Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hot Buttered Rum

Wow it has been a great holiday!  My now 12 year old, Miss El, came to visit for the week between Christmas and New Year so we are hanging out...  We have an unusual amount of snow for this time of year, I have mentioned before that around our neighborhood we are kind of renowned... maybe infamous for our snow antics strange snow creatures come up often.  The four of us decided to go at snow painting this time.  Just some spray bottles from Walgreens, food coloring and water and away we went.

We hit the neighbor's bush

Made a driveway beacon (no missing the turn now)

and some random spots on the lawn...

But it was COLD out so we didn't get as much done as we wanted,  we weenied out one at a time, until I was standing in the yard with four spray bottles of colored water which is, face it is kind of weird.

That was OK though I had a special treat on the stove for me and some hot chocolate for my under 21 teammates.  Hot buttered rum was going for me, one of those drinks that soothes you from the inside and just makes the evening warm.

Makes two servings
1/2 cup apple Cidar
1/2 water
2 TBS brown sugar
2 TBS unsalted butter
3-4 whole cloves
1/8 tsp (isn't that a big pinch) of cinnamon or 1/2 a cinnamon stick
small pinch of salt
1/2 cup dark rum

Heat all of the ingredients in a small saucepan until it starts to simmer then serve.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Hey all!  Not really a post today just a forwarded email from a friend.  I can take no credit for this but thought it was fun.  I hope that you all enjoy a wonderful holiday!  I wish you and your families the best.


1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare... You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Beef Tenderloin a Holiday Classic

But er... for what Holiday?
For most people there are normal holiday food equations for example:
Thanksgiving = Turkey
Christmas = Beef
Easter = Ham

Our house is a little different our equations are:
Thanksgiving = Beef Tenderloin
Christmas = Ham

Kris can't stand turkey, me being the foodie nut that I am I tried everything to get her to agree that she liked the bird when we met... one year I brined a turkey in honey, garlic and tarragon; another year I slathered one in cranberry chutney and baked it in a bag.  After about three years and eating most of a turkey myself I realized that maybe my wife knows exactly how turkey tastes, she just doesn't like it.  Now we have come to enjoy our non traditional food equations.  It also gives me the advantage of posting my Thanksgiving recipe in time for you to see it before Christmas.

If you read my blog you will see the recurring theme... I can work a recipe to death to get exactly what I want; this one has been done five or six times with some setbacks.  This Thanksgiving we got it right!

Beef Tenderloin in Red Wine Reduction:

The Sauce:
2 TBS vegetable oil
2 small onions
3 cloves fresh garlic
2 TBS brown sugar
2 TBS balsamic vinegar
1 750 ml bottle of Merlot
1 cup chicken broth
1 14 oz can beef broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme
10-12 peppercorns
1 bay leaf

1 TBS Flour
1 TBS Butter

Heat oil over medium heat in a large saucepan then add onions and garlic sauté until tender (about 10 minutes).  Add the brown sugar and sauté for about 4 more minutes, until it is deep brown.  Add vinegar and stir for about a minute more until it is almost evaporated.  Then add your bottle of wine (minus a sip or two... you are the cook you get a little extra) simmer until reduced by half...

Here is the cool way to check that, put a rubber band around the handle of a wooden spoon then dip that into your sauce.  Roll the band down to the line left by the liquid then you know where you started... when your sauce pan has half of the liquid you know you are done.

Add the rest of your ingredients and simmer on low heat for about half an hour.  Strain through a fine strainer into a large bowl and set aside. Give your saucepan a quick rinse then mix your butter and flour to make a roux.  Put your sauce back in and cook for 5-10 more minutes.  This can be done a day ahead and reheated.

The Beef
2 1/2 to 3 pound Tenderloin trimmed
Salt, pepper
1-2 TBS Olive oil

Sprinkle salt and pepper on beef then let it set on the counter (covered with an upside down pan if you are the owner of one or more cats) for about half an hour until it is room temp.  Then heat up the oil in your pan and sear beef on all sides then transfer to the oven and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes until done the way you like.  I did mine in the Iron skillet so I only used one pan for this part. 

