Saturday, October 18, 2014

New Toy...Great Pizza

I read a post one of my bloggers wrote while on vacation who aquired a pizza oven that fit on the grill.  I became a little obsessed with a crusty pie since nothing like it existed in Mexico.

Bed Bath and Beyond carried a few on clearance so I picked one up.




I happened to make a batch of dough a few days earlier and it was in the fridge cold rising so I let that come to room temp before working it into a couple of crusts. I let the oven heat on the grill for 30 minutes or more and it was in the zone around 700 degrees. Now I cannot, for the life if me, get a crust off the peel so I use a bit of parchment to make life easier. The results of the high temp was amazing. Bubbly edges, crusty bottom, perfect pizza. Delish!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Another Year In Mexico


We had something special to celebrate this year and were fortunate to have our great friends Matt and Lori as well as Mackenzie, Ben and Christian come along for the ride. Our booking was delayed as we hoped Nick's schedule would allow him to join and as a result our usual haunt, Playa Mujeres,  was booked. He could not come with us and we ended up at the sister resort, Riviera Cancun,  south of Cancun. An older and decidedly less friendly version of our favorite resort we had a few small issues with service and trying to seat all of us at a meal. The concierge was rude and helpless but the restaurants tried to be accommodating but you could tell they were a little exasperated.

The food was pretty good but the outstanding dinner was at Chez Isabel with a Sea Bass that made you wanna smack your grandma. So good we went back for seconds.The Asian Spice restaurant was outstanding also. I had lasagna at the Italian place but it had a decidedly Mexican funk to it and I did not care for it at all.

The resort was well kept but the raft situation around the pool was laughable. They were like rare gems as guests stored them in rooms never to be seen. The security was ever vigilant and picked up your stuff after 40 minutes unattended even if you were in the pool right in front of it. Weird.

Brenda had created gift bags for all with a clever T shirt marking my 60th birthday. We had a great time with the kids but missed our absent members and a few who tried to book too late and found the resort full.  Next year we plan to book early and back at our favorite spot. Another year older and a little wiser.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Roasted Tomato Soup

Jill stopped by the office the other morning bearing the fruits from her brother's farm in Iowa. a box of assorted goodies included some bright yellow tomatoes that were getting past their prime so had to be processed quickly to preserve their integrity.

 

I started by selecting a few reds of our own, halving them and pulping them over a strainer to catch the juices. About 16 tomatoes yielded about 1 1/2 cups of tomato juice in a peachy color due to the mix of yellows and reds. I set this aside for later and proceeded to sprinkle the rest with olive oil and salt, throw in a few cloves of garlic and roast at 400 degrees for about an hour.

I threw everything including the reserved juice into the processor and whizzed away. In a large sauce pan I heated some butter and olive oil and sauteed a medium onion, 3 cloves of garlic and 1 teaspoon  of dried thyme. Normally I would use fresh basil but with the temperature dipping my basil is gone for the season. I added 1 tub of Knorr's Chicken broth with a cup of water and the pureed tomato mix. Still needing a little something to push it over the edge I added a 1/4 c grated Parmesan. That seemed to do the trick. The yellow tomatoes are very sweet so a little salt mellowed it out a bit.

Roasted Tomato Soup

2 pound ripe tomatoes halved and pulped, juice reserved
Olive oil for tomatoes and later for making soup
butter
1 medium onion chopped
6 cloves of garlic, 3 roasted, 3 plain and minced
1 teas dried thyme
1 tub Knorr's Homestyle Stock (chicken)
1-2 cups water
1/4 c cream
1/4 c Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Eating Omaha. Ponzu Sushi and Grill

Not ones to do sushi except on Happy Hour menus at Baby Blue we head to Ponzu because it has a reputation for a Cuban Pork Sandwich. Wow. Well deserved and crazy good.
Oh yes and the sushi. Odd combination but the Flamethrower roll beckoned me and I answered it's call. So, Sunday lunch was sushi and a Cuban Pork sandwich. Pulled Cuban pork and ham topped with cheese and mustard with homemade pickles. It was toasty and juicy. Perfectly seasoned and a delight to consume with a side of Truffle fries. Whodathunk to get a perfect Cuban sandwich at a sushi joint? And the sushi roll? Divine (hardly a flamethrower but we are too accustomed to heat to be affected) crispy cucumber and cream cheese with jalapeños and crispy crab meat. So delicious. The service was also fantastic. We were greeted by Curtis who was enthusiastic and engaged with his customers. A happy guy with a great style and awesome service. Oh yeah, we'll be back. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Caramel Frosting

Second proofing

Baked and frosted hot

Tomorrow is a random pot luck at work. The theme is chili and I' m not a huge fan but I came home this afternoon and began this recipe for rolls taking several recipes and picking what I thought was the best combo. While as I write this I have not tasted one yet, they look amazing. 


Here’s what you will need:

Dough:

¼ ounce package yeast

½ cup warm water ( I did not think this was enough fluid but I like my dough sticky so..)

