Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Kale, Chorizo and Potato Soup

This has been one of the goofiest winters on record. We've had a week of near sixty degree temperatures, then it rained hard for two days straight and everything flooded. This morning it snowed. This sort of weather makes it hard for me to plan meals. There are certain things I can make only if the weather permits. Soups, for instance. I generally won't make soup during the summer. Come winter, it's game on. Now that we have a snap of cold weather, I figured it was time to throw down some soup. I found this recipe lurking in one of my cookbooks. I tweaked it just a bit and was greatly satisfied with the results. It's a simple, hearty soup that's great with crusty bread. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Kale, Chorizo and Potato Soup
via Best-Ever Soups

  • 8 ounces kale, stems removed
  • 8 ounce chorizo sausage (Italian or Spanish, not Mexican. You want the salami type chorizo)
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 pounds red potatoes, skinned
  • 7-1/2 cups vegetable stock (we used chicken stock)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Crusty bread
  1. Place the kale in a food processor and process for a few seconds to chop it finely (or just take out a goddamned knife and chop it yourself. I know I'm lazy, but even I have my limits)
  2. Prick the sausage *snicker* and place in a pan with enough water to cover (if you're using the onion option, add them here). Simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and cut sausage into thin slices.
  3. Cook the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water for about 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and place in a bowl. Mash, adding about a cup of the cooking liquid to make a thick paste.
  4. Bring the stock to a boil and add the kale, chorizo (and possibly onion) and lower heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the potato paste, stir to incorporate and simmer another 20 minutes. 
  5. Season with black and cayenne pepper.
  6. To serve: Place a slice of bread in the bottom of each bowl, then pour over soup.
Good times!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pepper Jelly

At the end of any growing season, we usually end up with tons of produce we are desperate to find a use for. That's when it's time to have fun. A few years ago we found this recipe online for pepper jelly and it has become a staple in our pantry. Sadly, it's been so long that I have no idea where I found this. If anybody can tell me, I'll gladly give credit where credit is due. This is a great recipe. Even with hot peppers it is still nice and sweet. We've used it on every thing from toast to pork roast. It makes a great glaze. It's a bit labor intensive, but totally worth the effort. Give it a try. As always, notes are in blue.

Pepper Jelly

  • 2-1/2 cups finely chopped red bell peppers
  • 1-1/4 cups finely chopped green bell peppers
  • 1/4 cups finely chopped jalapeno peppers (other peppers can be substituted depending on whether or not you want to bring the heat. Go banana pepper to keep it sweet, swap in a ghost pepper to really tear shit up)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 (1.75 ounce) package powdered pectin
  • 5 cups white sugar
  1. Get yourself 6 sterilized half pint jars. Just chuck them in the boiling water canner while you're working and all will be good.
  2. Place  peppers in a large, nonreactive saucepan over high heat. Mix in vinegar and fruit pectin. Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a full rolling boil. Quickly stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil, and boil exactly 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and skim off any foam (when it says 2 minutes it MEANS 2 minutes. I've ended up totally ruining jellies by screwing up the timing. Also, don't blow off the part where you skim the foam. This shit's an exact science, and you'll likely end up with syrup instead of jelly if it goes wrong)
  3. Quickly ladle jelly into sterile jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the tops. Cover with flat lids, and screw on bands tightly.   
  4. Process in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes. Set on a rack to cool and await the satisfying clunk noise when the can seals. As always, check with the National Center For Home Food Preservation to make sure you don't accidentally kill anyone.
Good Times!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Potentially Irresponsible Hot Pickled Green Tomatoes

     It's the end of the season. That means I've got an assload of green tomatoes and I need to find ways to use them. Last year I made some chow-chow which I thought was absolutely nasty. Fortunately, a co-worker loved it so it all found a home. We really enjoyed the hot pickles we've made in the past, so we decided on hot pickled tomatoes. The irresponsible part came about when I decided I'd just chuck the bulk of my surplus peppers in with the tomatoes. I'm going to tell you right now, I haven't tasted these. They're canned and marinating for now. If I eat them, I'll update you. Just know that if you make these and they suck or make your asshole fall out, don't come crying to me. This recipe will yield a bit over six QUARTS of pickled excitement.

