Post #624 Bread With A Twist

January 27, 2019 at 1:11 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I was in Frankfurt, Germany wandering around the city one Saturday afternoon.  I didn’t have a particular destination or goal in mind.  I was getting some exercise and fresh air and seeing things I hadn’t seen before.  Then I turned a corner and found a street fair.  This kind of thing happened to me all the time when I was traveling.  I found street fairs and open air markets totally by accident in nearly every city I’d been to.  Because of language barriers, I seldom knew what the fair was celebrating, but I joined in anyway, enjoying the atmosphere and food.  Sometimes I’d talk with people and other times I’d just watch and walk.

This particular day was a day for watching and walking.  The whole fair was about three blocks long with vendors of various types lining either side of the street.  It was crowded and boisterous and lively.  A band played somewhere, or it might have been a sound system.  It was a warm day with plenty of sunshine and after an hour of wandering and watching, I decided to get something to eat.  And I saw something like this:

So I bought one.  For 3 Euros I got a pretzel the size of a platter with a chunk of cheese and a soda.  Lordy, that was good!

Like most people in the U.S., I grew up with the hard pretzels in the plastic bags that always seemed to last for-flipping-ever.  As a kid, that’s what pretzels were.  When I got into my late teens, I “discovered” the soft pretzel.  Soft pretzels are an amazing thing, with a unique taste and bite.  They are made with a double cook method.  First dunk them in boiling water with baking soda in it, then bake them till they’re done.  They form a skin that get brown and crunchy, but keep a soft interior full of flavor.

In most cases, soft pretzels are meant to be eaten the same day they’re cooked.  I had one in Frankfurt once in late afternoon that was so stale it crunched.  I ate what I could from it, and it was good.  It was so large that what I could eat from it did fill me up.

My favorite American soft pretzel is Auntie Anne’s which you can find in nearly any mall in the country.  There are a few independent stores, but not many that I’ve run into.  There are others, like Philly Pretzel, but they’re pretty much all the same.  Soft pretzels in various forms.  The uniqueness of the American soft pretzel is they slather them in butter before serving.  Some places ask if you want that; others just assume you do.

Pretzels traditionally are sprinkled with salt before baking.  It’s not table salt, but a coarse grained salt that doesn’t melt easily.  Despite the large grains, it’s not overly salty, just enough to make your mouth water.  And they’re perfect for dunking into sauce.  The standard American sauces are marinara, cheese, and garlic.  I’ve seen some places that will offer dozens of sauces including chocolate, ranch, and cream cheese frosting.

Pretzel dough itself is easy to make and incredibly versatile.  You’ve all seen pretzel dogs and stuffed pretzels, etc, so I won’t go into the whole mess of what things can be made from the dough.  Maybe another time.

In our house, we’re addicted to The Great British Baking Show.  It’s a competition where home bakers are challenged to three tests during each episode.  Whoever does the best is awarded Star Baker, and the worst is eliminated.  All the rest advance to the next round.  The first challenge is the Signature challenge where they make their signature dish in whatever category is featured that week.  The second is the Technical challenge; the third is the Showstopper.  The technical challenge is a test set by the judges with very few instructions for something the bakers probably haven’t made before.  The showstopper is the contestants’ chance to create a remarkable dish for the featured category.

One week, the technical challenge was pretzels.  The bakers didn’t have too much difficulty with the basic recipe.  They were required to make one sweet (orange) pretzel, and one savory (poppy seed).  The trouble came in when they were trying to shape the pretzel.  The instructions were:  Roll a piece of dough out to an 18 inch rope, form into an invert U, form a double twist, pull up to the loop, press the ends into the middle of the loop.  They couldn’t seem to visualize it.

So, I made pretzels a couple of weeks ago.  Every time I’d made them in the past, I’d always followed the example I’d seen at Auntie Anne’s where the baker would roll it out, pick up the ends, flick their wrists until the double twist formed and laid it down while forming the requisite pinch.  I was never very successful.  This time, I followed the instructions from GBBO.  Here’s the result:

Then, of course, I boiled them as per the process.

