Sunday, May 30, 2010

A weekend off

Ok so I have 3-4 posts kind of in the works, some started, some with pictures, but really none of them seem appropriate for a holiday weekend especially the unofficial opening of BBQ season.  You will see in the next couple of weeks what I mean but for today they just aren't right.  I tend to make things when they suit me not really in association with the weather, I mean I cooked out when my grill looked like this:

Anyway as the weather warmed up I have made some recipes more suited to cooking inside instead of out, it just seems out of place for Memorial Day weekend.  So what do I do?  Well drink recipe of course.  I don't really have a name for the recipe, once I had a drink I didn't care really if you want to call it something you can or you could just drink one and well you won't care either.

Here it is:
The Tea:
4 Green tea bags
2 big bunches of mint (maybe 15 leaves)
Steep in about a quart and a half of hot water.
The Sweetener:
Ginger infused simple syrup is 1/2 cup Sugar 1/2 cup water and about an inch cube of ginger cut up.. here is the process.

The rest is simple in a pint glass put in a handful of ice cubes, then add
1/4 cup dark rum
2 TBLS ginger simple syrup
Top off with the cold green tea, add a slice of lime and a sprig of mint for a garnish, sit back and enjoy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Blueberry Rhubarb Crisp

It started here I was reading one of my favorite blogs and Rhubarb came up...  I have fond memories of rhubarb.  There was a rhubarb plant in my grandmother's back yard so this post brought back memories that were pure summer for me.  Eating fresh mulberries, picking gooseberries, playing lawn darts, for those of you a little younger than me lawn darts is a game that basically involves tossing small steel tipped javelins at a circle next to your best friend's feet, great fun.  Anyway one of the most vivid image that I get is a bunch of bathing suit clad children running around each with a freshly pulled rhubarb stalk (maybe we knocked some of the dirt off) in one hand and a paper Dixie cup of sugar in the other... dip the moist rhubarb into the sugar then chew on the woody stalk, absolute heaven.

Most Sundays after church our family  would gather at Grandma's house and just have a regular summer day which would include playing in Grandpa's garden, exploring the barn where he kept all of the equipment that he used for his furnace repair business, or swinging on the tire swing tied to the walnut tree in the middle of the yard.

It struck me as funny that the first Rhubarb recipe that I read this year brought those memories back to me so quickly and so vividly,  I could almost feel the dry broken grass at my feet and the smell of the garden.  Oddly there have been several recipes that involved rhubarb it the weeks since and the feeling hasn't subsided in the least.  I started to work on some recipes myself.  However it seemed that every idea that I came up with someone blogged about a recipe that was too darned close.

Then I remembered them, in the back of the freezer!  once, quite a while ago, my in-laws came for a visit and they brought freshly picked Blueberries from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan they were absolutely beautiful.  I spent a bit of time making a Blueberry, Brandy and Tarragon glaze which was exactly as popular as a big turd in a punchbowl then sheepishly put the rest of the berries in the freezer until now.  I made a Blueberry Rhubarb Crumble.  It was really simple, preheat the oven to 350, then start with the crust:

1/3 cup salted pistachios (shelled)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes

Chop up the pistachios and set aside then mash the flour, sugars and butter together until it resembles course meal mix in the pistachios. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Key-lime Pie

Every year I see them sitting at the produce stand, usually inexpensive always beautiful, I look at them and think, I really should figure out how to make Key-lime Pie... how hard can it be? Then I tell myself that I will look up a recipe and come back and pick some up. Then I go home, some years I start to look for a recipe, some I don't, always a few days later when I go back to the store to pick up the limes and they are gone.

Apparently the Key-lime season is about 4 days long, it seems that one day there are hundreds of pounds of the tart little buggers in every store then there are none to be found. Anyway this year I turned the tables on fate a little bit, I went to my regular produce store and saw them 2 pounds for $ .99 I jumped over a small crowd of people and grabbed a couple of bags and ran. This year I was going to make it happen, so I took my Key-Limes and went home to study....

I found a couple of recipes and thought, "no... this can't be right?!?" then continued to look, wow this is simple! for all of the mystery that people put behind this dessert it really is the epitome of the Florida Keys *relaxed, laid back, easy going, tart and sassy. There are very few ingredients and it is easier to make than Rice Krispy Treats. I almost feel guilty passing this one along.

