Thursday, August 29, 2013

Molho Sauce via Hot Sauce!

     I'm so happy the wife got me the Hot Sauce! cookbook. I've been using it to go through the boatload of peppers that have been coming out of the garden. Normally, I'd just be packing them in vinegar and calling it a day. Now I can start putting them to much better use. This particular sauce is apparently regularly found in Brazilian and Portuguese kitchens. It is pretty versatile. Molho is a rich, thick sauce that can be added to foods or used as a topping. The heat is fairly mild when you first make it. The longer it sits, the more heat it gets. The heat is not up front like many sauces. It builds slowly through the oil. As always, notes or changes are in blue. 

via Hot Sauce!

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 fresh serrano chiles, chopped (no serrano on hand, we went with jalapeno. The heat and flavor profile are similar)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro
  • salt
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, stirring until it softens. Add the garlic, stir for a minute, then reduce the heat to low and add the tomato and vinegar. Add the chiles, cilantro and salt to taste. Bring sauce to a boil, then remove from the heat.
  2. When cool, pour into a blender and puree (you can also use an immersion blender if you have one. If you don't have either, I'm not sure what you're going to do. Sorcery is not out of the question)
  3. Transfer to a bottle. If not consuming right away, store in the refrigerator. If storing for longer periods, store in a cool, dark place (I processed mine for 15 minutes per half pint in a boiling water bath. I'm not sure how it will hold for the long haul. There's not much vinegar in there to get the acid up. If I kill myself with food poisoning, I'll let you know right away. In the meantime, check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more information. Anything they say will certainly supersede anything I tell you here. When you're canning, better to be safe than vomiting uncontrollably in front of your horrified family)
Good times!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Caribbean Hot Sauce via Hot Sauce!

     One can never have too much hot sauce available. I was excited to try my hand at a Carribean-style recipe in my Hot Sauce! cookbook. I even went out and bought a mango just for the purpose of using it to make hot sauce. The book and several people said that this style of sauce can turn plain old scrambled eggs into a transcendental experience. I'll let you know when I try it! I can tell you this sauce packs a wallop up front. There's a blast of heat followed by the sweet fruitiness of the mango. Just underneath all of that is a tiny hint of mustard. It's a tremendous combination that makes the heat totally worth it. This recipe will yield a bit over a pint of sauce. As always, any changes or notes are in blue.

Caribbean Hot Sauce
via Hot Sauce!

  • 5 fresh Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles (preferably yellow, red, or orange), stemmed and seeded (I used 6 red habaneros that I froze whole last season)
  • 1 ripe papaya or mango, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped (I went with mango)
  • 1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground cumin
  • Pinch of ground coriander
  1. Add all of the ingredients into a blender and puree until just smooth, taking care not to aerate the mixture too much. 
    Fire in the hole!
  2. Pour into a nonreactive saucepan, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
  3. Let cool and pour into bottles. Refrigerated, the sauce will keep for 6 weeks. (If you're planning on canning it, you will need two half-pint jars. Fill them to about 1/4" inch from the top and seal them. I process mine in a boiling water bath for about 10-12 minutes. As always, if you're not familiar with water-bath canning, please go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation and read up on canning before you accidentally give yourself food poisoning and I disavow any knowledge of posting this recipe)
Good times!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Slow Cooker Pork Loin and Hominy

     The school year is in full swing, which means the slow-cooker has been brought out for heavy use. Generally we throw together a few things in our cookers on Sunday and eat on them for lunches and dinners during the work week. I started this week with an idea that had been knocking around in my head for a couple of days. Pork and hominy seemed like a good mix, so I decided to use those as key ingredients and give it a generally Southwest feel. I used my own home-canned chili tomatoes. Any canned chili tomato will do. The recipe below is written assuming you're using plain old canned tomatoes. If you find pre-seasoned chili tomatoes, omit the chili powder, cumin and paprika. If you drain the liquid, this makes a decent taco filling. It's also good over rice. It doesn't have a ton of heat, so you can fine tune it as you need.
Slow Cooker Pork Loin with Hominy