You can see the first puff of cooking.  The one in the upper left is the first one, but it got easier after that.

And here’s the finished result.  Mine are about the size of a saucer, not the platters you get in Germany.  They work for us.  We dipped them in mustard to eat them.  So yummy.

Here’s the basic recipe:

Pretzel Dough

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups room-temperature water
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups All-Purpose Flour

Water Bath

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda

Topping

  • pretzel salt or kosher salt

    Instructions

    1. <!– please remove InstructionPhoto
      –> Mix the sugar, water and yeast; stir to dissolve. (If you’re using instant yeast, skip this step, simply combining all of the ingredients at once.) Add the white wheat flour, salt, and enough unbleached flour to make a soft (but not sticky) dough.
    2. <!– please remove InstructionPhoto
      –> Knead well, place in a bowl, and let rise until puffy, about 60 minutes.
    3. <!– please remove InstructionPhoto
      –> Divide the dough into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a log, and shape the logs into pretzels. (See “tips”, below.)
    4. <!– please remove InstructionPhoto
      –> Preheat the oven to 450°. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a baking sheet.
    5. <!– please remove InstructionPhoto
      –> In a large pot, boil together 6 cups of water and 2 tablespoons baking soda. Put 4 pretzels at a time into the boiling water, and cook for 1 minute. Transfer boiled pretzels to the baking sheet.
    6. <!– please remove InstructionPhoto
      –> Sprinkle the pretzels with salt, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the pretzels are well-browned.

As always,

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Post #623 The Shorter The Bread, The Better The Cookie

January 20, 2019 at 3:35 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #623 The Shorter The Bread, The Better The Cookie

Okay, so I bastardized the actually saying, but it gets the point across.  It’s really cold outside today.  Yeah, I know, it’s New England in January; it’s supposed to be cold outside any day.  But we’re riding out a snowstorm/icestorm right now.  Everything outside is white.  In our part of the storm, we didn’t get as much as we expected or planned for.  I might even have some wine left by the end of it.  Some friends north of us got hit with the brunt of it.  Their mailbox is buried and unseen.  Poor them.

I like to bake on snowy days.  It makes the storm seem less threatening when you’re cocooned by warmth and good aromas.  For some reason, I think of my mom on snowy days.  She grew up in a small town in upstate New York and her stories of life on their small farm are epic.  They had a large Irish family; her maiden name was McMartin.  Her childhood was during the Great Depression but she says they never noticed too much.  They were kids so they were always hungry anyway, and they roamed the woods and fields and always found something to munch on when they wanted it.

Even after her mother passed away and she and her sisters moved to Ohio to be raised by her oldest sister (who she taught us kids to call Granny much to Aunt T’s great disgust), she was still surrounded by snow in winter, and large family, and the economics of making do, and using the garden to stretch the food budget.

So they got good at making things that were good and filling and only needed two or three or four ingredients.  And if one was missing, the result was unexpected, different, and usually just as good.  She was the one who taught me to make brownies without cocoa that were fantastic.

One of her favorite cookies was shortbread cookies.  These are typical Scottish cookies, or biscuits as they are called there, and take very few ingredients.  The ingredients are those things typically found on a farm in good supply with other things added only when available.  They are primarily butter held together with a little sugar and a little flour.  Doesn’t sound like much, but boy are they good!

When we were kids, mom usually bought shortbread cookies.  It wasn’t until I started learning to cook that she started making them.  Once I learned how easy they were, I went nuts making them and adding to them.  Some of my experiments were successful, and a lot were not.  But we ate them all.

Shortbread is simple.  This is a basic recipe that makes two dozen.

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350.  Put the butter and 4-5 tablespoons of sugar into a large bowl.  On medium speed, mix sugar and butter until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.  Add flour and carefully mix.  If the dough is dry or crumbly, add 1-2 more tablespoons of softened butter.  Set the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out gently to 1/2 inch thickness.  Shape the cookies and place on ungreased baking sheet.  Sprinkle with leftover sugar.  Bake in oven for twenty minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool for several minutes, then place on cooling rack until completely cooled.  Eat.

