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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.

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

 

 

Cuban Sandwich with Chipotle Butter

July 9, 2012 3 comments
Cuban Sandwich with Chipotle Butter

Cuban Sandwich with Chipotle Butter

Anyone with a food blog must love cooking, why else would we take the time to write about it.  However, there are times where I’m too busy (read lazy) to do anything elaborate.  Those days require a good old-fashioned sandwich.

Lucky for me, I happen to love sandwiches.

While I have many favorites, I’m particularly fond of pastrami on rye, classic grilled cheese, and my all-time favorite Italian subs.

Slowly moving up my list of favorites is the Cuban.

On the surface, the Cuban, traditionally made with pork, ham, and Swiss cheese seems like a fairly basic sandwich.  But when you put it all together with the pickles and mustard, it’s quite amazing.  But what really separates the Cuban from just another grilled sandwich is the crunchy texture it takes on by literally smashing it when grilling.

Personally, I don’t think a sandwich press can get it right (plus I don’t have one).  Therefore I use a couple of heavy bricks wrapped in foil.  It’s a great technique that can also be used when grilling a whole chicken (but that’s another day).

Here’s my version of the Cuban sandwich that adds just a touch of heat in the form of chipotle pepper butter.  If you don’t want the heat, feel free to use plain butter.

Ingredients: (no quantities of meat etc. listed – use as much or as little as you like)

Ingredients

Ingredients for a traditional Cuban sandwich

 

  • 2 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 chipotle  pepper in adobo sauce, minced (seeds removed – optional)
  • 1 loaf of cuban bread (I used French but you can use any similar crusty exterior bread)
  • Roasted Pork (I use leftover from any time I make a pork roast)
  • Virginia Ham
  • Swiss Cheese
  • Pickles
  • Mustard

To make the chipotle butter, mix 1 chipotle pepper with the softened butter.  Set aside.

Butter and Pepper

Butter and Pepper

Compound Butter

Compound Butter

 

Cut bread lengthwise and apply a generous amount of mustard to one side of bread.  Add ham, pork, pickles, and cheese. Top with other half of bread.

Assemble

Would be good as is…

 

Slater the top of the sandwich with half of the chipotle butter.

Slathered

…but lets throw some butter on top and grill it

 

Lay sandwich on grill or griddle (or large pan) butter side down.  Gently lay brick on top of sandwich and smash the sandwich to balance the brick.

Smash It

Homemade sandwich press

 

Grill a few minutes until cheese begins to melt.

Remove brick (careful, brick may be hot) and flip.  Slather with remaining butter and flip.

Almost Done

Almost Done

 

Once again, balance brick and grill a few more minutes until heated through.

Remove from grill and enjoy!

Final

Muy delicioso!

 

Tequila Lime Grilled Chicken

July 8, 2012 4 comments
Tequila Lime Chicken

Tequila Lime Chicken with Grilled Garlic Potatoes

 

Growing up my step-dad grilled 2 types of chicken:  Barbecue and burnt.   I didn’t care much for burnt, but I loved barbecue. I still do and I’ve previously mentioned it would be my “last meal” request.

But I have to admit, as much I love barbecue, slathering a few legs and thighs with sauce every time grilled chicken is on the menu gets old rather quickly.  And who wants boring food. I want flavors that are bold, bright, and diverse. I want ingredients that get the taste buds dancing.

What better way to wake up a dish than by reaching in the liquor cabinet and cooking with alcohol, specifically tequila.

If you're going to drink alcohol, buy good quality

If you’re going to drink alcohol, buy good quality

I have a story or two regarding my experiences with tequila, but not knowing who reads my blog, I’ll have to pass.  Let’s just say I stayed away from the fermented agave for many, many years.

Regardless of my experiences then, its back in the household, mainly for the sipping pleasures of my wife and the occasional use in this dish (which was adapted from cooking light magazine).

Its a perfect recipe for any night of the week as it takes just under 30 minutes to make.  Its sticky and sweet like traditional barbecue sauce but your family or guests will certainly taste the difference.

As an FYI, this grilled chicken is kid friendly as cooking the tequila will remove the alcohol content, but the hint of the tequila is still present.

