Saturday, September 18, 2010

PW's Marlboro Man's Favorite Sandwich (AKA The Marlboro Man Sandwich)

DEFINITELY worth making this one.... That's all I have to say. I did make several changes though, but I don't think they really changed the sandwich as a whole.

First - get the recipe here

I followed the directions until the meat was cooked and it was time to add more butter. Instead, I added bacon grease. Yes, my lovelies... bacon grease...... clogger of arteries!!! Looking back, I think I would use it nearly entirely in place of the butter, but hey, at least I thought of it before it was all over.

I had about 3 lbs of cube steak and 3 medium onions. In the future I think I'd increase the oninons a little and maybe even add some sliced mushrooms..... mmmmm. And maybe cook them in the bacon grease too. Man oh man does this smell good!

Definitely make sure you slice this THIN. In the cookbook she says 1 inch slices. I think I would prefer about 1/4 inch slices! After the meat was cooked, I went further than her recipe and actually diced it up - this was to make it easier for both LD and dad to eat. Then, rather than toasting the buns (which I'm betting would be FABULOUS) I loaded them up with the filling and wrapped them in foil.

Place in a 350 degree oven on a cookie sheet for 5 minutes or so - just long enough for the rolls to heat through and the juices to soak in. Serve up with a green salad and it's a meal that kids and adults alike will enjoy! I know we all did.

As an afterthought, both dad and I agreed that some cheese melted on these (like mozarella) would be just what the doctor ordered!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chicken & Herbed Dumplings

Yesterday, because it felt a little like Fall might be arriving, I made Chicken & Herbed Dumplings, the easy way.

So without further delay, here's what you'll need:

1 fully cooked chicken
1 small bag baby carrots
3 medium russet potatoes
1 medium yellow onion
1 "celery heart"
2 cans chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup

Jiffy or Bisquick baking mix
fresh herbs

 Start by removing the chicken from the bones. Now you can cook one up yourself, but I went for easy & used a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Once you've got the chicken removed, dice it up - being sure to remove any pieces of skin, fat, gristle etc. Unless you're Jack Sprat's wife, in which case you can leave in the fat.

Dice up the veggies - leave the skin on the potatoes! Celery can be rough cut across the rib, no need to cut them lengthwise unless that's your thing. Follow with the onions and finally the baby carrots. These can be cut in half, or in thirds. The size of the dice here is all dependent upon how you like it - big or small or somewhere in between - whatever floats your boat, or in this case, your dumplings.

Place the veggies on top of the chicken as you cut them up. Pour in both cans of chicken broth and add enough water to not quite cover everything. Contrary to what we've all been told, for.... well forever, you don't need THAT much liquid to successfully cook stuff (pasta, veggies etc).

Place on the stove and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until all the veggies are cooked through. Add in the can of cream of chicken soup, mix well. Allow to return to a boil, then reduce heat so that it's still bubbling but not vigorously boiling.

You'll now have enough liquid that you can only see the veggies & chicken if you actually stir and lift them with a spoon.

While this is happening, mix up the baking mix and milk according to the package directions for dumplings. Before adding the milk however, add some herbs - I had fresh basil & rosemary but you can use whatever you like. If you have rosemary that's fresh, a little goes a LONG way.

If you're unsure about how much milk to use, dumpling "batter" should be about the consistency of drop biscuits - firm but not so firm that you could roll it flat and it should easily scoop up with a spoon. I used about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of baking mix, about two tablespoon or so of fresh herbs and enough milk to hold it all together. Don't worry if you see small lumps of dry baking mix - it'll all be just fine in the end, I promise.

Drop the dumpling batter by soup spoonful on top of the bubbling soup mix until you've either used all the batter or there's no room left. It's ok if they're really packed in there. In fact, the more crowded it is, in my opinion, the better - the dumplings tend to get bits from the soup stuck to the bottom of them which is always a good thing!

Allow this to simmer, covered for a few minutes. The dumplings are done (and not soggy inside) when they look glossy but not raw on top and there's barely any of the broth bubbling up between the dumplings. You can double check by carefully inserting a fork into a dumpling and gently prying it open - it should look just like a cooked biscuit on the inside.

Use caution when serving as this will be EXTREMELY hot - particularly when serving to children whom you've starved all day long. They'll dive into this and burn the bejesus out of their mouths if you don't let it cool before telling them it's dinner time.