That’s it.  Two dozen cookies ready in half an hour.

Shortbread cookies are wonderful all by themselves.  The real magic of shortbread cookies lies in their versatility.  So much can be done with them!  You’re limited only by your imagination.

First, they can be shaped in any fashion.  You can do as I did and make squares.  You can use cookie cutters.  You can press into a round cake tin, then cut wedges while they’re warm.  Don’t try to cut them after they cool.  It won’t be pretty.  You can roll into a log, wrap it and chill it, then cut into thin rounds.  You can press into a baking sheet then cut rectangles in the warm cooked dough.  There’s no real “traditional” shape to shortbread.  Whatever you like is good.

Some bakers put a pattern of holes in the dough with a fork just prior to baking.  They say it helps to bake all the way through, and it looks pretty.  You can do this or not as you choose.

Decorating a shortbread cookie is like shaping them.  It’s entirely up to the baker.  You can ice them.  You can sprinkle them with sugar before or after baking.  You can dip the warm cookies in chocolate or other dipping sauce and let it set.  You can dip one end in chocolate.  You can dip in chocolate then roll in nuts or coconut.  You can spread with jam and top with another.  Sprinkle crushed peppermint candy over the top, or other kinds of candy.  Totally up to you.

BUT . . .

The flavors of a shortbread cookie can be anything.  Really.  It can be anything you like.  You can add flavor essences to make whatever you want.  If you add them, do so sparingly.  A little will go a long way.  You can add crushed nuts.  You can add herbs and spices.  You can add peanut butter, or other nut butters.  Just adjust the amount of butter to compensate.  You can use brown sugar instead of white sugar.  You can use powdered sugar.  Just be aware that when you add, subtract, or substitute ingredients, the finished product will be slightly altered.

And people do mess around with the basic recipe.  A lot.  I’ve see the amount of butter increased to a cup and a cup and a half.  I’ve seen a 1/2 cup of corn starch added to the flour.  I’ve seen a mix of flour, corn starch, and powdered sugar used.  I’ve always used the basic recipe I learned from mom.

Today, however, I did play around with it a little.  I took a cup of walnut pieces and put them in a ziplock bag and crushed them to very fine pieces.  I added them to the mix with the flour.  I added a scant half teaspoon of vanilla to compensate for the walnuts.  Then I sprinkled a tablespoon of sugar over the top.  And they taste great!!

Mom did one thing that I don’t usually because I don’t like result.  Traditionally, shortbread is supposed to be white or very light colored.  Mom would mix brown sugar and white sugar together and sprinkle over the top before baking.  It would turn into a caramel of sorts and be golden to dark brown.  Tasted good, but stuck to your teeth.

So, on a day when we’re stuck inside watching the icy white stuff fall, the house is filled with the scent of walnuts and vanilla baking, and our mouths are watering waiting for the cookies to cool.

And now we’ve had some.  They really are good.

As always,

Post #622 Tiny Little Tidbits

January 15, 2019 at 6:27 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #622 Tiny Little Tidbits

I’ve had a few things to share, but singly, they never added up to a whole post.  So, I’m combining them into one post of several tidbits about food.

First up, in the last post I mentioned I was trying a soup we saw on Lidia Bastianich’s show.  It’s a white bean and escarole soup and can be made in under an hour.  It can also be made in over an hour, depending on how you go about it.  I’m going to explain both ways.  They’re not that far apart, really.

