Thursday, July 30, 2015

More Desserts with Glorious Mayonnaise!

You know how sometimes an idea keeps metaphorically itching the back of your mind until you just have to?

Mayonnaise Bars
½ c sugar
½ c mayonnaise
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp nutmeg
1 c flour

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a round cake pan.
Mix sugar and mayonnaise. Stir in the soda, vanilla, and nutmeg. and when that's mixed in add the flour.
Spread into the pan. If desired, scatter sugar on top. Bake until a knife in the center comes out clean, about 10-15 minutes.

In all seriousness, our last experience with a mayonnaise cake was a sad, paste-like failure. However, the idea of a mayonnaise-related dessert item kept bothering us. Mayo desserts are all over the internet. The theory behind them (mayo is eggs and oil therefore replaces those in recipes) is solid, if not a little off-tasting. Therefore, let us throw aside our eggs and butter and use a great big spoonful of this!

We at A Book of Cookrye have made a lot of strange things in our time. We've even made sweetened kidney pies. However, for some reason, seeing little splots of vanilla and nutmeg on top of sugar-mayonnaise sludge caused more internal confusion than most other things we've done. Perhaps it's because this was just close enough to normal to throw us off. When you're putting cucumbers into ice cream, your internal strangeness alarm shorts out, leaving you calmly wondering if you also need to add celery. However, mayonnaise dessert bars are, if not right in the middle, at least well within the borders of the uncanny valley of sweets.
I feel so wrong doing this. That's way too much nutmeg.

Aside from smelling every bit as pungent as you'd expect a bowl of mayonnaise and nutmeg to smell, the batter actually didn't taste too bad. We at A Book of Cookrye were quite surprised, and nearly ready to declare these edible. As in, we might actually hold onto the recipe if this works out.

They came out looking much the same, but... leathery. You can see how the dough slid downward just a bit as it baked. Someday I want an oven that is not tilted. Though as long as I'm making kitchen wish lists, I'd rather have a dishwasher. We used to have one in my parents' house, which led to me trying out insanely complicated recipes that involved upwards of five bowls, three or four sets of beaters, and three different-sized pans. Come to think of it, I may have figured out why the dishwasher broke four years ago and still hasn't been replaced.

But getting back to today's perpetration: They have the consistency of brownies and are oddly tart. They're actually pretty good, but there's this undefined taste that's just barely familiar enough that you'll never get away with bringing these anywhere because people will ask what's in them. Unless you feel like lying and trying to say it's lemon juice.
These are actually pretty good, so if you can lie well (or if you said you'd bring a dessert but ran out of eggs), bring them to your next party!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hump-Day Quickie: The Patina of Starvation

Ever gone into the kitchen to realize you have nothing left? After making the massive mental effort to get through the grocery store while starving without making any impulse purchases, you'll be too tired to actually put any effort into your cooking. At the same time, you're still starving, which leads to...

...just dumping everything in a pan and hoping for the best.

Chicken Patina
3 eggs
salt, pepper, thyme (be generous with each)
2 chicken breasts*
1 package frozen cauliflower
1 package frozen spinach, thawed
1 handful shredded Parmesan

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a skillet.
Cut up chicken. Beat eggs and seasonings. Mix in the chicken and vegetables.
Put into the pan,  sprinkle the cheese on top, and bake until the chicken is done (about 45 minutes).

*We got the kind that are pre-seasoned and therefore have marinated a couple days. You might want to soak yours in something to tenderize them.
You'll probably want to grease and flour it because eggs stick to everything.

Did you notice in the directions how we didn't even wait for the cauliflower to thaw out? Had the spinach not been a solid brick we'd have chucked it in frozen too.
I know I said I resisted all impulse buys, but I must confess that the chicken was not on my list.

Incidentally, you may be wondering how we managed to run out of provender in the Book of Cookrye Pantrye. The answer: a group project kept taking up all our time. On the bright side, since we got assigned the website design, we then got to go up in front of an entire class of engineering students with this on the projector screen behind us.
This is my coding face.

