Giveaway & Surprises

posted Dec 9, 2011, 4:52 PM by Kim Janik

I am completely beyond excited about today's post.  I have been waiting a long time to be able to make this announcement.  But first, I'm feeling in the mood for a little guessing game.  I'm sitting here, relaxing and making up slides for my class next term.  Can you guess what is keeping me company?  Here's a hint:

engineer's cookbook new coffee mug

No, that's not coffee.  I know this sounds strange, but I don't really drink caffeine.  *shhh*  Don't tell the other engineers.  Okay, now guess again.  Yes, it's tea.  But, what is this....?

engineers cookbook coffee mug for giveaway

I cannot believe that they day has come that my logo would be printed on actual merchandise!!!  You are looking at one of a very small batch of the first ever coffee mugs for The Engineer's Cookbook.  And now for the really fun part!  I am announcing our first official giveaway.  I have, sitting here, a lovely mix of coffee, tea and, of course, one of our brand new coffee mugs.  When does the giveaway start?  Well, that is up to you, dear readers.   When my Facebook fan page for this site hits 50, I will start the giveaway.  I'll also fill you in on all the different ways you can enter to win!

Creative Appetizers

posted Nov 16, 2011, 11:09 PM by Kim Janik   [ updated Nov 16, 2011, 11:25 PM ]

Today I attended a staff potluck luncheon.  It was wonderful to meet new faces from around the college and get other people's insights into students.  But, you don't want to hear about all of that.  You want to know what I brought as my contribution.  Our food assignments were by building and my building got a fun one - appetizers!  Now, I've done a few quick and easy appetizers on this blog before.  But yesterday I had sweet potatoes and cranberries on the brain (hello future ingredients of the week!).  And, for some reason, gingersnaps were also swirling around in the mix as well.  I don't even *like* ginger snaps. 

So I had these snappy little bite-size morsels in mind and was all set to make them when I realized that they would not travel well.  Stacking all those little soft-topped treats?  Not if I wanted them to look appetizing at the end of the car ride.  So, I modified my plan and set about for something different.  Still keeping with fall ingredients, I decided to do an almost-savory ginger-infused pumpkin treat instead.

pumpkin ginger gingersnap candied ginger appetizer

Aren't they wonderful looking?  Really, they were very simple.  I took gingersnap cookies and made a little cheesecake-style crust and then...  What?  What do you mean?  Oh, you were at my lunch and didn't see these there?  Oh.  Well, now, isn't this embarrassing?  Well, okay, yes I do happen to have another picture.  Here's the item I actually brought to the luncheon:

pumpkin ginger cups shot glass candied ginger
Okay, can I get back to my story now?  After the pumpkin treats had cooled, I went to pop them out onto a plate.  Nothing.  I bang it on the counter.  Still nothing.  I the edge of the knife to loosen the edges all the way around the tin and give it one more whack.  Nothing at all on the plate.  I turn my hand over to see the little pumpkin-ginger nosh still sitting perfectly in the tin.  It is at that moment that I realize that I did not spray the tins before putting in the crust and batter.  With 36 little appetizers sitting there stuck in their containers I felt, well, stuck.  I used a spoon to scoop one out and try it.  Mmm, tasty.  No excuse to start over from scratch, then.  I kept looking around the kitchen and thinking, "I just need something to PUT these in!"  And then it hits me that I have some disposable shot glasses left over from our Halloween party.  Perfect.  I quickly transferred all of the pumpkin ginger goodness over and set them aside in the fridge for today's luncheon.

In case you would like to replicate my efforts, it really is very simple.  To make the crust, I used 2 cups of ginger snaps (crushed) and 4 T. melted butter to make a cheesecake style crust.

For the filling, I used the recipe off the back of my pumpkin puree (halved) and simply added 1/4 c. minced candied ginger.  Now, here's the trick.  Using nonstick cooking spray, spray every nook and cranny of your baking tins!  Each tiny pan was filled with 1 tsp. of crust and and 2-3 T. of pie filling.  I then baked them for 15 min at 425 degrees then lowered the heat to 350 degrees for another 25 minutes, using the same technique as suggested by the pumpkin can.

