Sunday, February 28, 2010

Burgundy Beef Stew

We had two of our best friends up to the cabin this weekend.  On a cold winter weekend there is nothing better than a warm stick to your ribs meat.  Thanks to Linda for the great photography! 

This was a recipe I adapted from the show Tyler Florence's Ultimate...  This recipe comes in a close second to my usual one.  I have been making Burgundy Beef Stew for years but this weekend I could not find my usual recipe.  The normal stew I make is from a cookbook called "Hollyhocks and Radishes."  This is one of Kevin's favorites and requests it often. 

Some of the best beef stew I have ever eaten has always been made with a good bottle of burgundy wine.  I have been making this for years and it is always a winner.

I also made a fresh loaf of White Thyme Bread.  I brushed it with olive oil, toasted it and served the stew over the top.  You could substitute potato for the rutabaga and parsnip for the carrots.  

Burgundy Beef Stew
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzle
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups flour
3 pounds beef chuck, shoulder roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
   salt and pepper
1 750 ml botle of dry red wine, burgundy
8 sprigs thyme
6 cloves garlic
1 zest of an orange
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 cup beef stock
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 rutabega
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced
1 bag frozen pearl onions
1 pound mushrooms, cut in half
1/2 bag frozen peas
  fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped for garnish

1.  Preheat a large heavy bottomed saucepan or dutch oven over medium high heat with the oil and butter.

2.  While pan is heating, arrange the flour on a large dish.  Season the cubed beef with salt and freshly ground black pepper and then toss in the flour to coat.  Shake off the excess flour and add the beef chunks in a single layer to the hot an, being careful not to over crowd the pan, you will need to work in batches.  Brown all of the cubes on all sides.  Once all the meat has been browned remove it to a plate and reserve.

3.  Add the wine to the pan and deglaze pan, bring to simmer.  Once the wine has gotten hot add the browned meat, thyme, smashed garlic, orange zest, ground cloves, freshly ground black pepper and salt, to taste, add  bay leaves, beef stock and worcestershire sauce.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook uncovered until the liquid starts to thicken, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.  Stirring frequently.

4.  After 3 hours add the rutabaga and sliced carrots, along with a pinch of sugar to balance out the acid from the wine.  Turn the heat up slightly and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes more, until the vegetables are tender.  During the last few minutes of cooking, add the frozen peas, onions and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper and remove thyme sprigs.

5.  To serve, place the stew over a toasted thick slice of bread.  Garnish with parsley, drizzle with olive oil.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Blueberry Muffins

I have always been a big fan of blueberry muffins and these are the best I have eaten so far.  These are very easy to make.  I think the key is adding the blueberry mixture in at the end eliminates the muffins from turning blue and becoming soggy.  If a recipe calls for too many blueberries, they will get too wet and will fall apart.

Blueberry Muffins

Lemon Sugar Topping
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated zest from 1 lemon

2 cups fresh blueberries
1 1/8 cups sugar plus 1 teaspoon
2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.  For the topping:  Stir together the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl until combined; set aside.
2.  For the muffins:  Adjust the oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray.  Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture has thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes.  Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
3.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl, until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined.  Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined.  Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cum blueberries into the flour mixture until just moistened.  Batter will be lumpy with a few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.
4.  Use ice cream scoop or large spoon to divide batter equally between prepared muffin pans.  Batter should completely fill cups.  Spoon one teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of batter.  Using a skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion.  Sprinkle with lemon sugar evenly over muffins.
5.  Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 20 minutes.  Rotate muffin tins half way through baking.  Cool muffins 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes longer before serving.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Did You Know...A Warmer Rest

When making a roast, a resting period after cooking allows for the juices to go back into the roast before slicing.  But, sometimes your roast may cool too much because your cutting board is cold.

