Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thursday Cooking Tip

Leeks are full of hard to get at sand and dirt, chop them first, then give them a bath in cold water and drain in a colander.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Beef and Beer Vegetable Soup

Today was COLD!  If you looked at the temperature, it wasn't that bad, but there was a pretty strong wind, and it cut you to the bone.  This morning, as I walked outside to feed the cats, I got the first dose of the chilliness.  That was enough to have me thinking of this recipe all the way into work.  I knew right away, it was a soup kind of day, so then it was just a matter of deciding what type.  Last week my husband brought home a 6 pack of Budweiser Black Crown lager.  Since I am not a huge beer fan, I decided to cook with it.  I made a nice beer batter for walleye, and thought it would be great in a soup.  Of course, the most well-known beer soup is Beer Cheese, but I was not in the mood for that.  In my half hour drive, it came to me:  beef, beer, potatoes, red onions and mushrooms.  By the time I pulled into the parking lot, I could almost taste it. 

As the day wore on, I had to go out in the cold a couple more times, and just never could get really warm after that.  That only made me hungrier for soup.  When I sat down to make my list for the grocery store, I decided to throw in some shallots, garlic and celery.  I debated whether I should add carrots and almost bought a bag of baby ones, but remembered that I had half a bag of shredded carrots at home.  That would definitely work, plus they would cook quickly.  Perfect!  To borrow a line from an old tv show, I love it when a plan comes together!

Here's your Cast of Characters.

10-12 Medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 - 1 1/2 Lbs. beef stew meat, cut in bite-size pieces
1 Large red onion, diced
1 Large shallot, diced
3 Stalks celery, cleaned and chopped
3 Large cloves garlic, diced
5 Oz. shredded carrots
1 Box sliced baby bella mushrooms
2 - 32 Oz. cartons beef broth
1 Bottle of good lager or ale (I used Budweiser Black Crown lager)
2 Cups potato water (reserved from boiled potatoes)
2 Tablespoons Lawry's seasoning salt
1 Tablespoon beef bouillon granules
2 Teaspoons, each, Mrs. Dash Onion & Herb seasoning blend andf McCormick Perfect Pinch Garlic & Herb seasoning blend
1/2 Teaspoon black pepper
2 Small or 1 large bay leaf
McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning

Once you have your potatoes cut into bite-size chunks,

cover with water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil in a large skillet (about 2 tablespoons), on medium heat.  Add meat and sprinkle generously with all the seasonings (not the measured amounts).

Add onion, shallots and celery. 

Cook for 5 minutes, stirring every now and then. 

Next add garlic, mushrooms and carrots.

Cook another 5 minutes, stirring every so often.

Transfer to a large pot and add broth, beer, water, potatoes and seasonings.

Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to medium, maintaining a simmer, for about 30 - 45 minutes, until meat and vegetables are done.

Serve with a nice loaf of warm, crusty bread.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Spicy Pineapple Shrimp with Rice Noodles

Do you know what I am sitting here thinking about right now?  I would love to say some fantastical food dish - something truly amazing and astounding, but sadly, no.  My thoughts are occupied with my newest obsession - World Class Solitaire from Pogo Games.  Solitaire, you might be asking?  Really?  This is your newest addiction? Couldn't you find anything more interesting than solitaire?  Well, let me explain - it's got a hook.  Yes, it's solitaire, but it has various bonus cards meant to help win the game (sometimes they do, sometimes they don't), plus as you win games, you travel around the world and get stamps for your passport.  I realize my description is not doing the game justice, but believe me, it's highly addictive and I've gone several hours without playing it so I'm beginning to go through withdrawals.  It's not pretty.  Be glad you're not here to witness this unseemly spectacle.

Okay, I will try to wrestle my thoughts back to the matter at hand long enough to get this recipe posted.  Be forewarned, when I say spicy, that's exactly what I mean.  If you make it like I did, it is guaranteed to knock your socks off.  Now, if you can't handle that much spice, I will give you some options to tame it a little, but it will still pack a little heat and that's what you want to cut some of the sweetness.  Also, this will serve 6 - 8 people, in other words, it's a big, honking portion!

Here's your Cast of Characters.

