Superbowl Food, Gingerbread
The weather was beautiful this weekend! We managed to spend a decent amount of time outdoors, but we also watched two submarine movies (Das Boot and The Hunt for Red October), which seems kind of at odds with the nice weather. Man, Das Boot has a real downer of an ending!
We spent some time cleaning up our apartment this weekend, inspired by the sunlight and fresh air. It would be nice to spend a whole weekend really doing a good job of cleaning and organizing, but there's too much other fun stuff to do instead. I've considered hiring somebody to come by and clean the apartment once a month, since neither of us enjoys cleaning, but it's hard to justify the expense when we could do it ourselves. Except that we don't clean as often as we should, so maybe it would be better to have somebody else do it.
Anyway, I've got some food to tell you about...
1. In an effort to have a healthy dinner and eat more fish, I made salmon steaks with fennel (from Moosewood Low-Fat Favorites) with jasmine rice and roasted green cauliflower. The cauliflower was nice, but the fish wasn't at all exciting. At least it was healthy!
We got the salmon from Planet Organics, along with the bacon and chuck roast mentioned below. They have a system involving ice packs and insulated bubble wrap, which successfully kept our perishables cool until we got home. How convenient, especially since Planet Organics sells Marin Sun Farms beef, which isn't available at Draegers.
2. Next up was a very wintery meal that ended up being pretty disappointing, possibly because of modifications I made to the recipe (that seems to happen a lot!). I made beef goulash with dumplings (using Marin Sun Farms chuck roast!), but I modified it so I could make it in our crockpot. I reduced the amount of broth (3 cups for a 4lb roast), and after the deglazing step, I put everything in the crock, refrigerated it overnight, then cooked it on low for 10 hours the next day. When I got home from work, I added the dumpling batter and then cooked on high for 30 more minutes. I didn't want to buy spicy Hungarian paprika, so I used an inauthentic combination of smoked paprika and chipotle chili powder instead.
The main problem with the goulash was that the meat was dry, which was almost certainly because I cooked it for so long in the crockpot (couldn't really be avoided unless I'd come home from work early to turn off the crock pot). However, the flavor of the goulash wasn't very exciting either. This could have been because of my spice substitution, but it's also possible we're just not fans of goulash. The dumplings were light and fluffy as promised, which somewhat redeemed the meal. We've got four more servings in the freezer for a later date, but we're not particularly looking forward to it.
In addition to the goulash, we had brussels sprouts, kale, and bacon, which turned out well. I used the special Wooly Pigs shoulder bacon that I mentioned in my last post, and I was so pleased with how it turned out. The bacon was perfectly sweet and spicy, and thickly cut so that it stayed nice and chewy after cooking. I'm so pleased with it! If we make this dish again, I might add some toasted pine nuts.
3. Last Saturday morning, I was faced with a lone ripe banana in the fruit bowl, so I made pancakes with bananas and granola (Trader Joe's pecan praline granola), a combination of two recipe variations in one of my newest cookbook acquisitions, The Breakfast Book. The pancakes turned out well. The banana bits were very good--sweet and caramelized. I bet they would've been even better if I'd fried the pancakes in butter instead of cooking spray. The granola wasn't super noticeable, but it added a pleasant nubbliness to the pancakes. These pancakes, with bananas, granola, or both, are definitely worth making again. I'm excited about this cookbook!
4. Last weekend's lunch featured more Wooly Pigs bacon, this time as part of a roasted parsnip soup with bacon. We ate the soup with leftover sprouts and greens and Vital Vittles 3-seed bread (our current freezer bread of choice). The soup was sweet and parsnippy, and the bacon made it extra special. It was a good meal.
The cocktail nuts had a nice little kick to them, but they weren't quite what I'm looking for. I want something sweeter. The black-bottom cupcakes were yummy, though last year's cream cheese brownies were better. Still, I would happily eat lots more of these little cupcakes if they magically appeared in front of me. I especially liked the addition of the chocolate chunks to the cream cheese topping.
The chili was good, though it seemed saltier than I remembered. Maybe my tastebuds have become wimpier. I'll probably use less salt next time. It's still some damn good chili though. We ate the leftovers for dinner with sour cream, cheddar, and green onions on top. I made Dorie Greenspan's corniest corn muffins to go with the chili, substituting sour cream for the buttermilk, since we had some on hand. The muffins were very nice--a little gritty (in a good way), slightly sweet, and pleasantly fluffy. I'd definitely make them again.
6. We had a little bit of sour cream, green onions, and cheddar left over, so on Friday night we made duck soft tacos with corn and blood orange salsa (no tortilla-frying for me), with a little stir-fried baby bok choy on the side (and a very colorful blood orange garnish). I think this was our first time cooking with duck, and it turned out really well--the spice rub complimented the duck nicely, and the tacos were yummy. My only complaint is that duck is pretty expensive, but the tacos only used one duck breast, so the meal wasn't too pricey.
7. I never got a chance to make gingerbread during all the holiday baking this year, so I made a batch yesterday. Although the Cook's Illustrated gingerbread recipe is pretty much perfect, this time I tried the gingerbread recipe from Classic Stars Desserts, just to make sure it wasn't even better. It's a tough call; they're both really good, but I think the Cook's Illustrated recipe is slightly better.
The original Stars recipe called for topping the gingerbread with warm apples and a sabayon, but I topped ours with a little butter lemon cheese (similar to lemon curd) that Amanda brought back for us from England. It's so yummy, I'd be happy to just eat it straight out of the jar, but it also compliments the gingerbread very nicely. This dessert makes me happy :)