Potentially Irresponsible
Hot Pickled Green Tomatoes
based on a recipe from Southern Living Little Jars, Big Flavors

  • 5 pounds green tomatoes (cut medium ones into quarters, large into eights)
  • 2 red onions, halved and sliced
  • 2 pounds assorted banana peppers (sweet or hot, your choice) stemmed and sliced into 1/2" in rounds
  • 2 pounds assorted hot peppers (I went batshit crazy and did a mix of cayenne, jalapeno and Thai bird), stemmed and sliced into 1/2" rounds
  • 8 tsp canning and pickling salt, divided 
  • 8 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice
  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • garlic cloves
  • bay leaves
  1. Sterilize a half dozen quart jars. 
  2. Get a huge bowl, (I'm not kidding. The biggest you can find).
    That's right. We used a punch bowl. 
    Throw all the veggies in there with 2 tablespoons (6 teaspoons of the salt). Toss all that to get the salt incorporated. Wait about half an hour then drain off all the water that built up in the bottom of the bowl. Toss the veggies again to make sure everything is evenly distributed. You don't want a jar of one tomato and the rest hot peppers (maybe you do. HILARIOUS!) Spill some. Make a mess. Swear a bunch and curse ever following my blog.
  3. In a nonreactive pan, add vinegar, water, sugar and remaining salt. Bring to a boil until sugar and salt have dissolved. Lower the heat to low. Just keep the liquid hot.
  4. In each quart jar add a bay leaf, a couple garlic cloves, a teaspoon of mustard seed and a teaspoon of pickling spice. Cram as much of the veggie mix into the jar as you can, keeping 1/2" headspace. Add hot liquid to jars until veggies are covered. Make sure to keep that 1/2" headspace.
  5. Seal jars and process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes (as always, double check with the National Center for Home Food Preservation to ensure you're not going to end up on the wrong side of a lawsuit)
  6. Set jars on a cooling rack and hope you hear the thunking noise that lets you know the jars sealed. If they didn't you can either try reboiling them or put all the jars in the fridge for later use (don't be a dummy and put super hot jars into the fridge unless you're a big fan of replacing your shelves).
Good times!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Pork Hat Trick

     Man, do I love pork. I love pork in all its wonderful forms. It's so versatile; you can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Granted, the same could be said for Cap'n Crunch, but there you have it. I have been wanting to do some form of goofy pork loin in the smoker for a while now. I figured pork inside pork wrapped in pork was the way to go. This recipe, due to time and labor, qualifies as a certified Pain In The Ass. Mind you, it's totally worth it. I apologize in advance for the vagueness about cooking time. If you're using a smoker, you've already committed to a big hunk of time. Just check the temp regularly. Throw some chicken on the smoker, too. That will be ready before the pork so you'll have something to snack on. See how I take care of you? What do I get for it? Heartache. You're driving me to an early grave.

The Pork Hat Trick

  1. With a fillet or other sharp knife, butterfly the pork loin. How do you butterfly a pork loin? Follow this handy link to a fine set of instructions (that I did not write). You should end up with a 1/2" or so thick rectangle of pork.
  2. Spread a layer of the mustard pepper relish evenly across the pork.
  3. Spread the pork sausage in an even layer over the relish.
    I suppose you could just chuck it in the oven and bake it at this point.
  4. Sprinkle with the dried rosemary. 
  5. Here's where things get fun. Roll up the loin, jelly-roll style. Then, wrap it with the bacon. Use what ever method you'd like for the bacon, weave it, drape it, you pick. Once you have the bacon situated, take some butcher's twine and go full bondage on that bad boy. You don't want it unraveling. Wipe down the twine with olive oil to keep the twine from burning.
    50 Shades of Pork
  6. Sprinkle the rub onto the roast. If you don't have Uncle Joe's you're missing out and will have to use something else.
  7. Get that bad boy out to your smoker. Smoke the loin until an instant read thermometer gives you around 160F. Occasionally spray the loin with apple juice to keep it moist. I smoked mine for three or so hours. Can't say for sure. I was drinking. Time may depend on how hot your smoker is running. Alternately, throw it in the oven at 375F until the desired temp is reached. 
  8. Once the desired internal temperature is reached, take it off the heat and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. It's been through a lot and needs time to collect itself. Congratulate yourself on a job well done with your sixth Jim Beam and Mr. Pibb of the day.
  9. After resting, slice that bastard up and eat until you're sick. Which is entirely possible if you didn't cook it long enough.
Good times!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Slow Cooker Pork Loin and Sweet Potatoes in Beer and Tomato Preserves

     You can never go wrong with pork loin for $1.49 a pound. I wound up buying about 25 pounds. This is super handy because you throw a two or three pound hunk in a slow cooker and magic happens. I had been considering using some surplus tomato preserves with a pork loin for a while now. I figured the sweet onions and sweet potatoes would work nicely with the preserves and they do! I like to just mash the potatoes in with the meat and start shoveling it in. Granted, I have no manners or class. As always, notes are in blue.

