Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Philly Cheesesteak sandwich

August 24, 2009

Yesterday we went to BJs to round up some bulk meats, and I checked out the steaks. Top round looked appealingly gristle-free and was only $2.99 a pound, so I brought a tray home and sliced it up this morning. Half of it was turned into casserole meat, and the other half was finely sliced for fahitas, stir-fry or cheesesteaks. After the bulk of it was stowed away in the freezer, I cooked us up a cheesesteak for lunch.

I’m really not a big beef-eater, but you can’t beat a good Philly Cheesesteak. They’re incredibly easy to make, too. All you need is some nice steak, sliced as thinly as you can manage it – ALWAYS slice your steak across the grain, not along it. When you’ve cut the slice you should never see muscle strips across the front because they’ll fry up like shoe leather!. You also need some finely sliced onion, bell-peppers (alas I have to leave them out because DH is allergic), fresh garlic, mustard, a nice bread roll or a couple of slices of bread, and some cheese. I’m not sure which kind of cheese you’re ‘supposed’ to use, but I go with regular old American cheese for its supreme meltiness.  Try to eat it plain and it’s revolting, but as soon as you put it under the broiler and melt it, it magically turns delicious.

Fry up your onions and garlic then add the finely sliced beef and give it just long enough to go from pink to ‘cooked’ looking… put some mustard onto your toasted bread and share the meat/onion out, then top it with cheese and put it under the broiler until the cheese melts. And here it is… my cheesesteak sandwich on whole-grain bread.

philly cheesesteak sandwich

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Friday Feasting – Carrot Cake with cream cheese frosting!

August 22, 2009

Carrot cake is one of those cakes that seems very complicated because it has a TON of ingredients, but when you put everything together it’s actually very simple… and since it has a vegetable in it you can pretend that it’s healthy! My starting point was the Carrot Pineapple Cake 1 from allrecipes.com. I was making carrot cakes for two households so I basically doubled the recipe – the recipe as listed on allrecipes makes one large cake, not three small ones.

Firstly, assemble your laundry list of ingredients. Not everything I used is actually shown in the picture because I added a few extra things as I went along. But most of the ingredients are here –
carrot cake

Get a large mixing bowl and put your dry ingredients into it. That includes the flour, sugar, salt, spices, and raising agent (this particular recipe uses baking powder AND baking soda.) Mix everything together really well. My mix is extra-brown because I used brown sugar, but you can use white if you prefer.
carrot cake

Make a small well in the middle of the mixed dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients – eggs, melted butter and/or oil (I used one stick of butter and 1/4 cup corn oil) and vanilla.
carrot cake

I don’t like to use a lot of fat or oil in my cooking, so I cut down on the quantities suggested (1 cup of oil for one cake sounds like an enormous amount to me!) and I substituted an individual container of applesauce and a mashed banana (we happened to have a really ripe banana needing to be used.) Mashed fruit adds sweetness and moistness to a cake and cuts the fat requirement in half.
carrot cake

When I’d added the mashed fruit, I realised that the mixture was WAY too dry, so I added some apple juice to moisten it up. If you wanted you could use pineapple juice or milk or even water… any type of liquid will work.
carrot cake

Next, add your fruit. Carrot cake can have any of all of the following fruits added to it – crushed pineapple (don’t drain it, use the juice in the cake), raisins or sultanas, grated coconut and nuts… I don’t really like coconut in carrot cake so I used a cup of raisins and 1/2 a big tin of pineapple. Whichever you want to use, mix it into the cake to taste.
carrot cake

Now for the fun part… it’s not a carrot cake without carrot in it! So grab a bunch of carrots and start prepping. You can use a food processor to do this very quickly, but I did it the old-fashioned way. You want to end up with about 2 cups of grated carrot per cake.
carrot cake

My kitchen supervisor had to approve the recipe at this point. Tessie thinks I put that chair on the other side of the kitchen counter just for her – cats are strictly prohibited from being on the kitchen counter and they know it (if we catch them up there they get sprayed with the water bottle!) But she loves to stand on the arm and to watch me working in the kitchen… after all, there might be something in it for her!
carrot cake

Oops… almost forgot to add the nuts. I don’t like walnuts so I used pecans. Just crumble them into the cake mix and stir them in. Pecans are so soft that they’re easy to break up with your hands.
adding nuts

Divide the cake mix into your pans. I was making cakes to give away so I used three disposable foil pans because it was simpler… and I stood them on baking trays to avoid any potential disasters in the oven.
carrot cake

Then I baked them at 350F for thirty minutes… then I swapped the trays around so that they could get equally heated, and I baked them for another 20 minutes or so. The end result? Delicious!
carrot cake

