Thursday, December 24, 2015

Chocolate Caramel Chip Cookies

Chocolate Caramel Chip Cookies

It's Christmas time, time to make cookies! (Unless you are reading this recipe at a later date, in which case, disregard my previous statement.) My mom loves chocolate covered toffee, so I decided to make her some cookies. These turned out crispy yet with a bit of chew, just how I like them. Be sure to leave some out for Santa!


Ingredients:

2 ¼ C of AP flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
½ C of butter, softened
½ C of shortening
1 C of dark brown sugar
½ C of sugar
1 t of vanilla
1 C of toffee chips
1 C of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Place the butter, shortening, and sugars in a mixing bowl and cream on medium speed until lightened in texture and color. Turn the speed down  and add each egg, one at a time, then add the vanilla. Once the liquid ingredients are fully incorporated slowly add the dry ingredients in 3 instalments, waiting for each to be fully incorporated before adding the next portion. You might need to scrape down the bowl down between each addition.

Tightly wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hr*, then preheat your oven for 375. On a parchment covered baking sheet dish the dough out in heaped tablespoon portions. Make sure that each cookie is approximately the same size to ensure even baking. Make sure to put the dough you don't immediately bake back into the fridge to keep cool. Bake for 11 -15 minutes or until the edges are browning and the middle starts to set. Let the cookies cool entirely on a cooling sheet. This recipe makes about 4 dozen.

*Keeping the dough cool allows the outside to set and bake before the middle so it doesn't spread out as much. If you want a thinner, crispier cookie, feel free to skip this step.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Classic Pesto with Cashews


While I am on a pesto kick, I decided to share my recipe for my everyday pesto. I still don't use pine nuts in this one, since cashews create a similar texture and are way more affordable.

Ingredients:

2 C of fresh basil
¼ C of raw unsalted cashews
1 clove of garlic
½ C of extra virgin olive oil (EEVO)
½ C of parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In the bowl of your food processor or blender, combine the basil, cashews, and garlic. Blend or process until you get rough chunks. Add the EEVO and cheese and process until smooth. Add the salt and pepper to taste, mix, and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Pistachio Lemon Pesto

Pistachio Lemon Pesto

Pesto is an extremely versatile sauce; it can go on pretty much any type of meat or pasta; it can be a condiment, or even added to other sauces. Given it extra virgin olive oil base, it's actually not bad for you, in moderation. The only problem with traditional pesto, with pine nuts, is that it is really expensive to make. In light of that, I decided to make a pesto out of pistachios (green nut for a green sauce). I also added a special lemon olive oil for an extra flavor dimension.

Ingredients:

2 C of basil
1/4 C of unsalted pistachios*
1 clove of garlic
1/2 C of lemon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/2 C of reggiano cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In the bowl of your favorite blender or food processor, combine the basil, pistachios, and garlic. Grind until coarse chunks have been achieved. Once you have coarse chunks, add the EVOO and cheese and process until smooth. Add the salt and pepper to taste.

Now you have some great pesto, time to put it on stuff!

*Harvesting these pistachios can be a bit of a pain, especially trying to get the skin off after you have removed them from the shells. If you want to purchase them already shelled, go ahead, but I could only find them lightly salted, if you want to use these, go right ahead but be careful to not over-salt your pesto.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sausage Rolls


When I was traveling in the UK with my family, I noticed that in every convince store, instead of the usual fruit danishes, they had these sausage rolls in pastry instead. I missed those once we got back in the States, and I decided to make them myself. These ones are a very simple and easy recipe that can be easily augmented.


Ingredients:


17.3 oz package of pastry dough
1 lb of Italian style sausage links*
1 egg, beaten

Directions:

Defrost the pastry dough according to the package instructions and preheat your oven to 350.

