Grilling Giveaway and No-churn Icecream!

There’s a grilling contest going on over at Coconut and Lime. Winner receives an Ultimate Grilling Spice Pack. Check it out, leave a comment and see if you can be the winner! That’s a pretty good-looking spice collection. Impressive, I say.

Contest: The Ultimate Grilling Spices Gift Pack

In other news, I am a horrible person and should have been blogging by now. But don’t fear! I have excuses.

  1. The Internet is mysteriously non-communicative with my PC. This is not good for my blogging, nor is it good for the online accounting class I’m taking to graduate…
  2. I have been kicked back to half-time at my job, meaning I only have the Internet on Tuesdays, Thursdays and half on Wednesdays. At least until I get the Internet working again.
  3. I haven’t been cooking anything. Bologna and cheese or grilled cheese sammiches for me. I’m still in the process of getting together my apartment so I can live in it. It’s too tiny not to keep it organized.

But! Tonight, I don’t have to get to sleep at a decent hour, because I don’t have to work tomorrow (at least until turn-out tomorrow night). So, when I get done with karate, I’m going by Wal-Mart in search of rock salt, two sizes of Ziploc bags and possible ice-cream flavors. Why, you ask? Because my mother gave me an experimental idea for no-churn icecream. And until I get the Cuisinart icecream maker from her, and that could be a long time coming, no-churn is all I’m going to be making!

Here’s a hint: a Ziploc of icecream inside a Ziploc of ice and rock salt. We’ll see how this turns out, shall we?

Until the next time, friends! (It might be a while!)

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His birthday supper.

(From here on, DB is dubbed 354. So may it be.)

354’s birthday was last Thursday; he turned 24. :) And while he usually has a family get-together, and he did have one, I got the actual birthday. So I felt that supper should be special, being as it was the actual birthday. It took me over a week to come up with the menu, partially from fretting over the meal itself and what I wanted to create, and partially because he’s kind of picky. I didn’t really want to do steak (even though I had a flank steak in the fridge, begging to be grilled), and he raised pigs with his granddaddy, so pork chops seemed like a reasonable choice. He’s going to Mexico on a mission trip next week while I’m home in KY, which reminded me of the two trips to Jamaica he’s made before, so a Carribean theme was in my head. I finally settled on a lime-and-cayenne sort of marinade and set my menu:

  • Thin-cut boneless loin chops, marinated in lime-cayenne and grilled
  • Grilled corn on the cob
  • Baked potatoes
  • Homemade white rolls
  • White chocolate creme brulee

Creme bruleeWhen I started, the dessert was the only thing I’d settled on beforehand, so when I finally had a menu I felt better. I threw the pork chops together the night before and let them settle in the fridge.

When I got home the night of, I let the dog out, changed clothes and went straight to cooking. The brulee was first, since I figured it would have time to set properly while I cooked and we ate. It ended up taking longer than I remembered, probably because I forgot to split the recipe. I ended up making four of them (which wasn’t a bad thing), which kind of threw me off because I don’t have multiple glass dishes for bain-maries. I ended up baking two of them in my usual 9″ square glass dish, and the other two in a 9″ non-stick loaf pan. I was hoping for the best with the loaf pan, because it was the only option I had. It worked, but I won’t be trying it again without having a knife at my throat. The brulees didn’t set as quickly as they were supposed to, but that might’ve also been because of my oven (which I am thrilled to no longer be using, the temperamental thing). In any case, by the time I got the brulees in the oven, it was probably too late to really start the bread, but being hardheaded, I did it anyway. I got it all mixed up and let it sit, covered, on the stovetop. I greased up my potatoes with olive oil, pierced the skins and threw them in the oven on the top rack to do their thing. I don’t like to waste foil or anything like that on veggies; I should’ve left it off the corn and done the same thing I’d done with the corn.

All said and done, I enjoyed cooking the supper for him. He was pleasantly surprised with the tang and heat of the pork chops, and he liked fixing his potato as he pleased. The potatoes were probably my second-rated pride of the supper, preceded only by the brulees. They were soft and fluffy after sitting in the oven for an hour or so, and perfect. I like hot fluffy potatoes.