To keep heat loss at a minimum, simply rinse your board under hot water to warm the board.  Make sure to dry the board off completely.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

White Thyme Bread

We had this bread with the Burgundy Beef Stew I made last weekend.  Great crumb and very moist, even after 4 days in the refrigerator.  The addition of thyme to this bread give it great flavor but it can certainly be omitted or replaced.

White Thyme Bread

1 package active dry yeast, DO NOT USE QUICK RISE

½ cup warm water, 105-115°
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour
3 eggs; beaten
1 teaspoon dried thyme

1. Dissolve yeast in water until foamy, add honey. Let rest for 5 min.
2. Add butter, salt, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat on low till mixed. Beat in enough dough to start to form elastic ball. Then beat on high for 2 minutes. Add eggs and thyme  Mix until combined.
3. Let rise 45 minutes, then punch down dough.
4. Grease pan and put dough in and let rise additional 30 to 40 minutes until doubled. Brush top with egg white or milk and sprinkle some additional thyme on the top of the loaf.
5. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes.  If you tap the bottom of the loaf pan and it sounds hollow, the loaf is done.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Killer Potato Pancakes

Those that know Kevin and I, know that we go up to the cabin every other weekend.  We have had the cabin for almost three years now.  Normally, I cook whenever we are up there.  However, there are several small "hole in the wall" bars that supposedly have good food.  We have yet to try any of them.

This past weekend we were up with our great friends, Linda and Dave.  If you have been keeping up with my blog, you will know them from our outing to the Comet Cafe back in January.  Last Friday, we all took a half day and got up to the cabin by dinner time.  Rather than cook, we decided we would go out for dinner.

Now, there are three places that we have wanted to try since we bought the place.  We went to the closest of the three and, well, lets just say the clientele pretty much scared us.  So, the second was going to be the choice of the evening.  The Backroad Bar and Restaurant is located on the corner of Hwy 8 and Hwy 139 about 10 miles west of Armstrong Creek, Wisconsin.  This restaurant/bar opened about a year and a half ago.  We drive by it everytime we head to the casino.  And, again, anyone who knows us, knows how often we gamble!  Way too much but that is a different story entirely (Let's talk about the frybread!).

Linda, Dave and I all ordered the Friday Fish Fry.  Three pieces of pollack that were batter dipped and deep-fried.  This fish was one of the better that I have eaten.  No grease and very juicy.  This was all you can eat.  WOO HOO!  So, boy did we eat!  They were also served with potato pancakes.

The potato pancakes were the BEST I have ever had.  Sorry Mom!  They were done with a blender or food processor and not grated, therefore, a more pancake like result.  What was the most intriguing was the flavor profile.  I am still trying to put my finger on the flavoring.  I can tell some sugar, some chives, and some nutmeg but the rest was a secret of the chef.  Dave and I asked for seconds and were happy to finish those off.  We probably could have gone for thirds but that would have seemed a bit piggish.

A great meal was had by all AND I won $20.00 on a penny machine.  We will definitely be going back again but it can only be on a Friday night for potato pancakes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sausage and Lentil Casserole

I made this last week for dinner.  It was very good.  Lentils are one of those foods that you either like or you can't stand.  I do like lentils but Kevin is not really a lentil lover.  We both thought the flavor of this dish was good.  One important tip to remember is not to cut the cooking time of the lentils short.  If you do the lentils will tend to be chewy.
Sausage and Lentil Casserole

1 cup ( ½ pound) green or brown lentils, rinsed
2 teaspoons salt
1 medium onion, cut in half (1 half stuck with 2 cloves; 1 half chopped)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 bay leaf
1 package smoked sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 ounces slab bacon, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
½ cup dry white wine

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚. Lightly oil a 9-inch baking casserole.
2. Place the lentils in a large saucepan with salt, half onion with cloves stuck in it, the caraway seeds, and bay leaf. Pour in enough water to cover the lentils by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are tender, 50 to 55 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the lentils in the saucepan until needed.
3. Meanwhile, slice the smoked sausage on an angle and set aside.
4. In a skillet, heat the olive oil with the butter and diced bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is a little crisp, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the chopped onion, carrot, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes.
5. Drain the lentils and add the sautéed onion mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Layer the lentils in bottom of baking dish.  Top with a layer of sausage.  Add the remaining lentils.   Top with remaining lentils.  Pour in the wine and bake until bubbling and dark, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Did You Know...Airy Onion Storage

Looking for a convenient way to store onions, shallots, and garlic in a dark, cool place with plenty of air circulation?  This great tip was given in the July/August 2006 issue of Cook's Illustrated. 

