Sunday, December 27, 2015

Spinach, Ham, Smoked Gruyere Quiche

Its really easy and a hearty way to start the morning.  Quiche.  That egg pie with meat and stuff surrounding by oh so delightful melty smoked cheese.  Sort of an omelet in pie form.

I opted for the smoked cheese simply because I wanted to play up the smokey flavor of the ham one more way.  If you can't find smoked Gruyere, any old unsmoked Gruyere or Swill cheese will work fine.

The key to this Quiche bottom pastry being flaky is to keep it dry.  Spinach, even the wilted stuff releases a lot of water.  Adding a thin layer of dried minced onion soaks up the excess moisture so you still get a baked flaky crust on the bottom.  

Spinach Ham and Smoked Gruyere Quiche
Pie Dough for a 9" pie plate
4 3ggs
1 c half and half
pinch of salt
1 1/2 c diced ham
1 C wilted spinach - cooled
2 T dried minced onion
1/8 t nutmeg
1 1/2 c smoked Gruyere cheese
2 T grated Parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 400F

Add pie dough to pie plate.  Flute edges.  Place pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any boil over.

Sprinkle dried minced onion evenly over the bottom of the prepared pie plate.  Add even layer of wilted cooled spinach.  Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Add 1/2 of the Gruyere cheese and spread in even layer over the spinach.  Add ham in even layer over the cheese.  Top with remaining Gruyere cheese.

Whisk together eggs, half and half and salt.  Pour over the meat/spinach/cheese layers.  Dust with the Parmesan cheese.

Bake 30-35 minutes until set and tester comes out clean.  Cool 5 minutes before cutting.  Serve warm.  Chase with a nice mimosa, or if a tee-totaler plain OJ.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

No Bakes Cookies...perfect for a summer heat wave

I type this as the temperature in the SGV has broken 100f and it isn't even noon yet.  Too hot to bake but you still want a good cookie?  This is the ticket.  The "No bake cookie" has been floating around my Mom's house since we got the first version from our friend Marty Hintsala back, way back in the '60s.

Added bonus is its stupid easy.  Use a large nonstick pot and the clean up is easy too.

What makes this "MY COOKIE" is that I switched up some ingredients to make it deeper and richer in flavor than the original.  Half brown sugar instead  of all basic white granulated.  My current go to "Black Onyx Cocoa" instead of regular Hershey's as its an almost black all cocoa solids powder for better flavor.  A bit of kosher salt to balance out the flavors and cut the sweetness.

No Bake Cookies 

  • 1/2 c butter
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 4 T Black Onyx of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 1 c brown sugar lightly packed
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1/2 c peanut butter
  • 3 1/2 c quick cooking oat meal
  • 2 t vanilla

Put first 6 ingredients into a large non-stick stock pot and bring to boil over medium heat.  Boil at full rolling boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

Stir in peanut butter.   Stir in vanilla.  Stir in quick cooking oats.

Drop by tablespoonful onto silpat sheet.  Or by 2 tablespoonful if you like big cookies.  Cool to room temp to set.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Armenian Tabbouleh

A few weeks back my friend Rouzanna Berberian had a reception at her house to celebrate getting her MFA from Cal State LA.  Among the dishes prepared by she and her mother was Armenian Tabbouleh.  It was simply amazing and magical. I've been trying for a few weeks from recipes on the web to duplicate...but my efforts fell short in duplicating the bright taste of her tabbouleh.

So I broke down and begged her for the recipe.  As with most family dishes its a handful of this, some of that, less of the other type recipe that is typically passed down through the generations.  What she did give me was something I would have never guessed and never found in other recipes.  Spices...specifically Aleppo Pepper and Paprika to bring a sweet heat to the dish.  I had to guesstimate quantities and took copious notes.  I think I nailed it.  This is some righteous food stuff.

Also...this can be a lunch onto itself on a hot summer day.  Vegan too if you substitute veggie broth for the chicken broth in the bulgar wheat.  Or use it as a side dish with grilled meats or fish.  

I get my bulgar wheat at Fresh & Easy markets here locally.  Its inexpensive and oh so good for you.  If your regular groc doesn't carry, any local hippy mart surely will.

