Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Recipe for a Tasty and Quick Breakfast: Pancakes, Strawberries, Chocolate Fondue and Whipped Topping

To make pancakes, chocolate fondue, homemade whipped topping and fresh strawberries for breakfast may sound more elaborate than it really is. 

For the pancakes, I used Krusteaz buttermilk instant mix (the kind that you just add water).  The instructions are on the package.  I usually add a couple dashes of cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

The chocolate fondue is also instant - just melt in the microwave and enjoy.  Swiss Knight Imported Fondue Au Chocolat (7 oz container available at Walmart in the deli/cheese area).

Fresh strawberries rinsed and the stems removed.

For the whipped topping, I used 1/2 pint of heavy whipping cream, 6 heaping spoonfuls of powdered sugar and about 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  • Place bowl and beaters to your mixer in the freezer for several minutes to get them really cold.
  • Pour the heavy whipping cream into your chilled bowl and mix until it starts to thicken.
  • Add the powdered sugar and mix some more until you start to see ripples or waves.
  • Add the vanilla extra and mix some more until you are able to lift the beaters and some of the whipped topping will form peaks.
You can use pre-packaged whipped topping, but homemade tastes so much better and it's very fast and easy to make.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Recipe for Excellent Chicken Pot Pie - Easy to Make!

Chicken Pot Pie

This pot pie is very easy to make and tastes wonderful!
1 rotisserie chicken (pre-cooked from your grocer’s deli)
1 pound bag of frozen mixed vegetables
2 cans of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup
1 package of 2 refrigerated pie crusts (near the cookie dough in your grocery store). 
¼ cup of water
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarse ground pepper

Chicken mixture before top crust.

A little paprika sprinkled on top of crust.

My seasonings are rarely measured.  I tend to pour until it smells good.  Use less or more of the seasonings based on your taste preferences.  You can add just about any seasoning you like with chicken and vegetables to this.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Pull the chicken meat off of the bone and chop as needed to small pieces.
Mix chicken, Cream of Chicken, water, frozen vegetables and seasonings in a medium to large bowl.

Right before going into the oven.

Place 1 of the refrigerated pie crusts on the bottom of an ungreased, deep dish pie plate.
Pour your chicken mixture into your pie dish.
Place the other pie crust on top and seal the edges.
Sprinkle paprika on the top pie crust.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour until done.

A great variation would be to use smoked turkey legs instead of chicken. 

No Leftover's With This Dish!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Recipe for Celery - Mushroom - Onion - Parsnip - Apple Soup

Soup with Celery Onion & Parsnips
We juice lots of fruits and vegetables for breakfast and lunch.  Today, I made a quick and easy soup with some leftovers.  Many of my recipes are based on odds and ends we have on hand in the pantry or frig. 

The ingredients may sound a little odd, but they work well together.  It cooks up fast, meaning the vegetables soften quickly.  Because of the sweetness of the parsnips and apple, I chose White Zinfandel and cinnamon as 2 of the ingredients.  Celery is great for working well in just about any flavor direction you choose.  This soup isn't sweet like dessert, but is more savory with the earthy flavors of the cumin and rosemary.

I garnished it with provolone cheese and served pumpernickel bread on the side.

1 entire package of celery chopped (even the leaves)
3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 yellow onion chopped
1 Fuji apple, peeled and chopped
32 ounce container of Swanson organic vegetable broth
2 packages of Lipton Mushroom Onion soup mix (the dry powder kind)
Couple shakes of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup White Zinfandel wine
1/2 tablespoon Mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon of Garlic powder
Couple shakes of Cumin powder
Couple shakes of Cinnamon powder
Couple pinches of dried Rosemary
1/2 teaspoon of salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground pepper or to taste
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Chop the onions first and saute in your pot with the olive oil and pepper.  Add your ingredients into the pot and boil just until soft (approximately 20 minutes).

Garnish with provolone cheese.
Goes well with pumpernickel bread.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Great Smoked Pork Shoulder Butt for Pulled Pork - My first time recipe!

Pulled Pork (before bbq sauce)
There are not many meats that I enjoy, but the pulled pork I made is great!  This was my first time smoking a pork shoulder and I'm so excited that it turned out.  It looks a bit like shredded pork, so I may need to adjust the final cooking temperature, but I'm very pleased with the texture and taste.  The picture on the left is the pan of pulled pork beofore adding barbeque sauce.  I think anytime I try something new that turns out well, I feel quite proud of myself.

I decided to let each person add barbeque sauce to their sandwhich instead of me adding it to the entire batch in case we wanted to make burritos or some other dish with the meat in a couple of days.  If it's drenched in barbeque sauce it limits our options for other seasonings for other dishes.

We used two different kinds of ciabatta bread rolls for the pulled pork sandwhiches: onion poppy and plain.  Besides the Sweet Baby Ray's barbeque sauce, we also had sliced provolone cheese, pickles and mild banana peppers for the sandwhiches.  As the side dish, I attempted baked beans.  However, the beans never softened to where they should have been after so many hours.  I'll add more water and cook them some more today.  The flavor was good - just too-hard beans to actually serve them.