A simple solution is to use a bamboo steamer.  The baskets stack easily and allow just enough air circulation, to prevent mold.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Buttermilk Chicken and Biscuits

I found this recipe on the internet and made some modifications.  The buttermilk gives it a great flavor.  There is just something about down-home cooking to warm you up during the cold winter months.  You could also make this recipe using biscuit dough to create Chicken with Biscuits.  Another variation would be topping the dish with puff pastry sheets cut into strips.  Be inventive and creative!

Chicken Pot Pie

1 cup potato; diced
1 cup onion; diced
1 cup celery; diced
1 cup carrot; diced
1 cup red pepper; diced
1 stick butter
½ cup flour
2 cups broth
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons sage
½ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper; to taste
4 cups chicken; cooked and chopped
(1 ½ pounds cooked in broth with two bay leaves)

BIscuit Topping:
1 cups buttermilk
2 1/4 cups baking mix

1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
2. Cook chicken in chicken broth and bay leaves.
3. Sauté onion, celery, carrots, potato, and red pepper in the butter for 10 minutes.
4. Add flour to sautéed mixture, stirring well. Cook one minute stirring constantly.
5. Combine broth and buttermilk.
6. Gradually stir into vegetable mixture.
7. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly.
8. Pour into a glass 13x9-inch baking dish.
9. Mix biscuit ingredients and spoon over the top of the baking dish
10. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly and cooked through.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Did You Know...Crumb-Free Cake Layers

Have you ever tried to cut a cake layer in half only to find it leave a trail of crumbs or the layer breaks when trying to move it?  A great tip was submitted to the September/October 2006 issue of Cook's Illustrated.

1.  Use masking tape to attach a 10-inch wide piece of parchment paper to the nonserrated edge of a long serrated knife.

2.  Cut the cake layer in half, dragging the paper through the cake as you cut.

3.  Detach the tape from the knife, leaving the parchment between the cake layers.  Lift up the cake to move it before frosting.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This past weekend we had some friends up to the cabin.  I made this cake for dessert Saturday evening.  Turned out great even though the instructions were a bit odd.  But as much of the comments made by previous bakers stress, the cooking method is imperative for a moist cake.

Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 1/2 cups ripe bananas; mashed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups butter; softened
2 1/8 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

3/4 cup butter; softened
1 8 ounce cream cheese; softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar; to taste
Chocolate shavings or chopped walnuts

1.  Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  (that is not a typo)
2.  Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
3.  In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice; set aside.
4.  In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
5.  In a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter and 2 1/8 cups sugar until light and fluffy. 
6.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla.
7.  Beat in flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.
8.  Stir in banana mixture.
9.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven for one hour and 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
10.  Let cool 10 minutes and remove from pan.  Place immediately into freezer for 45 minutes.  This will make the cake very moist.
11.  For the frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
12.  Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla.
13.  Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined.  Then, continue to beat on high speed until frosting is smooth and whipped.
14.  Spread on cooled cake.
15.  Sprinkle with chopped chocolate shavings or finely chopped walnuts.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Joy of Cooking....One On The List!

This past Sunday, Kevin and I were at a used book store and I found a 1966 copy of "The Joy of Cooking" by Irma Rombauer...for $3.00. My hunt paid off!  How lucky was I?

The jacket is worn a bit but that adds to the character and charm of the book.  It also was personalized by someone who gave it to her friend for their 25th anniversary. 

