Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nacho Potato Skins


Printable version
I love potato skins. And, I love nachos. What happens when you combine the two?

Nacho skins!

This recipe took potato skins, which is usually a side or an appetizer, and turned it into an entrée. The addition of the seasoned ground beef gave this a hardiness that allowed them to be the star of the plate. For a side it was way to much – unless your training for an Olympic gold in weightlifting. Two of these was more than enough to be the star of any lunch or dinner.

I have prepared baked potatoes on a rack in the oven with no foil wrapping several times now. Seasoning, venting and just letting them bask in the heat seems to be the way to go. Save the foil for cooking them on the grill or in a camp fire. Try the technique employed here if you like baked potatoes. It works pretty well and I think the results will impress.

Note: The taco seasoning is my own recipe, find it  here.

BEHIND THIS BITE
I made traditional potato skins a few months back and was careful to get the best pictures I could take. I knew that I could re-use photos from a basic potato skin recipe again because there is a number of toppings that can be applied to them. This is the first re-use of many of the potato shots and design techniques.

See the original here. 

I went with a more artsy shot for the main art of the recipe instead of just a bird-eye view, which is something I have been doing a lot lately. The artsy shots at the bottom of the recipes give the overall work more depth. The planning ahead paid off with this one and saved me time, which allowed me to be a little more creative with the presentation. I should do a different potato skin recipe every week now that I have a template that works!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Serves 6; 2 hours
6 large Russet potatoes
1 Tbs Vegetable oil
1 Tbs Kosher salt
1 lb Ground beef
2 Tbs Taco seasoning
1 C  Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 C  Sour Cream
1/2 C  Salsa
1/2 C  Green onions, sliced

Bake potatoes
Clean and rinse potatoes. Pat dry. Toss potatoes with salt and vegetable oil. Poke three deep holes in each potato with a knife. Place potatoes on a baking rack over a cookie sheet. Roast in a preheated 350° oven until cooked through, 1 hour and 30 minutes. Remove and let cool, slice in half.

Make seasoned beef
Over medium high heat in a skillet add ground beef, stir in seasoning and cook until just cooked through 6 to 8 minutes.

Make potato skins, garnish and serve
Scope flesh from potatoes with a spoon leaving a thin layer of potato attached to the skin. Reserve flesh for later use. Fill potatoes with seasoned beef and cheese. Return to pan with baking rack and heat in 350° oven until cheese is melted and potatoes are heated through, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and garnish with salsa and sour cream, then serve. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cheesy Taco Rice

Printable version
Note: The taco seasoning used in this recipe is my own blend, find the recipe here.

It seems as though anytime I’m involved in some sort of gathering involving a group of people, I end up volunteering to bring something to eat. I love cooking for a crowd, but it does provide a couple of challenges that need to be overcome. Unless the gathering is in your home, it needs to be portable and most important, kept warm for serving.

This is an ideal situation for using a large crock -pot. The food can be cooked ahead of time, transported to the location and plugged in to finish and then served hot. A large crock-pot can also hold the bucket full of food needed to feed a room full of people.

For this recipe, I mix six cups of cooked rice with three pounds of ground beef, two pounds of Queso Blanco Velveeta, salsa, taco seasoning and vegetables and cook it in a crock-pot. The end result is a cheesy Mexican inspired dish that provides a serving for 12 to 15 normal people. A little more might be needed if the party you’re hosting happens to be for the local sumo wrestling club.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Over the last year I have gotten a lot of miles out of my crock-pot. I’ve been living in the Fort Wayne/Churubusco area for three years and now that I'm settled it seems like at least once a week I have somewhere to take food I have prepared.

When I first started taking food places I wasn’t documenting it. I was just throwing things together, but more and more people began asking me for the recipes. In response, I have started to photograph and publish the dishes and I’ve started to develop a nice little collection of crock-pot treasures that provide between 15 and 20 servings.