Recipe / Instructions for Pulled Pork

Pork Should With a Rub
 Trim the pork shoulder as needed.
Apply your rub.  Here's what I used:
  • Season-All Salt
  • Cayenne
  • Chipotle
  • Black Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Thyme
Inject your pork (optional).  I must confess that I fully planned to inject this pork, but I accidently broke the device before I could.  OOPS!  I was trying to put the part that goes inside (I'll call it the handle/pusher) into the syringe and the end that I was pushing on just snapped off.  I guess that was a wee bit too much force.  Being the brainiac that I am, I thought maybe a turkey baster would work.  So I cut a few holes around the pork, sucked up my mystery juice (juice & leftover rub) and tried to "inject" it into the pork.  I don't recommend this technique.  The hole is too large and your mystery juice will ooze right back out.  At least now I know, and if you didn't already know, there you have it!

Pork Shoulder & Backed Beans
 My smoker was at 300 degrees when I placed the pork shoulder in it.  It went in at 8:15 am.  I used a chimney to light the coals, but I plan to get a small blow torch device.  Not the kind a welder uses!  I'm afraid I'm going to start a fire with that chimney.  I'd rather have a little more control when lighting the coals.  When those little pieces of lit paper start flying around my yard, I tend to get freaked out.

 In the picture on the right, you can see the top of the smoker (barrel) there are holes and there are valves at the bottom.  Throughout the day, I open and close different holes or valves to maintain a consistent cooking temperature.  I have a thermometer in one of the top holes as well as one that sits on the rack.  The top one runs about 15 degrees cooler than the one of the rack because it's farther from the heat source.  It gives me a quick guage without having to open and close the lid.  For the more serious smokers, there are much better gauges on the market.  Inculding those with a fan system to adjust your temperature and WiFi so that you can check on it and control it from your cell phone.

4 hours of smoking
4 hours of smoking
After four hours inside the smoker, it was time to wrap the pork shoulder.  I pulled it out and place it on 3 large sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil so that it could be triple-wrapped.  It's best to have several layers of heavy duty foil if you are adding a liquid in case you have any small tears in your foil.  If it tears, all of your liquid could spill out and onto your coals at the bottom.

Before closing the foil around it, I added liquid. 
  • Apple Juice - I used my juicer and juiced several large Fuji apples.
  • Honey
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Chili Powder
  • Balsamic Vinegar
    Resting Pork shoulder
I closed the foil around the pork shoulder and liquid, then place it back in the smoker until it reached about 190 - 200 degrees.  Some areas of the pork were at 190, while other spots were near 200.  It was around 2:00 pm when it reached this temperature.  So, the total time inside the smoker was around 7 hours for this nearly 10lb pork shoulder.  I let it rest outside of the smoker for several minutes and the temperature increased to 205.

Smoked Pork Shoulder

While wearing gloves so that I didn't burn my hands, I pulled the pork apart.  The fat and most of the outer "bark" (really dark edges) went aside and were not included in the pan of pulled pork.  Some of the bark and fat went into the pot of beans, the dog got a couple of pieces, but most went into the trash.  After smoking there was very little fat as it all rendered off.

In the picture on the left, you can see the apple juice liquid.  I mixed that with some Funny Farm BBQ sauce and honey, then added it to the pan of pulled pork.  It's not an overpowering flavor, but it's flavor that we enjoy and still leaves us options to prepare other dishes with the left-overs.

My first go at smoking a pork shoulder was a great adventure!  I'm proud of myself and happy that the kids and my husband like the taste.  I still need to work on the baked beans, but overall, it was a wonderful experience.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Recipe for Smoked Drumsticks Wrapped in Bacon and Rolled in a Hot Wings Sauce

Right before they went into the smoker.

Quick Instructions (details below)
Remove skin from drumsticks.
Apply a rub to the meat. 
Wrap a piece of bacon around each drumstick.
Smoke until done.  I kept the temperature of the smoker around 325 degrees as consistently as possible.  They were done in an hour.  Be sure to test with a meat thermometer.
Roll in a hot wing/buffalo sauce and serve!

 The Rub
I didn't measure, I tend to pour until it's the right color and scent.  They are listed in order of amount used:
Season-All Salt
Cayenne Pepper
Crushed Black Pepper
Ground Cumin
Garlic Powder

Right after smoking.

Put your rub on the drumsticks. Then cover each one with a strip of bacon.  I used a strip of bacon since I removed the chicken skin.  Since many people do not like the skin, I replaced it with bacon.  It holds in the moisture, enhances the flavor and offers a nice texture to bite through.
Smoke your seasoned, bacon-wrapped drumsticks until done.  I tried to maintain the smoker's internal temperature as close to 325 degrees as I could for the hour it took to cook the drumsticks to 170 degrees.  They only took about 1 hour to reach this temperature.

