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Sweet Heat Meatloaf

August 29, 2012 2 comments
Sweet Heat Meatloaf

Sweet Heat Meatloaf

In my opinion, there are 3 basic comfort foods:  macaroni and cheese, anything served with a biscuit on the side, and meatloaf.

As a little kid I was never a big meatloaf fan.  Mainly because I wasn’t thrilled with my mom’s version.  She served it with some sort of  tomato based sauce that she called “gravy.” Sometimes I didn’t know what that little Italian lady was thinking.

But that changed as I grew older and learned to appreciate just about anything my mom put in front of me.

Meatloaf is one of those things that you either love or you hate.  There are cafeteria horror stories that people want to forget and there are memories that bring people back to their happy place.  No in between with meatloaf.

Meatloaf, while pretty basic in nature, still affords many different versions and everyone has their own.  Some use bread crumbs, some use actual bread, and me, I use saltine crackers (but sometimes I use the other things).  Of course everyone has that special something that makes it their family secret.

Then there is the debate of whether to glaze or not to glaze using some tomato based product, typically ketchup.

I like it glazed….my wife doesn’t.  Awkward!

I could do half and half but its not worth it and I just make it her way.  We usually smother with gravy anyway.

I was however, dying for her to give the glazed version a try.

So what did I do? I did the sneak attack version and glazed it but didn’t tell her.  So when it came out of the oven, she smelled something sweet and she was on to me.  I told her to try it….worst case she could cut off the crusty glazed part and still be able to enjoy it.

What I didn’t tell her was the hook, line and sinker that would allow me to glaze it all the time. Instead of ketchup, I used a combination of brown sugar, ketchup and Sriracha. Sweet and spicy, how could she resist?

She didn’t and the rest is history.  Enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup Sriacha
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 cup saltine crackers, crushed fine
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the ketchup and Sriacha.
  3. In a larger bowl mix together the beef, milk, eggs, salt, pepper, ginger, and cracker.
  4. Mix just enough to combine all the ingredients but do not overmix or  your meatloaf will be tough.  The meat should form a nice loaf but will still be tacky.
  5. Meanwhile, spray a 5 x 9 loaf pan with cooking spray.
  6. Press the brown sugar on the bottom of the pan.  Top with the ketchup/Sriacha mix.  Spread evenly.
  7. Place the meatloaf mix on top of the ketchup/Sriacha mix and shape accordingly.
  8. Bake for approximately 50 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meatloaf reaches 155.
  9. Remove from oven, drain excess grease from pan and let stand 10 minutes.
  10. Invert meatloaf (brown sugar/glaze will now be on top) on to cutting board and slice to serve.
Sweet Heat Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes

Sweet Heat Meatloaf with Mashed Potatoes

Cardamom-Wild Flower Honey Sauce

August 26, 2012 Leave a comment
Cardamom and Wildflower Honey Sauce

Grilled Peaches and Vanilla Ice Cream drizzled with Cardamom and Wildflower Honey Sauce

Earlier in the week Darcie got the “Hey, wanna go to the outlets?” text from our good friends Chuck and Josh.

Anyone that knows me understands that I was not part of this invite because I hate shopping (unless its to shop for a cooking gadget, food, electronics or a new car).

Not only do I dislike shopping, I also have slight fear of *Darcie shopping with Chuck and Josh (or anyone really).

Why? First, she’s a woman.  Second, she’s never met a pair of shoes or a purse that she doesn’t feel deserves a good home. And finally, well, we’re not exactly Bill and Melinda Gates.

(*Note: Darcie actually does very well, and never overspends – and today she bought stuff for me.  Probably good that she did since I refuse to part with a Polo shirt that I’ve probably had well over 10 years now).

Anyway, despite my disdain for shopping, Chuck and Josh’s invite to take Darcie shopping provided me an opportunity to whip up breakfast for a crowd which is more my cup of tea.

