Sunday, August 14, 2016

Applesauce Cheddar Quick Bread

     We eat an alarming amount of bread in this house. The Wife loves her bread. The Spud really, really likes her bread. I certainly enjoy bread. We embrace gluten lovingly and with all our beings. We love it enough that we eventually started using the hashtag #sundaysareforbaking. That makes it serious. I think. Maybe not. This particular bread is from an ancient canning book that still gets a lot of mileage in our house. It's a great quick bread. If you make your own applesauce, which we do, it's even better. The timing on the bread is a little iffy. It took us way longer to bake than the book called for. This is a fantastic breakfast bread, spread with a little sweet butter or marmalade. Perhaps top it with my Mulberry Jam? I imagine it would make a dynamite peanut butter and jelly sandwich, too. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Applesauce Cheddar Quick Bread
via BH&G Home Canning Cook Book
Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup applesauce (why not try my Peach Bourbon Applesauce!)
  • 3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (omitted. The Wife is not a huge fan of nuts in her bread.)
Directions
  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (maybe I'm not doing this for long enough, because I have never been able to achieve light and fluffy consistency. I always end up with something on par with cake frosting)
  2. Add eggs, beat well.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, soda and salt. Add to the creamed butter mix. Stir in the applesauce, cheese and nuts (if using)
  4. Turn into a greased loaf pan (what am I, a wizard? I never got a Hogwarts letter so I'm not really up on my Transfiguration and Polymorph spells. How about I just dump the mixture into a loaf pan?)
  5. Bake at 350F (180C, Gasmark 4) for 50-55 minutes (fair warning, this may take way longer than the stated time. It took me closer to 75-90 minutes. Just run it for the 55, then check it with a knife. If it comes out clean, you're fine. If it comes out wet, you're not done. If it comes out covered in blood and ichor, your oven is possessed.) Cool 10 minutes in the pan. Remove to finish cooling on a wire rack.
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Friday, August 5, 2016

Mulberry Jam

     There is great debate around here as to the standing of the mulberry tree. Many see it as a weed. And you know what?  They're totally right. Left unchecked, you can watch mulberries inexorably take over your yard. We have the damned things poking out from about every bush in our yard. They even grow out of rocks. Not even joking. They're next to impossible to kill once they get established. Then, there's the fruiting mulberries. These aren't so bad. I mean, ok, they're bad. They're just as invasive and if the birds get to the berries before you do, everything in the area is covered in purple shit. So I think what we can take away from this discussion is that mulberries are the worst thing ever. That's why I collect like ten pounds of berries each season. As awful as the trees may be, the berries are actually pretty good. They have a nice color and a mild sweetness. I decided to make them into jam this year. I'm going to come out and admit I think I did something wrong. I'm thinking I used either too much sugar, too much pectin, or possibly both. This stuff is thick.
Also useful for caulking doors and windows,
if you don't mind the ants.

As far as jam (jelly? conserve? I can't tell that shit apart) goes, it's quite tasty, but a little tough to work with. It helps to warm it up a bit before you use it. It's great on a bagel with a schmear of cream cheese, or even over some vanilla ice cream. Give it a try and mess around with the pectin and sugar and let me know what you come up with. As always, notes are in blue.

Mulberry Jam
(yields: 7 half pint jars)
Ingredients

  • 4 cups mulberries
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 1 box (1.75 ounce) powdered pectin

Directions
  1. Run fruit through a food mill. 
  2. Take the milled fruit and resulting juice into a stainless steel pot
  3. Add pectin, stir and bring to a rolling boil on high heat
  4. Add the sugar. Bring back to a rolling boil and boil EXACTLY one minute (this is straight off the Sure-Jel instructions and they are not kidding. I've screwed this up and ended with quarts of cinnamon-apple syrup. Not with this recipe, mind you. We're using mulberries here. If we started with mulberries and ended with cinnamon-apple, we'd be dealing with some sort of alchemy.) 
    Wrong alchemy
  5. Watch in horror as the entire mixture foams up over the top of the pot and makes a huge fucking mess of the stove top (alternatively, stir constantly and be ready to adjust the heat to prevent foaming)
  6. Get the pot off the heat and start getting it into half pint jars. This stuff will start setting fairly quick. 
  7. Seal the lids and process in a boiling water bath for five minutes (as always, check with the National Center for Home Food Preparation to ensure you're not accidentally poisoning anyone)
  8. After five minutes, remove jars to a wire rack and wait for the satisfying "thunk" that means they're sealed. Store in a cool dark place for up to a year or until you're too afraid to open it.
  9. Reflect on how "Mulberry Jam" would be an awesome name for a funk band.
Good Times






Thursday, July 21, 2016

Black Bean Mango Lime Slaw

     It's always fun to order cole slaw at restaurants. There is no middle ground in the quality. It either tastes great, or it tastes like an old dishrag. It's either drowning in vinegar and oil, or it's buried in mayo. Only the truly adventurous pick cole slaw as a side when they eat out. Nobody ever says, "Hey, let's go to this restaurant, they have really fucking great cole slaw." I'm not even sure what convinced me to make this. We were considering fish tacos for dinner and it struck me that they would benefit from some slaw. Not just any slaw, mind you. This would be a slaw for the ages. An UberSlaw. I have to tell you, this was some damned good slaw. Thank me later. As always, notes are in blue.