In the hot-wings/buffalo sauce.

The Hot Wings Sauce
The ingredients are an adaptation of what I found on the Louisiana Hot Sauce website.
1 stick melted butter
1/2 cup Louisiana Hot Sauce
1 tablespoon Honey.

After the drumsticks came out of the smoker, I rolled them around inside of the pan of my hot wings mixture.  It's not a super thick hotwing sauce, but it did the trick!

This is all that was left.

I didn't have a chance to get a good picture to show you the plate of the finished drumsticks.  As I was pulling them out of the sauce, 5 teenage boys and my husband swooped in and gobbled them up.

They say they were great!  One of the boys said "You combined my favorite ingredients: chicken, bacon and buffalo sauce!"

We went to a BBQ cooking class - taught by MooCow BBQ World Championship BBQ Team

Over the weekend my husband and I attended "Make It Take It BBQ Drum Class" at MooCow University in Belton, Mo which is a suburb of Kansas City.  It was great fun and I left feeling excited to start cooking new dishes!

We started the day with hands on information for selecting and trimming meats with a focus on brisket, pork butts and ribs.  I did learn a great technique for chicken too!  A whole chicken can cook more evenly by removing the backbone and sternum so that it can lay flat.  We also gained great information on rubs, injections and sauce.

Selecting and Trimming Brisket

 Besides the great information, one of my favorite parts of the class is that we (my husband) made our smoker that we got to take home as part of the class.  I often say "we" did something, but if it involves tools, you can be sure it was actually my husband doing it and not me!  While the meats were smoking, everyone got to work on their own smoker.  Everyone received a 55 gallon drum, parts for the valves and handle, a rack and a basket to hold the coals.
Selecting and Trimming Pork Shoulder/Butt
We ate, and ate, and ate!  As each of the meats came off of the smokers throughout the day we tasted them.  By the time the ribs were ready I was full!  We started with chicken and beans.  Then we had brisket, pulled pork and ribs.

 There were about 17 people in the class from several different states.  Some are on competitive BBQ teams and others, like us, were there to learn from the masters other ways to make great food at home.

Selecting and Trimming Ribs

Since the class, I've been experimenting!  Of course, everyone in the house is excited that I'm excited about preparing smoked foods!  So far I've only smoked chicken and cabbage.  Well, I actually did smoke apples.  No one in the house really liked them though with the smoke flavor.  They were expecting apple pie flavor - simply sweet and a little spicy with cinnamon.  The smoke flavor overpowered the sugar and spice.  I started with lesser expensive foods in case it turned out badly.  Tomorrow, I'll smoke a pork shoulder.  Crossing my fingers it all turns out well.

I'll share recipes through my blog as well as confess anything that didn't turn out so good. I'd love to hear any great recipes and tips you use when smoking foods.
If you'd like more information about MooCow BBQ their website is http://www.moocowbbq.com/.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My approach to life is like cooking. Bread pudding for breakfast!

My approach to life is very much the same as my approach to cooking.  With both I have learned the following:
·         Work with what I have, if I cannot get everything I want.
·         Listen to the advice of others that have done it before.
·         There is more than one way to make something turn out good – if not great.
·         Don’t be afraid to try something new.
·         Be able to laugh at my mistakes.
·         Share joy with those around me.

For breakfast we may have eggs and philosophy.  Dinner is often experiments of flavor and the pleasure of company with laughter, conversation and never enough chairs for everyone.  We laugh sometimes because throughout the years it seems that people know when we eat dinner and just happen to show up.  So I try to make more than enough food for any unexpected guests that might arrive.

I hope that you will “show up” often, and enjoy the recipes and thoughts that are shared. 

This morning we actually had a bread pudding of sorts served with homemade whipped topping, cream cheese and hot cocoa.  A lot of the dishes I make are based entirely on what I have on hand.  Today, I had “must-use-today” French bread and a little bit of heavy whipping cream that also needed to be used before going bad!

Recipe for Bread Pudding [of sorts]:
1 loaf of French Bread (any bread will work)
2 eggs
1 – 1½ cups milk (depending on the size of your loaf. You need just enough to moisten the bread)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ cup brown sugar
Handful of raisins

Pull bread apart with your hands and toss into a 9x9 or similar size oven dish that has been lightly coated with Crisco or Pam. Mix eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, brown sugar and raisins together in a separate bowel then pour over bread pieces. Stir the mixture, then put in oven (preheated to 375) for 45 minutes or until bread pulls away from the sides of the dish. 

Recipe for Homemade Whipped Topping
1 – 2 cups heavy whipping cream
½ - 1 cup powdered sugar (can use regular sugar)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Place glass bowl and beaters to your electric mixer in the freezer for a few minutes to get them cold.  Pour heavy whipping cream in bowl and beat with electric mixer until it starts to thicken a bit.  Add sugar and vanilla. Dip your finger in the bowl to taste so you know you have enough sugar for your liking. Continue mixing until it is the consistency you enjoy.