  • Pork loin, about 3 pounds
  • 1 can white or yellow hominy, drained
  • 1 can black eye peas or bean of your choice
  • 1 quart canned tomatoes, undrained.
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 cayenne peppers
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  1. Heat some oil in a large pan. Cook loin about 3 minutes on each side, until just starting to brown.
  2. Pour tomatoes and spices into slow cooker. Lay the loin, fat side up, on top of the tomatoes. 
  3. Spread remaining ingredients over top of loin.
  4. Cook 4-5 hours on HIGH or until meat breaks apart easily with a fork.
UPDATE: I have added a YouTube video of the actual cooking process! How exciting! Or not. Depends on how low you set the bar.

Good times!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Product Review: Wise Company Creamy Pasta and Vegetable Rotini

     Given the weather lately, the idea of keeping emergency rations in your home is not a terrible idea. The area where I live is prone to some violent outbursts of weather, most of which will knock the power out. If you don't have the luxury of a Generac system to back-up the power to your home, eventually you're going to lose the food in your refrigerator and freezer. Your options become a bit limited at this point.
Well, yes. Technically this is always a possibility. 
     You could go with canned goods, but they are bulky, heavy and won't keep for a super-long time. The cans could rust. You could lose your can opener. What I'm talking about is honest-to-goodness survival rations. There's always the old standby of military MRE (Meal, Ready-to-Eat. Or as my military friends would call them: Meals, Rarely Edible). I'm going to take a look at the emergency rations from Wise Company. Why? They sent me a free sample, to be quite honest. If you check the site you can request a sample, too (fair warning, it's going to require you to talk to a live sales person). The two advantages to Wise Company food that I saw was that they only require water to make and they have a 25 year shelf-life. Let us get started with the review.

Well, the packaging is nice. That's a good start. Made in the USA, too!
     They sent me Creamy Pasta and Vegetable Rotini. First off, the title is both redundant an incorrect. Rotini pasta is redundant. The alternative is there was vegetable rotini in the bag. There was not. I'm going to overlook this goof since if I were starving to death, I wouldn't even care if it was spelled phonetically. Theoretically, this bag is supposed to feed four adults. Let's flip the bag over and take a look at the back for some nutritional information!
Seems legit.
     210 calories a serving isn't too bad. This isn't really a calorie powerhouse unless you eat the whole bag and you're still 1200 calories shy of average daily intake. However, remember you're just looking to survive. You won't do that if you eat the whole bag because one serving is 800mg of sodium, 33% of your suggested daily allowance. For the most part the ingredients aren't too horrifying.  Let's tear open the bag and see what it looks like.
I thought the silica packet would add a nice bit of flavor but the wife made me take it out.
     The wife and I took a whiff of the contents and both reached the same conclusion that it smelled quite a bit like Ramen noodles. That's not a bad thing at all. There seemed to be a goodly amount of carrots and peas in there and the noodles looked decent. So far so good. Next we needed to prepare it. This couldn't be easier. All you need is a pot and 4 cups of boiling water.
You more than likely won't have access to an electric kettle to boil your water in an emergency.
In that case all you need is a pot, water and fire.
     We boiled up the water, dumped it in and gave it all a stir. The initial impression was that we had just created soup. However, we needed to put a lid on it and let it sit for 15 minutes, presumably to soak up all the water.
Theoretically, this will become creamy in around 15-20 minutes.
     After 15 minutes we took the lid off, and as per instructions, let the pasta sit for a couple more minutes. Creaminess was not achieved. We had vegetable soup. Now, if you're looking for survival, this may not be a bad thing. The broth will certainly fill you up. As it was not an emergency, we drained off the excess water and were left with the Creamy Pasta and Vegetable Rotini.
4 servings, my ass. Somebody is going to have to starve to death.
     If you drain the water, there's no way this is four servings. We were able to put together two shallow bowls. In fairness, this is for survival, not for luxury dining and we did drain the water. The final test remained. We needed to eat it. The carrots still had a bit of snap. The peas were a bit mushy but that was to be expected. The pasta held up well and wasn't too mushy. The flavor? Not bad. Kind of like high end Ramen with a thin cream sauce. If this was the only food we had available, I wouldn't be put out at all to eat it for a few days. It looked and tasted real. This is not something that can be said for many emergency rations or MREs. If you've ever had the tuna MRE you know what I'm talking about.

