Thursday, December 29, 2011

Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche

Say that you like cooking and catering and enjoy that as a side job with the bonus of added income.  The question that comes up is how do you get that word out?  Advertising opportunities don't just pop up, mostly with catering it is word of mouth which takes time to build.  Kris and I have been working on business cards.  We have some ideas but really haven't settled yet but more important than that is getting people that may buy your food to taste it.  Sure my friends like it when I put a dinner together and I love doing that but lets face it my friends are like me, none of us are rich and most can throw together a meal, which leaves the question still of you to reach that other audience.

Kris works at the corporate office for a large corporation, for their holiday gathering she asked if I would make something a little different to set out with business cards.  Here it is Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche!  For this buffet is is served on fresh mesculin with some flatbread. 

You will need
3/4 of a pound of bay scallops (those are the small ones)
3/4 of a pound of shrimp peeled and devained
Juice from 1 lemon, 1 lime and 1 orange
2 TBS Olive oil
1 green pepper julienned
1 red bell pepper julienned
1 red onion julienned
1 tsp Chipotle chile powder
1 tsp Red pepper flakes
chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
and, kind of a strange one here, some ketchup

Clean shrimp removing shell and tail, I cut mine in half lengthwise.  Bring a pot of water to a boil then put in your shrimp and scallops to blanch for about 10-15 SECONDS.  I keep mine in a strainer so I can pull them out quickly drop them in ice water then lay them on a sheet pan and put them into the fridge.

Juice the citrus fruit into a large bowl then add the shrimp, scallops and olive oil and toss then add the peppers, onions chili powder and pepper flakes.  Toss it all together again and refrigerate for an hour or so then taste, add your cilantro, salt and pepper and the ketchup somewhere between a couple of tablespoons and 1/4 cup.  Toss one more time and serve.

This one has a couple of oddities in it, first is the blanch for 10 seconds, It really works well on the shrimp when the dish is ready to serve it has the wonderful pop of texture but since it is only the 10 to 15 seconds almost all of the "cooking" comes from the acid in the juices.  The ketchup, you want to add enough to turn the liquid into something like a citrus barbeque sauce.  It coats everything with a sweet tangy flavor that plays well with the chipotle and red pepper.

This one is served on spring greens with a flatbread, it really worked best for the venue it was in.  If at home I like to add some avocados when I am done.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I posted this last year but it still makes me laugh.  Now that we are in that time of year where every magazine has a cover article of "how to maintain during the holidays" and bizarre suggestions like avoiding butter, gravy or limiting desserts, Plus what the heck is low-fat eggnog?  Anyway I hope that all of you enjoy your holiday!

Oh and before you get started Frosty did make it outside, but it looks like he has some problems... when we came home a couple of days ago we found this...
 I Said, "Oh No, Frosty Fainted."

Miss Lu shouted, "He didn't faint, He is drunk again!"
When you think about it though; of course he has trouble holding is liquor he only weighs about 3 pounds

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!"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cranberry Vodka

So it is that time of year you know the wonderful warm holiday season where we get to spend time with our family and friends.  That warm magical season of peace and happiness....


Or maybe it is the season that we need a couple more of these

Yes folks this one is a showstopper!

To infuse the Vodka start like you would with cranberries
1/2 bag of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup of brown sugar
a little bit of water (just to get the cranberries going)
1 bottle of vodka

Put your cranberries, brown sugar and splash of water into a sauce pan and heat.  You want to cook them about half as much as you do for cranberry sauce, so remove from heat when some but not all cranberries have popped.

Pour all the cooked cranberries into a large mouthed jar then add a bottle of vodka.  Here comes the hard part... set it on the counter for about a week.  After the 6-7 days poor through a cheese cloth lined strainer then put it into a bottle, I have been keeping it in the freezer.

To mix this drink pour about 3-4 oz of cranberry vodka into a shaker, top with about a Tablespoon of orange simple syrup and shake.  Strain into a martini glass, this guy is garnished with candied orange peels.  Altogether an great drink and it should take the edge off of any family gathering.

 Maybe after one more I will be ready to put those annoying lawn ornaments outside

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Potato Flatbread Sandwich

OK I fully admit that posts like my last one are part of the reason that my doctor calls me "fat fat fat"  and I really do have to admit that for me bacon is an evil temptress. I think that all of you are all pretty bright, if you have read even a few of my posts you can see that my friend the pig comes up often, but you don't know the full story... at work we make bacon by the bucket full.  So on any given morning I will walk through the kitchen and look! someone is pulling a pan of bacon out of the oven... "I better try one."  A few minutes later I will go by and there I see someone else putting bacon 50 or 60 slices of bacon into a serving pan "hmm, those look a little more done than the first batch I better try one..."  Then there is always "quality assurance, I had better inspect."  At the end of the day we go through about 700 slices of bacon... no I don't eat them ALL but I don't count on purpose.  I am pretty sure that if I could just walk past the siren song (well smell) of bacon I won't have that conversation with the doctor on my next visit...

All that being said I do try to lighten it up sometimes, this flatbread sandwich/salad does just fine for those *non-bacony meals, when I have something lighter with actual vegetables and other good stuff.  It is as simple as can be the potato flatbread topped with a grilled chicken breast and spinach with blueberry vinaigrette dressing.  It all pulls together well with a nice mix of flavors ranging from the sweet tangy dressing and the bite of goat cheese all wrapped in the warm *potaotey comfort that it deserves.