Once the dough has been defrosted, roll it out so that the long side is the length of 2 sausage links, as pictured. When the dough is the proper size, place your sausage links together at the top and gently roll them up. Right before the dough is about to overlap, brush a bit of the egg wash on the two pieces that are about to touch. Overlap the dough a little and then cut off that roll. Brush the top of that roll with some egg wash to enhance browning.

Repeat with the remaining sausage links and sheets of pastry dough. if you get to the end of  a sheet and find that you don't have quite enough to overlap, just roll the dough a bit or stretch it out by hand, yes that will make the pastry a bit thinner, but it will still work.

Once your rolls have been assembled, cut them into 1 inch pieces and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the sausage is cooked through and the top is golden. Enjoy these warm with ketchup or mustard.

*When I make this I leave the sausage casings on because they don't bother me in the final product. They do, however, bother my wife, and if they would bother you, feel free to strip them out of there casings or use a 1 lb package of sausage meat and roll it into thumb size strips.

Friday, November 27, 2015

An Apology

My lovely readers, I'm afraid that I have some sad news. There has been a death in my wife's family. Her grandfather had been suffering with severe dementia for quite some time, and has passed away due to complications.


I know that I have committed to a 2-3 times a week update schedule, but will simply not be possible this week. I plan to resume that schedule as soon as I can.

Your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Taqueria La Michoacana

It's no secret that my wife and I love Mexican food, and luckily there are plenty of great Mexican restaurants where we live. Our favorite place for a good sit down Mexican meal is Taqueria La Michoacana in Norristown, PA.

Taqueria La Michoacana is a sit down and carry-out restaurant right on Main St in the heart of Norristown. They have a large menu with good selection of appetizers, entrées, delicious drinks, and a fantastic selection of classic Mexican favorites. Due to the wacky liquor laws in the state of PA they cannot sell alcohol, but they can give you a free margarita with the purchase of an entrée and it’s a damn good margarita.

The restaurant has plenty of seating and the walls are decorated with some traditionally styled Mexican murals depicting some Aztec myths and legends. On the ceiling as you walk in is an impressive mural of the golden eagle of Mexico. There are two TVs which usually have a futbol match or a Mexican soap opera going, it creates a nice atmosphere.

The staff is friendly and responsive and is happy to get me an extra serving of crema or sour cream if my white bread American taste buds can’t handle the spiciness.

Last time I went there I had a pambazo which is a sandwich that has had the bread simmered in a red sauce, making it extremely messy and extremely tasty. The menu offered a few choices for meat filling and I chose beef Milanese and its toppings included lettuce and queso fresco. The spice of the red guajillo sauce was present but not overwhelming and included a good smoky flavor. All in all it was a great sandwich even if it did stain my fingers up eating it.

My only critique would be that they don’t do American food very well. The French fries I have had there were not very good and had the texture and color of fries that had been fried once instead of blanched and then fried. But, I don’t go to a good ethnic restaurant looking for American food so that does not bother me.

If you are in Norristown, PA and have a hankering for good Mexican cuisine, take a quick trip to La Michoacana, you definitely won’t regret it.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sausage Stir-fry


I love stir-fries, they are a great chance to use up stuff around your house, they don't take long to make, and are a great way to experiment with new flavors and combinations. This recipe takes advantage of one of the more interesting sausages the grocery store I work at sells. If you cannot get your hands on wine and cheese pork sausage, I think a mild italian sausage would substitute nicely.

Ingredients:

2 T of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 red onion, cut into wedges
2 t of salt, divided
1 lb of wine and cheese pork sausage cut into 1" pieces
⅓ C of low sodium soy sauce
3 T of honey
4 C of red swiss chard cut into ribbons
½ t of black pepper

Directions:

Over medium high heat, heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet, and once it shimmers, add the 2 cloves of garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add the red onion and the first teaspoon of salt. Once the onion is lightly browned, add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Once the sausage is cooked, reduce the heat to medium and add the soy sauce and the honey. Reduce them to a syrupy consistency and then add the chard. Steam the chard until it is tender, this took me about 3 minutes. Add the black pepper, and serve. I recommend serving over quinoa or rice.

