Hot Tamales by The Distracted Cook

Can you believe The Daring Kitchen challenge this month? Tamales! Oh yes!

Maranda of Jolts & Jollies was our January 2012 Daring Cooks hostess with the mostess! Maranda challenged us to make traditional Mexican Tamales as our first challenge of the year!

This is what the end result looked like. Not exactly what I expected from all of the work that went in before. You decide:

First step is to get the dried corn husks into a workable state – they are soaked in a pot of water and these were in the bath for at least 12 hours or actually, a whole lot more. More, more – like about 18 hours. They were nice and pliable by then.

Our choice was to make the Black Bean and Green Chile Tamales. And in retrospect, I think we forgot some of the ingredients! But maybe not, and that tells me something….

After mixing all the ingredients, it was time to make the masa dough. This was such fun. And I will have to share what the cute checkout clerk at the grocery said when I was buying the ingredients. She looked at my strange combination of items and asked what I was going to do with all of this strange stuff. I told her I was making tamales.

“Oh Tamales! I love tamales! My best friend’s Grandma used to make them for us. Have YOU ever made them before?”

“Well, no I haven’t made tamales before. It will be a fun experience I am sure.”

“Oh yes. Good luck. My friend’s Grandma used to say all kinds of things to her Tamales while she was making them, but we could never understand her.”

I think maybe “Grandma” and The Distracted Cook said some of the very same things!

After mixing the masa dough ingredients until it resembled cookie dough, it was time to get to work. Following the directions was really easy and now I can fold those husks like nobody’s business.

First you lay out a husk and put about a 1/4 cup of the dough on it in the middle and flatten it out with your hand. Be careful to keep the dough on the upper part (the BIG) end of the husk. Put about a tablespoon of the filling mixture right down the middle of the dough. Now the fun part – fold the two sides of the husk towards each other and make sure you press the edges of the dough together. Fold up the pointy end of the husk. Now take a thin strip that you tear from one of the husks and tie the end up by tying the strip around the entire husk. Voila! Easy does it. And yes, it is fun. You might want to dance a little bit, or actually say something nice to your tamales at this point.

Stand the tamales up in the top of a steamer and put the top on and steam for about 40 or so minutes. Take the top off and let them cool a bit. Then you are ready to bring them to the table and enjoy! And enjoy we did!

If you want to reheat any that are left over, I found a really easy way. Just put them back into the steamer pot. I had them wrapped in foil in the refrigerator, so I just opened up the package so the steam could get to them. Perfect. Again. And fun.

Want to have fun with us? Just go to the website and join the rest of us. And while you are visiting The Daring Kitchen you can see more pictures of what everyone’s tamales looked like! See you next time.

The Distracted Cook and Chinese Tea Eggs

Do you remember seeing those funny looking eggs sitting on bars or resting on plates in Chinese Restaurant windows – the ones with the funny lines all over them? And did you wonder what they were? And if anyone ever ate them?

Well never fear – the Distracted Cook took the latest Daring Kitchen challenge and guess what it was?? Right! Chinese Tea Eggs!

Sarah from Simply Cooked was our November Daring Cooks’ hostess and she challenged us to create something truly unique in both taste and technique! We learned how to cook using tea with recipes from Tea Cookbook by Tonia George and The New Tea Book by Sara Perry.

They were really fun to make and the ingredient list was about as short as it can get.
Here it is:

Yes, that is the complete list! Eggs, tea bags, salt, and chinese five spice. The first thing to do is to put the eggs in a pan and cover them with cold water, just like this:

After you let them simmer for 12 minutes, you remove them from the pan and tap them with a spoon so that the shells are cracked all over, just like this egg is:

Then they all go back into the pot of water and you add the two tea bags, salt, and five spice. Cover the pan and heat gently for an hour.  After the hour is up, let the eggs sit in the covered pan for 30 minutes.

Take one of the eggs out of the water and peel it to be sure it is dark enough. If so, peel the rest of the eggs.

Arrange the eggs in a container. When you are ready to eat them, slice or quarter them and sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on top. Enjoy!

Now, didn’t that look like a smart, fun, and easy thing to do? You can have just as much fun if you join us at The Daring Kitchen. Come on, you know you want to have as much fun as we all are. We’d love to see you next time!

Here We Go Again

The Distracted Cook has been trying for over a year now to master the art of the sourdough. I received a “starter” from a friend ( and that was an experience in itself as she had to send it through the mail all the way from Connecticut) and then I  promptly began feeding it and tending to it.

After it was suitably acclimated to being “down South” I decided to give it a try by baking some sourdough bread. Ha! After making at least a dozen doorstops, hockey pucks, and frisbees I knew something was not going right. And now, here we go again.
Yes, I am still trying to get it right – or at least close enough that poor Buddy isn’t eating loaves as hard as his dog biscuits.

