Friday, November 28, 2008

Peanut Butter & Oatmeal Cookies

I found this recipe on the Internet the other day, posted by an Allrecipes.com user named "Michele." I don't know who you are, but your cookies are amazing!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup plain or butter-flavored shortening
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk or sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl (or stand mixer) cream together shortening, white and brown sugar, and peanut butter. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Slowly add the flour mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Add the oats and stir until they're evenly distributed.
Drop by tablespoons (I use a #60 disher) onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until just light brown (don't over-bake). Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes and move to a wire rack until completely cool. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Salmon Cakes

Most of the time, I develop recipes because there's a specific food I want to eat. This recipe is a little different. We had some leftover spinach and potato pie and Michelle thought that salmon would be a good main dish to accompany it, so I came up with this recipe specifically to go with that side dish. Despite how it got started, I think it's a good general-purpose salmon cake that will go well with all kinds of side dishes!

Ingredients
  • 2 cans of salmon (7 ounces each), drained
  • 1½ cups of saltine crackers (about half a sleeve), crushed
  • ½ cup mayonnaise (homemade from Monday's recipe would be nice)
  • ¼ cup finely minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil (you could also use dill or cilantro)
  • vegetable oil for frying
Instructions
Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl until combined. Form into 6 patties about 1½ inches thick. Let the patties sit on a wire rack for 10 - 15 minutes so the moisture from the mayo can be fully absorbed (this helps "set up" the salmon cakes and improves the texture). Meanwhile, heat about 1 inch of oil in a large skillet to 350 - 375 degrees. Pan fry for about 4 minutes on a side, or until deep golden brown. Alternatively, you can deep fat fry them. Let them drain on a wire rack for a couple of minutes and serve.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mayonnaise

My 4-year old boy is allergic to soy. Have you ever tried to find a mayonnaise at the store that has no soybean (or "vegetable") oil in it? There's only one brand, and it tastes funny. Fortunately, I discovered that homemade mayonnaise is really easy and tastes much better than store-bought.


Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (white wine /champagne vinegar works well)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (fresh-squeezed, please)
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon fine or "pickling" salt (I don't like table salt because of the iodine-metallic taste)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups canola or safflower oil
Instructions
Put all ingredients except the oil in the work bowl of your stand mixer or food processor. Use a hand whisk (or the whisk attachment of the mixer in your hand) and mix until well combined. Put the bowl on the mixer with the whisk attachment and turn it on its highest setting (if using a food processor, put in the blade, put the lid on, and turn it on). Slowly drizzle in the oil over about 90 seconds. Pour the mayo into a jar and let it sit on the counter for about 2 hours. This lets the acids in the lemon and vinegar kill any bacteria that may have been (unlikely, but possibly) present in the eggs (alternatively, use pasteurized in-shell eggs). After the those 2 hours, keep refrigerated and use within 2 weeks.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Eggs Benedict (With Hollandaise Sauce)

My absolute favorite brunch item to make at home. It seems like a lot of work, but it's well worth it! One requirement is that you must make the Hollandaise sauce from scratch (the recipe is included here) - canned Hollandaise is not really worth eating.

Ingredients
  • 3 English muffins, split and toasted (keep them warm in an oven set to low)
  • 6 slices Canadian bacon or ham
  • 6 fresh eggs
  • water for poaching
  • white vinegar
  • Hollandaise Sauce
    • 3 egg yolks
    • 1 teaspoon water
    • ½ teaspoon sugar
    • ¾ cup unsalted butter (1½ sticks), chilled and cut into small pieces (about 1-2 teaspoons in size)
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon table salt - kosher tastes better though)
    • the juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup)
    • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)
Instructions

Eggs

Bring one inch of water to boil in a large, non-stick, straight-sided skillet with one teaspoon of vinegar per cup of water (don't overdo the vinegar, it makes the eggs rubbery). Crack one egg into a small custard cup or prep bowl (about 1 cup in size), then carefully pour the egg into the boiling water (as gently as possible). Repeat with remaining eggs then remove from heat and cover the pan. The eggs should be set in 8-10 minutes (you may want to include a "test egg" for sampling). Using a slotted spoon, carefully move the eggs to an ice-water bath and set aside.

