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.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Grilled Salmon with Black Bean Salsa

I have had a pretty good record of consistently seeing my family practitioner in my adult(ish) life. I went for a physical shortly before embarking on my journey to college. The next time was around my 32nd birthday and then again a couple of weeks ago, right after my 45th birthday so really I am like clockwork. I also see a Doctor every time I cut off the tip of a digit or my appendix explodes, pretty regularly I would say. Plus I don't want anyone to think I am a hypochondriac. After my latest check-up I went in for the inevitable blood work, a few days later my Dr. Called me. Now I can't say that I am quoting her exactly it started like this.

"Bryan, this is Doctor Crystal, I just got your lab results, over all everything is in order, your triglycerides seem to be a little bit elevated but that really isn't a big surprise given your weight..."

OK this is where I don't quite trust that I remember exactly what she said...

"Do you mind if I ask if you drink?"

I answered, "yes... some"

"Yes I often find that FAT DRINKERS are prone to high triglycerides, that kind of explains your cholesterol levels too, *FAT people often have high cholesterol and yours is one full point above average. I also find that FAT people often have high blood pressure just like yours and the DRINKING doesn’t help. For the love of GOD it is a wonder you are still alive. By the way you need to make a follow-up appointment so we can check your blood pressure again and get a plan in place for your life as a SIMPERING IDIOT after your inevitable STROKE... Do you have some time next week?"

OK, maybe it isn't word for word...

Given the advise of my new family practitioner I thought I would try a couple of dishes without my usual friends, you have met them, butter, heavy cream and bacon.

Black Bean Salsa (enough for 4-6)
1 can of black beans, rinsed
1 whole tomato diced
1/2 onion diced
1/3 cup of fresh corn
2 cloves garlic minced
1 TBS chopped cilantro
1 Jalapeno pepper diced (I removed the seeds so it wasn't so hot)
1 TBS olive oil
Juice from one lime
Salt and Pepper to taste
Stir the ingredients together and set aside to rest while you make the rest of dinner.

Really this was as simple as can be; I set a 4-5 oz salmon filet out and sprinkled a little salt, pepper and Olive oil on it. I grilled it for about 3 minutes on each side until done.

When it was time to serve I put a handful of fresh spinach on a plate then added about 1/3 of a cup of my salsa then topped it with the grilled salmon. I have always loved this salsa/salad, filled with the bright crisp summer flavors and textures, the Jalapeno it this one doesn't really add heat, it is more like a little pop of sunshine.

The whole meal clocks in well under 400 calories and is low enough in fat to keep the dietitians at bay. That gives me a little extra room for a Martini right?

*For the record I am 6 feet tall but to weigh myself the following criteria must be in place:
1. Weight must be taken first thing in the morning.
2. I must be right out of the shower and naked
3. I must have recently used the restroom
4. I must have skipped diner the night before and not yet eaten anything that day.

If all these criteria are in place I weigh in at about 206 pounds... Obviously the Doctor I see doesn't respect these rules so my weight at her office was a little higher.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rum and Coconut Ice Cream

We have been running like a bunch of flippin’ loony toons since vacation.   As soon as we got back we had to take care of business, a GIANT branch from our flippity flappin tree fell onto our neighbor’s swing-set (the ones that I steel tomatoes from).  I had to put on my Lumberjack clothes, *you know, polo shirt and khaki pants, then climb up a tree to secure branches so they wouldn’t crush our fence or loved ones before our two family team cut it from the tree.  For a bunch of suburbanites we were a successful team boasting no further property damage or injuries.

After that I had to reluctantly take my middle daughter Miss El back to her mom in Wisconsin which makes all of us a little sad. She had been with us for about three weeks including our trip North.

Of course since I had a week of vacation and the work doesn’t really stop I have been getting into work a little early so that I could hopefully leave on time in order to fight the fricken traffic and get home at a reasonable hour.  Add to that our pool turned green while we were away so we had to contend with that darned swampy mess. Plus a couple of days ago another gosh darned big booger tree branch fell in our yard so we have another cleanup to deal with before our neighbors get back from their vacation to say "I told you that you need to cut that tree down!"

Did you notice my kind and gentle use of expletives?  Let me tell you a quick story… One day I got home from work and had this conversation with Mr. Man (Mr Man is 5 by the way).
Bryan: Hey bud how was your day?
Mr. Man: Good I played with D_ (boy across the street) then had popsicles and rode bikes.
Bryan: Cool, do you need anything?
Mr. Man: I want to have some juice and play monster trucks on the computer.

I set him up on the computer then went into the kitchen to make some juice.  It takes a couple of minutes… then I hear the shout

Mr. Man: Hey I said I want a Schluckin Juice! and I don't want to play dammit Monster Monster Trucks, I want a stupid different game... schluck!

Yeah "schluckin" is exactly the word that you think it is...

I am not sure where he picked up that word...  OK, well I am quite sure where he picked up that word and am trying to maybe not use it so much but still need my interjections, so flippity flappin, booger and some others are coming up more often.

How does all this lead to a recipe?  We'll call it Pirate's Potty Mouth Ice Cream...

14 oz can of coconut milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup white rum
2 TBS black strap rum
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup shredded coconut toasted

Put the first 4 ingredients into a saucepan and heat until it is almost to a boil.  Continually stir with a whisk until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixtrue is smooth.

Remove from heat, in a separate bowl beat together the four egg yolks.  Slowly add 1 cup of the cream mixture to the egg yolks stirring the whole time.  If you do this part too fast you end up with scrambled eggs and milk.

Put your pan back on the stove over low heat, slowly add the egg/cream mixture to pan again stirring constantly, add the Vanilla and continue heating until it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat and add the rum and shredded coconut stir together and chill.  I refrigerate overnight, it works best for my ice cream maker  The next day follow the manufacturer's instructions and make your ice cream.

The toasted coconut is for a garnish us as much or as little as you like.  I like to toast mine in a dry skillet I enjoy the inconsistency in  color and texture that I get, you can do yours in the oven if you like but it is too hot and yucky here.  I served it with a couple of slices of grilled pineapple, really the perfect combination.

* In addition to my lumberjack outfit I changed the ringtone on my phone to the Monty Python classic "I'm a Lumberjack and I'm OK"  None of my tree cutting team has forgiven me for that yet.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Beef Jerky

We have just had a crazy couple of weeks here in my world... I will go into some more of it later, but I wanted to share this with y'all in the interim.   I pulled a cooking magazine out of the stack a couple of nights ago and found an article about Beef Jerky...  Now I know that most of you have tried it before, the dried up icky stuff that you get next to the cheese curds at any number of gas stations.  I assure you that this is a little different, the flavors are more subtle and the meat can actually be chewed without too much effort.  Add to that, it was kind of fun to make.  The meat was just a Chuck Roast that I found on sale, the marinade was pantry ingredients that most of us have...

About a pound of Beef Chuck Cut into strips about 1/4 of an inch thick...  You can go pretty loosy goosy with the cuts.  I went with the grain, across the grain and every which way to get several strips of beef to marinade.
Ok I am not sure that this looks cool or like a clip from the X-Files
The Marinade:
3 TBS Soy Sauce
3 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
3 TBS Tomato Sauce
2 Cloves Garlic
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

On the rack and ready to go.
 Soak strips of beef in marinated for about 6-8 hours.  When ready to dry heat oven to 200 degrees, lay the beef strips on rack and cook for about 2 hours.  The stuff that you get in the store will last basically forever in the cupboard not so with this.  Since there are no preservatives it needs to be refrigerated and lasts for about 3 months I hear anyway mine have never lasted more than several days.