Monday, September 26, 2011

Cat's Story: Egg-splosion

Here's a story from Cat about how not to re-boil an egg if your hardboiled egg comes out runny.

"So, a couple evenings ago I decided I wanted to make some egg salad for a sandwich to take to work for lunch the next day. I put the eggs on the stove to boil, then went to go fold some laundry. I came back and saw that the water was already boiling. I didn't want the eggs to be overdone, so I immediately took them off the burner. Unfortunately, they must not have been boiling enough, because when I peeled them, the yolks were still gooey inside. Oops.

I grabbed a microwave safe bowl, filled it with water and popped the eggs in, then stuck them in the microwave for two minutes. I have a lot of friends who hard boil eggs in the microwave, so I didn't think anything of it. Well, the beeping goes off, so I reach in and carefully pick up the eggs....

BOOM! The eggs EXPLODE everywhere! Boiling water flung all over my face. My boyfriend was immediately there. After I ran to the bathroom and washed out my eyes, he helped me clean up the mess. Getting egg off the CEILING sucks. I held a box of frozen vegetables against my face for a while and soon the ouchies yeah...all good. And lesson learned. And now I have post-traumatic stress disorder from hard boiled eggs."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Broccoli and Shrimp Scampi Spaghetti

Know what food I'm ga-ga for right now? Shrimp. Know what food I used to refuse to eat unless it was the smallest possible size and deep-fried? Shrimp. And by "used to" I mean approximately a year ago. There was just something about the texture and shape that always bothered me. When we went to a hibachi joint for dinner that gave shrimp appetizers, I'd pass mine over to Hubby and would turn down the shrimp tempura he'd offer me. Popcorn shrimp I'd order if it were the only thing on the menu I'd want, and I wouldn't eat the big ones. Sometime last year, though, I decided to widen my tastes and actually tried a piece of the offered shrimp tempura. Now we fight over who gets the last one, I happily eat my own appetizer, and I get cravings for shrimp. Now, I haven't actually cooked with large shrimp, but when my friend JQ shared her recipe for Broccoli and Shrimp Scampi Spaghetti, knowing just how much Hubby loves shrimp scampi, I was determined to give it a try.

(Original recipe from Hudocks to Haddocks: The Life, Times and Food)
8 oz spaghetti
¼ cup butter
2-3 tsp minced garlic
(approx) ½ cup Italian bread crumbs
(approx) ¾ cup dry white wine (I'm sensitive to alcohol, so I use the same amount in chicken stock. Works just fine.)
10 oz small shrimp (I use frozen salad shrimp)
½ pounds of broccoli chopped into florets
¼ tsp of each of the following seasonings: cumin, red pepper flakes, basil & onion salt

1. Cook pasta al dente
2. Boil broccoli
3. In a skillet, melt butter and sauté minced garlic. Add in all seasoning & wine (or stock), simmer for a moment. Add in shrimp and cook, tossing frequently, until pink. Slowly (a tsp at a time) mix in breadcrumbs. You may or may not use all the bread crumbs, just continue adding until your mixture has thickened up a bit. (Note: If it gets too thick, don't panic! Just mix a little extra wine/stock in until it gets to the consistency you like.)
4. Drain pasta, do not rinse. Put back in hot pot with drained hot broccoli and mix in shrimp scampi.
5. Serve garnished with freshly grated Romano cheese

Of course, this wouldn't be "Learning By Burning" without SOME kind of incident. First attempt at making this dish, I've got the ingredients ready, the water boiling for the spaghetti, the shrimp dethawed, the broccoli cut, and as I'm looking at the recipe, I realize - I have NEVER 1) cooked broccoli and 2) sauted anything, so I have NO idea when either of them goes from "Not Done" to "Done" to "Overdone". Crap. Luckily Hubby was home with me at the time, so he ran a quick google search while I worked on what was already going on the stove (melting butter and boiling spaghetti). We got the broccoli boiling and the garlic was, well, not a problem really. Surprisingly, I have never managed to time this dinner as perfectly as it ended up being for that first harried meal. I've gotten closer (especially since we remembered we got a food steamer as a wedding gift. Whoops. We've been steaming the broccoli since and it's great) but something always finishes a little too early.