  • 1 cup dried white beans (Navy beans or Great Northern White beans) soaked overnight
  • 5 cloves garlic peeled and sliced
  • 1 head of escarole
  • 2-3 bay whole bay leaves
  • 4-5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste

Soak the beans overnight after sorting through them to remove bad beans and stones.  Drain and rinse the beans and in a large pot cook in six cups of fresh water, two tablespoons of olive oil, and the bay leaves.  Do not add salt at this stage.  Cook until the beans start to soften, about an hour.  Chop the escarole roughly.  In a large skillet over medium low heat, heat the remaining olive oil and add the sliced garlic.  Cook until they start to release their aroma.  Add the red pepper flakes, but be careful because they add a LOT of heat.  Add the escarole and press down.  Cover the skillet and steam for a few minutes, then remove the lid and stir.  Cook until the garlic slices have turned golden brown.  Add two large ladles of the soup to the skillet and stir around to release any brown bits and combine flavors.  Add back to the soup pot and stir to combine.  Add about a half tablespoon of salt at this point, and cook for about a half hour to forty-five minutes until the beans have created a creamy broth and the escarole is wilted and fully cooked.  Adjust the salt and add a dash or two of black pepper.  Serve hot.  I made a garnish of bacon bits and sprinkled it with grated cheese.  I served it with toasted crusty bread.

I like the soup overall, but was disappointed that the flavor of the beans was not more prominent.  The bitterness of the escarole actually was quite good in the soup, but it was a little like eating a lettuce soup.  I’ll probably adjust the salt and the bean cooking step next time.  But I do recommend this soup for a good vegetarian alternative.

Second tidbit is making a “cream soup” without the cream.  We’re lactose intolerant in our house to varying degrees.  For Partner/Spouse, it’s a real thing and he can’t eat the stuff at all.  For me, it’s mostly a philosophical stance but there are times when I suffer the bad side effects.  Usually with ice cream.  But since I don’t like the flavor of milk or cream, not eating dairy is not a terrible tragedy.  I do eat cheese, a ton of cheese, and we keep butter in the house for baking and cooking.  So I get the right amount of vitamins and minerals from those.  So whenever I see a recipe where cream is added, I immediately start wondering what else can be used.

The obvious choices are plain yogurt and sour cream.  I know what you’re thinking, those are dairy products.  They just don’t seem to have the same impact on our digestive systems as the other things do.  It’s odd, but there it is.  Although, sometimes, you gotta watch out.

However, there’s another way to make a cream-style soup without any cream whatever.  And that’s called making a roux.  That’s pronounced “roooo” drawn out as long as you want to.  It’s a simple process.  Melt two tablespoons of butter over low heat in a skillet, then add the same amount of plain flour.  Stir together and cook for about two minutes or so.  At this point, many chefs will add cream to the roux to make a creamy sauce.  But you don’t have to.  You can add chicken stock and make a thick creamy sauce with a ton of flavor.  But if you’ve got a good soup base going and want to thicken it and make it creamy, make up a roux and add to the hot soup a tiny bit at a time to avoid lumps.  Keep stirring and there won’t be any lumps.  You’ll end up with a tasty creamy soup that will taste every bit as good as if you’d used cream.  One tip for this, if you want to add extra flavor to your soup or stew or sauce, add dried herbs to the flour and cook it into the roux.

Third tidbit, in the last post about The List, I mentioned chicken and rice soup that was like a gumbo.  A couple of people asked me for the recipe.  It’s simple and the post contained all the salient points for success.  Chop chicken breasts and thighs into bite sized pieces.  Put them raw into the crock pot and add 3-4 cloves of roughly chopped garlic and one medium onion sliced thin.  If you want to add any other veggies, feel free to.  Just make sure they’re cut to bite sized chunks.  I’ve had carrots, celery, mushrooms, etc.  Then put about four cups of chicken broth into it so it’s covered and sprinkle a cup of rice over the top.  Put it on high for about three hours, then put it on low for about four hours.  This seems like overkill in the cooking department, but what happens is the chicken and the veggies release their flavors over time, along with the seasonings.  The rice will explode into the broth which will get a little gummy.  The rice will absorb all those flavors.  The result will be thick and full of rice which will hide the bits of veggies and chicken until you stir it and start eating it.  It’s so good.  Like a chicken porridge.

