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Friday, October 29, 2010

Channeling my inner Paula Dean...

So, I have spent my afternoon today channeling my inner Paula Dean, yawwwl... I made ginger cookies, and barbeekew sawwzz... and reeeeebz... Since I was making homemade bbq sauce, I figured I'd share. Now, this is a bit sweet, but it's got bite too! Go easy... (P.S.~ I had originally forgot the chipotle... so I've added it here, 10/30/10.)

Mr. Badabing's BBQ Sawssss

Makes about 4 cups, leaving some to freeze for next time!!! Whoooo hoooooo!!!

1/2          Onion, minced
1 stalk     Celery, minced
2 T          Garlic, minced (about 3 cloves, maybe 4)
4             Piquillo peppers, chopped (you can find these in the frozen food section; they're smokey, red peppers)
2 T          Canola oil

3/4 C       Ketchup
1/2 C       Brown sugar, packed
1/2 C       Molasses
2 C          Water
1/2 C       Red wine vinegar
1/8 C       Worstershire sauce
1 C          Dr. Pepper (or root beer, or Pepsi)
2 T          Montreal steak seasoning
1 t           Hickory or smoked salt
2 t           Cumin
Pinch       Thyme
Pinch       Ground sage
1 T          hot sauce (Tabasco)
Pinch       Cayenne (go easy!)
1/2          Ice Cube Chipotle
Ok, remember, I buy a can of Chipotle in adobo sauce, use what I need and freeze the rest. A little goes a long way, so it doesn't take much here. I'd suggest using HALF of an ice cube first, and seeing if after 10 minutes of simmering if you've got the smokey-ness and heat you want. You can always add heat, but you can't take it out.

One more thing here~ if you like sweet ribs and chicken, and are putting a sweet rub on your meets (sweeeeeeeet, like with brown sugar!), then you can jack up the heat on the sauce a bit, because you'll have a great balance in the end. 

One last thing, I promise!!! Maybe... Ok, this would be great over burritos... mmmmmmmmmm...

Ok, this is simple!

  1. Add oil to a hot stock pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. When it's shimmering, add the onions and celery. Stir for about a minute, and then just continue to cook for 3 minutes.
  2. Turn heat down to medium. Add garlic, stir, and cook for about 4 minutes.
  3. Add peppers, and stir. Cook a minute or two.
  4. Add brown sugar, and dissolve. Add all the liquids and spices, stir to combine.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer.
  6. Get out the immersion blender, and blend everything as smooth as you want it. Cook for about an hour... tasting along the way.
How easy was that???

Mole, Butternuts, and Beeeeer

What is a "butternut"??? Why do they call butternut squash, "butternut squash"??? And, why is it so tasty??? Why can we only get it in the fall? Why don't other countries grow it year round so we can enjoy it in the spring??? Is it too much to ask??? Why am I using so many question marks??? I'm outta control!!! I feel like Regis Philbin!

So, when I get stuck in a food rut around the house, my "go to" dish is Chicken en Mole. Yum... And, to be honest- I CHEAT! I buy mole paste! I don't make it from scratch. It's one of those things that takes skill, and 30 some ingredients, and a day or two of babysitting! Maybe some day I'll make it from scratch, but for now, I'll take the shortcut! And, I usually make enough that I can put leftovers in to burritos or enchiladas. Either way, the sauce always tastes better the next day.

Mole paste is available in every grocery store I've been to lately. It's in the Mexican aisle, and there's generally two brands. It's kind of similar to Better Than Bouillon beef base- it's grainy, pasty, and needs refrigeration after opened! But, it's soooo simple to use.

Now, I usually like carrot chunks in my mole, but I had butternut squash on hand. Figured it would be great in the mole- a nice earthy component to the recipe. And, if it's not overcooked, but rather kinda firm, PERFECTION!!!

Chicken and Butternut Squash en Mole

1            large onion, sliced
1 stalk    celery, chopped
1            red pepper, sliced thick
1 lb        chicken breast tenders
1-1/2 C  roasted butternut squash (not roasted to completion; should be firm; save the rest for soup!)
3/4 C     mole paste (Doria Maria brand is what I've been using)
2 T        chopped garlic
2 T        canola oil
1 C        beer (Sam Adams Octoberfest worked great! something hearty)
1/2 C     chicken stock
1/2 C     water
              roasted seeds from squash or pumpkin (sprinkle over top!)