What? No salt & pepper added? Nope. This has a nice mild flavor and the cream of chicken soup adds some salt. However, I offer both at the table so that everyone can make it just how they like it.

This meal has received not only the "LD Picky Eater" seal of approval, but it also a "mom that smells REALLY good" honorable mention.

So the next time you're faced with the first cool, cloudy and nearly rainy day of fall, make some. Be sure to starve your children all day long, or at least let them THINK you've starved them .... They'll come back for seconds!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Suzy Q,...... Baby I love you!

One of the downsides to living away from everything is that when you get a craving for something, you know.... um.... bad for you.... it's tough to get. Tonight it was Hostess Suzy Q's. I became a woman on a mission.

The cake was easy. Use a dark chocolate cake mix - preferably devil's food or a fudge one - I had a dark chocolate fudge mix just sitting in my pantry..... go figure! The only change I made to it was to use more oil than it called for - the box says 1 1/3 cups water, 1/2 cup oil and 3 eggs. I basically swapped the oil & water measurements..... try it next time you make a cake - it'll be beyond moist.

I baked the cake according to the package directions - but I used a mini-loaf pan. You can use muffin pans if that's what you have - you could even make a huge Suzy Q with a sheet cake pan! However, it might be a bit tough to handle!! Allow the cake to cool completely in the pans - oh and make sure you get some Baker's Joy spray. It'll save your sanity. Once the cakes are cool, make the filling. I played around and finally opted to use the filling from the Twinkie knock off found here.

After you've made the filling, you'll need to get the cakes ready. Baker's Joy spray is my friend. The little cakes just dumped right out of the pan... like magic!!

Anyway.... first things first - get a VERY sharp, serrated knife and carefully cut off the top of the cakes - you don't want ANY part that's even remotely crunchy... and the tops will be. Not to mention they will be rounded, lumpy etc... definitely NOT looking Suzy Q'ish at all. Save the tops -you never know when you might want a little piece of chocolate cake numminess! Put them in a container and toss in the back of the freezer! Or, if you go overboard like I did, you can make a double recipe of the filling and eat it with the cake tops.

Once you've removed the top of the little cakes, carefully cut them in half so you're left with two slices. Make the top slice a little thicker - removing the slightly crunchy part ruins the structural integrity of the top slice so handle with care. Oh do me a favor would ya? Be sure you make a big 'ole mess of your counter while you're at it, ok?

Next, plop on a generous helping of the filling. Next time I'll use a pastry bag or something similar. The knife method is um.... challenging.

Place the top slice on the filling and set each little sandwich on a cookie sheet over a sheet of either waxed paper or parchment. Store loosely covered with plastic wrap - you can leave them out of the fridge for the first day but then they should be kept cold after that.

Yum... and oh man, did these ever induce a sugar coma....

Yep.... definitely yummy!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Simply. Perfect. Bacon

I know of nothing on this earth that gives more pleasure in the realm of food than bacon. Not that overcooked, crumbly stuff. I'm talking thick, perfectly cooked, straight & flat bacon. Bacon like I once had at a quaint bed & breakfast inn over in Grass Valley. I almost couldn't eat it, it was so perfect. Almost. In the end, after oh, maybe 30 seconds of being in awe over the sheer perfectness of each slice, I gobbled it down.

Since that time, I have always searched, in vain, for a way to recreate that salted pork bliss. Today, I have found it. Bacon Nirvana.

You'll need bacon of course - preferably the thick cut stuff, peppered or regular. I had regular - a HUGE 5+ pound package of it. And I intend to cook all of it in this manner now that I've found the light.

The other key players here are:
Parchment Paper
Aluminum Foil
Two heavy duty rimmed baking trays - these need to be the same size, fairly heavy and they need to be able to nest inside each other. These are the same trays I use to make my Texas Sheet Cake and I've found I use them for SO many things!

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating, line one of the baking trays with a good layer of foil, being sure to wrap it up around the edges - this does nothing to help with the cooking, but it just makes clean up easier. Next, lay down a couple of layers of parchment. This keeps the bacon from swimming in grease. Lay several slices of bacon in the tray, side by side but not touching.

Cover with a couple more pieces of parchment and another piece of foil - which will protect the top baking tray from getting all greasy. Then, nestle the other baking tray on top, pressing down slightly. Place it in the preheated oven and bake for 40-55 minutes - depending on how crisp you want your bacon.  If you used the thinly sliced bacon, start checking it after the first 15-20 minutes to make sure you don't incinerate it.

