Sunday, August 30, 2015

Clear the Kitchen Casserole

     Sometimes it's fun to try to use up surplus food supplies. You know what I'm talking about. There's always some random can of something or other that's been lurking in the cabinet for six or seven years. You should just throw it away, but it's probably still safe to eat. You weren't raised to waste food or throw away money. Unless the can is inflated like a football. 

You may be throwing 90 cents in the trash,
but you're saving about $35,000 in hospital bills.
     The can that had been lurking in our cabinet was an off-brand can of sauerkraut. The can was not inflated, and the contents didn't smell poisonous, so I decided to use them in a casserole. If you don't like sauerkraut, you could probably substitute a can of greens or even beans. I'm not going to tell you this was a culinary masterpiece. However, it was moderately tasty and filling. It wound up being used for my lunches for over a week. So why do I call it Clear the Kitchen Casserole? Is it because it clears the kitchen of surplus ingredients? Maybe. Is it because after a plate of this you'll clear the kitchen. And the rest of the house. Boom! As always, notes are in blue.

Clear the Kitchen Casserole
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 can (14 ounce) sauerkraut, drained
  • 1 can (14 ounce) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can (10.5 ounce) cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can (8 ounce) tomato sauce
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 12 banana peppers, sliced and seeded (or use two bell peppers if you don't like banana peppers)
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped (or 1 4 ounce small can of mushrooms, drained and chopped) 
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  1. In a large pan, heat oil. Add beef, onions, peppers and mushrooms. Brown meat. Once meat is browned and the veggies tender, take off the heat and drain excess oil.
  2. Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain off the water and return the pasta to the pot. Dump the meat mixture in there with it. 
  3. Unceremoniously dump all the remaining ingredients in the pot and stir until everything is incorporated. Enjoy the horrifying wet noises it makes while you stir it.
  4. Find a large Pyrex casserole dish. Spray it with non-stick cooking spray. Dump the contents of the pot into the dish. Spread it all to an even layer.
  5. Chuck it an oven preheated to 375F (190C, Gasmark 5). Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until casserole is starting to bubble and the top is getting crispy.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cheeseburger Jalapeno Poppers

     Year after year I can count on my garden to produce insane amounts of peppers. There's only so many peppers I can pickle or make into relish. Surplus peppers are almost always stuffed and frozen for later. Banana peppers normally end up Sriracha Stuffed, but I wanted to do something different for my jalapenos. This particular mix really does taste like a cheeseburger! I might actually use that meat mix for other recipes. I'm resourceful like that. If you go to make these, don't be a dummy like me. Remember not to touch your eyes or nostrils. Also, assembly is messy, so have paper towels on hand. I can guarantee you'll love these and they will be a hit at any party!* As always, any notes are in blue.
Cheeseburger Jalapeno Poppers
(banana pepper poppers if you're a wuss)
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup (or catsup if you prefer)
  • around 2 dozen larger jalapeno peppers (if you're a big baby and heat is an issue, you can use banana peppers, but you won't fill as many since they tend to be a bit bigger than jalapenos. I did a mix of the two for my most recent batch since The Wife is breast feeding and I have this image of The Spud breathing fire)
  1. Cut the ends off the peppers and core them out, being careful to not cut through the sides of the peppers. Make sure to remove all the seeds. Set peppers aside. 
  2. Heat oil in a pan. Add beef and cook until browned. About halfway into the cooking, add the onion and garlic powder.
  3. Once the meat is browned, drain off the grease and make sure the meat is broken into very small pieces. Mix in the mustard, ketchup and cheese. Stir until cheese has melted completely into the meat. You may need to keep the heat on low for this.
  4. Take the meat off the heat. (BONUS FOR RHYMING)
  5. Fill each pepper with the still warm meat mixture. If you let it cool, the cheese will start to set and make it very hard to get into the peppers. Use whatever method you feel is best to fill the peppers. If you've got really small fingers, you'll do fine. I generally do it Civil War style and load a small charge of meat in and then ramrod it in with a chopstick. Fill the peppers to the top.
  6. If you have one of those jalapeno popper racks, this step is easy. 
    I'm talking about one of these guys.
    Fill a rack and put them in the oven at 375F (190C, Gasmark5) for about 20-25 minutes or until the peppers start to blister. Make sure you put a drip pan under this or you're in for a world of hurt come cleanup as these will leak grease. If you don't have this rack, or are using banana peppers, lay a sheet of foil or silpat mat on a baking sheet. Cook about the same amount of time, turning the peppers once so they blister evenly. 
  7. Remove peppers from oven and let set for 5-10 minutes
  8. Bonus idea: cook bacon halfway and then wrap it around the peppers, securing it with toothpicks. Finish cooking and you have bacon-cheeseburger poppers!
  9. Bonus idea #2: Wrap peppers in canned biscuit dough for a greasy cheesburger popper in a bun!
Good times!
* I totally can not guarantee that.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Three Mustard Pepper Relish

