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Friday, January 31, 2014

Imitation Crab Cakes

I have champagne taste on a beer budget.  But since I do not drink alcohol it is more like Martinelli's taste on a Big K soda budget.  I love seafood.  But living in a landlocked scrub desert such as Utah, good seafood is hard to come by... I take that back.  I can get good seafood in Utah, I just cannot afford it.  So I try to make due with less expensive products, like imitation crab meat.  Less than that.  Kroger brand imitation crab meat on sale because it is close to the expiration date.  Snatched that deal up in a heart beat.  Now, that is a luxury I can afford.   

Imitation Crab Cakes

16 oz crab meat (2 packages)
1 egg
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 Green onions, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tsp +/- lemon juice
4 Tbs +/- dry Bread crumbs
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Add seasonings, bread crumbs, and green onions to the crab meat and mix together.  Add egg, mayonnaise, and some lemon juice.  Mix that together.  If it is too soft add more bread crumbs, 1 Tbs at a time.  Form into flattened disks and refrigerate, wrapped in plastic wrap, for 30+ minutes, or overnight.  Dredge in flour and fry in vegetable oil over medium heat for 5 - 8 min per side (or until golden brown).  Serve hot.
Real crab meat is already flaky and fine.  Imitation crab meat comes in sheets that need to be broken up, so a food processor and a few quick pulses work great to get it to that same feathery texture.
Add the dry ingredients first.
Then wet.  Mix that together and determine if you need more bread crumbs for it to hold a shape.
Pinch off about 1/4 cup and mold into disks about 3 inches wide.
Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 min for the patties to firm.
Add your 1/4 cup of vegetable oil to a pan and heat to simmering.  Dredge crab cakes in flour, evenly coat all the sides, then fry 'em up.
About 8 min per side on my stove.
I just realized that these would make great Crabby Patty sliders for a Spongebob party.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Creamy Crock Pot Potatoes

Continuing on my love of potatoes theme, here are my creamy crock pot potatoes.  I made them for our Civil War Inaugural Pot luck Dinner last Saturday.  I typically use this recipe for Ham week with left over Christmas ham, but since I have been in a potato mood lately I had to make them.  I wish I were more of a crock-pot person.  Growing up we would have crock-pot Sunday dinners and I loved every one of them.  My poor wedding gift crock pot, though highly valued, is sadly underused.  One of my New Year's Goals is to step up my cooking.  To this I will add, and use my crock-pot more.

Creamy Potatoes, Ham, and Peas

2 lbs potatoes, peeled, diced
6 - 8 oz ham cubes
1/2 a package of frozen peas, thawed
one bundle of green onions, chopped
4 oz (half a package) cream cheese, cubed
10 oz can of Cream of Chicken soup 
salt, pepper, and seasonings to taste

Mix together diced potatoes, ham, Cream of Chicken Soup, and salt and pepper in the crock pot.  Heat on high for 5 hours or low 7-8 hours.  About 10 minutes before serving add thawed peas, chopped green onions, and cream cheese cubes.  Stir together to allow cream cheese to melt.  Serve hot.
Here is my potato peeling and dicing station.  I used 5 lbs of potatoes for this batch and subsequently doubled or tripled the rest of the ingredients to match my potato ratio.
First thing I did was spray the crock pot with cooking spray to minimize potato sticking to the sides and bottom and burning.  Season well with salt, pepper, and other seasonings.  Remember potatoes can take a lot of salt.  Like my Momma always says, "Add salt until you think you've added too much, then add a little more and you're done."  Add one Cream of Chicken soup and ham cubes.
Stir it together and heat on high for 5+/- hours until the potatoes are soft.
When it is almost time to serve add the cream cheese, cut into cubes so they melt faster and can be more evenly distributed.
Add thawed peas.
Add green onions.
Mix it altogether again and serve hot and creamy.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Potato Pancakes

I have left over mashed potatoes.  That means I get to make potato pancakes.  Monday is my cooking with left-overs day.  When I make mashed potatoes for dinner I tend to make a larger than we need batch because I have a few recipes that use the left overs.  This might turn into potato week, but that's fine with me because I love potatoes.  It might be my Irish blood, but I just find them quite hardy and versatile.  This is also a good recipe for using instant mashed potatoes from food storage.

