Tuesday, February 26, 2013

italian meat stromboli

This recipe may be kind of self explanatory, but I feel like no one makes stromboli at home. Also, I don't feel like anyone in the South even knows what a stromboli is! When I mentioned that I was going to make one for dinner at work, no one seemed to understand what is was- save the one Northerner that was in the room. So for those of you who don't know what a stromboli is, it's basically a pizza folded in half. Boring you say? Phshaw! Somehow it's more delicious and filling than pizza! So let's begin!
You can really use whatever meats you would like for this, but I went with the traditional. Pepperoni, smoked ham and cappicola make up this stromboli, but I've used sausage, salami, prosciutto and mortadella before. You can even just use pepperoni if you want.
Remember the pizza I made ages ago with the arugula and prosciutto? I used store bought fresh pizza dough for the pie and I do the same for this. You don't need any special dough for this, you really just need any kind of pizza dough. Stretch the dough out like you would normally make a pizza, and layer your meats on one side of the dough.
The only other ingredient you need really is cheese! You can add vegetables if you want, but they'll just get in the way of the meat and cheese.
You'll want to fold over the dough at this point and crimp the edges just like you would with a pie crust. Cut slits in the top to vent and start to bake!
Since all of the ingredients on the inside of the stromboli are already cooked, you really just need to wait until the crust is crispy and golden brown. We serve ours with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese. And we'll eat all of it. Rarely leftovers. Enjoy!
Italian Meats Stromboli
1/4 lb sliced pepperoni
1/4 lb sliced smoked ham
1/4 lb sliced cappicola
1 cup shredded mozzerella
1 lb fresh pizza dough
1/2 cup marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Stretch room temperature pizza dough across a pizza round and layer with meats and cheese, with the cheese on top. Fold the top of the dough across to cover and crimp the edges. Cut slits into the top of the dough to vent and cook in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Serve with marinara sauce and extra cheese. Enjoy!

Monday, February 25, 2013

coffee for the sick girl

First, I want to apologize for not posting the last few days. Since starting my new job, I've actually come in contact with people apart from places like restaurants and grocery stores. Some of these people have children, with germs and cooties. My co-workers passed these cooties onto me, and I've been slowly recovering. Nothing too terrible, just a chest and head cold. Right now I sound like a 2nd grader, and yesterday I sounded like a truck driver all intermixed with racking coughs that make even my dogs look at me like I'm nasty.
Needless to say, I've spent most of the last 5 days sleeping and downing cold medication with no cooking. I wouldn't want to get Ed sick, even though in the 4 years that I've know him, I've never once seen him sick the way I seem to get sick once a year. Ed's idea of getting sick is having a headache and some body aches. I get the whole schibang. So, instead of posting pictures of something I've cooked recently, or something awesome in the world of pet care, I decided to post pictures of my new coffeemaker; a gift from Ed!
The coffee is cup is from my Mom; pretty perfect right? And it looks so nice with the new Keurig! I've wanted a Keurig for a while, mostly because I'm really good at making too much coffee, and because I love variety. I liked the idea of having multiple kinds of coffee and being able to choose what I want depended on the day.
This is the variety pack that came with the machine. 12 different kinds, including one package of tea.
Because I was sick, I chose the tea to start off with. Only bad thing about this: no typical Celestial Seasonings quote!
This coffeemaker couldn't be more simple. Add water, add the K-Cup and press which size coffee you would like. My only complaint? Most of my coffee cups are gargantuan, and the largest cup this will brew is a 9.5 oz. That's okay. I'll take a few less ounces when it brew this fast! Seriously, it look less than 30 seconds from button push to burning my tongue. Totally worth it. Thanks Eddie!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