Armenian Tabbouleh
  • 1 1/2 c raw bulgar wheat
  • 3 c chicken broth
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 c grape tomatoes halved
  • 1 c thin sliced spring onion including green tops
  • 1 c fine chopped parsley
  • 1/2 c fine chopped mint
  • 2 t paprika
  • 1 t aleppo pepper
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring broth to a boil.  Add salt and the raw bulgar wheat.  Cover and remove from heat.  Allow to steep for 30-45 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  Add aleppo pepper and paprika and gently fold in to mix.  Put into a covered mixing bowl to cool.

About 1 hour before serving layer on to the cooled bulgar add tomatoes, onion, parsley and mint.  
Mix olive oil and lemon juice, some salt and pepper.  Pour over the veggies and herbs, gently fold to combine.  Test for seasoning and more salt and pepper if needed.  Cover and put in fridge to allow flavors to blend before serving.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dr Pepper Pork Loin Chops

This was the result of a little brainstorming and thinking...what could I do to jazz up a basic pork loin chop and play on the sweet white flesh of pork.  I've seen Coke used in marinades and chili and stuff, why not Dr Pepper.   Its sweet with vanilla overtones, could be a match with pork.  What did I have to lose right?  Nothing it worked out pretty swell.

Use regular Dr Pepper, not diet. You want the sugar to combine with the salt to create a brine.  Using diet you'll only get a funny aftertaste from the artificial sweetener in Dr Pepper, or in my case, a migraine.

Dr.  Pepper Pork Loin Chops
  • 4 thick cut Pork Loin Chops (about 2 lbs)
  • 3/4 c Dr Pepper
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 t fresh ground black pepper.

In mini food processor add garlic, salt, and pepper.  Strip leaves off the Rosemary stem by pulling backwards down the stem across the grain.  Add leaves to mini food processor.  Pulse a few times until garlic is finely chopped.  Add Dr Pepper and oil oil.  Pulse until mixed.  In small non reactive dish or large plastic bag add the pork loin chops and marinade.  Turn over a few times to coat well.

Set aside for 1 hour (no longer as the acid in soda will break down the pork).  Turn chops over every 15-20 minutes to keep well coated in marinade.

Preheat oven to 325F at end of hour.  Heat an oven proof pan such as the Calphalon everyday pan over medium high heat.  Coat bottom of pan with olive oil.  Sear pork chops on one side about 5 minutes.  Turn over and turn off the heat.  Spoon 1 T marinate over each chop.  Cover and bake in oven until they test medium 145F.  About 20-25 minutes.  

Remove from oven.  Place chops on platter and loosely cover with foil to rest.  Use pan drippings to make a gravy from scratch or with the no-brainer stupid easy success every time Ah Bisto gravy mix. If your local groc doesn't carry you can buy it on line at Amazon.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Feta Cucumber Tomato Salad

This is healthy-ish until you get to the sour cream base.  You could substitute IMO that imitation sour cream with no problems.   It doesn't quite have the same mouth feel and tang but it works well.  What this does devilishly well is use up garden fresh ingredients into a refreshing treat from seasonal ingredients.

I used heirloom grape tomatoes but any grape or cherry tomato would work well.  I'm lucky in that I have a Pavilions market here in town and they do carry the more unusual items.  If you grow your own, use it and might I add...I'm totally jealous!

I use rice wine vinegar as it has both sugar and salt already in it.  Its a nice way to thin the sour cream to a dressing consistency without losing flavor. As it is already seasoned, don't add salt until the two are combined and you taste for seasoning, depending on brand of vinegar you may not need to add any salt or just add pinch to balance the flavor.

With the cheese simply let it lie on top of the salad while you chill and let the flavors marry.  If you toss to early the cheese starts to dissolve into the dressing and gets kind of mushy slimy grossness.

Feta Cucumber Tomato Salad
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 8 oz grape tomatoes
  • 4 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 oz sour cream'
  • 2 T seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T minced fresh Parsley
  • 1 T minced fresh Mint
  • 1/2 black pepper

Peel cucumbers. Seed cucumbers.  Slice length wise in half, then in half again.  Cut into 1/2 cubes.  Place in bowl.  Half the tomatoes and place in bowl.  Sprinkle minced herbs over the veggies.

