Post #608 It’s A Mock Up

November 11, 2018 at 4:44 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Let’s face it.  Sometimes cooking is hard.  Sometimes, when time is short, cooking can be a spectacular hassle.  Sometimes, as a chef, you’re just not feeling it.  Sometimes, it would be nice to have a magic pill to put in the microwave that magically created whatever it was you’re craving (or creating) with minimal muss and fuss.  Sometimes, we just need to make something cheap and simple rather than go through the full steps.  So today’s post is about mocking up menu items that taste good but don’t take a huge amount of time or effort.

  1. Mock Egg Sandwiches – typically people think of eggs for breakfast and that’s a great way to start the day.  I like egg sandwiches.  One of my favorites was from a diner back in Rhode Island called Messy’s and it was a bacon, egg, and cheese on a croissant.  Grilled in butter, it was so good!  But the standard has been (for decades) the Egg McMuffin.  Total breakfast held in one hand.  I worked at Mickey D’s back in my teen years, and go to the point where I could crack four eggs in each hand without spilling a drop.  Egg McMuffins and I were on a first name basis.  One English muffin toasted to perfection.  While that was toasting, an egg ring was placed on a low temp grill and butter was slathered in it with a brush.  An egg was cracked into it and the yolk was broken so it would cook completely.  A piece of Canadian bacon was slapped down on the grill next to the egg ring.  After two minutes, the egg was release and flipped and the bacon was flipped next to it.  Two more minutes, the muffin was toasted and place in a container.  The egg was placed on top, still dripping butter, and the bacon was placed on top of that.  A piece of cheese was laid over the top of that of that and the top of the muffin was put in place.  Four minutes, start to finish, and breakfast was ready.  But that was assuming you had a hot grill and all the ingredients ready at hand.  So I came up with a mock up.  Toast two slices of whatever bread you have on hand.  While the bread is toasting, heat a small skillet to low heat and melt some butter.  If you’re using real bacon, cook that to crispy in a microwave.  However, it’s faster and easier to use deli ham, or sandwich lunch meat ham.  Heat it in the skillet while melting the butter.  If you have a round biscuit cutter or cookie cutter, cut the toast when it’s done.  Then put the cutter in the skillet and crack an egg into it.  Cook the egg for a couple of minutes on one side, then release it from the cutter and flip while flipping the meat.  When the egg is fully cooked, assemble the sandwich and eat hearty.  If you don’t have a cutter or don’t want to dirty it up for whatever reason, just use the bread and the egg as is.  Also, if you don’t have any bacon or ham to hand, but you do have bacon bits for a salad, sprinkle those on the eggs.  Or use a different kind of meat.  I had a friend who would use hamburgers.
  2. Mock Apple Fritters – This one is easy, but you do have to have the ingredients.  Obviously, you have to have an apple.  If you don’t, but you have some applesauce, use that.   Then, you need some kind of bread.  It can be sandwich bread, rolls, bagels, whatever is at hand.  Toast it lightly.  Heat a small skillet and melt two tablespoons of butter, then add two to three tablespoons of sugar and one teaspoon of cinnamon.  When the mixture is bubbling, add the chopped apples, or the applesauce, and toss to coat.  Turn off the heat and let the apples and sugar cool just a bit.  Place the toasted bread on a plate and divide the apple mix over the bread.  Place one pat of butter on top of each piece of bread letting it melt slightly, then eat with gusto.  Or juice.
  3. Mock Potato Pancake – okay so this one requires a waffle maker.  Sorry about that, but it does.  About a half hour before you’re going to make this, take out some tater tots and let them reach room temperature.  Heat your waffle maker then spray with vegetable oil.  Place as many tater tots on the plate of the waffle maker as you can, close it, and cook as though making waffles.  However, allow them to cook a minutes or so longer.  You will end up with a crisp potato pancake with pockets and ridges just like a waffle that you can fill with anything you like.  I just salt them lightly and eat them, but I would image sausage gravy would be tremendous.
  4. Mock Fried Donuts – have you ever made fried donuts for breakfast?  You have to start the day before because the batter has to rest overnight in the fridge.  This one takes only the time to heat the oil.  So, heat vegetable oil over medium heat until it shimmers but NOT smoking.  If it’s smoking it’s too hot.  You need enough oil for the donuts to float.  So what are we making donuts out of?  A regular tube of refrigerator biscuits.  Pop the container open and separate the dough.  Gently pull the dough moving it in a circle until it rips and a hole appears.  Make a fairly large hole because it will start to close as soon as it hits the oil.  Let it fry for about two minutes then flip it and let if fry for two more minutes.  Now comes the fun part, dressing the donuts.  I like to shake them in sugar.  Or sugar with cinnamon.  Or sugar with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Other times, I let them cool almost completely, but with enough residual heat to melt frosting and used canned frosting of any kind.  Or make a sugar glaze, or a lemon glaze .  You can also make a sugar syrup and coat the donuts with that.  You’re only limited by your imagination.
  5. Finally, Mock Flavored Muffins – This one is so easy.   It’s muffins made with yogurt and is basic simplicity.  The basic recipe is 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup sugar, a quarter teaspoon each of salt, baking soda, and baking powder, 1 large egg, 1/2 cup of yogurt, 3 tablespoons of oil, and 2 tablespoons of milk or water.  Blend everything gently and spoon evenly into six prepared muffin cups.  You can spoon into four muffin cups if you prefer larger muffins.  Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into one comes out clean.  Cool for a few minutes then remove from the muffin tin.  Easy peasy.  However, use a flavored yogurt and that flavor becomes the flavor of the muffin.  Add fruit or spices that complement the flavor of the yogurt.  You can top the muffins with seeds or nuts or granola for extra crunch.