old bay potato chips

My Mama, being awesome, sent me down my favorite brand of potato chips from Pennsylvania today- Middleswarth Barbecue (although Middleswarth Sour Cream and Onion and Publix Salt and Vinegar are a close 2nd and 3rd). This act reminded me how much I love getting these packages, and that during the Super Bowl I had cooked homemade potato chips. A specialty of the North is Old Bay, something that the South doesn't know that they're missing. I combined yummy deep fried potato chips with Old Bay and I had what's known in Pennsylvania as "Crab Chips".
Potato chips are not hard to make, but they are a little time consuming. True, it is much easier to just grab potato chips off the shelf in the local grocery store, but these taste so much better. There are only a few key things to remember, the first being to clean your potatoes thoroughly before slicing.
You want the potatoes slices to be as thin as possible, so using a mandolin is the best idea. If you don't have one, be prepared to spend a lot of time slicing the potatoes. The next step is to soak your potato slices in cold water for at least 30 minutes to remove the starch- this will make your chips light and airy when you fry them.
You'll now want to thoroughly dry the chips- water and oil don't mix well. Dry the outside with a paper towel to ensure they are totally dry.
Deep fry your potato slices in your choice of oil (we use vegetable, but you can use peanut or corn if you want to). When you drop the slices into the oil, you want them to sizzle evenly on all sides, but not all crazy like. You also don't want them to just sink to the bottom. Remember to stir them every once and a while to ensure they are cooking evenly. They will take about 5 minutes to cook, and then you'll want to drain them on a paper towel.
You can really season these any way you'd like- since I made this first batch, I've made plain salted as well. Just season liberally and toss to coat. I'm not sure this is required, but, enjoy!
Old Bay Potato Chips
4 large russet potatoes
24 oz. vegetable oil
Old Bay seasoning, to taste

Wash potatoes thoroughly before slicing. Slice with a mandolin as thin as possible. Soak potato slices in cold water for 30 minutes to remove starch. Meanwhile, preheat oil in a large stock pot on medium heat. Drain potatoes and dry on a kitchen towel. In batches, fry potatoes slices for 5 minutes or until golden brown to dark brown. Drain on a paper towel to remove excess oil. Season with Old Bay to taste. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

buffalo chicken pancake bites

This may be Ed's favorite meal that I make, and that's not joke. Add this to some cold beer and my family's favorite baked corn and he's the happiest camper your ever met. These take some time, effort and a little love and care, but they are worth it.
I saw these little guys on an episode of Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals a long time ago. As she was cooking them, I jotted down the instructions and made them the next day. I've been making them ever since. They are deep fried, so of course they're delicious, and they've got just a touch of buffalo flavor.
You start by cutting - your chicken tenders into 1 inch cubes and toss them in buffalo sauce- like I've said before, we use Frank's Red Hot Sauce. After tossing the chicken in the buffalo, coat them in dry pancake mix. A few at a time, drop them now into your prepared pancake batter. The pancake batter should have buffalo sauce mixed in, or you can omit this. Believe me, they won't be as spicy as they sound.
I use vegetable oil to fry ours- it's kind of like frying a donut. When you drop them into the oil, they should begin to fry around the edges- not just sink to the bottom and not explode with heat. When cook one side thoroughly and they should flip themselves, if they don't you can give them a nudge.
The easiest way to tell if these are done is to cut one open. Because this is chicken, I always test one each batch cutting them, but you can use a thermometer to check as well. About 5-7 minutes for each batch should suffice.
Remember to not crowd the pan, and to allow the oil to reheat before each batch. Allow the nuggets to drain on a paper towel and salt to season. We dip ours in ranch, and they reheat like a champ. It's really hard not to enjoy!
Buffalo Chicken Pancake Bites
1 1/2 lbs chicken tenders, cut into 1 inch chunks
6 oz. buffalo sauce
1/2 cup pancake batter
2 cups prepared pancake batter
24 oz. vegetable oil
Salt, to taste

In a large stock pot, heat oil on medium for frying. In 3 separate bowls, pour buffalo sauce, dry pancake mix and prepared pancake batter. Toss chicken chunks into the buffalo sauce, then into the dry pancake mix. In small batches, toss the chicken into the prepared pancake batter and drop into the hot oil. Flip the bites when one side is golden and crispy. Allow to fry for 5-7 minutes. Drain on a paper cloth and season with salt. Serve with ranch or blue cheese. Enjoy!