This recipe is part of that collection and it was devoured in about 20 minutes. I was happy that it went fast but I was glad I saved some for myself before going to the event, otherwise I wouldn't have gotten any. Glad I did because it's tasty!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Serves 12 to 15; 2 hours, 30 minutes
3 lbs Ground beef
2 C Red pepper, diced
2 C Red onion, diced
2 Tbs Garlic, minced
2 lbs Queso Blanco Velveeta, diced
1 jar Salsa (24 oz)
6 C Rice, cooked
3 Tbs Taco seasoning
1C Tortilla strips for garnish

Brown beef
In a skillet over medium heat cook ground beef, breaking up large chunks and stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and place in slow cooker. Reserve a tablespoon of the drippings.

Cook vegetables
Return skillet to medium-high heat, sauté onion and red pepper in reserved drippings until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir in garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Place mixture in the slow cooker.

Combine and cook
Add cheese, rice, salsa and seasoning to slow cooker, thoroughly mix together all ingredients. Cover and cook on high for two hours or until mixture is heated through and cheese is bubbly. Scoop into a bowl, garnish with tortilla strips and serve.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Basic Pizza Sauce


Printable version
To compliment my last post I decided to make my own pizza sauce to go along with my basic pizza dough. 

The real secret to great pizza is in the sauce. Usually, I pick something other than pizza sauce as the foundation of a gourmet pie and build the flavors from there, but there are times that I like to stay traditional and make normal pizza. Personally, I only like a thin layer of sauce, too much can ruin the experience for me. When I make pizza sauce I keep it simple and sweet. Literally, I like to sweeten the sauce a little with sugar to balance out the acidity of the tomato.

I always start with a little onion and garlic. Then the main element – tomato – joins the party. Crushed or pureed tomatoes from the can usually does the trick. I finish everything off with the sugar and Italian seasoning. When I apply it, I do it sparingly! Just a thin layer is all that is needed.

Making pizza sauce is simple, easy and allows you to build the foundation of the pizza the way you want.

BEHIND THIS BITE
I would have used crushed tomatoes for this recipe but in the town of Churubusco Indiana, population 2,000, there are 2 grocery stores and neither had crushed tomatoes, so I went with tomato puree.

'Busco is the closest municipality to my home and it seems like they never have the exact ingredient I’m looking for. I usually go the other direction and travel 2 miles further to a Walmart just because they have more items on the shelves. The last time I made the mistake of going to 'Busco for a missing ingredient it was chipotle peppers. To my dismay there were none to be found.

When I came up empty I decided I would never go to 'Busco for a missing ingredient again. I should have stayed with that philosophy, and to my dismay crushed tomatoes were nowhere to be found in the thriving metropolis known as Turtle Town U.S.A. The pureed tomatoes worked just fine, so I guess it wasn’t a total disaster.

It’s not all bad though, to the credit of the IGA store in 'Busco, they have the best meat counter in the region - with actual meat cutters and a service counter where you chose the cut you want and they wrap it right in front of you. So, the situation is not horrific, just limited.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Makes 3 cups
1/2 C Onion, diced
1 Tbs Garlic, minced
2 Cans Tomato puree (15 oz each)
2 Tbs Sugar
2 tsp Italian seasoning

Sauté vegetables, paste
Over medium heat sauté onion in a little olive oil until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add garlic, cook 1 minute more.

Add puree, seasoning
Stir in tomato puree and add Italian seasoning and sugar, stir until well incorporated. Season to taste. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Basic Pizza Dough


Printable version
I have been making gourmet pizza here at the blog since I started it and I usually use a pre-made crust. I think most of the creativity in a pizza is in the sauce, toppings and flavor combinations so I let the reader make the crust on their own, which could be from scratch or store-bought pre-made stuff.

I decided it was time to give out a basic pizza dough recipe. I’ve used this for traditional pizza, grilled pizza, bread sticks, sausage rolls and a couple of other wacked out creations. It can be augmented however the cook chooses.