This has quickly become one of our favorite meals, and I'm confident enough in making it now that I actually made it for my mother during her last visit as it's similar to a dish she used to make. She loved it! And it reheats well, making it great leftovers for the next day too (assuming you HAVE any leftovers and haven't licked the plate clean).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Emily's Story 2: WARNING - Hot Glass

Here's the second story from Emily with a bit more danger and explosions.

"I have 2 good friends who are sisters, and they used to be roommates. A few years ago, I was at their apartment. One sister "A" was making baked french fries. The other "B" had just put water on to boil for hot chocolate. (Their names actually do start with A and B. haha) A took the fries out of the oven, which were in a glass baking dish, and put them on top of the stove to cool. A and I were standing in their small nook of a kitchen when all of a sudden, the glass dish exploded. I somehow jumped my uncoordinated, slow-reflexed self out of the kitchen and into their living room area. A just stood in the corner of the kitchen, shocked. No burning, broken glass touched either one of us! It turns out that B had turned the wrong burner on for hot chocolate, and placing a glass dish on a very hot burner does not work well. There were pieces of glass melted to their kitchen floor. Of course B felt terrible, but we were just thankful that none of those pieces were embedded in our skin."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Emily's Story 1: Piece of Cake

Thanks to Emily for her two stories about education through experience in the kitchen. Way to think under pressure!

"Last month, I wanted to make a cake for my husband's birthday. I tried to take the easy way out and use a mix. As I started to open the bag, I thought, I should use scissors, but then I figured I almost had it open. The bag finally opened, and the mix flew everywhere! I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, throw it away and make one from scratch, or just give up. I looked at my mess: about half of the mix was still in the bag, with some on the floor, and some on the counter (and some in the skillet from last night's dinner). I tried to remember the last time I had wiped the counter down and how thoroughly I had done it. I remembered wiping it down the night before, and hadn't used the counter since. I decided that was good enough, and I scraped the mix into my bowl. As I did this, I saw a piece of shredded cheese on the counter. Maybe it wasn't as clean as I thought...but at least baking it would kill any germs! I still had to make up for what was on the floor, so I looked up a cake recipe and added a little bit of all of the ingredients and hoped for the best. The cake actually came out great! It was fluffy and moist, and no melted cheese was found in it! And since I only had whole wheat flour on hand, at least the cake ended up being a little bit healthier."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Steak and Taters!

A usual day for me involves spending a full day at work and coming home to Hubby, who cooks dinner shortly thereafter. He's a good cook, and we're pretty much learning things together. Wednesday nights, though, Hubby's schedule keeps him out later than me, so it's up to me to see us fed. A few weeks back, a friend of mine sent me a recipe for Ranch Roasted Potato Wedges and swore by them as an amazing side dish. "What does it go well with?" I asked, and she replied, "Steak."

Steak and potatoes. A classic. A classic I have never before attempted in my life and has nearly smoked out our kitchen on previous attempts at meaty perfection. Hubby's pretty much perfected his stove-top steak method now, and tonight, a bag of baby red potatoes and a pair of ribeyes at my side (with plenty of directions), it was time for me to test my might against this mammoth of meals.

Roasted Red Potatoes
2 pounds small red potatoes, quartered
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 packet (1 ounce) Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix

Place potatoes in a gallon-size Glad® Food Storage Bag and add oil; seal bag. Toss to coat. Add salad dressing mix and toss again until coated. Bake in ungreased baking pan at 450°F for 30 to 35 minutes or until potatoes are brown and crisp.

Easy peasy. Cut, shake, shake some more, and into the-

Oh, the directions want a baking PAN. This is a baking SHEET. Okay, scramble into the drawer under the oven, luckily we had at some point purchased a lasagna pan (which I totally forgot we even had). Problem solved. Spray some PAM (recommended by my friend who gave me the recipe, the skins stick), and into the oven! A few minutes later, Hubby got home just in time for me to get started on the steaks. No recipe here, we just sprinkle the steaks with a Mediterranean Sea Salt mix, pepper, and garlic powder, rub it in, pop those babies into a pan with a small amount of butter and olive oil, and let them go.

Nice lookin', huh? Six to seven minutes on a side, and the steaks finished just before the potatoes did. Move the steaks to a plate to sit, pull out the potatoes and...

Hm. A little crispy. Whoops, but the crispy bits pull right off.

There we go. Nice looking potatoes. A salad on the side with a vidalia onion salad dressing, and we've got a nice meal.

