Friday, May 31, 2013

Things I'm Never Going To Do On This Food Blog.

I am never going give you a recipe without giving up the original source
I can't figure out what is wrong with some people. What's the mentality in trying to steal a recipe or photo and passing it off as your own? My wife and I are both teachers. We understand the importance of citing your sources. Make changes. Make it your own. Credit where you got the original information. This is not difficult. 

I am never going to knowingly disappoint you
I'm here to entertain and hopefully provide some useful recipes and information. Sometimes, there will be duds. I can't deny that will happen. I will, however, willingly identify said duds so you know to proceed with caution when using that information!

I am never going to make you run around on your own for goofy ingredients
I normally try at all costs to avoid expensive or hard to find ingredients. When possible, I'll tell you where to find them, or at the very least what to substitute for them. I'm not going to leave you flailing around in the kitchen trying to figure out what to do about a troublesome ingredient.

I am never going to make you sob in frustration at an overly complicated recipe
Much like the last comment, I'm going to do what I can to avoid overly complicated recipes. I will, however, attempt to make them now and again. I've been known to make a fairly convincing Beef Wellington. If that happens, I'm going to walk through the process with you. I'll provide lots of reference pictures. I'll let you know if something worked great or didn't work. Don't fret, we're all in this together.

I'm going to keep doing this food page/blog even if you stop visiting
I really started doing this for myself. I just wanted somewhere to store recipes and notes. It then became a reference for a limited group of friends and family. It eventually snowballed into what it is today. It was here before you found it and it will be here long after you grow tired of me or I invariably say something offensive and you leave. I'm not going anywhere.


I'm never going to try to be something I'm not. I'm just going to try to be helpful
I'm not operating on false pretenses. I know I'm not a chef. I barely qualify as a cook most days. I'm a kitchen hack and I'm fine with that. I have my moments of great success where I feel like I can do this for a living. Then I try to make cornbread in the waffle iron and realize maybe I should stick to education. So I'll do that. I'll share information with you and together we will learn in the kitchen.  






Take a moment to soak that all in. 







Yeah, you just got Rickrolled.


You are totally justified in un-liking my Facebook page now.

Good times!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Chicken & Vegetable with Gorgonzola Soup

     Of late I have found myself with a regular surplus of leeks and chicken. When I find myself with vegetables and poultry, my thoughts generally turn to soup. I decided to do something different than regular old chicken soup and veggies. Having recently attended a Highland Games and Celtic Festival, I decided to to a spin on a traditional Scottish soup. Chicken and leek soup has a proud Scottish pedigree but a truly unfortunate name.
Egad! Cock-a-Leekie? Seriously?
     There was no way I was going to use that name. It sounds more like a medical dysfunction than a recipe. I wound up taking bits and pieces from a few different variants on chicken and leek based Irish and Scottish soups. This is what I came up with. Chicken & Vegetable with Gorgonzola Soup. We were pretty pleased with the results. The strong cheese played well with the mellow taste of the vegetables and chicken. The soup was a touch creamy, but not thick. I'm calling this a winner.

Chicken & Vegetable with Gorgonzola Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 medium leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 2 ribs celery, thinly slices
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 head broccoli (florets)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 chicken breast, skin removed
  • 4 ounces Gorgonzola, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Extra cheese and chives for garnish
Directions
  1. Heat butter and oil in pan, cook vegetables about 10 minutes. You don't want the veggies browned, just soften them up a bit.
  2. Reduce heat to low and add cheese. Stir until cheese is melted and incorporated into the vegetables. Add the flour and stir for 2 minutes. You're going to end up with something that looks a bit like a roux. Don't overcook it. You don't want this to get brown.
  3. Once the flour and cheese are fully incorporated, slowly add in the wine, stirring constantly. Once the wine is completely in, add the chicken broth. Increase heat to bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer.
  4. Throw the chicken breast into the simmering post. You're going to leave it all simmering, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is done. We don't want to poison anybody. When the chicken is done, strip the meat from the bone and shred the meat. Throw the meat back into the soup.
  5. Add the heavy cream and let simmer for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Garnish with a little more Gorgonzola and finely chopped chives.
Good times!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Caramel Apple Walnut Bread

     Sunday was once again a baking day for me. This time, however, I went with a dessert bread. The original recipe was for a Caramel Apple Bread from Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals. I made a few changes and have to say that I was very pleased with the results. The wife loved it and it's been very well received over on my Facebook page. The bread was moist with a nice crust. What was neat was that the top of the loaf split while cooking, so when the time came to put on the caramel topping, some of it leaked down into the center of the bread.
You can see the caramel running right down the center. It's magical.
     There's a whole lot of changes you can make with this. I imagine you could swap in pears or other firm fruits. Just about any nut could be swapped in or left out if you don't like nuts. As always, I will give you the original recipe with any changes I made or notes in blue.