Whisk together sour cream and seasoned rice wine vinegar.  Test taste and add salt if needed.  Pour over the veggie herb mixture.  Toss lightly until combined.

Sprinkle feta cheese over the salad.  Cover and place in fridge on hour, but not more than 4 to allow flavors to marry.  Just before serving toss gently to distribute the cheese.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Chicken with Prosciutto and Mozzarella

Think of it as a somewhat lighter deconstructed version of a classic Cordon Bleu.  No heavy breading.  No worries about getting the center cooked through and the filling leaking out.  Its really the best of both worlds.  Salty melty pork product and can that be bad?

This falls into the incredibly stupid easy category as well.  Easily doubles for a bigger crowd or family.  I cheat and by at Trader Joe's or Fresh & Easy the already made prosciutto and mozzarella rolls from the deli section to speed the process.  Its also cheaper than buying either separately and rolling your own.

Chicken with Prosciutto and Mozzarella

  • 4 chicken breasts, skinless and dry
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 t garlic powder
  • 2 t dried thyme
  • 8 oz mozzarella and prosciutto roll

Preheat oven to 350F  Line baking tray with aluminum foil and spritz with cooking oil spray.

Clean and dry chicken breasts.  Salt and pepper both sides to taste.  Divide garlic powder into 4, 1/2 teaspoon portions.  Dust 1/2 t garlic powder evenly on both sides of chicken breast.  Repeat with remaining breasts.  

Split the dried thyme into 4, 1/2 teaspoon portions, dust one portion both sides of a chicken breast. Repeat with remaining breasts and portions of thyme.

Place chicken breasts onto prepared sheet and let set 10 minutes or so until the oven comes to temp.  Bake 30 minutes.  Remove baking sheet from oven.  Cut the prosciutto/mozzarella roll into 12 even slices.  Lay 3 slices on each breast.  Return to oven additional 5-10 minutes to melt cheese.  Serve warm.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chicken and Biscuit Casserole

Somewhere between a Pot Pie and Chicken 'n Dumplings is where this casserole lies.  Hearty comfort food, enjoy and you really don't have to classify everything in life.  Pretend you're in Minnesota and call it a Hot Dish and be done with it.  Seriously.  Its simple hearty fare no need to make more out of it than what it is.

This is a stupid easy, go to when you're too busy to do everything from scratch.  Left over roast chicken/check.  Frozen veggies/check.  Canned soup/check.  Biscuit mix/check. Open whiz, whir bake and you have dinner on the table/

Chicken & Biscuit Casserole

  • 3 c diced cooked chicken
  • 1 1/2 c peas and carrots
  • 2 T butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c chopped onion
  • 1/2 t dried Thyme
  • 2 cans cream of chicken and mushroom soup
  • 1 1/2 cans milk


  • 2 1/4 c biscuit mix
  • 2/3 c milk
  • 1/4 t dried Thyme

Preheat oven to 400F  Grease a large casserole dish and place on a baking sheet.

In large sauce pot add butter and over medium heat sweat onions with salt and thyme until onions are translucent.  Add soup to pan and stir in milk until smooth.  Heat until just starting to simmer.  Add chicken and vegetables.  Stir until combined.  Reduced heat and let simmer while preparing the biscuit topping.

For biscuit topping combine the biscuit mix, thyme and milk.  Stir until just combined.

Pour hot chicken mixture into casserole.  Drop golf ball sized biscuit dough balls onto hot filling.  There will be some gaps...which is fine as the biscuits rise they will fill into those empty spots.  

Place in preheated oven.  Bake 20 minutes until bubbly and biscuits are light golden brown.  Serve hot. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

This pie would have done either of my Grandmas proud.  Perfectly tart Rhubarb and just a hint of citrus and a touch of sweetness.  Not overly sweet as that would hide the tartness of the Rhubarb.

Pie crust...its the bane of my existence.  It really is. I just don't have a dough hand, my Grandma Z never met a dough she couldn't not so much.  But with so many really terrific pie crusts already made...just unroll and use why bother?  Pillsbury for years has made the best, but now even Ralph's and Albertson's do a decent store brand.  Save yourself some time and bother and go that route when you're in a hurry.