Pre-heat oven to 350

The Crust
1 cup graham cracker crumbs from 8 graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 

Begin by chopping the graham crackers in a food processor until fine, then add the butter and sugar and mix. Press into a pie pan until you have it evenly coated. Pop that into the oven for about 10 minutes to toast while you make the filling

 Miss Lu was cool here she juiced about 20 of these little 
buggers.  They don't make a Key lime press so we stuffed
parts into a lemon juicer 3-4 at a time.
The Filling
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons juice from about 20 Key-Limes

Mix the filling all together in a bowl then scrape into the crust and bake for 15 minutes.  When the time is up take it out to cool on the counter for a few minutes then cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least 8 hours).  There you have it.  

When the time comes top with a little whipped cream and you are ready to go.  Now I have mentioned before that pastry isn't really my thing here is an example I don't have a pastry bag or tips (don't bake much) so I piped the whipped cream out of a zip lock bag with one corner cut out.  That isn't that strangest thing though, my beaters had mashed potatoes on them from earlier so I tried beating the cream buy hand (with a wire whip) but quickly ran out of steam.  This is the contraption I came up with for whipping cream... yeah it worked.  Plus it got a laugh out of the visiting parents.

*Oh and I don't know that people from the Keys are actually "easy going, tart or sassy," but it sounded good to me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Now for Something Completely Different

I need to take a break from my regularly scheduled blogging to point out a significant event.  It was four years and one day ago that it started, Kris woke up in the morning... she was tired of not feeling well, she hadn't been able to take a deep breath in about 5 months, she hadn't slept for more that a couple of hours in a row in even longer.

"I'm going to the Zoo today," she told me, "I am going to shake this baby loose."  She and our neighbor Jennie (kids in tow) went to the Brookfield Zoo and walked around for several hours.

Later, when I got home from work, the neighbors asked us to dinner (OK, you all know me it was Tacos, hard shells, meat, cheese, etc... but this post isn't about food) about half way through dinner Kris leaned over to me and said, "I think it's time."

We said our goodbyes to our friends, left Miss Lu in very good hands for the night and went to the Hospital.  A few hours later Mr. Man came into this world.

I have to tell you something about Mr. Man, he surprised us... Kris and I both thought we had had our kids when we started our journey.  Between us we had three girls and that seemed to be enough but apparently fate thought something else.  Mr. Man was not only unexpected but this little guy, the son of a Chef and a CPA, amazed us.  How does my kid love sports? cars? all things boy?

I'll let you in on a little secret, when I was about his age I begged my parents for a pot and pan set for my sandbox toy Mr. Man's first three words were "mommy, daddy" and  "basketball!"  Where did he come from? My, (as of today) four year old has taught me about cars and sports, I can even hold a conversation about basketball at work! I keep the videos of him hitting a baseball on my phone so I can show them off to my friends.  He has helped make me the suburban dad.  Proud? yes! happier? yes! A better person because of him? well, YES!  Here's to you my little stink butt... I am so happy you are here; you have made me a better man.
Happy Birthday Mr. Man!
Side story here... Last weekend when my mom was here we all went to the Brookfield Zoo and she relayed the story of the day before I was born apparently she and her friends went to the same place to "shake this baby loose,"  The next day I was born.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mussels in White Wine

I mentioned in my last post that my mom and my in-laws were coming to visit us last weekend.  Kris and I started discussing the menus a couple of weeks ago... Ok that is a lie Kris made one suggestion, the Tenderloin in red wind reduction that I made for Thanksgiving, I blathered on about menu ideas for about 12 days in a row.

"Do your parents like clams?"
"My parents like everything."
"How about grilled asparagus?"
"My parents like everything"
"Say, what if I made Key Lime Pie?"
"My parents like everything."