Caramel Apple Walnut Bread
Ingredients

Batter

  • 1 cup fat-free plain yogurt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar 
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (I misread the directions and added this in to the batter. It still came out delicious, so no harm, no foul. It's staying in. Now the recipe is mine! Muahahahahaha!)
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cup chopped peeled tart apples
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans (I didn't have pecans in the house, and the wife wouldn't have let me put them in there even if we did. I used 1/2 cup chopped walnuts instead)
Caramel Glaze
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free milk (I used 2%. YOLO)

Directions
Batter
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the yogurt, sugar, eggs and vanilla. 
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; add to yogurt mixture and beat until combined (I totally didn't do it that way. I just threw everything into the yogurt mixture while the Kitchenaid was running. I figure it will all get combined eventually. Whoever said "focus on the journey and not the destination" has clearly never watched me cook.) 
  3. Fold in apples and nuts
  4. Pour into a 9"x5"x3" loaf pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 350F for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. (Mine took 105 minutes. One and three-quarter hours. There could be many reasons for this. Maybe my loaf pan was smaller than requested. Maybe my oven is off kilter. Maybe whoever originally wrote this recipe was drunk at the time. We'll never know. Just keep an eye on it after the suggested baking time. You'll know when it's finally done)
  5. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.
Caramel Glaze
  1. In a small saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter and milk to a boil, stirring constantly. Cover and cook for 1 minute (how can I possibly stir constantly if I just put the damned lid on? The lid's staying off. I'm not a magician.)
  2. Cool slightly (this is needlessly vague. I'm thinking somebody at the publishing company needs a whack in the head. Let cool until it thickens up. It should still be viscous, but not runny. We're looking to be able to spread it with a spatula)
  3. Spread over cooled bread. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Potato Spinach Pie

     I don't know where I'd be without the Taste of Home: Everyday Light Meals cookbook. This has become one of the most used and abused sources of recipes and inspirations in my kitchen. I think I've only found one dud so far. I especially like that they have recipes that can serve as the entree or side. This Potato Spinach Pie is one of them. It came together easily and was pretty tasty. I think the next time I make it I'll do it in the cast iron pan. I used the pie pan, as instructed, and the potatoes did not cook evenly. It may not actually be the pie pan, though. Any number of factors may be responsible, including the fact that I'm a moron. Regardless, here's the recipe. I did this one with very few changes.

Potato Spinach Pie
via Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals
Ingredients
  • 3 cups coarsely shredded and peeled potatoes (as always, I didn't peel the potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1 package (about 10 ounces) frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (pro tip: if you thawed the spinach in the microwave, give it a couple of minutes before you squeeze it dry unless you're a huge fan of scalding the crap out of your hands)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup fat-free evaporated milk (didn't have fat-free, just used regular)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Directions
  1. In a bowl, combine the potatoes, 4 teaspoons oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Press onto the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate coated. Bake at 425F for 20-25 minutes until crust is lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Reduce heat to 350F.
  2. In a nonstick skillet, saute onion in remaining oil until tender. 
  3. In a bowl, combine the spinach, cheese, milk, eggs oregano, onion and remaining salt. Pour into crust.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top begins to brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Good times!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup (via Bon Appetit)

     I do so enjoy soup. I enjoy it even more when the recipe is really easy. A handful of simple ingredients and less than an hour to come together make for a no-brainer midweek recipe.

Lemony Chicken and Orzo Soup
via Bon Appetit
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced crosswise 1/2-inch thick
  • 12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Lemon halves (for serving)
Directions
  1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add leek and celery and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, 5-8 minutes. 
  2. Add chicken and broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until chicken is cooked through, 15-20 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool, then shred chicken into bite-size pieces.
  3. Return broth to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes.
  4. Remove pot from heat. Stir in chicken and dill. Serve with lemon halves for squeezing over.

Good times!