When I say stir-fries are quick, I mean it. from prep to service, this took me about 20 minutes total, an easy recipe for when you need to whip up a quick, nutritious dinner for the family.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Loaded Nachos

Slice of nachos

Nachos have come a long way since they were invented in the '40s by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya. The original nachos were simply fried tortilla chips, melted cheddar cheese, and sliced pickled jalapenos. Since then, nachos have become pretty integrated into Ameri-Mexican cooking and can be found on the menu of almost any bar in the U.S. of A. These nachos are piled high with traditional Mexican flavors and toppings.



Nacho prep Ingredients:

1 lb of Tortilla chips
1 lb Oaxaca cheese or low moisture mozzarella, shredded
1 lb of chorizo, cooked and broken apart
Black bean corn salsa
¼ C of pico de gallo

Disclaimer:

Where I live there are a lot of Mexican grocery stores so I have easy access to fresh, good quality ethnic cuisine. So, I can get a wide variety of Mexican cheeses. Oaxaca cheese is from Oaxaca county in Mexico, and is sort of like Mexican string cheese. It is a fresh cheese, like mozzarella, but it is stretched and folded so it has a bit less moisture than your usual fresh mozzarella. So, if you can't find Oaxaca, or if it's a bit out of your budget, I recommend regular mozzarella, but feel free to use any cheese or blend of cheeses you like best.

Directions:

Preheat the broiler on your oven and place a rack of your oven in the lowest position.

In a baking dish or casserole start with a layer of tortilla chips, bean salsa, pico de gallo, chorizo, and then Oaxaca cheese. Then, add another layer of chips, beans, meat, and cheese, save the rest of the pico to serve alongside. Mine ended up being a bit piled high, so I made sure to put a piece of tin foil down to catch any spills. Depending on how much stuff you like on your nachos and the size of the baking dish you use, you might have some leftovers. I had some cheese and bean dip left over that I'll use for quesadillas or mix in with my scrambled eggs some morning.

Put your nachos on the lowest rack and broil until the cheese is nice and melted. For me this took about 7 minutes. Make sure to keep an eye on it as it cooks to make sure the cheese doesn't burn. Serve immediately.

I serve mine with guacamole and crema. Crema is Mexican sour cream, which is a bit runnier than sour cream, with a bit more flavor, but feel free to use sour cream.

Nachos

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork

Pulled pork on a brioche bun

My best friend mentioned making pulled pork in root beer, and I thought that sounded fascinating. I did some looking around and I decided to try making this with  Dr. Pepper instead. A lot of recipes I found added a bunch of stuff to the cooking, but I wanted to keep that part nice and simple and instead make a great sauce to go with it.

Ingredients:

Pulled pork:

2.5-3lbs of bone in pork shoulder or pork butt
20oz of Dr. Pepper
Salt

Sauce:

3.5 C cooking liquid strained
1t Worcestershire sauce
1t apple cider vinegar
¼ t garlic powder
¼ t onion powder
¼ t red pepper flake
⅛ t cinnamon

Directions:

Place your pork butt (don't worry it's not actually from the butt, ham comes from the butt) in your slow cooker and lightly salt the top, approx. 1t, and then pour on the soda. Slap on the lid and cook on low for 7-8 hrs.

After 7-8 hrs extract your beautiful piece of pork and place it on a cutting board (this was the hardest part for me to do because the pork was so tender it kept falling apart as I tried to lift it). Gently tent the pork with a sheet of aluminum foil and let it rest for 20 min. Remove the liquid the remains in your slow cooker, strain it, and set it aside. I wound up with 3.5 cups left over.

Now, the fun part! Use a pair of forks to pull the pork, starting in the middle and working out. Feel free to shred it as finely or as coarsely as you would like, depending on the texture you prefer. Place the pulled pork back in your slow cooker and put it on warm or the lowest heat it can provide.

