Monday, December 21, 2015

Banana-Pecan Brûlée Oatmeal For Two (Pressure Cooker Style)

I finally did it! I bought a second pressure cooker on Amazon Black Friday. I bought the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 6Qt 7-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker.  I'm not new to pressure cooking, as I discovered this method about 15 years ago.  I've since  discovered the joy of braised meals in 2/3's less the time it takes to use the Dutch oven method-- though, don't get me wrong, I love my LeCreuset products and I'm a big fan of slow-braising.

There are so many advantages of owning an electric pressure cooker.  I doesn't take up stove space.  You don't have to worry about adjusting your stove heat to set the pressure level (love this).  There are a lot of pre-set cooking levels (such as stews, soups, rice etc.)  It's easy! I promise.

Must importantly-- there is absolutely no reason to fear today's pressure cookers!  They don't blow up! 

I've been working on adapting many of my recipes, such as my Classic Beef Stew and Braised Short Ribs to this Instant Pot, and so far so good great!

My husband loves Irish oatmeal (steel-cut oats). He loves the chewy texture.  I don't make it, often, because it takes a long time to cook on the stove.  I've seen methods where you can cook them overnight, refrigerate the pot, and then heat it up in the morning.  But, I don't think of things when I'm sleepy and want to go to bed.

So, Mr. Pressure Cooker to the rescue.  I added 1/2 cup of steel cut oats, 1 3/4 cups water, a pinch of salt and some oil.  Why oil, I wondered...  from what I read, it helps to reduce the foaming in the oats.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sausage and Potato Breakfast Casserole (with homemade cream of chicken soup)

For my last post, I shared how to make your own cream of chicken soup-- specifically for making recipes that lists "one can cream of chicken soup".  This version is so quick, and so simple to do. So what did I make with this? I made a sausage potato casserole. I sure did.  It was triggered by a company potluck, where someone made a  casserole similar to this, and I had to see if I could create my own recipe.

I finally did it, after two attempts to get the recipe tweaked to just the way I wanted it.  The first go-round, I didn't have canned cream of chicken soup, so I tried some other ingredient. It turned out watery, and while it tasted okay, it didn't rock my world.

On my next attempt, I made my own cream of chicken soup and decided to add sour cream.   I filled a large bowl with with frozen shredded potatoes.  On top of the potatoes, I piled some cooked Italian sausage (with a little red pepper flakes tossed in for some zip).

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup

While fishing around in our freezer, looking for something specific, I found a package of Italian sausage that I had forgotten about. I use Italian sausage for making homemade pizza, in Lentil Soup, and (if I'm feeling ambitious) to make "Sardinian Sausage Tomato Sauce with Semolina Gnocchi".

Instead, I had breakfast on my mind. I had a hankering for a classic breakfast casserole. I had visions of making a hash brown casserole, with sausage, onions, bell peppers and cheese.  The only problem was,  I needed one can of cream of chicken soup. Deep sigh. I don't buy canned soups (with the exception of boxed chicken broth, from Trader Joe's). Phooey!

There had to be a way to make my own, so I used the internet to confirm my idea. Sure enough, there were oodles of recipes on Pinterest.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Waffles

Before the words "ew" fly out of your mouth...hold on! Chicken and Waffles is Soul Food, and I can personally attest that it's good. Really good.  The first time I tried Chicken and Waffles, was several years ago, in Oakland, California.   I was wary, but I decided I shouldn't knock it, until I tried it.

If you're still shaking your head, and way does that combo sound good-- hear me out!  Please. Waffle ingredients are very similar to biscuits. Right?  Chicken and biscuits...yes? So, why not chicken and waffles?  When you add pure maple syrup over the crispy chicken, and get that salty and spicy coating.... um, yes.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Buttermilk Waffles for Two

I've got a few tasty waffle  recipes posted on my blog (like my Gingerbread Pumpkin Waffles).  This waffle recipe is no exception.

Now that Craig and I are empty nesters, I'm looking for ways to convert recipe portions by at least half.  Sure, leftover waffles can be frozen and reheated.  I'd much prefer to have a simple recipe, that I can make in a matter of minutes-- and one that makes just enough waffles for the two of us.  This recipe delivered exactly that.

America's Test Kitchen remains one of my most trustworthy recipe sources.  I recently bought The Complete Cooking for Two Cookbook, and I'm slowly making my way through many of the recipes I've bookmarked. 

