Creature’s Cookbook series now out in print

Creature’s Cookbook series now out in print

As of today you can purchase all the Creature’s Cookbook series, which includes two novels (Let us be honest, the first book is the length of two novels) and a collection of short stories. They are available in every format.

It’s appropriate that these came today:

IMG_7226

As I can now begin mailing out your prizes to you–those who won the Halloween challenges!

I hadn’t forgotten, but was merely waiting…

View On WordPress

Let them eat…not this cake. It’s not finished yet

Today I spent literally all day baking cakes and fondant and icing and nonsense. I’ve been on my feet since about 8, in my kitchen. I’m not even finished yet. Why, you ask? Because it’s devilishly tricky to time everything out, and I had to eat often, and then there was the fact that both cakes have several tiers.

What I’m trying to say is that I am feeling very drained, but if I must bleed into something, I’m glad it was a cake.

If you’re wondering, two children’s birthday cakes. I’ll likely have them finished tomorrow. I have to assemble them which require dowels and platforms and all that rubbish. I was going to make sugar paste animals too, but the molds didn’t arrive, so the little dear is getting plastic figurines. At least then they can play with those while the adults inhale the cake.

I have to say I don’t care if I ever see buttercream again. Ever. Powdered sugar can sard off. For all eternity. I’ve been through five bags today. Five 2lb bags. Why? Because I make my own fondant and my own icing and they both take nothing but powdered sugar.

I don’t think I’ll even end up eating the cake I’ll be so annoyed with everything.

Fondant:

1 ½ bag of small marshmallows

2 lbs powdered sugar, sifted

Cris o vegetable shortening

Melt the marshmallows in the microwave in thirty second intervals. Fold in about ¾ of the sugar. When mostly a firm lump, turn out on the table and knees, working more sugar in as you go. Keep your hands clean by rubbing them in the shortening. The fondant should stretch about two inches before it breaks. Form into a ball, smear with cris o in a thin sheen, then wrap in plastic wrap for at least 8 hours in the fridge. To color, merely work the dye into the segment you’re using. I use gel based dye. Again, shortening for the hands, powdered sugar for the table.

Buttercream:

Two sticks of butter (1 cup)

5 ½ cups sifted powdered sugar

A few TBSP milk

Vanilla extract (or some other)

Dye (if you like)

Allow the butter to come to room temp and soften, dump into standing mixer and cream it for five minutes. Add the powdered sugar in one cup at a time, incorporating the sugar at low speed, then putting up to highest speed for two minutes between each cup. Add a bit of milk and the extract as you go, using the milk to turn it creamy every time it begins to clump up too much. Add dye or leave white. This will pipe, or go beneath fondant nicely.

Thai/Vietnamese Fusion Chicken Soup, a recipe

I was hungry for something spicy, and had a few odds an ends lying around, so I decided to make this soup. It is very spicy, but can be made less so by diminishing or leaving out the chili.

I’ll admit this is a bit difficult to write up, because I wasn’t measuring and had to guess how much of what to add, but I think that if you follow the approximate measurements and then adjust to your tastes, you’ll have something very nice.

Tools:

  • cutting board and several size knives
  • large soup pot
  • small pot
  • colander

Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 qt chicken stock
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 leek
  • 1 bundle spring onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bundle cilantro
  • 1 bundle basil
  • 5 kefir lime leaves
  • 3 stalks of lemongrass, or about 2 Tbsp minced, preserved lemongrass (found in tiny jars)
  • a large ginger lobe, about 2 inches square or larger
  • red and green Thai chili (I’d get about 10 of each, looking for the ones that are fat on one end, but curled and shriveled on the other. If you’re not able to tolerate that much, cut it back to two in the pot and about six in the oil. If you want more and are tickled at the notion of the punishment, add several ghost chilies.)
  • baby corn
  • 2 heads of bok choi
  • button mushrooms, about 1 c.
  • 1 tomato
  • 5 limes
  • bean sprouts
  • fish sauce
  • a little olive oil
  • Vermicelli noodles

Instructions:

  1. Mince 1/2 the onion, the garlic, ginger. Chop up the cilantro, especially the stems. Pluck the leaves off the Basil. Cut about 1/2 the leek into ringlets. Bisect two of each color chili, discard the seeds, and mince the meat. Pound the lemongrass to release the aromatics, then chop into segments. Cut the tomato into quarters.
  2. In the large pot, place the chopped onion, leek, garlic, ginger, 1/2 the basil leaves, kefir lime leaves, 1/2 the minced cilantro (stems and leaves), lemongrass, and the chopped chilies. Drizzle with oil and then toss this over medium heat until you can really smell the elements.
  3. Add chicken stock and chicken breasts. Toss in the tomato. Add the juice of 3 limes. add about a quarter cup of fish sauce.
  4. When this is boiling, add the mushrooms, corn, and the leaves of the bok choi.
  5. Allow to boil until the chicken is cooked, then remove the chicken. On the cutting board, shred the chicken and return it to the soup. This will be your opportunity to taste the soup and determine what it needs. It should have a tangy, citrus flavor, but be spicy and richly savory too. If it appears to be missing anything, add more ginger, lemongrass, or fish sauce.You can also add stock cubes or bouillon.  Then allow the thing to boil a little longer
  6. While this is boiling, put the vermicelli noodles in the small pot. Add whatever you like to the water (I usually put a bit of lemongrass and some lime in) and cook through. When done boiling, it’s best to shock the noodles with cold water as they drain in the colander, in order to stop the cooking process.
  7. While everything is cooking, prepare your condiments. Remove and discard the seeds from all but two of the chilies and mince the meat. Place these into a small dish. Mince the last two chilies whole and add to the same dish. Smother this in about a cup of fish sauce and set aside
  8. Quarter the remaining limes, mince the green onion and remaining cilantro. On a plate, arrange the lime segments, bean sprouts, cilantro, the remaining basil leaves, and the green onion.

To serve, put a lump of noodles into each bowl. Fill with soup. garnish with a lime segment, a few basil leaves, green onion, cilantro, and been sprouts. Each person can add the chili-infused fish sauce (by spooning out only the oil) to their bowl if they wish. It also keeps very well and becomes hotter as it sits. I also have a lovely jar of Tom Yum Chili Oil that I add to this. This soup can easily be adapted to shrimp, or even thinly sliced pork.

 

Dill Pickles, a recipe

This recipe is a tip of the hat to those who’ve been paying attention to my Tumblr blog. You may have seen my recent bit of humor concerning my Decade Dills, called “Decadills” by one reader, and I like the name well. In truth, it’s not wise for humans to eat a decade-old pickle, and I seldom leave them that long. You can certainly try, if the seals are all still good, the acid levels right, the canning lid still intact, but that is a very rare occurrence, indeed. I make them for me — which is why I hide them, but…it seems wrong to tease and never give the humans a chance to experience my pickles for themselves. So here you have my recipe.

Tools:

  • medium sauce pan
  • 1 qt. mason jar with ring and lid
  • pot large enough to submerge the jar, up to the ring
  • mortar and pestle

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 c water
  • 4 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 c. white vinegar or apple cider vinegar (if you add more chilis, you may prefer the white, if you want more tang, add the apple cider.)
  • 1 lb cucumbers (I know many people use a specific type of cucumber, but I just use whatever I have handy. I usually have quite a variety, because I like to add them to all sorts of things. I believe the brand most often used is called Kirby)
  • half a dozen garlic cloves (I’m sassy, but you can get away with 2-3)
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flake (you can substitute whole tiny chili if you like, simply omit the red pepper flake from the dry spices and pack five or six peppers into the jar as you do the garlic cloves)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander seed
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp.allspice
  • 5 sprigs of a dill plant, cleaned, or 2 tsp dill seed
  • 5-10 dried bay leaves
  • 1 large grape leaf

Instructions:

  1. Sterilize the jars by boiling them and their lids. If setting them aside for a time, set the lids on to keep them covered.
  2. In the medium saucepan, heat the water, vinegar, sugar and salt until boiling. Stir until the salt dissolves completely then set aside to cool
  3. Peel and smash each garlic clove
  4. In the mortar, combine the pepper flake, pepper, coriander, allspice, mustard, turmeric, and bay and grind together until you have at least a coarse powder
  5. Wash the cucumbers thoroughly and snip off the very ends, not just the stems. This can keep them crispy longer. You can also cut the pickles into spears, if you prefer. It’s up to you.
  6. Pack the cucumbers into the jar, adding in dashes of the spice mix (aim to use half to all, but this is what makes the recipe unique to you, so do a few test batches to see what your tastes are), sprigs of dill (or pinches od dill seed), garlic cloves, and pieces of the grape leaf evenly distributed. Pack tightly, but be sure to leave s bit of space at the mouth of the jar, so that it can vacuum seal.
  7. When the liquid is completely cool, pour this over the cucumbers. Shake the jar gently to get out any air bubbles, and continue to fill, leaving the space in the neck of the jar.
  8. Place the lid and ring on tightly.
  9. Submerge the jar into the large pot and fill up to the neck with water. Boil this for about 20 minutes to seal the jar and perform low grade pasteurization. If you want a crispier pickle, then try to measure and keep the temperature between 180-185 for 30 minutes without going under or over.
  10. Remove this carefully from the pot and allow it to cool completely before you store it away. Be sure to test the lid to make certain the seal has firmly depressed.

