Monday, September 30, 2013

Divine Decadence

Mac and Cheese and dogs at work was supposed to be Tuesday but got bumped to Wednesday. I had the casserole in the oven when I found out so not terribly happy. After it cooled it went straight to the fridge.

I had made a bit extra for home which I baked for dinner tonight to test the recipe. Yum. Not our normal fare by a long shot but for work...well whatever goes. This was very cheesy but had lots of flavor and a nice consistancy. I give it 2 thumbs up but cannot make it often. I pulled this off of Pinterest.

Sweetie Pie's Macaroni and Cheese

1 pound of cooked drained macaroni ( I used 2 pounds honestly after mixing the amount of liquid it just looked like it needed more)
1 c whole milk
2 12 oz cans of evaporated milk
3 eggs
2 sticks of butter cubed small
1/2 pound Colby, Monterrey Jack, Sharp Cheddar and 1 pound of cubed Velveeta (2 1/2 pounds of cheese!)
1 T white pepper
1 T sugar
Grated cheese to top
I also had homemade croutons I crushed and spread on top

Preheat oven 350. Boil and drain the macaroni just underdone.
In a large bowl (LARGE) mix the milks and eggs, pepper, butter, salt, sugar and grated cheeses. Add the macaroni and mix well.

I poured this into a large 1/2 roasting pan and it came to the top with a full quart casserole left over.  Bake for 35-45 minutes till bubbly and slightly browned. This will serve 15-20 people.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Random Cooking and painting

I was alone all weekend and a little bored. I went to the Art Fair and painted but there were lonely stretches of nothingness and random grocery trips. My friend, Doug brought me some Pobalanos a week ago and a recipe for pesto to be eaten on steaks. I roasted the peppers are peeled them and left them in the fridge so they would not spoil. Yesterday I got out the mini blender and processed the peppers with other ingredients to make the pesto. It was surprisingly good.

Pabalno Pesto by Melissa D'Arabian

2 poblano's roasted skinned
1/2 grated Parmesan
1/4 c chopped cilantro
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 T chili powder
1/2 vegetable oil
Red or green chili (opt)

I just processed all the above to a smooth sauce. I did add a very hot Green Chili to take it up a notch.

Brenda returns home today to NY Strips and this sauce.

Randomly I have had Philly Steak Sandwiches on the brain. I was born in Philly and lived there randomly between my Dad's assignments as a career Navy man. The corner grocer was my favorite place to grab a steak sandwich and I ate them everyday. I remember them wrapped in wax paper and I remember how Nicky's little grocery smelled and recollections of the aisles and foods. I have tried to capture that essence ever since but always fail. I have made some pretty good sandwiches but none like Nicky's.

While I was out I picked up a small eye of round and froze it for a while before slicing it, by hand, paper thin slices. I seared the meat over very high heat in a cast iron skillet after the onions and mushrooms.

I wish I would have taken a photo of the finished sandwich schmeared with Cheese Whiz and topped with a heady layer of meat, onions and mushrooms but I succumbed to my primal instincts and took a bite before remembering to get my camera. It was good but no Nicky's. Sigh, back to the frying pan...maybe a Rib eye would be better?

Like I said I also painted. I am working on a complicated icon for the church so while the paint was drying on that project I finished another that has been in the works for a year off and on. My condolences to Thomas Arvid for the cheap imitation of his fine work but like any student I copy master works to enhance my own skills. While this may or may not look like a viable piece of art, it is in no way comparable to the original. He has a photo quality to his work that is amazing. I use his pieces to help me paint bottles with convincing shadows and reflections. Fortunately they go well in our home as most of my efforts are rather large. Here is the latest and if you have ever been to our home you can't help but notice the 50 inch canvas on the family room that dominates a wall. This one is smaller but the bottles are actually larger but fewer than my former efforts. I have just a bit left on the icon but I am calling this painting finished.
A total knock off of Thomas Arvid but a great exercise in reflected surface and shadow. My apologies to the artist.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Great Pork Belly experiment

So tonight, Brenda and Ben are visiting family and Nick is coming over to cook a few pork belly strips ( about 2.5 pounds) I bought at the Asian Market a few weeks ago. I have researched 2 methods for prepping and cooking and I have 2 packages of belly to play with. I am anticipating soft tender pork meat with a crackling crust. We will see. The bellies are fully thawed in the fridge as we speak and I choose not to marinate either of them as we want to actually taste the meat.

The first method is a long slow roast and the second is a quick boil and then an actual deep fry for a more authentic Chinese treatment. More to come....
I had 6 strips of  Pork Belly like this. I scored the skin and prepared the meat according to each recipes specifications.