Final Review
Product: Wise Company emergency ration 
Cost: A bucket of 60 entrees (enough for 1 person for a month) is $134.99. If you're splitting this two ways, it's only about $1.13 per person per meal. That's reasonable enough considering the type of food you're dealing with.
Flavor: Not what you would call "flavor-packed," but not too bad.
Appearance: This is actually some good looking emergency food. 
Would I Buy It?: I can't justify buying the year package, no matter how cool that would be. However, for under $150 I could have 1 month of emergency food that will keep 25 years. That's not terrible. The wife and I are strongly considering getting a single case for the next weather-related calamity. I'd certainly be happy to throw these in my pack if I were camping.

Good times!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Penne with Veggies and Black Beans from the Wonderful Wife

NOTE: This is another guest post from my lovely wife. She's been on a roll using up garden vegetables. This is just a great recipe. I love what she did with it.

     The husband started back to work last week, and I wanted to make a big batch of something he could take to school for lunches. I vaguely remembered making a cold veggie pasta salad last summer that he really liked. I was positive it was in the Everyday Light Meals cookbook, but after going through it page by page, I wasn't able to find it. Huh… So, I went through it again – page by page. And there it was. Why couldn't I find it the first time, you ask? Simple. I made so many alterations to it the first time I made it that I didn't recognize it in the cookbook. I will give you the recipe as it was intended to be made and also my changes. Don’t worry. If it’s delicious my way, it’s probably more delicious when made properly.

Penne with Veggies 'n Black Beans
via Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals
  • 10 ounces uncooked penne pasta (Let the substitutions begin! I make this with elbow macaroni. Maybe we were out of penne when I made it the first time, or maybe I felt a veggie pasta salad could only be made with macaroni. Heck, use bow-ties if you want. It’s pasta. It all tastes the same.)
  • 1 cup sliced zucchini (I did a combo of zucchini and squash.)
  • 1 cup sliced carrots (The first time I made this, I believe I grated the carrots. Worked fine. This time, I didn’t have regular carrots – just baby. So I cut them lengthwise down the middle and then did it again, effectively quartering them.)
  • ½ cup fresh mushrooms (No fresh mushrooms in the house. I just omitted them entirely and made up the difference with other veggies. I’ve also used canned mushrooms, but I didn’t sauté them with the other veggies.)
  • ½ cup julienned green or sweet red pepper (I used green.)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (I used 1 teaspoon of minced garlic from the jar.)
  • 1 tablespoon each minced fresh basil, oregano, and thyme or 1 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano, and thyme (We don’t grown thyme in the herb garden, but we did have fresh basil and oregano, so I used a tablespoon of each, and a teaspoon of dried thyme.)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2/3 cup chopped seeded tomatoes (I prefer to use halved cherry tomatoes.)
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (I used 4 oz of cubed mozzarella cheese.)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
The aforementioned ingredients in no particular order.

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, sauté the zucchini, carrots, mushrooms (omitted), green pepper, onion, garlic, and seasonings in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until crisp-tender. Stir in the beans.
  3. Add drained pasta to vegetable mixture. Add tomatoes and remaining olive oil; toss gently. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley. (Here’s where I really deviate from the recipe. This dish is supposed to be served hot, but my husband said it was even better cold. So, after tossing the tomatoes and olive oil into the pasta mixture, I put the whole thing in the refrigerator for a few hours. In the meantime, I cube up the mozzarella cheese. After the pasta has had time to cool, I take it out and toss in the mozzarella and parsley.)