To be honest, I was pretty happy with how these turned out as they were a far more interesting looking appetizer than what I originally had planned and the presentation was both fun and easy to clean up.  If you're thinking about using these for dessert, I would add a touch of sugar to the gingersnap crust and top each cup with whipped cream.

Recipe for Rutabagas

posted Nov 13, 2011, 9:27 PM by Kim Janik

Your first thought is probably, "Why isn't this under the 'Recipes' category?"  Ah, that is a funny story.  It's been a busy, busy week and so my recipe experiments got pushed to the end of the week.  Usually, when I'm trying a brand new recipe I give myself a few days to tweak it if it goes wrong.  This week I had a special treat planned for you with the rutabagas being used in a variant of a class Norwegian dish called kålrabistappe.  Baked chicken, rutabagas and peas go together so nicely and I figured it would be an easy dish to pull together.  Tsk, tsk.  It never works that way, does it?

So, to make a long story short (too late!), this recipe is ineligible for the "Recipes" section because it fails my "30 minutes or less" criteria.  But, I promised you a rutabaga recipe, faithful readers, and this is a comforting, home-style one.  I recommend it for a lazy Sunday afternoon when you have some extra time (about an hour).

mashed rutabagas norwegian peas baked chicken fall
  • 1 gallon resealable storage bag
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 2 T. seasoning of your choice *
  • 1 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 8 chicken drumsticks
  • 4 lb. rutabagas
  • 2 large carrots
  • 16 oz. frozen peas
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

 Minutes Directions
 1-5 Measure the flour, seasoning and salt into the large storage bag and mix.  Rinse the chicken gently and put in the bag with the seasonings.  Seal the bag and shake rapidly until all the chicken pieces are well coated.  Remove the chicken from the bag and place on a baking sheet.  Put into the oven.
 6-10 Peel the rutabagas and carrots.
 11-15 Chop the rutabagas and carrots into 1" chunks.  Place into a medium pot and barely cover with water.  Cover and place over high heat.
 16-17 Place peas into a medium pan and barely cover with water.  Place uncovered over medium heat.
 18-40 Take a break.  If the rutabagas get too enthusiastic over there on the stove then reduce their heat to medium-high.
 41-45 The rutabagas mixture should be soft when pierced when a fork by now.  Drain them in a colander and return them to the pot over low heat.  Add the butter and proceed to mash the rutabagas until you get small pieces.  Add the milk and salt and continue to mash until you get a smooth texture and uniform color.
 46 Drain peas.  Check the temperature of the chicken to ensure it's done.

Serve immediately.  Serves 4.  527 calories per serving.

We added a little more salt to both the rutabagas and the peas.  This made quite a bit of food and I couldn't even finish all of mine.

* - I used Italian seasoning with some red chili flakes.

A Little Engineering Humor

posted Nov 9, 2011, 8:11 AM by Kim Janik

While browsing the internet today, I ran across this joke at and couldn't help but laugh.  Loudly.  So, I proudly give you the reason that engineers should not write cookbooks!

Why Engineers Aren't Allowed to Write Cookbooks

Collect the following ingredients:
  •     532.35 cm3 gluten
  •     4.9 cm3 NaHCO3
  •     4.9 cm3 refined halite
  •     236 cm3 partially hydrogenated tallow triglyceride
  •     177.45 cm3 crystalline C12H22O11
  •     177.45 cm3 unrefined C12H22O11
  •     4.9 cm3 methyl ether of protocatechuic aldehyde
  •     Two calcium carbonate-encapsulated avian albumen-coated protein ovoids
  •     473.2 cm3 theobroma cacao
  •     236 cm3 de-encapsulated legume meats (sieve size #10)