I would have been happy to eat the cake just like that… but that’s not the end of it. As DH pointed out to me, carrot cake just isn’t the same without cream cheese frosting on it! Fortunately, frosting is very easy to make. All you need is a packet of cream cheese, some confectioners sugar (or icing sugar, they’re the same thing) and some vanilla. Butter is optional depending on how much cream cheese you happen to have available… Soften the cream cheese in a bowl – the quick-and-easy way to do this is to put it into the microwave for 10-15 seconds. And then squish it and stir it until it’s smooth and creamy.
carrot cake

Then add your confectioners sugar a bit at a time and keep stirring until you have enough frosting for your cakes. In the end it should look something like this.
carrot cake

Dollop it onto your cakes and smooth it around with the back of the spoon until you like the way it looks, then put the cake into the fridge to set.
carrot cake

And there you are… your carrot cake is done. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week and still taste good… if you can make it last that long!
carrot cake

Welcome to my world!

August 13, 2009

I thought I’d give this blogging thing a go… there are three things that occupy a lot of my time and interest, so they’re the subject of my blog.

1) Cats… namely ours! We have three kitties who very much rule the roost around here. Silver and Scout are sisters and they were adopted from the animal shelter right after we got married.That makes them going on for six now. They’re positively sedate, and they spend a lot of time lying in the sun or curled up in a box some place.
Our third feline, Tessie, adopted US. She’s a year or so younger than the other two, and while she has the body of a full-grown adult, she has the brain (and energy) of a kitten. Tessie loves to play, and one of her favourite games is chasey. She will chase anything that moves – balls, the laser pointer, her sisters… Silver will play with her on demand, but Scouty hates her.

Our fourth kitty isn’t actually ours… I am pathologically unable to ignore a cry for help, and Tommy Boy realised that and took advantage of it! I was feeding another kitty at the time (I thought Stripy Thing was a stray but he actually has a perfectly good home in the other building – he just likes to mooch!) and one day Tommy Boy smelled/saw/heard the food and came tearing up the stairs to get some. How could I possibly refuse such bravery? So he got his own bowl and he shows up for breakfast and dinner every day. He’s very much a feral and he doesn’t want to be touched or paid too much attention to, but he knows when it’s time to eat. And I’m happy to help him out… I will NOT turn any creature away from my door hungry if I have the means to help fill their belly.

2) My second interest is cooking. I’m not a gourmet cook… but I love good quality food made with real ingredients. I don’t use a lot of salt or additives in my food and store-bought or factory-made food tends to be disappointing, not worth the money, or plain dreadful. But I’m not a purist, and there are plenty of shortcuts that make my life simpler without spoiling the end product. I’m not ashamed to use a store-bought pizza crust… but it’s going to be topped with fresh vegetables (for me) and pepperoni (for John). I don’t use a lot of formal recipes in my cooking… cooking is mostly a mix of intuition and experience. I helped my mother with the baking from the time I was very young, and I took over cooking the family dinners when I was thirteen, so I’ve got plenty of experience under my belt! I love to look at recipe books and to get new ideas from them, but most of the stuff I actually make comes from my gut. Sometimes it works… and sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s just the way life is. I celebrate the successes and pull the rug over the failures and move on. And there are very few nights when we have to turn to pizza! 😛

3) My third interest is crafts. I’ve toyed with scrapbooking (both paper and digital), cross-stitch and various other crafts, but my real love is making things from paper. I did scrapbooking for quite a few years, but it gets to be a very expensive hobby very quickly. After we were married I settled on cards because they’re quick, easy, inexpensive, and useful. I love being able to produce a result fairly quickly and then to give it to someone else and pass on the joy. I make cards for our church and I make cards for the Cards for Heroes project. Cards for Heroes collects handmade greeting cards, collates them into boxes, and ships them off to the troops overseas so they can keep in touch with their families. CFH also collects ‘hero cards’ with notes, letters etc in them so that the heroes can be encouraged as well… it’s got to be mighty tough to be away from your family and loved ones for so long, and they need all the encouragement they can get!

4) I know I said I had three interests… but there are actually four. My last interest, which probably won’t get as much airtime here because it’s very personal and more a subject for my private diary, is church… I’ve been a Christian since I was fifteen, and while I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with the church itself and sometimes I’ve gone for months at a time without setting foot in the church door, my faith is a central part of my life. I don’t believe in sitting here and telling other people what to do or believe. So don’t expect to be lectured at… but I wouldn’t be me without God.

And that’s me in a nutshell… I’ll get some photos in here when I figure out how to do it. I’ve never had a blog before so it’s all new to me! I hope you’ll stick around for the journey…