I have never cooked a duck. I have only eaten duck once. So, this episode was one that I was dreading. Duck! We have to first quarter the duck. The instructions were very clear and made it quite easy! After some marinating, the cooking was quite complicated. You first steam the the duck then put it in a pre-heated cast iron skillet in the oven. Both of these steps render fat in the duck. He had added items to cook in the duck fat – which is some of the tastiest cooking fat in the world.

I cooked quartered red potatoes in the fat from the steaming and cooked kale in the fat in the skillet. I didn’t like the duck itself. I’m not sure if I overcooked it, but the meat was not very flavorful and tough. However, the potatoes and especially the kale were very good! The duck fat was very tasty.

Products: The duck was frozen (as suggested by Alton). The kale and potatoes were organic.

Overall: Cooking in duck fat is great, but the duck itself wasn’t so good.

SH: “The kale is really good.”

Up Next: Leftover turkey.

I am behind on my posts! I really have been cooking, just not writing. SO, here I go. This episode is about using eggs to make custards – both sweet and savory.

The first is a quiche that Alton calls Refrigerator Pie. He have suggestions for additions. I chose cheddar cheese, spinach and ham. I am going to try the recipe again with low fat milk, but for the first try I used the half and half in the recipe. It was creamy and tasty. If it tastes the same or similar with low fat milk (and possibly Eggbeaters) it will be a staple in our house. It’s easy to put together and cooks pretty quickly. Whip some eggs, add some cheese, meat and veggie and your good to go. The reason he calls it “refrigerator pie” because you can use leftovers in it. Pre-cooked meat and veggies work really well.

The next recipe is flan – Flandango as Alton calls it! Flan is a custard that you cook in a water bath. I used the blueberry jam and the caramel sauce in the flan for the sauces. You put the sauce in the bottom of the dish (in this case individual size ramekins) and the put the custard on top. This recipe, too is relatively easy, but takes more work than the quiche. The result is a creamy dessert that is quite tasty. I liked the caramel topping better than the blueberry jam.

Products: For both, I used organic eggs and half and half. I used organic spinach for the quiche. The sugar in the flan is organic.

Overall: Both were easy. I was surprise that the flan was so easy – it always seemed like something that would be difficult. I will definitely try the quiche with lower fat milk and see how it turns out.

SH: He really liked the quiche, “It was tasty.” He didn’t try the flan.

Up Next: DUCK!

As of last Wednesday, I am half way through this journey. I’m doing pretty well progressing through Alton’s book. I did 3 episodes just this weekend! I’m a little behind typing up my reviews, but I’m catching up. I’m up to episode 37 out of 80, so I’m basically on track. I have a few easy ones to crank out over the next few weeks, so I should be ahead of the game soon! I’m learning new cooking techniques and venturing into foods I never thought I’d cook. I’m going to try to add more stories and background on my posts and hopefully give better descriptions of the foods I’m cooking.

However, my other goals are not fairing as well. I’d love to give a thousand excuses, but the truth is, I haven’t been doing the work. I haven’t been adapting the recipes like I had planned. I also haven’t been exercising as planned. I was not ready for the triathlon, so I didn’t go. I was very disappointed in myself and frustrated that I had wasted all of that time. I kept saying, “It’s only X number of weeks away, I have plenty of time.”  Laziness won. It’s so much easier to sit on the couch. And the next thing I knew, I wasn’t ready. But I think I had an epiphany the other night.

My husband and I share our home with two cats. The two of them could not be more different. One (The Bits) is a typical kitty that sleeps all day, loves treats, cheese and scratches. But the other one (Narcs), well, she thinks she’s a dog. She plays fetch, follows us from room to room and chases her tail. She loves to play. Well, that’s probably a understatement. She lives to chase strings. She will drag a string to wherever we are and sit behind it, staring us down until we pick it up. She will block the exit to a room with a string hoping we will pick it up on our way out. I probably identify most with The Bits. She enjoys food (she even loves taco meat!) and can get into a good nap. Narcs will play until she is out of breath and will get back into it as soon as she can breathe again! When playing with Narcs the other day, I realized, I need to be more like her and less like Bits. Narcs loves to be active and even at almost 9 years old, still loves to play like a kitten. Isn’t that what we should all strive to be? Young at heart and ready to play at any moment?

So, I have now signed up for the Women’s Half Marathon here in Nashville on September 25th. I have also signed up for a 12 week training group sponsored by a local running store that started today. I’m hoping having others involved and inspiring my training, I’ll do better. I met a few women this morning that I hope will stick with it (and me!). We are all very different, but our goal is the same and we seemed to bond. My biggest issue? The group meets Saturday mornings at 7am. I’ll repeat that, 7 freakin’ A.M. For those of you who don’t know, I am not a morning person. The only other group training program is at the Y and it starts Friday night at 5pm, which is even more ridiculous than 7am. How can working people get to the Y by 5pm, when most people get off work at 5pm or later? There is no way I can leave work early for twelve weeks – especially at my busiest time of the year. So, the Saturday morning group it is! It will be rough, but I’m determined to make it work. So, here I go….