Hope all this helps out.  I love mocking things up once in a while.


Post #607 The Treasure Box

November 4, 2018 at 4:58 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Box Without Hinges, Key, or Lid

Yet Golden Treasure Inside is Hid

Some of you may remember this riddle from Tolkein’s masterpiece The Hobbit.  It’s part of the riddle challenge Bilbo Baggins undertook with the Gollum that eventually won Bilbo the ring of power.  The answer, of course, is the Egg.

So guess what today’s post is about?  But it’s not about cooking eggs.  It’s about kitchen hacks involving eggs.  I can say that I’ve tried all of these and they work.  They really do.  But let’s get the controversy out of the way first.  Eggs are loaded with cholesterol, but (and it’s a big but) it doesn’t impact human cholesterol adversely.  Having said that, independent studies from the major nutritional scientists have shown that eggs will have an impact on about 30% of the human population, but most of the time, the impact is either minimal, or beneficial.  So eating eggs is not going to hurt you, generally speaking.  However, if you’re worried, consult your doctor.  If you’ve already consulted that person, follow their advice, not mine.  Just sayin’.

Eggs are one of the most nutritional items on the planet.  There are very very few things that are better for you.  They are one of the few things that contain all the amino acids we need in the right combination.  And because of their nutritional density, eggs will make you feel fuller with smaller amounts than nearly any other food.  Speaking for me, two large eggs is way more than enough.  But most people can safely eat up to three large eggs per day safely without any ill effects.  Except that they ate 3+ eggs that day.

So here are my favorite kitchen hacks (shortcuts) for eggs:

microwave poaching – if you want a poached egg, but don’t want to trouble yourself with a pan of boiling water swirling in a clockwise manner, try a microwave.  It’s pretty easy, but can be finicky.  Microwaves tend to vary, so play around with timing and power strengths.  Take a microwave save bowl and break an egg into it.  Add a third cup of water, and a 1/2 tsp of vinegar.  Microwave for about 45 seconds and check the egg.  If it looks underdone, continue cooking in 20 bursts until it gets to a point that you like it.  Just bear in mind the microwave will cook the yolk faster than the whites, so if you want a runny yolk for whatever dish you’re making, the whites may not be fully set.  You can remove the egg with a slotted spoon so the water drains away.

how to tell if an egg is fresh – This is an old one.  I learned this at my mother’s knee, so to speak.  If you’re not certain if the eggs you have are okay, fill a glass that will hold an egg easily with room temp water.  Put the egg into carefully so the shell doesn’t crack.  If the egg sits on the bottom, it’s fresh.  If it raises to the top slowly, it’s a good egg.  If it raises to the top quickly, think long and hard before using it.  What’s happening is gas build up inside the shell causing buoyancy.  A fresh egg will not have any gas build up.  The older the egg, the more gas and the more buoyancy.

how to tell if eggs are cracked in the carton – When you buy eggs, I sincerely hope you’re looking inside the carton to see if any eggs are cracked.  However, did you know the bottoms can be cracked without you seeing it?  To find out, simply move each egg inside the carton.  If they move, there are no cracks.  If there are cracks, the egg will leak out, dry out, and cement the shell to the carton, whether it’s a paper carton or a Styrofoam carton.

best way to crack an egg – This one I got from Jacques Pepin, the renown chef from France.  He’s all about speed in the kitchen so he cracks eggs on the counter rather than against the bowl.  The reason for this is to avoid getting shells in the bowl with the egg (more on that later) and having to spend valuable time fishing it out.  So tap the shell gently but briskly against the counter and swiftly move it to the bowl and open it.  Since the force is blunt rather than sharp, the shells stay intact (usually) with the egg skin.  Nothing but the egg gets into the bowl.

best way to separate an egg – A corollary to the above is this way to separate egg white from egg yolks.  Carefully break the number of eggs you need into a bowl.  Try to keep the yolks intact.  Then carefully lift the yolk out of the egg whites using your impeccably clean hands with your fingers spread slightly.  Wait for all the egg whites to separate and move the yolk to another bowl.  Don’t throw them out unless you’re not going to use them in the next day or so, and don’t want to freeze them.  Don’t move your hand up and down since this could cause the yolk to move about and break in your hand.