Slow Cooker Pork Loin and Sweet Potatoes
in Beer and Tomato Preserves

  • 2-3 pound pork loin
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
  • 1 large sweet onion, quartered
  • 1 can beer (I used Old Style)
  • 1/2 pint tomato preserves (we made our own. If you need a recipe, give this one a try )
  1. Load pork loin in 5-6 quart slow cooker. 
  2. Arrange potatoes and onions around loin.
  3. Pour in beer. Pour preserves over the loin.
  4. Cook on LOW for 7 hours (the potatoes will be a bit mushy. If you like them a little more firm, wait a couple hours before you add them to the cooker)
Good Times!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fettuccine with Tomato and Artichoke Cream Sauce

     So being a Daddy is taking up exactly as much time as I expected, which is why updates are few and far between around here! I am trying to make up for it by posting more completely original recipes. We've been trying to use up the last of our garden's tomatoes, so I figured a nice tomato cream sauce would be a good idea. I added a few other veggies and a touch of seasoning and ended up with a real winner. The Wife had the brilliant idea to add the red pepper flakes. This was a stroke of genius as I think the sauce may have been a touch too bland otherwise. The spot of heat really adds depth to this dish. This will definitely end up in our regular rotation. There's a lot of flexibility here. You can probably swap in or out most veggies and the addition of shrimp or chicken wouldn't be amiss, either! As always, notes are in blue.

Fettuccine with Tomato
and Artichoke Cream Sauce

  • 1 pound tomatoes, roughly chopped (or two 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained)
  • 2 large scallions, chopped
  • 4 ounces mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 12-ounce can marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons Bridgeport seasoning from Spice House (follow the link to see what's in there)
  • bunch of fresh basil, chopped (or 1 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 pound fettuccine
  1. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sautee 1-2 minutes, being careful to not let garlic get too brown.
  2. Add scallions and sautee another minute or two. Add mushrooms and continue to sautee for 2-3 more minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes and artichokes. Bring to a simmer and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  4. Lower heat a bit and add cream, cheese, pepper flakes, seasoning and basil. Cook on a very low simmer for 5-6 minutes.
  5. Cook pasta aldente and drain.
  6. Either toss pasta with sauce or serve a liberal amount of sauce over the pasta, whichever you prefer. 
Good times!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Spud's Choice Hot Noggin Sauce

     First, a couple clarifications. We did NOT give any hot sauce to our The Spud. Also, for those who like to needlessly panic, that's a sweet red banana pepper on her noggin'. We know better than to handle our little tater with hot peppery hands. To review: No Spuds were harmed in the making of this sauce. This particular sauce came about as an attempt to use up surplus peppers. I chose only red colored peppers since that was what I had the most of. I ended up with what can best be described as a sriracha variant. The sauce starts sweet and a bit garlicky, then you get a serious punch of heat that quickly levels off before slowly fading. Much like sriracha, I see this being a multipurpose sauce, topping everything from eggs to meats. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Spud's Choice
Hot Noggin Sauce
(yields just shy of 3 half pint jars)
  • 1 cup cayenne peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup red jalapeno or Serrano peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup bird or Thai peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup red banana peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 12 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons seasoning salt
  1. Load peppers and garlic into a food processor. Blend until a thick paste (the peppers, not you)
  2. Dump the peppers into a nonreactive pot. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate.
  3. Place on medium-high heat and bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
  4. If you plan to use the sauce right away, you're done. It will keep in the fridge for a couple weeks. If you plan to can the sauce, proceed to the next step.
  5. Load sauce into 1/2 pint jars, leaving about 1/4" headspace. Seal with a 2 piece lid. Place in boiling water bath for 12 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool. As always, make sure to refer to the National Center for Home Food Preservation for useful tips on how not to accidentally poison your friends and family.
Good times!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Slow Cooker Rice Pudding

     I've been cooking some pretty unsightly food of late. This particular recipe is no exception. Granted, rice pudding isn't much to look at even on a good day, so I've got that going for me. I have always been a huge fan of rice pudding, and once I made some changes, it was exactly how I remembered it as a kid. If you've got a rice cooker, this recipe is super easy. Cook the rice, mix in the other ingredients, and done. I'm pleased with the addition of sweetened condensed milk. I think without it, this would not have been sweet enough and we would have had vaguely coconut flavored mushy rice. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Slow Cooker Rice Pudding
via Slow Cooker Magic in Minutes