Victory! Steak and potatoes - Conquered!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Red Lobster Copycat Biscuits

Last week, I decided I was going to make my darling husband a wonderful dinner. His favorite is meatloaf and mac & cheese. I make the meatloaf myself, and I've attempted the mac & cheese, but so far, Kraft does it better (two different recipes, either just bad or bland. Third time's the charm?) Well, I figured I'd kick the dinner up a notch with some imitation Red Lobster Biscuits from a recipe I had. I used the recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything (found on Pinterest)

2 1/2 cups Bisquick
4 Tbsp cold butter
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Butter Glaze:
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp dried parsley flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease or line one cookie sheet with parchment; set aside.

Combine Bisquick with cold butter in a medium bowl with a pastry cutter or, if you don't have one, two forks. Don't worry about mixing the butter in completely; there should be small pea-sized chunks of butter in the mix. Add cheddar cheese, milk, and garlic powder. Mix by hand until combined into a dough, but don't over mix, there will still be small chunks of butter. Warning: it will be sticky!

Drop 1/4 cup portions of the dough onto the lightly greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 13-15 minutes until the tops of the biscuits begin to turn light brown.

While they're baking, make the glaze by melting the butter is a small bowl in the microwave. Stir in garlic powder and dried parsley flakes. When the biscuits are done and out of the oven, use a brush to spread the garlic butter over the tops of all the biscuits. optionally, sprinkle a little kosher salt on the freshly coated biscuits (I didn't do this and it didn't taste necessary). Makes about one dozen.

Pretty simple, right? I set the oven to preheat, laid out some wax paper on the baking sheets, mixed up the batter and laid out 11 biscuits.
Do you notice the problem in that previous statement? Read it again if you need to, I'll wait.

Got it yet?

If you said "Wait a second Maxwell, wax paper's not supposed to go in the oven!", then ding ding ding, you're right! And you see, I had that same thought. But I checked the box of wax paper and saw that you could put it under a cake mix for easy cake removal. So it's okay to go in the oven! Pop those babies in and let's get started on the loaf!

A few minutes later, while I'm wrist-deep in a mixture of ground beef, egg, ketchup, breadcrumbs and milk, I notice the stove's back burner is smoking. That's weird. The burner's not on. It feels really hot hovering over it. Must be something wrong with the stove. I'll let Hubby know to contact the office tomorrow. It's still smoking. Okay, let's get the vent on high. Oh crap, the apartment's getting hazy! Open the windows, start flapping towels! No fire alarm, no fire alarm, no fire alarm... no fire alarm. Phew. All right. Oh, there's the timer. Biscuits are done. Let's take 'em out and see how they...


So that's where the smoke was coming from. Hubby got home while I was attempting to detatch the biscuits' utterly burnt bottoms from the crispy sheet of wax paper. Luckily he had the common sense to turn on the living room fan (DURP! I still don't know why I was running around flapping a dishtowel like an idiot when I could have just done that...) No alarms were set off, and after a bit of research, we figured out that
1) Wax paper only gets baked when there's something COMPLETELY covering it, like cake mix
and 2) You will not die eating something cooked with burnt wax paper. When topped with the garlic butter, the biscuits were actually quite good (more than could be said for the homemade mac & cheese that meal. Way too much sauce and there was something bitter about it.) Next time, I'm gonna listen to my gut instinct and put down aluminum foil instead. And there will be a next time because if they were as good as they are baked with wax paper smoke and partially burnt, they'll be divine done up right.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Learning by Doing, the Maxwell Way!

Hi, and welcome to Learning By Burning. I'm Maxwell and I'll be your chef-in-training today!

Let's get to the point. I like food. I like making food. Buuuut I've never been all that trained or practiced at cooking food. I've recently starting making more dishes and working with more ingredients and appliances, getting my hands dirty so to speak, but I don't always have the foresight to do some research on things I'm not 100% sure about. Needless to say, cooking for me is an experience of "learning by doing", or, in some cases, "learning by burning."

As this blog grows, I'll share the recipes of whatever delicious meals, sides, appetizers and desserts I'm attempting this week. And as long as I don't burn down the kitchen, I'll share what I learned from the dishes that didn't exactly go as planned too. So join me as I learn my away around the kitchen, appliances, ingredients and recipes and do some learning by burning!