When the meat is just slightly under done pull it out and let stand at room temp for a few minutes.  Doing that lets the juices settle so they stay in your beef and not all over the counter.  When it is done slice and serve with the red wine reduction!  At the top if this page it is pictured with

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Hey all I have a special guest blogger today. Miss Lu wanted to take over this post for me… I have to say that I am happy to have the help.  This is her account of dinner last Saturday we made lasagna, I can't really call it a recipe, you know a couple of jars of sauce, a handful of lasagna noodles and some ground beef from the back of our overstuffed freezer.  Put it in a pan and go, so easy... well an 8 year old can do it!  So please read below to see my youngest daughter’s take on our Saturday dinner and maybe a little more.

First, I want to say I have the best time cooking with my amazing daddy. I’m thankful for my daddy because if I didn’t have him there would be a hole in my heart. So don’t you think we should talk about food for my daddy ? So I made lasagna over the weekend. It was FUN! How to make lasagna: first, get a pan then line with parchment. We sprayed that with pan spray and added the sauce.

Next, after that we put the hard noodles in the bottom of the pan then we added more sauce and after that we sprinkled the meat on then Mozzarella cheese then after the Mozzarella cheese we added more sauce the after that we put the hard noodles on and then we put sauce then ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese a little more sauce and more hard noodles again. Then we put the lasagna in the oven for about an hour if my dad remembers to turn the oven on dinner will be a little later if he doesn’t.

We made three layers in all. My daddy is the apple of my eye . So doing things like (this blog entry) for my daddy is an awesome way to learn how to spell.

Me Miss. Lu is 8 years old. In Mr. Sun’s class . To My friends: Jasmine, Alexandra, Kyla ,Mya ,Bella ,Anna ,EIsha


One of the reasons that we did this was to get out of reading homework, I figured that writing should count too (maybe even more).  I did learn that MS Lu can be a just a little full of B.S.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lets play at my friends blog today!

I am posting at "From the Monkey Bars" today!  Come over and play...  Oh and tomorrowI have my first guest blogger!  I know what you are saying, "My God, I am on the edge of my computer chair!  Who is it?!?"  come visit tomorrow and see ;~)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baby Artichokes

Just look at them... aren't they the cutest?  Who could resist these little guys?  Baby artichokes!  I have never used them in anything before.  I mean seriously who was the first person to look at an artichoke and think, "say, I'll bet if I peeled about four layers of leaves off of those, then cut them in half, pulled the chokey thing out of the middle and steamed them for 20 minutes they might taste good coated in a Caper Sauce."  That being said I do like artichokes with a nice tart sauce but the process is extreme for a side dish.  Take it for what it is, my Salmon was much simpler... Step 1 remove from refrigerator. Step 2 put on grill... so I had some balance.

The Artichokes were a few steps to get done working with 1 artichoke at a time, pull back outer leaves until they come off close to base discard do this with about 3-4 layers of leaves until exposed leaves are pale green at top and pale yellow at bottom. Cut about a half an inch off the top and trim the bottom into a bit of a cone shape, then halve artichoke lengthwise. Remove fuzzy center and any pointed inner leaves. Put in a bowl of lemon water to keep it from browning.

Once they are all trimmed boil in water with salt and lemon juice for about 20 minutes when fork tender remove with a slotted spoon and soak in ice water until ready to grill.  This can be made a day ahead if you like.

The Sauce
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp of anchovy paste (or about 4 anchovy chopped up)
2 1/2 tablespoons drained capers, rinsed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Warm sauce in a small pan then set aside until ready to serve.

Cook Artichoke halves on a grill, mine was the cast iron stove top kind, winter came pretty fast and I am not ready to use the gas grill yet.  I did them for about 4-5 minutes on a side while I grilled the salmon.   When it was all done I poured the sauce on the Salmon and Artichokes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Memories, Recollections and Foibles

At work the other day I was exchanging, for lack of a better word, war stories. I was kind of looking nostalgically back at the days when I would lock the restaurant doors, pour myself a 16 oz to go cup of margarita and finish cleaning the kitchen counters and putting the last of my line in the cooler. Whenever I do this I remember how much work but how much fun managing a restaurant can be. I block out the fact that I got home at 2:30 in the morning bone weary from standing for the last 12-14 hours trying to keep everything together for one more day. Then going to bed only to get up what seems like a few minutes later to start it all over.

Then I stared to think of the things that I have done that make me wonder how I am still alive. These short anecdotes are in no particular order neither timeline nor stupidity are taken into account.

One day I was cutting smoked chicken breast for the Southwest eggrolls that we made, the restaurant host Kelly and I began talking about the specials. I turned and looked at my friend and started to describe the Stuffed Rainbow Trout that I was making that Friday evening when with a quick slice I cut the end of my thumb off. Really only about a quarter of an inch but still...