Monday, May 20, 2013

Golden Raisin Cranberry Whole Wheat Bread

     If you've been following this blog for any time at all, you know I like to make changes to existing recipes. Sunday was no exception. Sundays have pretty much become my baking day. I like to make a bread for us to eat on during the week. Why? The wife LOVES fresh bread. Any kind of fresh bread will do. Sunday I let her pick out what bread I was going to make. She sifted through the cookbooks and pointed out the Nutty Whole Wheat Bread recipe in Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals. There are just a ton of great bread recipes in there; I suggest you get a copy if at all possible.
     Anyways, the wife points out this recipe, then tells me she'd prefer it without the walnuts because she's not a fan of nutty bread. This was not a problem, as we did not have any walnuts in the house. We did, however, have golden raisins and dried cranberries. It worked out better than we could have imagined. The bread was sweet and soft inside, with a wonderful crust. This legitimately looked like something you would buy at a bakery! I will provide the original recipe with, as always, my notes and substitutions printed in blue.

Golden Raisin Cranberry Whole Wheat Bread
(originally Nutty Whole Wheat Bread)
Ingredients
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (I omitted the walnuts and substituted in 1/2 cup each of golden raisins and dried cranberries. I imagine just about any dried fruit could work here. If you try a different one, let me know how it works out)
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) quick-rise yeast
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat plain yogurt (we went with the plain, but the more I think about it, vanilla might have been really good in here)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (we used margarine)
Directions
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, walnuts (or dried fruit), brown sugar, yeast and salt. Stir to combine ingredients.
  2. In a saucepan, head the water, yogurt and butter to about 120-130F. Add to dry ingredients, beat until smooth (I used the Kitchenaid with a beater attachment). Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (I ended up using exactly the amount of flour called for in the recipe). Turn out onto floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes (I just left the dough in the mixer bowl and swapped in the dough hook to do the work).
  3. Take dough and shape into a ball; place on a baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Cover and let rest in a warm place for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400F. 
  4. Bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown (mine took 25 minutes to finish. Cooking times may vary a bit). Remove from pan to cool on a wire rack.
See? I told you it looks like it came from a bakery!
Sometimes I feel like I almost know what I'm doing!
Good times!



Friday, May 17, 2013

Giant Garlic Bread Stick

     Today I'm posting the last recipe for last Sunday's Italian feast. It all started with what I thought was going to be a loaf of bread. I quickly changed my mind when I realized I was fundamentally making a pizza dough. I wound up messing around and making a honking big bread stick instead. It turned out really well and was wonderful for slopping up the red sauce from the ravioli and meatballs. So with no further delay, here it is.
Giant Garlic Breadstick
Ingredients
  • 3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water, plus more as needed (I'll explain later)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed (I'll explain later)
  • 1 tablespoon each, dried oregano, basil, parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Minced garlic, 3-6 cloves or 2 tablespoons jarred
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
Directions
  1. Put first seven items into a mixing bowl. Mix ingredients (If you have a Kitchenaid, you're golden. Chuck the first seven ingredients into the bowl, put on the dough hook, set to power level 2 and go. If not, you're going to be working the dough by hand.)
  2. This is basically an extension of the first step. Regardless of how you're working the dough, my method is woefully inexact. The dough will be very dry and crumbly to start. During the mixing, you're going to need to add in a little more oil and water. What we're looking for is a nice, elastic dough. It should pull everything off the sides and bottom of the bowl and work into a ball. Start by adding a teaspoon of oil. Then a scant 1/4 cup of water. Go back and forth between the oil and water until the dough hits that consistency we're looking for. If the dough gets sticky, sprinkle a little extra flour in there. The dough should NOT be sticky. You're going to work it for about 5 minutes.
    This is exactly what we're looking for here. Nothing stuck to the sides or bottom.
  3. Once the dough is the desired consistency take it out of the bowl and work it for a couple of more minutes. If it was in the mixer, take it out and work it by hand for a couple of more minutes. Put it back into the bowl and cover it with greased plastic wrap. Put the bowl in a warm place and let it rise for about an hour. If all goes well, the dough should double in size.
  4. Take out the dough and knock it down. Knead it for a couple more minutes. Then cut the dough into two equal pieces. Roll each piece out to about 12-15 inches. Lay them next to each other on a greased baking sheet. Try to twist them around each other into a quasi-braid sort of thing. (I'm completely cack-handed with this sort of thing and mine looked fairly horrifying at this stage. This is why the wife does the complicated braiding stuff when we bake).
    Like I said, not pretty.
  5. Take the minced garlic and throw it in the melted butter. Grab a brush and paint the top of the bread with a liberal dose of the garlic-butter mixture. Don't be shy. Hold a little of the mix back for later. Or go crazy and use it all right now. You can always make more later. Don't live in fear. 
  6. Throw the tray in a preheated oven at 375-400F. Give it 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on it. Ovens vary and I am not a reliable source of information. Cooking times may vary. When it looks like it's about done (the outside should be getting golden and developing a nice crust), take it out and hit it with another round of garlic-butter mix. Go nuts. Put the bread back in the oven for another 3-5 minutes. Give it the old "tap on it and if it sounds hollow, it's done trick."
  7. Take it out and let it rest for a few minutes. Mostly to see if you can do it. We couldn't wait and wound up burning the crap out of the inside of our mouths. 
Good times!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sausage and Mozzarella Stuffed Whole-Wheat Ravioli