Potato Pancakes

2 and 1/2 cup mashed potatoes 
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup +/- Flour
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix in milk and flour with the mashed potatoes, adjusting milk and/or flour until it forms a thick dough.  Knead the dough briefly on a floured surface.  Pinch off balls of dough and flatten to form pancakes.  Fry on a buttered pan or hot griddle for about 3-5 min per side.  Serve hot and top with either potato toppings or pancake toppings.
Here are my glorious left over mashed potatoes.
Add milk, flour, salt, and pepper.
Mix it all together and turn it out on a floured surface for a brief kneading.
Knead it gently until it forms a ball.  Pinch off some dough balls and flatten into pancakes.
Band Name:  Dough Balls.
Fry in a buttered skillet (or hot griddle) for 3 - 5 min on medium heat.
Flip the pancakes and cook the other side.
I decided to top mine with white cheddar, sour cream, and some parsley.  
Left-over potatoey pancakey goodness.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shepherd's Pie

I have started asking J what he wants for dinner on Saturdays, then making it.  I do a weekly menu.  It is all pretty routine since I like having routines and making lists and being organized.  Mostly I just like writing lists.  I have a two week menu list which is subject to change, a weekly TV schedule list of shows we like to watch, monthly activity list, daily things to do list, creative projects I want to finish this year list, and a notebook of lists that I keep in my purse.  Here is my general weekly dinner menu list:

Sunday - Eat at my Parent's house    
Monday - Left-overs
Tuesday - Salad
Wednesday - Food storage pantry
Thursday - Salad
Friday - Fish
Saturday - Something from my Cookbooks, Food Network, or Pinterest.

J's random pizza ratio requirement throws my weekly menu off sometimes.  One of my New Years goals (one of many on the New Years Goals list) is to cook more of J's favorites.  Shepherd's Pie is one of his favorites.  And mine too. 
Shepherd’s Pie
1 lb ground beef
½ onion, diced
½ lb of carrots, diced
4 ribs of celery, diced
2 gloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Worcestershire sauce
3+/- Tbs flour
3 +/- Tbs butter
1 lb mashed potatoes (5+/- medium potatoes)

Peel and dice potatoes.  Boil in salted water for about 15-20 min until soft.  Drain, and return potatoes to the pan.  Add milk, butter, seasoning, and mash potatoes until smooth.
I like to use left-over mash potatoes or 4 servings of instant potatoes.
¼ cup Parmesan (optional)

Salt and pepper ground beef.  Add 1 – 2 Tbs olive oil to a hot pan and sauté carrots, celery, and onions until soft.  Add ground beef and minced garlic.  Cook until the meat is browned.  Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and other seasonings.  Remove from heat.  
Make a roux by adding flour to melted butter and mix together until it forms a paste. Add this to the meat/veg and stir in until it starts to stick together.  Transfer the meat to an ungreased casserole pan (12”x 8” pan or similar size).  Scoop out potatoes and layer on top of the meat.  
Sprinkle on Parmesan (optional) and bake at 400 °F for 20 - 30 min to brown the potatoes.

I like to start with potatoes.
Wash, peel, and dice potatoes, then boil them for about 20 min until soft.
While this is boiling... Meaty ingredients assemble!
Since carrots take the longest to cook I add them first to the hot pan with some olive oil and cook them for a few minutes while I chop celery.
Then add the celery and cook those down while I chop onions.
Then add onions and cook those down while I mince garlic.
Then add garlic and saute that for another 1 - 2 minutes.
Meaty seasonings Assemble!  I like to use Italian Seasoning in EVERYTHING along with some garlic salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce.
Add the ground beef to the veggies and cook until browned, then set aside.  Everything in the pan should be nicely cooked by now.
Next I make a roux with flour and butter.
I melt the butter, then add the flour and stir it together until it forms a nice thick paste.
Add the roux to the meaty-veggie goodness and mix in.  It helps hold the meat together.
Pour out into an ungreased baking pan.
 By this time the potatoes should be done cooking.  Drain the potatoes, return to the pot and add some milk, butter, and I like chopped green onions.
Mash it.
Spread out the mashed potatoes over the meat.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 min until the edges are lightly browned.
Cut and serve hot.