One serving (1 1/3 cup) equals 315 calories.
Good times!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Too Damned Easy Chocolate Pudding Macaroon Pie

     Now that the school year is in full swing, time is of the essence during the week. When I get home, I need dinner to come together in less than an hour if at all possible. I need all the time I can get to focus on unwinding, smoking cigars and drinking bourbon in preparation for the next day. It is this time-consciousness that has caused me to start writing these "Too Damned Easy" recipes. Some of these recipes may seem ridiculous in their simplicity, but you'll thank me when you are able to put together a decent meal after work that doesn't take much time or effort. These are recipes that you should have all the ingredients for at any given time. Okay, maybe you won't have macaroons on hand. Get creative. Bust up whatever cookies are laying around. Throw some Cap'n Crunch in there. Get crazy. As always, any notes are in blue.

Too Damned Easy
Chocolate Pudding Macaroon Pie
  • 9" graham cracker pie crust (store bought. If you're making it from scratch here, you're missing the point of this recipe)
  • 10-12 macaroons of your favorite flavor, broken up into small bits (for whatever reason, I had a can of cappuccino macaroons, so that's what I used)
  •  1 box instant chocolate pudding
  • Milk for instant pudding
  • Whipped topping, optional (I had better not find out you made it from scratch. You'd better be busting out a container of Cool Whip. I would have used it, but I didn't have any in the house and I sure as hell wasn't making a special trip to the store for a throw-together dessert)
  1. Take broken-up macaroons and lay them in an even layer in the pie crust. 
    Like so.
    I assure you, no matter how much that looks like ground beef, it is actually cappuccino macaroons in there.
  2. Make the chocolate pudding according to the instructions on the box (this is where you double check that you're using INSTANT pudding or you're going to be sorely disappointed later when you have a bowl of chocolate macaroon soup)
  3. Pour the pudding into the pie crust, making sure to completely cover the macaroons.
  4. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Top with whipped topping when serving.
Good times!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Caribbean-Style Pork, Zucchini and Apples

     I was a bit surprised at how positive the response was to this when I posted it to my Facebook page. This recipe came about simply because we were looking for a quick and easy way to burn through some more zucchini. I found the original in Pol Martin's Supreme Cuisine. The recipe was simple, but seemed like it would be lacking in the taste department. It struck me that the sweetness of the apples would play well with the She Simmers sauce I posted recently. I got a little aggressive with the sauce and used 3 tablespoons of it in the recipe. It was right on the edge of too hot for the wife, but she powered through it. The play of the spices in the sauce with the sweetness of the apples is great. The zucchini basically just sits in there and soaks up flavor. This would do well over a bed of rice or with some crusty bread. I imagine a nice bottle of Red Stripe beer would work well, too! As always, the original recipe is posted in its entirety with any changes or notes in blue.

Caribbean-Style Pork, Zucchini and Apples
formerly Pork Sauteed with Zucchini
via Pol Martin's Supreme Cuisine

