Archive for the 'Recipes' Category

Jun 16 2012

Jambalaya cha-cha-cha!

Published by under In The Kitchen,Recipes

Hey, we haven’t done a recipe in a long time, huh? How about a recipe? I made this for dinner last night. I’ve been really into Louisiana cooking lately, what with the red beans and rice and all that. I’ve been looking for a good gumbo recipe, but it’s hard to find one that doesn’t utilize shellfish in some form. The Man will not eat seafood, no way, no how. So, in the meantime, I went hunting for a jambalaya recipe, and wouldn’t you know? It’s pretty hard to find one of those that doesn’t contain shrimp. However, finally, I got one!

This recipe comes to us from the Food Network web site, and is credited on that site to Chef Jason Girard. I do a couple little tweaks to it, but nothing too major. Basically, my tweaks amount to adding 1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground black pepper and a couple of extra shakes of Tabasco to up the spice a bit, and also throwing in about 1 tsp of Old Bay, just because damn, I love Old Bay. I also omit the file powder, because it’s not an easy thing to find around here (as in, I can’t find it at the huge grocery store I shop at, and I’m not going to go looking at the few specialty stores in town because I’m lazy).  I read online that file powder can act as a thickening agent, but I don’t think a teaspoon of it would make much of a difference in a dish this large. This recipe as written on Food Network comes out soupier than I like, so I do thicken it slightly with a corn starch slurry (1 Tbsp corn starch + 1/8 cup cold water). I’m going to add these tweaks into the ingredient list and the directions, but you can feel free to delete them if you want.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 12 ounces smoked andouille or kielbasa sausage, sliced (I use kielbasa, because andouille is not readily available)
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (I use a red one, just because I like the red ones. Any color will do)
  • 1 28 ounce can peeled diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce + 2-3 extra shakes if desired (I use regular Tobasco)
  • 1 tsp. file powder (if you can find it, if not, no big whoop)
  • 1 Tbsp Cajun spice blend (sold in the spice section, pre-blended)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp Old Bay
  • corn starch slurry to thicken, if desired (1 Tbsp corn starch + 1/8 c cold water)
  • Cooked rice, for serving

DIRECTIONS

Heat a heavy, dry stockpot or Dutch oven (mine is a 5 qt. size) over high heat. Add 1 Tbsp peanut oil, then brown the sausage. Remove the sausage from the pan, but leave the drippings. Add another Tbsp peanut oil, and then brown the chicken. Add more peanut oil if necessary. Remember, you’re just browning at this point.

Return the sausage to the pot with the chicken, and add the onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper. Saute until the meats and veggies are cooked through. Add the tomatoes and the hot sauce, stir to combine. Add the file powder (if using), black pepper, Old Bay, and Cajun spice, reduce heat to low, and simmer for at least one hour. After 30 minutes, add corn starch slurry, if desired. Serve over rice.

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Jan 19 2010

Fire starters.

Published by under Recipes

OK, so this isn’t REALLY a recipe, but it was kind of like cooking and I didn’t want to make a whole new category for one post.  So, it’s a recipe for the purposes of my categorizing.

Every week in the winter, I have to start a fire in the wood stove in our garage, so that The Man and his friends won’t freeze to death while they play D&D.  As anyone who’s ever tried will agree, building a fire is not easy work if you don’t have lots of tiny twigs and wood chips or something to use as kindling.  You can’t just throw a bunch of paper in there and put a log on top of it and expect it to burn.  However, we don’t keep a lot of tiny twigs or wood chips around.  Those that I do find get consumed pretty quickly.

Dr. Mom and Moll heat with wood, exclusively.  This means they need to have a reliable way to get the fire started.  So, they make their own fire starters.  After my most recent wrestle with the fire (this afternoon), I decided to try to follow their lead and make my own.