½ cup scalded milk

¼ cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground clove

1 egg

4 – 5 cups all-purpose flour

Filling:

½ cup softened butter, plus more for pan

3/4 cup sugar, plus more for pan

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside. In a stand mixer bowl, combine milk, sugar, melted butter, pumpkin puree, spices, salt, and egg with a spoon. Attach the bowl to the mixer with the dough hook attached. Add 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. Add yeast mixture. Mix in remaining flour until dough is easy to handle. Knead with dough hook for about 5 minutes. (If not using a stand mixer, knead dough on lightly floured surface for 5 to 10 minutes.) Place in well-greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size, usually 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

When doubled in size, punch down dough. Roll out on floured surface into a 15 by 9-inch rectangle. Spread softened butter all over dough. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Then sprinkle over buttered dough. Beginning at the 15-inch side, role up dough and pinch edge together to seal. Cut into 12 to 15 slices.

Coat the bottom of 13 x 9 baking pan with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Place cinnamon roll slices close together in the pan and let rise until dough is doubled, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned.

For the frosting:

– 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

– ½ cup light brown sugar, packed

– 2 Tablespoons milk

– 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

– dash salt

– ½ cup powdered sugar

Put everything except powdered sugar in a small pan and combine cooking for 1 minute. Let cool and scrape into mixer bowl. Beat at medium speed adding powdered sugar till light in color. Spoon over warm rolls. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Beer Cheese Sauce

My assignment this week to help relieve some of Mackenzie's over zealous projects was to make a little Beer Cheese Sauce for the baby shower she is hosting. She of course has everything in hand but appreciates a little help here and there. The sauce had to as good as her attention to the details of the rest of the party and I silently dropped it off in her fridge at 0500 this morning taking great care not to wake her after she worked yesterday.

Beer Cheese Sauce

1/2 bottle of pale ale
3 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion chopped fine
2 cloves garlic minced
4 T flour
2 c milk or more for consistency
1/2 loaf Velveeta cubed
1 can cheddar Rico's Aged Cheddar Cheese Sauce
1T Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 c Parmesan
1 c sharp cheddar

Start by sauté the onions in the oil and butter. Add the garlic for 30 secs then add the flour. Cook just a minute but don't let the flour brown. Add the beer and stir then add the milk. Cook till thickened stirring to avoid lumps. I used a blender stick to incorporate the onions and remove any lumps.
Add the cheeses and stir to melt. Add the Worcestershire. Do not allow the sauce to boil as it will break.  Serve warm over noodles.  Notice I did not add salt due to the processed cheeses and I would thin with milk rather than beer as the beer tends to over power the delicate flavor balance.  I used a light pale ale, the darker lager I first opened caused an unpleasant color.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Wild Ride in Kansas City






This was the first weekend since my surgery that we could go see the guys in their environment. Mixed weekend since both Ben and Mackenzie had worked nights and Nick was busy with his studies for tests this week.

Firstly, Mackenzie had some IKEA to do so the first order if business after a Church's Chicken lunch was hitting the new store. Wow. It was huge and took hours to walk thru. Parking wasn't too bad but we lucked out and got pretty close. They have shuttles running Saturday morning for the traffic volume is crazy.

After dropping off the boys we hit the Plaza for more Mackenzie shops like World Market, West Elm and Athleta. We also ran into the Art Fair which made downtown tough to maneuver but Mackenzie took the wheel and off we went. We walked the fair till dear old Dad couldn't walk anymore and headed back to gather the men and eat some dinner.

We stopped at Jack Stack's for burnt ends, ribs and sides. Great meal and plenty of food. We were all exhaustd and Nick had several chapters to read before bed so we left and headed to our hotel.

Up the next morning for Ben's favorite breakfast spot The Big Biscuit and had a hearty breakfast before hitting a liquor store (I know, don't ask.) Nick went back to his books and the rest of us headed to the outlet mall. Back to the apartment for a short nap and then off to D'Bronx for pizza before heading home. So much fun and great to see everyone in one place. That's not going to happen often anymore.

Kudos to Nicholas for focusing on his books no matter what is going on.  He is doing great in the program and we are so proud of him. Kudos to Mackenzie for driving part of the time and remaining patient with her annoying parents. Crazy shopping, crazy. Kudos to Benjamin as he always misses us and went along with us despite a lack of sleep. He was a trooper. Excited to head back again but probably not till after the first of the year.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Eating Omaha: Pitch with family



Yesterday we hit a local eatery, Pitch for dinner with Mackenzie and Christian. They had a change in plans and we headed East for a meet up.

Brenda and I started with Truffle Fries and White beans in a creamy sauce with cheese. The fries were hot and delicious with a hint of truffle flavor while the beans were large and immersed in a lava hot creamy cheese concoction. The waiter brought us crostini to have with.  The girls split a salad and Christian and I split a sausage pizza. Everything was great and the atmosphere was pleasant as well as the service. Such a nice location in Old Dundee, after it was a beautiful evening and the drive home was already getting dark at 730.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Visit to Mother India with friends and family




This was a weekend of special guests and meetings. Matt and Lori stopped by Friday evening to greet Christian (Mackenzie's beau) and get acquainted before our week in Mexico.