Instead of regular sugar on top of the pie I use Turbanado sugar.  Its a raw unbleached sugar that is coarser and because its darker it lends a light caramel note to the taste instead of just sweet.

Save your clean oven from a kitchen disaster.  Place your pie plate in a baking sheet.  If your berries or rhubarb are "wet" you'll have a boil over and the baking sheet will catch it instead of your oven floor.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
  • 2 pie crust sheets to fit 9" pan
  • 1 lb diced rhubarb
  • 1 lb sliced strawberry
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 T corn starch
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon
  • egg
  • 1 T Milk, cream or half-n-half
  • Turbanado Sugar

Preheat oven to 400F

Place 9" Pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet.  Place 1 sheet of crust into the pie plate and set aside.

Dice/Slice rhubarb into half inch cubes.  Slice strawberry's. Combine fruit in large mixing bowl.  Zest lemon and add it and lemon juice to the fruit mixture.  Combine sugar and corn starch and whisk with a fork until it combines to prevent lumping.  Sprinkle on top of fruit and fold lightly to combine but not crush fruit.  Pour into prepared pie plate.

Place top layer of the pie crust on the bottom crust.  Center.  Fold edges under and crimp decoratively.  Mix egg and milk.  Brush egg mixture on top of pie crust.  Sprinkle with 1-2 teaspoons Turbanado sugar.

Place in oven and bake 40-50 minutes until bubbly and golden brown.  Check pie half way through, if edges getting too brown place a browning shield on the outside edges or use aluminum foil to do the trick.  Cool to room temp...enjoy!
Fruit filling in pie plate sitting on a rimmed baking sheet
Egg washed and sugared ready for the oven
One complete pie, note the boil over went onto the sheet not my oven!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Farro Risotto...righteous and good for you

This is really a righteous grain.  Taste and texture along the lines of pearled barley, just a little nuttier in taste.  It took me a few times before I got this right.   It was worth the trial and error.  The perfect side companion to serve as a bed for a simple oven roasted chicken breast.  This recipe serves 2, but can be easily doubled or tripled.

For those of you that don't know farro is in the wheat family.  Its an ancient grain that was hybridized later to make the modern variety of wheat used in making flour and such.  This stuff is pretty amazing, rich in flavor and fiber, you can' go wrong.  More about it HERE. The nice thing is that I can get the stuff at a regular groc cheap...2.49 for a pound vs triple that at the local hippy mart.  Pays to shop, I knooowwww.

As both the broth and Parmesan Reggiano are salty wait until the very end to actually salt the farro.  I found I needed none, but your broth many be less salty and you won't need any extra.  And for goodness sakes, use real fresh grated Parmesan, not that awful additive laced so it pours crap in the green can at the groc. I swear, I catch you using that I'm sicking Uncle Vito to have a conversation wit you.  Capiche?

Farro "Risotto"
  • 3/4 c farro 
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1/8 t fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 t dried basil
  • 1 T butter
  • 1/3 c fresh grated Parmesan
  • salt

Combine farro, chicken broth, butter, pepper and basil in a small lidded saucepan.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.  Cover and simmer 25-30 minutes until only a couple tablespoons of broth remain.  Stir occasionally.  When its all fluffy and broth has nearly completely absorbed remove from heat and stir in Parmesan.  Test for seasoning and salt if needed.   Serve hot as a hearty side!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Peanut Butter Bars

I'll be the first to say "Stupid Easy Cooking" is also lazy cooking.  A few simple ingredients and you're done.  No fussing about.  I like bars, or bar cookies as they are called in some circles as you skip the tedious scooping individual cookies and pop it all into a 9X13 baking dish and call it a day.  

This recipe is reminiscent of those peanut butter cup candies in the orange package.  It's the rich peanut butter and chocolate chips playing together well that makes it such a satisfying treat.  Or bribe if you have a toddler under foot that needs a little friendly persuasion to do things right.

I use the traditional Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate chips for this recipe.  I like the more intense pure chocolate flavor.  Its also not as sweet as milk chocolate, but if thats your perference have at it.  You won't see a significant change in the flavor of the bars.

Peanut Butter Bars
  • 3/4 c creamy peanut butter
  • 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 3 T milk
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F  Butter or spray with cooking spray a 9X13 baking dish.