  • 2 cups water 
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • (if you're using a rice cooker, you only need one cup of water and one cup of rice. You can omit the butter and salt)
  • 18 ounces of evaporated milk (we only had 12 ounce cans, so we used one of those)
  • 14 ounces cream of coconut (nope. We used a 14 ounce can of coconut milk instead)
  • 1/2 can (7 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins (you can also use regular old raisins. Nobody will notice or care)
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten
  • peel of 2 limes (omitted, we used 1 tablespoon of Rose's Lime Juice)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • toasted shredded coconut (optional) 
  1. Place water, rice, butter and salt in medium saucepan. Bring to rolling boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook 10 -12 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand five minutes.
    (I just pissed this step off entirely. I ignored the butter and salt and just threw 1 cup each of rice and water into my rice cooker and wandered off for 20 minutes)
  2. Spray slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Add milk, coconut liquid of choice, raisins, egg yolks, lime and vanilla. Mix. Throw in the rice and mix it all together.
  3. Cover and cook on LOW 4 hours. Stir every 30 minutes (it's not the end of the world if you can't. You just may get a couple crunchy spots at the bottom)
Good times!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Slow Cooker Greek Style Chicken

     I'm going to tell you right now: this is not a pretty looking recipe. Reviewing the photograph, it's actually pretty fucking horrifying. Fortunately, if you can get past the visual, it's really quite a tasty meal. Is it truly authentic Greek? Hell no. It has oregano. I think the whole "Greek" theme falls apart after that. Look, it's tasty and super easy to make. Just look at a picture of something nice while you eat it. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Slow Cooker Greek Style Chicken
via Fix It and Forget It Lightly

  • 6 medium sized potatoes, quartered
  • 3 lbs chicken pieces, skin removed
  • 2 large onions, quartered (this is a shit-ton of onions. We went with a single onion, cut into sixths)
  • 1 whole bulb garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt (omitted, we used 1 teaspoon Spice House Pilsen Seasoning)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  1. Load potatoes in bottom of slow cooker. Add chicken, onions and garlic.
  2. In a small bowl, mix water with oregano and spices.
  3. Pour over chicken and drizzle oil over the top.
  4. Cook on HIGH for 5-6 hours
Good times!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken In Rich Tomato Sauce

     Often, while I am perusing my slow-cooker cookbooks, I come across a recipe that sounds interesting. Then I make a bunch of changes and shrug my shoulders at the mediocre results. This time, I was really pleasantly surprised, as was The Wife. The sauce was really rich and had a nice tang. It was really nice over pasta. This was crazy easy to make and was declared a winner. As always, notes and changes are in blue.

Slow Cooker Chicken
in Rich Tomato Sauce

via Slow Cooker Magic in Minutes

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-1/2 pounds chicken pieces (we used leg and thigh quarters because I found them for 39 cents a pound. What a deal!)
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (omitted. I used 1 can (about 3-4 ounces) sliced Kalamata olives, drained
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (omitted. I used a 24 ounce can of pasta sauce with mushrooms)
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • 1/4 cup red wine (omitted. I'm not wasting good booze here. I used 1/4 cup red wine vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  1. In a large pan, heat oil over medium-high heat and brown the chicken. (Get that skin nice and crispy since it's going in the slow cooker. Otherwise it's going to get really soft and unpleasant looking. Honestly, you're probably better off just taking the skin off the chicken. I don't even know why people insist on leaving the skin on chicken in the slow cooker. Feel free to just chuck the de-skinned chicken right in the slow cooker.)
  2. Mix all the other ingredients up in a big bowl. Pour over the chicken.
  3. Cook on HIGH for 5-6 hours. 
  4. Serve over rice or pasta. 
Good times!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Clear the Kitchen Casserole

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

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

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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cheeseburger Jalapeno Poppers

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

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Three Mustard Pepper Relish

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

Three Mustard Pepper Relish

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

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Peanut Butter Cap'N Crunch Cookies

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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Beef and Broccoli in Sweet and Pungent Sauce

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

Beef and Broccoli
in Sweet and Pungent Sauce

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

Good times!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Apple Gingerbread

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

Monday, July 13, 2015

Whole Wheat Bread

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Zesty Crabuluxe Cold Pasta Salad

     To me, one of the quintessential summer dishes is the cold pasta salad. However, they seem to come in two varieties: drowning in a vinegar based liquid, or caulked together with horrifying amounts of mayonnaise. I wanted to make my own pasta salad that was lighter on the dressing, but still packed a bunch of flavor. I decided to combine some Miracle Whip with some jalapeno sauce that I have stashed away. The Wife and I were decidedly pleased with the results. My only complaint was that we used linguine. We didn't have any non-noodle pastas available and it was hard to get everything mixed together. The flavor was great. The jalapeno sauce packed plenty of flavor, but not a lot of heat. It was very tasty and the dressing was mercifully light. Give it a try and see how you like it. And remember, if you like it half as much as we did, then we liked it twice as much as you. As always, notes are in blue.