Monday, February 18, 2013

broccoli cheese soup

Forgive the lovie dovie backdrop for the next few days- I did cook and photograph this recipie last week but didn't post them until now... but who cares, right? Valentine's Day comes but once a year (thank god) but man satisfying meals are eternal. I love broccoli cheese soup- cheese, vegetables, cheese, crackers and bread to dunk in it, and the cheese... seriously, it's all about the cheese.
Remember that Moroccan chicken I made a bit ago? I used the carcass, onions and carrots to make a stock. I usually do that, and I make a bunch so that I can freeze it and use it whenever I need. I don't add any salt or pepper other than what was on the bones and leftover meat itself, so I know that it's low sodium. This is a chicken stock based soup, not cream. You can make it all cream, but it'd be super rich. You can also substitute vegetable stock and make it vegetarian.
When your stock is finished, around 4 hours after you've started simmering, strain and cool. You'll only need about 2 cups of stock for this soup, so I'd pour out that amount and put it to the side and freeze the rest for later.
One of the reasons I love this recipe is because of it's economy value. Especially since I use frozen broccoli which was on sale for $1.00 for the bag. I don't know why people are so against using frozen vegetables- especially the steamer bags (which is what this broccoli is). I used 2 bags of steamer broccoli and sliced up about 1/2 cup of carrots along with a small onion and 2 cloves of garlic.
 Simmer these for about 15 minutes. While simmering, you can grate your cheese!
Cheese! Glorious cheese! I used no less than 3 cups of cheese- this go around I used 1 cup of sharp cheddar, 1 cup of mild cheddar, 1/2 cup of monterey and 1/2 cup of un-smoked gouda. Fresh grated is always better, it melts easier than the bagged variety.
This is the point where you'll add the half and half. Like earlier in the week when I described the need for using full fat dairy, the same rules apply here. You need to use full fat dairy and reduce the heat to low or the cheese will be on the verge of curdling when you add it to the soup. Before adding the cheese, you'll want to create a rue with flour and butter and add that to the soup to thicken it up. Reduce heat to low and add the cheese a handful at a time until completely melted. Add salt and pepper as well as garlic powder to taste- that's all the more seasonings I added, but it's up to you. Nutmeg would be yummy, as well as red pepper flake. This reheats amazingly well, and you'll have enough for leftovers!

Broccoli Cheese Soup
2 bags frozen broccoli steamer bags
1/2 cup carrots, slivered
2 cups chicken stock
3 cups grated cheese (1 variety or several)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup half and half
4 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp butter
Salt and Pepper
Garlic powder

In a large stock pot, bring chicken stock to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the broccoli and carrots, garlic and onion. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. While simmering, grate the cheese fresh and set aside. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add flour to make a rue. Add rue and room temperature half and half to the stock pot and simmer again for 5 minutes to thicken. Turn heat to low and slowly add handfuls of cheese, one at a time until completely melted. Season to taste. Serve immediately and enjoy!  

Saturday, February 16, 2013

sprong dog toys: a review!

The best reviewer of dog toys I know is Link- he loves a new toy! Radar could usually care less, he prefers chewies and treats, but Link... he LOVES a new toy. His little rear end twists and wiggles as he runs through the house squeaking away.
These are his current favorite toy- the Sprong! dog toy... the fuzzi, squeaki, spungi, chewi, floati, squishi, velveti, bounci, smooshi dog toy. It has the strangest feeling- kind of velvety and smooshie and rubbery all at the same time. I was afraid when I first bought one several months ago that the pups would immediatly shred them, but the colors were so fun and they felt so weird that I gave it a shot.
We were not dissapointed. The blue hexagon one we got lasted way longer than I excepted. In fact, it's still going. Granted, it's a little worse for the ware but what can you say after being left outside in the rain and being chewed on for almost a year by 3 different dogs? The velvety fabric cuts down on the slobber factor and it's never really super damp from drool. Not only that, the lightweight squishiness of this toy makes it less dangerous to throw around the house.
We got the above 3 pack from Sam's Club last night for $11.98, which is a great deal for 3 dog toys. The first one we purchased was from Wal-Mart and it was along the lines of $6.00. Be prepared for some loud squeaking and sqwaking, and some entertaining play time! Our babies played so much that they wore themselves out and are currently napping. So, don't let that face fool you- she's just resting for some more crazy time.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