I kept it fairly simple. Darcie, with her mad baking skills, made homemade buttermilk biscuits.  I made the homemade sausage and gravy to smother said biscuits.  I also whipped up a zucchini and egg fritatta.

I’ll blog these dishes in the near future but today, I’m blogging about something I didn’t even make.

See, even though our friends asked what they could bring, we informed them we had it covered. But of course, this is Chuck and Josh, and they don’t show up anywhere empty handed.  Which, in this instance I’m glad they didn’t.

Chuck made 2 amazing pastries.  The first was a fig tart with a goat cheese spread.  The second, and the star of today’s show was a cinnamon twist with a Cardamom-Honey Dipping sauce.  The twist would have stood just fine on its own but when dipped in the sauce it went to the next level.

Amazing!

The sauce was sweet with a hint of spice.  It was vibrant and bursting with citrus. With all the other food we had, this was all I wanted.  Since there was a lot, I couldn’t wait to find uses for the remaining sauce that was left behind.

The first thing that came to mind was using this sauce drizzled over some grilled peaches and vanilla ice cream.

Winner!

I also think it would be good in tea (hot or iced) which I’ll try very soon.

The recipe for the sauce was taken directly from the Food Network but adapted slightly first by cutting the recipe in half (the original portion makes way too much) and by using wildflower honey instead of the more commonly found clover honey.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup wild flower honey
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice
  • 1/6 cup powdered sugar (or half of a third of a cup – eyeball it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 semi-ripe peaches
  • Vanilla Ice Cream
  1. Heat grill to high.
  2. Meanwhile, cut peaches down the middle and twist to separate, remove pit.
  3. Brush the peaches lightly with canola oil and grill over medium high heat 3-5 minutes on each side (or until caramelized and semi-soft).
  4. While the peaches are grilled, whisk together the honey, lemon juice, powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon cardamom until smooth.
  5. Place peaches along side a generous scoop (or two or 3) of ice cream.
  6. Drizzle everything with the cardamom-honey sauce.

Penne alla Vodka

August 24, 2012 4 comments
Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka

Let me begin by stating this blog entry was very close to not ever being written.

Why you ask?  Well because the dish was almost ruined, along with my house during the process.

The recipe, which I’ll get to shortly, requires that you flambe’ part of it. For those not familiar, it is the cooking process where you essentially set your food on fire with alcohol.

Food and Fire – I’m in!

Since I’m a pretty decent cook AND I’ve seen the flambe’ process up close and personal at fancy restaurants where I ordered Banana’s Foster, I assumed I could do it without issue.

I’ll go on record and state…I can do it.  You can do it too. Because setting food on fire IS easy. But not done properly IT IS DANGEROUS.  Extremely dangerous. Dealing with the 3 foot high flame that ignites from this process will also scare crap out of you.

Now I’ve been known to exaggerate before (see my thunderstorm story here), but the height of the flame is no exaggeration. And once the flame was ignited, there was no turning back.

I really didn’t know what to do other than move it away from anything that would catch on fire and as low from the ceiling as possible. And since I’m over six-feet tall, I needed to crouch a bit as I waited for the alcohol to burn.  Not an easy task.

With no way for me to put out the flame  I needed to keep it out of harms way long enough to avoid a call to the insurance company.

The 60 second process seemed like an eternity and every time the flame got lower it grew again when I would move back towards the stove.  So I waited with the hot pan of fire in my hand until it was gone.

With the flame gone and my eyebrows still intact, I moved the pan back to the stove, wiped the moistness from my face (and perhaps changed my skivvies) and proceeded to make one kick-ass pasta dish.

So now I that I lived to tell my story, I did some research on how to properly do this technique.  Seems like I did it just fine, but my kitchen is too small and I should have avoided trying altogether.  I also found out afterwards that while flambe’ is the best way to infuse your dish with the vodka, you could do it without this process.

I sure wish I had known that ahead of time….but then I wouldn’t have had this great safety lesson to share.

