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New Test: The Can(‘t) Cook Book

7 Nov

Cover

My next (or first) test will be the Can(‘t) Cook Book. (Note: Given the graphic on the cover, I will incorporate the parenthesis  around the “‘t” of the title when mentioning it). When I wanted to reboot this blog, I wanted to do a “back to basics” cookbook because of how my personal life has been. For those who know me, I have mentioned quite a bit that I have not been myself for a while. So, I kinda go back to the start, especially with cooking again. Part of what connected me to the cookbook is a confession I have to make: I have become a Can’t Cook. (Hold up! You can’t cook and doing a blog about making recipes?! Okay?) In addition to not blogging much, I haven’t cook a lot either with making excuses and just being stupid procrastinating, which makes me the “Used to Cook”, one of many types of Can’t Cooks (Seinfeld 1). In addition to getting back into the “Can” category, I want to get back into the kitchen, start cooking again, and most importantly, fall back in love with a passion I have for food.

Written by Jessica Seinfeld (from Deceptively Delicious) and containing over 100 recipes, her aim to be a mentor for the Can’t Cooks and break people into this realm that can seem very intimidating. With me, she hits one note while growing up for me: Cooking for and/or with my family has been very stressful. Not to further rag on family, but a lot of my family falls into one or more of the Can’t Cook categories. So, I encourage and even challenge them to cook along with this test. Amidst the stress, one joy and another note Jessica makes is the satisfaction of making a successful and satisfying meal for someone else (Seinfeld 2). Past her welcoming, the intro also covers how to do general prep in the kitchen as well as other how to’s. Beyond the cookbook, she mentions both a website and a phone app to watch how-to videos to further aid the reader (Seinfeld 1). (If you want to find out what the links to these are plus other info about the cookbook, you can always buy the cookbook. This blog is to test recipes; not to spew the info from them verbatim. It is what it is.)

Time to cook and blog.

Reference

Content:

– Seinfeld, Jessica. The Can’t Cook Book: 100 Recipes for the Absolutely Terrified! New York: Atria Books, 2013.

Image:

– Rancilio, Alicia. “Seinfeld Has Help for Cooking-Phobic with 3rd Book.” The Gateway News. 23 Oct. 013. Associated Press. 06 Nov. 2013 <http://www.thegatewaynews.com/ap%20lifestyle/2013/10/23/seinfeld-has-help-for-cooking-phobic-with-3rd-book&gt;.

Dark Chocolate Cake (The SparkPeople CookBook)

5 Apr

About the Recipe/Intro

If want to know why I chose this dessert, put it simply: I love chocolate! With sweet vs. dark, this is one case where I love dark side, and it is decadent. If you read the ingredients, you may think it’s missing one to two ingredients, namely butter and oil. (Wait, how can you make a cake without those? You need something to moisten it.) Chef Meg’s answer: a vegetable. If you think she’s crazy and want to flip the page, allow me to explain. By preparing a vegetable, whether it’s by grating, pureeing etc, it releases the moisture within the vegetable and allows it to be dispersed throughout the batter. Thus, fat and calories goes down with nutrient content in the recipe going up. Note: you don’t actually taste the vegetable itself in the recipe other than maybe contributing a little bit of sweetness (Cook Yourself Thin).

Ingredients, Shopping and Cost

Whole-Wheat Pastry Flour

In the introduction to the “Dessert” section, she notes her preference whole-wheat pastry flour. Yet, not every recipe features this, and I’m not saying it as a bad thing. Also, I want to know how this differs from a whole-wheat flour. On the ingredient list with the product I bought, it says, “Whole Grain Soft Wheat Flour”. So, I wonder it being “soft” has something to do with it. By soft, they mean lower protein (less gluten) compare to all-purpose flour. Compared to regular whole-wheat flour, it has a softer and finer texture. (Weston). When shopping for this, finding it at your store can be hit-or-miss; so, you may either have go to another store or use a mix of flours.

# of stores: 2

  1. Trader Joe’s
  2. Whole Foods

Baking the recipe

                Like other cakes recipes, this follows the baking standard of keeping wet and dry ingredients separate at first. However, it then has you make and incorporate meringues. I get to do this for something like a cheesecake, but a chocolate cake? One tip she makes is to have all ingredients at room temperature before starting. Although it increases your prep time, I found it much easier working with all the ingredients, especially the eggs. Overall, making this recipe seemed very easy. (I do have a confession to make; what I describe what was my 2nd attempt. On my first, I added wet and dry prematurely, and due to time constraints, I had wait to another day to have my cake. For someone who enjoys chocolate, I was quite pissed off at myself.). Note: this cake doesn’t include a frosting.

Tasting

When I first tried this cake, it had this airiness to it, which I attribute that to the meringues. I wasn’t necessary a fan of that. As I kept biting down, I got this nice richness of dark chocolate. Prior to baking, I had this great dark chocolate bar, and once I got to this note, it happily reminded me of that. In addition to satisfying my chocolate craving, this cake was very moist and soft. (Remember, no butter or oil). I didn’t miss the frosting. If you have must have it though, then take and possibly modify the frosting part of another dessert from this book.

One request for advice is how do you properly store this cake? I covered in foil and let it sit on the counter. Although it kept moist, the cake molded on me pretty quickly; I had to throw half of it out. As I roommate would say, “You fail.”

Rating

I give this recipe a 4.5 out 5. If you’re new to baking healthier desserts and/or just have a dark chocolate craving, this cake is a good starting point.