This is something I learned in the week that followed, I hit the end of my left thumb on something about 697 times a day, normally it doesn’t make me see stars, every time this week it did.

I had been a part of a $600,000 renovation project at an account that my company had just acquired. My new regional Vice President was coming to look at our progress, I knew that he was going to visit so I was wearing my best suit (the only one that I have ever paid full price for) and instead of my usual slip resistant restaurant shoes I was wearing leather soled Oxfords, I really looked sharp. The RVP called and said that he was on his way into the parking lot so I made a quick run through the dining area then the kitchen to make sure that everything looked good. I picked up a dirty pan to take to the pot washer, when I went through the kitchen I stepped in a small patch of water and slipped. Now this wasn't just any old slip... my feet went into the air and I landed flat on my back in a puddle of water, my fancy shoes in the air, I was surrounded by leftover egg croissant sandwiches just as the person that I was trying to impress walked in the back door... “Hey Bryan, looks good!”

One evening Kris and I were having Lasagna for a casual dinner and I went to get us a couple of glasses of wine. I tilted the box of wine forward and a paring knife slipped off the top and fell strait down, right through my second toe and into our laminate floor. It looked like a cartoon, since I am one who often lets the colorful interjections fly over little things, this is the part of the story that no one believes... the words out of my mouth were “golly gee willikers that flippity flappin hurt!” Now you have learned two things about me

1. I drink wine from a box, hey don't knock it.

2. I am stupid enough to put my sharpest knife on a box I know I am going to move.

I was the chef/manager at a Southwest restaurant and like any self-respecting restaurant of it's kind in the mid 1990s we served Fajitas in a sizzlin' Iron skillet. When a ticket came in I would put a skillet in the stone oven above the salamander (restaurant word for broiler) then take it out at the last minute. They got pretty hot so I was usually pretty careful handling them. With one order I took the Iron skillet out and set it on the counter added the flank steak, onions, julienned peppers then the little splash of oil (that is what makes the steamy, smoky sizzle that you see then they go across the floor to the table). I slipped a little and very gently touched the edge of the handle and "SIZZLE!" Yeah, that was my thumb! Again, seeing stars, for a little burn, about the size of a dime, it was worse than any I have had before or since. After the colorful interjections were over and the ice and bandages had done most of their work I started to wonder how hot that frickin thing got so I put an oven thermometer in it. About an hour later, after the rush, I checked and it had melted into a gelatinous mass of broken glass and aluminum with spring like appendages at the bottom of my oven.

It was early morning when one of the cashiers that I worked with got her drawer out and went to open, she looked at her register then came to me and, with the most dire look said, "There is a mouse under my drawer." I looked under the register and there it was peeking out at me, I swear to you I could see it's little lip curled up with a defiant sneer. Oh yes, this little guy and I were about to throw down. I went back and got a broom that was about 3 feet long and used the handle to lift the edge of the drawer so I could smack it out with a newspaper, then I would show the little vermin what for. But the evil little thing had other ideas and went on the offensive. It shot at me like it had been fired from a cannon jumped onto my pants then ran down and away…

To say I screamed like a little girl would be an insult to all of my daughters, lets just say that once I slunk down from the counter everybody had figured out what just happened. It still amazes me that I have no trouble when small dogs, large dogs (Kris and I have a 120 pound Rottweiler) cats, bats, birds, really whatever animals are around me but a mouse can have me jumping on a table screaming like a housewife in a 1950's era cartoon.

Ok, I have to admit part of the reason that I put this post out is to use the Batman style expletives, but it is a little fun to reminisce.

Out and About Today

Hey all I am playing at "From the Monkey Bars" again today come over and meet one of my recurring characters.  I'll be back tomorrow (or maybe later tonight) with some of my foibles!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our Thanksgiving Leftovers

I am sitting at our new keyboard now... if you read my last post you will know why. This time we decided to go wireless, the thinking is when Mr. Man just has to watch "Batman with Batgirl on the computer" (let's hear it for YouTube) while he has his lemonade and nachos then I can set the keyboard on top of the printer or somewhere else that is safe.  Then we can avoid the sticky key issue.

Thanksgiving dinner in our house gave me a strange list of leftovers. The Tenderloin that I bought was bigger than I wanted but I haggled the price down by a couple of bucks a pound by getting it untrimmed.