It starts by activating yeast in warm water with sugar. Honey or brown sugar could be substituted, it’s purpose is to get the yeast going. Next the flour is mixed in with a little oil and salt. Once a ball is formed it’s left to rise and that’s it. Once it has doubled in size it’s ready to become whatever pizza magic the magician has in store. I personally like to let the dough rise twice but it’s not necessary. The extra rise and time seems to make it a little easier to work with.

BEHIND THIS BITE
I made and documented this dough on Wednesday but it wasn’t until two days later that I actually made a pizza with it. I wrapped it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. I let it warm to room temperature, then rolled it out and made a pizza. The extra time allowed the dough to get “yeasty.” The dough seemed to have a hint of beer to it.

That’s what happens when you let it rest for a couple of days. The yeast just keeps working. It made me want beer with my pizza but it was in the afternoon, and I had a bunch more to do so I just settled for the yeasty-beer aroma.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Makes 2 small to medium, or 1 large pizza
1 C Warm water
1 Tbs Dry active yeast
(1/4 oz package)
2 Tbs Sugar
3 C Flour
2 Tbs Olive oil
2 Tbs Salt

Proof yeast, add flour, oil, salt
In a bowl add water, yeast and sugar. Let mixture bubble and foam up, 20 minutes. To the bowl, add oil salt and flour, mix and stir until a ball of dough has formed, add more flour in necessary. Wipe bowl clean.

Let rise, roll into pizza

Smear bowl with a little olive oil. Place dough in bottom, cover and sit in a warm place until dough has doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours. Punch dough down and remove. Roll to desired pizza size and thickness.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

BlueBarb Drizzle Over Pork Tenderloin


Printable version
Recently, I was at a local farmers market enjoying the various arts and crafts on display. There were a number of jams, jellies and marmalade's offered that I thought were some of the most creative products exhibited.

One thing that caught my eye was bluebarb jam, a combination of blueberry and rhubarb that not only had a cool name, but tasted delicious. When I first saw the word bluebarb I couldn’t help but think of a cruel nickname teenagers might give to a classmate named Barbara who happens to suffer from bouts of depression. Once I tasted a sample I knew I had to buy a jar and turn it into a special creation.

For this recipe, I use bluebarb jam as the star of a sauce and combine it with balsamic vinegar, thyme and garlic. It’s then drizzled over grilled pork tenderloin. The sauce ads a sweet and sour element to the succulent meat. (If bluebarb jam isn’t available, blueberry can be substituted for an equally yummy sauce.)

BEHIND THIS BITE
I picked up this jam at Salomon Farm's spring farmers market from McThreads for You, a vendor with a number of custom jams and spreads on display.

I really purchased it for the name alone.

I was sure that it would be tasty but as soon as I saw “Bluebarb” I had to get a jar. I knew I could find something silly to write with a name like that. As I predicted, it was delicious and made for a great sauce on the loin.

What I didn’t know at the time of devouring the tenderloin and yummy sauce was that my body has trouble digesting tiny little blue berry seeds. I had heard of people having trouble with strawberry and raspberry seeds, but never blue berry. I made the sauce on Thursday afternoon, by Saturday evening I was on my way to RediMed with what felt like a golf ball with sharp edges embedded in my left side. After getting checked out it was determined to be diverticulitis.

I was given medication, instructions to take it easy and basically go on a diet similar to what you feed a baby until it went away. If it got any worse I was to go immediately to the emergency room. Luckily, the pills, rest and diet worked and I was back to normal by the next Friday.

So, if you have trouble with seeds, stay away from blue berries! If you’re not, try this recipe. It’s awesome and I would love to eat it again - if I could!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Serves 2; 25 minutes
1 Tbs Butter
1 tsp Garlic, minced
1/2 C Bluebarb jam
(blueberry for substitute)
2 tsp Fresh thyme
1 Tbs Balsamic vinegar
3/4 lb Pork tenderloin

Make sauce
Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic, sauté 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in bluebarb jam, balsamic vinegar and thyme. Bring to a simmer. Season to taste.