Hollandaise Sauce
Bring an inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, in a medium metal bowl whisk together the eggs and 1 teaspoon water for about 90 seconds, until the eggs lighten in color. Add the sugar and whisk for another 30 seconds. Turn the pan of simmering water down to low and place the bowl with the egg mixture over it (the bowl should not touch the water). Whisk constantly for 3-5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened enough for the whisk to leave a clear trail in the bowl (or the mixture will coat the back of a spoon). Remove the bowl from the pan and gradually whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, until fully incorporated. As the butter cools down the sauce, move the bowl back to the simmering water just long enough to keep the butter melting in as you whisk (be careful not to overheat it - completely melting the butter will break the sauce). Once all the butter is in, mix in the salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. Pour the sauce into a thermos, or place the bowl on a heating pad set to low to keep warm until ready to serve.

Serving
Bring the poaching water back to a boil and remove from heat. Meanwhile, put each English muffin half on a plate with a slice of bacon on top. Using a slotted spoon, take the eggs from the ice water and reheat in the poaching water (it should not be boiling now). Place an egg on each muffin and add sauce. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quick Lunch

I'm trying to post 3 times a week. I haven't come up with anything new, so I thought I’d share a lunch idea I had about a year ago:

Meatball Ramen

Ingredients:

1 Package Ramen Noodles (I used beef flavor, but chicken or oriental would work too)
1 Package Aidells Teriyaki Meatbals
2 Cups Water

Instructions:

Put Ramen (with seasoning packet) in small saucepan with water and simmer until the noodles just begin to soften. Add meatballs and simmer until heated through. Serve (or, if you're me at home by myself on a Saturday afternoon, just eat out of the pot while standing over the sink!) Yum.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

You know how at most family gatherings, the sweet potatoes end up covered in marshmallows and brown sugar? Well even though sweet potatoes are sweet, they also work equally well in spicy dishes. Here is a recipe I adapted from Good Eats on the Food Network.

Ingredients
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes.
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika.
  • 1-2 canned chipotle chillies, chopped (there are generally several whole chilies in one can).
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the canned chilies). This stuff is very spicy, so use less (or leave it out) if you like your food mild.
  • 2 tablespoons butter.
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream.
Instructions
Put the sweet potatoes in a steamer. If you do not have an electric steamer, you can use a metal colander set inside a large pot with a couple of cups of gently boiling water in the bottom (do not let the water come up through the bottom of the colander). Cover and steam for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft (but not mushy). Drain off water and put potatoes back in the pot (or a large mixing bowl if you used an electric steamer). Add remaining ingredients and mash together with a hand masher. Using an electric mixer is not recommended, as sweet potatoes will turn pasty/gluey if over-beaten. Serve with minced chives or green onions (or even onion rings!).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ribs and Greens

Here's all the fixings for a mighty weekend feast!

BBQ Baby Back Ribs

Ingredients

  • 2 full racks of baby back pork ribs, weighing between 3 and 4 lbs
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
Dry Rub
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (freshly toasted and ground from whole seeds would be best)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular paprika would also be OK)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne or chipotle chile powder (1/2 tsp if you don't like heat - wimp!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Sauce
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons prepared mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes (optional - leave it out for mild sauce)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preparation - 4 to 24 Hours Before Cooking

Combine all rub ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Rinse the ribs under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Place each rack on a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Sprinkle ribs with salt, putting about twice as much on the meat side as you do the bony side. Liberally apply the spice rub to the ribs (you won't use it all this time - store leftovers in an airtight container in a cool, dark place), focusing on the meaty side of the rack and patting it on to ensure good adhesion. Wrap the foil up around the ribs, meat side down, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours on a sheet pan (to catch drips).

Cooking - 3 to 6 Hours
Whisk together all sauce ingredients in a medium bowl until integrated together. At this point you have a few choices:

Water Smoker Method
If you have a water smoker, you are in good shape as this is the best way to cook ribs. Get the smoker going with your desired wood, between 200-250 degrees. Mix the sauce with 1/2 gallon of boiling water and put it in the smoker's water pan. Smoke the ribs for 3 hours, meat side up, adding hot coals and/or wood as needed. After 1 hour, check the water pan every 1/2 hour, adding hot water as needed to keep the sauce liquid and prevent burning/scorching.

Hot Smoker Method
If you have a regular hot smoker you can remove the ribs from their foil pouches and smoke for 1-2 hours (depending on how smokey you like the ribs). However, you will need to braise the ribs in the oven for a couple of hours afterwards. If you totally cook the ribs in a hot smoker, they will be tough and leathery - dry heat just cannot duplicate the process that breaks down collagen into gelatin and creates the lip-smacking goodness that makes ribs so tasty. So after smoking the ribs, proceed to the oven braise method.