If you haven't gotten to use PowerPoint day to present a classroom of engineering students with their first drag queen, I am very sorry for you. (Incidentally, due to English being a second language for a lot of people in the group we are working with, she has now been rechristened The Dragon Queen.)

But getting back to today's culinary perpetration, this is loosely based on the patinas we read about in various ancient Roman cookbooks. A patina (which has nothing to do with the finish on antiques) is more or less a casserole floating in eggs to bind the whole thing together. Or, as I said to the people who came by asking what I was making, "I'm really hungry so I just threw it all in a pan and hopefully it comes out all right."

To my own semi-surprise, this actually worked. As in, I'd do it again. I knew it'd be delicious that night because I would have voluntarily eaten mechanically separated squirrel. But the leftovers were still really good and didn't have any starvation to make them taste better.
I feel so much better.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Cabbage and Spinach, or I never thought I'd voluntarily make this

We at A Book of Cookrye have been driven to many new foods because they were on sale. It's amazing what you adapt to; the other day we found ourselves craving something made from frozen cauliflower and frozen spinach. We would like to point out that well into high school, we refused to eat cauliflower at all on the grounds that it was clearly broccoli that someone had dipped in bleach. With that in mind, we present...
The Art of Italian Cooking, Maria Lo Pinto, 1948

Most of the ingredients looked pretty feasible except, well, no one sells Romano cheese anywhere. However, what was on sale but...

We at A Book of Cookrye would like to ponder the sociological implications of the fact that the cheaper cheese comes already grated, but the fancy stuff you have to shred yourself. Regardless, this cheese seemed close enough to the Romano specified in the recipe in that it stank through the shrink-wrap.
However, we had to proceed forward to the cabbage. (We actually didn't dread this; we think cabbage is a pretty good leafy vegetable with an unfortunately frumpy name.) The recipe's instructions make it look like you somehow loosen up the cabbage head, smear a little stuffing on each leaf, and then close the whole thing up. We had to see what this looked like before attempting it ourselves. An image search for "stuffed cabbage" only turned up images of what looks like egg rolls made with cabbage leaves instead of egg roll skins. Whether stuffed whole or made into egg rolls, this recipe seemed very laborious. We decided to just chop the cabbage and do some layered casserole thing.
Did you know how much chopped cabbage you get out of a whole cabbage head?

We at A Book of Cookrye usually like to stick to a recipe's instructions exactly when making something completely new to us. How can you try something new when you revert to what you already know? However,  we generally don't choose such laborious recipes.
And once you add the cheese to it, it looks like it's been dead long enough to breed things.

We at A Book of Cookrye aren't sure how this recipe is meant to work even if we did stuff the cabbage. The cabbage required two casseroles and the stuffing rations were puny. We'd thought we'd ration two layers of stuffing per thing. In retrospect, we shouldn't have.
Don't you hate it when the waiter brings you a salad with something disgusting on it and it turns out to be what you ordered?

It looks like we're about to make a lot of coleslaw, doesn't it? You'd never guess there was anything in there but chopped cabbage.

So, to recap, we've got cabbage interspersed with spinach and a tiny ration of meat. You could take this same ingredient list, put a new set of directions under it, and have some foofy salads for the girlfriend menu at the restaurant of your choice. Instead we baked it until everything was good and dead.
This product sold by weight, not by volume. Some settling of contents may occur.

We thought we'd have a cabbage layered casserole. Instead, we had a pan of baked cabbage and what's that greenish stuff?
Also, we had little bits of egg crawling all over it.