Grill chops
Season chops with salt and pepper. Grill over medium high for 4 to 6 minutes per side or until cooked through. Remove from grill and let rest at least 5 minutes.

Serve
Place chops on plate and drizzle with sauce, then serve.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Oven Roasted Salsa


Printable version
One of the best ways to make salsa is to oven roast the vegetables. The dry heat draws out the moisture and concentrates the flavors. It also makes the onions and garlic sweeter. Once everything is roasted I like to throw it all in a food processor, add some lime juice and cilantro and pulse it a few times. The end result is a chunky salsa that’s hard to quit eating.

Leaving the ribs and seeds in the jalapeno gives it extra kick and creates an addictive quality that seems to draw you back for more and more. It's my favorite thing about a quality salsa with extra heat.

It’s easy to enhance the flavor with the addition of reconstituted dried chilies, but that is for another post. This salsa could be made exactly the same way with everything raw, but when I get time, the extra application of heat is the difference between good and great.

BEHIND THIS BITE
I was recently at a gathering and a friend of mine brought a batch of salsa that had what I like to call “big boy heat.” It’s the kind of heat that numbs your lips and makes the Tostitos Hot Salsa at Walmart seem like baby food.

Needless to say, I ate about a quart of the big boy salsa myself and decided right then and there that I wanted make my own version for the blog. I’m glad my friend made it – And had the Kahunas to make it extra hot.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Makes 1 quart; 1 hour
3 large Tomatoes quartered
1 Onion quartered
1 Jalapeño whole
3 cloves Garlic whole
1 C Cilantro fresh
Juice of 2 Limes
Tortilla chips

Roast vegetables
In an baking dish, toss tomatoes, jalapeño, onion and garlic with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place vegetables in a preheated 475° oven and roast for 25 minutes. Remove vegetables and let cool for about 10 minutes. Clean vegetables of any roots or stems if necessary.

Pulse, serve
Place roasted vegetables in a food process with cilantro and juice of limes. Pulse 5 or 6 times or until well combined but still slightly chunky. Remove and serve with tortilla chips.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Peanut Toffee Cookies


Printable version
This is my second attempt at these peanut and toffee treats. I made a batch for Christmas and thought of something new to try right after I made it. I wanted to chop the peanuts to match the size of the toffee bits and rice cereal. Shaping them with a mold was also part of the plan this time rather than letting them harden into free form clusters.

I used mini-whoopie pie pans for molds and they worked fine except that it was tough getting them out. I had to use a knife and I nearly lost a finger in the process of freeing them. I think I’m going to try a silicone mold that will allow me to pop them out next time. I also bent one of the whoopie pie pans rather severely thinking that if I gave it a twist, the little cookies would fall right out. Wrong. All I did was deform a $12 pan.

Chopping the nuts seemed to change the whole complexion of the treat. Without the whole peanuts, the end product seemed like a candy bar center and it just screamed for a chocolate coating – but that will have to be a final touch for the next time.

Despite the mold or coating, I highly recommend trying these. They are delicious. I’m proud to finally have a candy treat of my own – even if it's a work in progress!

BEHIND THIS BITE
I took these to a meeting and I’m surprised at how fast they went. A few ate more than two. I believe that cookies are like beer, once you go past a couple, chances are you're over-indulging. Needless to say I was very pleased that some liked them that much.

Deserts and sweets are something I need to make more of. The best part about this is that it’s still a work in progress and people are already snatching them up – a chocolate coating might take this out of the park!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Makes 30 treats; 2 hours 30 minutes
1 lb Vanilla candy coating
1/2 C Creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 C Dry roasted peanuts, chopped
1 C Crispy rice cereal
1 C English toffee bits

Melt candy coating, ad peanut butter
In a microwave or a double boiler melt the vanilla candy coating, once completely melted stir in peanut butter.

