Sweet Potato Fries at home

There’s a local deli that serves the best sweet potato fries – EVER!  I am not familiar with that particular tuber, so I never attempted it at home.  Then, I saw the picture in this post and I just had to try it.  I bought my first sweet potato and away we go.

Ingredients – missing the olive oil of course.
SPF_Ingredients

All chopped up.  Now, the hard part – waiting for a half hour.
SPF_Soak

Coated them with corn starch.  I wasn’t sure if I should dry the potatoes or not, first, so I did.
SPF_Coated

After turning.  They seem to be missing the brownish niceness.  Not sure what happened.  I actually ended up leaving them in for 10 instead of the 5 the recipe said.  I topped them with some kosher salt to try and replicate the deli fries as close as possible.
SPF_AfterFirstTurn

I paired it with some frozen shrimp and clams.  Yea, I know the clams were a gamble, but for some reason, they really sounded good (hangover).  I used some homemade sweet chili sauce for dipping the shrimp (coming in another post).  Ah – so satisfying.  They aren’t in the picture because I got hungry 😐

I ended up leaving them in for three times as long and they still didn’t really brown.
SPF_Plated

Unfortunately, that’s the only thing that was good.  The cornstarch was just bad.  It stuck in my teeth and overwhelmed the fries.  I didn’t even finish them and I eat burnt fries.  I don’t think this experience will stop me from trying them again, but I think I am just going to go the regular route of tossing them just in olive oil.

Vegetable Egg…..Envelopes

I found this recipe in the America’s Test Kitchen Comfort Food Makeover cookbook.  I was really excited because I love egg rolls.  I figured “Healthy?  GIMME!!!”  lol.  The only problem?  I have a rolling deficiency.  This time, I blame the wrappers.  While I was writing that, I found that wasn’t my only problem *SIGH*

Ingredients
VER_Ingredients

This is me trying to roll them into nice little “rolls”.  As you can see, the spring roll wrappers aren’t square.  I ended up just making package type envelope things.
VER_RollFail

I ended up with 9 total instead of the 8 from the cookbook.  When cooking, I split them in two different skillets.  Apparently, I don’t have a mondo skillet needed for cooking these all at once.
VER_Batch1 VER_Batch2

The cooking method on the cookbook is to brown the “rolls” then steam them cooked, then brown again.  I decided that they weren’t browning right in the cast iron and moved a chunk to the stainless, muttering some derogatory statement about the cast iron’s ability to be non stick and evenly heated.  This is after they were steamed.  Can you guess what happens next?
VER_AfterSteaming VER_AfterSteaming2

Yep – horrifying sticking – the after math:
VER_Disaster VER_Ok

The ones in the cast iron faired better than the ones in the stainless skillet.  You could almost hear the cast iron skillet laughing at me.  I was just struck with an idea of why, though.  The cast iron had less “rolls” in it, but the same amount of water as the stainless steel.  The water was still in the skillet when I took the lid off, so I dumped it out.  I wonder if I would add double the water, but boil the same amount of time, if the stainless would end up good, too.  Although, I would rather try baking them like the numerous recipes online for the healthy egg rolls.

My Dinner
VER_Dinner

The taste of them wasn’t bad, but surprisingly bland.  Even with all the seasonings pictured above.  Since I couldn’t get it to brown the second time, the taste was more like a giant pot sticker.  I think it would benefit from more garlic, maybe some hot sauce….not sure.  I am also not sure if I will be making it again.  I was supposed to be having it with sweet and sour chicken, but that didn’t pan through – not enough time.  I didn’t eat until 8:30 as it was!  Instead, I substituted a frozen meal from Trader Joe’s.  One of my go-tos and one of my “Why do I keep getting this?” items.  It’s not bad, but a bit too salt and most of the vegetables are soggy when cooked.  I may be giving up on Trader Joe’s frozen meals…..

 

 

Snow with a side of Chicken and Rice

This weekend, something weird happened here in North Cackalacky.
CR_Snow

I planned on making Chicken and Rice casserole that I found here then, but the chicken from the freezer didn’t thaw – lol.  Nothing better than a nice warm casserole on a cold day.  Too bad the snow was melted by the next day (facepalm).  I ended up making it a few nights later

Ingredients for the soup part
CR_Ingredients

Ingredients for the rest of the casserole
CR_Ingredients2

I didn’t have a 9in pan so, I replaced it with this.  I figured if it was a 9×9 pan and this one was an 8×10, it was only 1 inch off.
CR_Pan

The soup cooked.  I am such a fan of cream of chicken that I drink it without actually using it to cook.  This version of the soup isn’t something that I would eat alone, but I thought it would be good in a casserole.
CR_CookingDSoup