Potato Flat Bread
1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp minced onion
1 tsp sugar
chopped cilantro
1/2 cup water

Mix the first 5 ingredients together then add the water,** start with half the amount the add until it is sticky but firm.  When it is well mixed cover and set aside for at least half an hour.  When you are ready to prepare cut ball into quarters, dust with flour and roll flat into about 8 inch circles.  Then throw them onto a hot lightly oiled pan, for me it worked best with a quick squirt of pan spray.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes on a side until lightly browned and flexible.  As you take them off stack them and set aside until ready to serve... I can't say how long they will last because I eat them too fast

Spinach Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette Dressing
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1/3 cup fresh blueberries
1 tsp sugar (depending on the sweetness of the berries)

Puree all ingredients until smooth (I used a stick blender).

To assemble toss some baby spinach with some of the dressing... place a flatbread on your plate, top with the dressed spinach leaves.  Lay a sliced chicken breast on that them top with fresh blueberries, onions and goat cheese.

*it seems that I have taken to making up my own words... lets see what happens in a few years maybe they will be in the dictionary.

** I have made this three times now, twice the water was just right the other time I had to add another 1/2 cup of flour.  I never quite understand that stuff, flour seems to have a mind of it's own sometimes

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bacon Peanut Butter Truffles

I have mentioned a few times my appreciation for all things pork, I really am fond of the pig!  It is one of the things that reminds me that there must be a higher power because, well in one  package you have:
heck I have even seen their feet in a pickle jar at some of the bars that I used to go to and don't forget that yummy fatty stuff from around the belly BACON. 

Bacon is one of those things that transcends any course of any meal; there is always bacon with breakfast,  Spinach salad with bacon dressing(mmm bacon vinaigrette dressing) bacon wrapped pork tenderloin, bacon on any sandwich.  Then you can't forget beverages or dessert...  yes folks this one is about dessert.

I have talked about my friend the cookbook dealer a few times, he made another visit not to long ago and dropped off a few magazines for me, a couple of issues of Food and Wine, (from 2006 and 2008) one issue of Whole Living from 2009 and a copy of Saveur from March 2005.  Since the whole cookbook/culinary magazine thing is kind of an addiction for me I try to keep the gravity of it hidden (is there a 12 step program for that?)  I tossed these in the back of my car so nobody would find them and there they sat there with the other 30 or so cookbooks and magazines until a few days back when I took Miss Lu to dance I was looking for some reading material for the hour I was about to spend sitting in a folding metal chair.
On our way to dance class

I ran out to the car and riffled around for something to spark my interest... then there it was in the upper right hand corner "Seduced by Bacon"  I couldn't pass on that!  inside was "Peanut Butter Bacon Truffles" Ok if you have read even a few of my posts you know I had to follow up on this one!

6 strips of bacon cooked until crisp well drained
1/2 cup salted dry roasted peanuts
4 tsp sugar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
8 oz chocolate chips
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Coarsely chop bacon then put into a food processor with peanuts and sugar... pulse until  mixture is ground to medium fine texture.  Pour into a bowl then add peanut butter and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is firm.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Roll the peanut butter mixture into balls 3/4 to 1 inch in size and set them on the sheet, when it is all used lightly cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

Before you take them out put the refrigerator melt your chocolate chips in a double boiler stirring often to keep it smooth, then set aside until cool enough to touch.  Then take your peanut butter balls out of of the refrigerator and drop them a few at a time in the chocolate to coat then toss in the cocoa powder.

The article said that you can set them in a sealed container with some cocoa powder and they keep for about a week in the refrigerator, just bring them to room temperature before serving.  these guys only made it overnight, yes the breakfast of champions!

OK these little peanutbuttery baconey balls of chocolate really did it!  The salty sweet chocolaty candies were as good as they sound!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cheddar Beer Bread

OK I think I am going to just write November 2011 off as my worst blogger month ever.  The month started out with a computer crash at home and it took us a couple of weeks to get a new one.  Then life went CRAZY at the end of the month with a road trip to sunny Wisconsin, then Miss EL visiting us for Thanksgiving and the weekend plus I had to work the entire time so I was BEAT!  I am going to whine like a baby for a minute here... most mornings I get up around 4:00 to make make my trek into work by 6:00.  On the weekends or holidays that I work I have to open which means that I have to get in at about 5:00 which has my first alarm going of a 3:06.  I know the difference between three and four in the morning may not seem that big but it feels huge when I am crawling out of bed.  Add to that I was trying to spend some time with everybody during my time off, at the end of seven days of it in a row I was starting to get a little addle brained.  We went to see the Muppit Movie one day and the Cunio Museum another, plus picking Miss El up and returning her at the halfway point between here and where her mom lives. 

On my seventh day in a row at work (which admittedly was a short one) someone asked what I was going to do on my days off.  Answer "I think I am going to have a drink!"  Since I think I earned it I decided to take my alcohol in every form that I could. 