Gives you a great feeling to page through it and know that someone else was making items from it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sweet Sausage Pizza with Carmelized Onions, Red Peppers and Basil

This morning I thought I would make Tollhouse Pan Cookies between two rounds with the snow plows.  When I pulled them out of the oven, something just did not look right.  All I can think of is that I only added 1 1/4 cups of flour instead of the 2 1/4 cups called for in the recipe.  Needless to say, that greasy mess went right in the garbage.

Then, I thought I would make tuna salad for lunch using a recipe I found for Balsamic Mayonnaise.  Now, if anyone has ever made mayonnaise from scratch, you very slowly add in the oil.  Too much, too soon can break the thick mayonnaise and turn it into a soupy mess. I had it nice and thick and creamy.  Then, one more small addition and there it was, the mayonnaise just broke and I had a soupy mess on my hands. 

I told myself to write this day off and move on.  Afterall, cooking is a learning game.

After two kitchen failures this morning, I really had a craving for homemade pizza.  Pizza is the one food that I could eat any day, any time.  And relatively easy to make.

Sweet Sausage Pizza with Carmelized Onions, Red Peppers and Basil

1 pound loaf frozen bread dough
1 tablespoon cornmeal
½ pound sweet Italian sausage
1 teaspoon fennel seed
3 tablespoons olive oil; divided
½ medium red onion; sliced thinly
½ medium red pepper; sliced thinly
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 plum tomatoes; seeded and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons fresh basil; rolled and thinly sliced
¼ cup marinara sauce
½ cup Romano cheese; sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Olive oil

1. Thaw bread dough in a greased covered bowl in a warm spot until doubled in size (about 8 hours).

2. Grease jelly roll pan and sprinkle with cornmeal. Preheat oven to 425˚

3. Roll bread dough to fit a 15x10 ½-inch jelly roll pan. If dough shrinks back, let it rest for 10 min and roll again. Repeat until dough is large enough to fit into pan. Pat dough into pan and bake for approximately 15 minutes until crisp and light gold brown.

4. Meanwhile cook sausage in frying pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil and fennel seed over medium-high heat until browned. Set aside.

5. In same pan, add remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté the red onions and red pepper until tender and onions are slightly caramelized. Add balsamic vinegar. Set aside.

6. Spread marinara sauce on crust. Add crumbled Italian sausage, red onion and red pepper mixture. Top with sliced tomato, Romano cheese, basil.

7. Sprinkle with kosher salt and drizzle with additional olive oil.

8. Bake pizza for 20 minutes or until warmed through.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lemon Oregano Chicken

I have been craving this dish for months.  My parents used to make this using lamb chops but Kevin is not a fan of lamb.  So, tonight I decided to make the recipe with boneless-skinless chicken breasts.  This substitution definitely payed off.  Kevin said the chicken was definitely blog-worthy

Even today, I can still remember how my mom, dad, sister and I would sit around the table and soak up the juices with a loaf of bread.  Well, tonight, Kevin and I actually sat there and scarfed down a full loaf of french bread and boy was it good!

Now, this is my own recipe so you may need to adjust for taste, as I did.  Some may like more lemon, some may like more oil, some may like more oregano.  Always taste before serving. 

Lemon Oregano Chicken

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon oregano
Juice of 2 large lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large cloves garlic; chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Loaf of French Bread

1. Mix all ingredients in a large zip-top bag to make the marinade. Add the chicken breasts and refrigerate for 8 hours.

2.  After marinating for 8 hours, preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Remove breasts from marinade and place on grill.  Reserve marinade for au jus.

3.  Cook chicken breasts 3 minutes on first side.  After 3 minutes, rotate the breast 45 degrees and grill for an additional 3 minutes.  This will create the cross marks.

4.  Turn breast over and repeat step 3.  Breast should be cooked through but still juicy.  Make a small slit in the thickest part of the breast and check to see if cooked through.

