Sunday, December 14, 2008

What's For Dinner Part Deux

As promised, here is my update from yesterday's post. Dinner came out okay. There were hits and misses. Let's start with the misses. The baked beans did not turn out well. Well, they would have had I cooked the beans first, or started with canned beans. The directions said to bring all the ingredients to a simmer, then cover and put in the oven for 1.5 hours or until the beans get tender. Mine never got tender. I used less beans than was called for. I have no idea what happened. I soaked them overnight in more than enough water. I followed the directions to a 'T'. At any rate, I liked the taste of the baked beans, but this recipe was more work than I'm interested in. I didn't have to worry about the beer. It wasn't bad. It tastes like a very strong sparkling cider (which, if i make this again, I will use instead of the beer). The beer to use, apparently is Lindemans (I found it accidentally at Trader Joe's and didn't realize it was the beer that was recommended).

You know, I have a really special family. I forewarned them that the beans were not so great. My dearest daughter described them as "crunchy". My brother said nothing, but gave me that 'little brother' look he always gives me when he's about to tease me. My father, bless his heart, actually ate them. He was just trying to not hurt my feelings. No problem. I look at it this way: At least now I know what works and what doesn't. The really good part about this is that the recipe has the potential to be really good and it is very hearty. It would be perfect for a tailgate party. The really bad part about this was the clean up. It left a mess in my Dutch oven. However, with bleach and baking soda, I was able to get it gleaming again.

The sirloin salad was very good. The dressing was divine, and it perfectly complemented the baked beans (such as they were). Honestly, I could've just drank the salad dressing straight! I wasn't sure how it was going to come out since the recipe called for fresh ginger, and I didn't have any. I did have crushed ginger, so I used that instead. I think crushed ginger is a little stronger than fresh, so I used about 1/2 tbs. I marinated the sirloin with the dressing before grilling it. I think this dressing is a perfect marinade. The salad itself was very simple: Endive (or escarole, same thing), pitted Kalamata olives and sliced red onions--yummy! The Morningstar Farms Meal Starters come pre-seasoned, so I didn't have to do anything with them.

The bread was not my best loaf, but it was nice and crusty. It would go great with a nice, hearty soup like french onion. This bread is more of a sourdough. I like sourdough, but I want a really nice French bread like you'd get in France. When we were stationed in England, my mom used to buy baguettes (I think that's what they're called)all the time . They were so crusty on the outside, but inside they were soft and chewy. Real French bread is nothing like what you'd get at your local Safeway. I haven't had anything like it since I was a little girl. Maybe someday I'll find the perfect recipe.

What came out perfectly was the cake. As much as I hate cooking, I do love to bake. I don't do a lot of cakes, though, because I've never had much luck. But this cake actually came out really, really good. It's a basic yellow cake, but I wanted something lemony, so I used the lemon curd I had on hand in the filling and the frosting. I made the filling with lemon curd, raspberry jam and a tiny bit of cream cheese. The frosting was from the recipe I posted yesterday, but I only used half of it and added vanilla. Let me stop on the vanilla. Until I started getting into baking bread, I always thought vanilla was vanilla. I kept reading things about Mexican vanilla, and how it was the best. I'd never heard of Mexican vanilla, and when I researched it, in my opinion it was very pricey. Well, I broke down last week and finally ordered some from Pleasant Hill Grain. Oh. My. Lord. This vanilla is soooo good! First of all, it doesn't have that alcohol smell and taste that regular vanilla does. It is smooth, and it made the cake really tasty. It really is good. I think I've found a new best friend.

At any rate, I'm not the best cake decorator in the world, heck, probably not even on my street, but even though the cake doesn't look that great, it tasted fantastic.

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