Cheddar Beer Bread (shamelessly taken from Alton Brown)
8 ounces all-purpose flour

4 ounces whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
4 1/2 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated
12 ounces dark beer,

Preheat the oven to 375. Coat the inside of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with the nonstick spray and set aside.  Whisk together the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and dill in a large mixing bowl. Add in the cheese then stir in the beer just to combine. Pour batter into your loaf pan then bake on the middle rack of the oven until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 210 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 to 55 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

This was the first time that I have checked the temperature of bread, it worked great in this case the bread was moist yet light and fully done.   The rest of breakfast was a mess of holiday weekend leftover hash, really the perfect day off meal.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Apple Pie

Miss El, my middle daughter, called me a few weeks ago and asked if I would be able to come to Wisconsin to see her and my oldest MS. R in their play. They live in a town of about 500 their school is a couple of miles from their home and serves several towns in the area. MS R has been active in her school's theater since they moved up there five years ago, her first roll was a table in Beauty and the Beast, but she quickly moved on to bigger and better rolls. When Miss El called she reminded me that she had a small roll in this one too, the play Jane Eyre A Musical Drama yes you read that right. MS R played Mrs. Fairfax the almost deaf matron of the home, she has a knack for stealing any scene she is in and did well. Miss El was the young Jane Eyre, from her talking I expected her to have a couple of minutes on stage she really was really the only character for the first 10 minutes of the show.

The town they live in (go figure) doesn't have a hotel so I stay in a nearby town, this time I had these luxury accommodations.*

Luxury Suite

complete with Spa

and a downright bacchanalian breakfast buffet
The drive from my hotel to their house is about a half an hour over undulating roads cutting through pine woods, small farms and a bevy of apple orchards. It was the right time of year so I wanted to stop and get some apples this trip and maybe a little fresh apple cider. On the suggestion of MS R I stopped a Sunrise Orchard to pick up a bag of Honeycrisps. If you aren't familiar with them they are a really rockin' good apple a little on the sweet side and have a great crisp texture. I bought maybe a little more than was prudent so it was time to make pie.

This year I am learning how to bake dammit! I enjoy baking, I love baked goods but breads have never been my thing the whole process is too precise for me. I have spoken about my love/hate/therapeutic relationship with well flour and basically all leveners anyway I can probably count on my fingers the number of times that I have made a pie I can count on one finger the number of times I made a crust, so I threw it all in there and made this little baby.

The Crust
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
10 TBLS (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces I put mine in the freezer for about an hour
4 TBLS (about) ice water

The Filling
About 3 pounds of Honeycrisp apples peeled and cored, sliced thin
3/4 cup sugar
Juice from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBLS all purpose flour
1 TBLS butter

For the crust
Whisk flour and salt in large bowl to blend. Add butter and shortening and rub in with fingertips until coarse meal forms try not to be like me and over work, for the love of god stop. Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons water; toss until moist clumps form, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if mixture is dry. Gather dough into ball; divide in half then flatten into disks about the size of . Wrap in plastic, chill at least 1 hour (can be made 1 day ahead). Keep refrigerated, Soften slightly at room temperature before using.

For the filling
Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl mix apples, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Let stand until juices form, about 15 minutes then mix in flour... set aside.

Roll out 1 dough disk on lightly floured surface to 12-inch round. Place dough in prepared pie dish, spoon in filling, dot with butter. Roll out second dough disk to 13-inch round. Drape dough over filling. Seal top and bottom crust edges together; trim to 1/2-inch overhang. Fold overhang under then crimp. Brush pie with milk and sprinkle with a little with a little more sugar. Place pie pan on a baking sheet and place in oven. Reduce temperature to 375°F. Bake pie until crust is golden brown, apples are tender and filling is bubbling thickly, if it starts to get too brown around the edges cover with foil. This will bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Let cool for at least an hour before you cut into it... I know it is hard but well worth the wait.

*I tease a little about the accommodations but I do have to admit that since I make these journeys alone and the only thing I do at the hotel is sleep I tend to find the least expensive place that I can. This hotel though lacking in luxuries is a clean place owned by a nice family.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Grilled Salad

We finally broke down and got it, yesterday Kris picked up the new desktop (we still think the laptop may be recoverable). The desktop however was never that great to begin with. I replaced the graphics card three times in the 5 years that we had it, plus it was doing all kinds of crazy stuff... every few mornings I woke up to find a blue screen taunting me and if you bumped the tower the entire thing would shut down and take about 25 minutes to boot up again.

Wow computers have changed in the last few years, I had to look up what a terabyte was, plus this thing has a wide screen and speakers that are a little bigger than a couple of dry erase markers but sound great! and the color is as good as our TV. So I am spending some time learning the ins and outs of this fancy pants new technology. So my plan over the next couple of days is to visit all of my blogger friends, and get a post in. I feel like I have been out for so long and I have found that work computers don't always play well with blog websites, I swear if I see that flippity flappin Barracuda logo again I am going to scream.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I was on my typical summer grilling bender, grilled meat, grilled sweet potatoes then grilled dessert. I made a joke about having grilled everything except salad... well this is it:

Grilled autumn salad (serves 2)
2 Romaine Hearts cut in half
1 Small head of radicchio quartered
1 Fennel bulb halved
2 Apples cored and diced*
Sprinkle of shredded Cheddar

1 Cup Croutons

Apple Cider dressing

For the croutons
Dice up some French bread (I keep a bag in the freezer but if you are just making this dice up a cup of it)
1 TBLS butter
1 clove of garlic minced
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle of Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat, add garlic and cook until translucent. Put in the cubed bread and toss until coated. Add salt and pepper and continue to cook stirring occasionally until crispy (took me about 15 minutes)** While they are still hot add the Parmesan cheese and toss again

For the dressing
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1/3 cup Apple Cider*
1 TBLS Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic minced
1 TBLS fresh fennel frond cut up

Put into a cup and hit with your handy emersion blender, set aside. This can be made a day ahead if you like.

Now here is how it all goes together light your grill and put the halved fennel bulb on, after that has been going for about 10 minutes add the radicchio then the Romaine hearts grill until everything is a little charred around the edges.