oatmeal chocolate chip pancakes

The best part of Valentine's Day is the chocolate. Well, after your special someone that is! Or maybe it's a tie. Whatever. Chocolate is great and when you can have it for dinner and get away with it, then it's a win. Pancakes are easy and chocolate is delicious so it's a win-win.
Dah dah dah dum! Introducing my new stone! Given to me by my parents for Christmas this year, it has a wavy bottom that crisps food up. Really nice for cooking bacon or chicken, reheating fried food or, toasting oats! Oats have a decent flavor on their own but they get a toasted nutty flavor when roasting in the oven. You can speed up this process by cooking them on the stovetop for a few minutes, but it's really only a 10 minute wait for the oven method.
My grocery store was out of complete pancake mix- that's the one that only requires that you add water. So, I had to add eggs and all the other jazz it needed to complete. I added some granola-ish spices to the batter to make the pancakes a little more, well, granola-ish. Vanilla and cinnamon added that touch for me.
I like to use the mini chocolate chips. Don't ask me why, but I like them better. Maybe it's because you can get alot more of them in one bite, although you're really getting the same amount of chocolate. Anyway, you really want that consistency of this to be thicker than regular pancake batter, and most of that will come from the oats. If you prepare the pancake batter according to the back of the box and add the oatmeal, you'll be at that thickness.
For those who don't know, panqueque means pancake in Spanish, and it's a word I became very familiar with when I was working at PJ's Pancake House in Princeton, New Jersey along side the Guatemalan cook staff. I ate a lot of pancakes that summer, and one my favorites were the oatmeal raisin. They have since expanded their menu, but pancakes still remain king there, and I ate many a panqueque after working until after midnight feeding hungry Princeton students. These come together quickly, a slight spin on a classic and perfect to satisfy multiple cravings at one time. Happy Valentine's Day!
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Pancakes
8 oz. mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup instant or rolled oats
Pancake mix
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread oats out onto an un-greased cookie sheet and toast until golden brown. Allow to cool before adding to pancake mix. Prepare pancake mix according to directions on the back of the box (approximately 12-18 pancakes). Mix the chocolate chips and oats into the mix. Cook in a non-stick pan over medium heat. These pancakes will not bubble like normal pancakes because of the oatmeal, so be vigilant. Top with extra chocolate chips to melt and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

chipotle shrimp tacos

Warning: these puppies are sure to spice things up! It's Valentine's week, and nothings says "I Love You" like a spicy, sloppy taco! Right? Well, maybe not, but they are soooo good. But, be warned! They are soooo spicy. I'll give tricks and tips along the way to cool things down, but only in the kitchen. Anywhere else, you're own your own.
This is a shrimp taco, but you can use beef, chicken or fish as well. Really, any meat will do. You could probably even use tofu is you wanted- we don't roll that way in our house but to each their own!
The base of this taco are chipotle peppers in adobo. And, boy howdy, are they spicy. Chipotle peppers are ripe jalapenos that are roasted and smoked then packing in sauce or dried out. The green jalapenos that you see usually at the grocery store are un-ripe. When combined in a soup or stew, rice or beans that are cooked for a while, they add a smokey heat that is in the background. In this recipe, we are pushing the flavor to the fore front. One easy first step to cutting down the heat is to mangle these peppers. When you pull one out of the can, cut the top off, cut it in half and scrape the seeds and flesh out. You can also cut down the amount of adobo sauce you add to cut down on spice.
I added the chipotles along with garlic and chicken stock in this pan, but you can use cream or yogurt to calm it down- seriously. I am giving you fair warning- if you don't add some kind of dairy or cut back the amount of pepper you use, this will be fire dragon spicy.
Now most people know this, but it always stands to be restated. When cooking shrimp, the best way to get the most flavor is to not over cook them. The easiest way to avoid this is to cook the shrimp until they are pink and are shaped like c's and u's. If you cook them too long, the shrimp will become o's and the flesh will be tough and chewy.
I have two confessions to make, actually. Although I've been tending to make everything from scratch lately, I did not make these tortillas or the tomatilla salsa. I ended up throwing this recipe together, and I happend to have the tomatilla salsa in the cabinet. You can use any salsa, but tomatilla salsa is generally mild in flavor. We went full spice on this taco, but the addition of sour cream, cheese or a crema could help further de-spice the tacos. If you go with this recipe full on, remember that I warned you!
Chipotle Shrimp Tacos
1/2 lb peeled and de-veined shrimp
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chicken stock
4 tortillas, warmed
Tomatilla salsa

In a large sautee pan on medium heat, begin to cook shrimp in vegetable oil until just turning pink. Add minced chipotle peppers, garlic and chicken stock to shrimp and cook until pink all the way through, and shrimp are shaped like c's or u's. Warm tortillas in the oven or microwave, and layer tomatilla salsa under cooked shrimp and lettuce. Serve with cheese, sour cream or crema to cool down spice. Enjoy!