     Every now and then I completely lose my mind. Last Sunday was one of those times. I decided on a fairly large-scale Italian dinner. All from scratch. Monday I talked about the meatballs and sauce. Today we're going to look at the pasta end of the meal. I've always wanted to make whole-wheat pasta and I happened to have five pounds of whole-wheat flour in the pantry. I dug around in the manual for my Kitchenaid pasta sheet roller and found a recipe for the pasta. That was the base for my ravioli. The directions assume you have a Kitchenaid mixer. If not, you're going to be doing the mixing and kneading entirely by hand.

Sausage and Mozzarella Stuffed Whole-Wheat Ravioli
Ingredients
Pasta
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Filling
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Directions
Filling
  1. Cook sausage in pan until browned, drain excess grease
  2. Reduce heat to low, add cheese and stir until cheese has melted throughout the meat. Set aside to cool.
Pasta
  1. Place eggs, water, whole wheat flour and salt in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater Turn to speed 2 and mix 30 seconds.
  2. Exchange beater for dough hook. Turn to speed 2 and knead for 2 minutes. Remove from bowl and hand knead for another 2 minutes. Divide dough into eight pieces before processing with sheet roller.
  3. Attache the pasta sheet roller and start running the dough through. You're looking to work the dough to Roller setting 5. This is about 1/16" or so if by hand. (This dough will fight you in the sheet roller. The first couple of passes on the widest setting will still tend to shred the dough. You need to work it fairly thin before it will pass through without tearing. You're going to be doing a lot of folding and re-feeding. I hope you didn't have any other plans for the afternoon).
    You're going to end up with several sheets that hopefully look like this.
  4. Lay out a sheet of rolled out pasta on a cutting board. Put a teaspoon of filling at regular intervals. You'll be able to get about 6 or so ready on a sheet. 
    This is what you should have in front of you.
  5. Take a brush and dip it in some water. Paint water around the filling on the sheet. Lay another sheet over the top and press it into place. 
    Reference photos are proof that I care about you.
  6. Get a ravioli cutter. The only reason I own one is that my wife's cousin gave me one when I mentioned I didn't own one. She's funny like that. If you don't have one, just cut it with a knife, then go around the very edge with the end of a fork to gently push the edges together and give it those fun little notches around the edge.
    Confession time. The wife is doing all the grunt work in these pictures. 
  7. Get a big pot of water going at a rolling boil. Throw in some salt. It's pasta, don't be shy. In batches of six or so, toss the ravioli into the water. Cook them for 3-5 minutes depending on how done you want them. (We planned on finishing ours in our sauce, so we only cooked them for 3 minutes. They also freeze very well if taken out at this time.) Remove from water with slotted spoon and place in colander to drain off excess water. 
    Dramatic action shot.
  8. At  this point, we took a cookie sheet and put down a layer of wax paper. We laid a single layer of ravioli, then another sheet of wax paper, another of ravioli...you get the idea. These wax paper sheets can then be loaded into freezer bags and put in the freezer for long term storage. You can heat them up in boiling water, cook them in sauce, or even microwave them to heat them up. This recipe will make about 60-70 ravioli. 
Good times!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Meatballs and Red Sauce

     There are some recipes that only get cooked a few times a year. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes the recipe calls for expensive or hard to find items. Sometimes the recipe is difficult or time consuming. Sometimes it's something you only cook for special occasions. In this particular case, it's a matter of being time consuming. If you want to do this particular recipe right, you need to be willing to take the time.  You're going to get your hands dirty. You're going to make a mess.
     So why do I even cook this particular recipe at all? Well, it's delicious. The second I saw this recipe, I knew it was going to be good. I've gotten some duds out of Bon Appetit before, but this would not be one of them. The main reason I cook this dish? The wife loves it. Raves about it. This is one of her favorite things for me to cook. That's enough reason for me.