Take the reserved cooking liquid and put it in a medium saucepan over medium high heat add the spices and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the sauce to 1 cup or ⅓ of the original volume. Remove from the heat and make any spice adjustments you'd like. Feel free to add a pinch of salt if the vinegar is too bitter. Once you are happy with the flavor, pour the sauce on the pulled pork and stir to combine.

Serve on a lightly toasted and buttered brioche bun and enjoy!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Black Bean Corn Salsa

Black Bean Corn Salsa

One day, I was making nachos and I wanted to make a good topping out of the black beans I had in my pantry. I had some corn in my freezer, and I love corn salsa, so I decided to add that, a few spices, and bam! I had a new salsa that makes a great dip for tortilla chips and a great topping for nachos, tacos, and many other Mexican style dishes.

Ingredients:

1 T of olive oil
1 large jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 15.5 oz can of black beans, drained
1 C of frozen corn
½ t of ground cumin
¼ t of red pepper flake
¼ t of black pepper

Directions:

Heat the oil in a 10" non-stick skillet and lightly saute the jalapeno. Once the chili is lightly browned, add the can of beans. As the beans saute I like to lightly crush them, it makes the salsa a little creamer and helps it stay together on the chip. Make sure to not cook all the liquid away or the salsa will not stay together and it will be harder to scoop. Once the beans have been lightly sauted add the frozen corn and heat through. Add the spices, stir to combine, and serve. This salsa goes great alongside pico de gallo and guacamole!

Friday, October 30, 2015

David's Mulled Cider


My friend David had some good suggestions on how to modify my mulled cider recipe, so, I decided to give some of his suggestions a whirl and came up with this variation. This one is based off of apple pie spices as opposed to the citrus notes of my recipe. While I am partial to my variation, this is a tasty traditional.

Ingredients:

1 lemon
1 apple
2 sticks of cinnamon
1 t of whole cloves
½ t of whole allspice berries
¼ t of fresh grated nutmeg
½ gal of apple cider

Directions:

Slice up the lemon and apple, again discarding the end pieces since flavor extraction of the pith will just make the whole brew bitter. Since I don't have an orange to put them in this time, I wrapped my smaller spices in a bit of cheese cloth that I tied up with butchers twine to make a spice bag, but a tied up coffee filter would work just as well, I just don't have any.

Place all of the ingredients in a  slow cooker and steep on low for 2.5-3 hrs stirring occasionally. I steep mine until the cinnamon sticks are flexible so I know there has been plenty of flavor extracted.

Once the cider has been thoroughly spiced, remove all the solids and discard, trust me, they don't taste good anymore. Strain the cider though a fine mesh strainer to remove any sediments and pulp. Though the spices were in a bag, you still want to make sure you get out any lemon seeds, pulp, or apple seeds. Serve hot or cold, and enjoy! For the adults in the room, this one will also taste really good with a splash of cinnamon whiskey.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Baked Tortilla Chips


Most tortilla chips you buy at your local friendly mega mart are fried and, in my opinion, too salty. Baked tortilla chips can be salted to your liking, are thicker for holding more substantial dips, can be flavored in a variety of ways, and, best of all, are cheaper than store bought.

I make my own tortillas, but I am a freak and my wife bought me a tortilla press. I don't expect you to go to such lengths, so I will use store bought tortillas in this recipe.

Ingredients:

1 lb of corn tortillas
Olive oil
Salt to taste

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350.

Use a basting brush to olive oil on both sides of each tortilla and then cut them all into quarters. One time I cut them into quarters before I oiled them, and that was a pain. Spread the wedges in a single layer on a pair of baking sheets and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until they are nice and crispy. Be sure to rotate the baking sheets once during baking.

Remove your chips from the oven and salt lightly. I salt afterwards because I like less salt, but if you want more salt on your chips, feel free to salt them before baking.

