Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pastelitos with Picadillo

     Let me begin with the disclaimer that these are not authentic pastelitos filled with authentic picadillo. They are, however, based on the recipes. I nicked the basic cornmeal recipe from The Daily Meal and winged the picadillo based on the couple other times I made it from authentic recipes. The end result was pretty damned good. We wound up dousing them with some homemade pique hot sauce and they elevated to another level entirely. You can certainly feel free to mess around with the filling. I'm sure that most savory fillings would work here. Next time we might consider adding some cheese in there. Everything is better with cheese. As always, any notes are in blue. 

Pastelitos with Picadillo
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • Vegetable oil for frying
Picadillo Filling

  • 1-1/4 pounds ground beef (I used 80/20 to keep the fat down)
  • 1 packet Sazon seasoning
  • 1/2 cup chopped green olives
  • 1 teaspoon dried minced onion
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Boil the water in a small saucepan and add the salt and butter. Combine the cornmeal and flour in a bowl. Add the boiling water, mixing well to form a soft dough. Set aside and let stand for 30 minutes.
Picadillo Filling
  1. Heat oil in a skillet and add ground beef. Add the minced onion, olives and sazon. Brown the meat. Drain any excess oil.
  2. Add the tomato sauce and stir to mix.
  1. Heat about 1" of vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet
  2. Take a big spoonful  (about 2 tablespoons full) of the cornmeal mix and flatten it out in the palm of your hand. Fill it with a heaping teaspoonful of the picadillo. Take another smaller scoop of the cornmeal mix and flatten it over the top. Work it into whatever shape you like. We ended up with pastelitos roughly the size and shape of a hockey puck.
  3. Fry each pastelito for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
Good times!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Slow Cooker Spinach Artichoke Dip

     Now and again I take requests on what to cook. My only limitation is that I must have the ingredients on hand if I'm going to actually go ahead and cook it. I got lucky this time and had a request for spinach-artichoke dip. I actually had all the ingredients I figured I would need. I was doing this recipe totally from scratch. I had no previous recipe to work from. The end result? Holy shit, was it good. I'm talking restaurant good. I can say with some level of confidence that if you have this recipe on hand, you'll never need to order it in a restaurant again. Unless you want to. See if I care. As always, notes are in blue.

Slow Cooker
Spinach Artichoke Dip

  • 1 10-ounce box frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed of excess water
  • 1 12-ounce can marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (I always use neufchatel to keep the fat down) cubed
  • 1 10-ounce can cream of chicken soup
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  1. Load all ingredients into a small slow cooker (we used a 1.5 quart cooker)
  2. Cover and cook on LOW 2-3 hours, stirring half way through the cooking and again at the end.
Good times!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Slow Cooker Parmesan Potato Wedges

     As you're probably well aware, I do a lot of slow cooking. I only just realized I don't do a lot of side dishes in the slow cooker. Soups, stews, mains, desserts are all regulars. Side dishes only find their way in on occasion. This particular recipe got used because we happened to be sitting on a surplus of around 25 pounds of potatoes. I needed to use some up before they started sprouting in their little drawer. This particular recipe couldn't be any easier. Chuck it all in there and check back in a few hours. Then bury it in cheese. A winner! As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Slow Cooker
Parmesan Potato Wedges

via Crock Pot 5 Ingredients or Less

  • 2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch wedges (I used russet. I have no regrets.)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (I roughly chopped the onion, but I did a fine job. That counts, right?)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/8 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Layer potatoes, onion, oregano, salt, pepper and butter in slow cooker (AHAHAHAHAHA! Layer! HILARIOUS! Here's my layers: Throw in all the onions. Throw in all the potatoes. Throw in the seasoning. Throw the butter chunks on top. Jam the lid on to make everything fit). 
  2. Cook on HIGH 4 hours. Sprinkle with cheese.
Good times!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Slow Cooker Provencal Lemon and Olive Chicken