Mix it with the rinsed rice and the seasoning and you get…….something that looks exactly the same (facepalm)
CR_Mixed

Ready to bake.  Yea, this really didn’t look like the picture from the website.  I was hoping it was because of the size of the pan and it would all turn out ok.
CR_ReadyToBake

This is what happened when it was done.  Soup skin.  So appetizing, right?
CR_Baked

Next steps were to shred the chicken.  I had some issues with the shredding and mixing it, but this is what it looked like after.  A little closer to the picture on the website, but still a lot more wet.  Kind of savory rice pudding with chicken.
CR_Shredded_Done

Close up (just because it’s cool 😉 )
CR_Closeup

It wasn’t a bad recipe, just a lot more soupie than I expected.  The picture on the recipe looked drier….in a good way – lol – I promise!  I, again, made the whole recipe and have 8 total servings of it to fit into my eating plan.  The good thing is that it is low calorie, the bad thing is that when reheating, it was really gluey.  I also added WAY too much pepper, but that’s my fault.  Maybe I didn’t cook the soup long enough?  Not sure.  I honestly don’t know if I will try it again, but definitely not if it gets warm.  Winter is almost over down here 🙂

Unexpected cake

Another recipe from the mix cookbook.  This one is not convincing me about this cookbook.  It’s moving closer to the Goodwill pile.  It was ok, but not what I was expecting.  I didn’t read it close enough and when I saw quick bread, I was expecting a regular loaf of bread.  This was more like coffee cake which used a different mix in the cookbook.  It was kind of like a big sugar cookie.

Ingredients for dry mix (still made half the recipe)
QB_Ingredients

Ok – here is the ingredients all mixed sitting next to my sifter – a normal size sifter.  The full recipe makes like 15 cups.  how exactly does the author expect a normal person to sift through all that??
QB_Mixed

The other problem is this.  This is what happens when you try to sift PACKED brown sugar
QB_BrownSugar

I only sifted half of it, then used my hands to mix it all up and break up the brown sugar.
QB_HalfSifted

Add eggs and oil to 3.5 cups of the mix and get this
QB_Mixed-001

The author says to pour the batter into a pan……really???  Pour??  I checked about 5 times to make sure I added the right liquid amount.  I don’t see how this could ever be poured.

I pushed it in the pan and baked for a little less than an hour.
QB_Poured

It still seemed over done.  At least it rose a little bit.  It was still thin.
QB_Baked QB_Height

Slicing was a little iffy, but that might have been because it was still warm.  I left one slice alone and buttered one.  I let it cool and wrapped it in foil.  Next day?  Hard as a rock.  And can I just comment that 4 cups is NOT an appropriate serving amount for a slicable object??  Let me just crumble it up and put it in a cup 😐
QB_Plated

I still have a bunch of the dry mix left.  I guess I can try making some of the other variations.  I could throw in some raisins and cinnamon.  I really want to make it more like a batter.  Maybe add some milk to it and mix it all up.  I don’t know what it will do, but I want more of a cake texture.  I am not saying that this is bad, but who needs this much sweet bread mix?  Why no regular bread mix?  I really want to look up the brand that is referenced in the book to show the savings difference.

I still want to try the pancake and biscuit mix.  Silly, right?  I don’t know why, I just really want this cookbook to redeem itself.  I don’t know if it will be enough to keep it on the shelf, though.

Birthday Cakes

Today is my birthday.  To celebrate, I made myself some cakes 🙂  I have a cookbook that is filled with dry mix recipes.  This is the first one I tried.  I only made half of the recipe since it makes 8 cups of mix.  4 cups is all that is needed for the cake recipe, so that’s all I did.

Ingredients for the dry mix.
VC_DryMix

Wet ingredients, but only the egg whites are used.  I didn’t read the recipe through and I was actually supposed to whip the egg whites.  I just threw them into the batter with the milk and vanilla.  OOPS!
VC_WetIngredients

Ingredients all mixed up.  You can see it is a fairly thick batter.  I was concerned that the cakes would be like rocks.  I filled the cupcake pan and realized there was a lot left over.  I made a round cake, too.  I didn’t get any pictures of the pre-baked cakes because it didn’t  really look that appetizing……and I forgot about then cake (facepalm)
VC_All_Mixed

Here they are all baked up
VC_BakedVC_Cake

The cupcakes aren’t heavy at all.  I haven’t tried the cake yet, but I really liked the cupcakes.  It was a nice light flavor.  The top was pleasantly crunchy

I made icing from the cookbook, too, but I didn’t like it at all.  It was just like the stuff that I use to ice my sugar cookies.  I didn’t think it would work well on the cupcakes.  I made another recipe from Joy of Cooking instead, but that didn’t really work out instead.  Since I have a pretty good basic cake recipe, I now have a vehicle to test other icing recipes.  I think the mistake I made with the Joy of Cooking cookbook was I didn’t use beaters.  It was melted chocolate, cream and powdered sugar.  I do have a picture of them all frosted, but it looked so bad I decided not to post it.  Nothing like flat icing to destroy a cake picture.  I literally used my fingers and smooshed the icing on.  It didn’t spread very well….to say the least.

