Friday, March 30, 2007

Best Of Blogs 2006 - I'm a finalist!

Hey Kids!

Just found out that The Gallumphing Gourmand is one of eight finalists at the 2006 Best of Blogs Awards in the Best Food, Wine and Cooking Blog category. How cool is that? Click the link above to place your vote (it would be cool if you would vote for me, hint hint) until midnight Friday April 13, 2007.

Thank you to everyone who enjoys my blog, it's been fun to do.

Here are links to some of the posts I had the most fun with from the past year:

Large Chef At Home - March 14, 2006

Weekend Cookbook Challenge #4: Easter Brunch - April 12, 2006

Food Fit For A King - June 14, 2006

Ready, Set, Cook #20: Bite-Sized Bacon Bundles - Booya! - October 30, 2006

World Nutella Day 2007 - Nutella Sugar Stars - January 31, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Large Salads and Small Pork Chops

In an effort to both eat healthier and to save some cash, I have been making a concerted effort lately to bring my lunch to work with me every day.Also, because I have better things to think about in the morning, and because my brain is still in low gear until my first coffee of the day, I tend to make the same thing pretty much every morning - a big salad and a little pork chop.

I decided recently that I should really get on this whole 'losing weight' thing, and a friend suggested that a good way to do that would be to go vegetarian. Now, I don't have anything against vegetarians or vegetarianism, it's just not a choice that I would make for myself. To be honest, I like meat way too much to do that. To even consider living without steaks or chops or burgers, the mind boggles. Not to mention bacon. Ahhh, bacon. But I'm getting a little off-track here.

As a child of the '70s and '80s, the phrase "You may not" is not one of my favourites. My instinctive response is "Don't tell me what to do", and then nothing gets done. However, I've had to rethink my whole decision-making process as it applies to menu creation, and cooking healthy meals. I've found that if I take "You may not" and change it to "I don't want to", things tend to work a bit better. I could spout some inspirational rhetoric right now, but I just find that if I truly want to do something (or not do something), then I can make it happen.

So, although the veggie route is not one I will be taking, I have been making a concerted effort to increase my vegetable intake at every meal, to make sure that I eat my leafy greens, and also to reduce the amount of meat eaten in a day. All it takes to do this, is a little preparation when I get home from the grocery store.

If I buy a large package of ground beef, then before it goes into the freezer I divide the meat up into three- or four-ounce portions. With chicken legs and pork chops, I wrap them all individually. My old system, which was to cook a bunch of food and then "save some for later", never really worked that well. It used to be "OK, I guess I'll thaw the entire pound of ground beef, because I don't feel like trying to saw through it when it's frozen." Then of course, I would just end up eating the whole thing. Not good.

Since I started this blog over a year ago now, and since I've taken a more active interest in cooking, I've found that several things I used to buy pre-made are really easy (and cheaper) to make myself. Take salad dressing. Nothing ruins the good intentions of a nice green leafy salad like some creamy, high-cal dressing. All you need is oil, balsamic vinegar and water, and you've got salad dressing. Oh yes, and a funky vintage Good Seasons salad dressing cruet with measuring lines on the side. Heh. Found it at a yard sale for a quarter. I use it all the time, it's one of my favourite kitchen gadgets. I just add the vinegar to the line, add the water to the next line, then fill with oil. Add a little fresh ground pepper, and a small splootch of honey-dijon mustard, et viola! A tasty balsamic vinaigrette.

The salad is assembled as follows:

Gallumphing Gourmand's Tasty Lunchbox Salad
serves 1

* Red leaf lettuce
* one plum tomato, chopped
* two green onions, chopped
* two radishes, chopped
* 1/4 green pepper, chopped
* three or four medium mushrooms, chopped
* small squirt of balsamic vinaigrette
* one small grilled pork chop, sliced

It's taken some adjustment to go from standard food court grub like rice-and-two-items combos or large pastrami sandwiches to eating the salad every day. But I find that after a few weeks of doing this, I've gotten used to it. And now that I've started to incorporate actual exercise into my daily routine, I'm starting to feel the results, if not actually see them yet. I look forward to the salad, because it makes me feel good.

Monday, March 05, 2007

WCC #14: A Salad By Any Other Name...

...would still taste like salad. Unless, of course, you use gelatin to make that particular salad. For this edition of Weekend Cookbook Challenge, I decided to take a bit of a retro approach to the Salad theme.

