Category Archives: Cooking with Meaghan

Valentine’s Day Fudge: It Takes a Village

This post is part kitchen adventure, part musings on the community that surrounds us.

Since my husband has started announcing the quantity of sugar in all of his meals, I naturally decided to make him red velvet fudge for Valentine’s Day (following Six in the Suburb’s recipe, which has an obscene amount of sugar).

First, sugar and chocolate. (Pot from my hometown hostesses!  I’m not sure where the spoon came from, but we used it to fold our wedding invitations.)

Then, red gel food coloring to turn this velvet red.  It got brighter the longer it sat!  (Food coloring inherited when Rachel moved to Hungary, and never returned.) (Oh!  Don’t panic – mind the comma.  Rachel returned, but I never gave the food coloring back.)

Look at those convection cells in this boiling, viscous, chocolaty mass!

Checking the temperature with a meat thermometer (should have gotten a candy thermometer, but too late) from Lisa and Eduardo.

Waiting for the chocolate to cool to the requisite 110* was the most time-consuming part of this process.  Chocolate apparently has a very high specific heat!  On the plus side, I took a lot of pictures and cleaned the house.

Valentine's Day roses from my hubby decorate the kitchen.


Once the chocolate finally cooled, the recipe told me to blend in butter and vanilla.  Unfortunately, it cooled into such a hard mass that I couldn’t do it!  Enter manly man to whip up his own Valentine’s Day treat.

Between the time Greg stopped blending and I was prepared to pour, the chocolate had hardened into this.  I finally resorted to re-melting the fudge on the stove so I could pour it!  If I make fudge again, I’ll not let it cool down so much before adding in the other ingredients.

Making the cream cheese layer. Mixing bowl from Caroline!

White baking chocolate preparing to go in the cream cheese layer. Bowl from Natalie!

Pretty patterns! Mixer from Aunt Beth.

Okay, now that everything was made, it was time to put it together.  The recipe called for four layers, and thus for two identical pans to put the red velvet layers in to cool.  I didn’t have matching 8×8 pans, but I did have two identical 9″ pie plates, and I calculated that the areas were fairly close.  (“Pi” plates from my math friend Ben.)

The red velvet layer was too viscous to spread out in the pan on its own.  I ended up covering it with wax paper (to keep it from sticking) and a dish cloth (to protect my hands from the still-hot chocolate) and mashing it into place.  (Dish cloth from Julie & Rick.)

Making layers. Back plate shows the layer already mashed out; front plate shows chocolate ready for mashing.

Because it was so hard already, I didn’t wait very long for the red velvet layer to cool before spooning on the cream cheese/white chocolate layer.  Flipping the second red velvet layer on top was no problem – it didn’t stick to the wax paper at all, and its high viscosity meant that it kept its shape easily!

Finished product.

It turned out really sweet, and on the first night I thought it was pretty much a complete failure.  However, this fudge, like a fine wine, seems to improve with age.  The next day at lunch I could taste fudgy-ness underneath all the sweet!  After a day or so, it also got softer and easier to cut.  We’ve given away a lot of it (a 9″ pie plate is a lot to eat!), but my Valentine has quite enjoyed it.

While I was waiting for the chocolate to cool, I realized how many people had physically contributed to Greg’s Valentine’s gift this year.  Mentioned in this post for just physical wedding gifts are eight people!  Even the simplest thing like cooking in the kitchen can remind me of what a community surrounds and supports Greg and me in this wonderful adventure.  We’re not alone!

God said that it was not good for man to be alone before He created Eve.  I think the Bible’s teachings on marriage would say, too, that a man and woman aren’t meant to be on their own in marriage.  God has given us the Church to surround us, challenge us, and uphold us as Greg and I journey through this life together.

I might switch up the old proverb to say: “It takes a village to support a marriage.”

Thank you, our dear friends.  Happy Valentine’s day!

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Food Inspired by the Rat

That’s right, tonight’s episode of Cooking with Meaghan features ratatouille from Ratatouille, via Smitten Kitchen.

(Before we get in to the part of the post I wrote while the dish was baking, let me just say that it was delicious. Very nigh worth the hour and a half from prep to plate. Also, I strongly recommend following Smitten Kitchen’s suggestions of couscous and goat cheese – they complement it very well.)

Surprisingly, I couldn’t find a picture of the dish in the movie for you to compare to, but here’s mine:

And here’s a rat:

Lessons learned:
– What the inside of an eggplant looks like. Seriously, I don’t think I’d ever seen one cut open. Fresh, at least.
– When the recipe involves a lot of cutting, turning your oven on does not have to go first.
– Buy zucchini, squash, and eggplant of similar diameters.  It looks prettier.
– Magic Bullet = not so magic. Or maybe so magic I don’t understand it. It turned some of the onions into purée and left others completely alone – I ended up resorting to chopping again. (Also, this weekend’s smoothie adventure with Greg and the Magic Bullet? Disappointing on all fronts. Except remembering once again how patient Greg is with my shenanigans.)

More pictures:

Look how pretty fresh veggies are!

Look how many knives I used!

My biggest one couldn’t cut through the skin of the eggplant, so I ended up using one of the small ones to break the skin and the big one to cut the slices. Eek! Good thing I’m getting married and registered for a new set of knives…

All in all, a worthy endeavor, though I look forward to not cooking alone.

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Cooking with Meaghan: Spinach Quiche

Because it’s April and I’d like to stay healthy (plus I’m just tired of frozen pizza), I’m taking up cooking again.