If you want to try flambe’ go for it, just make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy.

For those not as adventurous (read:stupid), here is the flambe’ free version.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

This is the base for a good meal

Cooking with booze….yum!

  • 1 lb. dry penne pasta
  • 1 tbsp. of butter
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup vodka + 3/4 cup additional vodka
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups of your favorite marinara sauce (I promise this recipe will be available in the fall)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Cook penne according to package.
  2. Meanwhile, in large skillet, melt butter over medium heat and add onion.  Cook 4-5 minutes.
  3. Next add 1/2 cup of vodka, pepper, and cook 4-5 minutes to reduce. (*here is where you would flambe’ instead of reduce*)
  4. When penne is cooked, add to skillet with the vodka and onion.  Stir.
  5. Add remaining 3/4 cup of vodka and stir.  Cook to reduce.
  6. Add pasta sauce and stir.
  7. Add cream and stir to combine.  Cook 3-5 minutes until nice and thick.
  8. Serve immediately topped with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
Bowl full of penne

Facile gustoso piatto di pasta (easy tasty pasta)

Grilled Pizza – Part II

August 20, 2012 5 comments
Grilled Pizza Threeway

Grilled Pizza Threeway

With grilling season winding down for a lot of people I thought I’d do a second installment of grilled pizza just to remind people that you shouldn’t be afraid to try this method.

You can find the instructions, as well as some flavor combinations in my original grilled pizza blog entry here.

Here are my 4 grilled pizza promises:

I promise, if done properly, your dough won’t fall through or stick to the grill grates.
I promise that you will have some pretty darn tasty pizza.
I promise you’ll want to experiment with the endless combinations of toppings.
I promise that you will want to have a pizza party and impress your friends.

Because for some, it will become an addiction, I cannot promise a reserved seat in grilled pizza rehab.

Since grilled pizza is somewhat my latest addiction, I thought I’d give a couple of new combinations a try.  Instead of one large pizza, I (with Darcie, my sous chef for the evening by my side) made 3 mini-pizzas (technically 4 which I’ll explain shortly).

The first one was bacon, spinach, mushrooms, and fresh ricotta.  We’ve done a similar version so what made this stand out was the ricotta.  The crust was brushed lightly with a garlic butter. Not a bad combination at all.

The second pizza had the same crust base (butter/garlic) but was topped with prosciutto, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, and fresh mozzarella.  The salt of the prosciutto combined with the sweetness of the roasted tomatoes made this my favorite of the samples.

Finally, for the final pizza I made a Reuben pizza.   Basically, the Reuben pizza was exactly like the sandwich, only in pizza format.

Initially when the Reuben pizza came to my mind I thought it would be as simple as copying the sandwich.  However, I was afraid the Thousand Island Dressing as the base would make the pizza too soggy.  So I talked it over with the wife and she agreed but we couldn’t agree on how to improvise.  So we came up with 2 options (his and hers).

Her version had a plain crust with a very light sprinkle of Swiss to act as the glue.  Then a layer of corned-beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and a drizzle of Thousand Island.

My version used a spicy brown mustard as the base.  Then corned-beef, sauerkraut, Swiss and topped with Thousand Island.

Both were very good in their own ways, especially if you like Reuben’s.  Her version was probably closer to a real Reuben while my version was more like a version you’d find in a good New York Deli.

If I did it again, I’d probably use wheat dough and sprinkle in some caraway seeds.

The Reuben Pizza experiment wasn’t perfect but it still wound up being delicious.  Here is “his” version of the Reuben Pizza.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Basic Dough
  • Brown Mustard (enough to put a thin coat on the crust)
  • 1/2 pound corned-beef, cut in to squares (don’t skimp here — spend a little extra and get the good stuff)
  • Sauerkraut (more or less based on your preference)
  • 1 1/2 cups Swiss cheese, grated
  • Thousand Island Dressing

Follow instructions to make pizza dough and shape in to desired size.