I dug out my vintage Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks (Copyright 1963), and selected the volume entitled Lunches and Brunches. The clever subtitle is "Luscious lunches, best brunches". Whoever thought that one up MUST have been getting paid the big bucks.

This entry is based on the 'Make-ahead Luncheon' found on Page 13 of Lunches and Brunches. I say 'based on', because I didn't make the entire menu suggested for this luncheon. What I did make was:

Chilled Tomato Juice
Ham & Swiss Roll-ups
Devilled Eggs

and the pièce de résistance:
Confetti Relish Mold

Sounds so good, you can almost taste it, hmmmmm?

The devilled eggs are pretty self-explanatory, and the ham & swiss roll-ups are just that - a piece of cooked ham, a piece of swiss cheese, some grainy mustard, a little wasabi, and ROLL UP. The recipe calls for horseradish, but I don't have any, and wasabi is basically horseradish on crack anyway, so I used (a tiny bit of) the wasabi.

The Confetti Relish Mold was the fun part. For all you fine people who are just dying to make a gelatin-mold salad, here's the recipe as printed in the book:

Confetti Relish Mold
serves 6

2 beef bouillon cubes
1 3-oz package of lemon-flavoured gelatin
1 C boiling water
2 tbsp tarragon vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 C dairy sour cream
(as opposed to library sour cream, maybe?)
1/2 C chopped unpared cucumber
(I peeled it anyway)
1/2 C finely chopped green pepper
1/4 C sliced radishes
2 tbsp sliced green onions

Dissolve bouillon cubes and gelatin in boiling water. Add vinegar and salt. Chill until mixture is partially set.
Add sour cream, beat smooth. Add remaining ingredients. Pour into a 3-cup mold. Chill until mixture is firm.

OK, that was what the book said. This is what I actually did. I made a few common-sense (to my mind, anyway) substitutions. Instead of boiling water and bouillon cubes, I just used Campbell's Beef Broth, and instead of tarragon vinegar, I used white wine vinegar with 1/2 tsp of tarragon leaves. Oh yes, instead of the dairy (!) sour cream, I used plain yogurt.After boiling the broth, dissolving the gelatin (lemon-flavoured Jell-O), and adding the vinegar and salt, I put the saucepan into the fridge for about an hour. I then added the yogurt, and used electric beaters to 'beat until smooth'. I then added the rest of the stuff, stirred to combine everything, then poured the mixture into five individual little glass bowls. I don't have a jelly mold, and since I don't plan to ever make this again, I didn't think that there was any point to buying one. Since I had several of the little suckers, I decided to experiment a little bit. I put two of them into the freezer, and the other three went into the fridge.

I really wasn't sure how long they would take to set properly, but after three hours, they seemed fine. The book provides helpful tips for turning out a jelly mold:

Loosen edges with top of knife. Place platter over mold; invert. Wring towel out of hot water; lay over mold. Lift off mold.

Whaddaya know, it worked. I don't know why the beef flavour was included, because the lemon completely overpowered it. The jelly tasted about how you'd expect: creamy lemon jello with crunchy bits in it. Surprisingly, it wasn't too bad.

A big thank you to Tami at Running With Tweezers for running this event, it's always fun to look through the old cookbooks.

Success Is A Dish Best Served With Relish

Or mustard.

As a follow-up to my last post, and the deep-fryer meltdown incident, here is my second attempt at Mashed Potato Poppers.Thanks to a comment from Vicki, this time I didn't add any butter or cream to the potatoes before I deep-fried them. They turned out perfectly. Well, they turned out how I expected them to turn out, which I guess is pretty much the same thing.

The recipe is pretty simple. I'll run it down for you.

Mashed Potato Poppers

4 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp garlic powder
(I didn't have any fresh garlic on hand or I would've use that instead)
salt and pepper
1 good-sized gloop of Worchestershire Sauce
(pardon the technical jargon)
1 small gloop of Tabasco (to taste)

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Form into 1-inch balls and deep-fry 6-8 at a time (depending on the size of the deep-fry unit) for about 4 minutes.
Remove from oil and place on paper towels to blot some of the oil.
Serve with mustard or whatever tickles your fancy.

I don't know about you, but my fancy is fairly ticklish, so in addition to the mustard, I tried mayo, wasabi, hot sauce, Nutella (why not), and peanut butter. All turned out to be acceptable choices, but I guess the mustard is my favourite.