Meatballs with Red Sauce
(via Bon Appetit)
Ingredients 

Sauce
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes in juice, drained, juice reserved, tomatoes finely chopped 
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter 
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, halved 
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
Meatballs
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French or country style bread 
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 8 ounces ground beef (85/15%) 
  • 8 ounces ground pork 
  • 1 cup finely ground (not grated) Parmesan cheese 
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 2 large garlic cloves, pressed 
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions

Sauce
  1. Combine tomatoes with juice, butter, onions, and salt in large wide pot. Bring to simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 45 minutes 
  2. Use immersion blender to break up large pieces. Sauce should not be completely smooth. Season with salt and pepper, remove from heat 
Meatballs
  1. Combine breadcrumbs and milk in small bowl; stir until breadcrumbs are evenly moistened, let stand for 10 minutes. 
  2. Place beef and pork in large bowl and break up into small chunks. Add 1 cup ground Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper 
  3. Whisk eggs in small bowl; whisk in garlic. Add to meat. 
  4. Using hands, squeeze all milk from breadcrumbs. Add them to meat mixture. LIGHTLY mix until all ingredients are combined. DO NOT OVERMIX!!! Chill at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour. 
  5. Moisten hands with reserved milk. Roll meat mixture GENTLY between palms into golf-ball sized balls. AVOID COMPACTING THE MEATBALLS! 
  6. Place single layer in sauce pot. Bring to simmer, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until meatballs are thoroughly cooked through, about 15-20 minutes 
  7. Cool slightly, chill uncovered until cold, cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before serving.
Good times!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Griddled Chicken with Chorizo and Butter Bean Mash via Channel 4

     I think part of the reason I like cooking so much is that I don't really know what I'm doing. Having no actual training, I have no idea if I'm doing something wrong. Unless the food comes out totally inedible I'm calling it a victory. This sort of became my attitude towards cooking. "Close enough is good enough" became my motto. It's served me well so far.
     A prime example is this recipe I pulled off Channel 4 when I was just starting more serious cooking. I misidentified ingredients, I left stuff out. Changes were made. The results were indisputably delicious. It doesn't have to be right to be good. So here is one of my first real attempts at cooking. As always, changes and notes are in blue.

Griddled Chicken with Chorizo and Butter Bean Mash
via Channel 4

Ingredients
(The original recipe is only intended to serve one. Double all ingredients if you're serving for two. The butter beans should be fine for two people without doubling)
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast (preferably free-range or organic) (I used two. They were not free-range or organic. I guess technically frozen chicken breasts from Aldi count as "organic" inasmuch as they are not "synthetic.")
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 ounces chorizo (Spanish sausage), sliced (So I grabbed out a tube of Mexican chorizo. This is when I learned that Spanish chorizo and Mexican chorizo were not at all the same thing.)
  • ½ small red onion, peeled and sliced (I used yellow)
  • ½ small red pepper, deseeded and sliced (pretty sure I used red peppers from a jar)
  • ½ small yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced (Yellow peppers were nutty expensive. I used green.)
  • ½ garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped (I used a whole clove.)
  • ½ small red chilli, finely chopped (I used 1/2 teaspoon of red chili flakes)
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar (At the time I figured red wine vinegar was close enough)
  • 3-4 fresh basil leaves, roughly shredded (Not something I had in the house. I went with 1/2 teaspoon dried basil.)
For the Butter Beans
  • 14.5 ounce can butter beans, drained and rinsed in a sieve (I actually had a can of these lurking in the back of the cabinet!)
  • ½ small garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped (I don't understand this "half a small garlic clove" nonsense. That's just weak. You can't live in fear. I used a whole clove).
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
Directions
  1. Heat a griddle pan (I used a nonstick fry pan. I had no idea what a griddle pan was at the time) on the hob (Hob? What the hell is a hob? Hobgoblin? Hobnails? I'm hoping they mean the stove, because there's not really anywhere else in the house to heat a pan). Carefully cut the chicken horizontally almost all the way through the middle and open out (butterflying was not in my skill set at the time. The chicken was getting cooked as is.) Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Drizzle the chicken with half the oil and add to the pan. Fry for 4-5 minutes then turn over and cook on the other side for about 3 minutes more until the chicken is cooked through.
  3. Add the remaining oil to a frying pan and cook the chorizo, onion and peppers for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and chilli for the last minute of cooking time.
  4. Tip the butter beans into a saucepan with the garlic and add 5 tbsp of water. Bring to the boil and cook for 2-3 minutes until then beans are hot, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, add the olive oil and blend with a stick blender until smooth. Season to taste.
  5. Pour the vinegar into the pan with the chorizo and vegetables. Simmer for a few seconds. Stir in the basil and season.
  6. Spoon the butter bean mash onto a plate and top with the chorizo sauce and chicken. Serve.
Good times!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