"Ok sir, that is $17.99 per pound"

"Are you kidding me? the cut filets are that price, and they are trimmed and ready to cook!"

"I can give you a dollar off per pound"

"Seriously, you are about to offer me $4.00 off of a $60.00 cut of meat to do all of your work?"

"How about $2.00?"

Ok, I agreed to that, so maybe I am not the best negotiator out there but I saved a few dollars anyway. So I brought it home and trimmed it myself which is pretty easy, take the silverskin off then trim the butt pieces and tip.  I still had plenty of extra and cut two good sized filets off for Kris and me to have later and a couple of pieces from between the fillet and the tip called tournedos. I had to look that up in one of my old culinary textbooks by the way . The cuts were about an inch thick and maybe an inch and a half around. Right after Thanksgiving I was making dinner and watching Good Eats on Food Network. This is one of my favorite shows, Alton Brown is such a foodie nerd, really he has my dream job, talking about food all day... Anyway I think the title of the episode that was halfway over when I turned it on was "Pounded Meats" he was making a variety of Pillards one of them was with Beef Tenderloin.

 What I saw was taking the Tenderloin and pounding it into pillards then his method of cooking them, you will see that in a sec, then he suggested adding a salad to them. Good idea I thought how about I make my own dressing...

So I diced up and cooked three strips of bacon to make my dressing

Bacon Vinaigrette
3 strips of bacon cooked, rendered fat reserved
1 TBS Canola Oil
1 clove Garlic minced
1 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Mustard (I used stone ground)
a little pepper
blend and set aside

Before... this one is about an inch thick

After... this is pounded to a little more than 1/4 of an inch thick
The Steaks were the fun part I took the three pieces of steak and pounded them to about 1/4 inch thick with the flat side of my mallet (the spiky side is for flank or skirt steak not tenderloin) then I heated up my favorite pan... the Iron Skillet. When it was hot I turned it over so the meat would be easier to work with and cooked them for about a minute or so on each side until medium rare then made up my plates.

Set the steaks on your plates then top with a few sautéed mushrooms, salad mix and warm Bacon Vinaigrette. Damn Hell this was good! Do I feel a little guilty? well yes well a little, and the scale and I have had a few words since to but... Wow.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving at our house this year


First, Mr Man spilled a combination of Country Time Pink Lemonade and strawberry jam on our keyboard so it is basically useless.  So I followed Kim Komndo's advice and put the keyboard in the dishwasher to clean it off.... Guess what?!? it didn't work!  After giving it a full 24 hours to dry it was sort of usable except for the spacebar, the comma and every number lower than 5 (all of my passwords have a number below 5 in them).  So, I picked up the trusty laptop to work on my blog and well, I kind of feel like a hoofed mammal whenever I use this thing Jeez could the keys be smaller? I hit 2-3 keys at a time every time that I pound on this thing.  Then God forbid that I touch the rectangular sensor thingie (Technical term you know) below the keyboard then the cursor jumps to the middle of the page and I start to type over what I have already written.  So I have been slow to update...

Oh, I need to mention some back story; at work all of us have to work two holidays each year...I usually pick Thanksgiving because I get both of my holidays out of the way all at once (Thursday and Friday are both holidays to my company).  So it ends up being a long long weekend.  This year Kris was going to make Thanksgiving dinner (Ham and Scalloped Potatoes, we aren’t really turkey eaters) then my 11 year Miss El called and asked if she could spend the Holiday with us.  That is when I did the culinary version of pushing my beautiful wife out of the way so I could make dinner.  In the days before the holiday I did the shopping and spent way more than I should have.  Then I made my Vodka Cranberries, and prepared the recipe that I am going to talk about today.

The menu was:
Beef Tenderloin in a Red Wine Reduction
Vodka Cranberries
Sweet Potato Hash
Mashed Potatoes
Grilled Vegetables with Roasted Garlic Aioli
Molten Chocolate Cake

Most of this I have made before so I won’t dwell on them too much, though I do have to look at my Red Wine Reduction again… I don’t think it was this good the last time I made it

Grilled Vegetables with Roasted Garlic Aioli

Roasted Garlic Aioli
1 full bulb of Garlic Roasted
2 Egg Yolks
Juice from one lemon
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup Olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

To Roast the Garlic cut the top off of a full bulb of garlic lightly coat with olive oil (or be lazy and use pan spray) then loosely wrap in foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.  The cool on the counter until you are ready.  When you are ready to go just squeeze the gooey garlic into a bowl, add the rest of you ingredients and wisk until smooth.