Instructions: To a jacketed round reactor vessel (reactor #1) with an overall heat transfer coefficient of 100 Btu/F-ft2-hr, add ingredients one, two, and three with constant agitation. In a second reactor vessel with a radial flow impeller operating at 100 rpm, add ingredients four, five, six, and seven until the mixture is homogenous. To reactor #2, add ingredient eight, followed by three equal volumes of the homogenous mixture in reactor #1. Additionally, add ingredient nine and ten slowly, with constant agitation. Care must be taken at this point in the reaction to control any temperature rise that may be the result of an exothermic reaction. Using a screw extrude attached to a #4 nodulizer, place the mixture piece-meal on a 316 SS sheet (300 x 600 mm). Heat in a 460sK oven for a period of time that is in agreement with Frank & Johnston's first order rate expression (see JACOS, 21, 55), or until golden brown. Once the reaction is complete, place the sheet on a 25sC heat-transfer table, allowing the product to come to equilibrium.

Enjoy your Chocolate Chip Cookies!

A Halloween Perspective

posted Nov 6, 2011, 9:51 PM by Kim Janik

Halloween yard decorations
Halloween is probably my favorite holiday.  So, when we throw a party on Halloween we go all out!  This is actually the first year I have gotten to throw a Halloween party and I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was.  We had so much fun that I had to share a little of the frightful delights with my faithful readers.  Our yard was a graveyard full of re-animating zombies.  Our guests were greeted by the friendly guy on the right.  The creepy flies and scorpions were courtesy of my girls who have quite the impressive, yet creepy, eye for details.

We had some of the food ready before guests arrived and I got much nicer pictures of those early dishes.

Devil eyes - a warm, bacon variation on deviled eggs
warm, tasty mummy dogs - hot dogs wrapped in pastry
Creepy cake - red velvet cake wrapped in red fondant surrounded by black fondant/gumpaste bats

The devil eyes were a delightful recipe I found online here and modified only by adding a little more bacon. You would think that sirachi, bacon and eggs would not work together but it was a devilish combo and the eyes were snapped up and eaten all too soon.  You can find all sorts of variations on "Mummy Dogs" all over the internet.  Essentially hot dogs wrapped pre-made biscuit dough, this food was very popular with the children.  We used low-fat turkey dogs to help offset the "junk food" factor and we used garlic flavored breadstick dough.  For better looking mummy wrappings, I cut the breadsticks in half lengthwise before wrapping around cute little half hot dogs.  Last, I spent 3 days making the red and black cake.  The inside is a rich red velvet with a creamy chocolate buttercream icing all covered in red fondant and swirling with black gumpaste bats.  I don't recommend it.

My hand dyed purple from using chocolate fondant and attempting to dye it black
My hand dyed pink from trying to dye white fondant red
I managed to pick the two hardest colors in the baking world to achieve.  It took me a very long time to turn that delightful chocolate fondant into a workable, black paste ready to be formed.  My hands were purple for the next two days.  Just as the color was starting to fade, it was time to make the bright red fondant.  I used up an entire jar of "no taste" red as well as half a jar of "Christmas red".  I was finally able to get a bright red color, but only at the cost of grossly discoloring my hands to an unhealthy pink shade.  The final result was a delicious inner cake with an icky tasty fondant coating that no sane person wanted to eat. 

When the first batch of food ran out, I was frantically trying to refill trays with more food and I was so grateful that my husband was there to take pictures of the food before it went out the door and was heartily devoured.

Skull Jello Mold - coconut and pineapple
I got a big kick out of playing with two new jello mold recipes.  I picked these recipes for their ability to be made ahead of time as well as their "gross-out" factor.  The brain recipe was another fun one that I found online here, but I honestly do not recommend it!  I appreciated the lovely, congealed look that I got from our molded brain dish, but the flavor was lacking.  It was supposed to be a creamy seafood dip, but I should have known better when I saw "condensed cream of mushroom soup" on the list of ingredients.  Our guests did not eat enough of this dip to even give the brain a lobotomy!  I was much happier with my homemade pina coloda skull dip that I used for our apple slices.  I love how well all the fine details of the skull came out, thanks to the quality of the pan.  My only regret is that, in my zeal to ensure the skull set, I used too much unflavored gelatin and got an overly firm dip.  Last, we filled trays with our quick "squished" mummy pizzas.  The recipe can be found all over the internet, but the most popular one appears to be here.  They are simply english muffins (toast them first!), pizza sauce, pepperoni, yummy string cheese wrappings and creepy olive eyes.  Much like the mummy dogs, the mummy pizzas did not last long.