This morning I found a recipe that I think I have tried before. But, it is cooler now. And, I think I know what I am doing now. However, we won’t know that until tomorrow. So far, I have started hatching out the starter for this recipe. Here is what it looks like sitting on the counter in its covered container. I used my handy-dandy kitchen scale to be sure that I am doing this correctly. Well. I should say I used the kitchen scale to get as close as I could to doing it correctly. Even when measuring by weight, I am distracted by the g’s, kg’s, oz’s, and lb’s. And then there are the liquid ml’s. What’s a girl to do? Fake it till you bake it, I think. More tomorrow….

Baking Baklava

Every now and again The Distracted Cook decides that a challenge thrown down by The Daring Baker just has to be mastered! And this time….

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge.  Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

I have always loved eating Baklava and have never really thought about making it. And certainly not making it from scratch – that is, making my own phyllo dough.  So, this was an adventure to be sure!

First there is that paper thin dough that has to be made. If you have ever worked with phyllo dough that you find in the freezer section at the grocery store, you already know what I was thinking. NO WAY! But after reading through Erica’s challenge it looked as if there might be a way.

The four ingredients weren’t anything special and in fact I’ll bet that you have them in your pantry right now.
After combing them and mixing and kneading I ended up with a ball of dough that looked just about like what Erica had in her picture. Success! 
Erica very cutely tells us to take the dough out of the mixer bowl and THROW it on the counter and continue kneading for a few more minutes. And we get to SLAM it down a few more times just so we feel good. I am not sure what it does to the dough, but it certainly does make it fun.
After kneading the dough I put a very thin coating of vegetable oil on it and wrapped it up tight in plastic wrap and let it sit there for a couple of hours.
Then next part of the recipe is where it got to be really fun ( or aggravating) and I was so involved with rolling the dough into those really, really thin rounds that I forgot to take pictures! Yes, that’s right – I flat out forgot what i was doing — right a blog post while cooking!
I had already made my filling so I was ready to layer the phyllo dough. Melted butter, phyllo dough, melted butter, phyllo dough and a few more times like that and then a layer of the nut filling. After doing this a few more times I discovered that I did not have near enough layers of the dough to make this recipe. So I just did what The Distracted Cook always does in situations like this : punt!  My Baklava does NOT look like it should for many reasons, the most important being that I ended up with a nut layer and not a dough layer.
But it looked far too good to pitch to the animals outside the kitchen, so I baked it and poured the honey syrup over it and let it sit overnight. I did cheat a bit and try a taste last night and you know what? It is great. Despite too few layers and the nuts on top, it is delicious! And I am going to try it again and this time, I will make 3 times the dough recipe and maybe, just maybe, it will be perfect! If you want to try your hand at this great challenge and recipe, visit The Daring Kitchen and give it try. And while you are there, sign up to join us each month as we accept the challenge!

The Distracted Cook and The Daring Baker

Just when you thought I had done it all, here it is again! Yes, another episode of The Daring Baker! And this time, it is really a multitasking challenge. Or rather, a multi-dimensional challenge.

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Although I have made Panna Cotta before, there wasn’t much about it that I remembered other than “we liked it a lot” and that it had been an easy, fun recipe to make. And so it was again this time!

The recipe is very easy to follow and even qualifies as “fun” for those who love a quick adventure in the kitchen. Below are some of the various steps outlined in the recipe  – you can see that almost everything gets done in this same one pot!

After the  mixture is cooked on the stove top it rests in the pan until it has cooled enough to be poured into the molds or serving glasses, then it’s into the refrigerator for at least six hours.
The next recipe is for the Florentine Cookies which is one recipe that I had never even entertained the thought of baking. So this was a real “dare” for The Distracted Cook. After reading the recipe and seeing that I could actually do this all in one bowl, I decided to just use that cleaned up pan from the Panna Cotta and make this entire adventure a one-pan challenge.

After a few struggles with actually getting the baked cookies to behave and having to adjust the baking time a bit, The Distracted Cook did what she usually does when making cookies and that is to throw in the towel and just bake one big cookie!

 Impatience is never a good thing to have around when you are trying to bake cookies! The result is a lovely “regular” Florentine cookie drizzled with chocolate:

And then a plateful of The Distracted Cook Style Florentines!

Either way you want to make or bake them, they are delicious. You can read all about this challenge at The Daring Kitchen. And if you want to join The Distracted Cook in these exciting baking and cooking challenges, just do it!! I dare you to join The Daring Kitchen and have as much fun as The Distracted Cook is having each month. Come on, you can do it!

The Distracted Cook is The Daring Cook!

Oh yes, The Distracted Cook has another exciting adventure to share with you. Remember that last dare? Well here is another one, this time The Daring Cook threw down the challenge.


The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com.


With all good challenges, you have to start somewhere. The Distracted Cook started by reading the recipes and then driving off to Whole Foods. This is what came home:

 There were many things in these bags that I had never tried cooking before. The first of these was the soba noodles. I have often seen them on grocery shelves, but was never even tempted to try making them. Now was the time to break out of that rut!
We were required to make the noodles and the recipes also included two dipping sauces for them. I decided to make them first as a warm -up exercise. And it was really easy, just like the recipe said it would be. 