To serve:
Place the Romaine heart halves on your plate the top with sliced radicchio and the sliced fennel. Add the diced apples, fresh hot croutons then the cider dressing and cheese. I used cheddar because that is what i had in the kitchen but I think feta or goat cheese might have worked better.

*I used Honeycrisp apples and cider (next entry will explain why) but any crisp sweet apple will work
** You could make the croutons ahead but let’s face it warm croutons are sexy and you know it!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Experiment

 Actually I have to qualify this post, I wrote it about a year ago as a guest post for another blog... When I wrote it I just put a random date on it in my blog.  I just noticed that the date is here!   which is cool, I like this one, read on...

Most weekend mornings I am the first human to wake in our house.  I putter around the kitchen with my cup of coffee and get ready for the day.  Usually I do the dishes and clean the kitchen a bit in the morning, the kitchen is really my area.  This Saturday morning I was exhausted... I slept in until almost 7:00 before I stared my day.  I got up and checked my blog then made a pot of Coffee and started cleaning off the counter while watching Food Network and loading the dishwasher.

Since I woke up a little late this day everybody was in various stages of being awake and active.  Miss Lu came into the kitchen and asked for a bowl, a big one.  Requests like this always scare me a bit especially when they are immediately followed by a request for a bottle of water.  I let it go this time and started to load the dish washer I put in three pieces of flatware and one sippy cup then it starts:

Miss Lu: Can I get some apple juice?
Bryan: you asked for a bowl and water... now Juice what are you doing?
Miss Lu: A food experiment, duh! can I get some juice?
Bryan: Ok, here you are.

Then I loaded another couple of dishes and found Miss Lu getting the pitcher of pink lemonade out of the the  refrigerator.  Again the question comes up..

Bryan: A food experiment? Where are you working? and why the lemonade?
Miss Lu: I'm at the table, it is really a drink experiment.

Then I go through the house  to figure out which table she was using, Kris stopped me and reminded me that she wasn't doing anything different that what I do... experimenting with food.  I said that I was just worried that she has water, lemonade and a big bowl and all this can lead to a heck of a mess.  Then Kris said, "sometimes you make a mess."  She is right, well except the word "sometimes" should be "usually."

So Miss Lu walked in and out of the kitchen for the next few minutes and got some V-8 Splash, Fruit punch mix, more water. I managed to keep my mouth shut even when she asked me for 2 glasses.  While I was getting those she grabbed a bag of marshmallows and ran.  By the time I got the dishwasher loaded she and Mr.Man, as kids will do, were on to other things.  It wasn't until about an hour later that I found her experiment... created on the baby doll changing table... duh Dad!

Does it look familiar?
Not quite.. Maybe

Nope here it is, can I just say "apple... tree... how far?"
Oh this one is added for fun... about a year ago I went to Wisconsin to see Miss El and MS R. in a play... While I was gone Miss Lu missed me so much that she drew a Martini for me.  I keep it up on my office wall!

Oh, you know that a recipe follows...

My Holloween Martini
Juice from half an Orange
2 1/2 oz of Black Strap Rum
1 tsp blood Orange Bitters
Splash of sprite

Mix the first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake well then pour into your skull and crossbones Martini glass.  Top with a splash of sprite and garnish with an orange wedge, best served next to a pumpkin.  Happy Halloween everybody!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ooh finally it worked

I don't know if I have owned up to this yet... I like to make banana bread. I feel like I am using something that would have gone to waste, plus the house smells AWESOME when you bake it. However... My banana bread has often been compared to a brick, well not always a brick sometimes a doorstop, cinder block, box of hammers. Let’s just say it is usually... well I'll use the word "hearty" I have been trying for a lighter one and found the answer in a book.

OK, confession time and one of those moments that I take out the tatters of my "man card" and just leave it behind before I move onto the next sentence. I have read every one of Diane Mott Davidson's books. Yes I read culinary mysteries when I have the time. I am always waiting to find out what happens next with "Goldilocks Catering" and the mystery solving caterer.

Anyway in one of the novels, our hero breaks a murder case when she discovers a cake recipe that calls for baking soda but no acid… Of course any dunderhead would be able to take that information and find a murderer right? But it did make me take a look at my old recipe for banana bread recipe… Bananas, sugar, flour, butter, milk… Hmmm, nothing for the soda to react with. Then I remembered the nerdy kid next to me at the 7th grade science fair with his baking soda volcano. "Just pour some vinegar on top of the baking soda that I have in there and mom has a heck of a mess to clean up."

Say this just might work… So I tried the basic recipe that I had laying around and added two TBS of Balsamic Vinegar. That did it and I think that we can all agree that you can’t go wrong with a little Balsamic here is how the recipe ended up.

2 Cups Flour
3/4 Cup Sugar
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

3 old Bananas (well mashed)
6 TBS butter, melted then cooled
2 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
2 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 Cup coarsly chopped Pecans

Preheat oven to 350

Put all dry ingredients into a bowl and wisk together then set aside. Mix the rest of the ingredients together then add to the flour mixture and blend, just until they are mixed. scrape into a bread pan and bake for about 45 minutes. When it is done (poke it with a toothpick or knife and it comes out clean) remove from pan and let cool for about an hour...

How did it fare? Overall the opinions were good. Lighter, but still that hearty texture that it should be.

