Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Cranberry Fruit Salad

Over the years my Mom's Thanksgiving cranberry salad has become the stuff of legend. There have been countless times where I have been asked "did your Mom bring her cranberry salad" or "do you have the recipe she uses?"

For me, it has just been a Thanksgiving staple that I'm used to, like her buckeyes at Christmas, so it didn't have the aura that many in the family experienced, so I guess I have taken it for granted. I was asked about it again recently, so I decided to investigate.

I asked Mom about the recipe and it originated with my late Grandma. After she passed away, my Mom picked up the tradition of making it for Thanksgiving. It was a way of bringing her presence to Thanksgiving each year and passing her legacy on to new generations of the family.

Grandma passed away in 1978 when Mom was just 26. Despite her young age, she had helped her prepare for Thanksgiving several times and had learned the recipe. They didn't have a food processor at that time and used a meat grinder to process the fruits. According to Mom, the grinder would cause the cranberries to burst and splatter red juice everywhere. I can only imagine that this made the kitchen counter look like a murder scene and any apron or shirt look like a Thanksgiving tie-die.

The recipe is easy - especially with the help of a food processor - and requires no real cooking. Just heating water. 

After making it myself and putting it under the microscope, I had a hard time calling it just "Cranberry Salad." Cranberries are the main ingredient, but its flavor is a medley of fruits. So I modified the name a bit to include "Fruit." 

It's an All-star Thanksgiving treat, and probably the easiest make ahead dish in any holiday spread. It can be topped with whip cream for extra decadence or easily modified to suit a particular flavor profile.

For me, this is a chance to pass on what my Mom started over 40 years ago when we had to begin celebrating Thanksgiving without Grandma. 

Not only is this a delicious addition to a Thanksgiving spread but it is also a memorial. 

Grandma passed when I was only 5, but I still have fond memories of her, and although I don't remember her serving this salad specifically, I do remember her putting a warm pancake on my ear when I had an earache. I can't remember if it worked, but it probably gave her a break from the hysterical fit I was likely throwing at the time.

Eat well, cook often ...


THE RECIPE
12 oz. Fresh Cranberries
2 1/2 C Hot Water
1 lg. box (6 oz) Strawberry Jello
1/2 C Sugar
1 1/2 C Walnuts
1 can (20 oz) Crushed Pineapple
1 Apple peeled, cored, chopped
1 Orange peeled
Zest of Orange

Process Fruit; Dissolve Jello Mix and Sugar
In a food processor, pulse cranberries, apple, orange and orange zest until finely chopped and thoroughly mixed. In a large serving bowl stir together hot water, strawberry jello mix and sugar until completely dissolved.

Mix Together; Refrigerate and Serve
Stir processed fruit mixture, pineapple and walnuts into jello liquid until well combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Just before meal, remove from refrigerator, uncover and serve.           


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Frankenfries: Bringing dead french fries to life


  

Leftover french fries from a restaurant are pretty much horrific from the fridge the next day, and a blitz in the microwave does little to restore them to their former glory. Because of this, I usually never take fries in my to-go package if I have leftovers when I'm out to eat.

That has changed. 

While I would never go to the trouble of crisping up leftover fries in a pan on the stove top as a side to a meal, I will use them as a potato element in an omelet or frittata. I try to only use thicker cut fries though, so that the inside doesn't dryout and harden during the crisping process that gives them a culinary after-life.

A second fry in a little oil, as well as adding other flavor elements, helps to mask the leftover flavors that inevitably permeate the once decadent crispy spuds after a night in the tundra of the fridge. The heavy seasoning on the majority of restaurant fries is also a bonus when added to the mix. 

For this recipe, I surround day-old french fries with the elements commonly found on loaded potatoes - onion, bacon and cheese - and bind them all together with eggs. The result is a tasty treat that will have you feeling like Victor Frankenstein after just bringing new life to the dead and cold leftovers of yesterday's french fries.

Eat well, cook often

THE RECIPE

Serves 4; 30 minutes 

4 strips Bacon diced
1 C Leftover French Fries diced
8 Eggs whisked
1 Green Onion sliced
1/2 C Cheddar Cheese shredded

DIRECTIONS
Saute Bacon; Crisp Fries
Preheat broiler.
In an oven-safe skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove to a bowl. Add french fries and cook until crisp and golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add Eggs; Finish
Pour eggs into pan, sprinkle in cheese, green onion and reserved bacon. Cook until bottom is set, 4 minutes. Place skillet under broiler and cook until top is set and frittata is cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from broiler, slice and serve.                                    