Raw corn, white and yellow

Corn before being foil-wrapped and buttered. It was good-looking, for grocery corn.

Pork chops, pre-grilling.

Pork chops still sitting in olive oil-lime-cayenne-garlic marinade.

Creme brulee in the oven.

Creme brulee, in the oven and halfway through the baking process.

Finished plate.

A plated meal, ready to be consumed.

Tablescape.

The tablescape, waiting for us to sit down and eat. He brought flowers. They smelled delightful.

Finished creme brulee.

The finished brulee, before going into the fridge to set more completely. Man, they were tasty.

You can obviously serve these when the custard is still warm but we prefer the chill of the set custard and the warmth of the sugar topping. The best part is cracking the sugar top with a spoon after it’s set fully and still warm, then digging out a spoonful of that silky, not-too-sweet but utterly rich and sinful custard and letting it melt on your tongue. It is orgasmic.

Granola – Deux

(I know, I said I was going to replace the previous post with this one. But you know, I decided I liked that post just how it was and so I left it. Nyah.)

Granola ready for bakingThe same night that I made the quiche, I tried my second go at granola, this time using Julie’s Mixed Fruit and Nut Granola recipe as my base. I found it on Tastespotting just a few days before it disappeared. There were several things that attracted me to this recipe, the first thing being the picture of the overflowing pioneer enamelware bowl (they have a real name, I just don’t remember what it is) of granola at the top of the entry. My mother has some of that same dinnerware, except hers are red and not blue, and I love that dinnerware. For some reason, the sound of those plates and bowls clanging together while I was washing dishes was always comforting. And you can’t damage the dang things, either, not like stoneware or ceramic. Another thing was the abundance of dried fruits and nuts (imagine that, in fruit and nut granola). Personally, I like a little crunch and a little softness alternating in my granola. I like more than toasted oats. If I just wanted toasted oats, I’d eat Cheerios. I like some variety in my hippie cereal. And looking through the whole recipe, it looked fairly forgiving, something that I learned to appreciate in Part One.

I did change some things, of course. I used honey instead of mapButter melting in brown sugar mixturele syrup because I don’t like maple unless it’s on my breakfast pancakes or waffles. Or my sausage. I have some local Georgia wildflower honey that I stand by (while I’m in the state, anyway) and it’s very tasty. I didn’t use quite the abundance of nuts that Julie did, because I don’t have that particular abundance of nuts in my house. I had pecans and salted sunflower seeds in the freezer, so I used those. I still used a lot of fruits, because I like them (as aforementioned), but I used golden raisins, craisins, blueberries and cherries. The cherries and the blueberries I was a little iffy about, because I don’t really like blueberries or cherries, but they were in the bag of mixed dried fruit and I figured it wouldn’t hurt me any.

I only made half the recipe, because I don’t really need 12 cups of granola – I don’t eat it that fast. It took me a while to halve the oats, particularly, because I’m special and can’t do fractions anymore without the help of a calculator. I was a little worried about halving it because of the ‘sauce’ – in my experience, sometimes sauces don’t always agree that half the listed recipe is really half, more like a third. So when I was mixing all the dry ingredients together, I was going on faith that the sauce would be enough. Faith was helped by the delicious scent of brown sugar and butter making good friends over heat. All that lovely combination of brown sugar, butter, vanilla, a touch of almond and a little cinnamon and nutmeg was mouthwatering. My spirits soared. Anything that smelled so good couldn’t be a horrible thing, right? There was more honey than canola, so I was sure that I wasn’t going to be bowled over by greasy, burnt oats and nuts by the end. I kept my faith in Julie.

Granola after baking.When I poured it in and started mixing, my faith began to waver, but I kept mixing dutifully. Eventually I felt that I’d done enough mixing and the oats looked coated, so I dumped it all out onto my parchmented sheet. I got a little more confident there, because everything was sticking together nicely instead of just falling out in a flood of oats and pecan pieces. I put it the sheet in the oven and shut the door, building up my faith and mixing up quiche. Every once in a while in my 50 minutes of baking, I checked on the granola, stirred it around, rotated the pan for even baking. It was looking good, so I ignored my negative side and let it go on about its business. When the timer went off, I let the granola go a little longer, taking my time with the quiche. When I finally took it out, it was browned and golden and smelled comforting. I drained and squeezed my reconstituted dried fruits, stirred them in the still-hot granola and pressed it all down to let it cool. While it cooled, I went on about my quiche. I took some of both my creations to work with me the next day.