There are two ingredients that you might not have in your pantry, that you will need for this recipe. One of them is buttermilk powder. It's quite easy to find-- usually in the baking section of your grocery store. I also  see that Bob's Red Mill makes one, too.   I store the  powder in my refrigerator (once it's opened) and it's come in handy for the times when I don't have buttermilk in my fridge. It's perfect for making bread and all kinds of baking. The other ingredient is seltzer water. Yep, I always have a few can of that, as well. It's great for making these Swedish pancakes.  Not only that, but I find seltzer water, mixed with fresh fruit juice is quite refreshing.

If you're familiar with America's Test Kitchen, they do a lot of testing and research before publishing a recipe. I own many of their cookbooks and I subscribe to all of their magazines.  Yes, I am a devoted fan. 

So, why seltzer water, you ask?   ATK wanted a waffle that would have a crisp, golden-brown crust with a moist, fluffy interior.  The seltzer water  gives more "oompf" in leavening along with some baking soda. . (The tiny bubbles inflate the batter the same was as a chemical leavener.)  Why not use regular buttermilk? Well, the powder produced a lighter waffle without a gummy interior. That works for me!

For the wet ingredients, I used sour cream, egg, vegetable oil, a little vanilla and the seltzer water. Whisk together.

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pressure Cooking: Cheesy Salsa Lime Chicken

I love my pressure cooker. I'm not afraid of it, one bit. I've never had an "explosion".  
Dear fearful non-pressure cooker readers, please believe me when I tell you that there is nothing to fear. Today's pressure cookers don't growl or bite. They have been updated with safety features that makes pressure cooking fun. Imagine, a Beef Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy) cooked in 40 minutes, instead of 3 hours!  Don't you love it?

I have as slow cooker, and I use it every so often.  The downside of slow cookers is that I don't have time to load it up with ingredients in the morning.  The night before, I'm usually worn out and don't have the energy to chop and measure. With a pressure cooker, that's not a problem!  Pressure Cookers are the Ferrari of Slow Cookers!

What I discovered, when I saw this recipe on one of my most trusted pressure cooker recipe blogs, "Pressure Cooking Today" is that I can use frozen chicken!  (Likewise, I've read that using frozen meats in a slow cooker is not recommended as being "food safety safe".)

Fortunately, I had all the ingredients on hand and I got busy setting up my winter photography lights (I much prefer natural lighting...but there ya go.)  Salsa, chopped onion, fresh garlic, tomato sauce...

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Easy Bavarian Style Apple Strudel (Apfel Strudel)

When my mother passed away, in October 2002, we held an Oktoberfest memorial service for her. To know my Mutti, she loved a party, loved to dance, and thrived at being the center of attention.

 Rather than having a somber service, we had a fully catered German buffet with Bavarian music playing. I think she would have been very pleased with that.

My Mutti, dancing with my, then, one year old son.
Since then, I have hosted an annual Oktoberfest, for my immediate family, as a way to honor our Mutti's memory.  Being the only daughter, it looks like I'm the one to carry on my mother's traditional Bavarian recipes-- that includes her Austrian Goulash, Semmel Knoedel, German potato salad and homemade spaetzle.  
It occurred to me that I had never made homemade Apple Strudel-- the equivalent to American Apple Pie.  I also realized that my Mutti never taught me how to make one. Well, it was high time that I did so!  After researching a lot of internet recipes, cookbooks and Youtube videos, so many versions included bread crumbs and nuts.  I scratched my head, as I clearly don't remember either of these ingredients from any Apfel Strudel that I'd had.

So, I called my mother's first cousin, who is an excellent cook and baker.  She explained that bread crumbs and nuts are ingredients more commonly used, in strudel,  in the northern parts of Germany. In Bavaria, her mother's recipe used fresh apples, raisins, cinnamon, sugar. Making authentic strudel dough can be laborious, because you have to roll and stretch it so thin, that you can read a newspaper through it!  We both agreed that frozen puff pastry would make a perfect substitute.  So, I thawed a package of puff pastry in the refrigerator the night before our Oktoberfest.

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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Chinese Fakeout: Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken

The inside of our garage upright freezer was starting to resemble Antarctica, so it was time to do some defrosting and rearranging. I found a package of chicken breasts that was hidden behind a big chunk of ice. I rummaged through my pantry and discovered a can of pineapple chunks. I always have red bell peppers in the fridge. My husband says that I cook by what I am craving.  Yep, that's very true.  I like Chinese food every once in a while, but there aren't very good Chinese restaurants close by.  That's my my craving radar kicked in-- Sweet and Sour Chicken!