I hope you enjoyed this little insight into our Halloween party!  If you have fun Halloween party stories to share, please share them in the Comments section!

Unstuffed Bell Peppers

posted Oct 5, 2011, 8:46 AM by Kim Janik

This is one of those recipes that came about from a sheer lack of time.  On crisp fall days, I find myself craving my grandmother's stuffed bell peppers.  Unfortunately, her recipe takes too long for a quick weeknight meal.  So, this incredibly filling approximation will have to do when you're in a hurry!

2 ears corn
1 lb. ground buffalo
4 oz. pepperjack cheese
4 large bell peppers
15 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp. chili powder
2 c. cooked barley
2 tomatoes

 0-4 Husk corn.  Snap each ear cleanly in half.  Rinse corn and wrap each half ear in a paper towel.  Add enough water such that each corn is barely damp.  Put the corn into the microwave.
 5In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, start ground beef browining over medium-high heat
 6-8Grate cheese onto a medium plate.  Stir ground beef as needed.  Set cheese aside for later.
Rinse and core bell peppers then coarsely chop into 1" pieces.  Stir ground beef as needed.
 16 Start the corn in the microwave cooking for 8 minutes on high.
Add tomato sauce and chili powder to ground beef.  Stir to mix.
Add bell peppers and barley to the ground mixture.  Stir to mix thoroughly.
 19-20Coarsely chop tomatoes and add to the mixture.
Cook mixture until completely heated through.  Stir frequently.

Sprinkle bell pepper mixture with cheese before serving.

Serves 4.  577 calories.

Finally, a Logo!

posted Apr 29, 2011, 9:08 AM by Kim Janik

We've been working on some exciting changes here at The Engineer's Cookbook.  We've been busily working on our summer recipes, been working to update our technologies and have been working on cleaning up the artistic side of our website as well.  Towards this end, I am pleased to announce that we now have an official logo for our website:

The logo was designed to remind viewers (and the owner!) of our engineering roots while tying in an element of the fresh, healthy food that we always strive to represent.  Over time, we hope to see our new logo proudly displayed on T-shirts, aprons and potholders.

I would like to extend a special thanks to all of my loyal readers for allowing this blog to exist.  We hope to grow further in the next year and continue to bring you delicious recipes in the years ahead!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

posted Mar 17, 2011, 9:38 PM by Kim Janik

Ah, St. Patrick's Day!  Celebrated as both a religious holiday and a tribute to the Irish patron saint, St. Patrick, the holiday is celebrated differently here and in Ireland.  In Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is a public holiday is celebrated with sports finals and parades.  However, here in America the holiday seems reduced to wearing green, drinking beer and chatting with leprechauns.  So, what better way to enjoy the evening with some terribly cliche food!

I did not plan on having corned beef and cabbage originally for dinner.  I was picking up some last minute ingredients with my girls when we were accosted by a nice lady giving out samples. 

"Corned beef?" she offered.

Now, if you grew up with corned beef from a can, you can understand my reluctance.  My kids, always the adventurous eaters, each grabbed a little cup and started munching.  Never one to set a bad example of not trying foods, I scooped one up, too.  I was surprised to find a moist, flavorful but salty meat.  The girls loved it.  And, it dawns on me that, one, they have never had this particular food before and, two, I have never made it myself.

So, a small package of beef followed us home and we all learned how to make corned beef for the first time.  Traditionally, corned beef is beef that has been submersed in a brine of coarse salt (the "corn") to keep it from going bad.  I have no idea what they do to make that scary stuff in the can.  To round out the meal, we made rye rolls and sauteed savoy cabbage. 

To top off the day, we made a fun little dessert that my friend, Lori A. had made earlier in the day and I snagged because it was so fun!  This dessert made a tasty, if cliche, end to the day.