I will be posting more here about the exercise and nutrition plan to keep me more accountable and motivated. Wish me luck.

There are some calorie laden recipes coming up, but I’m hoping the exercise helps. Also, I’m behind on the reviews, so I’m trying to catch up!!

Up Next: Refrigerator pie!

We move from an American classic to an item that I’m guessing a lot of Americans have never eaten! Mussels. Mussels are a type of clam that is generally longer than wide and black. They are a good source of protein and low in fat. The mussels are steamed and given a very flavorful sauce. I served them with some good Italian bread to sop up the sauce. These Mojo Moulies are tasty morsels of goodness.

Products: I found the mussels at the fish counter in my local grocery store. I got organic tomatoes, parsley, leek and garlic.

Overall – The recipe takes a little bit of time, but is completely worth it. Making sure the mussels are still alive and cleaning the “beard” takes the most time. Notice the steam in the picture! It’s very garlicky, so make sure anyone you are going to kiss is eating them too!

SH: “Good. The sauce is the best.”

Up Next: Refrigerator Pie

We open season 3 of Good Eats with pickles. Alton loves all things that are associated with being “American” and this episode’s title reflects that love. The first recipe is sweet pickles, AB’s B&B Pickles are very easy. Very few ingredients, a little boiling and into the jars. These pickles are “refrigerator” pickles- and are good for a couple of months in the fridge, but not technically “canned”. I have to say I’m not a fan of sweet pickles, but I can tell you they smelled EXACTLY like sweet pickles smell. Mom and Grandma came for a visit shortly after they were made, so they are part of the taste-testing crew. The other pickles in this episode were “Summer in a Jar”, which is pickled pear and plum. To be honest, I couldn’t find any plums – strange, I know, but the girl at Publix said they had just run out! Anyway, it was again just boiling and putting the stuff into jars (the same jars I used for the jam).

Products: All the produce (cucumbers, onions and pears) were organic. All else was conventional.

Overall: Well, I don’t like sweet pickles and the pear thing was just odd – and a little to vinegary for me. But, if you like sweet pickles – they would be great!

Mom: “Good. I really like the pickles – it’s amazing they stay so crisp. The pears are very good.”

Grandma: ” The pickles are very crisp – that’s good. The pears are vinegary, but refreshing.”

SH: “I’ll let Mom and Grandma take this one!”

Up next: Mussels

Corn. Luckily, I got to this episode just as corn was coming in season. We start with Better Than Granny’s Creamed Corn (which I doubt) and use some of that to make Cream of the Crop Cornbread. The creamed corn was really easy. Very few ingredient – although some very high calorie content items (heavy cream and butter), but easy just the same. The messiest part is Alton’s method for cutting the corn off the cob. I suppose you could use frozen, but you miss the “milk” that comes with the corn right off the cob. The creamed corn seemed a little too thick for my taste, but was very good. But it most certainly did not taste as good as my Granny’s. I’m sure it has to do with the lack of more fat, though! The turmeric seemed to add some color I didn’t feel was necessary and maybe a little bit of a strange taste. SH was skeptical of the onion, but I’ll just cut the pieces smaller next time. Then, it was on to the cornbread.

By using some of the creamed corn, you get a great corn taste in the bread, but my favorite part of any cornbread is the crusty, crunchy bottom – and this had plenty of it!! This cornbread was easy, although I think I might have needed a bit more buttermilk, since it was a little bit dry.

Products: I did not find organic corn, but it was locally grown and fresh, so that is good.  I found organic cornmeal and used organic eggs and butter. Not exactly healthy, but tasty all the same.

Overall: I preferred the cornbread to the creamed corn, but it would be worth making the creamed corn to get some more of the cornbread.

SH: He wasn’t home for the creamed corn (I only cooked a half batch and a lot of that went for the cornbread), but had some of the cornbread later. About the cornbread he said, “Tasty! You can do that again.”

Flipped upside down out of the pan...tasty

Up next: Pickles!