I don't want to mislead anyone into believing there isn't any frying involved, because, well... there is!  The cut up chicken is coated with egg and then tossed with seasoned flour-- then in a seasoned cornstarch mixture.  The chicken is then fried in oil just long enough to brown, but not cook all the way through.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Peach Melba (Peaches and Raspberry) Streusel Pie

This summer themed pie... I've been meaning to share this pie, since I first made it a few weeks ago. I debated whether or not it's too late to share it now, since I thought peach season had come and gone. Then, I saw a fresh load of California peaches at my local Trader Joe's and my debate was over.

I think that pie is good anytime of year, so you could easily make this pie with frozen peaches and frozen raspberries.  It'll work. Pinkie promise! 

Peach Melba is one of my favorite classic desserts.  It's a very simply dessert of vanilla ice cream, with sugary peaches and fresh raspberry purée. (To reach the history of Peach Melba, click here.) So, I got to thinking that making a peach and raspberry pie, topped with a streusel filling and served with vanilla ice cream would be a perfect version of this dessert.

 ...and, I was right.  There are three components to make this pie.

First, the crust.  You can buy pie crust, of course.  But, why?  Homemade pie crusts aren't difficult to make, and I think they taste much better than the packaged ones (plus, I control the ingredients in it.)  I used to make bad pie crusts.  They were tough, from overworking the dough. I'd get frustrated with the rolling pin process, and having it stick to the counter or baking mat (until I learned the technique of roll, turn, roll, turn) and patching up the dough got to be frustrating. I'd break the crust when I tried to get it into the pie pan and I felt like such a baking failure. (Folding the dough into quarters and then opening it up inside the pie plate didn't work for me.

I never gave up, and one day it all came together and I've been making perfect homemade pie crusts ever since.  There are so many tutorials you can find online. My favorite resources are either King Arthur Flour or Martha Stewart.  For this particular pie I made a  Pâte Brisée crust. That's a fancy word for "all butter.

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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Texas-Style Buttermilk Onion Rings, Kicked up! (Plus, a million thanks to my readers)

As promised, I am sharing the recipe for the "Buttermilk Onion Rings" that I made to serve with the "Juicy Pub-Style Burger" that I posted a few weeks ago.

There's a simple back story as to why I made these onions rings.  We visited Texas Hill Country on a recent summer trip to visit my son.  My husband absolutely loves onion rings, so we placed an order as an dinner appetizer.  They were HUGE-- and they were also delicious.  The onions were soft inside, and the coating had a thick and crunchy coating.  I could see plenty of coarse pepper and the seasoning had a bit of kick to it.  Both of my men devoured them, with relish.  I ate one.. okay two.  Okay, I forget how many I ate (I'm usually not as crazy about onion rings as they are).

When we returned home, to California, I wanted to recreate them, as best as I could,  I wanted to surprise my husband with them since he loves them so much.  I don't deep fry food very often-- choosing to find a way to bake "fried" foods instead.  I've had success with Crunchy Oven Fried Fish and Baked  Coconut Chicken.   At some point, I'll tinker with making a baked onion ring recipe. This time, I decided to stick with deep frying them, just as they were in Texas.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Juicy Pub-Style Burgers (and a little honesty about being a food blogger today)

My fingertips have been hovering above my keyboard.  I'm really not sure where to start this blog post.  Bear with me, for just a moment or two as I digress from sharing this juicy burger recipe that I ground myself-- even though I don't even own a meat grinder.  (This recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen.)

Inhale.  I've been blogging for seven years.  Seven wonderful years, that has introduced me to so many wonderful people who love to cook and bake as much as I do.  I've been blessed to attend food blogger festivals, and I have been able to rub elbows with celebrity chefs and celebrity food bloggers.  I've enjoyed some great perks-- like, when the UPS truck shows up with kitchen tools or foods for me to test and develop recipes for.  How could I not love that?!!  Food blogging has been my creative outlet, and has encouraged me to step up my game with what I feed to my family. 

There was a time when I would make some extra pocket money, that I used to pay website designers,  or to purchase cookware or gourmet ingredients.  But, in recent times, the food blog community has changed a lot.  It's become more competitive, and I don't make as much extra cash as I once did. It seems that I've reached a fork in the road, where I feel a little left behind (and somewhat guilty) in maintaining regular food blog posts.  In short, I have broken a few of the Golden Rules of having a successful food blog, within the last year or so.

What rule is that, you might wonder?

