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Recipe Stoppers

Just a quick link without as much comment as I would like for Recipe Deal Breakers: When Step 2 Is ‘Corral Pig’.

It doesn’t take a huge amount for me to stop cold, but I’m the master of substituting or taking a recipe merely as suggestion, or inspiration for something perhaps only marginally related. Substitution should not be an epiphany.

Still, it’s usually a matter of ingredients, especially since usually the stuff I’d have to run out and buy will be expensive and never used in anything else before the remainder expires. Sometimes it’s tools or techniques. I can’t afford to buy new implements. I am not familiar with all too many techniques. It’s not that long ago I thought making a roux was some mysterious thing you had to go to cooking school to know about, when it’s really something elementary with a fancy name. One reason I couldn’t see myself on Hell’s Kitchen is I don’t know some of what even the most edited to look hopeless contestants do. I’d be a cross between Elsie and the traditional older heavy guy who leaves quickly. For all most of them probably know far more, I’m shocked at some of the things like taste challenges, in a “how are you a chef if you can’t taste or smell” sort of way. But I digress wildly.

How about you? What stops you cold when you see a recipe that you otherwise might try making?

Beware of Global Cooking!

You know, I love Hell’s Kitchen, notwithstanding how boring it’s been this year, and the lack of evidence that any of the cast – face it, they’re cast – are qualified to win (which may be good acting and editing, after Heather and Rock were too obvious, even before Rock’s win was leaked). I also loved the first season of the American version of Kitchen Nightmares. Both are more about business than cooking, especially the latter. Gordon Ramsay is a big part of the reason they are good.

Thus it’s sad to see him completely losing it, assuming he’s not being quoted wrongly or out of context. There are plenty of reasons to use local and iin-season, even emphasize it. One of those would be marketing. Good business. However, in addition to the questionable hype about “carbon footprint” and debunked global warming hysteria that’s all about grabbing power, the more efficient production, greater variety, and global flow of food has been a boon to human health and longevity.

I meant to add that I lose a lot of respect for anyone who goes all “there ought to be a law” over something, because no, there ought to be very few laws. To suggest that it’s in any way acceptable to fine restaurants over the seasonality of what they serve is heinous at best.

Cookbooks

I’ve been moving books around, packing some of them for future reference (older kids, more space, more bookcases…), and in some cases grouping them. I had thought we had cookbooks all in one place, but they were spread around a bit. Sadly, there is no place for them in the kitchen proper, but for now they are stacked on the counter.

Not that there are so terribly many.

This inspired an audience participation post. What cookbook(s) do you particularly like? Do you even look at any cookbooks much? I would probably benefit from looking more, but the intertubes are so rich in specific, easily searched information, I tend to forget about it.

Beyond cookbooks, how about cooking books? By that I mean something like the textbook I have been eyeing, used by Culinary Institute of America. It’s on my Christmas list for this year, along with certain other kitchen and clothing items.

Squash!

I have a ton of squash from my brother’s garden, about half each of crookneck summer squash and zucchini.

Anyone have recipe ideas?

Normally I would cook the summer squash traditionally, by boiling or steaming, then serving with butter and pepper.

My preferred way of cooking zucchini would be to slice and fry it, same as fried eggplant. I consider it rather bland, even compared to summer squash, to serve as a boiled veggie, though at least it’s food. I’ve also had it in mixed vegetables with things like carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, where if it’s bland you don’t notice so much. Hard to believe it’s so closely related to pumpkins.

I’ve had dishes in which the two squashes, or just zucchini, were cooked with tomato and maybe some seasonings. Some of those have been marginal, others have been excellent.

I can picture adding, say, some dried dill to the water for cooking zucchini, adding some zing.

Any other ideas?

Growing Herbs

Has anyone had experience with growing their own herbs inside the house?

I was reminded the other day that cilantro is the plant part of the herb that produces coriander, the seeds. Once upon a time, I grew coriander in a mixed flower and herb garden by the back steps of the house where I grew up. Along with a few other things, like mint and parsley.

The biggest thing I remember is how disgusting and long-lasting was the smell imbued in my fingers by handling the coriander seeds.

At that point I’d never heard of cilantro, nor had I eaten anything that could seriously be considered Mexican food. Not unless you count tacos from Jack in the Box before they all closed around here. Even Taco Bell was, around that time, a rapidly growing company spreading west to east like wildfire, expected to be so huge that its stock was supposed to be a great investment.

Remembering the herb growing experiment made me think of growing them inside. Thus the question…

Carnival of the Capitalists

Welcome to the July 9 edition of Carnival of the Capitalists. Usually at The Married Guy Cook it’s all about food, cooking, and making fun of the contestants on Hell’s Kitchen. That last being why I am proudly number one for the search Hell’s Kitchen 2007 episodes, even ahead of Wikipedia and TV Guide.

I thought it would be nicely surreal to host here; not to mention being a reminder that you don’t have to be a business or economics blog to host CotC.

You might also want to visit my main blog, Dispatches from Blogblivion, or Deb’s new blog, Neatly Tangled and corresponding Etsy shop.

Regarding this week’s CotC, I didn’t get a host in time and used myself as a fallback. While I looked at all the entries over the weekend and tagged them with Yes, No or Maybe, It’s late enough and I’m busy and hurried enough that I will probably include only the entries that garnered a Yes immediately, without further consideration. I already know I’d leave out the majority of the Maybe entries if I reviewed them, so not like it’s a big different.

The host for July 16 will be Marketing Whore, and for July 23 it will be Small Business Essentials. More hosts are needed after that, so if you might be interested have a look at this page and e-mail accordingly.

InsureBlog
Massive Mass Ifs (Part 1)

“Massachusetts’ new mandatory health care requirements are a direct assault on free enterprise. InsureBlog’s Henry Stern explains how.”