Here you can see the ingredients for the two sauces. I will have to confess that the first sauce, although probably the most traditional, was the one I liked least. The second sauce was really flavorful with sesame oil, finely chopped green onion, some dry mustard and other really great things. This one was just a pour and shake type sauce, while the first involved actually cooking! No wonder I liked that second one. By the end of dinner, I had poured my little bowl of Sauce 1 into the bowl of Sauce 2 and I really liked the combination.


After making the sauces, I decided to get the vegetables chopped and sliced for the tempura. I usually never think ahead enough to do the customary “prep”, but this time, Oh Yes! 

You can see the sweet potato slices taking a nice cold ice bath after being blanched. I also had shrimp, mushrooms, and red and yellow bell peppers for the tempura. Now I have never done a tempura before either – around here we fry shrimp in cornmeal and flour, just like we do our oysters. So I learned a new way to do this and it is perfect! Such a delicate taste – almost like a cloud. The taste of the actual shrimp or vegetable is what you get, not just what you dredged them with. I will definitely do this again!

This is what the soba noodles looked like after they had been rinsed and set aside to cool. When you visit Lisa’s site you will find links to wonderful videos that show you how to properly cook the noodles. All I will say is that it isn’t what you would think, and it is fun to watch! 
After the sauces and the noodles were done, it was time for the tempura. I got so busy that I forgot to grab the camera and record some of the progress. So you will have to settle for seeing the end result and not the process itself.
One of the comments about deep frying the tempura is that you don’t want to leave it in the hot grapeseed oil too long or it will begin to brown. Well, believe me, around these parts you will be shot if you call something fried and it isn’t”golden brown” at the very least. I followed directions, but next time? You bet  – I will leave them in and go for a nice golden brown finish. 



And here is the final product! Two dipping sauces, some grated daikon, some toasted nori (that is the name for toasted sea vegetable.)  We had two different kinds of Sake with dinner and it was a lovely dinner that is for sure.


I thank Lisa and The Daring Cook challenge for bringing me to the table for Soba and Tempura. If you would like to join us in these exciting culinary adventures, just go to The Daring Kitchen and join us. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

The Distracted Cook Votes

Today the voting began for the Homie’s Best Home Cooking Blog 2011 at the site of The Kitch’n. The blog for whom I test recipes, Leite’s Culinaria  is one of the finalists and The Distracted Cook just went and voted! You can vote too! All you need to do is go to the link below and put a check mark next to Leite’s Culinaria and the click “Answer the Survey.” It’s as easy as pie – or some other wonderful baking project. And that is a hint! Check back tomorrow for the latest post and the latest escapade of The Distracted Cook right here.

Here is the link: http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/the-homies-best-home-cooking-blog-of-2011-submit-your-nominations-137088 


Now go vote for Leite’s Culinaria!

Weekword =Mercurial

Our Weekword this week is mercurial and it was chosen by Carmen at http://biomouse.blogspot.com/. The first thing The Distracted Cook did was try to find her trusty dictionary to be sure she was talking about the right word. Biomouse certainly chose an interesting one for us to ponder.

The definition that stands out most to The Distracted Cook  is:  flighty and erratic. Now that just about sums up the kinds of activities that go on in the kitchen of The Distracted Cook –  certainly when it comes to organization and planning. What isn’t erratic in this place? Of course, I refer to it as breezy and spontaneous rather than flighty and erratic. Or maybe if we stretch a point, we could say disorganized and ever-evolving.

Perhaps erratic is just another synonym for distracted. Distracted behavior often looks a lot like erratic behavior. For example, trying to do two things at the same time keeps you jumping from one side of the counter to the other, dashing here and there while trying to catch the flour that is about to tumble onto the floor. If there were no sound on the television and you just saw the action, you would definitely consider it erratic or mercurial. May your kitchen NOT fit the description of this particular word! The Distracted Cook tries on a daily basis not to be The Mercurial Cook!

Christmas Cake #2 – Hawaiian Banana Cake

Banana Cake. Hawaiian Banana Cake to be more specific.

The Distracted Cook has no idea where this recipe originated, but this is how it looks at our house:

This is one of those easy cakes that makes you wonder why you don’t make it more often. Especially when you have a bunch of really gross bananas that you don’t even want to pick up to toss out. They should look about like this:

I know, they are really pretty scary, but the more squishy they are the better the cake will be. This is a sweet, moist, delicately flavored banana cake. Not banana bread, but banana cake.

This is what you get straight out of the oven:

And after it cools in the baking dish and is turned out to finish cooling:

But best of all is when you get a piece on your very own plate!

Let us know how yours bakes up!

Christmas Cake #2 – Hawaiian Banana Cake


Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
3 small very ripe bananas or 1 cup banana puree
2 eggs
Directions:
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. 
Put shortening, bananas, and eggs into a blender and puree. 
Add pureed mixture to dry ingredients and mix till moist (should resemble a muffin batter.)
Spoon into a buttered and lightly floured 9″ square pan.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.
Remove and let cool in pan 5 minutes.
Turn out of pan and cool completely.
– This is where you cut yourself a piece — just to be sure it is as good as you think it is!
Wrap air tight. 
Freezes well.