I've been blogging rather infrequently-- sometimes with two weeks of no blog posts being posted.  This, I've been told, can cause a loss of readership.  By my recent stats, I can see this is happening.  It's discouraging, for me, because I cherish each and every person who has faithfully been reading my food bog.  I so enjoy visiting my favorite food blogs, and discovering new ones. I spend at average of 2 hours (or more)  to edit and organize my food photos, and to write the blog post.   I have a full-time job that I love, but it has become more and more demanding of my time and energy.

So,  I had to make a choice. I chose to spend more of my time focusing on my family, my health, my job and less time on social media.  That, my friends, is another Golden Rule that I've broken in the Food Blogger community. The most successful food bloggers don't only have beautiful photos and recipes, but they are very active on Twitter, Facebook and blog more than once a week-- some blog every day! 

Thank you to those of you who remain faithful readers of my food bog.  I have no immediate plans to quit food blogging altogether..   I won't allow statistics to make me feel like a failure.  I will continue to share the simple food (and desserts) that I make for my family and friends when I can.  One day, I'll be able to retire. Then, maybe, I can make this food blog my full-time job and be rich! (Just kidding/wishing on that last thought.)

Thank you for listening.  Muwahhh!  Exhale.

Okay... on with this recipe:

It is highly unusual for me to eat burgers from a big chain take-out place-unless, there's a good Mom and  Pop place that char-grills their burgers. Then, I'm in!

While you don't need a meat grinder, you do need a food processor to make this recipe. You also need to buy Sirloin Steak Tips.  Maybe you've seen this cut labeled as Round Tip Steak, Tip Steak, Sandwich Steak, Ball Tip Steak, Breakfast Steak, or Knuckle Steak?

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Mexican Style Grilled Steak (Carne Asada) and Simple Refried Beans

If I had to pick a comfort food that brings me back to my childhood, it's Mexican food. My father, God rest his soul, was Hispanic. For as long as I can remember, he always had a bowl of homemade salsa on the table, and he loved tortillas and refried beans.

While I seem to have inherited more of my mother's German light skin, I've definitely inherited his love of beans and tortillas. Unfortunately, I have never been able to find a canned refried bean that didn't taste gross.

I am still trying to find my own authentic recipe for making refried beans the way that my Nana did. I like for my beans to have some texture to them (definitely not pureed) with a very subtle flavor of pork. I have no doubt that there's a lot of lard involved, too. I'll keep looking, and when I find the Holy Grail of refried beans recipe-- you can count on me sharing it on my blog. I promise.

Carne Asada is one of my favorite choices for tacos or burritos.  There are plenty of recipes for Carne Asada-- some involve marinating the meat in citrus.  You can use either flank steak or skirt steak.
This particular recipe doesn't use a marinade, but it's quick and flavorful.  As with many of my recipes, these come from America's Test Kitchen.  Here's how and why they developed the recipe:

To create a recipe for a carne asada platter that satisfies like the original, we started with skirt steak. Since it’s most tender and juicy when cooked to medium, it allowed us to create plenty of char on its exterior without overcooking it. We eschewed the standard lime juice marinade in favor of a dry salting to promote faster browning on the grill and then gave the steak a squeeze of fresh lime before serving. To speed up charring even more and create a large enough area of concentrated heat to cook all four steaks at once, we cut the bottom from a disposable aluminum roasting pan and used it to corral the coals. For heady garlic flavor, we treated the cooked steaks like bruschetta, rubbing their rough crusts with a smashed garlic clove.
I've made these twice-- once using our Weber grill...

 ... and then, another time, using our gas grill. 

Because we are cooking for two, nowadays, the gas grill was the easier version, because we use less charcoal.

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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fully-Loaded Twice Baked Potato Casserole

Last week, I was shopping for groceries at Whole Foods, and I realized that I hadn't eaten lunch. My stomach was growling at me, and so I bought a twice-baked potato from their hot food bar. The potato was on the small side, and the melted cheese and broccoli looked really appealing.

nopin = "nopin" /> When they cashier rang it up, I gasped. $8.00.  Ouch!  But, I was hungry and I have to say-- it was one of the tastiest twice-baked potatoes I've ever eaten.

I made a mental note that I should make these at home-- for a lot less than $8.00, thank you very much.  I had family over for Craig's Amazing Baby Back Ribs, and I couldn't decide between making American Potato Salad or Twice-Baked Potatoes.  

I absolutely adore baked potatoes.  For years, I used to wrap russet potatoes in foil, and bake them that way. After all, that's how my mom made them.  However, we love crispy, seasoned potato skins. So, for the last few years I scrub my potatoes, pat them dry, sprinkle them with olive oil and Montreal Steak Seasoning.  I place them in a cast-iron skillet and bake them at 400F for about an hour-- or until a knife easily slips in and out.