1 Lb. bag of cooked and peeled salad shrimp, rinsed in cool water to thaw out.
2 - 20 Oz. cans crushed pineapple and juice
1 1/2 Cups sweet chili sauce
2 Tablespoons, each, Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning (not pictured) and sriracha sauce (This is where you can tame it a little.  Start out with 1/2 tablespoon of each, and go from there, but give it a little time to cook.  The heat takes a while to hit full potency.)
2 - 6.5 Oz. packages rice sticks (or rice noodles)
1 Can sliced water chestnuts
2 Bunches green onions, chopped into 1 inch pieces
5 Oz. shredded carrots

In a large pot of hot water, place the rice sticks to soften, about 12 minutes.  No heat needed yet.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring pineapple, chili sauce, Tony Chacere's and sriracha to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and cover. 

After the sauce has been cooking for about 5 - 7 minutes, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, over medium heat.  Add carrots and green onions.  Saute for about 3 minutes.

Next, add shrimp and water chestnuts.  Sprinkle a little of the creole seasoning over the shrimp.

Saute for a couple of minutes, but no more.

Next, turn the noodles to high, and set timer for 2 minutes.  It doesn't matter that it isn't boiling for that entire 2 minutes.  Add the sauce to the shrimp mixture - it should have reduced quite a bit.

Cook until the timer on the noodles goes off.  Drain the noodles and use tongs to make a nice little mound on your plate.

Cover with the pineapple shrimp and have a fire extinguisher handy.

Seriously, it is hot, but it doesn't completely overpower the other flavors.  You still taste the sweet of the pineapple and chili sauce, as well as the carrots and green onions.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Easy Cheese Sauce

I love when a recipe comes into being partly by a happy little coincidence.  Such is the case with tonight's recipe.  I have made cheese sauces many times before, but this one was definitely the best, and it was solely due to the type of cheese I used.  Funny thing though, I originally bought the cheese to keep at work.  You see, I rarely take a lunch break these days, so I end up eating at my desk.  Not because I have to, but because there's always so much to do and sitting in the breakroom for an hour seems like such a waste.  Anyway, I keep things around the office that I can eat on the go and that aren't too messy.  Cheese and crackers fit the bill nicely, and this cheese promised to be fantastic - Roasted Garlic, Tomato and Basil.  It looked gorgeous, but failed to live up to its potential.  When I sliced a few pieces and put on my favorite black pepper triscuits, I was so disappointed.  It just didn't seem to have any flavor.  Maybe it was that the two were not meant to be paired together.  It happens - the flavors just don't compliment each other.  Whatever the case, I knew I had to use the remaining block of cheese in some other way.  Then I decided on a cheese sauce, and boy am I glad that I did!  That's where its promise was finally made good and the flavor shined through.

Here's your Cast of Characters.

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 Cup flour
1 Teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
2 Cups milk
1/2 Teaspoon pepper
6 Oz. semi-soft cheese, such as Roasted Garlic, Tomato and Basil
1/2 - 1 Teaspoon Lawry's, McCormick's Perfect Pinch Garlic and Herb and Tuscan seasoning

Melt butter in a large saucepan, over medium heat.  Add flour and stir well, making a roux.

Continue cooking for another minute or two, stirring frequently to keep it from burning.

Slowly add milk in, whisking continually to prevent lumps.

Add pepper and chicken bouillon granules.  Mix well with whisk.

See how this cheese fooled me?  Doesn't it look like it would be fabulous all by itself?

Cube the cheese into one-inch pieces.  You could shred it, but if you get a semi-soft cheese, it will melt nicely either way, so why waste the time shredding?

Add to white sauce, and stir until the cheese has completely melted.  Taste, and add the Lawry's and additional seasonings accordingly.

I only needed to add 1/2 teaspoon of all the seasonings because, suddenly, the cheese had a ton of flavor.

Now, you can use the sauce in any number of ways:  this Italian style sauce would be great served with some ravioli or even in a bread bowl with cubed bread for dipping, or use a Southwest flavored cheese and seasonings for nachos or enchiladas.  The sauce is as versatile as the cheese you choose.

