally got something right.”

Again, the food connection?

I think about all the failures I’ve done in the last several months and how they taught me to succeed and that they weren’t failures. Just steps along the learning curve.

Unlike the little turtle friend I believe the best is still yet to come. In life and cooking.

Here’s a recipe for thumbprint cookies. They’re a fine christmassy treat and this recipe relatively modifiable. You’ll see various photos of my successes with these cookies flip across the banner up to sometimes.

Another turkey endeavor

November 25, 2011 at 13:20 | Posted in Main dishes | Leave a comment
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Look at that saucy bird. She'll give it up for anyone.

This Thanksgiving I took on the herculean task of making the turkey. Herculean you question? Roasting a turkey breast is slightly different than roasting a full turkey. For one thing, there’s a bag of disgust to remove from said turkey. If you follow me on twitter you may have followed my follies of the day.

I got up super early and unwrapped the bird in the sink, for obvious reasons, and threw the damn thing in the oven.

This turkey has a leg malformation. Or a skin tag. You can see the lines from the roaster from where I did the flip.

And hour later I got up and checked on it. Baste, flip, baste.

Flip you say? Flip? This is a turkey. Not a pancake.

Well in my stupor of morning-time I loaded the turkey in, what I perceived to be, facing the wrong way. Roasting your bird upside down may seem like a first-timer blunder, but it’s actually catching on as a popular method to keep the moisture in.

It turned out really well except that the thighs weren’t completely cooked after 4 hours (which, for a 12 pound turkey should be ample time to cook). So we ate the breast while the rest finished up in the oven.

Feeding on percussion

November 22, 2011 at 12:44 | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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This has nothing to do with food. I made this as an in-class project. I think it’s very cool.

I don’t want to work. from Nikki Withington on Vimeo.

A greasy mess

November 19, 2011 at 17:50 | Posted in FAIL | 4 Comments
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I ordered a pizza. Bad call.

Since I live in the tundra there are very few food delivery options (Chinese and Pizza) and I didn’t want to cook. And I was out of microwave meals. And I felt sick. And lazy.

In order to maintain my hate/hate relationship with the phone, I ordered online. About 45 minutes later, my pizza was here.

Ham, pineapple and tomatoes. Yum!

Yuck.

I turned against pizza at some point. It used to be yummy and tasty, but now it’s greasy, carb loaded, sugary and sprinkled with pestilence.

Well not pestilence.

Grease oozes from the melted processed cheese, low quality sauce lays upon an average crust and it’s usually undercooked.

Why did I waste my money?

Does anyone else just despise pizza but still ingest it? Is it a habit?

It always seems like a good idea. But I don’t like it. I think I do, but I don’t.

Ne’er shall I bake it.

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Another entry brought to you via the WordPress app.

Crust 3.14

November 17, 2011 at 09:35 | Posted in Desserts, Pies | Leave a comment
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Truth be known I tend to buy my pie crusts since this is kind of involved, but it does work. This entry is also brought to you entirely via the WordPress app. We’ll see how that goes.

Delicate, flaky, flavorful pie crust. One that is intact enough to support and hug its filling, but light enough dissolve when eaten.

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Noms.

Soggy, tough, doughy, and ick pie crust.

Not noms.

With a bit of practice, and a bit of knowledge, most people can achieve a good pie crust. Not all people, but most.

The enemy of a perfect crust is gluten, aided and abetted by it’s sidekick water. Gluten is found in wheat and other grains, and it is formed when the flour is mixed with water. Gluten formation with bread is a good thing. With pie crust, not so good. Water makes it possible for gluten to exist, much like without the Joker there would be no Batman.

Were Batman a chemical reaction some are allergic to.

The friends of a perfect crust are vodka and lard or vegetable shortening.

I prefer shortening because I have a thing with the term lard.

I know that combining vodka and shortening sounds like a hazing ritual for a fraternity, but trust me, they are key to preventing the formation of gluten and making sure your pie crust is a delicious piece of Gotham City. Or Heaven.

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Some science:
Vodka, a liquid, and depending on your brand, tends to be about 60% water and 40% alcohol. The moisture of the water and alcohol together make the dough workable, but the alcohol boils off in the baking process, stopping the formation of gluten, and allowing your crust to be the best it’s ever been. It turns out that having liquor on hand while cooking is not just to mix it at Thanksgiving.

Who knew?

Experiment with flavored vodkas. Making a Lemon Pie? Use Lemon vodka. Making a Chicken Pot Pie? Peppar or Ginger could be the way to go.

This advice coming from a self-proclaimed terrible baker may not be what you call “credible” but it’s a well-known secret. If that’s possible.

Get in the kitchen and make me a… Part 2

November 10, 2011 at 14:27 | Posted in Desserts, FAIL, Pies | 1 Comment
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So here it is finally. The pie slide show. Sorry I’m a little late.