Unsurprisingly for something that had so much cabbage in it, it was an awful lot like the stuffing for egg rolls. Had there been more stuffing to go with it, it'd have been divoon. As it was, it was pretty good.
We at A Book of Cookrye have to admit, the idea of using cheese as a seasoning is new to us. Being American, it has always been the stuff you carpet the tops of casseroles with. Throwing a handful of it into something to give it a pungent kick appears a lot in the cookbook we got this from, but this was the first time we tried it and it's pretty good.
However, do not make this as your sole supper item unless you get completely full on salad alone because that's all you're getting when you make this.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Anticlimactic Cream Cheese Cake

We at A Book of Cookrye have been wondering- what the heck do we do with the rest of the cream cheese from the strawberry pie? We try random substitutions on it, of course!

Cream Cheese Cake
½ c cream cheese
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1½ c flour
1½ tsp baking powder

Heat oven to 350°. Grease a round or square pan.
Cream together the cream cheese and sugar. Beat in eggs until thoroughly mixed, then mix in the baking powder. Lastly, stir in the flour.
Spread very evenly into the pan as it won't level out in baking. Bake until it springs back when pressed, 30-40 minutes.

Yes, indeed, we're using it instead of butter in a cake. We read somewhere that you can, so today we're going to find out.
This photograph brought to you by winter and the makers of Wite-Out.

I have to say, this is the most delicious cake batter ever produced in the Book of Cookrye kitchen. I handed the bowl over to a friend mid-conversation saying "Here, taste this."  After barely dipping his fingertip into the batter and tasting it, his eyes went really wide and after a couple of seconds, all he managed was "....whoa."

It tasted like cheesecake dip. We at A Book of Cookrye had ecstatic hopes of accidentally producing the love child of cheesecake and regular cake. We also really wanted to forget this silly oven business and get a spoon.

However, we baked this anyway. Well, we baked the majority of the batter at least. We may or may not have made sure we did a lousy job of scraping out the bowl. So, we ended up with a lumpy cream-cheese based landscape thing.

It actually kinda looks like a landscape if you squint your eyes just a bit. It held its shape so well, not even leveling out a little. We considered that we could be on the way to discovering orgasmic cheesecake cookies.

However, our hopes of cheesecake cookies were dashed when we tried it. It tasted so ordinary. It's a good cake all right, and somehow it ended up finer-textured than they usually do, but the cheesecake flavor got baked right out of it. It's still a good cake, though.
We should have just eaten the batter.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

In which we substitute Diet Coke for eggs because the Internet told us to

I've never mentioned this before, but we at A Book of Cookrye really like Diet Coke. We like Diet Coke so much that we had to stop buying it because we were spending an embarrassing amount of grocery money on it. Nowadays, we only get Diet Coke at our parents' house-- except when Mom is trying to stop drinking it. When we come home and find there is no Diet Anything in the refrigerator on these occasions, we're always quite devastated. (note to Mom: There's an excuse for you to buy more!)
In high school we wrote a poem in praise of Diet Coke which was tacked to our bedroom wall until we moved out. It may still be in some closet in our parents' house. The first line was
O Liquor distilled from Heaven!
and further down,
Thine* aspartame sweetener
Hath sav├ęd my waist!
Why do we say this now? Because while stuck in a long wait a few days ago and therefore a lot more interested in random online listicles than we generally are, this popped up on a list of cooking tips that will purportedly change our lives.
We at A Book of Cookrye do not endorse any of the suggestions in the above picture and take no responsibility for what happens to you if you try them. source

Somehow, I get the impression that substitutions like the aforementioned are what drive people to more reliable vegan dessert ideas:
Best vegan brownie recipe ever!
More great vegan entertaining tips here!

But getting back to the original one. This is from a long infographic of vegan substitutions which was punctuated with cartoony sad animals (you can see the ears of one of them at the bottom) and slogans straight out of PETA pamphlets. We would like to draw your attention to the first subpoint.

We would like to briefly digress to say that no, we are opposed to the notion of vegan cakes. As a peace offering to anyone who might think otherwise, we would like to offer you a slice of this spice cake which is divoon.

