Friday Fuck-Up: Two Steps is Clearly Too Many


It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a Friday Fuck-up around here.  It’s not that I haven’t blown it in the kitchen lately.  I cook dinner nearly every night of the week, so naturally, things don’t always go as planned.  However, my flubs have been rather run of the mill: soupy lasagna, over/undercooked rice, spills, etc.  But then, the bread happened, and it was just too epic not to share.

Let me just say, before I get into the details, that I blame my children.  If not for their constant shenanigans, particularly in the middle of the night, I might have two brain cells left to rub together.  They bring great joy to my life,  and all I have to give them in return is ten of my IQ points.   Not a bad deal, but it can lead to problems.  Like the one you see above.

On Saturday, my husband took the kids to the park.  He has gotten in the habit of making bread using a book (more on that soon), and all I needed to do was take off the plastic bags resting on top of the loaves and put them in the oven.  Apparently I have not yet reached the developmental milestone of following two-step directions because I failed to remove the plastic from one of the loaves before putting it in the oven.  Yes, that’s right.  The lovely glaze in the photo above is a melted Ziplock bag.  The green squiggle next to it?  That would be the melted zipper.

Fortunately (and illogically), I only screwed up one of the two loaves, and the odor of burnt plastic only lasted a few hours.  And in exchange, I have this lovely post to share with you.  You are welcome.

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Of Cookbooks, Blog Posts, and E-books


When looking for a recipes these days, there are so many, many, many options. When I have a particular recipe/ingredient/meal I am looking for, I will often just turn to a good ol’ google search and see where the interwebs take me.  I will often land on someone’s blog, and this may be what brought you, dear reader, over to Endless Simmer in the first place.  Blogs can be good for browsing, too, but when I am really seeking inspiration from out of the blue, nothing beats an actual paper cookbook, preferably weighing a few pounds and liberally strewn with pictures.  On a side note, I have recently discovered the joy that is library cookbooks, but I’ll save my extended thoughts on those for another day.

Somewhere between these two media, the blog and the cookbook, lies a strange beast: the cooking e-book.  Like blogs, e-cookbooks can be produced by more or less any dude or dudette with a stove and a computer.  They can serve many purposes: some are just like traditional cookbooks; others are blog spinoffs.  The two categories of e-cookbooks that I have found most useful are mini recipe collections (think “30 savory pies”); and e-books that focus on just one recipe, but one that is longer and more complicated than can be contained in one blog post, like “authentic Pad Thai.”

I was recently sent a review copy of Kolaches – Amazing & Easy! which fits solidly into the second category of my kind of e-cookbooks. For the uninitiated, kolaches are a slightly sweet Czech pastry often filled with fruit or cheese.  This book contains a brief history of the pastry, followed by instructions on how to make the dough, make the fillings, and assemble the pastries.  Also included are many variations on the initial recipe and what to do with leftover dough.

But…these were a freakin’ lot of work.  Perhaps it’s just my baking ineptitude, but despite this book’s exclamatory title,  there was nothing easy about making kolaches.  And in the end, after all my (long) hard work, the end result tasted like biscuits with jelly.  Good biscuits with jelly, but I’m not sure they were worth all the extra effort.


If you are more bakingly inclined than I am (and you certainly are), you may want to check out this e-book on Amazon.   In addition to making kolaches, the book includes instructions for some great little rolls, or “little ducks” as the author calls them, that you can make with the leftover dough.  These were less work, and still super-delicious.

So what about you?  Do you prefer cookbooks, e-books, or blogs? Any little known favorites to share?

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Stuffed Pumpkin 5.0: Bacon, Egg and Goat Cheese Stuffed Pumpkin


Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and those loyal ESers among you may have been wondering—what is Miss K going to cook inside a pumpkin this year?  (Or perhaps you had forgotten this annual tradition.  That would be understandable.  After all, it has been a whole year.)  Whether you are new around here or just want to refresh your memory, you can read about my other stuffed pumpkins here, here, here, and here.  For my pentannual pumpkin post, I decided to go in a different direction, mealwise.

