Monday, December 30, 2013

Tuna Ranch Melt Pinwheel

     Sometimes you come across a recipe so hilariously Middle Class, it begs to be made. This is the sort of recipe you know will end up at pot lucks or brunches across the Midwest. The ingredients are Middle Class staples: Bisquick, tuna, ranch dressing, American cheese. I kid you not when I tell you the wife and I had to wait a few minutes to eat this because we were laughing so hard when this came out of the oven. In its defense, this recipe is super cheap and easy to make, and comes in at around 250 calories per serving. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Tuna Ranch Melt Pinwheel
via Betty Crocker 300 Calorie Cookbook
Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups Bisquick Heart Smart Mix (that didn't happen. I just used the ALDI brand baking mix)
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 can (12 ounces) chunk light tuna in water, drained
  • 1/4 cup ranch dressing
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
  • 1 small tomato, cut into 6 slices
  • 3 slices American cheese, cut in half diagonally (I'm going to have to insist you go with American cheese, because this thing looks hysterical when it's done. While Muenster or Swiss would probably taste good, you'd be missing out on the aesthetics of the Road Cone Orange you get with American)
Directions
  1. Heat oven to 450F. In a medium bowl, stir baking mix and boiling water until soft dough forms. Gather dough into a ball.
  2. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Roll dough into 13 inch round. Place on ungreased 12 inch pizza pan (if you have a pizza stone, it works great here). Pinch edge to form 1/2 inch rim. Bake 6-8 minutes or until light brown.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix tuna, dressing and onions. Spread tuna mixture over crust (don't forget to take the crust out of the oven first). Arrange tomato and cheese slices alternately in a pinwheel pattern on tuna mixture. Bake 1-2 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Cut into wedges.
Good times!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Shells with Bell Peppers and Feta

     If I ever lose my copy of Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals, I'm hosed. I am constantly digging through this recipe book for recipes and ideas. We really liked this recipe. It's super easy to put together and leaves plenty of room for personal interpretation. It's also fairly healthy. This is one of those meals that is perfect for the middle of a busy week. As a bonus, it's good cold, too! As always, any notes or changes are in blue.
Shells with Bell Peppers and Feta
via Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals
Ingredients
  • 2-1/4 cups uncooked penne (we used 5 cups of medium shells)
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/4 cup sliced ripe black olives (you bet. Ripe from the can.)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I never understand measurements like this. 1/8 teaspoon? Really? Why not hold the jar of cayenne next to the bowl and call it a day? I used a full teaspoon)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Directions
  1. Cook and drain pasta according to package directions (It's important to use the right package for directions. You don't want to accidentally cook your pasta according to the directions on a package of suppositories)
  2. In a nonstick skillet, sautee onion in oil for 1-1/2 minutes. Add garlic; cook 30 seconds longer.
  3. Add the peppers; cook and stir for 2-3 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  4. Stir in olives, oregano, salt, and cayenne. Add water; cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Stir pasta into skillet. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Bourbon Fruit Cake

     Can any holiday dessert be more recognizable than the ubiquitous fruitcake? No, of course not. That was a rhetorical question. Ubiquitous means you'll find it everywhere. That was a quiz. Did you pass? I hope so, because this is going to be on the final exam. This particular recipe was adapted from a recipe for Kentucky Bourbon Cake I found on About.com's Southern Food section around five years ago. In all fairness, this is not a true fruitcake as we know it. It is not the consistency of blacktop. It is not cloyingly sweet with terrifying unidentifiable bits of detritus suspended within. The original recipe did call for candied cherries and nuts, but I quickly put an end to that nonsense. I want cake. I don't want to be losing fillings and digging things out of my molars all night. This recipe does have a lot going for it. This cake is actually fluffy. It cooks well in any number of different shapes. It's good with icing. It will, however, make your Kitchenaid howl like a damned soul while mixing it. This recipe will fill a 5 quart mixing bowl frighteningly close to the top. It's worth it. When I tell somebody I'm serving fruitcake, they flinch. Then they eat it. Complaints cease. As always, any notes and changes are in blue.

Bourbon Fruit Cake
via About.com 
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces red candied cherries, halved (I omitted all the candied cherries and used a jar of drained maraschino cherries)
  • 8 ounces green candied cherries, halved (omitted)
  • 8 ounces seedless raisins or chopped dates (I'm married so I shouldn't have dates. I used golden raisins)
  • 2 cups bourbon (I went with Jim Beam)
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chopped pecans (omitted)
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
Directions
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the cherries, raisins, and bourbon; cover and let soak overnight. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 275°F.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars with an electric mixer until light and fluffy; add the egg yolks and beat well. Stir in the soaked fruit with bourbon. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the flour with the pecans; set aside. Add the remaining flour, nutmeg, and baking powder to the creamed mixture and blend well. In a bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form; gently fold into the cake batter. Sprinkle the floured pecans over batter and fold in gently.
  4. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan and line the bottom with greased waxed paper. (I have made this recipe several times and have never used a tube pan or waxed paper. I've used loaf pans, cake pans, bundt pans). Pour the batter into the pan; bake at 275° for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean (this does, in fact, take every bit of 3-1/2 hours if you're using a large pan)
  5. Cool the cake. Turn cake out of the pan, peel off waxed paper (which I did not use), and store in a tightly covered container for several days (this recipe makes me think that you're not supposed to eat the cake. Just store it for several days and then shitcan it. Look, if this lasts more than seven days in your house, you must have cooked it wrong. It's awesome).
Good times!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Herb Salad with Feta, Roasted Red Peppers and Toasted Nuts