Cream together peanut butter, butter and brown sugar.  Beat 3-5 minutes until very fluffy a light in color.  Add egg, beat until well combined.  Add vanilla and milk and beat until well combined.  

Reduce speed on mixer. Sprinkle on salt and baking soda.  Add flour slowly and stir until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.  This is a very thick dough.  When combined dump into prepared baking dish and lightly press smooth and level across the pan.

Bake 18-22 minutes until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.  Cool on wire rack before cutting into bars.

Parmesan Fennel Pork Loin Chops

Dang this was some good grub and stupid easy to make and assemble.  I came up with the idea as I'm so tired of chicken I could scream.  Yes, I eat it for health reasons and the fam just adores the stuff.  But I grew up in Hog country...with corn fed beef a close second so I can only do so much of the stuff.

The one indispensable tool in my arsenal is a mini-food processor.  Makes the fine mincing of the basil and garlic so much easier than trying to do it by hand.  Whizzing some of the grated parm with the basil and garlic ensures a good fine mince and even distribution.  Key to making this dish so tasty.

One thing I do different from the chicken version of the dish is add ground fennel to the mix.  It has a sweet taste that compliments nicely the sweet pork.  Kinda like Italian sausage without the sausage casing stuffing nonsense.

For Parmesan, get the real deal block of Parmesan reggiano...its so much better than the domestic stuff.  Grind, grate or shred as needed.  If I catch you using that commercially produced stuff in the green can, or worse grocery store generic I will personally arrange for Uncle Vito to pay you a visit.  Capiche?

Parmesan Fennel Pork Loin Chops

  • 4 1" thick boneless Pork Loin Chops
  • 1 1/2 c panko bread crumbs
  • 1 c grated Parmesan
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 c loose packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 T fennel
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T whole milk or half and half
  • 1 c flour

Preheat oven to 350F  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with olive oil or cooking spray.

Trim pork loin chops of excess fat.  Salt and pepper, set aside to come to room temp as you prepare the breading station.

In a spice grinder grind fennel until it is a coarse powder.  Set aside

In mini food prep combine half of the grated Parmesan with half of the ground fennel, basil and garlic. Pulse several times until finely minced.

In first bowl combine flour and half of the ground fennel.  Season with salt and pepper.  Mix well.
In second bowl combine eggs, dairy product, whisk until well mixed.
In third bowl combine panko, the Parmesan cheese mixture, the remaining Parmesan, remaining half of the ground fennel with salt and pepper.  Toss lightly to combined.

Dredge a pork in flour.  Dip pork loin chop into the egg mixture turning to evenly coat.  Put pork loin chop into the bread crumb mixture.  Scoop mixture up onto the top of the Pork loin chop and side and press lightly.  Carefully remove and place on prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining loin chops.

Bake 40-45 minutes until browned and cooked through.  Test with a knife poke...juices should run clear.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cheesy Baked Shrimp

I got this idea from the Barefoot Contessa, didn't have the recipe, and just as well as half her ingredients I couldn't find here in the SGV.  27 kinds of bok choy at one store, but not a single bulb of fresh fennel.  After a morning of searching I gave up and went for substitutions.

Cheese and shrimp or any seafood for that matter combined is considered heresy in Italian cookery, but this isn't Italian so I'm not gonna fret about it.  It sounded tasty unlike Mrs Goldberg's "Shrimp Parm".

I was able to find the Feta that is called for in this recipe.  I know this is a polarizing cheese, a reasonable swap out would be coarse grated Parmesan.  The point is you want the salty goodness of the cheese to compliment the naturally salty taste of the shrimp not drown it in gooey cheese.

Another hard to find ingredient can be Pernod. Its an anise based liquor with an herbal nose to it.  Not whack you in the face hard anise, but subtle and herby.  Quite tasty and no kitchen doing French cookery should be without it. Ask your local Liqour Store to order you a bottle, thats what I did.  If you don't like this...sub in Absinthe...still herby but no subtle anise flavor.

I use canned tomatoes as they are always available and tasty.  However, don't season with salt and pepper until you've added them and tasted.  The amount of salt varies wildly between brands and its best to season with them in place.   You can always add salt, but you can't take it away.

