Sunday, January 10, 2016

All The Food I Cooked Over Break

Our university gives us a week of paid leave in December, and when I'm not traveling during that time I usually make a lot of grand plans that end up falling by the wayside as the luxury of being able to lay around the house and not interact with other people for days at a time becomes comforting, routine, and hard to snap out of. Seriously, not talking to another person for more than three days can be much more exciting than I ever imagined. When I was in high school we took those career aptitude test things a few times, and one of the times it told me I should look for "solitary professions", and actually offered "lighthouse keeper" as an example. At the time I was like, "That sounds so depressing", and now I'm like, "But the lighthouse has internet and gets Amazon Prime shipping, right?"

Anyway, my plans this time were somewhat more modest:

1) Meet daily step counts. Done!

2) Buy a new TV. Still not done! I went to the store, was overwhelmed by options, realized I needed to do more research, did the research, and then never went back for the TV.

3) Go new look at new cars. Still not done! Haven't even started!

4) Cook a bunch of recipes I had written down on my notepad. Done!

Over the weeks leading up to the break, I started thinking about Christmas dinner and Christmas dessert, and making notes of potential recipes. Then the week before break I won an electric fondue pot in our office non-Christmas December break season party Sneaky Snowman not Dirty Santa gift exchange, and decided that I wanted to use that, too, but that I didn't want to have fondue for Christmas dinner. With that in mind, I decided to start my week of break with...

Cheddar and Chorizo Fondue

I did not use a recipe for this, because I still had most of a giant brick of Velveeta left from the Velveeta Fudge Experiment. (FYI: Do not make the Velveeta fudge, no matter how many people tell you they always do. After a few days, it developed an oily sheen, and a day after that it began to discorporate into strange components.) Despite the common practice of microwaving Velveeta and Rotel as a dip, I was concerned about using it in the fondue since I remember from the macaroni and cheese that Nikki made out of it on Top Chef Chicago that once it stops being liquid it locks up into a hard solid, but I decided to add milk, a little corn starch, and some regular cheddar to it and hope for the best:

Fondue (1)

With the cheese slowly melting, I got to work on browning the chorizo:

Fondue (2)

and cooking it down to small, browned nuggets:

Fondue (3)

This wasn't the brand of chorizo that I usually use, but was on sale. Next time I will switch back to the other stuff, because it cooks down to a better texture. Regardless, I stirred in my finished chorizo, diced half a loaf of bread, drizzled the cubes with olive oil and fresh ground pepper, toasted them on low heat under the broiler for a few minutes, and enjoyed an evening of fondue in front of a movie.

Fondue (4)

Later in the week, I used the leftover fondue as the sauce for cheddar and chorizo macaroni and cheese, and then used the rest of the loaf of Italian bread to make mini pizzas, to eat alongside...

Ina Garten's Pea and Fennel Soup

This was super easy, and I will definitely make it again. The cashier at the grocery store was confused as to what my bulb of fennel actually was, having never seen one before, but I was equally confused the first time I used fennel, and we spent most of the transaction with me explaining what it tastes like, how you prepare it ("Usually you chop it up and only use the white part for cooking and sometimes the fronts for garnish"

Pea and fennel soup (2)

), and what I was going to do with this piece. The answer was that I was going to chop it up, cook it down with a diced onion:

Pea and fennel soup (1)

add peas and stock:

Pea and fennel soup (3)

then puree the hell out of it, add crème fraiche, and serve it alongside mini pizzas with artichoke hearts and prosciutto:

Pea and fennel soup (4)

It was so good.

Coasting through the week on leftover soup and leftover chorizo mac and cheese, I got ready for Christmas dinner by making dessert the night before...

Jelled Holiday Nog

I've wanted to make the Jelled Holiday Nog since I saw it on the far left of this photo:

topaz parfait (4)

in The New Joys of Jell-O cookbook. My friends reacted with predictable horror when I explained that I was making Jelled Holiday Nog, but I explained that it may not be as frightening as it sounds, because it doesn't contain any actual dairy:

Jelled nog (3)

Nope, it's just a collection of powders:

Jelled nog (1)

mixed and cooked with water:

Jelled nog (7)

and prepared Dream Whip topping mix:

Jelled nog (4)

plus extracts and more powders and then combined:

Jelled nog (8)

to make a big bowl of Jelled Holiday Nog:

Jelled nog (2)

Once it set overnight in the refrigerator, gelling (or Jelling, if we want to stay on-brand), I scooped some out:

Jelled nog (5)

and had a taste:

Jelled nog (6)

Everyone who likes eggnog should make Jelled Holiday Nog for every Christmas for the rest of their lives. It is a gallon sized bowl of pudding that tastes like eggnog, and it is delicious. Even better, you can make it any time of year when you have an eggnog craving. It also made a nice complement to my Christmas dinner...

Slow Cooker Sweet Fire Chicken

I saw this recipe in a Buzzfeed post (I follow Buzzfeed Food on Facebook) and was intrigued by how easy it sounded and how good the photo looked, even though I know online photos of food are not to be trusted unless I or someone I know who is not a food stylist took them. I was slightly concerned about using a sauce that called for corn starch to thicken it after I had a little bit of trouble that one time, but I figured I could just be more careful this time and everything would be fine.

And it was!

I diced up my chicken:

Fire chicken prep (2)

gutted and diced a red pepper:

Fire chicken prep (1)

and added them to the slow cooker with a can of pineapple chunks:

Fire chicken prep (3)

and a sauce that seemed to have quite a bit of pepper flakes in it:

Fire chicken prep (4)

and ignored it for the day. Later I finished the sauce, made some rice, and served it up:

Fire chicken (1)

and it was delicious. As promised, though, it was very spicy, especially since I added extra chili pepper to mine.

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