Paint the crust a thin layer of mustard.

Top with corned beef, sauerkraut, and cheese.

When the pizza is finished, drizzle the entire pizza with the Thousand Island Dressing.

Reuben Pizza

Reuben Pizza

 

 

Cast Iron Potato-Onion Gratin

August 18, 2012 2 comments
Potato Gratin

Potato and Onion Gratin

Work has been absolutely nuts recently.   Because of the craziness, 12-hour days have been the norm and I haven’t really had much time enjoy dinner with my family.

So it was nice to just wake up this morning and ease in to Saturday.  Without plans other than a few errands, I could take my time and make a nice breakfast.

I looked around the kitchen and realized I didn’t have much to go on.  A couple of potatoes, an onion, some cheese and a cast iron skillet.

Sounds like a gratin.

I happen to like the cast iron because it retains heat well, gets food nice and crisp, is oven safe, easy to clean, and makes for a cool presentation.

If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, fear not.  This can be made in any skillet you have as long as its oven safe.

I made eggs and toast and breakfast was served.  You could also make it for brunch or even dinner.  Enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Large Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced thin. (Rinsed and dried well)
  • 1 medium vidalia or red onion, sliced medium (keep in rounds)
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup mozzarella
  • 1/3 cup Gorgonzola
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

Add potatoes to a large bowl, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Toss to combine. Set aside.

Meanwhile, over medium-high heat, melt butter.

Add garlic and saute’ for 30 seconds.

Next, arrange onions in circle around the pan. Cook, without moving for 2 minutes.

Then, layer potatoes in a circular pattern around the pan to slightly overlapping.

You should end up with around 3 layers of potatoes on top of the onions in a circle that covers the entire diameter of the pan.

Drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Top with cheese.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until potoates are cooked and crisp (but not potato chip crisp) and cheese is melted and golden brown.

Cut in to wedges.  Serve immediately.

Breakfast

Breakfast – I think I need a new toaster

Spicy Sesame Peanut Noodles and Baked Egg Rolls

August 13, 2012 Leave a comment
Peanut Noodles and Egg Rolls

Spicy Sesame-Peanut Noodles and Egg Rolls

When I met my future wife she openly admitted to me that she wasn’t destined to be crowned “Top Chef.”  Lucky for me (and my family) she didn’t have to be because I love to cook and I take ownership of that responsibility.

Now that doesn’t mean that I’m solely responsible for meals.  She willingly chips in when she has to. However, she knows her limitations.  A crockpot or one dish meal with limited, familar ingredients and she’s typically willing to give it a try.  Complicated ingredients like, ummm, err….rice.  Probably not happening.

So recently I had planned to come home and make Peanut Noodles and Egg Rolls.  I had laid out the recipes and the ingredients so I was ready to hop to it the second I got home.  However, unforeseen circumstances (sometimes I call it Monday) kept me from getting out of the office on time.  I informed my wife of this via text and she replied “I’m going to start dinner, is that ok?”

Since peanut noodles AND egg rolls both fall outside of her comfort level, I wasn’t sure how to respond.  I could have easily played the ‘I’m too busy to respond’ card and would have come home to fabulous gourmet frozen chicken tenders.  But being the good husband that I am, I shot her a text of encouragement simply saying “Yep. It will be easy.”

The meal was excellent and she was VERY proud of her accomplishment.  Not proud because it was good (although she should have been because it was delicious) but rather because she used the food processor without issue.

I love this woman.

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell everyone what a WONDERFUL baker my wife is.  Everyone I know raves about her desserts and my waistline is further proof.  Be sure to come back in the Fall when she goes crazy.  I’ll blog all about it.

And oh, don’t think I don’t know I’m being played for a fool. I know she can cook….but she has me right where she wants me.

For the Noodles

Ingredients:

  • 1 box linguine noodles
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted peanuts (for garnish)

Cook noodles according to package.  Drain and rinse well with cold water.