Since you have now made your own chips, why limit your flavor additions to salt? You could toss your warm chips in a bit of lime juice and salt for a bit of kick. Why not sprinkle on some cayenne powder or cumin for a bit of spice? You could even toss them in cinnamon and sugar for a dessert chip. Since you're making your own, the flavors you use are only limited by your pantry.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pico de Gallo


Pico de gallo is a traditional Mexican salsa that seems to have little to do with its name which literally translates to "roosters beak". Regardless, it is a very tasty dip that is pretty easy and has plenty of flavor. I like making it because it is a really tasty way to practice my knife skills since it requires breaking down a lot of produce.

Ingredients:

4 tomatoes diced
2 large jalapeños seeded and dice
Packed ¼ C of cilantro chopped fine
½ red onion diced fine
Juice of 1 lime
1 t of salt

Directions:

Gently stir all the ingredients together, cover and place in the chill chest for 10 to 15 minutes to give the flavors some time to combine. Make any flavor adjustment you'd like then serve with tortilla chips. (Told you that was easy!)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Biscuit Beef Stew


One of my favorite memories from when I was a kid was when my mom would make biscuit beef stew. She steamed her biscuits, but when I found out I could bake my favorite biscuits right on top I jumped at the chance and never looked back. This recipe really shines with leftover beef stew because beef stew is one of those few foods that tastes even better the next day.

Ingredients:

Leftover beef stew
2 cups AP flour
1 T plus 1 t baking powder
¼ t baking soda
½ t salt
2 T butter
2 T shortening
1 cup buttermilk

Directions:

Place your leftover beef stew in a bake safe container, you will want to make sure your stew is warm before you place your biscuits in it, otherwise they will not cook up properly. I placed the stew in the oven as I preheated it to 450 and then removed it when the oven was ready so I could place the biscuits in it.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, backing soda, and salt. Cut the butter and shortening into small pieces, make sure the butter is chilled, and work into the flour mixture using the tips of your fingers, so you don't melt the butter. Make a well in the dough and pour in the buttermilk, mix until the dough just comes together. Place the dough on a floured surface, flour the top of the dough, then fold the dough over itself 4 or 5 times. Press the dough into an inch thick square then cut out your biscuits using a 1 inch cutter, arranging them in the stew as you go. Reform the scraps and repeat.

When I made this, I ended up having too much biscuit dough so I just had to make some regular biscuits with the excess, but those are still delicious.

Place your biscuit stew in the top third of your oven and bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown. I always lay down a sheet of foil beneath it so I catch anything that bubbles over. Let the stew rest for 5-10 minutes and then serve.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Citrus Mulled Cider

Mulled Cider

Mulled cider is one of my favorite drinks to make during the fall, I lost track of how many gallons of cider I went through last year when I started making this all the time. I made this mulled cider as Christmas presents for some of my friends last year, and they loved it. It is a fantastic drink for a cold day during apple season.

Ingredients:

½ gallon of apple cider
1 lemon
1 apple*
2 oranges 1 sliced and 1 whole
1 t of whole cloves
2 six inch sticks of cinnamon
Optional: 1 T of salt**

Directions:

Slice the lemon, the apple, and one of the oranges into rounds, discarding the end pieces since there isn't much flavor to be garnered from those pieces. Then, stick the cloves into the remaining orange, I like to make a little face out of them.

Once your prep work is done, pour the cider into your slow cooker/ crock pot and add all of the ingredients. Put your slow cooker on low and let it go for 2.5-3 hours, stirring occasionally. I like to steep mine until the cinnamon sticks are flexible so I know there has been good extraction of flavor.

Once the cider has been thoroughly spiced, remove all the solids and discard, trust me, they don't taste good anymore. Strain the cider though a fine mesh strainer to remove any sediments and pulp. I strained my cider into a large mason jar and garnished with some granny smith apple slices and another stick of cinnamon. Serve hot or cold, and enjoy! For the adults in the room, this also tastes really good with a splash of cinnamon whiskey.