Note to my blogger friends. I am not ignoring you!!!  I am having huge computer problems right now... the laptop hasn't booted up in about a month, I have tried everything from a system restore to reimaging the hard drive, nothing has worked. Recently my desktop has been acting as if it is posessed, (blue screens, thousands of nonsencican numbers filling the screen,  random reboots etc...) I am trying to get to visit all of you but the only computer I can get to work well on-line is Kris' work laptop.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

That Guy

I have been drawn to catering for years, Kris knows that... it might even be an illness, really work at night, on weekends, busy when normal people are having fun... but she has always been my biggest supporter when I do an event.  A couple of months ago our friends Rochelle and Dan were talking about his parents upcoming 50 wedding anniversary.  Dan was saying that they will probably get   Italian Beef Sandwiches and Polish Sausages from Portillos or some other chain caterer.  Kris stopped him with the question, "Dan, have you met my husband Bryan... the guy that has made food for you... you remember it, you almost cried when he made Christmas Dinner at your house, why don't you talk to him."

On the way home Kris apologized to me for offering my services, but I think that deep down she knew that she wasn't throwing me under the bus, she was making it clear that she wants me to do something that I love even as a side business.

As the time drew near I was putting together the menu and getting everything in order...

Oh the menu....
Chicken Breast with a Vodka Cream Sauce
Polish Sausage with Sauerkraut and Apples
Potato Pancakes
Macaroni and Cheese
Green Beans
Fresh fruit, cheese and Charcuterie (fancy pants word salty cured meats)
Oysters on the half shell
and almost as an afterthought, Focaccia I have made that for them before

In the days before we launched we discussed what to call the business we bounced around several ideas here are some:

BFine Catering
Lunah (play on Mr. Man and Miss Lu's names)
RELN catering (a play on all of the kids names)
Bryan's Bistro to You
Taste and Savour
Spatter Catering
Sinful Spoonful

Actually, Miss Lu and I liked "Splatter" I think for the scary movie undertone but it just didn't seem  to give the right feel.  We wrote  all of these on a whiteboard with a bunch of others and bounced  the ideas around for a couple of days then...
Hmm it seems to happen a lot, life got in the way. As I was making dinner for 70 I was expressing my regret for not getting business cards made for a business that we hadn't named yet and Kris said, "well if we get anyone interested I'll just write your name on a napkin and say it is 'That Guy's Catering.'"  We both stopped there, "That Guy"  hmm that kind of works, not pretentious, easy to remember.  I like the (ok, showing my age here) Marlo Thomas "That Girl" reference.
Can you believe that my sous chef made more in tips than I did?
Anyway it worked!  I did have people ask about using my services!  and we did write "That Guy's Catering" on a a few napkins and got the information needed.  So I put together a good dinner and had two or three people interested in my services overall it was a great night.

I have talked about my kitchen a few times it is a small galley style kitchen... here is how it looks after I cook for a big party...  I swear it was clean when I started cooking this is the aftermath when we got home.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Holiday and Some Peppers

The kids are off school today so I had some plans, get the oil in my car changed and get to the grocery store then I had planned to spend most of the day playing in the kitchen.  I had baking bread and making cracklins on the list (yes Camilla the day before I read your comment I decided to give them a go).  However, last night Mr, Man got quite a bit of a fever and hadn't quite recovered as of this morning.  When we saw my beautiful wife off to work today Mr. Man and I were sitting on the Sofa watching Phinaas and Ferb after a couple of hours of that we have moved on a bit.  We all had lunch with Kris, Mr. Man feeling better, but not 100% Miss Lu,  and the Neighbor kids are doing what they should do, carving their initials in the freshly laid sidewalk that the city poured today.  OK, seriously, pouring cement on sidewalks all over town on a school holiday is just asking for that.

So plans change, the down side of not being able to blog much lately is that I have missed out on something that I enjoy so much; the up side is that I still cook so I have a camera full of pictures.  So I am going to draw on some stuff from the last couple of weeks.

These two dishes started the last time I was doing my regular produce shopping I had picked up beets, zucchini, Valida onions, cilantro, green beans, fresh basil, limes, pluats and ginger along with some other things.  I know it sounds like a casserole from foodie hell but the fridge was running on empty and I needed some stuff.  When I got to the check out lane I found a bag of Hungarian Chiles in my cart,  my first thought was, "why did I grab these guys?" but then realized that someone must have dropped them in my cart thinking it was theirs.  Scary thought considering what was in my cart...

I was about to give them to the cashier when I thought, "hey nerdy food blogger, take them home and do something different why don't ya?!?"  Sometimes I get in a foodie rut and have to try something new to fix it.  So these little guys came home for dinner twice...  I asked around the house what I should make with the Hungarian chiles and we had a consensus, something for me to eat.  Which is good and bad, good because I can make whatever, bad because nobody else tries it so you all have to trust my opinion.

First dish
Pan Seared Tuna Steaks with Hungarian Chile Slaw
Tuna Steak
Juice from one lime
Grated Zest from on lime
1/3 cup olive oil
1 clove of garlic minced
Salt, Pepper

Let the tuna steaks marinade on the counter for about half an hour.

The slaw
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 Valida Onion sliced
1 Hungarian Chile sliced thin
2 TBS Chopped Cilantro
Salt and pepper

Put vinegar and sugar in a small sauce pan, heat pan until sugar dissolves set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.  As it cools mix the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl.  Add the vinegar then set aside for a couple of hours.  This can be made a day ahead if you like.

In a lightly oiled pan sear your tuna the way you like it, rareish for me then top with vegetable mixture and serve.