     The weather this summer has absolutely sucked. It started off cold and raining for weeks. Then it was hot and raining. Then it was hot and humid. Weeds are rampant, Bugs are rampant. All our cucumbers died. The tomatoes are running late. Our peppers, however, are growing out of control. Once again I am inundated with banana peppers. I could always do my Sriracha Stuffed Banana Peppers but I'm pretty sure I still haven't eaten the ones I froze last season. I perused the interwebz and found a likely recipe at BetterRecipes. I liked the idea, but it used only yellow mustard. That's a pretty commanding flavor profile here. I like yellow mustard, but not enough to risk that much. I decided on a mix of three different types instead. The result was absolute dynamite. This would be great on a brat, Polish sausage, pork, chicken, just about anything. The Wife even put it on her eggs. My only complaint is it probably could use more peppers. You could probably add another half dozen peppers easy. If you like mustard, give it a try and see what you think. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Three Mustard Pepper Relish

  • 3 dozen banana peppers
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard 
  • 1/2 cup spicy brown mustard
  • 1/2 cup Kentucky's Smokin' Grill Grand Spiced Honey Mustard (this really brings this recipe together. You could probably find another spicy honey mustard, but it's not going to be the same. This stuff is the bomb-diggety)
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 1 heaping teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 heaping teaspoon onion powder
  1. Cut the stems off the peppers and discard (the stems, not the peppers) Finely chop the peppers into tiny little pieces. If you have a food processor, pulse the peppers in small batches. You're looking for pieces less than 1/8". 
  2. Put the peppers, water and vinegar in a nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add sugar and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. 
  4. Add remaining ingredients and turn the heat down a bit. You don't want the flour to overthicken (is that even a word? It is now. SCREW YOU, SPELLCHECK). Stir everything for a few minutes to make sure the flour is incorporated. If you have a whisk, use it.
  5. If you are terrified of canning, stop here. You now have a quart  of relish that's only going to last about a month in the fridge. 
  6. If you like canning, this will yield about 8 half pint jars. Seal them with a two-part lid. Process them in a boiling water canner for 12 minutes. If you decide on pint jars, process for 15 minutes. As always, double check with the National Center for Home Food Preservation for tips on how to not accidentally poison your loved ones.
Good times!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Peanut Butter Cap'N Crunch Cookies

     The other day I had a weird existential moment. The dog was barking, The Spud was screaming and I was slowly losing my mind. For whatever reason, the sanest thing to do was not head for the liquor cabinet, but to the kitchen. With total mindlessness, I just started baking cookies. No clue why. I didn't even want cookies. It just seemed like the right thing to do. It was like an out of body experience. I was barely aware of what I was doing. I grabbed a cookbook to check how much flour and sugar I'd need and then I went to work.  I started to get strange looks from The Wife when I grabbed a box of Cap'n Crunch. The end result of this transcendental experience was a batch of really tasty peanut butter cookies with a sweet crunch. Totally worth it. As always, notes are in blue.
Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch Cookies
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Cap'n Crunch cereal (Peanut Butter Crunch would really step it up. I'd stay away from Crunch Berries for this recipe, though)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C, Gasmark4)
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine peanut butter and oil. Add sugars and mix.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix some more.
  4. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix some more.
  5. Add Cap'n Crunch. Mix until incorporated.
  6. On 2 two ungreased baking sheets (if you have a silpat mat, I'd recommend using it here. If these cookies stick at all, you're going to be screwed), drop tablespoons of the dough about 2" apart on the sheets. (The dough will be oily. Don't panic, that's normal.)
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the tops look like they're cracking. Cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack. (BE SUPER CAREFUL WHEN TRANSFERRING THE COOKIES! Until they finish cooling, they are unstable at a molecular level. Not even joking. Rough handling will cause them to totally fall apart. Once they're totally cooled, everything will set and solid.)
Good times!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Beef and Broccoli in Sweet and Pungent Sauce

     My town has one major flaw. Lots of drunks on lawnmowers. Okay, two major flaws. Drunks on lawn mowers and plastic fires. Okay, three major flaws. Drunks on mowers, plastic fires and no plows in the winter. Okay, four major flaws. Drunks on mowers, plastic fires, no plows and dogs running loose everywhere...
     I guess I'm getting off track here. My town has some serious shortcomings. The one I was trying to get to was the lack of Chinese carryout. I have to drive 30 minutes round trip to pick up carryout from the nearest Chinese restaurant. That's crazy. I have taken it upon myself to learn Chinese cooking so I can just make this stuff at home. This is a recipe for the classic beef and broccoli. The sauce was something I hadn't had before. Sweet and pungent. Not that orange sweet and sour, but something entirely different. It was fantastic. It's a bit labor intensive and bordering on a PITA, but it's totally worth trying.  Unless you live near a Chinese restaurant, in which case pick me up some egg foo young. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Beef and Broccoli
in Sweet and Pungent Sauce