Ben came into town for a visit. The plan was to actually visit the local eatery Mother India but the seating is outdoors and it rained all day Friday and brought in a fall chill so I opted at 2 o'clock to cook instead but keep with the theme.

I had a few ingredients to pick up, looked quickly at a few recipes to see what I could do with either lamb or beef. No one has lamb so beef it was. (I also was looking for bargains since we were feeding so many). I picked up Ben and we did some fast shopping having to hit more than one store as the first was out of chicken (really?).  No time to spare as I had to get the Naan rising so I could clean up the mess of making it before dinner.

Brenda walked into the house at 1615 in utter despair as the kitchen was my usual cooking nightmare but cleaned up quickly  once the Naan was cooked and put away. On the stove bubbling away was Beef Madras which by then was not as tender as I had hoped but I had 2 hours to go. I had yet to grill the tandoori chicken for the Tikki Masla but the tomato sauce was coming together. Ben had measured out all the spices in small bowls for me which was no small feat in itself.

By the time guests arrived, all was finished and the kitchen was shining again. Pots and pans bubbling away on the stove and Naan in the oven we prepared for a feast. The night's biggest disappointment (and I knew it would be) was the rice. I don't make rice hardly at all and it was mushy and pasty to my taste but still made a good base for the sauces. It could have been a whole lot better and I may just experiment with cooking methods over the next few days to see what actually works. I have heard the pasta method works well. 

After dinner we had a cigar and raucous conversation outdoors with blankets and sweaters on. Great night with great friends and family.

Beef Madras
2 pounds steak, cubed (sirloin)
1 large onion, petals
2t ground coriander
1-2 dried red chiles chopped
1 t mustard seed
1/2 black pepper
2t tumeric
1 t salt
2 t Garlic/Ginger paste
1can coconut milk
1 T oil
1 c beef stock
Lemon juice

Heat oil in dutch oven and cook Onion till translucent. Combine spices and enough coconut milk to make a paste and add to onions cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the meat and coat with mix then add stock. Simmer covered for 1-2 hours till beef is tender. Add remaining coiconut milk and lemon juice to taste. Simmer uncovered till sauce reduces slightly. I thought it needed a bit more so I added 1 T hot Curry powder also.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Sticky Buns with Pecans

I post this recipe to track it in my blog. I rarely get to enjoy this treat but Andrea from work asked if I had a favorite recipe and this is what I use since I read it in Cooks Illustrated. A bit different from our traditional assembly but worth the bit of extra effort.


Sticky Buns with Pecans
Ingredients
Dough
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3/4 c. buttermilk at room temperature
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 t. table salt
  • 2 1/4 t. instant yeast
  • 4 1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
Caramel Glaze
  • 6 T. unsalted butter
  • 3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 3 T. corn syrup, light or dark
  • 2 T. heavy cream
  • 1 pinch salt
Cinnamon-Sugar Filling
  • 3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. ground cloves
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 T. unsalted butter, melted
Pecan Topping
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 3 T. corn syrup
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c. pecans, toasted in a skillet until fragrant and browned, about 5 minutes, then cooled and coarsely chopped.


directions
  • 1
Dough: Whisk eggs in a standing mixer; add buttermilk. Whisk in sugar, salt, and yeast. Add 2 c. flour and butter; stir with spoon until combined. Add all but 1/4 c. remaining flour and knead with dough hook on low for 5 minutes. Check consistency; knead 5 more minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead by hand 1 more minute, adding flour 1 T. at a time as necessary. Transfer dough to bowl sprayed with cooking spray. Spray dough lightly with cooking spray; cover bowl and let dough rise until doubled, 2 - 2 1/2 hours.
  • 2
Glaze: Combine all ingredients in small saucepan; cook over medium heat until butter is melted. Pour into nonstick metal 13x9" baking dish. Set aside.
  • 3
Assemble: For filling, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt until mixed; set aside. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Roll to 16x12“ rectangle. Brush dough w/ a tablespoon melted butter, leaving 1/2” border along top edge; brush side of baking dish w/ butter. Sprinkle filling over dough, leaving 3/4" border along top; smooth and gently press mixture into dough. Beginning w/ long edge, roll dough into taut cylinder, pinching seam to seal. Using serrated knife, slice cylinder into 12 buns. Arrange in prepared baking dish; cover and let rise, about 1 1/2 hours. Place pizza stone in oven and heat to 350°. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes; invert onto rimmed baking sheet, scraping any glaze onto buns. Let cool.
  • 4
Topping: Combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt in saucepan; simmer and whisk to combine. Off heat, stir in vanilla and pecans. Spoon over center of each sticky bun. Cool 15 to 20 minutes.

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