5.  While chicken is cooking, place marinade in small sauce pan and bring to boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Bringing the marinade to a boil will make it safe to eat.  At this point, you will need to adjust ingredients for taste. 

For example, I added 3 tablespoons of additional olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and about 1 teaspoon salt. 

Serve with a loaf of sliced, warmed french bread.

Scalloped Tomatoes

I saw this recipe on a recent episode of Barefoot Contessa.  Both Kevin and I are big fans of the Tomato, Basil, and Onion salads during the summer, so this seemed to be a natural.  This dish was fast and easy.  I made it with breaded and fried steaks with Sun-Dried Tomato Polenta.

This will be a definite keeper.  I halved the recipe for the two of us.  I think the sugar in this dish really reduces the acidity of the tomatoes.

Scalloped Tomatoes
Good olive oil
2 cups (1/2-inch diced) bread from a French boule, crusts removed
16 plum tomatoes, cut 1/2-inch dice (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup julienned basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

2.  Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12 inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned.

3.  Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are done, add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.

4.  Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Swedish Meatballs

This recipe was found on one of my favorite websites, Recipezaar.  Typically, when I select a recipe from the site, I sort all of them by rating.  I read the reviews to see what people have said along with any additions/omissions.  People who use Recipezaar, tend to leave great comments and suggestions. 
Swedish Meatballs

1 pound ground beef
2/3 cup milk
½ cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 10 ¾ ounce can cream of mushroom soup
½ cup sour cream
½ cup milk
Kitchen Bouquet for color

1. Preheat the oven to 400˚.
2. Mix all ingredients for the meatballs together. Shape into balls. Place on cookie sheet.
3. Bake for 10 minutes or until browned.
4. Remove meatballs from oven and place in a casserole dish.
5. Turn oven to down to 350˚.
6. Stir together all ingredients for the sauce and combine with the meatballs in the casserole.
7. Bake, covered for 1 hour.
8. Let stand covered for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Buttermilk Scones

This morning I made buttermilk scones to test out the Orange Marmalade recipe that I posted a while back.  The scones were light and fluffy, almost biscuit like.  I add a bit of orange zest to the batter.

While the scones were very good, we did find out that the Orange Marmalade did have a bitter after taste to it.  I don't know if it was due to the blood orange skins or not cooking it long enough.

The one thing I did learn from internet research is that the orange rinds in the marmalade should be almost transparent.  Cooking until they are transparent removes the bitterness.  It could also depend on the type of orange you use. 

The scone recipe can be made plain with sugar sprinkled on top or you can add a flavoring of your choice. 

Buttermilk Scones

2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
1 large egg (lightly beaten)
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 cup dried fruit or berry; cut up 

1.  Preheat oven to 400F.
2.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
3.  Cut in the butter.
4.  Add the fruit.
5.  Crack the egg into a 1 cup measuring cup and beat lightly. Fill the rest of the measuring cup with buttermilk and add all to the dry mixture.
6.  Stir until moist, but do not overmix.
7.  Divide into 8 pieces.  On a lightly floured surface, shape into triangles.  Place onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Brush top of each scone with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
8. Bake 15-18 minutes.or until golden. 

Recipe will make 8 scones. Great from the oven, but also freeze nicely for later.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Dog Above All Others...

So, I have lived in Wisconsin for 20+ years.  Since the day I moved to the state, I have searched for a place that makes good Chicago style hot dogs and beef sandwiches.  Kevin will definitely attest to my wanting one of three things when I go down to visit family.  One are White Castles hamburgers, the second are hot dogs, and the third is a good Italian beef sandwich drenched in au jus.

Up until this week, the only type of hot dog I have been able to find in this area is the infamous "roller" dog.  You know the type, spinning on those stainles tubes for hours and hours and hours.  You think they are a hot dog in natural casing because they have that crisp skin, but they are not.  That crisp skin is because they have been rolling for indefinite periods of time.