For the Roasted recipe, the skin was rubbed with olive oil and a mixture of salt and fennel seeds I ground with the mortar and pestle.  The prepared meat was then layered upon a bed of quartered onions, garlic cloves and celery. I did not have carrots but I would have added them to the mix also.

This was then roasted at 450 for 15 minutes. The skin crisped up nicely and then I turned the oven down to 325 for nearly 3 hours. At the halfway mark, I added a cup of white wine to the roasting pan.

For the other method, I brought 2 cups of water to a boil with salt and peppercorns in a Dutch oven. I added the pork strips and covered for 15 minutes. I drained and dried the meat and put about 1-2 cups of oil in the pan and turned the heat on high. I carefully placed the pork strips in and covered quickly. Lots of spattering in this method. I cooked the pork for about 7 minutes then turned it over for the other side.

The results:

The roasted pork was by far crispier and the skin was rendered perfectly.
The fried pork looked incredible but the skin did not render as much and it was not nearly as crisp. I was not a fan of the fried version and the excess mess with all the oil was daunting.  In the fried version, the layer of tissue under the skin remained intact while in the roasted version, it melted away. That layer in the fried version was texturally tough and tough to chew.Not good at all.

The roasted version was shatteringly crisp and the meat was tender and succulent. At any rate, this won't replace my lamb breast as my favorite guilty pleasure.
Roasted on the left, fried on the right
The roasted recipe called for a gravy to be made with the drippings which I did and served it with new potatoes. Very tasty, but the chunks of pork dipped in the Asian sauce were really really good. I would use the roasted meat and the Asian sauce if I were ever to make this again but it's not likely. To me it was much ado about nothing. It was not all that cheap and the cooking time was excessive for the results.

The Asian sauce:
1/4 soy sauce
1 tbl lime juice
2 finely sliced chili's red (I had green)  Just right to offset the pork.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Honey Walnut Shrimp

One of our favorite local Chinese eateries serves Honey Walnut Shrimp and this recipe comes close enough. I first had the dish in Oakland Ca and dreamed of it ever since. I had no idea it was a common Chinese (at least American) dish.

So, lets get on with it.

1 pound medium shelled deveined shrimps
2 egg whites beaten
1 c Cornstarch
Oil for frying

For the sauce:
3 T Mayonnaise
1 1/2 T Sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 T honey
1 t lemon juice (opt)

For the glazed walnuts:
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
Boil till golden and put 1/2 c Walnuts in and spread out to cool.

Let the shrimp soak in the egg whites. Prepare in batches, dredge shrimps in the cornstarch and fry in the oil for just a minute till lightly golden and shrimps are pink. Drain on paper towel and finish the rest.

Assemble the sauce and place cooked shrimp in a bowl. Toss with the sauce and garnish with Walnuts. We served it up with steamed broccoli since we don't do rice very much. Yum

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Runza, Runza, meal in a bunza

Well, that was the silly ad for a local Nebraska phenomenon called "Runza". Basically a screaming hot freshly baked sandwich stuffed with cabbage and beef and cheese. The sandwiches now come in a variety of flavors including Swiss Mushroom and Jalapeno. The possibilites are endless. So tasty we had to make our own.

For the recipe:
2 pkgs Texas sized Rhodes dinner rolls, thawed and risen (24 per pkg I needed 30.)
2 pounds ground beef
1 onion chopped fine
4 cloves garlic minced
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
Salt and pepper
1 pound pkg cabbage slaw or cut your own.
2 cups coarse shredded sharp cheddar

Saute hamburger till no longer pink, drain off excess fat then add onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook onion and garlic till onion is translucent. Add cabbage slaw in batches and cook till wilted. Season further with onion and garlic powder. Mix well and allow to cool.  Mix in cheese. Check seasoning. and salt if needed.
Press each roll into a 4-5 inch circle and place one large cookie scoop (3T) of filling. Bring edges together and press to seal. Place sealed side down on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or till golden. Makes about 30 tasty fresh Runzas. Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about.

new Icon finished

Just finished for a baptism gift

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hot Wings...Really hot

Now you all know I love wings. I went out and bought fish sauce after I saw this recipe in Bon Apettit called Sambal Chicken. I used the sauce recipe to coat my wings.

1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c seasoned Rice Vinegar
1/2 c hot chili paste
1/4 c fish sauce
1/4 c Siracha
2 t ginger garlic paste (Indian Market)

I baked the wings at 400 on no stick foil till brown and crispy and then discarded the fat. I put all the sauce ingredients in a sauce pan and reduced the sauce by half. I tossed the cooked wings in the sauce and placed them back in the oven to brown up and then dipped them again. I turned off the oven, placed the wings back till the oven cooled a bit.
The wings were very spicy and sticky. Delish!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Corn Chowder

For Sunday's dinner I picked up some Argent Corn from the grocer.  Argent is a white sweet corn variety and for some reason I am enamored with white sweet corn this season.  I bought a dozen ears and cooked them all.