  1. Cut the butternut squash in half, lengthwise. Scrape the seeds out. Wash the seeds, and place them aside. Place the squash on a oiled cookie sheet, cook for 25 minutes at 375 deg F. The squash won't be completely cooked yet. LEAVE IT IN THE OVEN while we get started on the other items...
  2. Heat up a Dutch oven on the stove, on medium high heat. Add 1 T oil. Once hot and shimmery, place the chicken in to the pan, whole. No need to chop it up- it will stay juicy this way. Brown on both sides, about 1 minute each side. Remove from pan to a plate and set aside.
  3. Add 1 T oil, and turn heat down to medium. Add the onions, peppers, celery and garlic. Stir around the pan for about a minute, then let cook for 2-3 minutes until the onions are translucent, and the celery bright green.
  4. Add the mole paste, and stir around the pan to dissolve it. NOTE: it has salt in it already, so don't add salt until the end!
  5. Add the beer, chicken stock and water. Bring to a boil, stirring and dissolving the mole paste. Reduce to a slow simmer, and allow to thicken.
  6. Place squash seeds in oven, at 325 Deg F. Set timer for 5 minutes.
  7. Take one half of the butternut squash, and peel with a vegetable peeler. Chop in to 1" to 1-1/2" chunks. Add to the pot.
  8. When timer goes off, stir the seeds. Put back in the oven, and roast for another 4-5 minutes, until crunchy. Remove from oven.
  9. Add chicken to pot on stove, and allow to simmer for about 3 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle.
  10. Serve alongside cooked rice. Top with squash seeds, and some sour cream.
  11. Pour beer, pick up fork, and gorge yourself on this stuff! It's tasty!
That's all folks! Mange Bene!!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bomb threat??? Can all that wait until I get some food?

So, I was in Port Angeles on Tuesday, enjoying a bit of a road trip with Cheryl. The weather wasn't great, but autumn colors and tall evergreens, and the lure of a ferry ride to the Olympic Peninsula beckoned nonetheless. One hell of a long drive, and no sign of orcas, but passing through spots like Port Gamble where the original 1790's Navy officers' houses still stand watch over the harbor get you day dreaming about tall gun ships with billowing sails drifting,.. drifting...

After taking care of Cheryl's "work stuff" at a job site, it was time for a late lunch downtown Port Angeles. I haven't been there in a good 20 years or more, so it was all new again. We circled through downtown and then decide on where to be fed. That's when we started seeing cops flying through town... FAST! Lights a-blazin'! Sirens SCREEEEEEAming... What the heck??? There goes 2... 3... 5... I counted 18 cops, sheriffs, and boarder patrol vehicles when we got to the end of "the strip" downtown. YIKES... Well, hell, let's get food!

So, we decided to stop at Rick's Place, and get a few sandwiches. Wasn't crowded since it was about 2:30... but clean, windows staring out at the sidewalk and street; separate bar all decked out for Halloween. Booooooze... mmmm.... but, I  digress.

The online menu doesn't do justice to the place. They had great names for burgers and sandwiches, like "She loves me, she loves me hot" burger with a ton of sauteed jalapeƱos. They've got typical bar food, wings etc. But, they also have homemade soups! (No substitutions, though!) And, for lunch, they have a $5 specials menu! KILLER!!! Cheryl had the French Dip (a bit light on some killer roast beef, but the au jus was extra tasty), and I couldn't pass up the "Hot Italian"... being one myself. Lemme just say, I was running outta water! I was figuring a sausage sammy with peppers and pepperoncinis and cheese, grilled and toasty. Oh, it was that, but it was loaded with FIERY HOT Italian sausage, and extra hot pepperoncinis! And, it was soooooo good! Both came with a heap of DAMN good fries- lightly breaded I think, and not a hint of grease or oil anywhere! There was enough food on the plates that neither of us left with clean plates. All that, for $5/each- highly recommend it! And, it distracted us from all the fuzz we saw earlier. (Turned out it was a bomb threat at the federal building. They have a federal building??? REALLY???)

So, if you're in the area, heading to Forks maybe for some Twilight tours... take a break and hit Rick's, AND THEN, you can go to the Twilight store a couple blocks away, and get your cardboard cutouts of your fav teenie bopper stars... of which I have no interest!!! But, hey... for you, ya' know?!

Mange Bene!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What to do with all these potatoes!!!

Hey all!

I know it's been a couple of months since my last post. For those who don't know I was ill and it lingered and kept coming back. I didn't do much cooking while I was sick! No energy, motivation nor appetite! But alas- I'm feeling better, inside and out, and am back to cooking, and it feels great! For me it's theraputic, really. Come over and hang out in my kitchen for a while- you'll see just what I mean! I get all excited just thinking about what I'm going to cook, how I might vary it from original recipes or ideas, how I might boost flavors, or add something to simplify the steps- like using peppered bacon- pepper, and bacon, smoky and salty- all sorts of flavors to impart to what your cooking, and it's just one ingredient. Which brings me to today's recipe...