     I'm always leery of slow cooker recipes with fancy names. The word "Provencal" in this recipe stood out like a flashing warning sign. I have a very hard time imagining rustic French chefs plugging in their Crock-Pots and loading them up for the day. That's what is commonly referred to as "juxtaposition." However, this recipe included green olives and lemon, which The Wife loves dearly. Happy Wife, Happy Life. I gave the recipe a try. I have to admit, it was pretty good. It certainly had a nice tang and plenty of flavor. The chicken was remarkably tender and moist. We served it up with some potatoes and had a very nice dinner. We'll call this one a winner. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Slow Cooker
Provencal Lemon and Olive Chicken

via Crock Pot Chicken

  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 8 skinless chicken thighs (about 2.5 pounds) (None on hand. Went with an equal amount of boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeds removed
  • 1 cup pitted green olives (I hope they meant those pimiento stuffed green olives from the jar, because that's what I used)
  • 1 tablespoon olive brine from jar or 1 tablespoon white vinegar (I went with the olive brine)
  • 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence (I'll be damned. I actually had a jar of herbes de Provence on hand!)
  • 1 bay leaf (please remember to remove it when done cooking or someone will choke to death. Every bay leaf is a fatality waiting to happen. Or at least that's what my mother always said.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used pink Himalayan salt because that's what badasses do.)
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley (None on hand. I used 2 teaspoons dried)
  1. Place onion in slow cooker. Arrange chicken over onion. Place lemon slice on chicken. Add olives, brine, herbes de Provence, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Slowly pour in the chicken broth.
  2. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-6 hours or HIGH for 3-3.5 hours or until chicken is tender. Stir in parsley before serving.
Good times!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Bacon Pecan Sweet Rolls

     It began one morning when I asked The Wife if she wanted bacon for breakfast. She replied that if we did that, we'd have a bunch left over and what would we do with it? The conversation quickly degenerated into a discussion of bacon-related ideas. This recipe is the culmination of those ideas. We never did have bacon for breakfast. I think I had a bagel and lox and she had grits and fried eggs. Anyways, I found a breakfast roll recipe in my trusty copy of Taste of Home: Everyday Light Meals and promptly cannibalized it. The result was well beyond our expectations. These rolls are phenomenally good and frighteningly large. We generally have to split one. Good luck not eating the whole pan. As always, any notes are in blue.

Bacon Pecan Sweet Rolls

  • 1 package (.25 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110-115F, 43-46C)
  • 2 cups warm milk (110-115F, 43-46C)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar, separated into one 1/2 cup and two 1/4 cup measures
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup, separated into two 1/4 cup measures
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cup pecans
  • 12 ounces applewood smoked bacon
For Icing
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 4 teaspoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon of crumbled bacon and pecans (you'll see where they get crumbled down in the instructions. Remain calm)
  1. Line two baking sheets with foil. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. 
  2. On one sheet, lay out the bacon in strips. Sprinkle evenly with one of the 1/4 cups of brown sugar
  3. On the other pan, spread the pecans in a single layer. Sprinkle evenly with the other 1/4 cup of brown sugar.
  4. Put the pans in an oven preheated to 350F (180C, Gasmark 4). (things get a bit tricky here. You're going to want to make sure the bacon is getting crispy and the sugar caramelized, without burning the sugar or the nuts. You're going to just have to check in every 5 minutes or so. After 10 minutes, the nuts were as caramelized as they were going to get without burning.The bacon went another 5-10 minutes. If you smell smoke, you fucked up and burned everything. At that point, just stop and fix yourself a drink) When done, remove from oven and allow to cool.
  5. Crumble the bacon and crush the nuts (You could do this by hand if you prefer large pieces. I put mine in a small blender and pulsed it until there were small pieces and the nuts were starting to turn to dust). Reserve 1 tablespoon of this mixture for later use.
  6. In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in warm milk, salt, whole wheat flour, 1/4 cup maple syrup, vanilla extract and 3 cups of flour. Beat until smooth (I used the Kitchenaid with a dough hook for this step) Add in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough (the syrup makes this dough super sticky. I added a full 3 extra cups of flour before the dough was workable) Knead dough 6-8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1-1/4 hours.
  7. Punch dough down. Turn onto a floured surface and knead a few more times. Roll into an 18 inch square. Spread bacon and pecan mixture to within 1/2 inch of the edges. Do the same with the remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Evenly pour the other 1/4 cup of maple syrup over the rest (why the hell not? At this point, you might as well just turn in your pancreas) Roll up jelly-roll style. Pinch seam to seal. Cut into 12 pieces. Place in a 13"x9"x2" baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Cover and let rise, about 30 minutes (I suggest covering it loosely with some plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray, then lay a towel over the whole thing. If you put the towel right on top, you're going to get the towel stuck to the rolls. Don't ask me how I know this)
    It took The Wife and I both to roll this thing up
    because the damned thing was sticking to the counter.
  8. Bake at 350F (180C, Gasmark 4) for 30 minutes or until lightly browned (cooking times may vary.) Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.
  9. For the glaze, combine confectioner's sugar, reserved bacon/pecan mix and 4 teaspoons of milk. Stir until sugar has dissolved (you may need to add more milk to keep this from being the consistency of Spackle) Pour evenly over the tops of the rolls. 
Good times!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Too Damned Easy Cookie Stuffed Brownies