     When it's the holiday season, I tend to eat like I may never get the chance again. I stuff my face to the point of actual physical discomfort. Then I gain 18 pounds in water weight and want to die. I am absolutely not going to to a "detox." I am not going to punish myself with "green smoothies," which sounds like something I get when I have too much dairy. No. I eat a salad or two and all is well. Just make sure it's a salad with something going on. I don't want a bowl of lettuce. This is a great salad. I can't for the life of me remember where I got the recipe. If anybody knows, tell me so I can give credit where credit is due. Anyways, the salad has feta. That's all that really matters here. As always, any notes are in blue.

Herb Salad with Feta, Roasted Red Peppers and Toasted Nuts
Ingredients
  • 1 5 oz container herb salad mix (or just use 5 ounces of any greens you like)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped roasted red peppers from jar, dried on paper towel
  • ½ cup walnut halves or pecan halves, toasted
  • 1 10.5oz jar feta cheese in oil with herbs and spices (I only had a container of plain feta in the fridge. I just added some olive oil and herbs myself)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Directions
  1. Combine salad mix, peppers and nuts in large bowl 
  2. Drain feta, reserving oil and spice mixture, sprinkle feta over salad 
  3. Whisk 3 tablespoons reserved oil mixture with red wine vinegar in small bowl 
  4. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss to coat 
  5. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
Good times!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Slow Cooker Parmesan Potato Soup

     The Wife loves her soup. It doesn't matter the weather. It could be 115F outside and she'll ask me to make soup. She'll also be drinking hot coffee, so I may be dealing with some larger defect here. Anyways, she loves soup, so I make soup. This particular recipe came out of Taste of Home Slow Cooker.  This is a great cold weather soup. Big hunks of potato, lots of bacon and a creamy broth. One bowl of this and I'm full. But not for long because I'm also lactose intolerant and this uses a goodly amount of heavy cream. I'll leave you to come up with your own imagery. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.


Slow Cooker Parmesan Potato Soup
via Taste of Home Slow Cooker
Ingredients

  • 8 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (I actually peeled the potatoes this time!)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 jar (7 ounces) roasted red peppers, drained and chopped (make sure you peel off any skin on the peppers unless you like it floating around in the soup)
  • 1 small celery rib, chopped
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro (we went with a teaspoon of dried)
Directions
  1. In a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker, combine the vegetables, broth and seasonings (naturally, I attempted to load it all in a 2.5 quart cooker. It was fine until the part where I had to add more liquid). Cover and cook on LOW for 5-6 hours or until vegetables are tender.
  2. In a small bowl, combine flour and 1/2 cup cream until smooth; add to slow cooker. Stir in 3/4 cup cheese, bacon, cilantro and remaining cream. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until slightly thickened. 
  3. Ladle into bowls; sprinkle with remaining cheese (I always love recipes that instruct you to plate your food. You know, in case you were planning on just standing there at the stove shoveling soup into your craw right out of the pot. Maybe you were. I'm not here to judge).
Good times!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bourbon Pear Cake

     The bundt cake strikes me as a quintessential middle-class food. I have lost count of the times I've seen bundt cakes at gatherings. My family was notorious for using the bundt cake pan for all sorts of terrifying Jell-O molds involving layers and suspended fruits.  It was almost unavoidable that I would eventually buy and use a bundt cake pan.  One of the first things I made was a Bourbon Pear Cake. I think I got the recipe from Relish.com, but can't find it there anymore. If anybody locates the original source, please let me know so I can give proper credit. I liked this recipe because it incorporated booze. However, I can't get myself to cook with high-end liquor, that stuff is for drinking! Unfortunately, I didn't have any bottom-shelf booze on hand so I had to use the workhorse in my bar, Jim Beam. This is just a good looking cake and is moist and flavorful. I always feel like such a pompous ass when I say stuff like that. Hmm.. CAKE SQUISHY AND TASTE GOOD. There. Much better. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Bourbon Pear Cake
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs 
  • 2 cups sugar 
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon (I'm pretty sure some form of honey bourbon would be really good here)
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 1/2 cups pears - peeled, cored and chopped (there's nothing stopping you from using apples instead)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons milk 
Directions
  1. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs on medium speed. Gradually add sugar and oil; beat thoroughly. 
  2. Combine flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda; add to egg mixture and mix well. 
  3. Stir in pears, bourbon and vanilla. (The batter will be stiff. Notice how I took the moral high ground and didn't make a joke here.) 
  4. Spoon into a greased and floured 9-in. Bundt-cake pan. 
  5. Bake at 350F for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (obviously, you'll want to stick the toothpick into the actual cake and not the hole in the center). Let cool in pan 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. 
  6. In a small bowl, combine the confectioners' sugar and milk; beat until smooth. Drizzle over warm cake. Cool completely.
"Miss Moneypenny, fetch me another slice of that fantastic cake. I'm too shitfaced to get it myself."
Good times! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Slow Cooker Spanish-Style Couscous