Kris has always had enough restraint to not ask if I am stupid or deaf.  Thank heavens for that, if she actually pointed out what a dork I am as often as I act like one it might get to me.  Anyway after the 174th time I asked her what would be good for dinner (answer Beef Tenderloin in Red Wine Reduction and whatever else you want) I put together the menu for Parents visit on Saturday, it was:

Beef Tenderloin in Red Wine Reduction (see I listen)
Fresh Mussels Steamed  in White Wine and Garlic
Oven Roasted Red Potatoes
Sauteed  Snap peas
Key Lime pie (post to follow)

I actually decided to get the mussels while I was at the store waiting for the butcher to find me the Beef Tenderloin, I was going back and forth on what to get for a seafood dish.  These guys seemed so nice sitting there on their bed of crushed ice.  I picked up 2 pounds for us, it was plenty for 4 adults... the kiddos were not trying. 

Steamed Mussels in White Wine:
2 TBS butter
2 Cloves Garlic minced
1 Small onion chopped
1 Cup of Chopped Mushrooms (I used Baby Bellas)
2 Pounds Fresh Mussels washed,
1 Cup White wine
1/2 Cup Chicken Broth
Juice from one lemon
2-3 sticks of Thyme

Soak the Mussels in fresh water for about 20 minutes pick out any that are dead and discard, if they are open tap on the shell to check... if it closes it is still alive if not...  Pull off any attached beards and discard, then wash the shells off good.  In a heavy pan, I used my mom's old iron skillet, melt the butter add the Garlic, Onions and Mushrooms saute until tender add the Mussels then the Wine, Wine, Chicken Broth, Thyme, squeeze the lemon on top, throw it in for good measure, cover and steam/boil for about 5-6 minutes.  Discard any mussels that do not open (they may not have been alive when you started cooking).  Scoop them out with a slotted spoon then put them all into a serving dish let the liquid cook for another 2-3 minutes then poor on top of the mussels and serve.  I served this with sliced  baguettes toasted.

Quick note I know that I have said to discard a couple of times I think I threw away 3 in the cleaning process, if you get them from a good place you shouldn't have to get rid of many of them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Citrus Jicama Salad

So my mom and my in-laws came to visit us this Mother's day weekend, we spent a lot of time together and had a lot going on.  We were trying to have a more relaxed weekend than usual.  Most of the time when Kris' parents come for the weekend it is so her dad will help with some house hold project that I am unable to do on my own.  I like to say that I installed the floors throughout the house or refinished the bathroom but in truth I mostly watched and tried to follow instructions as best I could.

"Jeez, how hard can it be?  All you gotta do is cut a perfectly straight line  1/16 of an inch from the edge of  a hard plastic panel then put the 5 foot square on the wall perfectly straight on the only try that you get and hold it until I say you are done... maybe ten minutes maybe LONGER." 

It just isn't my area of expertise, I try to do these things but, as I refer to my writing sometimes, I am a bit of a ham handed hack.  Carpentry I understand, electric work scares most of my loved ones to death (Bryan, metal tools, live wiring what could go wrong?) and plumbing... forget about it.  In the end the best I can do is make a really good meal after a day of light construction is done, which makes up for some of my inadequacies I hope anyway.  

This visit Kris and I just wanted to have a good time and hang out with our family.  Kris did most of the planning I did most of the cooking.  There were several meals in our bacchanalia of a weekend I some old favorites and some new thing, that I will write about in the coming days.  The first; partly because I am feeling springy and partly because I left my flash drive at work AGAIN and this is the one of the pictures I can get to.
Jicama Citrus Salad, Serves Four
The Dressing 
3 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
2 TBS fresh cilantro chopped, most of the stems removed
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup + 2 TBS olive oil
1/3 cup orange juice
Juice from two limes
grated zest of one lime
Salt and a little pepper (to taste)

I put all of this right into the blender and blended until done taste and adjust if needed.  I made this a couple of days ahead.