Second Dish
Stuffed Hungarian Chiles
2 Mild Italian Sausages cut up and browned
3/4 cup of bread crumbs
1 egg
1/2 onion diced
Marinara Sauce
Mozzarella Cheese
2 Hungarian Chiles slit from top to bottom seeds removed if you want a little less heat.

Mix the first 4 ingredients together and stuff into the chiles.  Place on indirect heat on the grill and cook for about 20 minutes then top with a little marinara and mozzarella and cook for another 5-10 minutes, serve with warm marinara sauce.

In my opinion both of these meals were great... but I guess you will just have to believe me or try them yourself

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Roast Pork in a Banana Leaf and a little vent

I have said this a few times about work...  I am forced to go to a place that I don't want to go, to spend all day with people that I don't like, doing a bunch of stuff that I don't want to do.  For the past couple of weeks or so I have really been experiencing that.  I am not going to go into a lot of details because I like to keep things positive in my little corner of the web.  Last Friday I was off work I took on the project of painting Miss Lu's room again, it was actually a day I had taken off to paint the master bedroom. 

Other projects had to be set aside due to the fact that Miss Lu's bedroom became an emergency because well,  you know, she is nine and the old color just wasn't going to work now because she is growing up and any moron can tell you that pink is a baby color, purple however just screams maturity.  So on my Friday off I spent most of the day painting her room, I finished the first coat and promised Miss Lu and Mr Man that they could help with the second coat the next morning.

The next morning started early, I was still on cup of coffee number one.  "Daddy, can we start painting now?"  So we gather all of our supplies together, drop cloth, paint, brushes, roller, roller tray and start to paint.  Now the three of us NEED four paintbrushes and a roller and 3 vessels to hold paint.  Of course that isn't enough, Mr. man starts to complain that Miss Lu has a bigger brush, then Miss Lu counters that he is painting using horizontal strokes when vertical is obviously superior.  Painting lasts about half an hour, while I am cleaning three of the four brushes they both decide that they have to use the computer (our laptop crashed so this poses a problem).  I set the half clean brushes in the sink and to distract one while figuring out the password for the other.  I just got back to cleaning brushes when they both go outside, great I get to finish.  Well almost, a few minutes into it I get the helpful hints from them both,  "daddy is that drip supposed to be there?  why are you watching the SyFy Chanel on my T.V.?  that show is gross!  be careful not to drip on my bed."  Well you know how it goes, sometimes it is frustrating but in the end I love it!

What I am doing is taking a long long way around  to tell you that, I understand when a five and nine year old want 4 or 5 things at a time from me then act like children when I have to take things in a logical order and get frustrated when everything isn't always available at the same time.

Switch that to a forty five year old or someone in their mid fifties and some of the charm is lost.   So over the weekend we had the fun because the children are still charming when they act like children... grown up people not so much I was avoiding them as much as I could.

"How does this LONG bit of prose make the leap to a recipe?"  you ask, well it doesn't I just wanted to vent for a minute then go back to having fun.

So the recipe is Roast Pork, I picked up some Banana leaves from the store a few days ago, Do you want to know how much Banana leaf you get for $1.29 This is Miss Lu holding up half.

I hesitate to call this a recipe but here it goes
4 pound pork butt or some other inexpensive cut of pork (rolled and tied)
3 cloves of minced garlic
3 cloves of garlic peeled
salt and pepper
2 TBS orange marmalade
18 inches of banana leaf
2 cups of chicken broth

Take your pork rub the surface with the minced garlic, salt and pepper.  Put the other 3 cloves of garlic inside your meat and set on the banana leaf, smear the orange marmalade on top then wrap with the banana leaf.  Put in all in a roasting pan and pour in the chicken broth cover and cook in an oven preheated to 275 for about 3 hours.

The broth from this is wicked good, I used that as the cooking liquid for my rice which almost became the star of the plate.  We only ate about a third of it for dinner I pulled the rest apart and cooked it in the same broth for about and hour to make pulled pork sandwiches.  No picture of that though I ate it before I realized how good it was.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Halibut in Parchment

I went out an got some new clothes on my last day off, nothing big 3 pair of pants and 4 shirts.   The stuff in my closet is getting beat up by my life, I work around food all day then usually cook when I get home so my clothes go through a lot.  Here is a little side bar about me, I usually shop for clothes at the second hand store, I like the feeling that if I spill a gallon of curry sauce down my front I can just throw my outfit away and only be out about 5 bucks.  Anyway when I told Kris that I was going shopping for clothes she asked me to please get rid of some stuff.  We are out of hangers plus I am have more clothes than any 2 normal men and there is no more room in the closet.   So this morning I had to open the closet and come to terms with why I don't wear some of the clothes in there...

Is it really because I don't like to iron those linen shirts?  Is it because I can't wear tan pants to work?  Is it because I don't like to wear some of the bold colors that I used to?  Well, to be honest none of those reasons apply...

OK I am going tell you a game that isn't any fun...  Open up the closet and try on clothes that you haven't worn in say 4 or 5 years.  I say to myself, "I look the same as I did in my wedding picture," but deep down I know that the suit didn't shrink and there is another reason that I can't get my pants to zip.  I just don't like to think about it.  Some of the clothes in my closet aren't exactly things that I don't want to wear they are things that I avoid wearing because...

Well it just makes me think that my stupid Doctor was right when she called me FAT,  I am working on it and here is another winner to prove it!  I hesitate to call it a recipe because really I am putting a bunch of junk willy nilly into an envelope and tossing those into the oven.  This is how it goes:

Cut parchment into 14 inch squares
spray parchment with cooking spray
line each square with Julienned fennel bulbs enough to hold up your fish
Place a filet of halibut on top of the fennel
add salt, pepper, a smashed garlic clove and the grated zest of one lime
Top all that with julienned zucchini then squeeze the juice from half a lime on top

Wrap these guys up in a happy little parchment envelope and put into an oven preheated to 425 for 10 minutes.