*I used an heirloom apple called a Pippen, but feel free to use whatever apple you like.
**I find that sometimes a bit too much bitter from the pith of the orange and lemon gets into the cider, when this happens, I add a bit of salt because salt blocks bitter flavors from the tongue

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Beef Stew

Beef stew

Beef stew brings back a lot of childhood memories for me. My family always seemed to have that can of Dinty Moore sitting on the basement stairs for when mom didn't feel like making dinner some night. Making you own is pretty simple, and it tastes way better than what comes out of a can.

Ingredients:

2 lbs of stew beef cut into 1 inch cubes
Beef stew supplies2 T of olive oil
¼ C of flour
2 C of leeks
½ C of carrots
3 butter potatoes chopped
1 clove of garlic minced
2 C of low sodium beef stock
2 T of Worcestershire sauce
¼ t of salt
¼ t of black pepper
2 bay leaves

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, over medium heat, and then brown the cubes of stew beef. Put the stew beef in your slow cooker. Add the flour and toss the meat to coat. Put the leeks, carrots, potatoes in the slow cooker and add the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir the stew and then add the bay leaves.

Put your slow cooker on high and cook for 4-6 hours. Before serving, stir the stew to redistribute anything that might have settled, and make sure to remove the bay leaves; they are not good for eating.

Make sure you save any left overs, because they can be turned into my favorite stew dish, biscuit beef stew!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

BBQ Meatballs


With the start of fall, it's time for me to break out my slow cooker. This is the first of a bunch of slow cooker recipes you'll be getting from me as the weather turns cold. When I was younger I had meatballs served at my birthday party every year. Because my birthday is close to Christmas, we always decorated the tree at my party. Since we would be moving around, any food served had to be an hors d'oeuvre. Meatballs were always my favorite.

Ingredients:

1 large shallot minced fine
1 T of olive oil
1 18 oz (be weight) jar of grape jelly
Same jar filled with BBQ sauce
2 T of whiskey (I used Jack Daniel's)
Aprox. 34 meatballs (I added them in frozen)*

Directions:

Place a medium saute pan over medium high heat and add the olive oil. Heat the olive oil until it shimmers and then add the shallot and saute until the shallot is well browned, about 2 minutes. Put the shallot in your slow cooker and then add all of the liquid ingredients. Mix well, but don't be surprised if it does not mix thoroughly, because the jelly is hard to mix when it is cold; it will mix more thoroughly when the sauce is warmed. Then add enough meatballs for the sauce to cover, in my slow cooker this was turned out to be 34, but that will change depending on the size of the meatball and the size of the slow cooker.

Turn your slow cooker on high and let it cook for 2-2.5 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Once the sauce is thickened to your liking, remove the meatballs and serve. I usually just serve these with toothpicks, but these also make an amazing meatball sub when served with provolone cheese.

*I use frozen meatballs for this recipe because when I am making party food, I'm going to be making a lot of food and I don't usually have time to hand-make meatballs. If you feel like making your own, go right ahead, I'm sure they will be excellent. However, if you are using handmade meatballs, make sure they are cooked through since this recipe's cook time does not take that into account.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pork Potstickers


I love these pot stickers. My mom claims that my pot stickers are the best things I have ever made for her. I'm not sure about that, but these are quite tasty. They aren't quite as easy to make as some of the other recipes I have put up, but that is mostly in how you make the dumpling.

Ingredients:

1 lb of ground pork
1 T of Worcestershire sauce
1 T of low sodium soy sauce
¼ C of green onion chopped fine
½ C of nappa or Chinese cabbage roughly chopped
½ t of salt
¼ t of black pepper
36 pot sticker wrappers
Vegetable oil (canola or olive)
Low sodium chicken stock

Directions:

Place the pork, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, onion, cabbage, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined. When it comes to assembling the pot stickers I like to have my station all set up and everything organized before I begin.