The Salad
2 medium sized oranges peeled and segmented
2 honey tangerines peeled and segmented
1 mango peeled and diced
1/2 of a softball sized jicama peeled and julienned
1/4 cup of olive oil
just a splash of orange juice and a sprinkle of salt

You will want to make this a couple of hours ahead so the flavors will marry.  When it is time to serve, line your plates with Boston lettuce I used two heads for the four salads and top with the citrus mixture.  Sprinkle some cilantro on top then dress, you will have plenty of the citrus vinaigrette left over for later (bonus).  The salad is like a plate full of sunshine, light and refreshing.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pulling one from the Archives

There are a few of reasons that I decided to pull one from the archives today.  First I didn't have many people reading this blog back when I wrote this and this really is a recipe worth making... it is that good.  Second, wow we had a heck of a weekend I have been so busy (blog about that later) and I left my flash drive in my computer at work.  Add to that the whole Blogaversery thing, I think I have earned at least one dip into the past. Anyway here you go:
With the several trips to the farmer's market that I have taken with the kiddos for Jack O Lanterns and other pumpkin products we have picked up several Apples. Once after we all picked out our pumpkins I was looking at the other produce when I looked back at Mr. Man and he was taking apples one at a time out of baskets, licking them and setting them on the gingham covered table (Mr. Man is 3 by the way). Two thoughts quickly went through my head since he wasn't biting them but only licking; the first, maybe I can put them all back before anyone notices... the second why are you licking an apple?!?

I then thought of picking up an apple that some other kid had done the same to and decided to purchase the ones that he had defiled so we came home from that visit with Jonathan, Gala, Macintosh and Granny Smith apples. So now you are thinking. "Is Bryan one of those parents that lets his kids run wild or is his son a really fast licker?" Neither... both, I don't know, in my defence I bought some non-licked apples so once I got home I could pretend the apple that I was eating was of the non-slobbered variety.

As happens with produce after a while on the counter I had already lost a couple and would be losing more soon so I decided that I had to use them up. I poked around and found a recipe on Epicurious to work from:

Apple Shortbread Bars

3 slices of bread ground into crumbs

for Shortbread Base
11/2 sticks Unsalted Butter
2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt

for Apple Topping
1 1/4 Sticks Butter Melted
2 Pounds Tart Apples
2/3 cup Granulated Sugar
2 TBS Flour

Toast the breadcrumbs at 350 for about 5 minutes, they should just cover the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan, then set them aside for later, leave the oven on.

To make the shortbread crust put the Flour, Salt and Brown Sugar into a mixing bowl then slice the cold butter into the mix about a tsp at a time blend until it forms small lumps. I used a mixer, a food processor would work too. Evenly coat the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan and press it down lightly. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

To make the topping set the 1 1/4 sticks butter on the stove to melt then peel and core apples then cut into quarters and slice them thin. I used 5 apples 2 Granny Smith, 2 Gala 1 Jonathan (all medium sized) that may or may not be the ideal varieties, but it is what I had on the counter. When you take the crust out of the oven sprinkle 1/2 the sugar flour mix on top put the sliced apples on that, sprinkle the rest of the sugar flour mix on them. Here I added a sprinkle of cinnamon you can if you want. Top all of this with bread crumbs then drizzle the melted butter on top of the whole thing.

Put it back in the oven and bake for 50 minutes maybe a little longer. About 1/2 way through you will want to pull it out and press the filling down with a spatula to even it out. Cool for about 20 minutes.

I don't say this often, ok maybe I do, but I really mean it this time. This is sooo good, if you only make one recipe that I have blabbered on about this is the one! My house smelled like angels came in and kissed the oven and it tasted wonderful. Kris was going to give some to the neighbor so we don't just end up fat in my house, she was going to start working on fattening up the entire block. Then decided that she would share something else.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Happy Birthday? no.. Anniversery? no.. Blogaversery? no... thats just weird

Ok, this is an odd post, I wasn't sure that I would get here.  One year ago today Kris and I were taking the kiddos to the zoo and I, kind of nervously said, "I think I am going to write a food blog, that is a pretty unique idea huh?"
"I think that is a great idea."
"I could talk about food and our family, talk out some of those things that bore normal people, you know just talk about the things that... well just have some fun, I like to write"  
Kris stopped me, "You can stop overexplaining yourself again, its a good idea, do it."

Kris has been wonderful to me through this adventure, not only putting up with my experiments gone awry and my occasional food snobbery she also puts up with finding the camera under a pile of dirty dishes and towels with 247 pictures of food and 15 of our adorable children and all the other annoying things that a food blog leaves in it's wake.