I used a Pinot Gris in the cooking because I like the taste and it goes well with Seafood in general.  Add it bit too cooking and it livens up the dish and compliments your wine pairing even better.  Actually any dry white wine will work so grab your favorite and swap to your hearts content.

Cheesy Baked Shrimp
  • 2 lbs 21-25 Count Shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 1 medium onion coarse chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 stalk celery thinly sliced
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 t dried marjoram
  • 1/2 C Pinot Gris
  • 2 T Pernod
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 8 oz crumbled Feta cheese
  • 1 C Panko Bread crumbs
  • zest of one lemon
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Baguette for dipping
Preheat  oven to 350F
Place 4, 16 oz (2 Cup) ramekins on a baking sheet

In a medium saute pan add enough olive oil to lightly coat bottom and place pan on medium heat.  Add onion and celery and cook until soft and translucent, about 5-8 minutes.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer until fragrant.  Add wine to deglaze pan, cook one minute.

Add tomatoes with juice to pan. Add Marjoram. Stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in Pernod.

Divide the sauce equally among the 4 ramekins.  Take 1/3 of the shrimp and divide equally among the ramekins arranging carefully in a single layer.

Take 1/2 the cheese and divide it equally among the ramekins on top of the shrimp.

Take another 1/3 of the shrimp and divide them equally in a single layer into the ramekins.  Top with remaining Feta cheese split between the 4 ramekins.

Take remaining shrimp and arrange in the ramekins in a single layer.  Sprinkle the lemon juice evenly over the ramekins.

Combine panko bread crumbs, pinch of salt and lemon zest to evenly distribute.  Add olive oil and toss until combined.  

Divide bread crumbs and sprinkle evenly over the ramekins.  Place in oven and bake 15 minutes.

Serve hot with a baguette for dipping in the juices and a simple green salad on the side.

Shrimp evenly and artfully arrange ensures they cook evenly and your layers are even as well.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Strawberry Rhubarb Dump Cake

I found tons of recipes for Strawberry Rhubarb Dump cakes.  Most called for even more butter and sugar than my sensibilities could stomach.  The one thing no one did that makes mine distinctive and the ultimate is that I use a strawberry cake mix instead of a boring old white or yellow cake mix.

I also used vanilla sugar.  That's stupid easy to make.  Take split vanilla bean pod and stick it in a jar with a cup of sugar.  The Vanilla will permeate the sugar in a weeks time.  A good use for a used vanilla bean pod.  If you don't have vanilla sugar handy you can use regular granulated sugar.

Strawberry Rhubarb Dump Cake

  • 1-1 1/2 lbs Rhubarb
  • 1 box strawberry cake mix
  • 1 3 oz box strawberry jello
  • 1/2 c vanilla sugar
  • 1/3 c melted butter
  • 1 c water

Preheat oven to 350F
Spray a 13X9 baking dish with cooking spray

Trim ends of rhubarb and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.  Split thicker stems lenghtwise if needed so you don't have massive chunks of rhubarb.  Place cubed rhubarb in baking dish.

Sprinkle over vanilla sugar over the rhubarb.
Sprinkle jello over the rhubarb mixture.

In mixing bowl whisk together cake mix with 1 c water and the melted butter.  Whisk until is just comes together.  A few small lumps won't harm the batter.

Pour batter over the rhubarb mixture and smooth to the corners.  Bake in preheated oven 40-45 minutes until set and top is lightly golden.  Cool completely.  Serve at room temp or chilled.
layers of rhubarb, vanilla sugar and jello
Strawberry Rhubarb Dump Cake done

Saturday, March 7, 2015

CHOCOLATE Gooey Butter Cake

I went to middle school and high school in Farmington MO.  According to local folk lore the Gooey Butter Cake was invented in nearby St. Louis.  Although I can't prove or disprove that claim, I can tell you it is a wonderfully, even sinfully rich treat.  Them baptists may not drink, but they sure has hell know how to make a sinful treat!

It really falls into the stupid easy cookery category as it is just that.