As a self-employed Massachusetts resident, this is a topic near to my heart, as you know if you read Blogblivion regularly.

Software Project Management
CEO’s Alter Ego

“Almost every CEO (or company leader) needs an alter ego – someone who agrees on the general direction but differs on tactic. Pushes when the leader wants to slow down and brakes when the leader wants to speed up. That makes their decisions better, no matter which is made at the end of the day.”

Three Star Leadership
Letter to a New Manager

“Advice to a young man who’s just been promoted to his first management job.”

Nice examination of good management in a unique format.

The Time and money Group
Outraged at Oil Companies, but Not Chicken Farmers?

An unexpected comparison of industries, cost increases and public reactions.

Managing Leadership
Creating Creativity

“Creativity is an important element of innovation, and one that business managers are struggling to find ways to incorporate into their businesses. But you don’t just “do” creativity, or delegate it to specific “creative” individuals – you generate it using tried and tested business thinking.”

Atlantic Canada’s Small Business Blog
Every rivet is mission-critical

“Rivets are one of the minutest parts in the airplane, but each and every one of them is critical to the objective of the plane – flying safely. Check your business. Are your rivets mission critical.”

Econbrowser
Puzzling over the employment report

Econbrowser’s James Hamilton tries to reconcile the latest solid employment numbers with other indicators of economic weakness in Puzzling over the employment report.

Businesspundit
What Bullet Holes in Airplanes Can Teach You About Making Better Business Decisions

From airplane rivets to bullets in one CotC edition! This is a great anecdote about analyzing data counterintuitively and learning from failure.

Blog Business World
Simple marketing: Ideas you can use everyday

“Marketing is one of those big concept departments. Everyone talks about it, but not all business people are entirely certain who to make their marketing work. Constantly seeking the grand slam marketing idea, they miss the easy to use daily techniques. Some small efforts can reap some huge rewards.”

Here’s an honorable mention I thought was a cool post but not really on-topic. It made me think of the Alaska pipeline construction and migrant nuclear plant workers back in the day.

Queercents
Would you risk your life to get out of debt?

“Shouldn’t there be better economic possibilities for our youth? Instead, one soldier goes off to war to eliminate his debt.”

That’s it for this week!

Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

Usually Deb makes this dish, but I did last night, rather than making random chicken and eating rice a third night in a row. Not that there’s anything wrong with rice, but we have all that pasta on the shelf…

The great thing is that this is so easy, yet it seems fancy to people. It’s something I only ever had in restaurants before I got married.

You will need:
2 – 3 boneless chicken breasts
Bag of frozen broccoli, or similar amount fresh
Jar of alfredo sauce
Pound of shaped pasta
Spices to taste
Dab of butter or oil

The only thing tricky is the simultaneous nature and timing of some of this.

Trim and cut the chicken into small chunks. You know, like half an inch, maybe.

Put on water for the pasta so it can think about boiling on time.

Have water ready to go for the broccoli, or if you’re using fresh, it could go in the steamer most any time.

Heat some butter or oil in a frying pan, adding some spices. For this, the dominant flavor is generally garlic. I use garlic powder, black pepper, red pepper, and not necessarily anything else. Last night I also used garlic flakes, a touch of oregano, and some thyme as an experiment. It came out particularly good. This is a dish you could make with no spice at all, if you like it plain but for the flavors of the sauce and ingredients.

Fry up the chicken until fully cooked to somewhat browned.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water per instructions. I’d avoid spaghetti, and some shapes are better for how they look or carry the sauce, but you can use any pasta shape. I used penne rigatti last night, letting Sadie choose between that, our usual favorite rotini, and shells. Funny, as that was what I’d leaned toward.

I added the frozen broccoli to the boiling water shortly after that. This is a great use for frozen, even the chopped stuff that uses more of the stems than we normally would. It is better with fresh, steamed to slightly underdone. Frozen is convenient. I used Wal-Mart’s brand and it was excellent. I’m sure we used that brand before and didn’t like it as much, even though their other basic frozen veggies – corn, peas, French cut green beans, and lima beans – are our favorite store brands. We used either Hannaford or Market Basket store brand broccoli one time and found it was vastly superior to anything but fresh. Silly I can’t remember which it was.

Toward the time everything else is ready, pour a jar of creamy alfredo sauce into a small saucepan and heat gently on low, stirring as needed to keep it from bubbling for joy. A small flexible spatula thingie is your friend, for maximizing what actually comes out of the jar.

There seem to be two primary name brands in stores around here. We prefer Classico, no contest, to everything else we have tried, store or name brand. Unlike red sauce, which I adulterate to taste anyway, it really matters, but YMMV. We also prefer the plain old, rather than the variants like 4 Cheese or whatever. It might be interesting to try making my own someday, but it’s so convenient just to buy it.

When everything is done, drain the pasta and get it back into the pan. Drain the broccoli (or scoop it with something that leaves the water behind). Dump the chicken and broccoli onto the pasta. Dump in the sauce. Mix it up thoroughly. Serve.

The kids like it better than just about anything except sweets and maybe pasta with red sauce, and I’m not so sure about that. Last night Valerie required two refills of her plate, and Sadie ate most of what was on her plate.

Ah, then there’s the leftovers…

Suppose you ate half or so of that big pan and put the rest in the fridge. What I do the next day is put it on lowish heat on the stove, with maybe a dribble of water to help keep it moist enough. I cut some small chunks of cheese, usually cheddar, maybe some jack too or instead if it’s what we have, mixing and melting that in. Then we eat the cheesy version as leftovers at least as yummy as it was the night before. Microwaving servings of it also works well; it’s an excellent dish for leftovers.