G'day Readers!

posted Jan 6, 2011, 9:14 PM by Kim Janik   [ updated Jan 7, 2011, 10:12 AM ]

First of all, I have to apologize for my multiple week absence.  Until this blog grows a little bigger and I can hire an assistant, it's just me updating these posts. *psst*  Come here and I'll tell you a secret.  I've been on vacation.  Okay, now you know.  My family and I spent two glorious weeks exploring southern Australia over the Christmas holidays.  Hopefully, you'll forgive me.  Not yet?  What if I offer to share my pictures from Australia?  Maybe?  Well, let's give it a try.

Despite the fact that we both speak English, the language is not exactly the same.  First of all, the movies have lied to us.  Australians do not go around saying "G'day Mate" all the time.  They do, however, say "No Worries" quite frequently.  And, they shorten some words and add "ie" to the end.  Barbies are well-known to be BBQS, sunnies are sunglasses, chockies are chocolates and our wine country hotel served a delicious brekkie!

Another thing to remember is that asking for vegetables on your sandwich will get you only a funny look.  You add "salads" to your sandwich to get fresh veggies.  Moreover, if you want peppers on that sandwich, you will have to remember to ask for capsicum.  The one thing that is surprisingly popular over there is Vegemite!  We were treated the first morning to it along with the jams and jellies for our toast.
  It's really not as bad as I've always heard.  It is thick and salty.  I can definitely say it's an acquired taste.  I think it would be great in other dishes, but I'm not a big fan of it for brekkie.

We spent some time in the Australian Outback, bushwalking (aka hiking) the beautiful terrain.  The dirt is red and the mountains, while smaller than ours, are still magnificent.  The hikes yield unusual rock formations, numerous lizards and the occasional aboriginal rock formation.  We also thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the wonderful wild animals.  It's a little strange at the end of the day to see some of those wild animals on your menu:

But, really, who can turn down the opportunity to try such a selection of new foods?  The four of split the the kangaroo, emu and camel meat platter as well as the smoked kangaroo, emu and camel pizza.  My husband and I preferred the rich kangaroo steak (cooked, at most, to medium).  Our children on the other hand, greatly preferred the camel sausage.  The pizza was delicious even if it was a little hard to distinguish the kangaroo slices from the emu.  While we were never again offered emu or camel, kangaroo was a popular menu item through the state and we had it several times while on vacation.  An important thing we noticed about the cuisine is that most dishes were mostly meat and potatoes.  Rarely did we get a side of green vegetables.  On the last day, we had Chinese food just so we could have some vegetables!

Many Australian customs seem to come, unsurprisingly, directly from British origins.  Meat pies appear to be quite popular in the areas we were in.  You could easily pick up one in bakeries and grocery stores as a fast lunch.  Our traditional Christmas dinner included Christmas pudding with brandy sauce and Christmas crackers.  For us here in the states, the crackers were a novelty.  They are small packages that you pull like a wishbone and which pop like firecrackers.  Whoever gets the main compartment gets the toy, hat and joke inside.  These were very fun!

Our first day in Adelaide, we went to a wonderful restaurant which contained a wall of seafood.  While we waited for our food to arrive, we marveled at the variety of seafood available - king crabs, blue crabs and lobster.  I started talking with one of the employees and he started sharing the best fishing spots to go and get some of these treats for ourselves!  The only thing we ended up with was a tiny blue crab - far too small to eat.  While walking along the jetty, I would ask the locals lined up along the railing what they were trying to catch.  The answer fell into one of two categories.  Most people where fishing for King George Whiting, but several were fishing for squid.  We had the joy of seeing one man yank a large squid out of water right in front of us.  Salt and pepper squid was a very popular menu item.  Our children ordered it every chance they got!