I had seven ears left over so I cleaned the corn for the cobs and planned to just refrigerate the corn for later but those cobs looked so inviting I decided to make a vegetable broth out of them. I filled a stock pot with 2 quarts of water and added the cobs, unpeeled onion,  halved, unpeeled carrots, a few garlic clove smashed and a bit of celery. I had a tub of vegetable broth (Knorr Stockpot) I also added with a few peppercorn, some salt and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. I let that simmer away for a bit then strianed it all and put it the fridge till last night.

Corn Chowder

2 quarts of vegetable broth
2 cups of corn off the cob
1 red pepper chopped
1 jalapeno chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 med onion chopped
2 T butter
2 T flour
thyme to taste (about 1 teaspoon for me)
Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 4 slices
Swiss Cheese, 3 slices
salt and pepper
1/4 c cream

I started with the onions and sauteed them in the butter. I added the peppers then garlic. The flour went in next and I cooked it for a few minutes then added the broth. Once it started to thicken I added the corn and thyme (about a teaspoon) and the cheeses. I didn't add a lot of cheese. I had slices that were getting along so 4 slices of sharp cheddar and 3 slices of Swiss but you can adjust this or leave it out. A quarter cup of cream at the finish topped it off. It had a nice light yellow color and a deep corn taste. If you need it thicker I am a big fan of Wondra but you could also make a buerre blanc (2 T butter mixed with 2 T flour).

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Girls Night Out

My wife's crew meets quarterly after hours to discuss issues and solve current problems. Usually this happens at a local eatery but financial times being what they are, my wife volunteered my services to cook a meal and entertain the group at our home.

Not too long ago, I caught an episode of Ina Garten making a Warm Mushroom Salad with arugula, mushrooms and prosciutto. I have a glut of prosciutto in the freezer and this would be great time to use it up. along side the salad I had to have a few obligatory snacks as well so I went to my Pintrest food board. I am a pretty discriminating pinner so I had a few really good looking recipes to choose from. I used the White Cheese Pizza dip and Chicken Roulades to round out the meal along side our famous crostini ala Giada.

So now the menu was beginning to materialize into something we could be proud to serve, all I needed was dessert. A while back, Mackenzie bought some Balsamic Glaze at Trader Joe's and the last time I was there I picked up a bottle too. Hmmm fresh peach season, a sweet yet savory glaze and a bit of vanilla ice cream sounded about right. Menu...done.


I roasted a bunch of grape tomatoes after halving them and about 5 Plum tomatoes that I julienned after roasting. I also popped 8 slices of the Prosciutto in the oven to crisp it up. (This was not a part of Ina's recipe but the flavor is amazing and the texture is great.)

White Pizza Dip

1 1/2 pkg soft cream cheese
8 oz Provalone chopped (reserve 1/4 c)
8 oz Mozzarella freshly shredded (reserve 1/4 c)
1 cup Parmesean
5 garlic cloves chopped fine
1 t fresh thyme, chopped
1 t fresh basil, chopped
1 t fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 t salt
1 t pepper
Roasted grape tomatoes

Combine the cheeses, add the herbs and tomatoes, mix well  and place in a well greased 1 quart casserole. (I used a gratin pan) Smooth out and cover with reserved cheese. Bake at 350 till browned and bubbly. Serve with chips of crackers.

The Crositini is on the blog. The usual Prosciutto and sage combo.

The roulades were easy. Pound out Chicken Breast, line with Basil, roasted red pepper and Prosciutto then roll up. I placed them in the freezer for 20 minutes to make them easier to slice. Slice them in 1 inch rounds and skewer them. Place on a very hot griddle/ grill pan for about 5 minutes per side till cooked through.
 Chicken roulade grilled

I sauteed the 2 pounds of Cemini mushrooms in 2T butter till just tender. I poured in about 1/3 c Red Wine Vinegar and took the pan off the heat. I added this mix to a prepared platter of mixed green heavy on the Arugula and topped with the crisped Prosciutto and julienned roasted Plum Tomatoes. I sprinkled a good quality Olive Oil over all the greens and tossed with a bit of salt and pepper. I added the shaved Parmesan to top it all off.

The peaches were easy. I halved and pitted them and rubbed the cut side with honey. I placed them on the hot grill pan for about 5 minutes. I placed 2 halves on each plate with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Drizzled with Balsamic glaze and topped with roasted almonds.  Made a nice presentation but the peaches could have been better.

I wish I had pictures but I was so busy getting the food ready and prepared I just didn't get a shot in. The photos are from the various websites that featured the dish.


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