Stir in peanuts, cereal and toffee
Take mixture off heat and stir in peanuts, crispy rice cereal and toffee bits until well incorporated.

Scoop and cool
In tablespoon-sized scoops, place mixture into molds of 2 prepared mini-whoopie pie pans. Makes about 48 treats. Put in a cool place for 2 hours to let candies set completely, remove from molds then serve.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

Printable version

The land-locked seafood monster has struck again.

The product: Jumbo raw frozen shrimp with tails and shells removed.

Location: Kroger, Fort Wayne (Dupont & Coldwater Road)

I wanted large shrimp that I could skewer and grill. I decided to splurge and get jumbo shrimp – the bag cost $10.99.

The dish started out awesome. The cocktail sauce was fantastic! The sriracha was just the right touch. It added a little heat along with the horseradish. It was then balanced out by the acid of the lemon juice and the sweetness of the ketchup. If you need a cocktail sauce, this is the recipe. The quality of the sauce got me really excited about the shrimp.

I used running cold water to thaw them and the process took just a few minutes. Once the thawing was nearing the end I could tell there was something weird, the shrimp was partially cured or cooked, maybe even freezer burnt. It was not translucent like raw shrimp should be. I’ve worked with raw shrimp many times and something was amiss with this batch. It didn’t smell bad, but there was a hint of bleach.

Skeptically, I kept going, skewering and seasoning the shrimp. I grilled them to just cooked through. I took one of the bigger pieces, dipped it in the sauce and took a big bite.

Like I said, the sauce was off the hook, but the shrimp had a brined solution-soaked taste. Either something had been done to these before they were frozen to slow the spoiling process, or they were freezer burnt. I’m leaning to the toward the former because of the peculiar taste. What a let-down. The recipe is great, but my product was suspect!

I’m so tired of getting ripped off here in the Midwest with bullshit seafood that smells fishy (because is starting to spoil), or, like this shrimp – had been soaked in a preservative or frozen for way to long. I only ate two out of 16! That's $11 down the drain. This would have been so awesome had I been working with quality product.

I need fresh seafood!

BEHIND THIS BITE
As disappointed as I am with the shrimp, I’m equally as impressed with the sauce. I want to try this with some quality seafood. I think the secret was the sriracha, as I mentioned before, the garlicky heat that it added really put this sauce over the top and I can’t wait to make it again.

I think it’s about time for a visit to my old neighborhood in Queens to see some old friends. I know I can get fresh seafood there and this sauce will be as big a hit as perfectly cooked shrimp right out of the ocean!

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Serves 2; 30 minutes
1/2 C Ketchup
1 Tbs Horseradish
2 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Juice from 1/2 Lemon
8 Bambo skewers
1 lb Jumbo or large shrimp

Soak skewers, make cocktail sauce

Submerge skewers in cold water and soak for at least 20 minutes. In a small bowl mix together ketchup, horseradish, sriracha, worcestershire and lemon juice. Stir until well combine and refrigerate for thirty minutes for flavors to meld.

Skewer and grill shrimp, serve
Double skewer shrimp. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Grill over high heat until cooked through and opaque, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove from skewers and serve with cocktail sauce.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Chipotle Citrus Barbecue Sauce


Printable version
I had never tried citrus marmalade until last Monday evening. I had always been seduced by the strawberry, grape or orange flavors. I wasn’t sure if I would like it actually, after all, there is grapefruit in this stuff. As soon as I got a taste, I was sold - it was awesome.

The ladies from the Tree Frog Farm, in Avilla, Indiana, gave me a jar to experiment with. I recommend using the marmalade as a spread on warm breakfast rolls first, but I thought it would make an awesome element to barbecue sauce as well. I decided to use the marmalade with chipotle. Its smoky heat would be balanced out by the sweet and citrus.

While making the sauce, I used a lot of chipotle because I like the spice. The citrus marmalade worked great as a counter to the heat though. I used it on chicken tenders and practically inhaled an entire pound by myself. It was sweet, smoky and spicy with a hint of citrus. I think it could also be used with just chili powder instead of minced chipotle for a really sweet barbecue sauce that would be amazing on pork.