Make sure you drain off the grease between batches - otherwise your top pan will end up coated in the stuff. You may also have to swap out layers of parchment now & then, depending on how much bacon you're cooking.  The second tray helps in several ways - no spattering grease is the main reason, but it also ensures that the slices of bacon remain flat and straight and totally eliminates the curling factor.

When it comes out of the oven, it's perfect. Absolutely perfect. Remove from the pan and place on several layers of paper towels to absorb any lingering grease. If you cook large quantities of this (like I do) you can let it completely cool and store in a zip loc bag or airtight container in the freezer. 30 seconds or less in the microwave and they're ready to go!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more bacon to cook..... cause I just ate that whole pan.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

PW's Risotto

When regular rice just won't do it for you.... Risotto is what will. Be prepared to devote at least a half hour to making this dish - as in don't answer the phone and if a kid gets an owie, someone else has to kiss & bandage it. Because of the heavy attention this dish required - constant stirring over the stove for the full duration of the cooking time I opted to use my little point & shoot Cannon Powershot.... taking pics with one hand is not really possible with my big Nikon... so the Cannon got some use today.  And, it also helps explain why the pictures aren't the best - taking a picture and stirring at the same time is not easy... I even forgot to stir a couple times!! Unfortunately, it also made for somewhat blurry pictures LOL... Oh well!

Here's the link to PW's recipe - I made half the volume and am glad I did. If I'd made the full recipe we'd be eating this for days. Not that it wasn't good, but a girl needs variety dangit!

The only real advice I can give you is this - make sure you have all your ingredients prepped (cut, measured etc) and set out, ready to go, before you start cooking. If you don't, you won't be able to. It took 25 minutes to reach the right doneness, and it really didn't start getting there till after the 20 minute mark.

Here we are, about 5 minutes in, after the addition of the second cup of chicken broth, and then so on down the line:

Until it was time to add the chives, oh man does this stuff smell delicious!

I had put some chicken thighs in the crock pot earlier - seasoned with only salt, pepper and some sprigs of lemon thyme. Right before I started cooking the risotto, I placed the chicken thighs in a 9x13 pan and placed them in the oven at 300 degrees, along with some brown bread. I did add some garlic salt to the chicken before placing it in the oven. 

The other thing I did was make some gravy from the juices in the crock pot - 2 tbsp butter melted in a pan, wisk in 2 tbsp flour & then strain the crock pot juices through a sieve. It made an awesome gravy for the chicken and required NO additional seasonings!

Serve it all up with a nice green salad... YUM

Monday, August 9, 2010

Teriyaki Pulled Pork

Sometimes I just run out of steam when it comes to thinking up stuff for dinner. Hey, it happens to the best of us now & then..... We had tacos last night so sloppy joes tonight was just too much ground beef too soon. I thought grilled chicken, but I had some Hawaiian Rice Balls left and wanted to make something that would go well with them. And then it came to me! Teriyaki Pulled Pork!!!  I keep pork carnita meat in the freezer on a regular basis because it's really a good, all-purpose pork to have around - plus, it's usually pretty cheap.

I got this stuff back in April when it was $1.48 a pound.  Don't worry if you have it frozen - you don't need to defrost it for this dish - let the crock pot do the work for you. You'll need to start with a "family size" package of meat - you could use beef or chicken too, but I opted for pork tonight.

Turn the crock pot on HIGH. It's ok, we're just warming it up until the meat can be placed in it. Now, remove the outer plastic wrap from the meat and place the whole thing, styro tray and all, in your sink and run cool water over it - this helps dislodge the meat from the styro tray.

Next, flip the meat over, remove the tray and adjust the water till it's barely warm. This will allow you to pull the plastic covered absorbing material off without it tearing and creating a HUGE mess.

Once you've removed that stuff, coat the meat with some salt & pepper on one side. Turn it over and place it in the crock pot and add salt & pepper to the other side of the meat. Don't worry that it sort of sticks up a little... less than 30 minutes in the crock pot & you'll be able to break it apart enough that it'll settle down to the bottom of the crock. Just remember to put the lid on it so the heat gets to it evenly.