Grilled Vegetables can really be whatever you like mine were
Carrots Cut Long and thin
Yellow Squash
Portobello Mushroom Caps

I let mine soak in Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil and spices for about half an hour then tossed them on the grill.  Couldn't have been easier.  This was a nice addition to the meal and was there to snack on before and after the our dinner

Hey all

Things have been really busy around our house the past week or so!  Check me out at From the Monkey Bars today!  I will be back after work with a new post about our Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Really cool day

Hey all I have a couple of great things going on!

1. My friend Nisrine asked my to guest post in her how to section!  See how I made butter here
2. I am over at "From the Monkey Bars" again today with my new Thanksgiving dessert!  Not very traditional, but fun.

Check them both out

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I usually end up working on Thanksgiving, which means that my first alarm (I am a snoozer) goes off at 3:07 then I trudge off to work after my 40 minute commute into Chicago. Since I like to cook I am still making Dinner, obviously some of the traditional items are off the table... no turkey, which is fine we haven't had that in a couple of years. I have also been doing some little things throughout the week so I am not making everything at the last minute.  One of the things that I have made already is my cranberries.  They sit happily in the bottom of my fridge, untouched... well maybe a couple of bites smaller... waiting for the big meal.

I have seen a couple of recipes for Bourbon and Cranberries floating around this season (here is one) which is the way I usually make mine (this is last year's) but I ran into a problem this year. I didn't really notice it until I was getting my ingredients together, it seems that my bourbon met up with some sweet vermouth and ended up mixed with ice instead of cranberries. So with a quick change of ingredients I am making something completely new Cranberry Sauce with vodka. Maybe to be all fancy I should call them Cosmopolitan Cranberries... then again maybe not.
The process couldn't be easier...
12 oz package of fresh cranberries
Grated peel of one orange
Juice from the same orange
1 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup Vodka
Splash of Triple Sec
A sprinkle of ground cinnamon (I would guess about a 1/4 tsp)

Put all of the ingredients together in a 2 quart sauce pan and cook until the sugar is blended and the cranberries have popped. I had it on kind of low heat because I was doing other things around the kitchen and could watch my pan so this cooked for about 20-25 minutes. When it is all done pour it into your serving dish, cover and cool over night.

One additional note here, I have often heard people say that they have, "cooked all the alcohol out of a dish."  Where I don't always believe that is 100% true a lot of food that is made with wine or booze is fine for the kiddos.  This one is not! It isn't appropriate for your friend after his AA meeting or your kids.  Depending on the rest of your family's kids you might want to slip one of them a shot  bowl. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fried Chicken

Ok, I must admit that I made this recipe with one thing in mind... that thing being the leftovers that I am happily stuffed with now.  Growing up I never had cold fried chicken because, well in my house my mom cooked for me, my brother and my dad and well there just wasn't anything left in the end.  Yes, I am quite sure that we could have eaten any amount of fried chicken brought into the house. I have been working on a good fried chicken recipe for a while, almost embarrassing for me to admit by the way since I can't remember ever having a bad piece of fried chicken made by any member of my family, well except for me. but after several attempts, I got it right this this time...

The Marinade
3 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper'
1 tsp garlic powder
a couple of good shakes of hot sauce
a big pinch of oregano and basil

Put the marinade ingredients in a not-reactive dish and let it sit on the counter for about half an hour while the flavors bloom then drop in your chicken. I put in two bone in skin on breasts, a handful of wings and one boneless skinless breast, you should put in what ever your family will eat.  Make sure that it is covered in liquid then put on a lower shelf of your fridge and soak for at least overnight, mine sat for about 2 days.  The cool thing about a buttermilk marinade is that it doesn't over marinade meat.  When it is time to go put your breading together...

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
I really had to crop this one so you couldn't see my filthy stove top!

Put the ingredients in a paper grocery bag and mix together, then take your chicken out of the buttermilk and put them, a few pieces at a time into the bag, shake until well coated and set aside on a plate.  Once you have all of your chicken breaded put a plate or pan in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes while you heat up the oven and a pan of oil.  Turn your oven to 350 then put enough oil in a pan to fill it about an inch deep (maybe 3 cups in my 12 inch skillet).  Then heat the shortening to 375 degrees when it is ready. put your chicken in a few pieces at a time, don't crowd then and let them cook for 4-5 minutes on each side for breasts (legs and wings will take less time).  When they are that beautiful golden brown put them all on a pan and into the oven for another 10- 15 minutes to finish.  No you don't have to finish in the oven, but I like to because I like everything done at the same time.  