I also love graphs.  J's pizza ratio requirement is currently being graphed.  More on that when I get enough data points.  I am going to make a Pie Chart.  Get it, a Pie Chart, because it's for a Pizza Pie.  Pie charts are circular graphs.  Pizzas are circular.  It's funny because it's a double entendre.
double entendre is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Typically one of the interpretations is rather obvious whereas the other is more subtle.  It may also convey a message that would be socially awkward, or even offensive, to state directly.  The Oxford English Dictionary describes a double entendre as being used to "convey an indelicate meaning".  A double entendre may exploit puns to convey the second meaning. Double entendres generally rely on multiple meanings of words, or different interpretations of the same primary meaning. They often exploit ambiguity and may be used to introduce it deliberately in a text.

And that's why it's funny.
A Pie Chart.  For J's Pizza Ratio Requirement.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Halloween 2013: Pirate J and Elizabeth from Bioshock Cosplay K

J and I are Halloween people.  Everyone has a favorite holiday, Halloween is ours.  I dress up every year.  This year J went as a pirate and I was his busty pirate wench, Elizabeth from the game Bioshock Infinite.
J works at Gamestop.  For the midnight release of "Assassin's Creed: Black Flag" the crew got to dress up as pirates.  J makes a magnificent pirate.
He played "Bioshock Infinite" this past summer and I fell in love with the game so I decided to be Elizabeth for Halloween.  This is my first attempt at Cosplay.  I made my own costume this year.  It was quite the challenging project learning how to make a recognizable Bioshock Elizabeth Cosplay Costume.  I picked the material, dress patterns, found a relatively cheap corset online that I could modify, bought three different wigs until I found one I liked, and learned how to use my sewing machine.  For making my first dress ever I think I did pretty good.
Every year my company has a Halloween Party and chili cook off.
This year we had a murder mystery.
A 1970's Disco dance themed murder mystery.  I love my job.
My favorite part was that I won the Best Costume Award this year.
The highly coveted Best Costume Award.
An award my fellow co-workers are willing to kill for.  We get pretty competitive.
After work J and I went to my Parent's house to help pass out candy.  Very few children come to our house, and we wanted to show my parents our awesome Halloween costumes.
My parents are also Halloween people.  Mom borrowed my Civil War Widow dress.
My parents made up this fun game for the Trick-or-Treaters.  When someone rang the door bell we (J and I) would answer the door, then Mom would come out from around the corner and surprise them.  She would offer them tricks or treats.  They could try her trick "brains" (marshmallow jello salad) or have a more conventional treat, mini candy bar.  Then we would ask them if they wanted to stay for dinner.  It was so fun to see the kid's reactions to her.  Oddly enough, the younger kids were more willing to try the brains while the older ones kept their distance.   
My parents are so cool.
Here is my sister Chelsea and her husband Mark with their dog Charlie.  They did not dress up.  Lame.
Red Beard the Pirate J.
Look out Pirate J, you have entered Shark infested waters.
My nephew Dutch in his Shark costume.
When he walks the tail wags back and forth.  It was so cute.
Then we finished the night at Barnes and Nobel.
We go to Barnes and Nobel at least once a week.  At LEAST.
J is an avid reader.
Me, not so much.
Unless it has pictures.
We had a wonderful Halloween this year.  I would like to continue learning how to sew and make costumes.  My next sewing project is a Steampunk dress.  Corsets, and bustles, and gears, oh my.