I read the Diet Coke subpoint aloud to multiple people who all responded like this:

The passionate reaction was a good enough excuse to try it out in my own kitchen! Now, do we have a cake recipe anywhere that calls for two eggs?
All Electric-Mix Recipes Prepared Specially for your Dormeyer Mixer, 1946

Well, that worked out eerily perfectly. However, we will admit that there's only so much veganism we're willing to put up with in one cake. By that we mean the bigger bowl does not contain margarine.
Now for the "mix-easy" part...

We at A Book of Cookrye would like to briefly pause to say that having made this recipe before, it is a pretty good cake when you're not dumping in Diet Coke for eggs.
That said, surprisingly few places sell Diet Coke by the individual can. The grocery store only had bottles by the cash register. The only vending machine we've seen that sells cans is at the county college 30 miles away. We say this because for the first time in A Book of Cookrye history, we had to get ingredients at a gas station.
Side note: Did you ever realize that (assuming you're also in the US) we live in a country where supermarkets have refrigerators at each cash register for the express purpose of selling you cold sodas? Not even perishable foods that actually might be somewhat good for you, but sodas which neither need refrigeration nor contain anything at all that is good for you? (and no, we're not launching into a sanctimonious anti-soda tirade- see the Diet Coke praise poem at the top of the page.) If that ain't living the first world, nothing is.
So far, so good...

We at A Book of Cookrye honestly don't get why Diet Coke is supposed to work as an egg substitute. Most egg substitutions we've seen are some plant-based equivalent of gelatin which actually makes sense if you're looking at the chemistry aspect of cooking. Regardless of whether it worked, we felt a not-as-minor-as-it-should-have-been heartbreak over wasting a perfectly good can of Diet Coke which was still cold.
But, in the spirit of veganizing previously normal recipes, anyone who complains about Diet Coke eggs can have tofu instead. We at A Book of Cookrye are genuinely amazed at how many times in one recipe some people will pretend tofu is something else. Don't eat butter? Use tofu! Don't eat eggs? Use runny tofu! Cheese? Tofu. Mayo? Tofu!  Heck, there's probably someone out there saying if you're gluten free, you can substitute tofu for flour. At least Diet Coke represents some amount of creativity. It may be the same sort of creativity that leads a first grader to think that Oreos dipped in ketchup are the best thing ever, but it's creativity nonetheless.
This is two eggs.

Diet Coke makes even less sense as an egg substitution upon trying it than it did when reading it. Even if you're ignoring the function of eggs in a cake recipe and trying to swap one liquid for another, two eggs do not measure out to nearly the same volume as one can of Diet Coke. Even if Diet Coke eggs had made sense before trying it, we at A Book of Cookrye suspected that no cake batter is ever supposed to be curds suspended in gloop.

We had considered after buying the Diet Coke that we could have gotten a more suitable type of diet soda for this. Something like diet orange soda might have tasted better in cake. However, once the batter was ready, you could barely tell any Diet Coke was in it. So, onward and ovenward!
We would like to show you the bowl when we were almost done getting the batter into the pans so you can see that no cake batter should ever look like this.

The top of the cake looked, well, almost normal when baked. And heck, it almost smelled like a real cake. For the record, it had to cook exactly twice as long as the recipe said it would, but the recipe writers had assumed we would be using eggs and not... er... egg substitute.

However, when we sliced it, we suspected that all was not right with this cake.
Maybe if we'd bought cake flour it'd have turned out better.

Yes, once again, we had made a pan of congealed cake paste. This cake was everything a cynical bastard waiting for the next disappointment in life would expect when told "And this is a vegan dessert!" It tasted wrong, looked wrong, and was the sort of thing you expect some stuck-up prat with a bag of pamphlets to give you while smugly saying "See? You can make cruelty-free desserts!" It felt like eating paste. The Diet Coke added an unnerving metallic taste that left you thinking some of the pan had dissolved into it during the baking. This is one of the very few things that have left us at A Book of Cookrye feeling like we might puke. And for the record, you should not be able to do this to a cake.