The last tidbit is a fun thing.  Partner/Spouse read about a candle type of thing and decided to try  it out.  Here’s what you do.  When you have an orange that’s been around too long and started to thicken up and get tough, don’t throw it away.  Slice a very small piece from the bottom so it sits level.  Then slice a larger piece from the top down about a quarter to a third of the way down.  Very carefully remove the pulp but leave the center piece that all the sections attach to.  Leave it upside down on a paper towel for a few hours to make sure all the juice is gone.  Set it upright so the hole is on top and place it in a bowl.  Fill the cavity with olive oil and let it sit for a few days.  The orange will absorb the oil so keep replenishing it until it stays at the same level for at least a full day.  When it’s ready, you’ll have an orange full of olive oil with the center pith to use as a wick.  Does it work?

You tell me.  It sends out a very light aroma of oranges and provides a nice little ambience of light.  I don’t suppose it’s something you’d rely on in an emergency, but it’s cute and fun to watch.

So, I’m thinking of turning this kind of post into a regular thing and calling Tidbits.  Let me know what you think!

As always,

Post #621 What’s for Dinner? Check The List!

January 13, 2019 at 2:19 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

It’s the same questions that face home cooks across the world every single day in some form or another?  What’s for dinner?  Sometimes it’s easy to answer; other times it seems like the Riddle of the Sphinx.  Commercials on television offer tons of quick and easy idea, and whole industries have sprung up where someone else makes the decision and sends you the ingredients.

Recently I wrote about the kitchen journal and pointed out that in mine the first couple of pages are given to a list of my “go to” meal ideas.  Since then, I’ve had a couple of requests to see that list.  So, I’m recreating it here along with some notes for you about how and what the meals are.  So, in no particular order, here they are:

  • tacos – Partner/Spouse and I both grew up in the southwest, but I was first introduced to tacos while living in northern New York state.  We love these so much, we’ve actually eaten them for lunch, dinner, and breakfast for two or three days running.
  • spaghetti – this is one of our staples.  We always have the ingredients on hand and enough different ones that we can mix it up.  Unfortunately, we always make enough to feed 10 hungry people so our freezer often has a ton of frozen sauce in it.
  • beef onion stew – I “discovered” this playing around one day and it’s amazing.  I’ve blogged about it a couple of times, so search around.  This is delicious.
  • grilled steak salad – at heart, we’re carnivores.  If we don’t get a steak at least once every week or so, we get grumpy.  Our favorite way is to grill the steak on cast iron to medium rare, sprinkle with salt, slice into bite size chunks, and put on top of a tossed green salad.
  • grilled thick pork chops – for us, a pork chop isn’t worth eating unless it’s at least a half inch thick.  It’s a wonderful, flavorful alternative to beef.
  • bangers and mash – this is a British dish that we were introduced to at a pub in Ireland.  It’s fried or grilled sausages served on top of a bowlful of hand-mashed potatoes.  The bangers are huge, not the tiny breakfast sausages, so get ones you like.
  • chicken stir fry – we use an Asian chopped salad bagged mix to make this one as easy as possible.  Rice or fried noodles makes the perfect side dish.
  • lemon pasta with chicken – Our southwest upbringing comes out in this one.  It’s simply chopped garlic heated in olive oil and lemon juice.  Add your favorite cooked pasta and toss to thoroughly coat.  Garnish with basil and lemon zest.  Cooked chicken chunks go well inside the dish or on the side.  We sometimes add a tablespoon of butter to bring the sauce together.
  • senate bean soup – This is an old recipe, one that’s served in the Senate cafeteria every day by Presidential Order from Thomas Jefferson.  The beans are cooked with a salty ham.  Once they’ve reached the stage of busting their skins and becoming creamy, tomatoes are added with celery and shredded carrots.  Some people with use a blender to puree the soup, but I like the chunks of beans and ham and veggies.
  • BLTs – ‘Nuff said.  Moving on.
  • burgers and fries – We love a good greasy burger with chips, fries, or tater tots on the side.  Oh!  And a dill pickle.  And it’s easy.
  • meatloaf – There are so many different ways to make this one that it’s a genre to itself.  We go with standard onion soup and bread crumb process, but we’ve played around with whatever we have on hand, too.  I very often add shredded potato and carrot to it.
  • lasagna – This is one that we have to plan for, but it’s always worth it.  Even when it turns out bad, it’s always worth it.
  • pizza – We love this stuff too.  We’ve made it entirely from scratch starting with the dough, to buying cardboard pizza frozen at the store.  There’s just something about tomato sauce and cheese on bread.
  • grinders – This is just the local name for a sub sandwich.  We throw one of these down our throats about once a month or so.
  • eggs and bacon or sausage – All the time!  When we want it easy and fast with little or no clean up, this what we turn to.  Sometimes we’ll do biscuits; other times we’ll do toast.  Sometimes we will have home fries, or hash browns, or shredded and fried potatoes and onions with it.
  • chili – I never liked my mom’s chili as I was growing up.  But as I grew older and my tastes changed, I started experimenting with it.  I read about different flavor combos and cut the onion my mom loved so much by more than half, and suddenly I could eat it.
  • pot roast – Any good roast done to perfection in a slow oven is beyond good.  Throw some garlic in with it and it gets better.
  • appetizers – We do this all the time.  Even when we go out to eat, or order Chinese take away, we’ll often just do appetizers and call it good.
  • mac and cheese – This is one of my guilty pleasures.  I love this stuff.
  • shepherd’s pie – This is traditionally made with lamb, but we typically use hamburger.  Hamburger, gravy, favorite veggies in a dish covered with mashed potatoes and baked.  So good.
  • omelets – Okay, so we don’t do the French way of making these, but we like them just the same.  We also do the Italian variation called frittata.
  • big salad – I’ve even the big salad since I was a teen ager.  I also call this the trash salad because everything that would have ended up in the trash in a few days goes into it (as long as it’s safe to eat!)  A squeeze of lemon juice and lime juice as a dressing, then throw your face into it.
  • chicken and rice – This is a gumbo style meal that I make in the slow cooker.  Chicken chunks, chicken broth, lots of garlic, and a cup of rice cooked in the crock pot for a few hours.  Sometimes carrot and celery are added.  Scooped into a bowl and topped with cheese and it’s a terrific winter meal, even though we eat it all year long.
  • sausage biscuits – So this is typically a breakfast meal for us, but we’ve been know to eat breakfast for dinner on more than one occasion.
  • baked potato dinner – We do this all the time.  A large potato bake till it’s done and the skin is crispy.  We top with our favorite stuff, and go to town.  For me, it’s usually cheese and bacon bits, but sometimes it’s chili and cheese.
  • carne asada/guisada – These are basically the same dish except the cooking method.  Carne is Spanish for meat.  Usually a skirt steak if your grilling; that’s the asada.  Typically a cheaper cut roast if you’re stewing; that’s the guisada.  But the Mexican seasonings are the same and will make you cry, they’re so good.
  • cabbage rolls – We love cabbage at our house, and cabbage rolls are an extension of that.  Ground meat stuffed into cabbage leaves and cooked.  That’ll get anyone up and running.
  • burritos – Another Mexican meal, but instead of corn tortillas, you use flour tortillas.  Instead of a single fold, it’s rolled and the fillings are encased.  And the fillings are as varied as any other Mexican food.  My favorite is refried beans, cheese, and spicy beef.
  • crackers and cheese – I do this for lunch all the time.  So good.
  • baked chicken – Standard fare, but easy and flexible.  You can use butter and lemon, honey and lemon, barbecue sauce, olive oil and herbs, salt and pepper, raspberry vinaigrette, anything you can think of to change it up.
  • pasta salad – Cold cooked pasta, shredded cheese, sunflower seeds, and vinaigrette, and you’ve got a pasta salad.  I throw a pasta salad together for lunch or dinner all the time.
  • risotto – This is a labor of love, but totally worth it.  You need a specific grain of rice for this, and you have to follow the steps properly.  But you can dress it up to taste any way you like.
  • chicken lettuce wraps – This is one we stole from a restaurant, and found the sauce in a packet at the store.  Sauté chicken breast and thigh that has been cut to small pieces with onion and garlic.  Add the sauce and turn off the heat.  Pull leaves of lettuce off the head and add the chicken and some crispy noodles and shovel them down your throat.  Good stuff.
  • fried chicken – So really, who doesn’t like fried chicken?
  • lentil soup – This is one that I’ve eaten since college.  Lentils cook so quickly and if you make the broth a tangy one, it complements the lentils and the veggies so well.
  • roasted veggies – We throw a bunch of root veggies and cruciferous veggies cut into same sized chunks and tossed in olive oil.  Roasted at high heat until cooked and crispy, then salted lightly.  Eat ’em all quick.
  • porcupine meatballs – seasoned meatballs with rice cooked slowly in a tomato sauce.  When the rice expands, it pokes out of the meatball looking a little like porcupine quills.
  • mock lasagna casserole – This is a favorite.  Any shape cooked pasta, tossed with leftover marina sauce and a ton of cheese into a baking dish and cooked until hot and bubbly.
  • spaghetti carbonara – The heat from the cooked spaghetti will cook the eggs and cheese to make a sauce that’s delicious and silky.
  • chicken and dumplings – old fashioned standby
  • barbecued country style pork ribs – We love the fork tender, fall apart goodness of these slow cooked ribs.  And it really doesn’t take too long.
  • herbed pork roast – We love a good pork roast whatever its cut.  It’s like a blank canvas to carry flavors.
  • beef burgundy – This one is so yummy that I’ve blogged about it a couple of times.