Step one:  Gather pine cones.  If you don’t have twenty pine trees in your yard (like me), go to the park or take a walk or something.  You are looking for smaller pine cones, nothing over 1.5 inches in height.  If you do have your own trees, it’s best if you gather pine cones while your neighbor is walking his dogs, so that the dogs will notice you and bark wildly, and the neighbor can wonder why you are squatting under a pine tree with a basket, looking suspicious.

 

Suspicious neighbors are a small price to pay for pine cones.

Step two:  Sort your pine cones into “dry” and “not dry”.  Dry pine cones are open.  Pine cones in need of drying are shut tightly.

Step three:  Dry the pine cones that need it.  Grab a junk sheet pan with a lip, line it with foil or parchment paper, and put the pine cones on it.  Stick them in a 200 degree (Fahrenheit) oven for an hour or so, until they open up.

 

These pine cones need to be more open. Put them in the oven and teach them a lesson!

Step four:  Melt your wax.  This is where all those jar candles that only have an inch of wax left in the bottom will come in handy.  Take one of those jar candles, and stick it in a pot of simmering water.  The wax will melt slowly, and as a bonus, if it’s a scented candle, your house will smell great.  My house smells like ginger and tangerine right this instant.

 

Watching wax melt is second only to watching paint dry.

Step five:  Coat the cones.  This is done in batches.  I put a handful of pine cones in a disposable plastic bowl.  Then I put on a pair of stretch gloves and grabbed the jar full of now melted wax.  Then, I poured some of the wax over the pine cones.  How much?  I don’t know.  I poured until it looked like there was enough wax to coat the pine cones.

 

My Hello Kitty stretchy glove never dreamed that it could be a hot pad!

Then, I grabbed a junk fork (seeing a theme, here?) and stirred the pine cones around until the wax began to harden and stick.  This took a couple of minutes, but if you don’t stir, all the wax will just pool at the bottom, and that’s no good.

 

Looks appetizing, eh?

Step six:  Cool.  Once the wax was stuck well to the cones, I placed them on a paper bag that had a sheet of wax paper on it.

 

It's not granola, no matter what your hippie aunt tries to tell you.

Repeat steps five and six until all the cones are coated.

Step seven:  Really cool.  Your pine cones are probably still somewhat warm, and the wax is probably still soft.  At this point, I moved the cones (still on the wax paper) to the junk sheet pan that I dried the cones on, and set it on the porch for a half hour.  Of course, it’s 30 degrees on my porch right now.  If it’s not nice and chill outside, stash them in the fridge or freezer for a half hour.

Step eight:  Store.  I stuck my cones in a lidded jar.  They’ll live near the wood stove to be easily accessible.

 

It's a jar full of witch! Burn it!

Step nine:  Use.  I’m not going to go into detail about how to build a fire, sorry.

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Oct 27 2009

Because Rock Star just WON’T STOP ASKING.

Published by under Recipes

The Man really likes blue cheese dressing.  No, wait.  That’s an understatement.  The Man REALLY likes blue cheese dressing.  Um, no.  Still not right.  The Man !**R~E~A~L~L~Y**! likes blue cheese dressing.  The problem is that a lot of blue cheese dressings are what he’s calls “too mayonnaise-y”.  He likes blue cheese dressing, and hates the main base ingredient.  His life, it is a study in contradictions.

Anyway, the blue cheese dressing that he has deemed “the best” comes from the Outback Steakhouse.  It’s really his main reason for going to eat there – to get a salad.  Because I am a little fond of The Man, I decided to see if anyone online had decoded the recipe for the Outback blue cheese dressing, and lo and behold, they had!  I made a batch, and he just loved it!  Hooray!

Then, we went up north, and I made a batch for the folks up there, and he hated it!  Hoo- wait, what?

It turns out that, according to The Man, this dressing is only good if you use Hellman’s Mayonnaise.  The problem with the up north batch was that I’d subbed in Kraft, which apparently makes everything taste like woe and horrible pain.