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced (I cut those pieces in half again. I like smaller pieces of zucchini)
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced 
  • 2 apples, cored, peeled and sliced in wedges (the recipe doesn't specifically mention the type of apple, but I think sweeter is better for what we're doing here)
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • 8 pork cutlets, trimmed of fat and cut in strips (we used 5 boneless chops; about 1.5 pounds. Sliced pork loin would work and a pack of pork tenderloins would be good, too)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
  • salt, pepper, paprika
  • 2-3 tablespoons She Simmers or other Carribean-style hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
  1. Heat half of oil in frying pan over high heat. Add vegetables, apples and garlic; season well (nothing like a vague recipe instruction. "Season well?" Do they mean don't make a mess? I don't cook that way, so I assumed they meant use a heavy hand. I don't do that with salt, so I used maybe 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper and 1/2 teaspoon paprika) Cook 3 minutes.
    One of these days I'll remember to not overfill the pan.
  2. Turn vegetables over and continue cooking 3 minutes over medium heat. Remove vegetables and apples from pan and set aside.
  3. Heat remaining oil in pan over medium heat. Add meat and cook 2 minutes on each side (I may have gone a little longer since I like a bit of a sear on my meat). Season with salt and pepper (I didn't put any salt in with the meat, but I did add a little more cracked pepper and another 1/2 teaspoon paprika.)
  4. Return vegetables and apples to pan with pork. Add parsley, season lightly with paprika (here's where I changed things up. I left out this last bit of paprika and dropped in 3 tablespoons of the hot sauce. You may want to use less if you are feeble. Also, this recipe produces a fair amount of water from the apples and veggies. I made a corn starch slurry and mixed it in at the end. It thickened the water into a nice sauce). Cook 2 minutes to reheat, serve.
  5. Accompany with boiled new potatoes (I did no such thing) 
No new potatoes were available, but I did have a couple old ones I baked!
Good Times!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

She Simmers Caribbean-Style Sauce via Hot Sauce!

     Apparently I need to visit the Caribbean at some point. So many wonderful sauces come out of that area! This particular riff on the style is out of the Hot Sauce! cookbook. I love this sauce so much. There is so much going on here, flavor-wise. It is reminiscent of a jerk sauce, but to me has a fun mix of flavors. The best way I can explain it is everything in here is fighting to get noticed. Imagine a bar-room brawl and all the spices are slapping each other around. Then the habanero busts in the front door and starts breaking chairs over everyone and throwing them out windows. It's just like that, but in your mouth. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

She Simmers
via Hot Sauce!

  • 6 fresh red, yellow, or orange habanero chiles (I used mostly red and one orange. They were also frozen from last season. As long as they were fresh at one time you should be fine)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (for all of the freshly squeezed juices, you can more than likely get away with bottled, but the flavor will not be quite the same. The main reason I did the freshly squeezed was because my aunt Ruthie bought us an electric reamer for our wedding. As much as that sounds like a marital aid, it's not. Just Google "orange reamer" and settle down, you pervert)
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (I will tell you right now, grinding them by hand is a Colossal Pain In The Ass. Next time I'll just use the coffee bean grinder. I just have to remember to clean it out or the wife will be Righteously Pissed when she goes to make coffee)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg (I went with the ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Stem and seed the habaneros, reserving the seeds. Combine the chiles and all of the remaining ingredients in a blender and puree until silky. Taste and add a sprinkling of the seeds if you want to ratchet up the heat (be careful when you're doing this. It doesn't take too many seeds to change the heat level from "pleasant burn" to "OH MY GOD, THIS WILL EVENTUALLY REACH MY SPHINCTER.")
  2. Pour into bottles. (I processed mine in a half pint jar for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath for long term storage. As always, please read up on canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation before attempting canning. This sauce can tear up your insides just fine without the help of harmful bacteria.)
Good times!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Too Damned Easy Utilitarian Tuna Salad

     Everybody should have a couple recipes in their personal repertoires that are super easy to put together. Something that takes virtually no effort. I'm talking something you should be able to do blindfolded.
Like this, except cooking blindfolded would be an actual useful skill.
     For me, one of those recipes is tuna salad. I picked this recipe up from watching my mom make it. It's not exactly like hers. My mom makes it with a bit more Miracle Whip, so it's creamier. She also likes to put in a chopped hard-boiled egg. This particular tuna salad does very well on sandwiches and leaves plenty of room to mess around with the recipe. Add, subtract, do what you want. If you don't already have a go-to tuna salad recipe, this should be a solid template to work from. As always any notes will be in blue.