Zesty Crabuluxe Cold Pasta Salad
  • 1 pound pasta (we used linguine, but I'd suggest macaroni, rotini or shells. It's really hard to get the cold ingredients mixed well through noodle-type pasta)
  • 4 tablespoons whipped dressing (aka Miracle Whip)
  • 4 tablespoons jalapeno sauce (click on the link for the recipe. I'm not sure what you'd use for an equivalent. Maybe a nice jalapeno based salsa)
  • 1 pound of Crabuluxe, broken into small pieces (imitation crab meat. If you've got the money for a pound of real crab, go nuts)
  • 3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  1. Cook pasta until al dente. Add the frozen peas to the pot during the last few minutes of cooking. You do not want the pasta to be mushy. Make sure it still has some bite. Drain and allow to cool.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the whipped dressing, jalapeno sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder.
  3. In a large bowl add the cooled pasta and peas, Crabuluxe, cheese and veggies. Add the dressing mixture and toss to incorporate all the ingredients. Put in the fridge and allow to chill for at least one hour.
Good times!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Product Review: NINA's Paris Teas

     First, let me apologize for the long delay in posting this review. The fine people at NINA's ( sent me a selection of three teas to sample some time ago. By some, I mean a long time ago. The delay in review was inexcusable. Mostly because I cheated myself out of some absolutely fantastic teas. The time has come for an honest, unbiased review of these teas. The Wife helped out with two of the reviews and her comments will be included. I figured two reviews at once!

Type: Black tea
Flavored with: Ceylon, apples, rose petals and roses

This was the first tea I tried. At the time I was being very selfish and did not afford The Wife the opportunity to try this. On opening the bag of tea, you are met with notable aromas of the ingredients. You get definite notes of apples and roses over a nice Ceylon.  We followed the brewing instructions and...

     The tea has a lovely color. The aromas of apple and rose really come out. I decided all the teas would be sampled as is. No sugar or cream. I wanted to taste it totally on its own.

The verdict
        This tea is absolutely wonderful. Floral and fruity, this tea stands completely on its own. This could easily be an any time of the day tea for me. I can easily see keeping this one in the regular rotation.

The des Muses
Type: Green Tea
Flavored with: Sunflowers, rose petals, cornflowers, lemon, grapefruit, strawberry 

When you open the bag, you are met with distinctive fruity notes. This is a fresh smelling tea that hints at natural sweetness. The Wife and I were very excited about this.

Tea for two!
          The Wife leaned in for an over-enthusiastic sniff of the bouquet of the tea:

And managed to stick her whole darned beezer into the cup.
Once she stopped laughing and dried her nose,
 she declared the tea's bouquet to be "flowery."
The verdict? We both loved this tea. As we expected, this tea had a natural sweetness. Neither of us felt that adding anything was necessary. The Wife declared this to be a great, "relaxing tea for just before bedtime." I agree totally. I don't see myself starting the day with this tea, but I can certainly see me finishing the day with a nice cup of The des Muses.

Scorpio (Scorpion)
Type: Rooibos Tea
Flavored with: Peach, apricot, cream

It turns out rooibos is a member of the legume family! What does that mean? Well, it's caffeine free, so if you have an issue with caffeine, this is right up your alley. When we opened this bag, The Wife and I got slightly different interpretations of the tea. I thought it smelled slightly vegetal, almost nutty, which isn't a bad thing. The Wife said it smelled almost of cherry, reminding her of pipe tobacco.

The color of this tea is absolutely fantastic.
     Once the tea was brewed, we were immediately taken with the striking red color of the tea. We both held to our original interpretations of the bouquet. We each sampled the tea.

Since The Wife can't drink tea without sticking her nose in it,
I figure I'd regale you with another picture of me.
You're welcome.
The verdict? We both like this tea, as well. We both got definite flavor of peaches. The Wife still clung to her cherry theory. She really enjoyed this tea. The caffeine free was a bonus for her since she's breast feeding and would rather not have a potentially jittery baby.

We were both very pleased with the tea we tried and would certainly not hesitate to keep these teas in regular rotation. The prices are a shade above my middle class budget, but that wouldn't stop me from treating myself to  a tin or two. For the quality of the product, the price is still reasonable. If you're a tea drinker, you should do yourself the favor and head over to their site and take a look ( They also sell a selection of jams that look quite good. Give them a try!