Here is how I set up my fabrication station: my filling, my wrappers (covered by a moist paper towel to keep them from drying out), a plate for construction, a teaspoon for portioning (and an extra spoon to coax out the filling), some water to wet my fingers to make the seal, and a baking sheet with some damp paper towels to keep the finished dumplings from drying out before they get cooked.

Steps in pot sticker construction:

Here are my wife's instructions for how to assemble the pot stickers. She is much better at it than I am:
  1. Place one on wrapper on the plate in front of you, dip a finger in the bowl of water and then wet the outside edge of the wrapper, and place about 2 teaspoons of filling in the middle. (Note: Be sure to only lightly moisten the dough. It should feel a bit tacky, but not slippery, so that the wrapper sticks to itself without sliding.)
  2. Fold the wrapper in half and seal it by pressing gently outward from the bulge of filling to the edge of the wrapper. Make sure to get out as much air as possible, since air pockets will expand as they're heated up and might burst open in the pan. Then moisten both sides of the wrapper along the outer edge of the crescent.
  3. Starting just inside one corner of the crescent, curve the wrapper into a small S shape.
  4. Flatten the S shape so that the wrapper is folded against itself, and pinch it tight.
  5. Continue making crimps until you reach the other corner of the crescent, making sure that none of the crimps overlap. (I can usually fit four to five crimps along the edge of each wrapper.)

When you are finished constructing the dumpling. place it on the cookies sheet lined with a moist paper towel. Make sure to also have a damp paper towel to place over top the waiting pot stickers. My wife usually fills one and I cook the pot stickers on that one while she fills the next. You can also freeze the pot stickers on the sheet pan and then stash them in a plastic bag in the freezer to cook later.

Heat a 10" skillet over high heat, one with a lid, on my electric stove I put it at 8 out of 10. Heat the pan until water spritzed on the plan doesn't skitter but boils off instantly. Put a tablespoon of oil in the skillet and use a paper towel or basting brush to thoroughly cover the bottom. Place the pot stickers in the skillet with a little space between each, in a 10" one I can usually fit 6 or 7.

Cook on high for 2 minutes, or until browned on the bottom, then pour in ½ cup of chicken stock, slap the lid on, and reduce the heat to low. Steam for 3 minutes and then remove from the pan. Repeat until all the pot stickers are cooked. If you are cooking frozen dumplings, add ¼ cup more chicken stock and steam for 2 minutes extra.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Guacamole


Guacamole is my favorite dip, I love all the different textures, from the smooth avocados to the crisp onion. It has great contrasting flavors that strike a good balance, plus it is really nutritious. This recipe changes things up a bit by taking a pretty traditional recipe and adding pomegranate arils.

Ingredients:

¼ C of cilantro chopped fine
½ of a red onion diced fine
1 large jalapeno seeded and diced fine
1 small tomato diced
1 glove of garlic grated
Juice form ½ a lime
¼ t of salt
¼ t of black pepper (use cayenne pepper if you're feeling brave)
3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded, and peeled
¼ C of pomegranate arils

Directions:


Combine all of the ingredients except the pomegranate in a bowl and use a potato masher to mash and mix everything into your desired consistency. Cover with plastic wrap, making sure that the plastic wrap is coming directly into contact with the food so that there is no air between the plastic and the guacamole. If there is no air, then the avocado can't oxidize and turn grey. Stash it in the fridge for 10 minutes so all the flavors can really come together.

Remove from the fridge and gently stir in the the pomegranate arils. I started with a ¼ cup, but my wife kept adding more as we went along, she liked them so much. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Apple Caprese


A friend of mine told me about a recipe for a peach caprese salad and I thought that sounded really good. Unfortunately, by the time I got around to develop my own recipe for such a salad, peaches were pretty out of season around here. So, like the intrepid soul that I am, I substituted! This makes a really good dessert and the mint comes across pleasantly strong.