I've never felt like apologizing to a recipe before. But I felt like I'd wronged somebody in perpetrating this... thing, and therefore needed to beg forgiveness of someone. I'm so sorry, Mix Easy Two-Egg Cake. Here, I'll make you with actual eggs to make it all better.
This is how cake batter should look.

Behold, the reward for not trying weird substitutes for the eggs: the cake batter is creamy, thick, curd-free, and divoon!

In conclusion, do not try to veganize recipes by way of vending machines. That way you can get a cake that looks like this.
I think my oven might be tilted.

And when you cut yourself a piece, it will be a divoon, light, delicate cake and not metal-flavored cake clay. You can also get away with using plain flour instead of cake flour because you didn't dump Diet Coke in there instead of eggs. (As a side note, you probably want to dust the pan with flour after greasing it for this one. It's a bit tricky to lift out of the pan otherwise.)

Once again, we at A Book of Cookrye have nothing against vegan cakes, just lousy cakes. If you want a good vegan cake recipe, we actually have one here!

*Yes, I now know it should have been thy.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Second-Stab Saturday: More Cake Drops!

A while ago, we at A Book of Cookrye tried out a cookie recipe that ended up more like little cakes than cookies. Far from being annoyed, we were pleased to have discovered cake drops.

Cake Drops
1 c shortening
1½ c sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp nutmeg
½ c buttermilk (or sour cream thinned with water)
½ tsp baking soda
1½ tsp baking powder
3 c flour

Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating in each thoroughly. Stir in the vanilla, nutmeg, baking soda, and baking powder. When all is mixed, add the buttermilk. Lastly, mix in the flour. Chill for at least 30 minutes, preferably a few hours.
When ready to bake, heat oven to 350°. Drop by heaping tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet, leaving plenty of room for them to spread. Bake until browned at the edges, golden on top, and puffy. Ice when cooled.
To get them baked faster, bake them on sheets of greased foil. That way, you can clear the cookie sheet for the next batch without waiting for them to cool.

A Book of Selected Recipes, Mrs. George O Thurn, 1934

With the annual family reunion soon, we decided this would be a good time to bring some cake drops! Have you ever look at a bowl of cookie dough and realize you'll be spending a long time before you've managed to bake it all? At least with cakes, you just dump it in one pan and that's it.

That is part of why we decided to make big cookies. We also went with big cookies because everyone likes big cookies. Little ones are all right, but they're better for looking dainty on a platter than for eating.
The first batch of cake drops came out sad and flat. Also, you can definitely tell the cookie sheet is a wee bit bent. I can't complain because if I didn't warp this one when learning to cook, I warped the one just like it to an equally severe extent.
Do you think the cookie sheet has a slight bend to it?

We at A Book of Cookrye were helpfully informed (Thanks, Mom!) that they came out flat because we should have refrigerated the dough first. Unlike the last time we made them, it's hot out.

I wish I could show you how lovely they looked with the icing on top, but instead all I had time to do was get this picture of how well they went over:
Sharp-eyed people will notice the remnants of a pink polka-dotted icing job.

I think this recipe's worth repeating.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Italian Pork Chops in Boozy Cabbage: It's like Italian Bubbles and Squeak but with a pig instead

Guess what happened in the Book of Cookrye world!
That's right, a visit home!

Meat like this is outstandingly rare in our budget of "What is this thing called money?", so we wanted to do something better than just putting them on a griddle. Besides, rarely can we get look at recipes in the meat sections of our cookbooks and actually consider making them!
Most people in our place would pick out a  recipe that makes them salivate just reading it, but we at A Book of Cookrye went with one that left us with no idea what would end up in the pot. Yes indeed, we're cooking the pork chops in boozy cabbage.
The Art of Italian Cooking, Maria Lo Pinto, 1948

We had no idea whether to use a red cabbage or a green cabbage, but we found a one-pounder stacked among the reds at the middle-Eastern store.
You'd never see produce this small in a supermarket.