I’m not a huge fan of ribs, so I made these on a day that we were having guests. Maybe not my best idea to cook something I’ve never cooked before when we are having a bunch of guests, but I made plenty of alternatives and proceeded with Alton’s Who Loves Ya Baby Back Ribs. You start by braising the ribs in the oven then finish them under the broiler. I finished them on the grill because I was making my famous jerk chicken and some pork tenderloin as well – it was a meat fest! The ribs smelled REALLY good in the oven and made the whole house smell good when the guests arrived (always a good thing). I felt like the ribs were a little dry – probably from finishing on the grill, but there were none left and I didn’t even get an after picture because they were gone before I even thought of it! Now, I will caveat all quotes and the quick disappearance with the fact that there was a lot of beer being consumed. It was a “kick the keg” party to finish the keg of beer that SH had brewed (small keg, not the full big liquor store kind). The keg was gone in a very short time and a beer run was needed! At one point there were shots of tequila. Yes, there were designated drivers that did not participate! Anyway, I’m not sure the opinions of the ribs were completely sound, but I’m going to take them!

Products: Not too much organic available, but I used organic sugar, honey and oil. The rib slabs were already cut in half, so I think that made them easier to handle.

Overall: Good as far as ribs are concerned (my opinion). They were pretty easy to make.

SH: “Good.”

Guests: “Yum.” “These are really good.” “Can I have some more?”

Up Next: Corn

Alton loves the science of cooking and the manipulation of sugar and water is all about the science. One wrong stir, one small drop of stray water, and your cooking sugar can crystallize in a minute! Honestly, the thought of molten sugar and it’s burning possibilities scares me a lot. But, I have my pot holders that go to my elbows, so I’m ready to go! The interesting thing here is that it is one recipe, but it is making two completely different items. First, we are making “doodads”, which are basically fancy caramel candies that can be used to decorate fancy desserts. Then, by cooking the caramel just a little further and adding cream, you make caramel sauce. You use corn syrup and cream of tartar to help stabilize the mixture. I find the science fascinating that you start with some hard candy and take it to be a creamy gooey mixture.  And it really works!! You can see the picture of my doodads…

and the use of them in my very fancy ice cream…

I didn’t take a picture of the caramel sauce, but it was also tasty on the ice cream. It’s more like a caramel flavored hot fudge – that’s the texture that it ends up. It was VERY good. And surprisingly simple. This did not help the diet, but that’s another post!

Products: I used organic sugar and cream. I don’t know if it made a difference, but it justifies the high calories – it’s healthy, non-chemical laden high fat sauce.

Overall: Quite easy and versatile.

SH: Different, but good.

Up next: Baby Back Ribs.

Alton, along with Kathleen Daelemans, believe we should keep items in the pantry to quickly whip up healthy, homemade meals at a moments notice. For Chef Kathleen, this is essential to weight loss. Most things you make at home are going to be healthier than anything you get out at a fast-food restaurant or even a regular restaurant. So, have healthy items in your pantry to make “kit” meals and you will be more likely to make a meal at home than go out. The first Pantry Raid episode was about pasta, so the second is something to go on top of the pasta. Pantry Friendly Tomato Sauce is a little complicated. You broil the veggies and tomatoes to give a deep, roasted taste to the sauce. Once you are done broiling, they go in the pan with the juice from the tomatoes (and some traditional spices) and cook a little longer. And I got to use my immersion blender again! This sauce is relatively low fat and has a deep tomato flavor.

Product: Organic tomatoes – although the can (as all tomato cans) had BPA – controversial, to say the least. I used organic veggies and sugar. Everything was very easy to find.

Overall: The sauce was very good, but took a lot of work. I found the sauce to be pretty thick, but you don’t need as much as other sauces to get full flavor. We taste tested it with ground meat and whole grain pasta. I also used some as pizza sauce and liked it a lot for that – the thick consistency was good on the pizza. I have a favorite bottled sauce that is much easier to make, so I’ll probably stick with that.

SH: “Good. Too much sauce, though. Less would be better.”

Up next: Sugar

This episode was more about the technique of jarring than the actual jam itself. The Blueberry Jam was almost an afterthought to the instructions on how to properly jar the jam. Since this was the first time I had ever jarred (or, as I’ve learned here in the South, “put up”) anything, I was apprehensive. I truly thought the process was going to take all day and that I was going to hate every minute of it. It was actually relatively quick and easy. The jam turned out very good and the jars seem to be properly sealed. I have a couple of them in the pantry, so we’ll see in a month or so. The key here is sanitation. If that isn’t done properly, all is lost. After the jars cooled, I immediately opened one jar to see if it did seal worked and to taste the jam. So far so good. If I start to see things growing, I’ll know I somehow contaminated the jars. I’ll post an update on that in a few weeks.

Products: I used organic frozen blueberries and organic sugar. Everything was easy to find – even the fruit pectin was just in the regular grocery store along with the jars.

Overall: The jam is very good and the process was much easier than I thought it would be.

SH: “Yum.”

Up next: Tomato Sauce