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.