It was wonderful on the evening of it's premiere, but a couple of days later right out of the fridge with a little salt and pepper it was wonderful.  Sorry no pictures of that... when I had it cold it was on a paper towel in front of the TV, just like it should be.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Early parenting lessons

Hey all, I am over at From the Monkey Bars again, come over and play today!  I will be back here tomorrow with a down home classic!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Poached Pears

This one turned out to be an light easy dessert that had a nice elegant touch to it.  I made Dessert for three, as I have said in the past one for me one for Kris and one for my kids to stare at in distrust.  This takes a couple of days but really easy plus the house smells great when you poach the pears.

The ingredients:
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I would have used a cinnamon stick but didn't have any
1 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
2 strips orange peel (from my preserved citrus)
3  Bosc pears, peeled, stems left intact

These are Bosc pears right... yes if you follow this blog this picture is from the archives, but the ones that I took this time didn't turn out as well.  The one above is from a couple of days ago.

For later I whipped Mascarpone Cheese with a little brown Sugar and Vanilla to garnish

Combine white wine (I used Pinot Grigio) water, sugar, cinnamon, a split vanilla bean, and preserved orange rind in 2 quart sauce pan. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add peeled pears. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pot and simmer until pears are tender, turning pears occasionally, all this takes about 40 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to platter. Boil liquid in pot until reduced by half.  strain syrup then pour over poached pears. Chill until cold, turning pears occasionally, I made these the day before I wanted them cold.

When it is time to serve cut the pears in half and take out the seeds them stuff with Mascarpone cheese mixture and drizzle with the thickened sauce.  I heated mine sauce up a little. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010


A few day ago I received it in the mail... My new pasta Maker! YES!  I have made a couple of attempts to make scratch pasta before using rolling pins and white flour mostly, I have ended up with either a starchy mess stuck to the bottom of a pot or something with the look of chewing gum and the texture of leather.  There is a lot of recipe here so I won't mess around with prose too much...  This was actually a three day venture, it didn't have to be, but I have one of those pesky food service jobs and didn't have the days off spend time on this.  The sauce could as easily been one from a jar or your favorite marinara.  The filling I wanted to make ahead so I could work with cold ingredients.

Sunday, The Sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1  onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat Olive oil in a saute pan then sweat the onion and garlic until tender.  Add the thyme and tomatoes and cook together for a few minutes then add oregano and basil.  Cook for about half an hour then put sauce into a blender and puree until smooth (we like it smooth here, I also strained it you don't have to) .  Put it back into your pan and taste, add oregano, basil, salt and pepper and if it is a little tart some sugar.  Cook until you get the consistency that you like (about another half an hour for me) then put into a non-reactive container and refrigerate

Monday, The filling
1 TBS Olive oil
1/2 medium onion diced
3 coves garlic minced
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 cup fresh spinach leaf chopped fine
2 TBS fresh basil chopped fine
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup ricotta cheese

Heat the olive oil then add the onions and garlic, cook until tender then add the meat and brown.  Add the spinach basil, salt and Parmesan cheese and cook until blended, turn off the heat and add the ricotta cheese and mix well.  When it is all mixed let cool for a few minutes then put the whole mess into a food processor and chop until you get the consistency that you like, mine was well mixed but still crumbly, not completely smooth.  Cover and refrigerate.

Tuesday, the Pasta:
2 cups semolina flour
2 eggs
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS water (you may need a little more later)
Mix the ingredients together, if you need a little more water add it a few drops at a time.  When it forms into a ball put it on a lightly floured surface and kneed for about 5 minutes then wrap tightly and let it rest for about an hour.

When it is time to go cut the ball of dough into 5 pieces and start rolling... I had help.

Obviously I don't have the process completely down but I did manage to make about 12 disk shaped ravioli.  Heat up the sauce that you choose, while that is going put your ravioli in boiling water.  These took about 5 minutes to heat through.