There really isn't anything that compares to opening something like this up!  Compare it to opening a little present for dinner, just set the little packages up on each plate with any side dishes that you choose, when you open them you get the smell of all of the steamed vegetables floating up from your plate, The fish is perfectly light and flaky, the zucchini is still crisp and everything is permeated with the flavors of anise and garlic.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Grilled Peaches and Cream

OK I think that I've done it, maybe the cooking on the grill thing has gone too far... well maybe not... is that even possible?  In my last post I mentioned that I have grilled about every sort of protein and almost every vegetable out there, this week I have been working on dessert.  I have done it a couple of ways but I think this was the best!

Grilled Peaches and Southern Biscuits... without turning the oven on at all!  It was easy enough to start with:

The peaches
2 whole peaches pitted and cut into 8 pieces
2 TBS balsamic vinegar
2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix ingredients together and set aside to soak. 

While they are soaking make your biscuits:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powser
1 tsp salt
1 TBS brown sugar
1/2 stick COLD butter cut up
1/4 cup 
Mix first four ingredients together then add butter and milk.  Quickly mix together kneed briefly being careful not to over mix, then roll out to about 3/4 of an inch and using a biscuit cutter cut into circles.  Roll and repeat I got 6 biscuits in total.   Place on a small oiled baking sheet and... yes my friends set on a cool area of your grill and cover.

Once the biscuits are going put your peach wedges on a hot area of the grill and cook until they are nicely caramelized.  Take the peaches off and set, back in the marinade you will be using that liquid.  The biscuits took about 20 minutes in all, while I was cooking the rest of my meal, when they were done they had risen quite well.  Cut them in half and stuff serve with whipped cream (heavy cream, honey and vanilla) and your peaches then add just a touch or the marinade.  What you end up with is a light biscuit with a cloud of whipped cream and the sweet, tangy slightly smokey fruit with caramelized sugar and vinegar clinging to it.

Now I have grilled just about everything this summer except for salad (working on that though) and soup... which is just weird. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

If you are a regular reader you probably realize that I like to cook out on my grill in the summer... well even in the winter sometimes I will brave an ice storm in order too grill out a tenderloin.  Anyway I grill out about 4-5 nights a week I grill out every sort of protein and most vegetables have found their way to my grill this summer, my problem has been the starches.  I make a mean cheesy potato (they really rock so I haven't tried too hard to replace them) but I have always felt like a "one trick pony" with the potatoes.  This past couple of weeks I have been trying some starches on the grill.  This way I can walk onto the deck, beer in hand, and get everything done in one place.  This is one of my more successful new additions.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes
3 Sweet potatoes
juice from 4 limes
grated zest from one of the limes
1 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1/3 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro

Place the potatoes, peel on, in cool salted water and bring to a boil let them boil until almost tender, about 25 minutes.  They should still be a little firm in the middle when poked with a fork.  Pour out the water and cool with cold water until you are able to handle them,  I put mine under cold running water for a few minutes.  These can be stored in the refrigerator for several hours until you are ready.
For the Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette mix the rest of the ingredients together with a whip and set aside.  This can be made a day ahead if you like.

When the time comes peel the sweet potatoes then cut into quarters lengthwise.  Put them on a HOT grill (you want the grill marks) for 3-4 minutes on a side.  Take them off and set aside, when it is time to serve drizzle the Cilantro Vinaigrette on them.  You can serve them hot, right off the grill but I like mine about room temp (or outside cookout temp).  These guys are sweet and tangy with a little of that caramelized sweetness it turns out to be a great picnic side dish.

The leftovers worked well for dinner a couple of nights later here they are diced and sauteed with some chicken, crumbled goat cheese and just a touch of brown sugar.  This one almost qualified as foodie crack!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Grilled Slider Trio

We had our friends Rochelle and Dan over for dinner last night, just for a pleasant evening of hanging out with our friends.  Kris asked me to hold back with the menu, it seems that some people think that sometimes I go overboard with the dinner plans, I push everybody out of the way, spend way to much money on dinner then don't let any one else help.  Kris suggested something simple, hamburgers and hotdogs, perfect but then I think that maybe I can do a step better...

I called Kris about halfway through the day, "How about a grilled slider trio, with caramelized sweet potatoes?"  I mean every body loves a Tuna Bahn Mi right?
She paused for a moment, I am pretty sure thinking, why can't you keep it simple just once, but said, "Ok... just make sure that you have enough hamburgers for everybody and pick up some hotdogs."

Ok there is a lot of stuff to this meal so lets get going:

Tuna Bahn Mi with Carrot Daikon Slaw

The slaw
1 cup Champagne Vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup shredded daikon
1 TBS chopped cilantro leaves
1 TBS chopped mint leaves
light sprinkle of red pepper flakes

Heat vinegar and sugar until they almost boil then remove from heat and let cool for 10 or 15 minutes.  While that is cooling put the rest of the ingredients into a storage container and pour vinegar sugar mixture on top, seal the container give it a good shake and store in the refrigerator.  This can be made the day ahead.