Does anyone else remember a Pinky and the Brain comic where they ended up in colonial Salem and Brain committed some grievous crime and had to wear... The Scarlet Lettuce? He spent the entire story saying it was in fact a cabbage while the good townspeople shouted "Silence, nonbeliever!" every time he said so? Anyway, the point is, a cabbage cut in half cries out for mathematical analysis, especially if you're into fractals.

We at A Book of Cookrye aren't sure how you're supposed to shred a cabbage, so hopefully having at it with a knife will suffice.

Actually, this recipe involved a lot of chopping things.

We made the executive decision that these pork chops were fricken huge (wheeee!), and therefore we should cut them in half so they'd all fit in the pan. Not that having such a surplus of meat slabs is problematic, of course.
I'm not kidding, they're huge. They're almost bigger than the knife blade.

Having cut them in half, they just barely fit into the skillet (this is an amazing day!).

We had no idea if the recipe meant to brown them 6 minutes per side or six minutes total. When we checked them at three minutes or so, we went with the latter.

Incidentally, for once we read the recipe enough to plan this out and brought out an actual plate for removing the onions to when they were cooked.
This is what preparation looks like.

All right, it's time to dump it all together and wait for supper! We had thought we would just do the whole thing in the skillet, but for once this did not fit. This caused no small amount of consternation in the Book of Cookrye kitchen; numerous culinary experiences had made us believe the skillet was magic and could expand its capacity as needed.
Suddenly I feel like apologizing to my great-grandmother.

Well, the whole thing had to go into the pot and that barely held it all.

And now, a grocery-shopping aside: We at A Book of Cookrye got so nervous buying the wine- all of the bottles had pictures of fancy houses (you know, the sort owned by people who use the word "summer" as a verb), years on the labels because you're supposed to know what that means, weird European-sounding variety names, and little paragraphs on the back that talked about "hints," "notes," and crap like that. We went with the one that required neither a corkscrew nor worry that it would break (also, it was cheap).
Also, as a recipe note, we read that #2 cans hold about a pint, so hopefully 28 ounces is close enough to the right size of tomatoes.
We also went with a small wine bottle because what the heck are we going to do with the rest of it?

All right, this is the moment that caused the most dread in the whole recipe:
It's not Burgundy, but it is the same color.

One cup of wine doesn't seem so bad, but the pot was so densely packed that the wine went up to just below surface level. We panicked at the thought of wasting all this meat in another disastrous wine pie, but it was too late.

Anyone who is comparing this to the recipe will note we made a grievous error. We were supposed to cook everything for a while and then dump in the wine near the end. We figured we'd just leave it for the forty minutes it would have spent on the burner anyway and hope for the best.
Is it supposed to do that?

We considered wine with dinner (we had half a bottle left anyway). But, given how much wine was already in dinner, having more with dinner seemed redundant. Hence, tea.

All right, we took a huge tray of meat and for some reason put it in a pot of alcohol and cabbage. What the heck did we get? Surprisingly white-on-the-inside meat, that's what. It almost looks like meat cake.

However, this was absolutely divoon. I've never had pork chops so tender, and the long stewing time melded everything wonderfully and took out the wine's pungency. The tomatoes didn't even taste like they'd come out of a can.
However, when we had leftovers the next day, the pork tasted like concentrated wine blobs. Since the cabbage and tomato stuff was still really good, there was a marvelously easy solution.

These were the best leftover sandwiches ever!
We were quite relieved these were good because we had a lot of pork chop and cabbage left over.

Would they have been better had we added the wine near the end of the cooking time like the recipe says? I have no idea. However, we at A Book of Cookrye would like to raise a wine-filled measuring cup to Maria Lo Pinto for making a whole cabbage head and a lot of wine absolutely divoon.