So, Outback Blue Cheese…it’s good and all, but did I mention that The Man is a fan of blue cheese?  He is.  So, I find that the more blue cheese I add to the dressing, the better it is for him.  I’ve found a good balance now, so here is the “new” recipe, which I call “No Such Thing As Too Much Blue Cheese Dressing”

  • 1 cup Hellman’s Mayonnaise – the regular, full-fat kind.
  • 2 tbsp. buttermilk.  Don’t have buttermilk, like 99% of us?  No problem!  Measure out slightly less than 2 tbsp. and top it off with white vinegar to make up the rest.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes and you’ll have buttermilk.  Magic!
  • 1/8 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 – 5 tbsp. blue cheese crumbles, according to taste (the original recipe calls for just two).

Put all ingredients (minus 1 – 2 tbsp. blue cheese crumbles) in a food processor and pulse on Low until smooth and combined.  I usually add about 3 tbsp. crumbles to be processed in.  Once everything is smooth, remove to a covered container (I use a little Tupperware bowl) and stir in by hand another 1 – 2 tbsp. of blue cheese crumbles.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.  This is important!  The dressing needs this time to rest so all the flavors can meld together.  Don’t skip this step!

Serve and enjoy!

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Oct 26 2009

Apple bread.

Published by under Friends,Recipes

Mackers called me up a few weeks back and wanted me to come over and bake a whole bunch of apple bread.  I’d never done such a thing before, and I am all for baking with my girlfriends, so I agreed.  We spent HOURS upon HOURS baking this bread, and I don’t think either of us were pleased with the results.  Maybe it had to do with the fact that there ended up being big chunks of apple in the bread.  Maybe it was because we had to cook the bread for twice as long as specified so that it wasn’t gooey in the middle.  Maybe it was because the second round of baking resulted in Mystery Smoking coming from her oven.  Maybe it was because neither one of us knew what we were doing.

I think the last one is the right one.

Anyway, it was fun, and I came away with several ideas of different things to try when next I made apple bread, if I ever did.  The Man was not fond of the idea of apple bread.  He thought it sounded “gross”.  But, the Northern Spys were picked at my local orchard, and I thought NOW is the time to try it again.

Mackers had said that she thought that the next time she made apple bread, she’d just adapt her zucchini bread recipe, so I went to my cookbooks and found a zucchini bread recipe of my very own.  It’s from Betty Crocker, so you know it’s good!  And now, I know it’s good because I made a loaf and had many different people eat some of it.  And they all loved it.  So, I am fairly confident that you will love it, too.

You will need:

  • 5-6 medium baking apples (enough to end up with 3 cups of shredded apple).  As I said, I used Northern Spys, but those are not available all the year round, so just find something that’s good to bake with.  I would stay away from the very tart kinds, like Granny Smiths.
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose (or whole wheat) flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

You can also add

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins

if you want to.  I left them out because I do not like nuts in my baked goods, and The Man is not a raisin fan.

Put your oven rack toward the bottom of your oven – y0u want to position it so the top of your loaf pan will be in the center of your oven.  Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Grease the BOTTOM ONLY of a 9x5x3 loaf pan.

Shred the apples.  I used a grater.  It was messy.  I would recommend shredding into something that has a lip on it, like a baking sheet, to prevent juice from running all over the counter.  I also kind of wrung out the shredded apple a little just to get rid of most of the juice before mixing it into the batter.  I was worried about it being too wet.  The apple oxidizes (turns brown) pretty quickly after it’s shredded, but this doesn’t affect the flavor.  You also won’t be able to see brown apples in the finished product, so don’t fret over it.

Mix the apples, sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Mix the dry ingredients in another bowl.  When you’re ready, dump the dry ingredients into the wet and combine.  Don’t overmix it.  Just stir until it comes together, then let it sit for five minutes, like you would with muffins.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then loosen the sides and remove to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Once cooled, wrap it up tightly.  It stores well-wrapped at room temperature for four days or in the fridge for ten days.

Share and enjoy!