The Tuna (about 5 burgers)
2 tuna steaks (about 4 ounces each)
2 green onions chopped
1 tsp soy sauce
1 TBS bread crumbs
1 egg white
juice from one lime

Dice tuna steaks then coarsely chop in a food processor mix with the rest of the ingredients then form into about 2 oz patties (a little over 2 inches in diameter) put them on a plastic wrap on a plate then cover.  Refrigerate until you are ready to go, about 15 minutes before you grill them put then in the freezer so they hold up well.  Grill for a couple of minutes on each side, try to get these off medium so there is a little pink in the middle.

To assemble take your slider bun add a schmere of siracha mayo then your tuna patty and top with s TBS of the daikon slaw.

Chicken Parmesan Burger (made 8 sandwiches)
3/4 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 TBS olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together then form into about 2 oz patties (about 2 inch circles) place on plastic wrap on a plate then cover and refrigerate until you are ready to start cooking then pop into the freezer for about 15 minutes before you grill.  Grill for 3-4 minutes on each side

Other ingredients
3/4 cup marinara sauce (I used a sauce from a jar)
Mozzarella cheese
5-6 fresh basil cut into a chiffonade
french bread sliced then grilled with a little olive oil

To assemble, take one slice of french bread top with marinara, then a chicken patty,  top with a little more marinara sauce, fresh basil, mozzarella cheese then the other slice of bread.

The Hamburgers (made 10)
1 pound of hamburger
2 TBS breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
salt and pepper

Like above mix ingredients together then form into about 2 oz patties and refrigerate until you are ready to go then freeze for about 15 minutes before you grill.  Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.  Assemble like you would your favorite burger mine was with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup and mustard.  I put the pickle on a stick through mine for the picture... isn't it cute?

A couple of things to note all of these had bread crumbs in them, I find a little bit of bread crumbs will help hold moisture and flavors in.  I don't always do that but with these guys being so small I wanted to make sure they were juicy when it was time to serve.  I also popped them all in the freezer for a for a few minutes again that was because they were so thin I wanted to make sure they held together through the rigors of my grilling.

Over all the meal was a success!  The surprise to me was the Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches both Kris and I did a double take when we tried the little sandwich the first time, I expected them to be good but these were great!  The Tuna was a great mix of flavors and textures too!  the flavor of the slaw just keeps going.

Friday, August 26, 2011


So a few weeks ago Kris and I were watching The Next Food Network Star, we were talking about how cool of a job the win in the end.  Face it, Guy Fieri has a pretty cool job.  My beautiful wife said, "you should do that!  You're  personable... you can cook, plus you have figured out how to keep the pickiest eaters on earth fed."
So I looked up what it takes to try out, simple fill out a LONG application and make a three minute video... easy right?!?  Over the next few days Kris and I tried shooting a video... turns out it isn't that easy we have about 80 clips now,  I thought I would share some of my outtakes.
OK maybe it was harder than I thought but at least I can laugh about it.

Oh and if you were wondering about where Mr. Man picked up some of those words he used when I made the Pirates Potty Mouth Ice cream....
I don't know... maybe I should have gone with this guy playing me... he seems pretty at ease in front of the camera.
I made (go figure) a Pork Tenderloin,  I know you all have seen me do that to death but they haven't seen me do it at Food Network.  Right now I am piecing together the "good" takes and my neighbor is willing to help edit, he does video editing for ESPN.  I will keep you guys posted if anything happens, if nothing else I can share a 3 minute video with you in the end.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spinach Salad with Mixed Berry Vinaigrette

The kiddos and I took a trip to Lincoln Park Zoo on my day off.  More important that the destination was how we would make our way into the city to visit this Chicago Landmark.  Driving was off the table, the kiddos didn't want to do that, it seems to be less of an adventure.  That left us with the options of the commuter train and tourist trolly or the El (subway) and city bus.  We opted for the more urban method of transportation.  After all if you miss an El or a bus you have about a 20 minute wait for the next one, if you miss a commuter train of the free trolly is full you are at least 30 to 40 minutes for the next.  Add to that there is something to be said for hopping off the El for a transfer in the middle of a regular Chicago neighborhood, instead of in the middle of the loop.

I was pushing for a trip to the zoo mostly for the walk, I am still reeling from the Doctor visit you know, "Fat, fat fat fat, fat, drinker...  you need to exercise!"  I figured that the walk around the zoo with kiddos in tow plus the lunch below would help me at my next appointment, coming up in just a few days.  The kids and I brought a duffel bag full of snacks, for me the leftovers from this salad and a bit of salmon.  As we were sitting down to our picnic lunch at the outskirts of the zoo Miss Lu handed me the quote of the day, "I don't like eating here... there are so many animals... it's just gross." 

We made this salad when we had the neighbors over for dinner a couple of days earlier, it was such a bright addition to dinner that I couldn't resist having it again:

The Salad dressing
1/2 cup chopped strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1 clove garlic chopped
2 TBS Campaign vinegar
2 TBS confectioner sugar (more or less depending on the fruit)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Put all of this into a blender and blend until smooth.

The salad
Couldn't have been easier about a cup of loosely packed spinach for each adult then toss with the dressing.  I'll let you decide how much dressing you want, just remember that this has quite a bit of punch to it so go easy.  I topped the spinach and dressing with a great mixture of nuts and assorted dry fruit, most people call it "trail mix."   Then I tossed in some crumbled up goat cheese.

This one had everything my friends: the healthy stuff that my Doctor wants me to get to know better, the bright warm crunch of nuts alongside the chewy dried fruit.  Top that all with creamy goat cheese and the zing that you get from this dressing and you have an awesome salad.