I was pleasantly surprised with the granola. It was nutty and sweet and salty all at the same time, but each flavor was defined. I’d chew on it a minute and get sweet from the honey and the fruits, and then I’d get a burst of salty from the kosher salt and the sunflower seeds, and overlaying it all was that roasted oat and nut flavor. Nothing overwhelmed anything, but melded together beautifully. The golden raisins and the cranberries were old familiar friends, but I was actually kind of happy with the cherries, too. (I either haven’t caught a blueberry or haven’t been able to taste one.) They were tart and sweet and chewy. I wasn’t expecting to like them. This mix didn’t even take away from the flavor of the yogurt (I prefer vanilla), but complemented it!

Overall, if you can’t tell, I love this version of granola. Julie, my faith was not misplaced – thank you! It even goes well with nonfat vanilla yogurt. In fact, it makes it bearable better! (Ever buy something by mistake in a rush at the grocery? I bought nonfat yogurt.) This is definitely a breakfast, or snack, or anytime staple in my pantry from now on. I’m never going to buy storebought ever again, because I don’t have to! (Now, if I can just find some enamelware of my own for cheap… it’s such a shame that economics works and demand makes prices rise.) I’m going to recommend this recipe to anyone that wants to ask me, because I love it and it deserves recognition.

Now that Part Two was a success, one would think that I would stop. “Your granola search is over,” one would say reasonably. But no! I’m not to be swayed. I may have found a recipe I adore, but who’s to say I won’t find more? Granola, then the world! Onward, I say!

Closeup of pecans in granola.

Granola forthcoming.

Tomorrow morning (or afternoon), I will endeavor to replace this post with “Granola – Part Two.” I’ll go ahead and drop a spoiler: Julie’s recipe did not let me down!

Tomorrow is also DB’s 24th birthday. I get the actual birthday dinner (me for the win!) and his family gets Friday night. I bought some thin-cut boneless pork loin chops, whole yellow and white corn (for grilling in the husk) and I have that buttermilk loaf recipe (that you’ve probably heard enough about already in the last two days). Also, I have a recipe for white chocolate creme brulee, the only creme brulee I’ve ever made (and only the second kind I’ve ever eaten). Can you believe I used to hate anything with ‘creme brulee’ listed on it? For some reason in high school, I thought that creme brulee meant… coffee. Don’t ask me where I got that idea. Sometimes my brain goes ‘flicted. He only knows about the creme brulee; he still thinks I’m cooking him steak. I also need to get some baking potatoes… definitely forgot those at the store today.

But anyway, the whole point of this was to say GRANOLA! Tomorrow! Pinky promise!

Asparagus and onion quiche.

Last night was a delightfully progressive evening – I went to karate and got a wholly cleansing ass-kicking workout (I was the only ‘low belt’ there, and the only one in a white gi), then came home still on my adrenaline high and went to cooking. I knew I had to do something with the asparagus, and I knew I wanted to make a quiche. (The granola actually went through the baking first, but that’s another post.) Quiches are cheap to make (eggs and whatever else you want? c’mon!), practically foolproof and they look ridiculously elegant. They don’t have to have a crust, and if they do, it’s basically cook’s preference as to what crust it is. They can be sweet or savory, large or tart-sized. They’re great and awesome little creations and if you don’t like them, you can suck my toe. (Or not, ’cause that would be weird.) And I’ve discovered a lot of people who say they don’t like quiches, but they’ll eat breakfast eggs with unpardoned abandon.

Off my soapbox. Onto the quiche.