Ok it looks like a lot went on here but over all it was pretty easy to make ravioli considering it was my first go at it. As for a verdict... we all pretty much agreed that the filling rocked it out!  The pasta was a little thick at the edges.  No problem though, next time I will roll it out a little thinner.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hey check this out

I'm not here today... please take a moment to check out my post at From the Monkey Bars.  I am so excited to be a part of such a cool blog site in my first Guest Post ever!  One of my friends, TKW, invited me to join in and... well just tell me what you think.  As for Armcharichef, I will be here tomorrow with my first ravioli adventure.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Brined Chicken and Pasta

Ok, I tried it again, after reading a friend of mine TKW guest posting on another blog I tried to plan a meal ahead.  The advise she gave was to plan at least three meals a week... doesn't sound too hard, a lot of people I know suggest that you plan every stinkin' meal, breakfast lunch and dinner at least a month at a time then using some series of post-its they somehow follow through on this twisted plan.  Me I am not up to planning a month at a time, in fact the last few meals that I have tried to plan were less than wonderful... but 3 meals a week should be doable.  So Sunday as I was making Cider Braised Pork Chops (Blog to follow on this winner by the way) I put together a Brine for some chicken that I had in the freezer.  not to make the same mistakes as I did before I thawed the chicken breasts under cool running water for a while until they were mostly thawed before I started.

Then I made the brine, in a saucepan I put:
2 quarts of water
1/2 cup of salt
1/2 an onion coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup brown sugar
3-4 sticks of thyme (use whatever aromatic you like)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
I heated it all up then put it in a large bowl and added 2 trays of ice cubes (I know not very scientific... you just want it cooler than room temperature when you add the chicken)  then put your bone in skin on chicken breasts (or whatever parts you prefer) into the brine to soak, at least overnight, I hear that this can soak for a couple of days in the refrigerator with no ill effects.  I don't completely understand the chemical process that takes place here but the chicken naturally pulls the salty flavored water in and you get a piece of chicken that is MOIST and flavored to the bone.

When it is time to cook heat up about 1/4 cup of olive oil in an oven safe pan and brown the chicken for about 10 minutes (turning a couple of times) when the outside is done to your liking add about two cups of chicken broth, two cloves of Garlic and a couple of sticks of Thyme.  Cover and put into a 350 degree oven while you cook for another 20 minutes. While that is roasting cook your pasta.  This is served with Orzo (one of my favorites) follow the package instructions, when the orzo is ready drain the pasta like you always do then pour it right into the pan with your chicken and let it set for about 5 minutes.

That 5 minutes is a good time to get the kiddo's plates ready once they are set you are ready to go, I pull the chicken out and bone it real fast then slice it up before I serve.  You see how it looks, you can serve this comforting dish however you like it best.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pulling one from the Archives

Ok, my friends I have to admit that I am exhausted...  Work has been crazy of late, on top of being unnaturally busy... one of my co-workers left us and we are waiting for an "appropriate time to replace him", another has gone completely off his chum.  Add to that personal financial things that ebb and flow in all of our lives are at an ebb spot right now.  I just haven't had the wherewithal to put words together in a way that all of you deserve... so I am pulling one out of the archives.  The writing is a little ham handed but this recipe really is good.   So grab some leftover donuts and a handful of eggs and give this a try!  Me... I have some great (for me) pictures and some good ideas coming up so stay tuned.  Until then, enjoy this. 
When it comes to writing recipes for this blog I can classify them three ways, recipes that are classics that I may or may not have written down, but have been in my repertoire for years Roast Corn and Black Beans are two examples of those. I also make up new concoctions of things that I think would taste good for example Caprese Mole and Sugar Cane Skewered Shrimp were both made up on the fly. The Third Category are the recipes that I have to study before I prepare them things that I have never made fall into that category, like preserved Lemons and most baked goods do too, the complexities of leavening agents and the ratios of liquids that make a custard still scare me.

Bread pudding has always been a favorite of mine, but it falls into that third category I really like it, but don't make it often, because I need measuring cups and a recipe. Bread Pudding can go well with a cup of coffee in the afternoon or add a little caramel sauce and it is a great dessert. The thing I always liked about it is that at the places that I used to get bread pudding it was never the same thing twice; the baker would take the bread, muffins, scones and donuts that didn't sell one day and throw them into a mixer and sell them as bread pudding the next. As I started to look for recipes most of the ones I found started with fresh bread. Something seems wrong in going out and buying a fresh loaf of Brioche or French Bread then cutting it into cubes and leaving it on the counter over night to use. So I started looking at the ratios of bread to eggs to milk figuring that if I got that part down the rest would come together just fine. What I found was that in most cases the recipes called for 1 pound of bread, 4 cups of dairy (some cream some milk, some a combination of them) and 8 eggs. After those basic ingredients the recipes were all over the place some with chocolate chips, nuts, currants, cranberries pretty much anything seems to work after the base is together, which makes this fun.