BEHIND THIS BITE
This is the second recipe I have made with an ingredient I picked up at the spring farmers market at Solomon Farms in Fort Wayne, Indiana. As I was passing out samples of my Pineapple Mustard Shrimp dish I made last week at the market, the ladies at the Tree Frog Farm gave me a jar of the citrus marmalade.

At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do with it, but after my initial taste test I knew it would be a great element in barbecue sauce. This stuff is good enough on it’s own to eat quarts of at a time. I think my next recipe should be how to make the marmalade itself! I’m not sure if the ladies at the Tree Frog Farm will be willing to give up the recipe though.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Makes 2 Cups; 25 minutes
1/4 C Onion
1 Tbs Garlic
3 Tbs Chipotle puree
1 C Ketchup
1/2 C Citrus marmalade
1/4 C Apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs Worcestershire
1/2 tsp Celery salt

Make sauce
In a sauce pan over medium heat sauté onion in a little olive oil until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste. Add garlic, cook 1 minutes more. Stir in chipotle and cook until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in ketchup, citrus marmalade, vinegar, worcestershire and celery salt. Season to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook 8 to 10 minutes

Friday, May 3, 2013

Refried Beans


Printable version
I had eaten some really delicious refried beans at restaurants, but I have never been so thrilled about them as I was after tasting this dish!

I loved these beans.

I think the secret was going the extra mile and starting with dried beans instead of using canned.

The freshness was apparent right away, they were light and seasoned just as I wanted them to be. Preparing the beans for this took almost 4 hours – making them refried took about 15 minutes. The prep was well worth it, and I can’t wait to make them again.

This is just a basic recipe, a few spices, cheese and even a more powerful chili pepper will turn this into an amazing dip worthy of the finest occasions!

BEHIND THIS BITE
One of the first things I set out to cook when I started my food column was a black bean salsa where I started with dried beans. I used an old cast iron dutch oven to cook them. I tossed in chunks of ham in a wanna be Bobby Flay moment and let them simmer for quite a while.

I wasn’t paying attention and the water got really thick, so I turned off the heat. The beans were still tough and the liquid was a slimy mess. I chalked it up as a bust and ended up using canned black beans for a really tasty salsa.

I did this at our family camp ground.

I ended up leaving the pot on the porch and forgetting about it until the next weekend. By then it was a hideous stinking goop so I kept the lid on and set it off to the side of the camper.

The next person to discover it was my Mom a couple weeks later. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she lifted the lid. After being revolted by the contents, she then got really pissed - It was actually her pot. Every time I see dried black beans I think of Mom discovering my month old ham and bean experiment gone awry and I have to giggle because I'm crazy like that.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Makes 8, 1/2 Cup Servings; 4 hours
1 lb Dried pinto beans
8 C water
1 Tbs Salt
1/2 C Onion, diced
1/4 C Jalapeno, seeded, diced
1 Tbs Garlic, minced

Prepare beans
Place beans in a large sauce pan or soup pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let sit at least one hour then drain. Return beans to pot with fresh water and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered until soft, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Drain and reserve 1 cup of the liquid.

Make refried beans

In a cast iron skillet over medium heat saute onion and jalapeno in a little olive oil until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the beans and mash, add some of reserved water to make a paste-like mixture (amount may vary). Adjust seasoning and simmer to a desired thickness then serve.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pickled Jalapeños


Printable version
I’ll bet that many, if not the majority of Americans get there first taste of spicy heat with pickled jalapeños. I don’t know that for a fact, but it’s a cheap way to make things spicy and most Americans have been tempted at least once in their life to get their ballpark nachos (cheese sauce and tortilla chips) with a handful of pickled jalapeños piled on top.

