Thursday, July 21, 2011

Jalapino Jelly

In the few days leading up to our first family vacation I was trying my best to use up the food in our house that wasn't going to make it for the time that we would be gone.  This recipe came to mind partly to use some stuff up and partly because my father in law is always telling me how much he likes spicy food. and I thought I could bring some up with us on our trip.  The recipe is one that I used a few time at the Southwest restaurant several years ago.  I found some of my old notes (well OK pilfered cookbooks) and made Jalapeno Jelly.

10 Jalapeno peppers cleaned and roughly chopped
1 small vadilia onion diced
1 cup cider vinegar
juice and grated peel of one lime
3 cups sugar
1 package of liquid fruit pectin

 Put the Jalapenos in a food processor with a little bit of the vinegar and puree put that into your saucepan add the rest of the vinegar, lime juice and sugar.

Quick note here this is a really good time to use that outside burner if you have one on the grill, the fumes from this are... well they are strong.

Bring all this to a boil simmer for 10 to 15 minutes when all the components are soft add the fruit pectin and lime peel allow to cook for 2-3 minutes more then ladle into your containers.

If you are someone who cans (personally I don't like to) you can go through the process of boiling and putting that lid on and whatever goes with that... me I just put it into a few reusable containers and stored it in the refrigerator.  Two for me and one for my father in law.

Now you may ask, "What would you use Jalapeno Jelly for?" for breakfast top a bagel with cream cheese then top that with this spicy sweet concoction.  I also like to spread it on a chicken breast for the last few minutes on the grill as a glaze.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

pulling one from the archives

 Ok tomorrow they are predicting a heat index of 115 in the Chicagoland area...  When I heard that I couldn't help but think of this post, it always makes me smile to myself. 

I will have something new tomorrow evening, but thought you all might enjoy this one!

I am going to blog on a slightly different subject than I usually do but stick with me for a little bit I promise to bring it around in the end, today I am going to talk about cars, specifically ones that I have owned. These days I drive a Toyota Rav4 I really love the way it feels to drive; it is comfortable, has air conditioning that works the sound system is great, good gas mileage I spend about 3 hours a day in it and think that all around it is a wonderful car. It is also the first grown-up car that I have ever had. The car that I was driving when I met Kris was a 13 year old Mercury Tracer, my mom had given it to drive me while I was going through my divorce, this car and I have about 1000 stories.  From changing a tire at 3:00 am (in a tux no less) to two lug nuts flying off on the way to work one day, people often ask me to share some of these stories, most of them are funny in a dark sense of the word.

Let me describe the car here so you get a good picture, it was an inexpensive car that was 13 years old it had a banged up fender from a small accident further damaged by falling off a jack at the above mentioned 3:00am tire change (turns out that you should park on a level surface when you change a tire). It had one hub cap; the lock on the driver's side door didn't work so I had to unlock it from the passenger's side to get in. The air conditioner didn't work at all in fact, because it had a tendency to overheat if the engine idled for more than a few minutes, I kept the heater on low all the time. Oh and the transmission was a mess, I had to start this automatic transmission in first gear and work it up to drive. It had a maximum cruising speed of 60 mph which started to become frighteningly fast on the $22.00 tires that I put on it.

Short side story here, one day I was parked on the street outside of work and somebody walked past all of the cars in the area, looked at mine and said to himself "Four bald tires, banged up fender, no hubcaps... yeah we break into this one we got it made!" Broke out my window and took all of the cash from my ash tray (almost $3.00) and a CD player with a Hello Kitty Motif (retail value $12.99 at Wal-Mart). Because I live in a rather nice suburb I decided to replace the window with a Hefty Force Flex bag, not just any crummy old garbage bag, just until the weekend when I could get an appointment for a mechanic to make fun of me while he replaced it. The next day, parked in the same spot someone actually tore open my garbage bag window, I have to assume just to kick me while I was down.