The Bread pudding that I made was:
1 pound of bread (I had donuts, bagels and French bread in this)
2 cups half and half (it is all I had)
2 cups milk
8 eggs
1tsp vanilla
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of diced dried figs

Yes I am that guy, the one that doesn't have raisins in the house but does have a big bag of dried figs in the refrigerator. Dice up the assorted bread and set in a large bowl then mix the rest of the ingredients except for the Figs (nuts, currents, whatever you decide to use) and poor over the bread mixture. This needs to sit for a while until to soften the bread if you used heavy bread (like baguettes) you may want to wait as long as 1-2 hours. Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 325 and grease a 9x13 inch baking pan. Mix any additional items into the mess that you have and poor it into the pan.

This Bakes for about an hour and 15 minutes until a knife or toothpick comes out clean when inserted. When it first comes out of the oven it looks like a giant Souffle but it pretty quickly "falls" to what you expected. I am getting a little ahead of myself here... the sauce for this is so good!

1/2 Stick of Butter
1/2 Cup Sugar
3/4 Cup milk
1/2 Cup Baileys Irish Cream
a little Cornstarch slurry

Melt the butter and sugar together then add the milk and Irish Cream once that is simmering add the cornstarch slurry to thicken. Let it cook for a few minutes until it is the thickness that you want. When you are ready to serve just poor a little bit of the sauce on top of a piece of bread pudding and serve.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Trunk or Treat

Our Church hosts a Halloween party every year followed by an hour of "Trunk or Treat" where people decorate their cars or vans and hand out candy to the young ones in the church parking lot after the Halloween party is over.  We have enjoyed  the ritual for the past few years.  You know, go the the carnival then shake down our friends for some candy.  This year was a little different, Miss Lu came home one day and said that we were going to participate in Trunk or Treat.

Kris and I both gave her the parent look... "of course sweetie, we always do."  Her plan didn't end there, she wanted us to be one of the Trunks...

"We can decorate the van then daddy can make some of his cool pumpkins, then we will hand out candy."  So we went to the Dollar Store to get black tablecloths and a potpourri of frightening little tidbits. While I was at work on Sunday Miss Lu and Kris decorated the van when I got home we set up an assembly line and started carving. 

Miss Lu wanted a witch, 

 Mr. Man (after changing his mind several times) at Train

Mine will just a little fun.  I tried to carve a fourth but we got one of those warty pumpkins, and the skin on those is really thick... I started using power tools to carve it (cordless drill and jig saw) then decided that I wanted to attend Trunk or Treat with all my digits in tact so we left this one at home for the squirrels to devour. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vanilla Shortbread Cookies

Here in the Chicagoland area we have had the first few days of fall.  Cool days cold nights and it has been downright blustery!  To me the beginning of Fall is really the beginning of baking season.  I don't know if any of you remember but in April I made a big deal of running around and finding fresh vanilla beans to make my own Vanilla extract.  So if you want to break it down I spent $21.00 and 7 months to make a six ounce bottle of Vanilla extract.

Was it worth it? you ask.  I think that I can safely say YES! Thank you Fork one!  What I did was go to Whole Foods and pick up some Vanilla beans then put them it a cute little bottle of vodka and let them sit in my cupboard since April 29.  You can see how much it has cured over the months...

Today I pulled it out of the cupboard and made shortbread cookies.  I wanted to have the simplest recipe possible so that I could taste my hand made Vanilla.

Shortbread cookies:

1 cup all purpose Flour
2 TBS corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup + 2 TBS Brown Sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 TBS granulated sugar
1 tsp Vanilla extract

Sift together the first 3 ingredients.  In another bowl mix Brown Sugar, Butter, Sugar and Vanilla.  Beat until well blended.  Then add the dry ingredients a little at a time beating until smooth.  Once it is well blended roll into a log about 6 inches long, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Before you take it out preheat an oven to 325 then cut the cookies about 1/4 inch thick and put on the baking sheet.  Bake for about 18-10 minutes, rotate the pan at least a couple of times.

How did it work out?  In a word great!  The cookies were a great showcase for the ingredients although I may have tasted the butter a little more than the Vanilla I can't say that is all bad.