Well, fall is hitting us hard in the Pacific Northwest, blowing down trees and houses falling in to the ocean! YIKES! So, we've needed something warm, comforting and hearty- I need to feel full after dinner! And potatoes have been on sale dirt cheap lately which is why I have about 15 pounds or so laying around. I was able to grab 15 # of potatoes for $1.49- ya' HAVE to buy that kind of a deal! Mind you, there's only 2 people in the house, and that's a TON of potatoes to eat! I hate seeing things go to waste, so I made potato gnocchi (which I haven't put in a pot yet, so I don't know if the recipe is good enough to share yet... oh, and when I scooped out the potato from the skins to use in my gnocchi dough, I made sure to leave the skins intact for use some other time as loaded potato skins, along with some wings maybe! Double duty!) and last night- LOADED BAKED POTATO SOUP! This was killer, and I walked away unable to eat another bite! It was better than the Select Soups we buy at Safeway, most assuredly!!! And, it was a cinch! I baked the potatoes while I was watching football (what a heartbreaking Dolphins loss to the Steelers, 23-22), and then it all came together in about 30 minutes. So, it's reasonable to think you could do this on a weeknight after work provided you'd already cooked the potatoes, and have dinner on the table, and sit and rest afterwards feeling satisfied but not overwhelmed.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

6          Medium russet potatoes
3C       Stock, chicken or vegetable (I used veggie stock I made from freezing vegetable scraps for a month)
1/2       Medium onion, finely chopped
1 rib     Celery, finely chopped
3          Strips of bacon, chopped (peppered preferably; seasons your soup!)
1T        Canola/vegetable oil
3T        Flour
2-1/2C Half-n-half (could use regular milk; if using straight cream, use a mix of cream and milk)
1/2C     Sour cream
1/4C     Shredded sharp cheddar
1/3C     Shredded white cheddar
             Small handful of chopped chives
             Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preparing the potatoes: scrub 'em, and place them on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Pull out of oven and let cool.
  2. Once the potatoes are done, and cooled, cut them in half (length-wise) and start scooping out the insides. If you leave some skin on all the better!. Chop in to chunks that are able to fit on to a spoon. Put about 2 double handfuls aside, separate.
  3. In a dutch oven or large soup pot, add the bacon and cook over medium high heat. As it is done to your liking, remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate or tray for later use. Leave the bacon grease in the pan.
  4. Add 1 T of oil to the pan, depending on how much fat is rendered from the bacon (left over in the pan). You want what looks like about 3 T of oil/fat/grease all together.
  5. Add the onion and celery, and stir for about 90 seconds, maybe 2 minutes. The celery should be bright, and the onions are starting to appear translucent or see-through.
  6. Add the 3 T of flour, and stir. Reduce heat to medium, and stir for about 1-1/2 minutes without burning! If it's drying out too fast, turn the heat down, and move the pan off the burner about half-way. You're making a roux, and it should be blonde in color when you're done, and all the oil should be absorbed.
  7. Put stock in the microwave for 2 minutes to get it good and hot.
  8. Add in the stock to the soup pot slowly, wisking/stirring to make sure there's not lumps. Stir for about a minute, and the heat should be at about medium.
  9. Put all the dairy (1/2-n-1/2, milk, cream, sour cream- whatever you're using) in a large bowl. Ladle out 1 ladle full of the hot stock from the soup pot, and slowly, a little at a time, wisk/stir briskly in to the dairy bowl, so you don't curdle the cream components. You're going to temper the dairy slowly bringing it up to temperature (temper's right in the word temperature even!), so it doesn't curdle when you add it to the stock pot. Adding cold dairy to hot liquids = CURDLE!
  10. Add one more ladle full of hot stock to the dairy, wisking/stirring briskly.
  11. Add the dairy to the soup pot.
  12. Add the 2 double handfuls of potatoes to the soup pot. If you have an immersion blender, now's one of those great times you get to use it! If not, get a potato masher, and mash/blend the potatoes and the soup base until thick.
  13. Bring to a boil. Any time you add flour or starch to a soup/gravy, it won't thicken until it is brought to a boil (the temperature gets the starches to break free), and then simmered for 5 to 10 minutes. If your soup is getting too thick, add some water- NOT DAIRY, unless you pop it into the microwave to warm it up a bit.
  14. Reduce to simmer, add 1/2 of the chives and cheese and 1/2 of the bacon you cooked.
  15. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Serve with some chives and bacon on top! You're done!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A long dry season?

For those who don't know, I have been DEATHLY ill for a few months now, and am just getting back on my feet, and back in the kitchen! When you're sick like that, and on your own, ya' don't much feel like cooking. Opening a can of Chef Boy-R-Dee actually happened in my kitchen, and I have only myself to blame!

Alas, I am well again (temporarily? hopefully PERMANENTLY!), and am back in the kitchen and cooking up a storm! So, expect a few new posts soon!

Mangia Bene! (eat well!)