     I'm still on the fence about slow-cooker recipes that require you to do cooking outside of the slow-cooker. I just want to chuck everything in there and forget about it. I'll make exceptions for ground meat. Nobody wants slow cooked ground meat. That just sounds nasty. After this recipe, I'll also make an exception for couscous, because it takes almost no time to make. The Wife and I really enjoyed this recipe. We tinkered with the ingredients and came up with a winner. It was simple and with a switch to turkey, a healthy meal. As always, any notes and changes are in blue.


Slow Cooker Spanish-Style Couscous
via Crock-Pot Quick & Easy Recipes
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground beef (we had a bunch of ground turkey patties in the freezer, so we used 1.5 pounds of those instead)
  • 1 can (14 ounces) beef broth (I don't keep cans of broth on hand. I just filled an empty can with water and dissolved a beef bouillon cube in it)
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (you should know by now The Wife doesn't like green peppers, so we went with red instead)
  • 1/2 cup pimiento stuffed green olives, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  •  1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Pilsen Latino Seasoning from the Spice House
  • 1-1/3 cup water (this is for the couscous. DON'T put it in the slow cooker!)
  • 1 cup uncooked couscous (we found a really good roasted garlic and olive oil couscous at ALDI)
Directions
  1. Brown meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring to break up meat (I've never seen a recipe tell you to break up the meat before. Are there people out there just chucking a big wad of meat in the pan and hoping for the best?) Drain fat.
  2. Combine broth, bell pepper, olives, onion, garlic, cumin, thyme and meat in slow-cooker. Cover; cook on LOW 5 hours or until bell pepper is tender. 
  3. Bring water to a boil over high heat in a small saucepan. Stir in couscous. Cover; remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with fork (don't forget to take the cover off before fluffing or you may encounter some difficulties). Spoon couscous onto plates; top with beef mixture (use a slotted spoon for getting the beef mixture out. There's going to be a fair amount of liquid left in the slow cooker).
Good times!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Too Damned Easy Baked Brie and Chutney

     I subscribe to several cooking magazines. Occasionally I will find recipes and make them exactly as described. More often than not, I will modify the recipe to fit what I have in the house and what I am willing to spend money on. Naturally, certain recipes never make it into the rotation because of these restrictions. One recipe in particular involved brie, fruit preserves and puff pastry. I generally don't stock these items. However, as luck would have it, I found very reasonably priced (nine bucks for almost two pounds!) brie at the Sam's Club in town. I didn't feel like looking for the actual recipe, so I decided to wing it with what I had. I grabbed some of my chutney and a tube of ALDI biscuit dough and went to work. The end result was much greater than the sum of its parts. This looked super fancy and tasted amazing. The melted brie mixed with the chutney for a sweet and mild taste. The biscuit dough held it all together perfectly. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did! As always, notes are in blue.


Too Damned Easy
Baked Brie and Chutney
Ingredients
  • 6-8 ounce piece of brie, rind removed
  • 2 tablespoons roasted pepper and tomato chutney (feel free to use some other chutney or preserve. You're not going to hurt my feelings)
  • 1 7.5 ounce tube of buttermilk biscuits
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
  2. Take half the biscuit dough, wad it up and roll it out big enough that you can lay the brie on and have enough dough to fold up the sides of the brie. 
  3. Put the brie on the dough (duh). 
  4. Spread the chutney over the top of the brie.
  5. Wad up the other half of the dough and roll it out to the same size as the first piece. Lay it over the top. Tuck the bottom dough under the top. Use a sharp knife to make three slashes on the top of the dough (this will vent any steam and makes this look way fancier than it actually is.)
  6. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. (If you're feeling ultra-fancy, give the dough an egg wash before putting it in the oven)
BONUS: Watch in horror as we make this recipe on YouTube!
Good times!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tomato and Roasted Pepper Chutney