Now, I am by no means a snob when it comes to food but hot dogs are the exception.  If I am going out to a restaurant for a hot dog, I want an all-beef Vienna hot dog.  The kind that snaps when you bite into it.  And, it has to have a steamed bun with poppy seeds on it.  Everyone has their own topping choices and mine include catsup, relish, onions, tomato, dill pickle, celery salt and sport peppers (little green fireballs).  This is a true Chicago-style hot dog.

After all these years, my dream came true.  On Wednesday night, we took a ride into Manitowoc (Wisconsin) to the home improvement store.  Normally, we would choose the Chinese buffet or Burger King.  But lately, we have wanted to visit a restaurant called Dr. Dawg .  When we walked in I noticed immediately several key names on the sign.  Brands such as Gonnella bread, Vienna Beef Hot Dogs, Maxwell Polish, and Scala's beef.  My eyes must have gotten to be the size of small saucers because Kevin looked at me like I was about to jump out of my skin!  This place had definite promise!

We placed our orders and waited for the food to be brought to our table.  WOW, fast turnaround!  Also, some of the friendliest people.  I got really excited when we opened up our "sack" of fries to reveal they were the thin fries with the skin still left on them!  Just like my dad made at the family stand he ran.  Was definitely liking this more and more.  And then, the food itself.  VERY GOOD!  They even had Green River soda.

As we were leaving, I asked the gentleman behind the if by chance the owner was from Chicago.  Sure enough, he was!  I just knew it.  

I can honestly say, we will be going back many, many more times.  Afterall, they have a whole menu we have to go through.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Challenge of Leftovers...Make Some Magic!

We have all experienced it.  A refrigerator full of leftovers.  Bits and pieces of ingredients left from making the meals for the week.  Well, today was refrigerator clean-out day.  Why let it go to waste.  Plus, it can be a great challenge for any foodie.

So, this morning when I woke up I opened the refrigerator door and looked inside.  I decided on soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.  Taking inventory of the contents, I thought that this would work.  I have my mom to thank for teaching me that you can really make a great pot of soup out of practically anything.

Two cups of homemade mashed potatoes with caramelized onions, half can of whole kernel corn, half can black beans, can of mixed vegetables, vegetable broth, chicken broth,a quick flour roux, and leftover grilled chicken breasts.  Perfect for Mexican Potato Soup with Grilled Chicken Breast.  Everything in the pot and thirty minutes of simmering, and voila, a tasty soup that really went over well.  I seasoned the soup with chicken base, salt, white pepper, cumin, and chili powder. 

I also had some flour tortilla shells which I cut into 1/2 x 1-inch strips, sprayed with butter-flavored non-stick spray and sprinkled with chili powder and cumin.  Baked at 350 degrees for 10 minutes these made great "croutons" for the soup.

Soup so easy made out of the left-over ingredients most people would throw out.  So my advise to you all creative and go for that challenge.  What is the worst that can happen?  A quick trip to the local McDonalds?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Pillsbury Bake-Off

Currently, I am reading The Ungarnished Truth by Ellie Matthews.  It is a story of a woman in her mid-50's and on her third marriage who wins the $1,000,000 Pillsbury Bake-Off grand prize.  She is something of a home cook, never anything fancy but always satisifying.  Bored one day she decides to enter a regional cooking contest and actually wins.  This is her story along with her supportive husband and their journey through the land of various cooking contests, all leading up to the "Big One." 

I certainly don't want to be a spoiler and share much more of the story but reading this book made me wonder.  Should I try my hand at cooking contests?  Really, what is the harm?  All you need to do in 90% of the contests is send a recipe and maybe a photo.  Entering contests would not cost me anything.  It would be easy enough to do since I cook almost everyday. Poor Kevin, he will had to be submitted to taste-testing more recipes.  Kevin, are YOU up for the challenge?

Who knows, maybe my dream of opening up a diner could be the result of winning one of these contests?

In an earlier comment, my cousin Linda said I sounded like I had "one foot in the grave" and that I was still young and only in my 40's.  Well, Linda, I am going to take a shot.  Who knows what will happen?