One response so far

Jan 14 2009

Red Beans and Rice

Published by under Recipes

For years, I assumed that red beans and rice was just what it sounded like:  red beans stirred into white rice.  Period.  Look, I’m a German girl from Michigan.  I don’t know anything about the food of the south.  Over time, I learned that there were other things involved in the dish, and I also learned that I actually like beans.  So, I decided that the time had come to give this recipe a shot.  I served it for dinner tonight, but just in case it didn’t turn out (or I didn’t like it…or The Man didn’t like it…we’re picky), I bought frozen pizza.  That’s still in the freezer, because red beans and rice is DEE-LI-SHUS.

The recipe I used, I got off of the Food Network web site, and it is marked “Courtesy of Dooky Chase”.  I used the magic of Google to discover that this is a restaurant in New Orleans…a rather unfortunately named restaurant, if you ask me, but to each their own.  Also, the recipe said it served six, and I can only imagine that this means six elephants, because it yielded A LOT of food.  In the future, I will cut this recipe in half, but I’m going to outline the whole one here so that you can do your own funky halving or tripling math, as you need.

The other change I would make would be to either not use quite so much salt, or to sub some of the salt with something else.  Next time, I’m going to bring some Old Bay to the game and see what happens.  The salt content might also depend on the meat you use, but just be aware that I found this to be a touch too salty.

OK, enough exposition!  Let’s begin.  You will need:

  • 1 pound dried red kidney beans (are there other kinds besides red? Is it shameful that my stepdad works with beans and I don’t know that?)
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 pound smoked ham, cubed.  We’re not the kind of household that has ham just laying around, so I went to the local mega mart and picked up a small, boneless, smoked ham end.  It was just over a pound.  I figure I’ll fry the remaining slices and eat them for delicious snacks.
  • 1 pound smoked sausages, cut into 1/2 inch slices.  I think traditionally, this would be andouille sausage, but there isn’t much demand for andouille in this neck of the woods.  I used Eckrich Smoked Sausage – not the teeny breakfast links!  The big ‘uns that are like 1″ thick.
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 tsp. whole fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 level tbsp. salt

The first thing you want to do is look over your beans.  I dump them onto a baking sheet so that they’re in one layer.  You’re looking to take out any funky or broken beans, plus any foreign material that might have slipped through the screening.  I found a corn kernel in mine today.  After you pick over the beans, put them in a colander and give them a good rinse.  Then, stick them in a 5-quart pot.  Pour the 2 quarts of water on top and throw in the onion.  Bring the whole thing to a boil, then back off the heat and boil slowly for 1 hour.  What does it mean to boil slowly?  It means – the water is boiling, and there are bubbles across the whole suface, but it’s not as “energetic” as a full boil.  One website I checked says that a slow boil is at 205°F, while a full boil is at 212°F.  Anyway, a not-quite-full boil.  Once the hour is up, check if the beans are soft.  If they are, give them a good stir, and mash some of them against the side of the pot.   If you are like me and kind of uncoordinated, maybe a few presses with a potato masher would work, too?  I didn’t think of it ’til now, but give it a whirl.

Now heat up the oil in a frying pan.  Dump in the ham and sausage and saute for 5 minutes.  When finished, dump the whole shebang – oil included – into the pot with the beans.  Then, deglaze the pan with the 1 cup of water, and dump that into the bean pot as well.  Now, add all of the other ingredients to the bean pot, give it a good stir, and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Serve over rice – I used regular long-grain white.

The recipe says “beans should be nice and creamy”.  I have no clue if my beans were creamy or not.  I don’t THINK they were.  Maybe I didn’t mash enough.  But you know what?  It was still great food.  Next time I’ll mash a bit more and see what happens.   Also, if your beans don’t seem thick enough at the end of 30 minutes, let them simmer some more.  I left mine on for 45, just because I kind of forgot about the rice and had to cook that.

Also, I have to say, red beans and rice looks like a big ol’ mess in a bowl, but it tastes great.

Red beans and rice, dwarfed by The Man’s huge eating bowl.Red beans and rice

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