Ingredients:

Not pictured, the tequila (oops)

Not pictured, the tequila (oops)

  • 6 dark-meat chicken pieces (I used 3 leg quarters)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/3 cup of tequila
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Juice of one lime
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons water

Preparation:

  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat (leaving one burner on low) or set up charcoal grill for indirect cooking
  2. Mix cumin, both chili powders, and salt in a bowl to combine.  Rub on chicken.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix cornstarch and water.  Set aside.
  4. In a medium sized sauce pan, add pineapple juice, tequila and honey.  Bring to a boil. This will be the glaze for basting on the chicken.
  5. When glaze begins to boil, lower heat to simmer and cook until reduced (about 10 minutes).
  6. Add the cornstarch liquid to the reduced glaze, stirring constantly to thicken the glaze.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice, lime zest and red pepper.
  8. When grill is heated, place chicken on the hottest part of the grill and cook 5 minutes each side.
  9. After 10 minutes, move the chicken to the cooler part of the grill and baste with glaze.
  10. Continue basting the chicken on both sides every few minutes while the chicken continues to cook.
  11. Cook until chicken reaches internal temperature of 160 and juices run clear.

Enjoy!

Tequila Lime Chicken

Tequila Lime Chicken

Shooter’s BBQ Sauce

July 1, 2012 Leave a comment
Ribs with Shooter's BBQ Sauce

Ribs with Shooter’s BBQ Sauce

The 4th of July is right around the corner and millions of Americans will celebrate the holiday in two ways:  Backyard BBQ’s and fireworks.

Growing up, the 4th of July was my favorite holiday, mainly because I ate good food and I got to blow things up.  Sure Christmas was nice with presents and all…but I never got to set off explosions.  It was the one day a year that I could play with  matches and get away with it.

When it came to fireworks, my family had it all.  I don’t know where they came from and I didn’t care.

I started out with sparklers, throw-snaps, and those “snakes” that would leave a black mark on the driveway.  Then I graduated to firecrackers, bottle rockets, and roman candles.  When I got older, I got the privilege of lighting the grand-daddy of all firecrackers, the M-80. Those were rare, and they even scared me a bit.

Of all the fireworks I set off, nothing was better than the tank.   It looked just like a tank, green camouflage “paint” and all.  It was equipped with a “gun” on the front that would shoot sparks of fire.  It even had wheels on the bottom and if it was set on a nice smooth surface, the tank would roll a few feet from the sparks coming out of the back, come to a stop and then the “show” would start.  It was awesome.  If you’ve never seen one in action, here’s a great video.

Firework tank

Tank in action

As far as the food on the 4th of July, my family did the basics: hamburgers, hot-dogs, potato salad, deviled-eggs, and usually some sort of pie or cake.  I loved everything about the 4th.

These days, my 4th isn’t nearly as explosive.  Especially this year since it falls in the middle of the week.

I have plans to spend the day with good friends (shamless plug for their website here).  It will be pot-luck, and it will be great.  I’m not sure what I’m making.  Perhaps I’ll throw together a pulled pork or make some ribs.  If I make either of those, it will need a sauce.  A tangy, lip-smacking, finger-licking, wet-nap using kind of sauce.

This sauce recipe is ideal for anything that calls for BBQ sauce. While I prefer things such as ribs with nothing more than a dry rub, I will use this from time to time — and almost always for my pulled pork.  I like to think of this sauce as hybrid between the vinegar based sauce (traditionally used in North Carolina) and a sweet sauce (typically found in Kansas City).   Its been a hit with anyone who’s tried it.  If you plan on making ribs, chicken or pulled pork at your next barbecue, skip the bottled-store brand and give this a try. ENJOY!

*By the way, the picture of the ribs isn’t meant to tease, but I didn’t think a picture of some sauce cooking would be the proper main image for this entry.  If you’re curious how to make ribs so that they’re just about fall off the bone good, I’ll be writing about it in the coming weeks.

Ingredients:

Shooter's Sauce Ingredients

Shooter’s BBQ Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 cup of ketchup**
  • 1/3 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ancho (or other) chili powder

In a medium sized sauce pan, mix together all ingredients.

Bring to a boil.

When sauce begins to boil, set heat to low and simmer for approximately 1-hour, stirring occasionally, until sauce begins to thicken.  If the sauce doesn’t seem to be getting thick, you can add a few teaspoons of corn starch.  However, make sure the corn starch is completely dissolved before adding it to the sauce or the cornstarch will immediately turn to lumps.

When finished, use immediately by applying as much as you like to your cooked meat.  You could also let  it cool and store in a jar with a tight fitting lid in the fridge.  Should keep about a week or so.

** I use store brand ketchup for this recipe.  Normally Heinz ketchup is the only kind of ketchup that I’ll buy.  However, I found out through trial and error that Heinz actually over-powers the sauce and it winds up with too much of a ketchup taste.  Therefore I stick to store brand ketchup when making BBQ sauce.