Tonight, spinach quiche (courtesy of Rachel and smitten kitchen).

Lessons learned:
1. Green onions aren’t round!
2. Not all ingredients are listed in the ingredients list. Do what you learned in elementary school: always read the directions first.
3. Quiche can still taste good without a crust – just use a greased dish.
4. Cream cheese is hard to blend, but try – even though the large chunks in the finished product don’t taste all that bad.
5. Home cooking –> pride in your dinner.

Overall, I highly recommend this recipe!

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Kitchen Adventures

On Saturday, I got into a major cleaning mode. Greg was coming in town, the apartment was filthy, and I had absolutely no homework. Cleaning time!

By the time I had taken care of the bathroom, found the floor of my closet, cleaned the countertops, and swept all our hardwood floors, you would think I would be pooped, right? Wrong. Because at that point, I found it: the culprit of all our midnight, mid-morning, and mid-day fire alarms: the gunk on the stove.

Let me try that again, because it should sound like the guy announcing the attack of the mutant tomato for one of those sci-fi B movies:

The Gunk on the Stove!

Ahem.

Anyway, I determined that you can actually remove the burners, soak the metal catchy-things in soapy water, wipe up the underneath of the stove, and scrub each metal catchy-thing to within an inch of its measly little life. And found that the catchy-things are actually silver, not black.  All while watching Princess Diaries on TV. It was quite an experience for me.

So far, my roommate and I have made it through two days of light cooking and the ever-present tea-pot (the most common culprit) with no fire alarm going off. Hooray!

However, Saturday’s brownies (a bribe for whoever lets Greg sleep on their couch) and tonight’s dinner warned me that the oven comes next. Sadly, I don’t think I can soak it in the sink.

Look! I made dinner! It’s Poppy-seed Chicken from my mother’s cookbook (yes, my mother is now a published cookbook author, shock and awe).

Actual picture from my kitchen. With a sparkling clean burner underneath.

My roommate even knocked on my door to ask what was on the stove because it looked delicious. Score! We shared some dinner, and she concluded that it also tasted delicious.

This dish is Iranian approved.

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Success: Dill-Lemon-Sour Cream Chicken

Tonight: cooking success.

Dill-lemon-sour cream chicken in the crock pot (difficulty/time factor: medium)
Instant mashed potatoes (difficulty/time factor: medium)
Canned carrots (difficulty/time factor: easy)

(Note that these difficulty/time factors are mine, ’cause I don’t think anyone else would rate instant mashed potatoes as anything above easy. For me, since it required multiple dishes and getting out multiple ingredients, it qualifies as medium. Don’t judge.)

The chicken recipe was strange but pretty good. I was proud: last week I made something (the broiled chicken adventure) that required lemon juice. I intelligently saved the peel and used it for the lemon zest tonight. W00t!

The brownies were also a success: between my lunch group and my roommate (who learned the word “brownie”), there are none left for dessert tonight. I guess that qualifies as success…

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How to Boil Water

I think I should start a new blog: Cooking Adventures, by the Girl Who Bought “How to Boil Water.”

Here’s my philosophy on cooking:

*cricket* *cricket*

… where’s the nearest Taco Villa?

Feeding myself in the land sans Taco Villa has been a bit of an issue. Last year I survived on a small meal plan, skillet dinners, Greg, and Sonic. Of those four, I’m down to only skillet dinners. While yummy, they get old.
So Rachel took me to the bookstore where I bought the delightful cookbook How to Boil Water. The premise of the book is to tell you everything you need to make a meal: shopping lists, how to chop vegetables, tools you’ll need, and step-by-step instructions on various cooking techniques. I later realized some of these meals, nay, most, were more labor-intensive than I cared for, so I went to Half Price and bought me a slow cooker cookbook, courtesy of Greg’s parents (could that sentence possibly have had more commas?).

Things went fairly smoothly at first. Bread in the crock pot (successful bread-making just sounds awesome, like being able to use “quantum dot” in a sentence – a topic for another post). Honey-curry chicken in the crock pot. Bread that came out of the crock pot.

They started to go downhill when I tried to cook chicken. Frozen chicken. Surely, I thought, you can break the pieces apart and defrost them individually. Wrong. Well, surely, I thought, it won’t take too long too defrost them all in the sink. Wrong. Exit a hungry and grumpy Meaghan.

Then, there was last week.
I tried to do well, I really did. I selected meals in advance. I made a list. I hunted for strange ingredients (fresh dill? you mean not mixed with pickles?). I wrapped the chicken pieces individually before freezing (as per How to Boil Water). I came home early and defrosted and marinated and started to broil, whatever that means. (Thanks, How to Boil Water, for not explaining that one).

As I was merrily doing homework, expecting delicious dinner shortly, a loud beeeeeeep drove my roommate and me from our rooms. Welp, I thought, I’ve finally done it. The fire department’s coming for my cooking.

O_O

We turned on the hood, opened the doors and windows, and waited in embarrassment for someone to come for me. Thankfully, the beeping stopped and no one came. But still.
And the chicken wasn’t even that good!

I emailed the maintenance guy and we got the faulty, smoking burner replaced. I found out this morning when G’s tea kettle and the fire alarm got me up for class that we have multiple burners that smoke.

Tonight, despite all setbacks, I resolutely and nobly continued in my quest and cooked.


Brownies.
From a box.

Mmmm. This cooking thing may be worth it after all.

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