Oven Braise Method
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Unwrap one end of the aluminum foil packets (or re-wrap the ribs if joining us from hot smoking) and pour half the sauce into each. Tilt the open end up to allow the sauce to percolate through the ribs. Re-seal the foil and put in the oven (still on the sheet pan) for 2 1/2 hours. Remove ribs from oven and drain the sauce out of the packets (this is most easily accomplished by suspending the packets over a large mixing bowl and cutting holes in the middle where the ribs hang lowest). Transfer the sauce to a medium saucepan and boil for 5-10 minutes, until thickened. Activate the broiler. Leaving the ribs on the pan, unwrap the pouches and brush on the sauce. Broil the ribs until the sauce slightly caramelizes, adding a second coat of sauce (if desired). Serve with remaining sauce.

Hearty Green Saute

Ingredients

  • 1 lb hearty greens (such as kale, collard greens, or swiss chard), washed, trimmed of thick stems/ribs, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed/minced fine
  • 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • fresh ground pepper
Melt butter (or heat oil) in a large skillet over medium heat. Add carrots, onions, and salt. Saute until the carrots start to soften and the onions start to brown. Add the greens and saute until they start to wilt. Add garlic and continue to saute for another 90 seconds. Add the chicken broth. Simmer for about 3-5 minutes, or until the broth is slightly thickened and the greens are as tender as you like them (be careful - overcooking will make the greens discolored, mushy, and generally unappealing). Stir in the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Gyro Sandwiches

There are 4 steps to this recipe:
  1. Thicken the yogurt for the Tzatziki sauce (see the toppings section)
  2. Make the pitas (optionally, buy pitas from the store, but they won't taste as good)
  3. Prep the toppings & sauce
  4. Do the meat
Pitas
Ingredients:
  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1½ cups warm (110°) water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting & rolling)
  • Non-stick spray
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or canola oil
Combine yeast, sugar, and water in the work bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook. If not using instant yeast, wait 5-10 minutes for the yeast to bloom and become frothy. Turn the mixer on low and add the salt. Slowly add the flour, a little at a time, reserving the last ½ cup. Turn off the mixer and feel the dough. If it is very sticky to the touch, add reserved flour. Slowly power up the mixer to medium speed and knead the dough for 5-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.

On a lightly floured clean work surface, roll the dough into a tight ball. Place in a clean bowl or bin that has been sprayed with non-stick spray, rolling the dough around to coat the top of the ball with the spray. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 1-2 hours, until the dough doubles in size.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and lightly punch down to redistribute the gasses. Divide into 8 equal portions, keeping each dough ball covered under a damp tea towel. Let rest under the towel for 15 minutes. Heat a large skillet or griddle to medium-high heat or heat a pizza stone in a 500° oven. If using a griddle/skillet, lube very lighly with oil to prevent sticking. With a rolling pin, roll out each dough ball into a thin circle 8-10 inches across. As each pita is rolled out, cook on the griddle or pizza stone for 3-4 minutes as you roll out the next one. If using a griddle/skillet, flip each pita halfway through cooking time. As the pitas finish cooking stack on a plate and keep covered under a sheet of aluminum foil. Keep in a warm oven (i.e. not 500° any more) while you work on the rest of the Gyro stuff.

Toppings
I like the following on top of my Gyros:
  • sliced onion
  • chopped cucumber
  • sliced tomato
  • shredded lettuce
  • sliced olives (I like green, but black work too)
  • crumbled Feta cheese
  • Tzatziki sauce (recpie follows)
Tzatziki Sauce
This recipe makes a lot of sauce. You may want to make a half batch.
Ingredients:
  • 16 oz plain (unflavored) yogurt
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped fine.
  • Kosher salt
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced fine or pressed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 5-6 fresh mint leaves, finely minced OR 1-2 teaspoons dried mint (to taste)
Pour yogurt onto the middle of a clean tea towel. Gather up the corners and suspend the yogurt over a bowl (use a skewer or a mesh strainer) so excess moisture can drip out. Thicken in the fridge for 2 hours.