Inspired by Mike’s round-up of butternut squash recipes, I recently made a butternut squash gratin, which bore a striking resemblance to my family’s typically breakfast casserole, but, you know, with squash.  As I was eating it, I had three thoughts: 1) I cut these potatoes too big. This has been a common problem for me lately.  More on that another day. 2) This would be better with bacon.  3) Aha!  I have discovered the secret to this year’s stuffed pumpkin!

And so, without further ado, I have just the recipe you need to impress your in-laws on the day after Thanksgiving.  That is, if everyone hasn’t already, at that point, vowed to eat only green leafy vegetables until Christmas.


Bacon, Egg and Goat Cheese Stuffed Pumpkin

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How Do You Squish Your Squash?


Piles of super-cheap gourds at the grocery, a morning chill in the air, and some delicious looking round-up posts can only mean one thing:  squash season is upon us. While my husband is partial to butternut (particularly as soup), I embrace all winter squash varieties, from spaghetti to acorn to pumpkin (read: not just for jack o’lanterns, eaters). Reading Snebbu’s post about ways to use butternut squash the other day got me thinking, though…squash is not always the easiest to cook with.  It requires more time and advanced planning than my other go-to produce items of the season, apples.  So I thought I’d share my tried and true squash preparation method, and then see if you all had any suggestions to add.

Now, you may be aware that it is possible, particularly in the case of butternut squash, to peel the raw squash, remove the seeds and cut the flesh into chunks, then cook.  I do not like this method for several reasons.  First, peeling a big, unwieldy, rock-hard vegetable is a slippery pain.  Secondly, I end up with this weird sticky sap on my hands.  Third, half the time I have to peel it a second time to remove the stringy green layer.  If I fail to plan ahead and absolutely must have cubes of squash in the next half-hour, I’ll suck it up and use this method, but I avoid it if I can.  Instead, I use a method introduced to me by my mom years ago.

What I prefer to do is this:

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Pretty as a Picture (At Long Last)


I consider myself to be an above average home cook.  I get lots of practice, what with putting dinner on the table seven nights a week and all (six if my husband gives in to my love of Pete’s Apizza.)  Desserts, though….not so much. I don’t even care for desserts most of the time.  I prefer a cold beer and a handful of sour cream and onion potato chips for a late-night snack. Still, it is nice to bring a show-stopping sweet to a potluck now and then.   Plus, I just know that one of these days, someone is going to rope me into a bake sale.  So, when the chance arose to review a copy of The Big Book of Desserts and Pastries by Claes Karlsson, I volunteered.

As expected, when the book arrived, it was filled with beautiful, full-color photos.  I skipped right past the candy section. As I said, when it comes to desserts, I know my limits.  If it involves a thermometer, I’m out. I settled on the honey pine nut cake. I had all of the ingredients on hand, the directions were simple, and the picture in the book was drool-worthy. But my DIY result was…disappointing. Sure, my little pine nut cupcakes tasted good, kind of like sugar cookies with pine nuts on top, but they did not look particularly beautiful.  Mission not accomplished.


Next, I went for the thin tuiles.  This go-around, I even bought heavy cream, something not normally on hand at our house.  I mixed, spoon, and baked as per the instructions. The resulting cookies were so fragile that the trip from the pan to the cooling rack was enough to shatter them. I blame the fact that the recipe calls for an oven heated to 390 degrees, and chances are that my very old, non-digital oven was off by more than a few notches.  Grr. The crumbled cookies did make an excellent topping for ice cream, so all was not lost, but I still had not achieved my goal of a photo-worthy dessert.

After failing twice, I was ready to move this book from the cookbook shelf to the coffee table.  Clearly, in my less than capable hands, it would be better for browsing. I was having tea with a friend the next day, however, so I decided to make one last attempt, with a recipe for coffee-flavored chocolate cake.  I didn’t have the correct pan shape, but I refused to let this stop me.  An hour or so later, I sighed with relief as I pulled out my camera.  The resulting cake cubes were not only delectably chocolatey with a hint of coffee-flavor,  they were gorgeous. Thank goodness.


Coffee-Flavored Chocolate Cake

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Trend Triple Threat


Last week , as I was consuming the above beverage, a friend pointed out that the locally-made, coconut water kombucha was basically the embodiment of current culinary fads.

If only it came in biodegradable packaging hand-painted by fairly paid women from a southeast Asian co-op, it would have been perfect.


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