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Spaghetti Carbonara

 

Well, it's been a while. 

I'm still publishing recipes - just exclusively for print! Behind the Bites is alive and well - and syndicated! It's not as big as Dear Abby, but it does pay for itself.

I hope to keep growing the print column and expand to a bigger web presence but that will take more resources than I have at my disposal currently. I have a vision for what a new digital component will look like, but that will take time to implement.

For now, I will try and post more recipes here, but I will need to get my rhythm back for it and that may take a while because it's not the focus of my efforts. 

Just thought it was a good time to share a taste.

BEHIND THIS BITE
In all my years of cooking I had never made spaghetti carbonara. 

Well, that has changed - and it's awesome!

The secret to this dish is contained in the residual heat of the spaghetti noodle and a frantic stir in the egg-parmesan mixture. The heat and constant movement creates a creamy sauce coating for the noodle that is simple but divine. Its taste is subtle but that makes the compliments - pepper, bacon and chives here - stand out.

Honestly, if you like to cook you should add this dish to your arsenal. I guarantee that being able to whip this together at a moments notice will impress whoever you are feeding.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Serves 4; 25 minutes
1 box (1 lb.) Spaghetti
4 Eggs
1 C Parmesan Cheese, fresh grated
2 tsp Black Pepper, fresh cracked
4 slices Bacon, cooked, crumbled

Cook Pasta
Bring four quarts of water to boil in a large pot, add salt to taste. Once boiling, submerge spaghetti and cook 10 minutes for al dente. Then drain.

Prepare, Finish
While pasta is cooking, whisk together eggs, cheese and pepper until well incorporated in a large bowl. Immediately after draining pasta, vigorously stir it into the egg mixture, moving constantly, until a creamy coating has formed on the noodles. Stir in bacon, then serve, garnish with chives and fresh grated parmesan if desired.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Pepperoni Chips


I picked up a keto cookbook recently and found a recipe for pepperoni chips. This is inspired by that find.

I made these on a Saturday afternoon so that I would have them for my late-night Twilight Zone binge on Hulu.

I loved them after they were first cooked, but I REALLY loved them after storing them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours - which seemed to crisp them up further. The pepperoni chips have a texture much like a light-thin potato chip and feature a bacon-like crunch with all the great seasonings of pepperoni.

They are a great replacement for carb-loaded potato chips and I highly recommend these as a snack for anyone counting carbs or trying to stick to a keto diet.

I didn’t go crazy on these like I would Cool Ranch Doritos and wipe out an entire bag in one sitting. Just a couple handfuls of these chips and I had my snack fix. The seasoning, saltiness and heft from fat content go a long way, so it would be hard to eat copious amounts of these in one sitting even though they are delicious.

I made three pans of these and now have a few days supply in the fridge. These can be eaten alone but they also make for a great replacement for crumbled bacon as a topping.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Serves 2 to 3, 15 minutes

40 pepperoni slices

Place, cook
Place pepperoni slices 1/2 an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 425° for 5 to 6 minutes, remove and flip pepperoni. Return to oven for 2 to 3 minutes or until crisp.

Drain, cool and serve
Place pepperoni on a paper towel-lined plate and drain excess fat, let cool to room temperature, then serve.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

FIRST RUN: Cauliflower Pizza Crust

The purpose of this post is not to share an incredible recipe for a cauliflower pizza crust but as a guide to start with to create your own. I will be perfecting this in the future so a more definitive recipe will come later.

Hot out of the oven.
A friend was talking about pizza recently and I mentioned I had only eaten it once in the last three months because of my new "avoid carbs if possible" eating habits. I realized then that my lack of pizza was creating a dark culinary cloud in my kitchen. The wheels started turning, and later that night I did some research.

Cauliflower pizza crust stood out to me as the low-carb alternative for me to try because I had been working with cauliflower quite frequently over the last three months. I knew that it's mild flavor would be a nice canvass for the sauce and cheese of a basic pizza at the very least.