I mentioned above that the heater had to remain on at all times if I got caught in bad traffic, even on a relatively cool day, the engine would overheat and I would end up pulled over on the side of the expressway while it cooled down a bit. About four years ago the Chicago area was suffering a heat wave similar to the one we have going on now. It had been in the mid 90s and humid for several days and I was trekking home on a Friday after work, hot air blowing on my face. My afternoon commute is usually about an hour but due to construction I was looking at almost two hours that day.  I was listening to one of my favorite radio programs the hosts were just starting to mix their drinks on air (a regular Friday tradition on WLS AM) when they cut to he weather.  "It is sunny out there today and HOT the temperature is 93 but when you figure in the heat index it feels like 115."

That was it!   I was about to explode!  I screamed in anguish and pulled off my tie, took off my shoes and socks then unbuttoned my royal blue dress shirt so that maybe just maybe I could take a little just a breath of air that didn't weigh more than I did and make it home alive.  A full 45 minutes later I pulled into the lot of my favorite liquor store and was met by an angel.  I walked in  wearing untied dress shoes (no socks, I just couldn't do it) and an unbuttoned shirt, undershirt exposed, I was covered in sweat  and was greeted by a wonderful woman who said to me just as the automatic door opened, "would you like to try a spicy cucumber margarita?"  

I could only think, "cold, wet, YES!"  I got my little paper Dixie cup of margarita then picked up my Vodka, came back and got another paper cup of margarita then went to get a couple of bottles of wine then just one more drink on my way to check out.  OK maybe I wasn't in hell...  I picked up a copy of the recipe put it in my binder then lost it ... until last weekend!  As recipes often do in my house it had vanished without a trace then suddenly resurfaced just when I needed it most, during our current heat wave.
I know what you are thinking, "Spicy Cucumber Margarita?  did you cook off some brain cells in your trek to Binny's Beverage Depot?"  My only answer is, you try it and tell me.

1/2 cucumber diced
1 or 2 slices of Jalapeno about 1/4 inch thick (be careful here)
1/2 cup Taquila
juice from 2 limes
1 TBS Triple Sec (to taste really I don't like it sweet)
a handful of ice

Kosher Salt 
Chipotle Chile Powder

Put the cucumber and Jalapeno slices in a cocktail shaker and muddle with a wooden spoon then add the next four ingredients and shake until ice cold.  Poor the salt onto a saucer then sprinkle a little chili powder on that, be careful a little goes a long way.  Moisten the rim of your glass and dip into your salt mixture, pour the mixture over ice and enjoy.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Pasties are a Cornish dish that are somewhat unique to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  When Cornish  settlers came to the area the Pasty was an important dish to the men working the iron and copper mines in the area.  It was a hearty compact lunch that could be wrapped in a towel and taken to work sometimes reheated on a shovel over a small fire.

This is a dish that Kris had been nervous about me attempting, it is a traditional meal that doesn’t need any messing around with.  To anyone from the Upper Peninsula a  Salmon and Poblano Pasty makes about as much sense as Fried Chicken Sushi, and I know that Kris has worried that I would try to put my own spin on the meal.  Since I have never had a real traditional dish I had to be respectful and have been holding back on making them until I could get a chance to spend the afternoon with the Pasty Master… Kris’ mom.    I have asked her for the recipe a couple of times but the answer has always been a bit blurry to me, usually consisting of “well you take the ingredients and  put them in a pasty crust, the one in the Scandinavian Cook Book that I gave you only with a little more flour and less water, the ingredients go in layers so every bite has everything.”   I didn’t really understand the process until this week when I had the time to actually make them, with appropriate guidance. We actually made 14 of these but the recipe below is for 7.