White Bean, Swiss Chard, and Andouille Sausage Soup via Dutch Oven Cookbook

     Before I really started cooking, a Dutch Oven involved pulling the covers up over my spouse's head and farting.* Needless to say, the wife did not find that sort of thing anywhere near as funny as I did.

This isn't a big selling card with Hallmark.
     Anyway, last year the wife finally clarified the term by buying me a cast iron enameled Dutch oven for Christmas. She also got me a cookbook to go along with it. I have learned to love this pot. It takes slow cooking to another place entirely. One thing I've learned it does well is soups. Within the cookbook, The Dutch Oven Cookbook by Sharon Kramis and Julie Kramer Hearne, are a number of great soup recipes. I am reprinting one here, along with any notes or changes I made in blue.

White Bean, Kale, and Smoked Sausage Soup
originally: White Bean, Swiss Chard, and Andouille Sausage Soup
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups peeled and diced Yukon Gold potatoes (I only diced them. My Mom always swore there were important nutrients in the peel. Seemed legit so I never fact checked it. To this day, I never peel a potato. I also didn't use Yukon Gold. I hardly ever have them in the house. I used Russet.)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup peeled and diced carrots
  • 6 cups chicken broth (Didn't have any chicken stock ready, so I went with 6 cups of water and 4 chicken bouillon cubes. On the upshot, now I don't need to add salt.)
  • Two 14.5 ounce cans cannellini beans, drained (I used Great Northern. I figure they're the same color and shape, so close enough is good enough.)
  • 8 ounces precooked andouille sausage (about 2 pieces), halved lengthwise then cut crosswise into 1/2 inch strips (I don't really ever have andouille sausage in the house and if I did, I'd be cooking something Cajun. I used one pound of Eckrich Cheddar Smoked Sausage.)
  • 2 cups Swiss Chard, washed and cut into 1/2 in strips (I guess I'm defective, but I can't stand Swiss Chard. It tastes like dirt. Any time a recipe calls for Swiss Chard, I just sub in kale. So that's what I did here. I used an equal amount of kale.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (If you made it my way, you probably don't want to add salt)
Directions
  1. Over medium-low heat, melt the butter in a 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven. Add carrots, onions and potatoes. Saute briefly, 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add chicken broth and turn heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes, until carrots and potatoes are soft. 
  3. Add beans and cook for 5 minutes. Add sausage and greens and simmer for 5 more minutes. 
Serves 6 (Theoretically)

*I mention this because the soup, as I made it, made us a wee bit gassy. And by "a wee bit" I mean we thought we were rotting inside. Cook it my way at your own risk. Mind you, we still keep eating it. It's just that good.
The soup, I mean. Not the gas.

Good times!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Recipe Monday: Orange Zabaglione

     I do a lot of Italian cooking in my house. I also do a lot of drinking in my house. When those two worlds collide, it is always a good thing. Zabaglione is one of those wonderful desserts that incorporates booze. Traditionally, it uses Marsala wine. My go-to recipe for traditional zabaglione is from World Food Italy by Linda Doeser. I decided to mess around with the recipe and use Triple Sec instead of Marsala. The end result was the same rich consistency, but with a light citrus flavor. I am very pleased with how this turned out.
     Fair warning, making Zabaglione is a total pain in the ass. It requires total vigilance. Screw up the temperature or stop whisking and you've totally ruined it. This has never happened to me as I am a consummate professional.


Orange Zabaglione
Ingredients

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup super fine sugar
  • 5 tbsp Triple Sec
  • Orange slices

Directions
  1. Whisk egg yolks with the sugar in the top of a double boiler for about one minute
  2. Gently whisk in the Triple Sec. Put the top of the double boiler on the botton filled with barely simmering water. Whisk vigorously for 10-15 minutes until thick, creamy and foamy. 
  3. Immediately pour into serving glasses and garnish with orange.