When it was all said and done, I really enjoyed the taste. The crust wasn't as stiff as I would have liked but it really was like eating pizza, and I enjoyed the process of making it. It's a bit more work than anything I would want to make three or four nights a week, but it was perfect for a Saturday afternoon when time was not of the essence.

Delicious cold leftovers.
The basic ingredient guidelines I used:
3 C of riced cauliflower,
(Use 1/2 to 3/4 of a head; remove as much stem as possible, then blitz into a grainy texture in a food processor)
1 C Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 C Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 egg

The key
Cook the processed cauliflower through, let cool and squeeze out as much moisture as possible before mixing everything together.

The crust
Mix cooked and drained cauliflower with other ingredients until well incorporated, then spread into the shape of a pizza crust (12 to 14 inches round, 1/4 inch thick) on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cook for 20 minutes in a preheated oven at 400° to solidify and turn edges golden brown.

The Pizza
Top the baked crust with pizza toppings and bake 10 minutes more. Let cool slightly, slice and serve.

The Takeaway
There are many options to play with here. Not just toppings, but the crust also.

I cooked the cauliflower with sauteed onion for added flavor and I used a lot, which made it very prominent in the overall finished pizza. Next time, I am going to leave out the onion and add a fresh herb instead, either rosemary or thyme, just to perfume the crust with a traditional Italian flavor.

I cooked the cauliflower in a skillet on the stove. In the future, I want to try and spread it out in a pan and roast it to see if I can evaporate more of the liquid through the roasting process rather than trying to squeeze as much as I can out after it's cooked.

I think this would work as a tortilla for tacos or even a wrap. What I made was very pliable and had to cool completely before it was stiff enough to hold like a normal slice of pizza. That may have to do with the moisture in the cauliflower, I don't know though. I will find out more when I make it again - In the very-near future!

Eat well, cook often ...

Friday, April 20, 2018

Microwave Spaghetti Squash


This is a visual guide to making spaghetti squash in the microwave.

Spaghetti squash can be used as a delicious replacement to spaghetti pasta and is a low-carb, gluten-free and keto-friendly ingredient! It has a mild taste and acts as as a great canvass to any flavors that are added to it.

This recipe image is designed for a tablet or phone screen and is meant to serve as a guide while it is being prepared. If you know someone who might need a guide like this, or someone you want to turn onto the magic of spaghetti squash, alert them - share the love!

Eat well, cook often ...

DIRECTIONS
Makes 4 servings, 30 minutes
1. Poke holes, soften
With a sharp knife poke several holes into squash lengthwise. (Creates a line the will be the mark for cutting in half.) Microwave on High 5 minutes to soften squash.

2. Cut in half, scoop out seeds
Handle with caution, squash may by hot. Along line of holes, cut squash completely in half. With a spoon, scoop out seeds. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Cut-side down, microwave
Place squash half (or halves) in a microwave-safe dish cut-side down. Pour half inch of water in dish. Microwave 15 on high, or until flesh is soft. (Cook times may vary with different microwaves.)

4. Let cool slightly, remove squash
Once squash is cooked through, remove from dish and let cool a little. Carefully scrape strands of squash out of shell with fork and serve.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Low-carb Munchies

Diced ham, cheese and almonds will tame the strongest snack cravings.


I stayed true to my "avoid-carbs-if-possible-diet" and purchased what amounts to a protein snack Saturday night.

Meat, cheese and nuts.

The almonds were "smokehouse" flavored and the ham was processed which made this high in sodium but it still helped keep the carb count down for the day, so I'll take what I can get. To wash it down I went with diet tea — 0 carbs.

I wolfed down my protein snack while watching an episode of Law & Order, and it occurred to me that this tasty treat would be a hit at any big-game party or movie watching gathering.

Among the millions of pounds of unhealthy food that lines miles and miles of grocery store shelves there are some alternatives – even for a guy like me that craves man-cave food. These snacks may not be as healthy as celery and carrots, but at least it's not something my body will turn into a mound of sugar that will eventually be stored on my belly, under my chin or across my ass.

Eat well, cook often ...


THE RECIPE
Smoked ham, cubed
Smokehouse almonds
Munster cheese with jalapeno, cubed

Dump and eat!