These must cure for at least a month to become pickles. After that, they can sit on a shelf for a few years in a cool, dry place. If opened, you should refrigerate them to keep fresh.  You can try leaving them for a decade, as I always do, but you’re not a monster, so I wouldn’t recommend it. However, so long as the seal is unbroken and the food smells fine, it is usually fine to eat. Just remember, the longer they sit, the more rubbery they become, so I’d recommend that you eat them within a few years, and that you serve them chilled.

Egg Nog, a history in several recipes

Eggnog is far older than most suspect.  It wasn’t invented recently. It has many forms, and many, many names. Historians and Etymologists bandy back and forth about the name, wondering if it originates from one of about ten different sources from Germany to Scotland, to the colonies. The simple truth is, that it is all and none. “Noggin” or “nugge” is a very old word, and it refers to the glass in which hot drinks were served, a “mug”. You may listen to men of science, debating when the exact word “eggnog” must have come about, but that would be silly, in my opinion, because it came about through constant reintroduction of old memories, old ways, and old languages, then was jumbled up again and again in the slang culture of the early Americas.

Warm eggs and alcohol have been a standard since antiquity. They were drunk in the colder months for obvious reasons. Their types range from drinks made with wine, to biersuppe, a German warm soup made from beer, to very loose custards, to curled concoctions that are strange to the modern eye. Here, I will give you a long history of my favorites. You will see the spices shift as the spice trade with he east died and then was reforged with sea power, you will see the introduction of fine white sugar and rum from the Americas. You may wish to make them all, and watch the progress of time through one single food.

Please assume that for all the following recipes, you will need the following:

  • a mixer (hand held works fine in this case)
  • a saucepan
  • egg separator
  • fine grater
  • a whisk

Caudell, a recipe

Very few cook books have survived the eras to mark the existence of the great variety of dishes and their countless preparations, and so no source exists for this recipe. You will have to take my word that it was a drink of choice, particularly for the ill. Saffron was seen to have mystical qualities to the Medieval mind, and it was used in almost everything. Keep in mind that this saffron was not the sort you see today in your grocer’s spice aisle. This was the saffron that now costs hundreds of dollar per ounce — true saffron— and we worked it by the handful.

I recommend eating this with the notion that it is a semi-savory soup. It might assist the modern palette to adjust.

Ingredients:

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 2 cups of ale or sack (white wine) I recommend ale for authenticity. The poor could
  • often not afford sack
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • i leaf of mace
  • several tablespoons of sugar to taste

Instructions

  1. Beat the yolks into the ale, and then put the pot over medium heat, whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken and become frothy.
  2. Once this comes to a boil immediately drop the heat to low and beat in the other ingredients, adjusting to taste

Serve in an open, bowl-like mug

Posset, a recipe

Possets were a kind of custard, sometimes loose enough to be drunk in a mug. In my day they were used primarily as medicine for the sick, or as fortifying drinks for travelers or for the clergy.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • cinnamon
  • several blades of mace
  • Fresh nutmeg
  • 18 egg yolks, plus 8 egg whites
  • 1 pint of sack (white wine)
  • 1 1/2 c sugar

Instructions

  1. Put the milk into a pot and add some cinnamon and mace, and bring to a simmer
  2. While the milk is heating through, in another pot beat the eggs thoroughly. add the wine, a grated nutmeg, more fresh cinnamon, and the sugar
  3. Heat the eggs through and then incorporate the cream once that comes to a boil
  4. Cover and allow to simmer for a time on the lowest heat, stirring occasionally

Serve in a mug with a little sugar on top

Eierpunsch, a recipe

This was a holiday favorite all through the Holy Roman Empire, when I was living in Strasburg

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of white wine (keep in mind that Germany has an excellent tradition of sweet white wines like reisling)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 5 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 c strongly brewed tea
  • 1 lemon

Instructions

  1. Brew the tea and let it cool
  2. Whisk the eggs and add in the sugar and some of the white wine until it begins to get frothy
  3. Add the rest of the wine, cinnamon, cloves, and lemon juice
  4. Put in a pot and allow to heat through, but remove immediately before boiling
  5. Fish out the cloves

Serve in a mug with a little fresh whipped cream

Milk Punch, a recipe

From the early 1700’s the British and French had forged a somewhat calm trade relationship, despite all their bickering, making sherry and brandy fairly common and accessible. This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 8 oz. brandy
  • 4 tsp cream
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Ground clove

Instructions

  1. Whisk the ingredients together until foamy
  2. Spice to taste, while whisking

Serve at room temperature, or turn it into something of a cocktail in these modern times by shaking over ice.