References:

–          Cook Yourself Thin. Lifetime Television Network.

–          Galvin, Meg, and Stepfanie Romine. “Dark Chocolate Cake.” The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2011. 360.

–          Weston, Nicole. “What is Pastry Flour? « Baking Bites.” Baking Bites. 17 Oct. 2008. Baking Bites. 27 Mar. 2013 <http://bakingbites.com/2008/10/what-is-pastry-flour/&gt;.

Image:

–          Mormann, Jamie. “Whole Grain Pastry Flour and a Healthier Banana Bread.” Sophistimom. Jamie Mormann, 12 Jan. 2009. 05 Apr. 2013. <http://www.sophistimom.com/whole-grain-pastry-flour-and-a-healthier-banana-bread/&gt;.

Farro-Argula Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette

5 Apr

To go with the Chicken Breast in Red-Wine Sauce, I wanted something with a grain or a salad to go along with it. At first, I thought paring these two didn’t make any sense farro, to my knowledge, is a Middle Eastern ingredient. However, it’s noted that farro is popular in Italy (Galvin 297). (Score! I just made an Italian meal.) With this recipe, one thing that has me miffed is, “How do you make a vinaigrette using walnuts?” Healthy cooking or not, I’ve never heard of that. In addition to the farro, this will be my first time using and trying another ingredient: goat cheese.

Ingredients and Shopping

Being all excited to work with farro, I wanted to find out more info and whether it’s a whole grain or not. (It is.) Another name for it is emmer wheat (Galvin 297). It’s considered an ancient grain with its origins from the Mediterranean and Middle East. Farro is known for producing low yields and difficult to harvest; so, it often got replaced as time went on. That said, farro is a type of grain that can grow and even thrive in crap-static conditions (Foster). Its spread to the Western world is possibly attributed to the French Haute Savoie and its use as a ration for the Roman Legions during the time of their Empire (About.com).

Though similar, farro can be easily mistaken for another grain (often spelt). So make sure you read the package carefully when buying this ingredient. If you have difficulty finding it in the grain/pasta section of the store, other areas to look are health food and ethnic/specialty. Otherwise, you will need to go to a specialty or health food store. Farro aside, the rest of the ingredients should not be hard to get.

To get all the ingredients, I went to 2 stores:

  1. Trader Joe’s
  2. Whole Foods

Making and Tasting the recipe

                As fun as this salad seems, there is quite a few components. The longest of which is working with the farro. From the book to other sources, they say the farro must be soaked before cooking it. Even though this isn’t an odd preparation (I think this is done with some rice preparations), I’m not entirely sure why this must done. If anyone knows, please reply below. When it was time to make the vinaigrette, walnuts, though in the salad, aren’t actually in it. I was disappointed and wondering if saying “walnut vinaigrette” is misleading or not.

This recipe didn’t feature a reference photo, and I think it might have been helpful. One other ingredient in the salad is sliced apples, which I did lengthwise. Therefore, it looks like they don’t belong, unless the apples are the bulk. While I combining everything, the goat cheese bound together and coated the salad. I’m not sure if that was a mistake. The final effect looks as if I totally screwed it up.

Amidst the possible errors, I was happy with what turned out. When first bit into this, it tasted a little odd with all the combinations and threw me off. Once I got past that, my palette and even eyes danced with all the textures and flavors, and they play off each other well. You get nuttiness and an al dente bite from the farro, crisp and sour from the apple, tangy and creamy from the goat cheese, etc.

The recipe description gives modifications to show the adaptability of this recipe. I get why it was written, but I feel as it’s downplaying the recipe. This salad, as is, has a fun mix and even a good introduction to new ingredients to try out. Even if I have to make another trip, I personally think it’s worth it. The only thing I modify is to double the amount of arugula in the recipe to get another serving of vegetables in and have that flavor a little more resonated.

Nutrition Info

Originally, I said this recipe and the nutrition info couldn’t be accessed online. Although, with search engines, modify you search, like using different wording, and you can find what you’re looking for. Thus, here is the to recipe online:

http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1031566.

Since I’ve been highlighting farro throughout this post, here is a nutrition tidbit of farro to be aware of; the nutritional content of farro can vary based on the type and brand you use. So, read the package carefully. For example, the farro I used has over 3x the calories per serving (170) than what SparkPeople apparently used (50). Regardless of the nutrition info you read, this is a recipe to not get caught up in the numbers. This salad has a whole grain, vegetable, and fruit and protein/dairy. You only need to look it to know it’s healthy and satisfying.

Rating

I give this recipe a 4.25 out five. Even if it may weird or just unfamiliar to me, I absolutely love it and wouldn’t change much about it.

References:

–          “Farro: Grain of the Legions.” About.com. 2013. About.com. 26 Mar. 2013 <http://italianfood.about.com/library/rec/blr0002.htm&gt;.

–          Foster, Niki. “What is Farro?” WiseGEEK. Ed. Brownyn Harris. 2013. Conjecture Corporation. 26 Mar. 2013 <http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-farro.htm&gt;.

–          Galvin, Meg, and Stepfanie Romine. “Farro-Arugula Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette.” The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2011. 297.

Image:

–          “Farro: Grain of the Legions.” About.com. 2013. About.com. 26 Mar. 2013 <http://italianfood.about.com/library/rec/blr0002.htm&gt;.

–          SPCookbook. “Farro Arugula Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette.” SparkRecipes. SparkPeople. 09 July 2013 <http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1031566&gt;.