Black Bean Mango Lime Slaw
Ingredients

  • 1 bag (about 1 pound) cole slaw mix (feel free to shred cabbage, red cabbage and carrot if you want to make your own mix. I was feeling fairly lazy. Just make sure it's around a pound.)
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 mango, chopped
  • 1 can (14.5 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette
  •  1/2 teaspoon Ukrainian Village seasoning from Spice House (follow the link for a list of what's in it if you don't want to order it)
  • optional: (this is not actually optional unless you're a big baby) 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, mix the first four ingredients (and the jalapeno if you're a sexual tyrannosaurus, just like me).
  2. In a smaller bowl, mix the last three ingredients.
  3. Pour the contents of the smaller bowl into the larger bowl.
  4. Toss to incorporate ingredients. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.
  5. HOW EASY WAS THAT?
Good Times!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Another Sausage, Sauerkraut and Potato Recipe, but with Apples!

     Bratwurst, sauerkraut and potato dishes are as ubiquitous as man-buns on hipsters. Why does the world need another one? No clue. Good thing this one isn't mine. I pinched it from a recipe book and then made a bunch of changes. As far as I'm concerned, these dishes generally taste about the same. This one had enough changes that it was actually fairly tasty. I'm still not a big fan, but The Wife enjoyed it, so it will stay in the rotation. Mostly I avoid dishes like this because they are absolute sodium bombs. I can gain 3-4 pounds of water overnight after eating something like this. Not even joking. Just serve it with copious amounts of beer to keep the system flushed. As always, notes and changes are in blue.
Another Sausage, Sauerkraut
and Potato Recipe
but with Apples!
(via Fix-It and Forget-It Recipes for Entertaining)

Ingredients
  • 5-6 bratwurst links, cut into 1" pieces (I'm always leery of bratwurst; my father referred to it as "gray meat." We went with a package of Johnsonville "Irish O'Garlic" sausages.)
  • 5 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed (we just scrubbed them and cubed them. I generally refuse to peel a potato)
  • 27 ounce can sauerkraut, rinsed and drained (we used a 24 ounce jar, just to be difficult)
  • 1 medium tart apple, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (HAHAHAHAHAHA, no. You've already got kraut and a pack of sausages in there. If there's one thing this recipe does NOT need, it's more salt. 
  • 1 teaspoon Old World Central Street Seasoning from Spice House (yeah yeah, it's got salt, but a ton of other good things in there!)
Directions
  1. Brown bratwurst/sausages on all sides in skillet (did they mean all sides of the sausage, or brown the sausage on all sides of the skillet? I tried browning the sausages on the outside of the skillet and it made a hell of a mess)
  2. Combine remaining ingredients in slow cooker. Stir in bratwurst/sausage and pan drippings (Pan drippings? Seriously. They mean grease. You cook half a dozen processed meat tubes in a pan and you get grease. Pan drippings sounds like a Satyr with venereal disease)
  3. Cover. Cook on high 4-6 hours, or until potatoes and apples are tender. (It took us about 5 hours)
BONUS! Click HERE to see the video replay of the live stream we did of cooking this recipe!
Good Times!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Too Damned Easy Spicy Orange Chicken and Broccoli

     If I ever made a list of all-time favorite fast-food/carry-out dishes, Panda Express's Orange Chicken would have to be on it. It is so wrong, but so damned right. This recipe is nothing like it, apart from being called "orange chicken." Sorry. The only reason I even made this was because we couldn't figure out what to make for dinner. The Wife wanted pasta, and I just wasn't feeling pasta. Then I remembered a jar of orange marmalade lurking on the top shelf of a cabinet. I had long threatened to use it on something other than toast. Thus, this recipe was born. Possibly the goofiest thing I used in this recipe was Sunny Delight for the sauce. However, it gives you an orange citrus flavor punch that can't be denied. Feel free to use orange juice instead. You could probably even omit the sauce entirely and it would still be fine. I tried it with and without the sauce and enjoyed it both ways. Flavor-wise, I was very pleased with the result. Sweet orange flavor with a nice bit of heat. As always, notes are in blue.