So later on in the day of this conversation this ham handed hack started writing, at first I wasn't too sure to whom or really about what and I am not really sure if anyone read my posts early on.   After awhile I started to think that maybe someone else would read this if they ever found it so I shared with my facebook friends.  The Infamous Mrs. A. (my first follower and long time friend) apparently liked it and gave me a link to TKW's blog.  I was a little shy about it at first but after reading for awhile I thought I would join in.  Then I found Camilla's blog and started following that...Since then I have met some incredible people, (OK women, do any other guys do this?) Some of my favorites are off to the right here, >>===>
you should take a moment to visit them all, really a great bunch of blogs each in their own way. 

This quiet little corner of the web has been a great outlet for me a place to talk about food, fun and family in my own nerdy way that seems to be well received.  So what I am saying is "thanks for spending some of your precious time hanging out with me, thank you for your encouraging comments and for those of you that just visit thanks for stopping by, but please feel free to comment."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Experiment

In a blog that I follow (Our Forking Blog) the author was talking about making her own vanilla extract... How great is that!?!  I love taking something from the very base and making it into something cool.  So as I read her post I realized that all I needed to make vanilla extract is vodka, vanilla beans and most of a year.

Vodka was easy I always have a couple of bottles in the house (can't run out of that) vanilla beans were another story... but in the end Whole foods came through for me again.  I took the two fresh Vanilla beans that I picked up and cut then both in half lengthwise and stuffed them into this cute little bottle with about 7 ounces of Vodka.  there you go...  I put it up on the shelf back behind the Kahlua (that bottle has to be 4 years old) to sit.

So how is it?  I don't know, really you will have to check back with me in the fall when baking season starts again.  Fork One I am trusting you...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Rosemary Chicken

"Airline Breast"   Where does the name come from?  I did a little bit of looking and found that there are several definitions of "Airline Chicken" among them... "they fit under those funny covers that they used to use for airline meals" and "they look like wings ready to take off."  Most of the time they are large chicken breasts with bones removed except for the first wing bone (with meat) all of them are skin on.  You can get them at specialty stores, I have picked them a Whole Foods in my area.  I have heard a few suggest that you can ask any butcher to cut chicken this way... oddly I think that the one I usually go to would shout profanities at me in Polish until I ran from his store but if you want to give it a try, I am sure your butcher is a much more patient man than mine.  Anyway Airline breast is the best of both worlds really, no bones to bother with so it cooks quickly and evenly skin on... well that just helps admit it.  

Kris and I have been in a chicken rut lately... balsamic marinade... cilantro marinade... breaded.... it can get old.  I tried a recipe that I found in Food Network Magazine, yes I admit it I pick these things up when I am waiting in a long check out line.  Really how can you resist with headlines like "Weeknight Favorites FAST!" or "Cook with Potato Chips?"  Well maybe you have the will power me... not so much.  Between the bootleg Orange Julius recipe and Kathrine Alford's "Hot Tips" is the Weeknight Cooking section with this recipe.  We decided to give it a try so... *inspired by Food Network Magazine's Skillet Rosemary Chicken:

3-4 good sized red skinned potatoes cut up
1 TBS of Rosemary Leaves plus 2 sticks
2 Cloves of garlic 
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Juice of one lemon quartered
splash of white wine
2 TBS Olive Oil
3 Airline Chicken Breasts
8 oz Baby Portabella Mushrooms halved or quartered

Preheat oven to 450 and bring potatoes to a boil and cook for about 8 minutes.  While you are doing that pile the rosemary leaves, garlic and red pepper flakes together and chop/smash to a fine paste then transfer to a bowl and add the lemon juice, olive oil and a tsp or so of salt.  mix together then add the chicken and turn to coat.

Heat a large iron skillet over medium/high and put the chicken in skin side down and brown, this part takes about 5 minutes.  Turn the chicken over and add the mushrooms, potatoes and the splash of wine throw in the quartered lemon and the rosemary sprigs and any of the drippings from the bowl the chicken came out of.  Drop the rosemary sticks on top and put into the oven fopr 20-25 minutes.

* The term "Inspired by" translates to "didn't have all the ingredients even after I ran to the store twice in one day."
How was it?  The chicken was excellent! really I have never had a bad experience with this cut.  Kris thought the potatoes were a little heavy on the seasoningReally Rosemary can take over a dish so be a little careful with that, but over all this one is a keeper.