The Dough
3 Cups Flour
¾ Cup Shortening
½ Cup Cold Water
1 tsp (more or less) Salt

Cut flour and shortening together until it resembles coarse meal then add the cold water and blend.  If there are crumbly bits at the bottom of the bowl add some more water.  Divide the dough into 6 or 7 balls and refrigerate until ready to use.
Rutabaga diced up.
Adding the ingredients one layer at a time

The Filling
4-5 Potatoes peeled and cleaned diced (a little smaller than ¼ inch)
1 Rutabaga peeled and diced (same size as the potato)
1 ¼ pound of ground beef
1 large onion diced
Salt an pepper to taste

To make pasties roll out the dough on a floured surface into about 7 inch circles then start filling.  Understand that all the amounts below are approximate add enough to fill the dough that you rolled out.  To the top half of the circle start building layers put ¼ cup potatoes, ¼ cup rutabaga then break up your ground beef to cover, top that with onions, then add  another layer of each.  Top with salt, pepper and about 2 tsp of butter.

Wet the edges of the circle then close and seal,  cut a few vents in the top and bake at 350 for about an hour.   I have heard that some people serve them with gravy but I have always had them with the traditional ketchup and lots of it.  These really are a whole mess of comfort food wrapped up in a flaky envelope.  This is one of the times I am jealous of people that have recipes handed down over generations.   I have never had that,  most of my family has kind of made them up on the fly. 

OK I had to add it... a gratuitous vacation photo.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Coffee Martini!

Tomorrow we embark our first ever family vacation Kris, Miss Lu, Mr Man, Miss El and I will be piling into a car and making the 9 hour trek to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  We have mess of activities planned including a shipwreck tour of Lake Superior but biggest on my list though is a course in pasty making from the master, Kris' mother...

Since we both work and have only been picking at the pre-vacation list we have quite a bit to do today and probability just a little bit of stress.  I have the potion to get through the day though.  It started about a week ago I read an article on Coffee Infused Vodka...

OK if you follow this at all you know I was obsessed. 

The Vodka was easy
2-3 TBS whole bean coffee
1 tsp Sugar
2 Cups Vodka
Smash up the coffee beans between two spoons put that into a bottle add the sugar then the two cups of Vodka.  Cover and set aside.

Two things to note here:
  1. Everything I read said that the sugar is necessary, then offered some explanations that involved chemistry, instead of reading a whole lot about it i just trusted them.
  2.  When it comes to infusing the vodka I read everything from setting it on the counter for 6 hours to in the freezer for 8 days.  I left my bottle on the counter overnight the tossed it in the freezer for a couple of days then back on the counter for another overnight.
After it was ready  (by ready I mean smelled like coffee) I strained it through a coffee filter.

For the Coffee Martini
3 oz Coffee Infused Vodka
1 oz chocolate Liqueur
Sweetened Condensed Milk (as a garnish)

Poor a light stream of sweetened condensed milk into you martini glass then drop in a couple of coffee beans as a garnish.  Pour your Coffee Vodka and Chocolate Liqueur into a shaker with plenty of ice shake and serve.

This odd little concoction really did it!  It is like all of my favorites mixed together and and served up cold!  Plus on a so many levels it gets me ready to face the day.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yogurt Marinated Lamb Loin

I feel like we can start our summer now, I am home and we have started our normal way of things, weeknights with my family, weekends with some time in the pool and just living our lives.  When we had our parents here for Miss Lu's recital every meal was done on the grill.  They asked how often we use our grill Kris and I looked at each other and she said, "Five nights out of seven," I thought about it and she is right.  Sometimes it is simple like hot dogs, sometimes something a little odd like pizza or sometimes something more involved, like my last post but almost every night this time of year I throw something on the grill.

A few days ago I did a little bit of everything... for Kris a Tenderloin for the Kiddos Hot Dogs for me Lamb Loin Chops, there were also potatoes and vegetables to choose from.  The Lamb gets to star in this post, well sort of...