I’ve blogged about most of these recipes, but if you have questions about any of them, just ask me.  I’ll be happy to blog about them again.

The point of The List is to jog your memory.  We’ve tried a ton of recipes we’ve gleaned from tv shows, magazines, eating out, and farmer’s markets.  Some of those recipes were great and made it onto The List.  Others were problematic, complicated, or just didn’t suit our tastes so they aren’t on The List.  When I was living with my sister and her husband during college, once a month, she and I would sit down and plan out every evening meal for the month and write it on a calendar.  Then we’d figure out what we needed to buy and would go get it.  We scoured cookbooks and experimented.  I loved it; she hated it.  The List is a compromise for that effort.

Two of my favorite tv chefs (both Italian) are “fly by the seat of your pants” cooks.  They go to their gardens, and their pantries, and they figure out what to cook by what they have on hand.  I’ve done that, when it’s just me.  When I first moved out on my own, I planned meals for a week, and shopped once a week.  The things I made were so good, I’d just buy the same things every week.  It worked for me, even though I got into a rut.

So, I hope this helps out a little.  And share things that are on your list.  I’m always looking to make my list longer.  One day, it might even turn into a cookbook.  Who knows?

So today, I’m making No-Knead Artisan bread to go with a White Bean and Escarole soup I saw Lidia Bastianich cook the other night.  I’ll let you know how that goes!

And as always,

Post #620 Puttin’ on the Dog

January 9, 2019 at 2:17 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

At work the other day, we got into a conversation about hot dogs.  Our conversations are pretty far ranging.  But at that moment, it was about hot dogs.  We had this toy from Asia and it was in the shape of a loaf of bread.  It was made out of some soft foam rubber and was impregnated with a scent that was very much like cake.  It was definitely sweet smelling, not like bread at all.

As one guy was squeezing it and sniffing, he said, “This reminds me of the sweet dogs I used to get.”  He went on to explain that a local eatery no longer in business used to make a hot dog encased in a sweet bread and baked until the bread was done.  He said you got a taste of the hot dog and the sweet bread in one bite and it was amazing.

Another guy said, “I love a good hot dog.  When it’s made right, and you get that snap of the casing.  It’s tremendous.”

“Nathan’s,” I said.  “They’re the best.”