This recipe was adapted from The Big Book of Easy Suppers: 270 Delicious Recipes for Casual Everyday Cooking by Maryana Vollstedt. I don’t use this cookbook as much (probably pureply for the fact that all my cooking lately has been either adapted from Better Homes and Gardens cookbook or from recipes I’ve printed), but whenever I do look up a recipe in it, I’ve never been disappointed. Vollstedt’s recipe was for a crustless spinach quiche, and while I am a fan of the classic spinach, I had asparagus. And I was damn well going to use it.

On the way home from karate, I stopped off and got some extra groceries: your average-joe pie shells, gouda, shredded Parmesan and a ball of fresh mozzarella. I had some sweet Vidalias pouting at me at home already, eggs in the fridge and the poor pitiful asparagus. I’m not a big fan of crustless quiche – in my experience they can be messy and kind of unwieldy, especially as leftovers, so I stuck with frozen pie shells. Besides, one less dish to wash, right?

The whole dish was kind of a fly-by-your-seat deal, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. I grilled the asparagus and sautéed the onions before I ever whisked anything up, which was a little hasty of me, but the asparagus was a tasty snack while I was mixing and making. And onions sautéed in butter with a little salt – is there a better smell in the kitchen? I tell you what, it’s one of my favorite kitchen smells, as listed:

  1. Olive oil heating up slowly.
  2. Garlic browning in olive oil and a little butter.
  3. Sweet onions sweating and browning in a touch of butter.

I’ll add more to that list later. Anyway, I grated half the moz and the Gouda, so I ended up with about 1½ cups of cheese all told. I thought about whisking the onions and asparagus in with the rest of it, but ended up just topping the egg mixture because I was afraid of the veggies sinking too far. Maybe next time I’ll fold half of it all in and see what happens. As it is, I thought using it for topping made it quite attractive.

Grilled Asparagus and Onion Quiche

adapted from The Big Book of Easy Suppers by Maryana Vollstedt

cooking time: about an hour

ingredients:

small bunch of asparagus (10-13 stalks)

1 small or ½ a large sweet onion

2 large eggs

1 c cottage cheese

½ c (ea) shredded Gouda, mozzarella and Parmesan (or cheeses of choice)

¼ c (½ stick) butter, melted + 1-2 tbsp (for sauté)

¼ c all-purpose flour

¼ c milk

1-2 tbsp olive oil (for grilling)

¼-½ tsp kosher salt

directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Slice onion into desired thickness and brown/sweat with 1-2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Trim and wash asparagus, dry with towel, coat with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Grill on all sides until vibrant green and tender, then remove from grill and salt again if desired; let cool. Chop asparagus into 1″ pieces and set aside. Whisk eggs, then add milk, flour, cottage cheese, shredded cheese and butter (note: temper with the butter if neccessary). Fold onions and asparagus into whisked mixture and pour into a 9″ pie shell (frozen or fresh OR pour egg mixture into 9″ pie shell and top with asparagus and onion, pressing lightly down into mixture.

Bake at 350F for 50-55 minutes or until completely set and top is golden-brown. Let cool on wire rack for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

So, I had this for lunch today (I couldn’t sample last night, because it was midnight before I got the thing out of the oven), and even reheated it was delightful. The asparagus was crunchy but tender, the onions flavorful, the cheeses had melted to perfection and the egg was fluffy. The crust itself was flaky and soft, which is how I prefer it anyway. I would not make this as a crustless quiche, by the way; I don’t think it would hold up quite as well as (I) would want it to. With a crust, you could hold it by hand and eat it if you felt like it, but I ate it with a fork and it was still good. :) Also, I think these would make adorable little tarts; a faux ‘birthday cupcake’ idea popped into my head a moment ago, where you stick a grilled asparagus tip in the middle of the tart like a candle and ‘decorate’ the tops with onion slices… anyway. Maybe another time. When I’m ambitious enough to cut out little tiny tart crusts. Or shortcrust. It’d still be good.

p.s. Before karate, I was still on an asparagus kick but I didn’t have time to make anything too involved, so I grilled up some asparagus, shaved off some Parm and got out the rosemary-olive oil Triscuits. Put ’em together and voila!

Very simple and very little cooking involved. But they sure were tasty! Look at this little asparagus tip, isn’t it pretty?

Hiding behind a stalk like that… like it was gonna hide from me. Ha! :D