     Over the summer, chutneys became one of our go-to ways to process surplus veggies. If you were following us this summer, you'll know we were absolutely laden down with bell peppers and tomatoes. Whenever we have crazy amounts of produce to use, we usually end up consulting Preserve It! This book has a few wonderful chutney recipes. Fair warning, making chutney does qualify as a PITA (Pain In The Ass). It's time consuming and requires a fair amount of attention. The result is totally worth it, though. This stuff is great on crackers with cream cheese or brie. It's also good on bagels. If you do decide to process this for long term storage, I once again recommend consulting the National Center for Home Food Preparation for information on how not to accidentally make someone's anus fall out. As always, notes and changes are in blue.
Tomato and Roasted Pepper Chutney
via Preserve It!
Ingredients

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper (no orange peppers on hand. We just used another red pepper)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 3 lb. ripe tomatoes, plunged into boiling water for 1 minute and then peeled
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Place the peppers on a baking sheet and cook for about 25-30 minutes, until they begin to char slightly. Remove from the oven, put in a plastic bag and leave to cool.
  2. Remove the pepper stems, skins and seeds (we core, stem, seed and slice the peppers before actually cooking them. It just seems more logical. Also, peeling the peppers has never failed to be a total Pain In The Ass). Coarsely chop the tomatoes. Transfer the peeled tomatoes, roasted peppers and onions to a food processor; pulse briefly until chopped but not mushy.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a preserving pan (couldn't even tell you what that is)  or a large, heavy-bottomed, stainless steel saucepan (I do have one of those!) with the sugar and vinegar. Cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, until it starts to thicken and turn sticky (try to read that last bit again without snickering). You may need to increase the heat a little toward the end of cooking, but stir continuously so the chutney doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. 
  4. Ladle into warm, sterilized, half-pint jars, leaving about 1/4" head space, and making sure there are no air gaps. Cover and seal with a two part lid. Process in a boiling water bath for 12 minutes (If you want to do pint jars, boil for 15-16 minutes. You can thank me now for changing this step from the cookbook. The book says to process in the water bath, THEN put on the lids. I assure you, that won't work unless you're some sort of sorcerer). Store in a cool, dark place. Allow the flavors to mature for 1 month. Refrigerate after opening.  
Good times!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Three Pork Meat Sauce (Tre Sugo Di Maiale)

     We recently bought into a share of an organically grown pig. The result was over 20 pounds of fine pork products. We decided the way to celebrate was by making a meat sauce with our go-to red sauce recipe. The result was delicious. We used ground pork, bacon and a neck bone. I used to watch my dad make sauce with neck bones and had never tried it myself. I'm glad I did. Thanks dad! Naming it wasn't hard. It's a sauce with three kinds of pork! I decided to throw in the Google Translate Italian version of the name. I think it literally comes out as just "Three Pork Sauce." Regardless, you can't go wrong throwing this over a bowl of your favorite pasta! As always, any notes are in blue.
Three Pork Meat Sauce
(Tre Sugo Di Maiale)
Ingredients

  • 1 quart prepared pasta sauce (it will add a bunch of cooking time to prep, but I suggest using this red sauce recipe)
  • 1 quart canned whole tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pork neck bone
  • 6 ounces bacon, diced
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Directions
  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat oil. Cook neck bone 3-5 minutes on each side, until browned. Remove and set aside. Add bacon, onion and celery. Cook over medium heat until bacon is crisp. Drain excess oil (don't just throw it away! Strain it into a jar for later use. I always have bacon grease in the fridge for all sorts of uses). 
    I could probably stop right here and still be happy with the meal.
  2. Turn heat to high. Deglaze the Dutch oven using the red wine vinegar. (Make sure to scrape up all the brown stuff off the bottom; you don't want to waste that extra flavor!) Bring heat to low.
  3. In a separate pan, cook ground pork until browned. Drain excess grease.
  4. Add ground pork and neckbone to Dutch oven. Add all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer. Simmer with the lid off for at least one hour (the longer you simmer, the thicker the sauce will get. I let mine go for about two hours. Just stop simmering when it hits the desired consistency).
Good times!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Turkey, White Bean and Kale Soup

     One of the big problems after Thanksgiving is figuring out what to do with the leftover turkey. There's only so many turkey sandwiches you can eat. One of the first things I do with the turkey is strip all the meat and then boil the carcass. This leaves me with an extremely rich stock for later use. I wound up using it for this recipe. It's sort of a riff on Tuscan White Bean Soup. I was fairly pleased with the outcome. If you like extra heat, it benefits greatly from a shot or two of Frank's hot sauce. Obviously, you could easily substitute chicken and chicken stock if you don't have turkey on hand.