First I have to admit, even though I made this I have NO IDEA what all the spices are in this marinade.  I mentioned how often we grilled out so that I could blame my utter lack of memory on that instead of age... I recently had one of those birthdays that I don't want to talk about. So lets stick with the "I grill out all the time and this one is a blur" theory or I am even willing to go with the "Bryan drank too much that night" idea, lets just stay away from the whole "age thing"  OK?  So lets move on.  I mixed the spices below (I dug through the spice cupboard and pulled almost everything out trying to figure out what the heck it was I put in this).

I mixed these spices, as well as I can figure, plus at least one mystery spice with four ounces on Greek yogurt and a splash of lemon juice.
Crushed Red Pepper
Minced Fresh Garlic
Ground Thyme
I am still not sure what that stuff on the lower right is.
I also added a generous amount of fresh chopped mint (not pictured)

I coated a couple of loin chops with the yogurt spice mixture and let them sit in the fridge for a few hours.  When it was time to cook I tossed them on the grill, about 4 minutes on each side, until they were done.

Because this was one of those eclectic meals; Lamb chops, Tenderloin, Hot dogs, Polenta, Corn, Potatoes and Asparagus we took our time that night having a long family dinner and most of us tried some new things.  The prize for that goes to Mr. Man who took a bite of his grilled corn and said, I want some Peanut butter on this.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Beer Marinated Flank Steak

Miss Lu's recital was this weekend so my mom and my in-laws were coming to town to see my youngest starlet dance in her Saturday afternoon show.  Typically when Kris' parents come to see us they arrive the night before they have to get here, call us, and say that they just had dinner at IHop and will see us in the morning.  We were kind of expecting that when I was making out my shopping list.

While I was at the store shopping for the weekend Kris called me... now, I know this is strange but this is the kind of call that I enjoy.  "My parents are almost here and they haven't eaten."  The reason that I enjoy that call is I get to run loose in the store like I am on The Next Food Network Star  picking ingredients trying to figure out an extra meal or two and how to prepare it in a time frame that I didn't expect.

Ok it may be little juvenile but admit it... you have done it too.  Opened the pantry and picked your ingredients to make dinner a fun challenge... The meal for after the show was Flank Steak with Potatoes and Asparagus and it ROCKED!  It may seem like a few steps but it was really easy and worked well for a busy day.

Flank Steak
1 flank steak (about a pound and a half)
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
Coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 or 6 green onions sliced thin
1 12-ounce bottle of beer
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Take flank steak and score in a criss cross pattern about 1/8 of an inch deep.  Put it in a non reactive dish and rub with the oregano, cumin, salt and olive oil.  Then add the rest of the ingredients and refrigerate for several hours or over night (soaked for about 6 hours).

While this is marinading make the dipping sauce and guacamole...
The Sauce
1 jalapeno pepper chopped
3 green onion chopped
1/3 cup chopped Vidalia onion (about half of one)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Juice from 2 limes
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Put the first 4 ingredients into a chopper and grind into a paste (it took a couple of minutes in mine) you want it to be well mixed but still have texture.  Then add the lime juice, salt and pepper and mix quickly and set aside.  Let it sit for at least a couple of hours so the flavors bloom.

1 avocado peeled and pitted
3 TBS chopped fresh cilantro
3 TBS chopped Vidalia onion (that is the other half of the one I used in the sauce above)
Juice from 1 lime
Coarse kosher salt (to taste)

Slice the avocado and mash it up with a fork then add the cilantro and Vidalia onion mix well then add the lime juice and salt.  Mix well and set refrigerate until dinner.

When it is time to go put the Flank Steak on a hot grill and cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side for medium rare.  Remove from the heat and let stand covered while you set everything else up.  I Served with roasted potatoes (recipe coming up, they were really good) and grilled asparagus).  Once everything was ready I sliced the flank steak across the grain about a quarter of an inch thick and served.  Add a little of the sauce then a touch of guacamole and serve.  The Sauce was great, fresh and bright with just a little bit of a spicy zing to it.  Next time I may add a little more Jalapino, the guacamole did quite a bit to take off the spicy edge.