Saturday, May 1, 2010

Busy Bee

Wow.. I guess you thought I jumped ship... but I have been a busy little bee, let me tell you.

My friend Mat had a birthday this month, and as I was a terrible friend and missed his party, I knew I had to come up with an amazing birthday gift to make up for it. Now, Mat is the man who really introduced me to the world of sushi. So I decided to try my hand at some candy sushi!

Here's how I did it....

I decided to go with the Jello Jigglers recipe to make my sashimi (that's the actual raw fish.. not all sushi is raw) The package directions called for 2 1/2 cups boiling water and 2 pkg. of jello. But I only needed to make 1 pkg, so I cut the water in half. So 1 1/4 c. of boiling water and 1 pkg. of tropical fruit jello.. and into the fridge to cool.

Then it was time to prepare the rice crispy filling. I used 1/2 stick of butter, 1 7 oz. jar of Jet- Puffed Marshmallow fluff, and about 5 cups of crisped rice. melt the butter (I used the microwave), add the marshmallow fluff, and microwave for about 30 seconds. Mix in your crisped rice, and while the mixture is still warm, spread in a thin layer on a piece of waxed paper. (This step is easier if you butter your hands first) Then, the types of sushi you make are only limited by your tastes and imagination.

The first roll I made was Swedish Fish with orange sugar crystals (the sugar looked like fish roe) I layered the fish on the rice crispy sheet, and rolled using the wax paper to keep it all together. then I opened the wax paper roll, cut the roll away from the rest of the crisped rice, and sprinkled with the orange sugar, and re-rolled in the piece of wax paper. This I placed in the fridge to set.

The second roll was a variation on the first, Gummy Worms with Fruit Roll-Up nori on the outside. Again layering the worms on the crisp rice sheet, rolling with the wax paper, and then covering the roll with a whole piece of fruit roll-up. Then into the fridge to set.

The last roll was my favorite.. Tootsie Roll with chocolate jimmies (looked like black sesame seeds) I used the large snack size Tootsie Roll, rolled it was with the others, and then rolled it through the jimmies.

I then used the rice crispy sheet that was left to form the two "rice pillows" for my Jello sashimi. I used a large serving spoon to scoop out two oval-ish pieces of Jello, laid on the rice pillows, and tied with a strand of Twizzlers pull and peel.

I laid all this out in a wonderful little tupperware container that I bought that looked like a bento box. My son came up with the idea for the wasabi, a tablespoon of marshmallow fluff, mixed with 3 drops of green food coloring. For pickled ginger I cut a orange Friut Roll-Up into strips, and used the rest of the Twizzler Pull and Peel to make a nice nest of udon noodles with Nerds.


I wrapped it all up in a beautiful piece of sheer pink material I bought (it was one of those "end of the bolt" pieces they sell in the bargin bin. I doubled the fabric for two layers, cut into a square, like a traditional furoshiki (the cloth used to wrap a Japanese bento box), and tied accordingly. I finished the whole look witha lovely pair of wooden and enamel chopsticks.


It was a HUGE hit, and he forgave me for missing the wonderful party.
Now I need to perfect my skilld.. I did realize when cutting the rolls that it is better to cut the rolls and THEN wrap in the Fruit Roll-up... much easier to cut and holds it's round shape better. Also, the rice crispies need to be a little stickier.
For the next sushi lover's birthday, I think I will try a more sofisticated recipe, using sweet coconut rice and chocolate and fresh fruit. I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fried Rice??

So Friday night I decided to cook Teriyaki chicken and fried rice. I LOVE Chinese food, so the more I can master, the less I will have to eat out. Teriyaki chicken is something I have made hundreds of times.. usually using a store bought marinade. What I really wanted to concentrate on was the fried rice.

I again trusted the cooking of the rice to my wonderful rice cooker. I used medium grain rice this time, it's a shorter grain and is used in a lot of Asian cooking. Since I was cooking for 3, and my son is a BIG rice eater, I went with 2 cups of dry rice.
While the rice was cooking, I chopped some green onion, and drained a can of bamboo shoots. I was using my mom's cast iron wok to cook in, so I got it nice and hot and added a little butter to the pan. (I only use real butter.. every since I learned that margarine has been used as an industrial lubricant.. eww) I stir-fried the green onion, bamboo shoots, garlic, and some mung bean sprouts for about 2 minutes, then added in my cooked rice, and a dash of soy sauce. I also used a little Asian sea salt to season. After stir-frying for another 5 minutes or so, I added in two eggs, and continued cooking until the eggs were done.

The rice was done well before the chicken... I have trouble with my timing- still trying to get the hang of cooking several things at once and having everything ready at about the same time. The rice was good.. but it was lacking something. Maybe it needed some carrot, or some green peas, something with some color and a little crispness. It definately needed some more seasoning. But what? I need to explore the flavors of more than just onion powder, garlic powder, and Tony Chachere's. (for years, everything I cooked has been seasoned with this trinity... BORING!!)

So here's where I need your help, faithful readers... what would you suggest? Where did I go wrong? Maybe wrong is too strong a word. It tasted good, after all, just not good enough. Comment away, please.

And as a side note, I loved using the cast iron wok.. but it does need to be "seasoned" a little more.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Oh how I love my rice cooker!

First, a brief note about the title change to this blog... I was discussing my blog with my mama and my son last night over strawberry pound cake, and my son just didn't get the title of the blog, "Learning to Fry".
"You know", I explained, "Learning to Fry... like learning to FLY, only with a clever cooking pun."
He then pointed out tha tnot everyone might make that connection, and that instead, he would have called it "I Believe I can Fry", like the song by R Kelly. (He used to love the movie Space Jams by the way.. so he knows the song backwards and forwards)
I thought that was a great idea, hence the name change... thanks son!!