Turkey, White Bean and Kale Soup
Ingredients

  • 1 quart turkey stock
  • 1-1/2 cup chopped cooked turkey
  • 1 can (15.5 ounce) great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups kale, spines removed, chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 tablespoon Ukrainian Village seasoning (from the Spice House
Directions
  1. In a large pot, add stock, turkey, beans and seasoning. Bring to a simmer.
  2. Heat oil in a saucepan, add onion, celery, basil and garlic. Sautee 3-5 minutes or until onions are tender. Add kale, sautee 2 more minutes (the color of the kale will brighten during cooking.  When you see that, you know it's ready).
    This is what I'm talking about.
  3. Add contents of saucepan to soup pot. Add pepper flakes and orzo and bring to low boil for about 5 minutes. Lower to simmer.
  4. Stir in cream. Simmer another 2-3 minutes or until orzo is tender.
Good times!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lentil Bread

     It's been a while since I've tried a new bread recipe. I've been leaning pretty heavily on that Sally Lunn recipe. I've been wanting to try this recipe, but I never had lentils on hand. This is a great sandwich bread. It has a nice, sturdy crust and a soft inside. You can just get a hint of the lentil taste in the bread. I don't think you'll want to make French Toast with this bread; this is more of a straight up sandwich bread. Give it a try and see what you think. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Lentil Bread
via Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup lentils, rinsed
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped onion (you're going to be running this through a food processor, you don't need to chop finely. Work smarter, not harder)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (again, food processor. I just threw the damned thing in whole)
  • 2 packages (.25 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (110-115F)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 6 to 7 cups bread flour (I hope that's the same thing as all-purpose flour, because that's what I used)
Directions
  1. In a saucepan, combine lentils, water, onion and garlic; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. Cool slightly. Transfer mixture to a blender or a food processor. Cover and process until smooth. Cool to 110-115F.
  2. In a mixing bowl dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, lentil mixture, oil, sugar, Parmesan cheese, salt, whole wheat flour and 3 cups bread flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (I wound up using about 6-1/2 cups)
  3. Turn onto a floured surface (do it. The dough will be a bit sticky). Knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes (as always, I let the Kitchenaid do the hard work. Feel free to do it by hand if you're the industrious type)
  4. Place in a bowl coated with nonstick cooking spray, turning once to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  5. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into thirds; shape into loaves. Place in three greased 9"x5"x3" loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30-40 minutes. 
  6. Bake at 375F for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown (mine took about an hour!). Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. 
Good times!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Herbed Cheese Scones

     I loves me some scones. I used to think scones were just something stodgy people from England grimly chewed while they drank their tea. Unless someone proves otherwise, I'm going to continue thinking that. However, I have found that they are versatile and tremendously easy to make. Many people are surprised when I tell them I've never made a sweet scone. All the scones I've made to this point are savory. Granted, I've only made one other kind of scone, ham and cheddar. This particular recipe came out of Bon Appetit magazine. I made a lot of changes, so I have no idea what the original recipe tastes like. Mine were great, so I imagine theirs is ok. As always, any notes and changes are in blue.


Herbed Cheese Scones
via Bon Appetit
Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into pieces (I'm going to be honest. I don't ever use unsalted butter. I don't even use less salt most times. I live dangerously)
  • 8 ounces provolone cheese, grated (no provolone in the house. I figured blue cheese would work in this recipe, so I went with 6 ounces blue and 2 ounces of butterkase cheese)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives (we used green onions in place of the chive)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (we used 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme (we used 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more
Directions
  1. Pulse baking powder, salt, paprika, and 4 cups flour in a food processor until combined (HAHAHAHAHAHA. No.) add butter and pulse until the texture of coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces of butter remain (I just cranked the Kitchenaid with the regular blade. I learned not to go straight to 5 or you are cleaning up the counter. And the walls.)
  2. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and mix in cheese, chives, rosemary and thyme. Make a well in the center; add eggs and 3/4 cup cream. Using a fork, blend eggs and cream, then slowly incorporate dry ingredients until a shaggy dough forms.
    Wrong Shaggy.

    Zoinks! Still the wrong Shaggy.
    Be careful not to overwork dough (Overwork is not something that happens much with me)
  3. Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and press into an 8" square about 1" thick (I didn't make mine into a square. It was more of a "splat"). Using a floured chef's knife, cut into 16 squares and divide between two parchment-lined baking sheets (I am openly defying the recipe at this point. I used the ring from a quart jar lid to cut CIRCULAR scones. NOW WHAT, BON APPETIT?) Wrap with plastic and chill 2 hours (the scones, but if you want to kick back for a couple of hours, go right ahead)
  4. Preheat oven to 400F. Brush tops of scones with cream and bake, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until golden brown on tops and bottoms. This will take about 20-25 minutes (I went 30 just to be difficult)
Good times!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sweet Potato Wedges with Chile Cream