There is no real trick to making it.   I knew going into this recipe that I'd have a challenge of keeping it gooey with the addition of cocoa powder to the second layer that bakes up to make the crackly crunch and gooey center.  2 T of butter kept the center the right consistency.  Even the chocolate hater in my house liked it.  So without further adieu...the first ever chocolate gooey butter cake!

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake
Layer 1

  • 1 package Devils Food chocolate cake mix
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten

Layer 2

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t coffee extract
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c Black Onyx or Hershey Special Dark cocoa
  • 4 c powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F
Lightly grease, spray with Pam a 13X9 baking dish

For the first layer dump the cake mix in a bowl and with mixer on slow...slowly pour in melted butter and lightly beaten egg.  Stir on slow speed until a thick dough forms.  Pat the dough into the baking dish.

For the second layer cream together the cream cheese, butter, salt, vanilla and coffee extract until smooth.  Beat in eggs until smooth.  Reduce speed and stir in cocoa powder.  Stir in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until it is incorporated into the cream cheese mixture.  Increase speed and beat 2-3 minutes until smooth.  Pour over second layer and smooth out with a spatula.

Place the baking dish on a tray to catch any boil over as it does rise a lot during baking.  Bake 35-45 minutes until the top has a dark crispy top.  Cool to room temperature and serve.  Note the cake will fall some as it cools...its normal.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Migraineurs relief - uncured Kielbasa

I've been on a quest to find good uncured sausages.  Its next to impossible, especially if you want smoked as the long smoking process is ripe for botulism bacteria growth if you don't use sodium nitrite to "cure" the meat.  The problem with sodium nitrite is a migraine trigger for me and thousands of others out there.

I've pretty much given up on ever having a nice kielbasa again let alone polish, or bologna.  But after enough times seeing chefs make sausage on the food channel I thought I'd give it a shot.  First time around was pretty good.  I took a basic kielbasa recipe and switched around ingredients, deleted like the sodium nitrite and MSG (another nasty migraine trigger) and added in more flavorful spices, smoked garlic and liquid smoke to give it that fresh smoked flavor without the risk.

Please NOTE This is a fresh sausage and needs to be treated like one.  Different than cured meats you will need to cook it and use it with 2-3 days of manufacture.  You can safely freeze 2 months after stuffing.  IF you don't promptly refrigerate or freeze  you could get botulism.

I got my smoked granulated garlic at Surfas in Santa Ana, but their Culver City store carries it as well.  It really adds a deep smoked through flavor as well as intense garlic flavor.  A total win on all counts.  Search it out through them or online.

I was warned up front by a friend that this really is a two man job when it comes to stuffing.  One to feed the meat mixture into the hopper of the stuffer and another to hold the casings and control the rate of stuffing at the end of the extruder.  It really is, I can't imagine trying this my first time by myself without my son to do the stuffing.

On the topic of the sausage stuffer I got the one for the Kitchenaid that attaches to the meat grinder for $8 online at Amazon.  About a quarter the cost even the culinary outlets charged for it.

Uncured Kielbasa

  • 2 1/4 pounds pork shoulder
  • 3/4 pound uncured pork back fat
  • 2 T smoked granulated garlic
  • 1 t liquid smoke
  • 1/2 c ice water
  • 2 T fresh coarse cracked black pepper
  • 2T dried marjoram
  • 1 T ground mustard
  • 1 T Kosher salt

Cut pork shoulder and pork back fat into chunks big enough to fit into your meat grinder feed tube.  Place cut meat in freezer for 20-30 minutes to get it well chilled but not frozen. 

Fit grinder with coarse grinder blade.  At medium speed alternate pork shoulder and pork back fat and run through grinder.  Add spices, water, salt and liquid smoke to meat mixture.  Quickly knead with your hands until well mixed.  Be careful not to let the mixture get too warm from your hands and the fat starts melting.

Chill sausage mixture overnight in a sealed container in the refrigerator.  This allows the fat to firm up as well as the flavors to develop and blend.

30 minutes prior to stuffing soak the sausage skins in warm water to make them pliable and easy to load onto the feed tube. Assemble and use the large feed tube for extruder.  Spritz the end of the feed tube with cooking spray to lubricate the extruder.  Slip on a sausage skin and load up the extruder.  Tie off the end in a not. With one person putting in the sausage mixture and another holding the sausage as extruded fill up a casing.  Every foot or so slow speed and twist the sausage a full turn or two to create a link, then resume speed and stuffing.  Tie off the end of the casing with a knot when done.  Repeat until all meat is used. 