Sauce Simmering away

Sauce simmering away

Pork Tacos

June 30, 2012 Leave a comment
Crock Pot Pork Taco

Crock Pot Pork Taco

I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for 35 years and for as long as I can remember, weather in this town has always been a major topic.  Perhaps it is because the city is made up of so many different types of personalities, that weather becomes the one thing everyone relates to.  I get it, but must we obsess?  Must our newscasts devote more than just a minute or two discussing what anyone who has looked or been outside already knows?  Must everyone (and their mother) post a picture of the temperature on Facebook? January and February it gets very cold and it snows. In the summer months its hot and humid.  That’s fact in Pittsburgh – no need to dwell and complain.

Since it is late June and usually that means its hot, sometimes more hot than normal temps (notice I’m stating fact, not complaining), the last thing I want to do is cook.  But alas, I have a family to feed and a blog to write (although the latter is obviously optional).

When the dew point is high and temperatures begin to creep up, grilling becomes my best cooking option.  However, I understand some of my readers may be intimidated by the grill (i.e. bored of the grilled goodness category), so I’m going with a crock pot recipe (which is the next best cooking option when its hot).  If you want to grill, check out my grilled pork tenderloin recipe and serve it up on a tortilla using any toppings you wish.

Grilled Pork Taco

Grilled Pork Taco

Whether you fire up the grill or use the crock pot recipe below, you’ll find both recipes are a cinch to make.  They’ll easily feed a family of 4 (with leftovers) and most importantly neither one will heat up your kitchen on those hot summer days.  I recommend mixing up a delicious frozen Margarita to beat this EXTREME HEAT.  Now if you will excuse me, I need to wipe the sweat from my brow.

Margarita

This cooled me down…and tasted pretty good too

Ingredients:

  • 1 large or 2 small pork tenderloins (about 1.5 lbs)
  • 2 cups of chicken stock (or 1 cup stock, 1 cup water)
  • 1 package of taco seasoning
  • 1 can of pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed (14 ounce)
  • 1 can of  diced tomatoes (14 ounce)
  • 1 can of green chilies, diced (4 ounce)
  • 1 package of frozen corn
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • Garnish:   Cilantro and Cotija, Queso, or cheddar cheese

Mix together the broth and taco seasoning.

Next, add all ingredients except corn and tortillas to the crock pot cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Once the pork is cooked, shred it and add back to the pot.  Add frozen corn, stir.  Let cook another 30 minutes.

When ready, warm tortillas using a skillet heated with olive oil (30 seconds per side). Place in a warmer (or between a few sheets of paper towels) until ready to use.

Using TWO corn tortillas for each taco (or 1 flour tortilla) add a few heaping spoonfuls of the cooked pork mix using a slotted spoon.  Top with cheese and cilantro.  Finish with a fresh squeeze of lime juice.  ENJOY!

2 Pork Tacos

2 magically delicious and super simple pork tacos


Simple Grilled Chicken

June 25, 2012 Leave a comment
Simple Grilled Chicken

Simple Grilled Chicken

I like to splurge on meals from time to time (lobster rolls and high quality steaks come to mind).  But for the most part I’m pretty frugal when it comes to shopping.   I try to plan my meals based on what’s on sale and the majority of the time I head to the grocery store with a list to keep me on track.  If you look close at the pictures of the ingredients on most of my blog entries, you’ll often see store brand items.    I used to clip coupons but I think those extreme-coupon people ruined it for us little folk and it doesn’t seem worth it these days.  With the economy rough, I have to cut back when I can.

So when looking for that inexpensive ingredient on which to base a good dinner, I often turn to the simplicity and versatility of dark meat chicken.

Using well-stocked pantry items, I can usually feed the whole family for less than 5 bucks. Catch it on sale and its even cheaper.  Not only is it inexpensive, the combinations of flavors are endless.

Want Asian flavors? Use soy sauce and ginger.  Game day? Try going “buffalo style.”  Want something everyone loves?   Add a spice rub and your favorite bbq sauce. Not feeling anything in particular?  Keep it simple and refreshing and give this recipe a try.

Ingredients:

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 6-8 pieces chicken (dark meat)
  • 3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Honey
  •  Tablespoon of Olive, Canola, or Vegetable Oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • Cilantro (about 2 tablespoons roughly chopped)

Add all ingredients in a bowl, whisk to combine.

Place chicken in a zip-top bag.

Pour ingredients over chicken and seal, getting as much air out as possible.

Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes (or refrigerate as long as overnight — preferred)

Grill chicken on high heat 2-3 minutes per side.

Lower grill to low heat and continue grilling approximately 25-30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees (or juices run clear).

Final

Easy and inexpensive