Spread out the chopped cucumber on a couple of layers of paper towel on a sheet pan. Lightly sprinkle with kosher salt. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. Add more paper towels on top and press with another sheet pan to squeeze out water. Put drained cucumber and thickened yogurt in a medium mixing bowl and combine with remaining Tzatziki ingredients. Add additional salt to taste. This will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

Gyro Steak
Although lamb is the traditional Gyro meat, steak is much easier to find where I live. I like flank steak because it is very flavorful, inexpensive, and is already a thin cut from the butcher (making it cook quickly and slice easily).
Ingredients:
  • 1 teaspoon each dried rosemary leaves and whole peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon each fennel seeds, dried oregano and dried thyme
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2-4 lbs steak such as flank steak, skirt steak, fajita steak, or stir-fry steak, about 1-2 inches thick
Finely grind the rosemary, oregano, thyme, and peppercorns together in a spice grinder or coffee mill. Lightly sprinkle both sides of meat with Kosher salt. Spread a thin dusting of the herb/spice mixture onto both sides of the meat, patting it down to ensure good contact and adhesion. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat or prepare grill for direct heat. Rub both sides with oil. Cook 5-7 minutes on a side, or until internal temperature reads 125° for rare, 145° for medium. I guess you could go until 160 for well-done, but why would you? Rest the meat off-heat for 10-15 minutes under a tent of aluminum foil and bias-slice thinly across the grain.

Whew!
It looks like we did it! To assemble, place a few slices of steak on half of the flat side of the pita. Add other toppings as desired. Fold the pita over and eat. Yum!

Pleasant Springs Chili

I made this for a church activity a couple of months ago (The 2nd Annual Pleasant Springs Ward Chili & Pie Cook-Off), and this seemed like a good recipe to christen my blog with. I’ve always said that good chili is not simply cooked, it is crafted. I’ve been working on this recipe for years, and I think I’ve finally come up with my final version. Please note that there are no beans in this chili - I believe a good chili either has meat or beans, so if you like meat (and I do), you must leave the beans out!

Ingredients

2-4 lbs of stew beef (chuck shoulder, bottom round, etc.), cut into one-inch cubes
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or 1 teaspoon table salt)
2 jalapeño chilies, seeded and chopped with ribs removed (leave in the ribs if you like it hot)
1 jar (16 oz.) of Pace Thick and Chunky Salsa1 (mild, medium, hot - your choice)
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder2
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup crushed tortilla chips. (I like Tostitos Yellow Corn)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 200°. Toss cubed beef with oil and salt in a large bowl until evenly coated. Heat a large dutch oven over high heat. Working in small batches, evenly brown the beef on all sides3. As each batch finishes, move the browned beef to a clean bowl. Once all beef is browned and in the bowl, reduce heat to medium and add the jalapeño, sautéing until just starting to brown around the edges. Add the tomato sauce and salsa. Use a wooden spoon or spatula and deglaze the bottom (scrape any brown bits off the pot). Dump the beef (and any collected juices) back into the pot. Add the spices and the chips and stir thoroughly to combine. Bake in the oven for 3 hours or until the meat is as tender as you like it4.

Notes

  1. Yes, I call for a jar of salsa. I like Pace and it works well, but that’s not to say others won’t work also. If you are offended by the thought of putting commercial salsa in “homemade” chili, then you can go out to the farms, pick the best produce (in season), and spend 30-60 minutes (depending on how fast you work) cleaning, chopping, and sweating your vegetables. I don’t have the time for that, and since thats exactly what Pace does down in San Antonio, I’ll let them do the work for me.
  2. Homemade chili powder is best. I actually do make my own. You can find many recipes on the internet (Alton Brown’s is good) or you can come up with one on your own. I find a good ratio of spices to be 50% dried & ground chilies and 50% other stuff (cumin, oregano, garlic, paprika, etc.), however it is a matter of personal preference. It is best to toast whole spices in a dry skillet and cool completely before grinding in a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or blender.
  3. The idea here is to brown the beef on the outside without cooking it through. The less cooked the inside of the beef is now, the more tender the finished chili will be. To accomplish this, you want the pot as hot as you can get it. Working in small batches is essential. If you crowd the pot (no space between each piece of meat or the meat not in a single layer), steam and juices will build up that cooks the meat without browning it - which will certainly toughen the meat and reduce the flavor and texture of the chili. Please note that if you do it correctly you will generate some smoke (from the high heat), so you should turn on your range vent and open a window.
  4. If you don’t have 3 hours, you can do 2 hours at 250° or 1 hour at 350. The quicker you cook it, the tougher the meat will be (see #3 above).

Welcome!

I love to cook and I frequently come up with my own recipes. It seemed like every time I blogged on my general "news about me" blog, it was always food related. I decided that a recipe blog would be a good way to share my creations with the world (besides, I haven't posted regular news in forever).
Enjoy!