The one thing we were successful in catching was the popular King George Whiting.  We caught several of the seemingly little fish and brought them back to our lodging (which luckily had a barbie) and cooked them up for dinner.  I have to mention here that the people we ran into in Australia were exceedingly nice.  In just this one example, we had multiple people helping us find a place to cook the fish.  The locals at the store donated a styrofoam cooler to keep the fish safely in while we traveled to our next lodging.  The staff at our lodging let us borrow plates, silverware and seasonings to prepare and eat the fish.  We even had several people give us advice on how to cook the fish!  Our eyes were almost bigger than our stomachs and we had a hard time finishing off all the "little" fish.  The one in the picture on the far right is a different fish called a Tommy Ruff.  After cooking, it tasted distinctly smoked and made for a nice change of pace.

We didn't have dessert very often but the one that I liked best was the small pie I had while in Port Augusta.  We had spent the day exploring the area.  We rented kayaks in the morning and were treated to an inquestive dolphin following us around for a short period of time.  We walked along the wharf and watched local teenagers daring each other to jump into the water.  We stopped at the playground and the beach and enjoyed watching our children play side-by-side with local children.  After a long day, we stopped by a historic hotel which included a restaurant in their most recent remodeling.  My husband and daughter had kangaroo fillet while my other daughter and I split Navratan Korma.  We ended the meal with pie made from Quandongs, a local wild peach.  The color was dark and red and the flavor was sweet but barely reminiscent of the peaches we have here in Oregon.

Overall, we had a nice time enjoying some of the local ingredients.  The cheese selection at the markets was amazing with such choices as apricot, fig and macadamia nut.  All of the dry bars we got for breakfast were loaded with chewy fruits and a wide variety of nuts.  At the store, we discovered why fruits and vegetables were not often side dishes at restaurants.  The prices were crazy!  It made me long for the roadside stand at home with their cheap prices.  Never have I been so glad that cherries grow abundantly in Oregon.  We did try several wines while we were out, too, but none of them made it home with us.

Acorn Squash Explorations

posted Nov 11, 2010, 8:54 PM by Kim Janik

Sometimes, I'm so excited about an idea that I try a little too hard to make it work.  Some of these recipes still turn out good, but don't meet the criteria for this website.  Others are decent, but lacking in something - color or texture are frequent reasons to not use a recipe.  I thought I would spend some tonight sharing some of my recent recipes that didn't quite make the cut.

I spent some time a few weeks ago experimenting with stuffing acorn squash.  I ended up with leftover squash, obviously.  I had an urge to turn the leftover squash into a breakfast dish.  I envisioned little cups of squash, sausage and eggs.  And, what I got were shiny, yellow muffins that were beautiful to look at but missed on several of my criteria - calories and plain white flour to start.

I started with those refrigerator biscuits that you pop open and bake for 10-15 minutes.  Wonderful and convenient, but high in fat and low on healthy grains.  I sprayed muffin cups and lined the bottom with the biscuits.  I filled the cavity with a mixture of squash, sausage, eggs, cheese and seasonings.  Unfortunately, only a single batch could be completed in my allotted time.  Delicious, but not very filling.

One of my favorite ways to have acorn squash is to roast it in the oven.  It turns out sweet, but still firm when you cook it this way.  I have been experimenting with other ways to get a similarly firm texture without the time it takes to roast.  Stir-frying and steaming have both been investigated.  One of my recent recipes that tasted decent but looked horrendous utilized steamed squash, cranberries and rum.

I partially peeled the squash, chopped it into chunks and steamed them.  I was impressed by how fast you could steam squash.  I loved how the color remained vibrant.  I had some whole wheat orzo and pecans just begging to be added to the meal.  So, I mixed the rum, dried cranberries, squash, orzo and seasonings together in typical pasta-toss fashion.  Well, steamed squash only holds it's shape long enough to make it to the plate.  Mixing it with the other ingredients turned it into mushy chunks.  Meanwhile, the rum was slow to cook off, leaving the whole dish entirely too sharply flavored.

This alone was enough to make the dish un-worthy of being posted in the recipes section.  However, I decided to really do myself in, adding baked fish and apples to the mix.  The fish itself was simple, but pushed the 30 minute boundaries.  I coated the apples in a simple crumb topping and baked them for almost an hour.  Overall, it was just too much going on for a single dinner - even one made by me!  :-)

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