Prick sausage every couple of inches with a needle to allow steam to escape and prevent casing ruptures when cooking.

Lay sausage onto a baking sheet and cool a few hours uncovered to let excess moisture evaporate if using fresh that day.  If not coil, place in freezer bags and freeze up to 2 months.

To cook.  Place sausage in large skillet.  Cover about 3/4 up the sides with water.  Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer.  Cook about 30 minutes at slow simmer until sausage is cooked through and reaches 165F with instant read thermometer.  Remove from poaching liquid and brown on each side in a lightly oiled skilled until brown, about 5-8 minutes per side.  Or...grill until browned with good grill marks.

Lemon Thyme Chicken Breasts

With a Meyer Lemon tree in the back yard this time of year I'm blessed with ample lemons and am always looking for ways to use them all.  Step in this Lemon Thyme Chicken Breast.

A couple of things to keep in mind with high acid marinades like this...keep the time short enough to impart flavor but not so long as to "cook" the protein and changes its texture.  Really an hour max is all you need.

Stripping Thyme of its leaves is a lot easier than you think.  Grasp the top of the stem firmly and slide your fingers towards the base with light pressure and the leaves are off and the woody stem can be discarded.  I also do this after handling the raw garlic as it helps kill the smell of the garlic on your fingers.

Lemon Thyme Chicken Breasts

  • 4 chicken breasts - I use skinless/boneless
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 lemons sliced thing
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 T fresh Thyme leaves
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 t kosher salt

To make marinade combine zest, lemon juice, thyme leaves, garlic, olive oil salt and pepper in a small blender jar or mini-food prep and pulse a few times until garlic is finely chopped.

In non-reactive bowl...stainless steel or glass, add chicken breasts.  Pour over marinade and toss to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate 30-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Convect bake if you have it.  Line a baking dish with aluminum foil. Place breasts on the lined baking sheets.  Pour marinade over the chicken.  Top with reserved slices of 2 lemons.  Bake 30-35 minutes until cooked through.  Serve hot over parslied rice.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Baked Molten Fudge Cakes

The basics for this recipe gave me the idea for the final version, Where I got it from I don't recall.  Its really a soupier version of a molten lava cake that you don't have to try and flip out of the ramekin.  Plop on a big scoop of coffee ice cream when done and you are in heaven.

I used Surfas Black Onyx cocoa powder as its sooooo much richer in chocolate flavor than the usual stuff at the groc.  If you can't find Black Onyx, Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder is a very close replication of what I used.  

Superfine sugar dissolves easier than regular table sugar.  Its worth the few extra pennies in this recipe to use it.  The regular sugar doesn't dissolve completely and leaves a gritty texture.  And texture is everything with this treat.

Baked Molten Fudge Cakes
  • 12 T (1 1/2 sticks) butter melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/8 t sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t coffee extract
  • 3T heaping cocoa powder
  • 3T all purpose flour
  • 4 12 oz ramekins
  • 13X9 baking dish
  • 4-5 C boiling water
  • Coffee Ice Cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 325F

Melt butter and set aside to cool.  

Place eggs in mixer with whisk attachment and beat on high until light lemon colored and fluffy.  The eggs should fall from beater in a ribbon...about 5 minutes.  Don't skimp here as this is what gives the airy texture to the final product.

Beat in sugar until dissolved.  Beat in vanilla, salt and coffee extract.  Reduce speed and fold in cocoa powder and flour.  Pour in melted butter and stir until just mixed.  Don't over-beat this last step.

Divide the batter between the 4 ramekins.  Place ramekins in the 13X9 baking dish.  Gently pour in boiling water until it comes up half way up the sides of the ramekins.  Be careful not to splash water into the batter as it will ruin the batch.

Bake in oven 50-55 minutes until the top is crackly set.  Do not bake through.  Remove from oven, remove ramekins from water bath and let cool 5-10 minutes.  Place ramekin on a desert plate, top with scoop of ice cream.  Enjoy while warm and melty.