Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sudden Death II: Spinach & Feta Muffins

No, I don't think that title sounds too appetizing either.  :-P  But I was making soup for dinner, and I thought that these savoury roles might work well as a side.  And who knows, maybe baked spinach might be taster than expected...?  Maybe?

First, assembling the ingredients...

One of the tricky things about this recipe was that many of the listed ingredients were given in weight, not volume.  Given that I'm not remotely serious enough of a chef to own a kitchen scale, I decided to wing it. It was relatively easy to guess for the cheese -- I'd bought 250g container, so I just eyeballed what 100g would look like.

The 50g of chopped spinach, on the other hand, was more difficult.  Recalling that your average chocolate bar is about 100g, and being thoroughly familiar with the weight of said chocolate bars, I guessed at the equivalent weight of half a chocolate bar.

Lastly, I never realized how difficult it is to chop up DRY sun-dried tomatoes.  That step was such a pain!  It was like trying to work with the evil lovechild of raisins and titanium.  After that experience, I can't run fast enough back to my usual oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes, added fat and all.

So, I followed the recipe, and the end result was sorely disappointing.  The muffins were dry, and somewhat salty.  Any exposed spinach was hardened into this dusty, flaky wad of bitterness.  The feta had more or less disappeared.

Our toddler ate a muffin without complaint, but keep in mind that he will basically eat any breadlike food offered to him.  D ate two, but was a bit quiet.  When I probed, he expressed having difficulty with the concept of "failing" a recipe, given that he worried that would seem unappreciative of my efforts.  (What a guy!)  :-)  So, I suppose the final verdict falls to me.

 The Verdict: This dry, bitter muffin recipe with uncooperative ingredients and odd measurement methods FAILS.

The score for Healthy Winter Warmers: The first fail means that we now have 1 of 2 attempted recipes succeeding.  50/50 is not a good ratio, so I hope HWW starts pulling its socks up!  ;-)

Next up, I'm going to try making a jam!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sudden Death I: Hearty Tuna Chowder

The first book up to the chopping block is "Healthy Winter Warmers", a cookbook specializing in hearty comfort food.  One might think that such food would not be appetizing in late May; however, given that summer weather has not yet shown itself anywhere near our city, comfort food does not sound bad at all. 

We started the sudden-death recipe judgements with a hearty tuna chowder.  My expectations were not especially high for this recipe, as many Christmas Eves' worth of my in-law's incredible seafood chowder have spoiled me.  But nonetheless, I planned to give this recipe my best shot.

First, I assembled the ingredients. 
Missing from the picture is frozen corn, which I left in the freezer until the very end.

This book was acquired during our time in New Zealand, and as such, it references some products which we don't have access to in Canada.  Some of the substitutions are obvious, and others require some guesswork. So, when this recipe called for a "tin of tuna and beans", I substituted one can of tuna and half a can of red kidney beans.

The recipe itself was straightforward enough, and didn't take too long.  Above is the soup before being fully cooked, and below is the finished product.

...and the presentation!

The soup was hearty, and not difficult to make.  Dave brought it to work for lunch the next day, and found it kept well and was easy to transport.  Our toddler liked being able to grab the larger chunks in the chowder, and the broth was a hit for dipping.

Despite tasting fine, it was a bit bland, even by chowder standards.  It would benefit from garlic, or cilantro, or even some chili, when I make it again. 

The verdict:  Given that I was framing the only downside in terms of "when I make this recipe again", I decided that this recipe passes.

The score for Healthy Winter Warmers: 1 of 1 recipes succeeding!  So far, so good.

Next up, a savoury muffin recipe on the chopping block!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Sudden Death... Cooking!

Dave and I have a book problem.

Throughout the years, we have accumulated too many books of all kinds, including cookbooks.

Having decided that 22 are too many, I have begun the cookbook-culling process.  Any books we use often are safe, as are the ones with gorgeous and inspiring pictures.

Thus, the following 11 books are left to fight for their lives:

But, how to decide whether a book was worthy of being kept?  I decided that 6 randomly-selected recipes from each would give me an adequate picture of each books' reliability.  For a book to be kept, at least 4 of the 6 recipes must give me good results.  Fewer successes than that delivers the book to the donation bin, whereupon a more talented chef might conjure tastier outcomes.

For those of you with an interest in the actual methodology, I'm using a systematic sample with random start point to select pages.  In cases where there is only one recipe per page, the sample thereby selects the recipe to try.  Should there be more than one recipe on the selected page, however, I will haphazardly choose whichever recipe I think has the greatest chance of success.

Also, I'm going by modified NHL-playoff rules -- once a book "loses" 3 times, it's automatically eliminated.

And since it's more fun to share one's scientific findings, I'll be publishing the results -- delicious and catastrophic alike -- for your enjoyment.  There will be pictures, courtesy of my flashy new camera, a short writeup of the cooking process, an appraisal of the food, and lastly, a verdict! 

Are you excited?  'Cause I sure am!  :-)  Stay tuned...