     Sometimes you find a recipe so simple, you can't believe it can be so good. I'm fairly sure I dug this one up a few years ago from Bon Appetit magazine. Regardless, it's a rock solid recipe. I've served it as a side dish in the past. This year I served it as a snacketizer. There's plenty of room for personal interpretation as far as the chipotle pepper sauce goes. You can use hot or mild sauce depending on how big a wuss you are. Actually, I've found that the Taco Bell Bold & Creamy Chipotle Sauce is a fine addition to this recipe. Don't judge me. As always, any notes are in blue.
Sweet Potato Wedges
with Chile Cream
Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onions, divided
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle hot pepper sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (or use the stuff in the plastic lime, I won't tell anyone)
  • 3 pounds medium sweet potatoes, cut lengthwise into ¾ inch wedges, with skin (when I serve them as a snacketizer I cut those wedges in half width-wise)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
Directions:
  1. Whisk sour cream, 1 tablespoon green onion tops, chipotle hot sauce and lime juice in small bowl; cover and chill.
    Sorry.
  2. Preheat oven to 425F. 
  3. Combine sweet potato wedges, oil and cumin in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. 
  4. Arrange potato wedges on a baking sheet. Roast until tender and browned in spots. About 20 minutes. 
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  6. Place wedges on large platter. Drizzle chile cream over. Sprinkle remaining green onions over top. You can also serve the cream in a small bowl for dipping.
Good times!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Kugel (Noodle Pudding)

     There are certain things that I always associate with my childhood. Hot Wheels. Saturday morning cartoons. Getting hit in the face with a ball because you've played outside until it's too damned dark to see anymore. If there's a food I connect with my childhood, it's kugel. If you're from a Jewish family, you know what a kugel is. If not, I'll explain. It's basically a baked noodle pudding. They can be sweet or savory, depending on the ingredients. This particular recipe is from my grandmother on my father's side, and is most certainly of the sweet variety. When I was little, she would make kugel most times I came to visit. To this day, it's one of my favorite recipes. It's pretty versatile. I've served at a side, a dessert and occasionally for breakfast. You can serve it hot or cold. As always, notes are in blue.

Kugel
Ingredients

  • 1 lb wide egg noodles
  • 1 lb small-curd cottage cheese
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons confectioner's sugar (no clue as to why my grandmother used confectioner's sugar. I guess it incorporates easier. There's really nothing stopping you from using regular white sugar. Now that I think of it, brown sugar might be pretty good in this)
  • 1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained (I save the juice in a container in the fridge. It comes in handy for cocktails later!)
  • 6 ounces golden raisins
  • 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon (I generally just eyeball measure the cinnamon, so that's why there is some range on the measurement. Use more or less depending on how much you like cinnamon)
  • Corn Flakes/Frosted Flakes (If you like sweet, give Frosted Flakes a try. I've done it before and it was pretty good. Or you could go crazy and toss a layer of Cinnamon Toast Crunch over the top!)
Directions
  1. Cook noodles to just shy of done. 
  2. Mix all ingredients except corn flakes in a large bowl.
  3. Spread into a greased baking dish (around 15"x10"x2")
  4. Cook at 375F until top gets crispy (about 30 minutes, give or take). Sprinkle corn flakes over top and bake an additional 5 minutes.
Good Times!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Bacon and Lemon Herbed Turkey

     Nothing says Thanksgiving like a well-made turkey perfectly carved and served up on a fancy platter. One out of three isn't bad. I can give you well-made. The rest is up to you. I know many people love that crispy golden skin on a turkey. I don't really care about that. For me, the skin is there to help store all sorts of good things to flavor the meat. I've messed around with a couple versions of this type of turkey, but I feel this is the final iteration. I am very pleased. The meat is suspiciously tender and is infused with hints of lemon, bacon and herbs. This, my dear friends, is a winner. As always, any notes are in blue.
Bacon and Lemon Herbed Turkey
Ingredients

  • 1 turkey (we used a 13 pound bird for this recipe)
  • 1 pound thick cut bacon (use whatever kind you want. Applewood smoked, hickory, whatever)
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 2 sticks butter, separated
  • 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, rosemary and sage)
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • Uncle Joe's Rub Down
Directions
  1. Make sure the bird is defrosted and all the fun stuff is removed from inside. (I'll normally throw those spare parts in the roaster with the bird and serve them to the dogs later. I'll save the neck to throw at the unruly neighborhood children)
  2. Take your hand and slide it between the skin and the meat of the bird. Gently work your hand around to separate the skin from the meat the best you can without tearing the skin. (This whole process feels genuinely wrong. I always apologize to the bird when I do this)
    I know we've only just met...
  3. Mix one of the sticks of butter with the herbs until the herbs are evenly distributed through the butter. Start grabbing handfuls and get your hand back in under the skin. Spread the butter around under the skin the best you can. 
  4. Gently lift the skin and lay the lemon slices between the meat and skin. Do the same with a quarter pound of the bacon (It's going to get crowded under the skin. Don't worry too much about having it be neat and tidy under there. The important part is to get it evenly distributed without tearing the skin)
  5. Take the other stick of butter and the onion and put it in the cavity of the bird.
  6. Shake a coat of Uncle Joe's Rub Down over the skin of the bird (feel free to use any rub or seasoning mix you like. I'm just partial to this stuff)
  7. Take the remaining bacon and use it to cover the bird (I absolutely can't be bothered to make a bacon weave)
    See? No weave and it looks fine. I can't be bothered with frippery.
  8. Load the bird into a roaster and cover it with a tinfoil tent (if you have time, feel free to make yourself a hat to block government mind-control rays. It never hurts to be careful)
  9. Load the bird into an oven preheated to 325F. Cook until a meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of 165F (This took about 4 hours for our bird. It may take more or less time depending on your stove, size of the bird, altitude, relative humidity, astrological sign, etc. You could always use the old trick of seeing if the leg just pulls off. That usually means the turkey is done. Or has leprosy. It's not an exact science)
  10. Once the bird has reached the required temperature, take it out and let it rest for 15 minutes or so (You've already violated it quite a bit. Give it a moment or two before you attack it with the knife. This is a good time to make sure everything else for your meal is done, or to have a cocktail or six)
  11. Take the bacon off the top of the bird and set it aside for later snacking. Pull the skin off the bird and clear off the remaining bacon and lemon from under the skin. (Do not be alarmed when you see that you do not have a golden, crisp skin. It's going to be pretty squishy. Just pull it off. You want to get at the now tender and delicious meat).
  12. Inexpertly maul the turkey and throw the meat on a platter. Eat until sleepy.
Good times!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Slow Cooker Cajun Stew