Now, take a break - read a magazine, do a puzzle... or you can do what I did - water plants, pick tomatoes, take a picture of the sunflower boquet and try to fix the pepper grinder. I watered the garden plants that are in the bucket. While doing so I noticed quite a few of the orange tomatoes were ready to go as well as one of the little red "Patio" variety. After watering I picked these - don't they look great??? And the tiny orange ones are SO sweet!!! The red one was just over an inch in diameter - perfect bite sized tomatoes!

Here's the boquet... these just make me happy!

After that I tried to fix my pepper grinder. This is just one of those "disposable" ones from Costco... It got dropped and the top cracked inside... as a result we were getting a LOT of large chunks of pepper. That's all fine & well if you like to chew the peppercorns. However, there's a lot of food around here that needs a more powdery type of pepper so I decided to attempt to fix it. I took the top off and used Gorilla Glue to run a fine bead all around the post of the grinder. And by the way, I'm happy to report that the glue held and we're back to having appropriately sized ground pepper.

If you've never used Gorilla Glue, please, do yourself a favor and go get some. It comes in MANY different styles and you can find it in the paint section at Home Depot - at least that's where I found it last time. It's an AMAZING glue - the variety that I got doesn't dry quite as fast as Krazy Glue, but the holding power is so much better. I'm sure they even make a variety that's a quick dry like Krazy Glue.

After all of that, it had been less than 30 minutes and I was able to push the pork down in the crock pot. Oh - take a look at those cookie jars in the background.... I'll tell you about those another time.

Place the lid on and walk away... let it cook like this, on high, for several hours. If you're going to cook this while you're gone, cook it on low and leave it all day. If you're home, you can cook it on high and you can start it later in the day. I started it at noon.

Next, you can either ignore it and do the rest of the work later, OR you can do some prep work so that all you have left to do later is cook your side dishes. I opted to do some of my prep work early. For the rest of the pork dish, you'll need the following - Lawry's Teriyaki marinade, some pineapple and an onion.

This was a pretty large onion so I will only be using half of it. Cut the onion in half, removing any tough papery layers. Slice half of it lengthwise into strips. Now you can wrap up the other half and refrigerate it for later. I opted to dice it up and store it for use in other things... like breakfast burritos or my breakfast potatoes.

I try to keep some diced onion in the fridge all the time just for these type of things. Just cover & refrigerate the onions till later. Set aside the marinade and the pineapple for use later as well. In addition to the rice balls I decided to serve steamed broccoli and carrots with this.

Start by cutting some peeled carrots into about 3" lengths, then cut in half and then each half in quarters or thirds - basically, you want fairly even pieces so they cook at the same rate.

Next, take a head of broccoli and cut the florets down through the stem .

Place these in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for later.

About an hour after you first put the meat in the crock pot it should start smelling pretty good - Now is the time to break up all the individual pieces and move them around so the juices circulate.

Now go ahead and add the FULL bottle of the marinade. Don't worry about how much liquid there is, you want it all in there so it permeates the meat (and it'll pretty much all get soaked up in the end). At this point you can leave it for several hours - until about 30 minutes before you want to serve dinner - I planned to serve it around 6 tonight. I usually only move the pieces of meat around a few times during the cooking process, so that each piece gets equal time in the sauce.

About 30 minutes before you want to serve dinner, take a couple of forks and start pulling the chunks of meat apart, sort of shredding them up. Let the shredded, aka pulled, pork sit and simmer a little longer in the teriyaki sauces with the lid on the crock pot. If you taste it at this point it will seem quite salty - as if you OVER salted it. Don't worry. The sweetness of the Rice Balls will counteract the salty flavor of the pork and it'll end up being that perfect sweet & salty combination that we all (well nearly all) love.  Trust me on this one! But... if you still worry about salt content you can always salt it AFTER it's cooked completely, or not at all. I'm just sayin' you have options here.

Place the veggies in the steamer and set over high heat.

While those are cooking, add a tablespoon of butter along with a little olive oil to a saute pan.

When the butter is all melted, add the sliced up onions. Cook these until they're just starting to caramelize around the edges and are getting translucent.You want to make sure they're good & tender, but still have their shape & texture - the last thing you want is mushy onions...

Add the onions to the pulled pork.

And mix it all up.

Now, you can add the pineapple at this point as well - OR, if you're not so keen on the pineapple, you can set it aside and let folks add it if they want it. I served it on the side because dad doesn't care for it that much and LD would eat it all given the opportunity.

Serve it up with the rice balls and the steamed veggies. YUM!!!