I have a few more recipes from this cookbook that I want to try – pancake, biscuits, and bread.  The thing I was really disappointed with this book was the recipe I came across that told the person reading it to put RAW garlic into olive oil.  Seriously?  What editor let that pass through??  Has no one ever heard of botulism?  You should NEVER put raw garlic into olive oil and let it sit there.  I will try some others, but I am wary about any of the recipes that you mix ahead of time and let set – like the cake stuff up there – especially with the oil and garlic recommendation.

Shrimp fail :(

I was in the mood for something different, so when I ran across this recipe, I decided to make it.  The link is to the original recipe.  The only difference is that the original uses 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and the one I found used 1/2 cup.  I don’t think the original would have been much different.  The only ingredients I had to buy were shrimp and wine.  I am one of those rare people that don’t keep wine on hand.  I was thinking of making Shrimp Scampi, instead, but I needed more ingredients.

Ingredients – yes, I had some wine first :).  The pack there is large shrimp in the shell.  I had to clean them before using.  I didn’t want to show you a picture of that – ew.
GBS_Ingredients

Ready to bake.  I had a picture of the shrimp laid out in the pan, but it didn’t look very appetizing.  Anything covered in butter bread crumbs look better 🙂
GBS_ReadyToBake

Done
GBS_Done

I served it with Garlic and Herb rice pilaf from Near East (I always call them Far East for some reason 😐 ).  I LOVE their boxed grain mixes.  I have had regular rice, pilaf and couscous.  I have never been disappointed with it.  I didn’t add any butter or oil to this and it was still good.  I know it is really good with the butter, too, but I was trying to save some calories since the shrimp had 4 tbsp of butter already.
GBS_Pilaf

Dinner plated ( I wasn’t sure which I liked better.  The second one is a little light, but I like the point of view.  The first has my funky finger in it – lol )
GBS_Dinner2 GBS_Dinner

I was really disappointed with this dish.  The recipe originally said to cook the shrimp for 15-18 minutes.  I have never heard of shrimp being cooked that long.  I cut it down to 10, but laziness turned it to about 12 minutes and my shrimp were overcooked.  I shudder to think what would have happened if I left them in for 15 minutes.  As it is now, I can’t reheat them or risk having shrimp that resemble rubber bands.  There really wasn’t much flavor to it despite the amount of garlic in it.  I think my only option is to heat up the rice and hope that when I mix in the shrimp, it will warm them.  I really wish I would have made the shrimp scampi instead.  Next time – go with my first instincts!!

Edit to add – I had this again the next day at work for lunch.  I did what I said and mixed the shrimp (cut up) into the rice to heat it without overcooking even more.  It turned out better than I thought.  Maybe even better than the first day.  I think it’s because it was mixed in with the rice which has a LOT of flavor to it.

Slow cooker marinara sauce

While looking through blog posts, I ran across a recipe for slow cooker marinara sauce from here.  It looked really good and would go perfect with another recipe I am making.  The only bad part?  I have a hand me down crock pot from my mom.  It makes me a little twitchy to leaving it on all day.  I decided to let it cook over night instead.  At least, then, I would be able to hear Categoriesthe fire alarms if it decides to blow up 🙂

Ingredients.  I know the wine isn’t the best, but I was on a tight budget when I bought the ingredients – especially since I really don’t drink wine and knew the rest would probably go to waste.  Knowing the rule that you should never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink, I tasted it.  It was surprisingly good.  Not the best, but not crap:

All mixed up

This is how twitchy I am about the slow cooker.  This is the timer I used when I plugged it in and left it over night

This is what it looked like the next morning.  At this point, it tasted pretty good.  A little sweet, but still good.

I threw it in the fridge so I could save it for after work.  Dinner time tonight

I am not sure what happened from this morning to tonight, but the sauce turned a bit sour.  I am not sure what happened from this morning to tonight.  The only thing I can think is the wine, but it really wasn’t that bad.  There is no other explanation, really though.  I haven’t given up yet, I want to make this again, but maybe leave out the wine – replace it with broth maybe.  I’ve never had good luck cooking with wine.  Not sure how to salvage what I have though.  Monday, I think I will heat it up on the stove and try some things.  Salt, sugar, maybe some fennel seed.  I wonder if throwing in a carrot would naturally sweeten the sauce – maybe even draw out some of the sourness from the wine.