via The 1000 Recipe Chinese Cookbook
  • 1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 1/4" slices
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic
  • cornstarch
  • oil for frying
  • 1 pound broccoli florets (preferably fresh, but if you use frozen, defrost and drain first)
For sauce
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • a few drops of sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
For beef 
  1. Beat egg in a bowl. Add garlic. 
  2. Dip beef in egg mixture, dredge in corn starch to coat. 
  3. In a pan (I used my cast iron skillet), heat about 1/2" vegetable oil. Add beef slices, a few at a time and fry until golden. Remove to paper towel to drain.
For sauce
  1. In a medium saucepan (you'll be using vinegar, so make sure the pan is nonreactive), bring water to a boil. Add sugar and stir. Cook until sugar is dissolved. Add vinegar and cook for a minute or so. Add tomato sauce, garlic, fish sauce, ginger, red pepper flakes and sesame oil. Stir and cook another minute.
  2. Blend cornstarch, soy sauce and cold water to a paste. Stir into sauce to thicken. 
For broccoli
  1. Steam or boil broccoli to whatever consistency you prefer.
Once the beef, sauce and broccoli are done, toss all together over low heat until sauce covers beef and broccoli evenly. Serve over white rice.

Good times!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Apple Gingerbread

     Let's get this straight. Calling this recipe "bread" is not accurate. This is leaning well into "cake" territory. Especially because I decided to frost it. Everything is better with frosting. EVERYTHING. New York strip steak? Slap a layer of buttercream frosting on that bastard. Trust me on this. As for this recipe, it is dense and moist (I really hate that word since it can also describe my underwear after a day of yardwork) and delicious (unlike my underwear after a day of yardwork). As always, notes and changes are in blue.
Apple Gingerbread
(via Taste of Home EveryDay Light Meals)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce (we used our own homemade sweetened applesauce made with brown sugar whisky)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat plain yogurt (none on hand, we used sour cream)
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped peeled Granny Smith or other tart apples (we used an equal amount of our home-made Spiked Apples)
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons reduced-fat whipped topping (omitted)
  • 1 can store-bought buttercream frosting. HELL YEAH.
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, applesauce, egg and molasses; mix well. 
  2. Combine the flours, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and spices; add to the molasses mixture alternately with yogurt (sour cream), beating until just combined (because I'm lazy, I just put all the dry ingredients in the bowl for my KitchenAid, put all the wet ingredients in another bowl, then poured the wet ingredients in while the mixer was running). Fold in the apples.
  3. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray (I used a round dish just to be difficult). Bake at 350F (180C, Gasmark4) for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (ours took about an hour. I think it may be due to the extra liquid in our canned apples.)
  4. Cool on a wire rack, Cut into squares, top with a dollop of whipped topping (feeling exceptionally lazy, I took a can of buttercream frosting and frosted the entire thing like a cake. Next time I think I'll make some cream cheese frosting for it!)
Good times!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Whole Wheat Bread

     I do believe we've found our favorite wheat bread recipe so far. Most of the wheat bread recipes we've found have resulted in breads that, while tasty, were dense enough to hammer nails. This particular recipe, with a couple changes (firstly we omitted the nuts. The Wife is not a fan of nuts in her bread), resulted in a beautiful loaf of soft, delicious bread with just a hint of sweetness. I used this for a salami and provolone sandwich with some red onion and spicy brown mustard and it was amazing. Truly this bread is fantastic and could easily supplant Shaker or Sally Lunn for our weekly loaf. The first loaf we made didn't even survive two days in our house! You need this bread. Even if you're gluten intolerant, it's worth the pain. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Whole Wheat Bread
(via Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals)

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (omitted)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) quick-rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat plain yogurt (no yogurt on hand, we used sour cream)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup all-purpose flour and the rest of the dry ingredients (I used the bowl from my KitchenAid, since that's where I'd be doing the mixing/kneading).
  2. In a saucepan, heat water, yogurt (sour cream) and butter to about 120-130F (I just heated until the butter melted in. Either way, let it cool to 110F or below before you move to the next step)
  3. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Beat until smooth. Add enough remaining all-purpose flour to form a soft dough (we always wind up using all the flour). Turn out onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes (On the KitchenAid, I used the dough hook the entire time. I turned it on low, added the liquid, then slowly added the remaining flour and let it knead for about 2-3 minutes)
  4. Shape dough into a ball and place on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray (we used a lightly greased pizza stone). Cover and let rest in a warm place for 20 minutes. (I highly suggest lightly scoring an "X" into the top of the ball with a knife to prevent a mushroom shaped bread. Unless you're into that sort of thing, then do what feels natural)
  5. Bake at 400F (200C, Gasmark 6) for 25-30 minutes, (we generally go about 27 minutes) or until golden brown. Turn out on a wire rack to cool.
Good times!