They were my introduction to spicy heat and I used to put them on about everything until my late twenties. That’s when excessive amounts of hot food started become uncomfortable for me to digest. I’ve found that as long as I don’t go overboard with quantity I can handle about any kind of spicy heat without being miserable a couple hours later.

I had a plate of nachos with a few pickled jalapeños recently when I decided it was time to pickle a batch of my own for a post here.

After making the brine for these I was letting it cool. While it was sitting out I got a good whiff. A few seconds later I had a couple of hard sneezes. That’s when I got exited. I knew they would be good if a breath of the brine alone could make me sneeze. As expected, they’re a great garnish for adding some heat to a dish and they have that homemade freshness to boot.

BEHIND THIS BITE
I was happy to document and make a pickled jalapeño recipe of my own. Near the end of the summer when gardens are being harvested I’ll use this for my print column. Starting in late July, there is an abundance of fresh stuff from home gardens around. Everyone has tomatoes and cucumbers and many also have jalapeños.

This will be perfect for the paper when peppers start to get ripe.

This is the second time I have made pickled hot peppers. Years ago I made a gourmet recipe from Bobby Flay. When I was finished I had what seemed like a 30 gallon drum full of pickled serranos and jalapeños. Had I kept the jar I would still be eating them today.

Here's the irony. I made the entire batch for about two tablespoons worth of a garnish on a pork chop. I had no idea how much I was making until I was to far in to reduce the amount.

When it was all said and done I spent 8 bucks on the pork chops and $25 on the pickled pepper garnish.

You live and you learn.

Eat Well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Makes 1 quart
2 C Cider vinegar
2 C Water
3 Tbs Sugar
3 Tbs Salt
3 Tbs Peppercorns
3 cloves Garlic
1 Bay leaf
1 lb Jalapeños sliced
1/4 C Baby carrots

Make brine; pickled peppers
In a sauce pan bring vinegar, water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, garlic and by leaf to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes. Place jalapeños and carrots in a bowl, pour in hot brine. Let mixture cool to room temperature, approximately 2 hours, then transfer to a resealable jar and refrigerate for one week before serving.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Homemade Taco Seasoning


Printable version
A few years back I tried an enchilada recipe and it called for chicken seasoned with a chili powder-cumin mix. After tasting the results store-bought taco seasoning became a thing of the past. This recipe is a little more complex than the original enchilada spice mix, but it’s not just for making taco meat, it can also be used on steak, chicken or any other protein as a flavorful rub.

For an even simpler mixture with the same resulting flavor as meat seasoned with an Old El Paso or Ortega taco seasoning packet, eliminate everything except the chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. By making the seasoning at home, all the preservatives and crazy junk that manufactures put in their mixes is eliminated and the cook, not the company, controls the amount of sodium. It is also much cheaper in the long run to have a stocked pantry with the correct spices available rather than buying a packet every time taco flavoring is desired.

BEHIND THIS BITE
Two years ago, I did a test with packets of taco seasoning and found that a 2.5 oz, bottle of chili powder and a 2 oz. bottle of cumin could make the equivalent of 13 packets of taco seasoning creating around $5 worth of savings.

The last time I had taco seasoned with a packet was a taco salad at a small gathering. I was amazed at how salty and over seasoned the meat was. The packets are cheap, between 50¢ and 75¢, so many Americans just grab them without thinking.

Well, I have thought about it, and for all the artery-clogging, saddle-bag creating meals I cook, I have a better-for-your-health tip: Make taco seasoning with chili powder and cumin. (1 Tbs chili powder and 2 tsp cumin per pound) It tastes better, you control the salt and it's cheaper in the long-run. That is all.

Eat well, cook often ...

THE RECIPE
Makes 1/2 C
3 Tbs Chili powder
2 Tbs Cumin
1 Tbs Salt
1 Tbs Pepper
1 Tbs Garlic powder
1 Tbs Onion powder
1 tsp Mexican oregano

Mix, store
In a bowl mix together Chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and oregano. Place in an airtight container and store away from light.