Stay tuned for many more great recipes!  And remember, "Let's live to eat, not eat to live!"

Monday, February 1, 2010

Orange Marmalade

If anyone would look at our DVR they would see that there are a few favorites in my cue. One of which is Barefoot Contessa. Two weeks ago I was viewing one of the old shows in which Ina made Orange Marmalade. In the world of jams and spreads, orange marmalade is right up there on my list.

The list of ingredients is simple. Oranges, lemons, sugar and water. How simple!

While Kevin and I were grocery shopping recently, I ran across blood oranges that were 2 for $1.00. Now there was a time when you could not even find blood oranges in the grocery, let alone find them for that price. I selected the nicest ones I could and home we went to create the marmalade.

Orange Marmalade
4 large seedless oranges
2 lemons
8 cups sugar
8 cups water

1. Cut the oranges and lemons in half crosswise, then into very thin half-moon slices. (If you have a mandoline, this will be quite fast.) Discard any seeds. Place the sliced fruit and their juices into a stainless-steel pot. Add 8 cups water and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Cover and allow to stand overnight at room temperature.

2. The next day, bring the mixture back to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 2 hours. Turn the heat up to medium and boil gently, stirring often, for another 30 minutes. Do not cheat on the cooking time because the marmalade will be bitter. Skim off any foam that forms on the top. Cook the marmalade until it reaches 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer. It will be a golden orange color. (If the marmalade is runny, continue cooking it and if it's too hard, add more water.)

3. Pour the marmalade into clean, hot Mason jars; wipe the rims thoroughly with a clean damp paper towel, and seal with the lids. Turn jars upside-down to cool. When cool and you turn them right-side up, you should see that the button on the top of the lid will be depressed and the jar is sealed. If you are unsure with canning, you can place the jars in the refrigerator and store. Store in the pantry for up to a year.

Crispy Baked Rosemary-Garlic Chicken Legs

I saw this dish prepared on an episode of "The Ultimate" with Tyler Florence (One of my top three chef choices on the Food Network.)  He served this with a pasta dish on the side and it looked great.  It was also my first attempt at using Panko bread crumbs. 

The dish did turn out very well.  Crispy and light without being greasy.  The chicken legs were completely cooked through in allotted time.  One key note:  Do not forget to put the sheet tray into the oven while preheating.  Makes a huge difference!  The legs will start to cook immediately when you place them on the tray.

Crispy Baked Rosemary-Garlic Chicken Legs - Serves 2

6  chicken legs
1  clove garlic; minced
2  stems fresh rosemary; leaves picked and roughly chopped
2  cups Panko bread crumbs
    kosher salt and pepper
1  egg
1  cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups flour
    Extra-Virgin olive oil
    Lemon wedges; for serving

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put a sheet tray in the oven to preheat.

2. Wash and trim the chicken legs of any excess fat. Mix the garlic, rosemary and panko together in a shallow rimmed dish and season well with salt and pepper. Alternately, crush the garlic and rosemary with some olive oil and salt in a mortar and pestle.

3.  Crack the eggs into a similar dish, add the milk and whisk to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. In another dish add the flour and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

4.  Take the chicken legs and 1 at a time, dredge in the flour, then the egg wash and then coat well with the rosemary-garlic panko bread crumbs. (Cook's Note: you could also bread the legs by putting the bread crumbs in a large plastic bag and shaking the legs in the crumbs inside the bag.) Lay the chicken legs out on a tray lined with parchment paper, as you work. Refrigerate the legs for about 15 to 20 minutes for the breading to set.

5.  Remove the hot sheet tray from the oven and drizzle with a good amount of olive oil. Arrange the chicken legs carefully on the tray, spacing them out evenly (the chicken will sizzle when added to the hot oil). Roast until the chicken legs are golden and crispy, about 35 to 40 minutes Remove the chicken from the oven to a serving platter. Season with salt and serve with lemon wedges.