     The more I do this whole food blog thing, the more fancy recipes I see. One thing I have always been mystified by is the baking layers inside of layers trick. I always figured it was too complicated to bother with. It never occurred to me that the process could be dumbed down so far that even I could convincingly pull it off using nothing but a couple boxes of mix. It can be done! The Wife was terrified when I went to make these, knowing exactly how bad they would be for us. Naturally, they tasted fantastic and we greedily shoved one after another into our faces. I anticipate you'll do the same. Shovel them into your own face, I mean. It would just be weird if you tried shoveling them into ours. As always, notes are in blue.

Too Damned Easy
Cookie Stuffed Brownies
  • 1 - 10 ounce box of store bought chocolate chip cookie mix (ideally the cheapest you can find. I found one on special for 80 cents)
  • 1 - 18 ounce box store bought brownie mix (I went with Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge brownie mix I found on sale for 99 cents. Such a deal!)
  • Glass of wine. (You deserve it for putting together a dessert for under two bucks. Take the money you saved and get a couple bottles of Boone's Farm)
  1. In a bowl, prepare cookie dough according to directions on the box. Take 12 teaspoons of dough and roll them into balls. Go ahead and eat the rest of the dough right out of the bowl.
  2. In another bowl, prepare brownie batter according to directions on the box (use the "cake" style brownie that uses an extra egg, if they give you that option in the directions. Otherwise, just add another egg and hope for the best)
  3. Spray a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Fill each muffin cup with half the brownie batter.
  4. Put a ball of cookie dough into each muffin cup, pressing it down into the brownie batter
    At this point you would be forgiven for just getting a spoon and eating it as is.
  5. Us remaining brownie batter to completely cover the cookie dough in each cup. If there's any brownie batter, go ahead and eat that right out of the bowl, too.
  6. Cook according to the directions on the brownie box (for us it was 350 for about 20 minutes), or until a toothpick inserted into the the cup comes out clean.
Good times!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Utilitarian Pizza Crust

     Coming from the Chicago area, I'm very particular about my pizza. Upon moving to central Illinois, I came to the conclusion that they really didn't know what they were doing in regards to pizza. I won't even get into the atrocities they commit when making "Chicago-style" pizzas. It was a bad sign when our gas station had the best pizza in the area. I had no choice but to crack and start seeking out my own recipes. This particular recipe is a real gem. It leaves lots of room for interpretation. I've added all sorts of herbs, spices and cheeses to the crust and it always comes out great. Give it a try for yourself. This recipe will yield one crust about 16" in diameter. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Utilitarian Pizza Crust
via World Food Italy
  • 3 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons (2 packets will work, too) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  1. In a mixing bowl, sift the flour and salt and stir in the yeast (someday I'll actually sift the flour and not just unceremoniously dump it in the bowl). Make a well in the center and pour in the oil and water. (go ahead and add any optional ingredients at this point).  Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the liquid, using a wooden spoon or floured hands (or just slap the dough hook on the Kitchenaid and set it on the lowest setting)
  2. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic (again, I just let the Kitchenaid do this. You may find the dough doesn't set up and turn smooth and elastic. If that is the case, alternate adding a teaspoon of oil and a tablespoon of water. If the dough starts to get overly wet, compensate with a little extra flour. It never sets right for me straight off. I always have to fine tune it). 
  3. Return the dough to a clean bowl, covered with lightly oiled plastic wrap (oil the inside of the bowl, too) and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock down. Knead briefly.
  5. At this point I work the dough into a large, about 16" pizza crust. Feel free to cut it into smaller and make a couple pizzas. It also freezes well. 
  6. Cooking time will depend largely on crust size and amount of toppings. Go with 450F (230C, Gasmark8) for about 15 minutes and then check to see if the crust is done the way you'd like. Adjust time from there. A stacked pie for me can take upwards of 25-30 minutes.
Good times!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dill Pickle Potato Salad

     Potato salad is one of those hit or miss side dishes. There's some really good potato salads out there. There are also some truly horrifying ones, too. Those are usually the hoity-toity pretentious recipes using "lightly threatened fingerling potatoes in a vinaigrette of distilled duck tears and a reduction of leprechaun tendons." That sort of shit doesn't fly around here. Give me a bunch of potatoes and mayo. How about some pickle relish? Great! Throw it in there. That's why I like this recipe. It was attributed to Roseanne Cash, so that automatically makes it good. Plus, it uses a boatload of dill pickles, which is always fun. Anyways, it's a great little recipe that will look great sitting next to a hot dog or hamburger. Or you could just stand at the counter and grimly eat it right out of the bowl. Whatever floats your boat. As always, any notes or changes are in blue.