One young lady wasn’t having it.  “They’re terrible!” she squealed.  “They’ll kill you.”

“Only if you choke on one,” I said.  “Anything will kill you if you get too much of it.  Even water.”

“You know what it’s made of, don’t you?” she asked.

“Everyone knows what it’s made of,” we all said.

The second guy went on to describe how his favorite hot dog was made locally with pig intestine for casing to get that snap he liked so much, and the filling was made with quality pork and beef parts, mostly shoulder meat, he said.

The lady walked off in disgust and the conversation died a few moments later.

But I’ve been thinking about hot dogs ever since.

Hot dogs as a thing are simply sausages wrapped in a bun with condiments on top.  They’ve been around for centuries in one form or another.

Here in the U.S. many cities and states haves their own claim to fame for the hot dog.

The New York Style hot dog is served with sauerkraut, spicy brown mustard, and sometimes onions.  The hot dog though has to be all beef.

New Jersey Dogs have sautéed bell peppers, onions, and potatoes on them.

Chicago Dogs are intricate and if any of the ingredients are missing, it’s not a Chicago dog: they are served on a poppy seed bun and topped with mustard, fresh tomatoes, onions, “sport peppers”, bright green relish, dill pickles, and celery salt.

Rhode Island, where we just lived, has it’s own Hot Weiner, sometimes called just a Weiner.  It’s a dog on a bun with a chunky meat sauce and onions.  I’m told they’re delicious.  We never tried one.  Just never got around to it.

Even in Arizona, where we’re from, the hot dog takes on a distinctly Western flair, wrapped in a flour tortilla, lots of chilis and cheese, and any other topping you like, it’s nothing to turn your nose up to.

Hot dogs, though, get kind of a bum rap.  For so long, they were mass produced as cheaply as possible, and earned a reputation for being cheap and non-nutritious.  But as people started understanding how their food impacts them, and demanding better quality, hot dog makers paid attention and most of them changed their product to reflect the new norms.  Hot dogs really aren’t that bad for you anymore.  I’m not suggesting you make a full diet of them, but having one once in a while is not a bad thing.

My favorite way to eat a hot dog is grilled or boiled, on a sliced bun with a large squirt of mustard on top.  Nothing else.  Occasionally, maybe once in every hundred dogs eaten, I’ll add a thin line of ketchup, too.  My second favorite way is the chili-cheese dog.  But I eat that one mostly for the chili.

When we were kids, mom used to make up hot dogs when she got tired of arguing with us about dinner.  I got used to the idea that you had to have potato chips, cherry Kool-Aid, and a hotdog in a bun with mustard, ketchup, relish, and onion.  That’s how mom liked ’em, and that’s how she served ’em.  As I grew, I discovered I hated raw onions, and sweet relish (like sweet pickles) are a waste of time.  If it’s not dill, I don’t want it near me.  Then I lost my taste for ketchup, so by default, it was mustard only.  About the time I decided that, mom decided she wasn’t fixing a dozen hot dogs a dozen different ways and told us all to fix them ourselves.

I like a hotdog that’s a little bland and a little tasty.  I like a hot dog that come 8 to a package.  I like a hotdog that I’ve eaten a hundred times before and have never been let down.

If the package says “sausage” on it, my brain shuts down on the hot dog idea, and opens up to the “sausage” idea which need to be handled completely differently.  However, when I was in Frankfurt, Germany, I stumbled upon the:

Pretzelbrat!  This monstrosity is street food.  You can also get them in the beer halls, and low key restaurants.  It’s a fried bratwurst in a sliced pretzel roll.  In the corner is a dollop of spicy mustard.  I ate so many of these, I made myself sick of them.  The bratwurst is pork and seasonings that make a savory delicious morsel; and the pretzel bread is all the best of soft pretzels and bread combined.  So so good!

Well, that’s all I have to say about hotdogs today, but I’m likely to talk about them some more in the future.  Holler back and let me know what your favorite hot dog combos are.  And if you want to share this post, or any other post, please feel free.

As always,

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