Too Damned Easy Utilitarian
Tuna Salad

  • 1 rib celery, diced small
  • 1/2 large or 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 3 cans tuna in water, drained
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip, or whatever ersatz mayo substitute you enjoy)
  • 1 teaspoon pickle relish
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 chopped hard-boiled egg, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir until all ingredients are combined (that's it. There is literally nothing more to preparing this recipe).  
Good times!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer Garden Chicken Stir Fry guest post from my Wonderful Wife

NOTE: As I am in the classroom for a new school year, my loving wife has picked up a bit of the slack on the Facebook page and the blog. At least until her school year starts. She wrote this post and did all the work on making this meal. She did a fantastic job, and I'm not just saying that so I can continue to sleep inside the house.
     As the title of this recipe suggests, this will use up some of your garden’s produce…provided the produce in the recipe is what you grow in your garden. It is also a fairly simple recipe, and that was what I was looking for this past Monday. My husband was working late, and I needed something easy.
Theoretically, this should be easy.
     Unlike my husband, I am not at my best in the kitchen. Want me to teach your child English? Recommend a good book? I can do that, but I’d rather not be evaluated on my culinary skills. So, here is the recipe, and as my husband always does, notes and changes are in blue.

Summer Garden Chicken Stir-fry

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (Not going to happen when I am cooking alone. I used 2 teaspoons of minced garlic instead.)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped gingerroot
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges (I used a red onion. It was all we had and it made for a nice color combo with the other veggies.)
  • 1 cup ready-to-eat baby-cut carrots, cut lengthwise in half (I thought they looked too big, so I cut them lengthwise in half a second time…I believe math teachers would refer to this as quartering. I am not a math teacher.)
  • 1 cup fat-free chicken broth (I used a cup of home-made chicken broth.)
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons of sugar (I used two.)
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 cup (3 oz) sliced fresh mushrooms (I didn’t have any fresh mushrooms. Also, I had half a dozen yellow squash in the refrigerator and more threatening in the garden. So, I made an executive decision and substituted yellow squash for the mushrooms – daring, I know. Like the red onion, I thought the color of the squash added something to the dish, and while I’m never sure my food will taste good, I want it to at least look nice.)
  • ½ cup chopped bell pepper, any color (I used green as our peppers haven’t ripened to red yet.)
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch (I ended up needing four. See directions for details.)
  • Hot cooked brown rice, if desired (White rice worked just as well. It’s important to note that the “if desired” portion of the recipe is not included in the calorie calculations. Without the rice, one serving of this dish is 200 calories.)

  1. Heat 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, garlic, and ginger root; cook and stir 2 to 3 minutes or until chicken is brown.
  2. Stir in onion, carrots, ¾ cup of broth, the soy sauce, and sugar. Cover and cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in broccoli, mushrooms (yellow squash), and bell pepper. Cover and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink in center and vegetables are crisp-tender (I think 5 minutes might have been overkill here. The veggies didn't come out as crisp as I would have liked. My chicken pieces were pretty well-cooked by the time I got to this step, so no worries there.)
  4. In small bowl, mix cornstarch and remaining ¼ cup of broth; stir into chicken mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is thickened. Serve over rice. (Everything had been going exactly as described until I added the cornstarch. And then…nothing happened. No thickening. In hindsight, this might have been due to the added moisture from the yellow squash. In any case, I simply mixed two more teaspoons of cornstarch with a tablespoon of water and added it to the pan. Thickening occurred – crisis averted.)
Good times!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Pork and Chinese Cabbage Soup

     I really enjoy Chinese food and have been making it a point to try cooking more of it. I'm also trying to try stuff that isn't just stir-fry. Since the wife enjoys soup, I decided to try out a very simple Chinese recipe for pork and cabbage soup. I got the recipe from my copy of The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook by Gloria Bley Miller. I messed around with the quantities in this recipe, mostly because I wanted to make sure I used up all the ingredients. The result was wonderful. The soup was mild and flavorful. It paired very well with the steamed pork buns I made that day. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Pork and Chinese Cabbage Soup
via The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook

  • 1/4 pound lean pork (we used 1/2 pound)
  • 2 slices fresh ginger root (we used 4 slices)
  • 1/2 pound Chinese (Napa) cabbage (we used a full pound)
  • 6 cups stock or water (we used about 9 cups shrimp stock)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil (didn't have it, we used sesame oil)
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt (only used 1/2 teaspoon since there would be plenty of salt from the soy sauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (we used a little more than 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce (used 3 teaspoons)
  • Dash of pepper
  1. Mince or shred pork (we used ground pork so did not need to do this step), mince ginger root (don't forget to peel it), slice cabbage thin or shred. Bring stock to a boil.
  2. In a deep pan, heat oil. Add ginger and brown lightly. Add heated stock, then salt and cabbage (I just used one pot for the whole process. First I did the ginger and oil, then added the stock and brought it to the boil), reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add pork, sugar, soy sauce and pepper. Simmer, covered 15 minutes more (I let it go an extra five minutes to make entirely sure the pork was done and I wouldn't poison anyone to death).
Good times!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sally Lunn Bread

     Ladies and gentlemen, I think I have found my go-to bread recipe. This could very well mean my never buying a loaf of white bread again. I decided to poke around in my Frugal Gourmet cookbooks for a Sunday baking recipe when I found this little gem in The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American. Sally Lunn bread. Who is Sally Lunn? Instead of just copying and pasting the answer, simply follow this Wiki link to Sally Lunn! The bread is soft and springy with just the right amount of crust. The recipe says you can even do these up in a cast iron muffin pan and make rolls! As always, any notes or changes will be in blue.
Sally Lunn Bread
via The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 package dry quick-rising yeast
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  1. Scald the milk, or bring it almost to a simmer, and add the butter, sugar and salt. Let cool until tepid or just warm (95F)(If you don't own a digital thermometer for the kitchen, you really need one. Baking and grilling is so much easier when you know stuff isn't raw and poisonous. Unless that's what you were going for and carry on)
  2. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of tepid water
  3. Using an electric mixer, if you have one, beat the eggs and then add the milk mixture, the yeast water, and finally the flour. Beat until smooth, about 5 minutes (I used the Kitchenaid here, but any electric mixer will do. This batter will be pretty thin so it won't strain most mixers. You could do it by hand but it will be a bit of work.)
  4. Leave the dough in the mixing bowl and allow it to rise for one half hour. Beat it down with the mixer for just a moment and then allow it to rise again (when they say "just a moment," this is not an exaggeration. I only let the mixer go for a second or two and it knocked the batter down at least 50%. Don't panic, this is normal). Do this a total of 3 times and then put the dough in 2 large greased bread pans (I used nonstick cooking spray with no issues). Allow to rise to double the bulk (I just let it go for about an hour)
  5. Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour (this came out in 45 minutes on the button for us. For once something cooked on the short end of time. Cooking times vary. You can always jab a toothpick in there to see if it comes out clean). The bread should be light and have a nice crust.
Good times!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tomato and Hot Pepper Jam

     We are currently experiencing a glut of tomatoes. That's fine, because it's one of our favorite things to can. In the past we've canned sauce, chili tomatoes, chutney and preserves from tomatoes. This time we decided to try our hand at jam! We pulled this recipe from Preserve It! The jam came out a touch savory; the heat from the cayenne and the Italian herbs gave it a nice flavor. You could certainly omit the peppers (if you're ok with being lame) and mess around with the herb choice and come up with a flavor that suits you. As always, notes and changes are in blue.
Tomato and Hot Pepper Jam
via Preserve It!