Ingredients:

2 apples each cut into 16 equal pieces*
4 oz (by weight) of Chevre goat cheese, feel free to use as much or as little as you like
3 sprigs of mint leaves
4 T of honey

Directions:

This one is pretty simple. Arrange the apples on a serving plate, crumble on the goat cheese, sprinkle on the mint leaves, drizzle on the honey, and serve.

It is usually recommended that you let the cheese get to room temperature before serving because cold dulls taste but you also don't want to make this salad too far in advance or the apples may turn brown.

*I used granny smith and envy (similar to honey crisp) apples because I like the contrasting colors and flavors, but feel free to use any apple you prefer.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Restoring Cast Iron

Earlier I put up a post that described some basic steps for keeping your cast iron clean and in good condition. This time, I want to focus on what to do if, God forbid, your cast iron gets severely damaged. To demonstrate the resilience of cast iron I picked up this poor thing at a thrift store near me.



As long as the cast iron is not rusted all the way through or cracked, it's surface can be restored. Resurfacing starts with hot, soapy water and steel wool. Since you are entirely resurfacing, the soap and steel wool won't hurt anything. Scrub until you have gotten down to the bare iron.




Once the iron is bare and any loose stuff has been rinsed off, dry it thoroughly and rub on a thin layer of cooking oil or shortening. If you have too much on there the finish will feel sticky when cold and will get grimy and dusty during storage.

Place your piece of cast iron in the oven, upside down (to prevent any grease from pooling) with a piece of tin foil on a rack placed below it. Now turn your oven on to 450 F. Once the oven is at temp, bake the cast iron for an hour. Because of the heat involved, it can get a bit smokey, so you might want to make sure your vent hood is on.

The theory behind seasoning cast iron is to hold the oil coating at slightly above the break-down temperature of oil. This causes the oil to denature and form the plastic like non-stick coating on the cast iron.

After an hour, turn off the oven and allow the cast iron to cool in the oven. If it is all done correctly, you cast iron should come out looking something like this:



You can repeat the oiling and baking steps if you are not satisfied with the seasoning. Some people suggest repeating those steps 6 times. However, as long as you properly care for your cast iron, the seasoning will improve over time.

Cast iron is really sturdy stuff and unlike most non-stick pans, if the surface is damaged, that isn't the end of the pan. So please, if you see some rust, don't throw it away, save yourself some money and show your cast iron some TLC. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pigs in a Blanket with a Ketchup Glaze


Pigs in a blanket with a ketchup glaze

I love pigs in a blanket as hors d'oeuvres or party food, right up there with meatballs. (Don't worry, those are coming soon.) They are fun to make, easy to eat, and plenty tasty. They are a hit with kids of all ages. When I came up with this recipe, I wanted to make pigs in a blanket that wouldn't require you to carry a dipping sauce around all night and possibly make a mess. So, I researched how to make a ketchup glaze and went from there.

Ingredients:

½ C of dark brown sugar
½ C of ketchup
1 14 oz package of mini sausages*
2 tubes of croissant dough

Directions:

Preheat the oven according to instructions on package of croissants.

Put the ketchup and brown sugar in a small saucepan and mix until smooth. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Let it simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the sauce is thickened, add the package of mini sausages, bring the sauce back to a simmer and simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. When you are satisfied with how thick the sauce is, take it off the heat and allow the sauce and sausage mixture to cool.

How to cut the doughNow unroll one croissant (bottom left in picture) and cut it into two pieces (top two pieces in picture). Roll each sausage in a piece of dough and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake according to the instructions on the croissant tube and serve. Any leftover glaze can be served as a dipping sauce if you desire.

*I prefer Hillshire Farm 14 oz Lit'l Smokies. If you can find the Cheddar Lit'l Smokies, even better.