OK, so I will admit, I never really saw the sense in having a rice cooker. Rice isn't hard.. 1 cup water.. 1 cup dry rice, a little salt and butter, voila! Rice! Well, I will now admit openly that I was WRONG! Sure, if you want to cook Minute Rice or Uncle Bens for the rest of your life, not having a rice cooker is OK... but if you want to explore the joys of short grain, medium grain, Basmati, Jasmine rice, and even couscous... well, I would highly recommend a rice cooker!

So here is how my love affair began...

I decided to give this whole rice cooker thing a try.. mainly after reading up on sushi rice, and how it's much easier to prepare properly in a rice cooker. I didn't go top of the line.. $14 for an AROMA 6 cup rice cooker at Target. (It's cute and red and will look great in my kitchen) It also has a wonderful little steamer basket for steaming veggies and meats.
Off to the grocery store I go... chicken stock, fresh asparagus, baby carrots, and thin sliced rib-eye steaks.
At home, I actually read the rice cooker instructions, and dive right in. Now my rice cooker comes with a special measuring cup, which I read "meets rice industry standards of measurement", so 1 cup here refers to that cup, not 1 cup as you would measure with a traditional measuring cup.
2 cups of Minute Rice (not such a good choice, but we'll cover more on that later)
2 1/2 cups of chicken stock
Now all I have to do is press the handi-dandy cook button, and the rice cooker does the rest.

I prepared my steaks using some sea salt, and a little onion and garlic powder. For my veggies, I cut my asparagus to fit in the steamer basket, and added my baby carrots. The asparagus I seasoned with Asian sea salt (sea salt seasoned with ginger, sesame seeds and garlic). For the carrots, a nice dusting of fresh ground sugar and cinnamon. About half-way through the 20 minute rice "cycle", I added the steamer basket, and waited. With about 5 minutes left to go, I put the steaks in to broil (I haven't bought a new grill yet, so I had to go with the stove.. sigh) I oiled my pan with a little sesame oil, to tie the steaks in with the Asian flavors I was using for the asparagus.

It all smelled wonderful as I plated for my son and I. Here's a breakdown of how it turned out...

The rice had a wonderful flavor, but was a little gummy, owning to the fact that I used Minute Rice instead of traditional long grain rice.. 20 minutes in a rice cooker is too long for Minute Rice. But the chicken stock instead of water really gave it a nice flavor.
The asparagus was a little too steamed, but tasted fantastic. Next time I will wait a little longer before adding the steamer basket.
The carrots were spot on, with just enough cinnamon to give them a nice sweet flavor.
The steaks were just a tad under-done. We prefer a medium rare, rather than a rare steak. A few more minutes in a low broiler would have been nice, or a wonderful grilled rib-eye like God intended. I have GOT to get a new grill!!

My son actually enjoyed the entire meal, and even congratulated me on actually cooking an entire meal from scratch!
I was pleased with the meal, and with the lessons I learned in the process.

Next time.... Teriyaki chicken with fried rice. Yum!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It all started...

It all began with Monkey Bread. Yep, that's right folks, Monkey Bread.

As an LPN at an urgent care facility, it sometimes falls that I have to work on holidays. This was the case last weekend, when Easter Sunday fell on my shift. I have never had to work on Easter... ever. So, to make the day brighter for myself, and for my co-workers, I decided to make a nice breakfast that we could start our day off with. Monkey Bread.
Now, I had originally planed to take the "easy way out"- several cans of Pilsbury cinnamon rolls, cut into fourths, baked in a bundt cake pan, and drizzled with the accompanying icing. But that seemed to ho-hum... so I found a recipe online for homemade Monkey Bread (thanks
3 cans buttermilk biscuits
1 cup sugar
3 tbls. cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 sticks of butter

Pre-heat oven to 350

Open biscuits, cut into fourths
Mix 1 cup sugar and 3 tbls. cinnamon in a gallon zipper bag
Add biscuit pieces to cinnamon-sugar, zip bag closed, and roll the whole thing around until all the pieces are coated well

Meanwhile, melt 2 sticks of butter in a sauce pan, and add brown sugar, stir until the sugar disolves, and you have a beautiful light brown butter sauce

Grease your bundt pan, and add in biscuit pieces
Pour butter sauce over the biscuit pieces

Bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes
Let the whole thing cool for about 10 minutes, and turn over onto a serving plate... viola!

Let me just tell you, I was SO pleased with myself- it looked amazing, and it tasted great! Everyone at work enjoyed it, and asked for my recipe. I did give recipe credit where credit was due.. but I took total credit for a wonderful breakfast treat that I never thought I could make.

That's when the bug bit me.. and I found myself wanting to cook MORE!!!

Well, here goes...

Well, here goes.. I have decided to jump into this 100% and blog about my adventures. I have to say that the desire to actually cook is something that is totally new to me. I have never been one to want to cook.. eat, yes, but cooking, no. Just ask my son, who told his first grade teacher that I could bring something for the class Christmas party, as long as it was something that came out of a box. Thanks son!
But out of the mouths of babes comes the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, at least as it pertains to their loved ones. I was not a cooker. Ham steak and mac& cheese were my dinner plans, almost twice a week if I could get away with it. Drive thrus were my friends. And my son, being a chicken nugget fan, never really complained.
But now, something in me has changed. I hunger (pardon the pun) to learn how to cook, and how to do it well. I want to broil, and stir fry. To saute and to poach. I want to bake and to grill. And this blog will be my diary, my journal of failures, and successes. I hope it helps you to learn with me, and not to make the same mistakes that I KNOW I will make. Enjoy!