Good times!



Saturday, May 4, 2013

Herbed Swirl Bread via Everyday Light Meals

     Who doesn't love bread! Obviously people with gluten intolerance, but you know what I mean. Every time I post a picture of bread on Facebook, people go nuts. Even just a picture of a ball of dough. People can't help but like it.
Oh boy! Bread!
     This was the case with the bread I baked today. Everybody responded in a very positive manner. This is a good thing since I don't think I could handle it if I got a tidal wave of comments about how awful that looked and how much it probably sucks. Anyways, I got the recipe out of the Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals cookbook, so if it's bad, blame them! As always, any changes or notes are made in blue.  With no further delay, I proudly present:
Herbed Swirl Bread
via Everyday Light Meals

Ingredients

  • 3 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 2-1/2 cups warm water, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2-3/4 to 3-1/2 cups white flour
  • 6 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions
  1. In large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 3/4 cup warm water. Add sugar, let stand for five minutes. Add whole wheat flour, salt, and remaining water. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough bread flour to form a soft, sticky dough. (I ended up using the minimum amount of white flour called for in the recipe, 2-3/4 cup)
  2. Turn out onto floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes (I just chucked it all in the Kitchenaid and let the dough hook take care of it. My work ethic extends only so far.) Place in a bowl coated in non-stick spray, make sure to coat top (Of the bread, not YOUR top. Unless you're in to that sort of thing. I'm not here to judge.) Cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
  3. In a nonstick skillet, saute onions, garlic, herbs and pepper in butter until tender. Set aside. (I only had fresh green onions. I substituted dried for everything else and doubled the amount of butter. Remember to use smaller amounts if you're switching to dry. You can find equivalents online. I also completely forgot to put in the pepper.)
  4. Punch dough down onto floured surface. Cut into two pieces. Roll each piece out to about 14"x9". Brush with some egg, put the rest of the egg in the fridge for now. (Make sure the egg bowl is CLEAN before you put it in the fridge. I just tossed mine in there and apparently there was some drippage. The wife let me know about said dripping in a very loud and annoyed voice.) Spread herb mixture over dough to within 1/2" of the edges. Roll up jelly-roll style, starting on the short side. Pinch seams to seal and tuck ends under. Place seam-side down in two greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
  5. Brush with reserved egg. Bake at 375F for 40-50 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped. (Mine took 46 minutes.) Remove from pans to wire racks. 
At 12 slices a loaf, you're looking at about 135 calories a slice.

Good times!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

High Class Food Blogging

     I have made it a point to visit lots of different food blogs and pages. I like to find new recipes and tips and also to see what other people are doing to find success. I have noted that many of these blogs and pages have a level of polish and professionalism that mine does not possess. There is a great deal of thought that goes into the page design. The pictures of their food looks as if it belongs in a magazine. Everything is plated meticulously. Everything is Just So. I ask myself why mine does not look like that. On reflection, the answer is fairly obvious.
Besides that.
     I cook the way I live. I'm not out to impress anybody with what I do. If my ramblings and working in the kitchen impress or inspire, super. I'm not going to doll it up though. I make messes. I have huge disasters and meltdowns in the kitchen. However, I'm having fun. That's what I want people to see.

Maybe not this much fun, though.
     I don't play around with my pictures. I'm not going to tidy the plate every time. I'm not setting up a shot where I have a color coordinated table that looks like it's straight out of Better Homes and Gardens. I'm not going to use fancy fonts. I'm not going to use fancy web design. Why? I'm lazy. What you see in the pictures is exactly what I was about to eat, and probably right where I'm going to eat it.

     Don't get me wrong. I'm not bashing on these other sites. I love that sort of stuff. I am an avid follower of dozens of them. They are a great source of information and inspiration. Their presentation is truly amazing. It's probably why they have such large followings. You don't have to be an artist to appreciate art.  It's humbling to put my stuff up against theirs. After sifting through the good looking sites, I'm always amazed when my prattling and quick photographs attract followers.
Mr. Norris approves.
     All I hope is that the people who are following are enjoying themselves. You see me sign off with the same tag line after every blog post. You know why I do this. It's certainly not for the fame and fortune. It's for one thing.

Good times!