     Now and again I like to totally improvise a recipe. The inspiration came about from the desire to burn through a surplus of pork that had been building up in our freezer. I also had a can of okra I don't remember buying. I figured pork+okra=Cajun food. I suppose it could also equal porkra, which sounds like something Godzilla would fight.
From the 1964 classic, "Godzilla vs. Porkra"
     You can ramp the heat up or down on this recipe by changing out the spices. I used some generic Cajun seasoning along with some local stuff. Feel free to use whatever you want. Cayenne would certainly be at home here. Hell, go nuts and throw in some Old Bay seasoning. Serve it over rice. Or noodles, or on its own. I won't tell. Just enjoy it as much as I did!

Slow Cooker Cajun Stew
Ingredients

  • 1 lb spicy ground pork sausage
  • 1 lb boneless pork loin chops, cut into 1"cubes
  • 13 ounces (one package) smoked sausage (I used a bacon and cheddar smoked sausage), cut into 1/2" thick slices
  • 8 ounces peeled shrimp, tails removed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 sliced jalapenos
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) sliced okra, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato puree
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • File powder (optional)
Directions
  1. Cook ground pork sausage until browned, drain and add to 5 quart slow cooker.
  2. Brown cubed pork 2-3 minutes, add to slow cooker along with smoked sausage.
  3. In a saucepan, combine okra, diced tomatoes, jalapenos and white vinegar. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes then add to slow cooker.
  4. Add all remaining ingredients except shrimp to slow cooker. Heat on LOW for 6 hours. Add shrimp during last 20 minutes of cooking.
  5. Add file powder when serving, if desired.
Good times!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pork Chops in Mushroom Sauce

     One of my biggest complaints about slow-cooker recipes is they often end up tasting very similar. I've had chicken recipes that taste like beef recipes that taste like pork recipes. It doesn't matter what the ingredients are, the meals all end up with an inoffensive flat taste. That's why this particular recipe took us by surprise. While the recipe ends up uniformly beige, there's actually a definable flavor. I imagine that's due to the Dijon mustard. Regardless of the reason, this made for a very tasty meal. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Pork Chops in Mushroom Sauce
via Taste of Home Slow Cooker
Ingredients
  • 1 can (10.75 ounce) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup country-style Dijon mustard (never in my life have I heard of "country-style" Dijon mustard. I'm calling bullshit and just using regular old Dijon)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (feeling lazy, just used 1 teaspoon minced from a jar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 medium red potatoes, sliced (I used russet potatoes and everybody survived)
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 6 boneless loin pork chops (5 ounces each) (I used 5. SO THERE)
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms of your choice
Directions
  1. In a 5 quart slow cooker, combine the soup, broth, mustard, garlic and seasonings. (I managed to stuff everything into a 2.5 quart slow cooker)
  2. Stir in potatoes and onions; top with pork chops
  3. Cover and cook on LOW for 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours or until meat is tender
"Sir, you are being chauffeured around in a $250,000 Rolls Royce. Buy your own damned mustard."
Good Times! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Slow Cooker Thai-Style Peanut Chicken

     I'm on the fence about peanut butter based recipes. I do enjoy a good satay, but too much peanut butter can overwhelm me and make me run for some white bread and grape jelly. This recipe works around that by using an alarming amount of teriyaki sauce and red pepper flakes. This has, as the chefs would say, umami out the asshole. We swapped in chicken for the pork and were very happy with the results. As always, changes and notes are in blue.