I mentioned in a previous entry that I made this pie because I was thinking about my Grandma. She recently fell and broke her hip into 3 pieces. She’s had surgery and is now in physical therapy.

Here's a picture of Grandma with my mom when she was small.

I think she’s having a rough time with it. She doesn’t really want to do the physical therapy. They’re trying to make her build up her upper body strength.

Anyway! The pie. My mom has a good recipe for egg custard, but I always misplace it. If I searched my email long enough I might find it but I just used the one from here. My grandma is important to me and even though I can’t be with her while she’s doing this, I am thinking about her and praying for her recovery.

The pie didn’t turn out very well. It was OKAY but not amazing. I should have asked my mom for the recipe. For shame Nikki.

I hear you’re easy.

November 9, 2011 at 19:54 | Posted in Main dishes, Tried and True | 7 Comments
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How do you eat your eggs? Or do you eat eggs? Some people are really funny regarding that. My husband likes them over easy which, to me, is pretty gross but I learned to cook them that way just for him. Next up is learning to poach so I can make true carbonara.

I didn't make this but it illustrates the fluffy way eggs should look. Like fabulous hair on this complete breakfast.

I like to scramble my eggs for breakfast time. Or dinner time. There’s a lot of argument, between friends, about the best way to scramble eggs. I maintain that adding milk to the eggs and beating them before you put them in the pan is the best. A medium heated, slightly greased pan cooks the milk out as you stir, with a fork, the eggs while they’re in the pan. This leaves them fluffy, yellow and pretty. In my opinion this also makes them perfect for omelette-izing. I picked up this tip from my mom. Maybe I’m biased.

Don’t leave them cooking alone! They’ll burn and be yuck. I’ve found that foods, like most people, needs constant baby sitting while it’s working towards a final goal.

Quick, easy fluffy eggs are a great protein source.

This entry is brought to you by the letter E, the number 2 and The Incredible Edible Egg.

Solving the sausage gravy secret

November 5, 2011 at 15:38 | Posted in Experiments, Main dishes | 3 Comments
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A biscuit cutter is one of the most useless kitchen gadgets ever. I just use a glass.

I grew up in South Carolina. We didn’t get much, if any, snow there. Black ice sure, but not snow. Since I’ve been here in the interior of Alaska, land of snow, I’ve been learning that the comfort foods for a snowy day are always warm, usually edible with a spoon and often cream or milk based. Sausage gravy fits all these categories so I affectionately deem it: comfort food. I’ve been working on trying to make sausage gravy for awhile.

Biscuit dough is not sticky like yeast roll dough. See how there's none stuck to the bowl? Damn right.

I know what you’re thinking–Gravy is so simple! How is she screwing this up? (In my defense I want to point out that screwing up is much easier than getting it right. It’s also how you learn! Especially in cooking. Everything isn’t always spelled out in the recipe.) I feel like it’s always simplest things that can go the most wrong.

The biscuits turned out pretty. I like when they look sort of spotty like this.

I screwed this up all last winter, much to the chagrin of my husband. I sent him an email today about the damn gravy because, finally, I figured it out. WINNING! It seems that the key to it all was putting the flour directly onto the meat, stirring it up and then adding the milk. Finding a recipe (which is linked above) that explained it to me in a way I understood was great. Thank you corporate America. This is a revelation to me. Sort of like when I figured out the Quaker Oats man was a Quaker and not a pilgrim. What a day that was.

Yum sausage gravy. I don't know how some places make it off white. Maybe they use more milk. Another mystery.

I made the biscuits from scratch. Biscuits really are so easy that even I haven’t been able to really mess them up. I thought about just buying some canned ones, but I gave in. I used Paula Deen’s recipe from the Food Network. I did not use her 1/2 cup of butter she called for though. I used butter flavored Crisco. Crisco makes better biscuits. This is my belief.

Biscuits and gravy are one of my favorite foods. I’m pleased I can finally make them at home. With this entry I’ve earned a trip to the gym. Hello elliptical.

Get in the kitchen and make me a…

October 29, 2011 at 21:35 | Posted in Desserts, Experiments | 1 Comment
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PIE! SANDWICH!

i should be i the kitchen!

Should I?

I don’t need a watch… there’s a clock on the stove!

In other news I made an egg custard pie. I’ve never used that recipe before. I took a ton of photos so I’ll make a snappy little movie to illustrate the endeavor and whether or not it turned out well. My dear husband Joshua does NOT like this pie, but I do. It makes me think of my Grandma because she and I used to go share a slice at the local cafeteria when I was small.

I’ve been a little off my game lately (throwing out a LOT of food) and I aim to fix that with this pie. I hope. I even followed the recipe! I’ll have that movie up on Monday.

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