Too Damned Easy
Spicy Orange Chicken
and Broccoli
Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 pounds breaded chicken tenders (our local market sells bulk bags of breaded chicken tenders like you get in the cups at Wal-Mart or Casey's gas stations. Sort of like popcorn chicken style.  For a buck or so a pound, they're great. If you can't find them, find something similar. Hell, even Tyson nuggets would work.
  • 3/4 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 pound frozen broccoli
for sauce:
  • 1/2 cup Sunny Delight (give or take, depending on how thick you'll want the sauce. Also, feel free to use orange juice if you don't like Sunny D. I thought it added a nice flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Directions
  1. Cook chicken according to directions
  2. Cook broccoli however you prefer (steaming, microwave, whatever. We just boiled ours for a few minutes)
  3. While steps 1 and 2 are going, in a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients for the sauce (if you want it thinner, add a little more liquid.) Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce is your desired consistency (I went for that slightly thick and sticky sauce like you get at Panda Express).
  4. Toss hot chicken and broccoli in a large bowl with the marmalade and Sriracha.
  5. Add the sauce to the chicken mix and toss again.
  6. Serve over white rice.
Good Times!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Feta and Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts

     Can you really go wrong with the combination of feta and spinach? No, you can't. Don't even try to argue with me because I won't listen. It's a great combo and if you don't like it you are obviously defective. Basically, what I've done is make my version of a fairly ubiquitous recipe. I'm sure there are hundreds of similar recipes floating around the internet. Do you know what separates mine from theirs? Theirs suck. Theirs are not made with love. It is entirely possible that theirs were made by Baby-Eating Fascists. Use my recipe and strike a blow for global peace and understanding. If you're not part of the solution, you're obviously part of the problem. I'll stop now. The recipe is simple and delicious and I promise you'll love it. Unless you don't. And then it's your own fault for listening to me. As always, notes are in blue.

Feta and Spinach
Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 ounces room temperature cream cheese (we use Neufchatel)
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted and all water squeezed out
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Spice House Greek Town seasoning, divided (if you can't get this spice, a mix of salt, pepper, onion powder, oregano and lemon peel. I have no idea what ratios you'd use, so good luck. Or just order the seasoning)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F (190C, Gasmark 5).
  2. Split the chicken breasts down the length, being careful to not cut completely into two pieces. You're looking to sort of butterfly the chicken.
  3. Mix 1 teaspoon of the spice mix in with the flour. 
  4. Dredge the chicken in first in the flour mix, then the egg, then finally the bread crumbs.Set on a baking sheet. 
  5. In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, spinach, feta and remaining spice mix. Mix well until all ingredients are incorporated. 
    You could just take what you have here,
    add some jarred artichokes and you have a hell of an appetizer dip!
  6. Fill each piece of chicken with 1/3 cup of the filling.
  7. Bake for 35 minutes or until chicken juices run clear.
    See? Clear. We're all making it out of this meal alive.
    Good Times!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Spicy Black Bean Gazpacho

     I'm not sure how I feel about gazpacho.
Wrong Gazpacho.
The idea of cold soup has never really appealed to me. Granted, there are exceptions. There's an Indian cold yogurt cucumber soup I'm a fan of, but the idea of a bowl of raw veggies in tomato juice doesn't really call out to me. I wound up making this soup because we had a bunch of veggies on hand and The Wife suggested it. On a hot summer day, I suppose it made sense. I gave in and whipped it up. I used my Bloody Mary mix since it had all the seasonings already in it and I wasn't about to run out and buy V8. I have to admit this was pretty good. It had a nice spicy kick and I particularly like the way the beans offset the crunchiness of the other veggies. If you're looking for an easy, healthy summer soup, I'd have to say this is a big winner. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Spicy Black Bean Gazpacho
via Everyday Light Meals
Ingredients

  • 3 cans (5-1/2 ounces each) spicy hot V8 juice. (Nope. We don't have V8 in the house since the gold-plated hovercraft was in the shop. We opted for 18 ounces of The Wife's Choice Bloody Mary Mix. It's worth the extra trouble to make this, especially if you like a good Blood Mary.)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained (has anybody ever seen a recipe that said not to rinse and drain black beans? I feel like maybe I have. You know, "reserve mucousy water for proper texture.")
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (I used yellow, though I feel a sweet onion would have been good here)
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped (seeded? I don't have time for that sort of nonsense)
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (omitted since it's already in my Bloody Mary Mix)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (omitted since it's already in my Bloody Mary Mix)
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours. (Feel free to serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. We did, and we should be the benchmark for all your decision making.)
Good Times!