Meanwhile, add all other ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth.

Combine with noodles and toss.  Serve immediately.

For the Egg Rolls (makes 6)

  • 6 egg roll wrappers
  • 1/2 of a one-pound bag prepared cole slaw mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Splash of soy sauce
  • Olive Oil cooking spray

Preheat over to 375.

Meanwhile, put cole slaw mix in a bowl and microwave covered for 3-4 minutes.  Drain well to remove excess liquid.

Add soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.  Mix.

Add heaping spoonful of mix to the center of an egg roll wrapper and fold according to directions.

Repeat for each roll.

Spray baking sheet with olive oil spray.

Line rolls on baking sheet and spray the rolls.

Bake 15 minutes.  Flip.  Bake additional 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve with soy, duck sauce, or my favorite, sweet and spicy asian dipping sauce.

Yum

 很好吃 (Very good eats)

Black Bean Fritters

August 11, 2012 6 comments
Black Bean Fritters

Black Bean Fritters

Do you get stuck in a rut making the same things over and over and over and over and….

That was me last year.  As much as I love to cook, I still felt like I was making the same 10-12 dishes.  Sure I’d throw in something new every now and then to break it up, but for the most part it was getting pretty monotonous.

I think the reason for this is comfort.  For me, it really is much easier to go with what I know. With familiar ingredients, it was easier to plan, easier to shop, and took less time to cook.  Makes sense when life is busy.

Despite often being busy, I was determined to break through my cooking barriers.  So at the onset of 2012 I made a commitment to try at least one new dish every week.  I’m very much on target, and running the blog helps me stay on track.  I think at one point earlier in the year I made 7 straight meals that I’ve never made before.

With 2012 half gone, I continue trying more and more new things.  And even when I go to the well for an old stand-by recipe, I’ll try to tweak it to make it new and fresh. Thus, dinners have been far from boring.

The most recent new meal I made is this black bean fritter.  It contains simple, easy to find, mostly fresh ingredients.  It doesn’t take long to make. They’re filling.  Most of all, they taste good.  They would be great as an appetizer, or as the main dish paired with a side of rice.

Serve the fritters with a dipping sauce for added flavor and freshness.  I think it they would be excellent dipped in a chipotle dip but I went with a cilantro dip that was included in the original recipe that I found.  Even though I made the cilantro dip, I’ll include a quick easy chipotle dip recipe as well.  Enjoy!

For the Fritters

Ingredients:

Fritter Ingredients

Cilantro was shy and didn’t want its picture taken

  • 2 cans of black beans, rinsed
  • 1 red or yellow pepper (either – for color)
  • 1/2 white onion, diced (more or less based on your taste)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tomato, chopped fine
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro, chopped fine
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped

You’ve been chopped

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well to incorporate.  Mixture will look wet but shouldn’t be too wet or loose. Add a tablespoon or more of flour as needed, but you should be ok with 1/2 cup.  Season with salt and pepper.

Fritter Looks Wet

Looks a little wet, but don’t worry

In a medium sized pan, heat olive oil.

Using an ice cream scoop, add a scoopful of mixture to the hot pan (I can get 3 or 4 in a pan).

Fritter Frying

3 or 4 will fit

Cook each fritter 3 minutes on one side.  Gently flip and cook another 3 minutes or until golden brown.

Fritter flipped

Cook until golden and crisp

Serve immediately with dipping sauce (Or store on a metal try in the oven preheated to 225 degrees until all fritters are done).

For the Cilantro Dipping Sauce:

Combine 1/2 cup of plain greek yogurt (or sour cream), 1 minced garlic clove, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and salt and pepper in a bowl.  Whisk to incorporate.

For the Chipotle Dipping Sauce:

Combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 chipotle pepper (in adobo sauce – diced fine), juice of 1/2 lime, pinch of cumin, and pinch of salt in a bowl.  Whisk to incorporate.

Fritters

Fritters with Cilantro Dip