American Nog, a recipe

Trade between the colonies was largely one way for a very long time, that is to say, it was largely a circular endeavor. The British shipped goods to the entire western world, stole slaves from Africa, brought them to the Americas, and then took products from us for sale in Britain and the rest of Europe. This system was entirely focused on the wealth and excesses of England, and cared very little about the colonists. As such, it was tedious getting any items directly from Europe, which meant there was hardly ever brandy to be had. And so, the egg beverages commenced to be cut with rum from the Caribbean.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. brandy
  • 1/2 c. dark spiced rum
  • 1/2 c. sherry
  • 1/2 c. whiskey
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 qt heavy cream
  • 1 qt milk
  • a dozen eggs
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Mix the alcohols. Separate your eggs, setting the whites aside
  2. Put the yolks into your mixer and beat until the the yolks are foamy. Slowly incorporate the sugar and spices.
  3. Add the alcohol slowly
  4. Add the milk and cream
  5. Pour this mixture into a separate bowl. With a clean bowl and whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff, then fold into the alcohol mixture

You may serve immediately at room temperature, or warm it through as needed and top with a little whipped cream. If storing it in the refrigerator, be sure to mix it regularly so that it doesn’t separate.

Modern Eggnog, a recipe

Modern humans are terrified of raw eggs, even when pasteurized. Now they buy rubbish in a carton and microwave it, throw in a shot of bourbon and call it finished, but to me this is a crime. So, allow me to help you out a bit. Here is a modern eggnog cocktail.

Ingredients:

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 4 c. whole milk
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. baker’s sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c. Amaretto or Grand Marnier (I prefer Grand Marnier, as it gives a nice sweetness)
  • 1 1/2 c. brandy (I use Remy Martin VSOP as it is inexpensive, but meshes well)

Instructions

  1. Whip the egg yolks in the standing mixer, then incorporate the sugar. Then the milk and cream until the mixture is frothy and pale.
  2. Slowly incorporate the alcohol

Serve warm or shaken over ice. I would top the warm version with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg, and the cold version with a twist of candied lemon rind.

I very much hope this brief history of eggnog has pleased you. I hope you can track the similarities, and admire the variety. Perhaps you even have ideas of how to craft a new recipe that borrows from history.

If you do try any of them, please do send me a picture. I post all images of my recipes sent in by readers, as a general rule.

Tortilla Soup, a recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 frozen chicken breasts (or six tenderloins, whatever is available)
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with chiles
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with cilanto and lime
  • 2 4 oz. cans chopped green chile peppers (mild or spicy)
  • 1 can red enchilada sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 14.5 oz. can chicken broth (we use the big boxes of broth because it makes more soup)
  • 1 tsp each cumin, chili powder and salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (or less if you like)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pkg frozen corn

*the recipe also calls for one bunch of chopped cilantro but my mom hates cilantro so that’s why we have the tomatoes with cilantro and lime
*we also use red gold tomato products because they’re quality, yummy, and readily available bc local woo!

Optional topping: 

  • lime wedges
  • shredded cheese
  • sour cream (it cuts the spice)
  • avocado (i don’t like avocado personally)
  • tortilla chips

Instructions:

1) place chopped onion in the bottom of slow cooker

2) layer the frozen chicken (or human) breast on top.

3) add diced tomatoes and juice, green chiles, enchilada sauce, garlic, broth, spices and bay leaf.

4) cook on low 6-8 h. 

5) remove bay leaf. 

6) remove chicken (or human) to plate, shred with 2 forks return to crock pot. 

7) stir in corn (here’s where i turn the crock to high). 

8) continue to heat til corn is hot.

9) add a handful of chopped cilantro. 

Usually serves 6-8 but use the entire box of broth and you have leftovers for days my main

This recipe is courtesy of my Tumblr acquaintance Katy @katofthekitvariety

The BAD RECIPE Contest, And Their Prize

Several days ago, I became very bored. This is not surprising, as you might imagine, gentle reader. Social media has presented me with many things to occupy me in these moments, and it all came down to a conversation about horrifying recipes. You know them. I am certain that all of you have your own story about the casserole your aunt brings to the Thanksgiving feast with the tuna in it, or the fruitcake made with skittles. Perhaps your father is simply inexcusably bereft of culinary skill. Ramen is usually involved. Tinned tomatoes. You take my meaning.