What you end up with are potatoes that are crispy browned underneath, and the seasoning makes these taste just like Outback Steakhouse baked spuds  (in my honest opinion).

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sweet Red Pepper Jelly


There's a back story as to how I discovered this sweet and savory jelly. My story goes way back before my 26 year old son was born. A former neighbor of ours served a jar of her homemade red pepper jelly, along
with cream cheese and crackers at a neighborhood Christmas party.

I had never even heard of red pepper jelly, but I obediently prepared my cracker as she instructed me to do.

Whoa! What?!  My taste buds were vibrating with delight, as my taste buds danced between sweet, tangy and a little bit of heat.  I was seriously considering shoving the entire tray into my purse, and sneaking out of her house to my own-- so I could greedily eat the whole shebang. But, that would be rude. So, I listened to my good conscience. Reluctantly.

I asked my neighbor for the recipe,and she kept saying she'd get it to me. But, sadly, she never did.  Then we moved away and on occasion, I would think about that jelly with a nostalgic longing for it.  I did find a similar jelly made by Stonewall Kitchen.   It's really delicious, at about $8.00 per jar.  Still, I always wanted to make my own.

In recent years, I've searched high and low, for recipes for red pepper jelly.  There are lots of them, and most of them use green bell peppers and lots of jalapeño peppers.  I even saw some recipes that uses habanero peppers. Nope, that's not what I was looking for.  I'm a whimp when it comes to really spicy foods, and I didn't want the taste of  the jalapeños to overwhelm the sweetness of the red bell peppers.

Jarden Home Brands, the company that makes all of our beloved Ball and Kerr products, sent me a copy of their 37th Edition of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.  The 37th edition of Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving offers 200 pages that will guide you while you learn about preserving. This book provides information about equipment and step-by-step instructions for each preserving method. Also included are over 500 recipes for canning, pickling, dehydrating, freezing food, and much more! 

If you are at the stage of wanting to learn how to can-- this book has it all. I taught myself how to make jam for the first time, in 2009. I learned everything from the original Ball Canning Blue Book, starting with this strawberry jam, and a canning kit--  and I have discovered that canning isn't difficult at all!  In fact, it's fun and addicting (more on that later). Now that I'm more advanced, I found plenty of new recipes that I will be making.

I am a frequent visitor to the Fresh Preserving WebsiteThat is where I can find almost many recipes ideas for making jams and jellies (and more). I can watch "how to" videos and I order my canning supplies as well.  I couldn't find a Red Pepper Jelly recipe, per se. So I adapted the Pepper Jelly Recipe by substituting red bell peppers, instead of green bell peppers. 

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kansas City Style Barbecued Burnt Ends

My husband was born and raised in Kansas City. A few years ago, we took a trip to visit his family. It was my first visit to Missouri, and I have to say that Kansas City is a very beautiful city. Of course, Kansas City Barbeque was definitely on our restaurant bucket list.

When we arrived at our first (of many) barbeque places, I saw "burnt ends" on the menu. Burnt ends? What
are those?  At the time we were there, I wasn't a food blogger, so I didn't take pictures of the big brick ovens, with the iron doors that opened up-- to reveal more brisket than I've ever seen in one place!

Burnt ends are flavorful pieces of meat cut from the point half of a smoked brisket. It was love at first bite, for me.  I'm one of those people who loves to eat the crunchy end of roasted or grilled meats.  If you belong to this club, as well, you would love the crunchiness of the brisket-- and that smoky taste!

I do appreciate a good brisket, and we have learned how to make one at home that is as good (if not even better) than some of the brisket we've eaten at BBQ places (other than in Kansas City).  So, when I spotted Cook's Country's recipe on how to make Burnt Ends in your own home, I was determined to try making our own. Granted, we don't have a professional size smoker, but there is a way. Here's how Cook's Country adapted making Burnt Ends their way:
 Real burnt ends are all about moist meat and plenty of flavorful, charred bark, but most pit masters use the fatty point-cut brisket. To make the leaner (and more widely available) flat-cut brisket work, we cut it into strips and brine it for maximum moisture and flavor. Three hours of smoke on the grill—with a water pan for more moisture—followed by a few more hours in a low oven ensures fully tender brisket with plenty of char. We cut the meat into cubes before tossing it with a flavorful, homemade sauce.

I bought this beautiful beef brisket at Whole Foods, that weighed about three pounds.  Since we're only cooking for two nowadays (unless we're entertaining), so I decided to freeze half of this for another time. This yielded two long strips (perfect for the two of us), for this recipe.

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