Thursday, September 22, 2011

This Week's Cooking Adventures

This week, we had two significant cooking adventures. For waffle night on Monday, we decided to make a feast of apple goodness since we had just gone to the orchard. We were planning meals for the week, and Caleb took down the German cookbook we had been given as a wedding gift and started looking for apple-y things. He found an apple compote with clear and very detailed instructions. I love when there are detailed instructions that answer the "why" questions. I kept looking through the book for other apple things and found a recipe called "apples in nightgowns" where you wrap an apple in pastry and then bake it. We decided on apples in nightgowns and Dutch babies with apple compote. 

Needless to say, making all of this took a very long time. This was not helped by that fact that I didn't realize until I got home that the new apple peeler/corer I bought couldn't core without also slicing, so I had to go back to the store for an additional tool. The compote didn't look very syrupy, but it tasted oh so good and we ate it all on the first batch of Dutch babies. The apples in nightgowns were very involved because I had to make the dough, and there were various phases of chilling and rolling and stretching it out over a springform pan, which I'm not sure what that accomplished or if I did it the right way. Caleb peeled and cored all the apples, and then I rolled out the dough, stuffed the hole where the core had been with a mixture of raisins, cinnamon, sugar, and marmalade, and then wrapped each apple in dough and sealed it with milk. They turned out about average as far as beauty. Some of the apples had sort of melted out of their nightgowns onto the pan. And they were not sweet at all. Caleb said that he forgot how not sweet German "desserts" are and that next time we should roll them in sugar. I'm not sure if there will be a next time.

Adventure two was yesterday. I really wanted to make butternut squash soup this week. I don't know why, but I did. It's fallish and yummy and yesterday ended up being the perfect day for it because it was cold and windy. This soup presented a slew of firsts: buying and cooking a squash, buying and cooking a leek (I still don't really know what a leek is), making a homemade soup, going to the Willy St. Co-op, and more.

The soup: the squash was perfect-- bright orange and it cooked really nicely. I didn't know how to cut it and probably did so in a very dangerous manner (I know that because I watched a youtube video about squash after I had already cut it and she kept saying how dangerous cutting it could be... whoops!). Then, once it had cooked, I didn't know how to get the skin off and couldn't find anything on the internet about this, so I used a peeler! Is this right? Does anyone know? The rest went fine, it was just kind of comical. Here's this huge vegetable that I have no idea what to do with. We put the soup through the blender in batches-- never had done that before either-- and it turned out really creamy and nice. In the end, it was a little gritty and had too much cayenne pepper in it, but Caleb liked it. We ate it with perfect buttery crescent rolls. So good. 

The store: quick word about Willy St. Co-op-- I went to the one on the west side because I suspected they would have great produce, and I was right! They also had my favorite coffee, Kickapoo Coffee. It's a local thing. It's the house coffee at Harvest restaurant downtown, and it's sold in the coffee shop Bradbury's, also downtown, and also at Willy St. It is so yummy. The aroma in the morning is like a soft blanket surrounding you. The other great thing about this grocery is the spice shelf. They have three or four shelves filled with glass jars the size that you would normally see candy in, but these are filled with spices-- whole, ground, they've got it all. I love this because instead of buying a $5 spice jar of something like ginger root that you're never going to use again, you can fill up a little bag with just the amount you need and get it for 23 cents. What a genius idea. Not for the germaphobes or those with allergies to certain spices, though.

I am learning how to choose my stores based on the item I'm looking for. For example, it's better to buy squash at the co-op vs. at ALDI because it will be a much better squash, but it's hard! It takes so much time to go to two or three different stores. I'm hoping it pays off in the end. ALDI is nice because you save money, but then I always wonder if the food tastes weird because there's something from ALDI in it. Example, I made homemade chicken fingers this week. They always taste amazing and this week they tasted awful. Was this because some of the supplies were from ALDI? Or was it because I accidently put parsley in the breading? Still learning what's okay to buy there and what's not. When I go there, I want to buy everything because it's so enticingly cheap. Caleb says it's so cheap because of the way the store is set up, but I wonder if that's not the only reason... How do you know where your food is coming from? Questions, questions.

The butternut squash. What a color. 
What's for dinner on Friday: Spinach Pie! 

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