In any event, it got me to thinking, that some of these appalling crimes really do deserve recognition for sheer audacity alone, and so, I began a friendly contest on Tumblr. In the future, I will perhaps hold more of these, and this trial run will provide the framework, but for now, I can tell you that there were many revolting entries. The winning dish?

Grandma’s “You are so ungrateful” lasagna:

@youcantseebutimmakingaface – “Lasagna noodles, cans of tomato paste, 5 lbs Italian sausage, 3 pork chops, ground beef with no fat content, FUCKING. RAISINS, 1 pinch each salt and pepper… flavorless white cheese…Burn ground beef into kitty litter like granules, inexplicably mix with raisins…Make sauce…Boil sausage, pork chops, tomato paste, and salt and pepper until flavorless and slightly burnt. Layer noodles, cheese, meat/raisin hell, using approximately a shot glass of sauce…Bake until burnt. Use…to make a firepit or decorative patio”

I found this recipe utterly irredeemable, and so of course, it must be redeemed. This, however, involved some heated debate, and resulted in a secondary competition between myself and Chef, who staunchly opposed my notions of turning the dish from an entree to a dessert.

And so, as promised, I give you my recipe, and in a secondary post, his. Make them for yourself and be the judge. Which has won? No one at this end could truly decide.


Vietnamese-inspired Cheese Course, a recipe (Or raisin lasagna done with pinache, if you prefer)

Tools:

  • Small casserole dish, about 4” square
  • Sieve
  • Food Processor
  • several pots
  • skillet

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb ground pork (Make certain to get an even balance of fat)
  • 1 package ricotta cheese
  • 1 package of soft goat cheese
  • 1 small egg
  • 1 small package of mascarpone cheese
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. currants
  • 3 sugar dates (pitted)
  • 1 package of small cherry tomatoes (Please perform the “sniff test” and choose one with the best tomato sweetness)
  • port wine
  • balsamic vinegar
  • several large lasagna noodles (Mine were hand made, but you may purchase dried pasta, as we are going to fry them anyway)
  • olive oil
  • brown sugar
  • mint (for garnish)
  • sliced almonds

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to about 350
  2. Boil your tiny tomatoes, until their skins begin to split, then blanch with cold water, and gently shrug them out of their red coats.
  3. Place in a food processor with raisins, dates, currants, about 1 cup of port, several tablespoons of balsamic. Pulse until nicely blended. Pour back into the pot and boil
  4. You must achieve a thick, tangy, but sweet flavor profile, and so please add or diminish as you like. Once your sauce has cooked off all the alcohol, and is about the texture of tomato paste, run it through the sieve, by pressing it through with a spoon.
  5. Return to the put and continue to add wine, vinegar, or whatever you would like. When you believe it has achieved the proper taste, you should set about 1/3 of it aside, and then continue to reduce the other 2/3, stirring constantly, until you have created a dark syrup. Set this aside
  6. Start your noodles boiling.
  7. Brown your pork, very lightly seasoning with salt. Set aside.
  8. Once the noodles are finished, drain. Sprinkle them liberally with brown sugar. Add some oil to the pork fat in the skillet and fry the noodles lightly, until they begin to brown a little, or fold up at the edges. Lay these aside to cool.
  9. Throw your meat and the thinner sauce into the food processor, and turn into a paste
  10. Mix about 1/2 the ricotta with 1/2 the goat cheese. (You would ideally wish to have a somewhat gamey flavor.) Whisk the egg and then beat into this mixture.
  11. It is time to assemble your “lasagna”. Carefully oil the inside of the dish. put a spoonful of your stronger sauce at the bottom and work this around into a thin layer. Line the bottom with one of your fried noodles. Spread a generous layer of your goat cheese mixture until the noodle is covered. do the same with the meat mixture, and another spoonful of your stronger reduction. Repeat as many times as fills your dish or uses up your ingredients, making sure to finish with noodles.
  12. Cover in foil and bake for as long as it takes the thing to boil for about ten minutes (We are merely cooking the egg, so do not overcook your dessert simply for a little raw egg. It is a cheesecake, not a brick.) Let us say 45 minutes?
  13. Allow to cool, and then upend on a plate. It should pop free, but if not, run a knife around the sides.
  14. Cover with the sliced almonds, pipe fresh mascarpone on top as you would whipped cream, and drizzle with your stronger reduction.

Garnish with hefty amounts of mint. Serve in small cubes, and ideally, pair it with a tawny port. I do believe you will no be disappointed.