Slow Cooker Thai-Style Peanut Chicken
via Taste of Home Slow Cooker
Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless pork loin chops (we decided to use an equal amount of chicken)
  • 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • Hot cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts (omitted)
  • Lime juice, optional
Directions
  1. Place meat in a 3 quart slow cooker (we used a 2.5 quart cooker. NOW WHAT!). In a small bowl, combine the teriyaki sauce, vinegar, pepper flakes and garlic; pour over meat. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours or until meat is tender.
  2. Remove meat and cut into bite-sized pieces; keep warm (the meat, not you. I suppose you could put on a sweater if you're chilly). Skim fat from cooking juices, transfer juices to a small saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil. 
  3. Combine cornstarch and water and stir until smooth. Gradually stir into the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in peanut butter and meat. 
  4. Serve with rice. Sprinkle with onions and peanuts (if you really want them). Drizzle with lime juice if desired.
Tie Peanuts...Get it?
Good times!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fruit Punch Hot Sauce

     Some time ago I held a little contest to determine the name of a hot sauce I had created. I picked a winner and then subsequently forgot all about it. I even managed to misplace the recipe. Having finally located the recipe, I am finally posting it! This is a cayenne sauce with a strong citrus base. It's excellent on seafood and chicken. I haven't tried it on anything else, but fully intend to. As far as heat, on a scale of 1 being no real heat to 10 being "Oh God, eventually this has to come out my anus," I'd give this a 4-5. As always, any notes are in blue.
Fruit Punch Hot Sauce
Ingredients

  • 5 ounces cayenne peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 10 ounces red banana peppers, seeded and roughly chopped (not sure where you're going to find these; these peppers were mutants out of our garden)
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 medium tomato, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
Directions
  1. Throw everything into a blender and blend the living shit out of it.
  2. Pour the blended mixture into a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes.
  3. Strain mixture into bottles/cans (This will make a little over a pint of sauce)
  4. If you are intending to store long term, process canning jars in a boiling water bath for 12 minutes for 1/2-pints and 15 minutes for pints (as always, please refer to the National Center for Home Food Preservation for detailed instructions and tips for giving everyone dysentery) 
Good times!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Slow Cooker Caramel Apple Pie Bread Pudding

     Bread pudding is one of those desserts that I love, but almost never make. Generally, I'll make a bread pudding one time during the holidays and then just pine away for it the rest of the year. I'm not sure why that is. Bread pudding is not particularly difficult to make. It will have to remain a mystery. I made this one because I had an empty slot in my 3 station slow cooker. I also had a loaf of Caramel Apple bread and nothing to do with it. I just changed up a recipe from Gooseberry Patch Super Fast Slow Cooking. It took WAY longer to cook than the recipe said, but ended up being a fine dessert. As always, any changes or notes are in blue.


Caramel Apple Pie Bread Pudding
via Gooseberry Patch Super Fast Slow Cooking
Ingredients

  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar (we used 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown)
  • 21 ounce can apple pie filling (we used a sugar-free pie filling)
  • 6-1/2 cups cinnamon-raisin bread, cubed (no cinnamon-raisin bread on hand. Went with a one pound loaf of Pepperidge Farms Caramel Apple Bread)
  • Optional: Whipped Cream (omitted)
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and sugar. 
  2. Gently stir in pie filling and bread cubes; pour mixture into lightly greased slow cooker.
  3. Cover and cook on LOW setting for 3 hours, until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean (calling bullshit on this step. We went for three hours on LOW, then over another hour on HIGH, and that damned knife never came out clean. I just gave up and called it done)
  4. Let stand, uncovered, 30-45 minutes to cook slightly before serving. 
Good times!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Chicken

     It's always a good thing when a recipe has versatility. When I'm slow-cooking, I'm generally cooking for the week. I want to make something that can be repurposed into a few different meals. This chicken dish from Fix-It and Forget It Lightly has that flexibility. On its face, you could just eat this as is. You could throw it over some rice. The first time we had it, we used it to fill tacos. The next night I baked a couple potatoes and used just the veggies along with cheese and sour cream to top them. This will certainly enter regular rotation in the slow cooker. As always, changes and notes are in blue.

Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Chicken 
via Fix-It and Forget It Lightly
Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4" wide strips (Look, we all know the chicken is just going to fall apart from the slow cooking. We threw the chicken breasts in whole)
  • 2 tablespoons dry taco seasoning mix (really? I'm going to rip open an envelope of taco seasoning and then just use part of it? Screw that. We used the whole envelope)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 green pepper, cut into strips (you should know by now that the wife doesn't really like green peppers. We used a yellow pepper)
  • 1 red pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1-1/2 cups chunky salsa (I used my own proprietary recipe that I would be glad to sell you for an unreasonable price)
  • 1 cup nonfat Mexican-Style cheese, shredded (Didn't have nonfat. You'll get over it)
Directions
  1. Toss chicken with seasoning and flour in slow cooker.
  2. Gently stir in vegetables and salsa.
  3. Cook on LOW for 4-6 hours, or on HIGH 2-3 hours, until chicken and vegetables are cooked through but are not dry or mushy. 
  4. Stir before serving.
  5. Serve topped with cheese.
Good times!