  • 1-1/8 lb tomatoes, plunged into boiling water for 1 minute and then peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chile pepper (we took 4 fresh cayenne peppers and pasted them in the food processor)
  • 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs (we went with an Italian seasoning blend)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1-1/4 cup granulated sugar
  1. Add all the ingredients except the sugar to a preserving pan or a large heavy bottomed sauce pan (I just used a stainless steel pot). Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about 8 minutes or until the tomatoes break down and soften (it almost sounds like an interrogation)
  2. Add all the sugar and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. When jam reaches a rolling boil, cook for 10-15 minutes or until it starts to thicken and become glossy and reaches the setting point. Stir occasionally to keep the jam from sticking or burning (if you haven't done this before, leaving this on the boil for this long will give you an anxiety attack. Just stir it regularly, it won't boil over). Remove the pan from the heat while you test for a set
  3. Ladle the jam into warm sterilized mason jars, leaving 1/4" headspace (this recipe yielded a bit over a half pint. Too much for a half pint jar, not enough for a full pint. We canned a half pint and put the rest in a container in the fridge for immediate use). If you are canning for long term storage, seal the canning jar and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes (again, if you're unfamiliar with this process, check with the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more information)
Good times!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Wife's Zucchini Bread

     Like I've told you before, my wife doesn't do much of the cooking in the house. We have an agreement where I do most of the cooking and she cleans up the wreckage. She does, however, have a few recipes in her repertoire.  They are all very good. Her zucchini bread is one of my all-time favorites. She got the recipe from the One Million of the World's Best Recipes CD-ROM. You know what? I'm calling bullshit on that CD. How can there be more than one of the "World's Best" anything? The CD should have one recipe. Even if it was the "World's Best" of each type of food I still can't believe there are a million distinctly different categories of food. I think a more accurate title would have been "One Million Really Good Recipes and Lots of Okay Ones."
Sorry, I seem to have gotten off track.
     Anyway, this bread is fantastic. The wife leaves out the walnuts from this recipe and I think that's a really good call. The bread is such a wonderfully soft consistency, I think the crunchiness of the walnuts would throw it off. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

The Wife's Zucchini Bread
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (we substituted 1/2 cup apple butter in for 1/2 cup of oil. Applesauce would work, too)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (omitted)
  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Grease and flour two 8"x4" loaf pans
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light and frothy.
  3. Mix in oil (and apple butter if you're using it) and sugar.
  4. In another bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nuts (seriously, leave the nuts out. It's so much better. Or don't. I'll never know). Stir into the egg mixture.
  5. Divide batter into prepared pans. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until done (ours took 75 minutes. Fairly close for once!)
Good times!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cheesy Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole

     As often as I repost recipes from Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals, I figure I'm eventually going to get a lucrative endorsement deal. Or a cease and desist order from their lawyers. Either way, until I hear otherwise, I'm going to keep sharing recipes I've used and abused from this book. This is everything you'd want from a casserole: veggies, meat and cheese with a nice crust. We absolutely destroyed this the night we served it. The wife, myself and a guest ate about 2/3 of this before falling asleep at the table. As always, changes and notes are in blue.

Cheesy Broccoli Cauliflower Bake
via Taste of Home Everyday Light Meals

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4-1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1-1/4 cup 1% milk (we used 2%)
  • 3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen broccoli florets, thawed (we used fresh from the garden, we steamed the broccoli before adding it to the recipe)
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen cauliflowerets, thawed (the cauliflower in our garden wasn't ready to harvest yet so we used a bag of frozen mixed Italian veggies. It had cauliflower, lima beans, carrots, etc)
  • 1 cup cubed fully cooked lean ham (had some Honey-Baked Ham in the freezer. Score!)
  • Butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray (just used regular canola oil non-stick cooking spray)
  1. In a saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour until smooth; gradually add the milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Add cheeses and stir until melted. 
  2. Place vegetables in a 2 quart baking dish coated with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle with ham. Pour sauce over ham.
    Just before the sauce goes on. Looking good so far!
  3. Place bread crumbs in a bowl; spray with butter flavored cooking spray (or just regular cooking spray. It's just a casserole; no need to get overly fancy) Sprinkle crumbs around edge of casserole.
  4. Bake, uncovered, at 350F for 25-30 minutes or until heated through and bubbly (we let it go for 40 minutes so it was good and molten when we got it out. That skin on the roof of your mouth will eventually grow back, right?)
Good times!