Dill Pickle Potato Salad
via Bon Appetit 
  • 3 pounds red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch pieces (I will be the first to admit that I almost never make any effort to use the suggested potato. Whatever potato is on hand is what's getting used)
  • 8 dill pickle spears, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium-size red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, chopped (I'm going to say this is optional. I've made this recipe with eggs and without. I think I prefer it without the eggs)
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip if you want to send the foodies into apoplectic fits. Apoplectic Fits. I used to play drums for them)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I used Gulden's Spicy Brown Mustard. I think the Dijon can be a bit overpowering)
  1. Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain; cool (you could always just be a dumbass like me and cut the potatoes while they're still too hot and just bitch a lot)
  2. Cut potatoes into 1-inch pieces and transfer to large bowl. Stir in pickles, celery, onion, eggs, mayonnaise, and mustard. Season potato salad to taste with salt and pepper. 
  3. Cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving (maybe it's just me, but I like my potato salad cold, not approaching room temperature. I'm funny about leaving mayo based foods sitting out for any length of time. It's probably my mother's fault. She has me convinced that if food is even close to going off, you'll get trichinosis of the liver if you eat it).
Good times!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Beef Stew with Kale and Sweet Potatoes

     Kale is awesome. It has become my go to green for just about anything. If a recipe calls for chard, I'm using kale. If it calls for spinach, I'm using kale. If it calls for kale, I'm using twice as much kale. To me kale is really good in soups and stews. Especially this stew I found over at Culinary Hill. I had done a random search for beef, sweet potatoes and kale and this was the first thing I found that didn't look entirely too complicated or disgusting. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but this is some damned good stew. I toyed about with the recipe and for fun made some ersatz dumplings out of egg roll wrappers. This is a definite winner and you'd be a total weenie for not giving it a try. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Beef Stew with Kale and Sweet Potatoes
via Culinary Hill
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, chopped into ½” pieces (I used 2 pounds of ground beef, cooked and drained)
  • 1 – 32 oz. container reduced-sodium beef broth (no beef broth on hand, I went with 32 ounces of water and a beef bouillon cube) 
  • 1 – 12 oz. bag of frozen pearl onions (nope. That's not something I keep in the house. I went with a medium yellow onion, chopped)
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium sweet potato (about 8 oz.), peeled and sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary (I used a sprig of dried I had saved from the garden)
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 1 large kale leaf, stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces (this seems a bit vague. Really? Just one big-ass kale leaf? We used about a half a pound, spines removed)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper (nope again. There's sodium in the bouillon and the other spices I'm about to use)
  • 2 teaspoons Old World Central Street seasoning from The Spice House. (If you don't have access to this spice, it contains: Hungarian sweet paprika, ground celery seed, garlic, sugar, black pepper, onion, ground dill seed, ground fenugreek seed, ground caraway seed, turmeric, green onions, dill weed, powdered bay leaves, cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, nutmeg, white pepper, basil, chervil, marjoram, parsley, savory, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, cloves, cardamom and Kosher flake salt)
  • 1 pack of egg roll wrappers, wadded up and roughly chopped. Don't look at me like that. Just do it. You'll thank me when it's over.
  1. In a large sauce pan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering We went with the Dutch oven. I also would like to confess that I have never actually witnessed oil shimmering, regardless of the temperature I put it on. Just saying). Add beef and cook until browned on all sides, stirring periodically (as mentioned, I used ground beef and made sure it was browned and well drained).
  2. Add broth, onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, bay leaf, and rosemary (and the egg roll wrappers. Seriously. I'm totally not kidding. Throw them in the pot). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes or until beef is tender and sweet potatoes have broken down.
  3. Remove cover and simmer an additional 15 minutes uncovered, stirring periodically, until broth has reduced slightly and thickened (and this will thicken up nicely. Just be patient. This stew gets a wonderful consistency).
  4. Remove bay leaf and rosemary stem, leaving any rosemary leaves that have become detached from the stem (don't forget my mother's warning! Unattended bay leaves are a death sentence. You leave that leaf in there, somebody is going to choke to death right at the table. Guaranteed). Stir in peas and kale and simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes more.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper (didn't need it since I used a spice mix).
Good times!