I chose to serve mine over bacon topped potatoes.  Simple, but so good!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday Cooking Tip

Mushrooms should be wiped off with a damp cloth and not washed under the faucet since they are like sponges and will absorb the water.

**Also, I have to apologize for not having a post yesterday.  We were out of town all day with various appointments for our kids, and didn't get home until late.  But, I already have two recipes in the hopper for tomorrow - it's just deciding which one to use first:  Easy Cheese Sauce, that is very versatile, or Spicy Pineapple Shrimp with Rice Noodles.  Let's see if I can get some participation on this.  Post your commenst to let me know which recipe you would rather see.  Thanks and have a good night!**

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Granddaddy of All Biscuits

I think I've mentioned before that I grew up in Missouri.  It's not actually part of the American "South" but a lot of our food is heavily influenced by Southern cooking.  An example of that is our love of biscuits.  Honestly, I can't think of any meal I grew up eating, that wasn't made better by the addition of a good biscuit.  I can remember sitting at my Grandma Roberts' table, eating piping hot biscuits with homemade jelly.  Let me tell you, it doesn't get much better than that.  Unfortunately, I never got the recipe from Grandma before she passed away so I have spent a lot of years in search of the perfect one.  I have tried many but have loved none.  Either they were too small, not fluffy enough or just didn't have the right taste and texture.  However, in my quest, I have come across a few biscuits-making truths:  1.  Bite the bullet and use real lard and/or butter.  2.  Use cold ingredients, even flour from the freezer.  3.  Do NOT overhandle the dough.  This will make your biscuits flat and tough.  4.  If you want fat, fluffy biscuits, do not spread them out.  Smoosh 'em all close together.  Let 'em feel the love.  All the closeness and love makes happy biscuits, and when biscuits are happy, you get the Granddaddy of All Biscuits!  Cue tonight's recipe, which I only recently found.  It seemed like a good recipe, but I had to change two things right off the bat.  The original called for shortening and kneading the dough 15 - 20 times.  From watching my grandma, I know that one key to good pastry is lard, but I like to add part butter, for the flavor aspect.  And, as for the kneading, I refer back to biscuit-making truth number 3.  It's very important.  After those two changes were made, and I tried the first biscuit, I knew I had a keeper.

Here's your Cast of Characters:

Nothing fancy-schmancy in these beauties!

4 Cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons baking powder
2 Teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons white sugar
1/3 Cup, each, lard and unsalted butter
2 Cups milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a larg bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.  (If you don't have a sifter, simply use a whisk.)

The main thing is to see the flour become super fine and light.

I realize it's hard to see because of the white bowl, but trust me, it's super fine!

Cut in the butter and lard until the mixture resembles tiny, little pebbles.

Gradually stir in milk until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.  Don't overstir.

Split the dough into two equal pieces, and turn one out onto a floured surface.  Work the dough briefly with your hands.  Basically, you are just trying to get rid of any big pieces of lard or butter that might be lingering.


Pat or roll dough out to 1 inch thickness.

Now, here's where the "Granddaddy" part comes in.  I want big, ole biscuits.  Ones that you can use to make a breakfast sandwich, if that's what you desire.  Not itty, bitty, little things, so I use a large drinking glass to cut my biscuits.  If you don't want them this big, you can use a regular biscuit cutter.  I promise I won't call you chicken.

See how nice these look?

Continue cutting biscuits until you have used all the dough.  The scraps can be re-formed once, and rolled back out for an additional biscuit, but only once or it gets too tough.

Repeat with the second batch of dough. 

Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet.  Remember to bunch them close together.  Use a pastry brush to spread a little melted butter across the tops.

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until they are puffed up, golden brown on top and the edges are just beginning to get browned.

Are you ready?  These are some seriously awesome biscuits!

Use a fork to split these babies open, and stare in awe at the light, fluffy texture!

Top with your favorite toppings.  I still love strawberry preserves, but my all-time favorite is honey butter.

My husband loves his topped with country sausage gravy.

It really doesn't matter what you put on them, I guarantee you will love these biscuits!


*Note:  Store any leftovers in an airtight container.  To reheat, wrap a dampened paper towel loosely around the biscuit and microwave for 15 - 20 seconds.  This keeps them soft.