how to get egg shells out of the egg – Now it’s inevitable that at some point in your life you will get some egg shell into your shelled eggs.  And dipping into the egg with your finger or an eating utensil just seems to push the shell around rather than capturing it.  But if you use a piece of the egg shell gently inserted into the egg, it will capture the stray shell like a magnet captures iron filings.

a use for the egg skin – Have you seen the egg skin?  It’s a protective barrier between the egg and the shell.  It allows oxygen to pass through the shell into the eggs itself.  Overtime, it loses its resiliency and the egg goes bad.  Really bad.  But once an egg has been cracked open, there’s no more uses for the skin.  Well, actually, there is one that I know of because my mom use it for me.  When I was about 13 or 14, we kids were playing hide and seek.  Mom had a cactus garden in the front yard separated by a line of large rocks.  I was running full tilt in the dark, unable to see much of anything and went ass over teakettle with a blinding pain in my right foot.  I’d tripped over a cholla cactus (pronounced choya) with such force I’d uprooted it and I went spinning out of control.  By the time, everything righted itself, I knew I was in trouble.  The pain had shot all the way up to my knee and I couldn’t move a step.  Somehow, we all managed to get me inside where my parents took over.  They stopped the bleeding, disinfected it, and bandaged it up.  I was off my feet for a week.  At the end of the week, the wound had not scabbed over, was still swollen, and angry red looking.  My mom didn’t think it was infected, but wanted to make sure there was no pus in it.  She broke open an egg and fried it up for my brother, then used a pin to carefully remove the skin.  While it was still wet, she placed it over the wound and smoothed it out.  It adhered to the skin, and as it dried, it shrank.  And as it shrank, it applied gentle pressure to the wound.  If there was any infection or pus, it would then be drawn out.  What actually came out were two cactus spines that no knew was there!  Once I pulled those out, my foot healed in a few days.

egg slicer hack – My last hack leads to one of my favorite sandwich spread recipes.  You can chop eggs with the slicer in a no muss no fuss way.  Most people know about this but I’ll explain it any way.  Slice the hard boiled egg normally, but into your cupped hand.  Use your cupped hand to hold the egg together and place it back into the egg slicer at a 90 degree angle from “normal”.  Slice into a bowl and the egg becomes perfectly and uniformly chopped.

So, for one of my favorite sandwich spreads, take three or four eggs and chop them into a bowl.  Add a half cup of chopped cooked chicken.  Add a half cup of shredded cheddar cheese (or whatever your favorite highly flavored cheese is.)  Add a good amount of your favorite nut.  I’ve used sesame seed (about a tablespoonful), sunflower seed (about a 1/4 cup), chopped nut mix (about a 1/2 cup.)  Whatever floats your boat.  Mix it all together gently.  Add a tablespoon of yellow or brown prepared mustard, and two tablespoons of mayonnaise.  Add up to two tablespoons of dill pickle relish (NOT sweet relish) with the juice.  Gently mix it all together until it hold together.  Add more mayonnaise if needed.  Chill for an hour or so, the spread on bread, or crackers, or whatever, and eat!  So good.  Makes a good amount, but I’ve never measure exactly how much.

So what are your favorite kitchen hacks, or egg hacks, or life hacks?  Share with the rest of us, okay?

And as always,


Post #606 “Aw, Mom! Meatloaf Again?”

October 28, 2018 at 2:02 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

My mom made meatloaf a lot when we were young.  Now, I know why, but back then whenever I saw meatloaf being prepped, it just meant we were going to have hamburger stuff that tasted only of onion, mashed potatoes with butter, and some canned veggie, probably corn.

Now let me explain why this was a problem.  First, although I loved hamburgers, at that time in my life I loathed onions.  Cooked or uncooked, the flavor of onions was terrible to me and I would pick them out or eat around them.  Except in meatloaf where mom put in so many onions it was impossible to extricate them.  So I was forced to eat that terrible nasty tasting stuff.  Second, potatoes were abhorrent to me except in two forms: potato chips, and french fries.  For some reason, though, mashed potatoes were particularly terrible to me.  I think it was because there was just nothing to chew.  I’d put them in my mouth and immediately want to hurl.  But in my mom’s cooking, meatloaf always came with mashed potatoes.  Third, the potatoes I hated were always topped with butter.  And I didn’t like butter.  Pure and simple.  Finicky eater as a kid, not so much as an adult.  But butter was not something I wanted to eat ever.  Finally, a can of veggies of some kind.  Usually corn.  Many times, creamed corn.  Vegetables I loved.  When they were fresh.  Or frozen.  From a can, not so much.  I tolerated them because I understood their potential.

So, I was usually looking at a plate filled with ingredients that I didn’t like.  So I would end up choking them down, or going hungry.  It was an even bet as to which way it was going to go.  Then I grew up and my palate changed and suddenly those things that used to be terrible weren’t so terrible anymore.

I made meatloaf a couple of nights ago.  With mashed potatoes.  And fresh veggies on the side.  And I chuckled when I thought about how much I’d hated this stuff before.  However, this was not my mom’s meatloaf.  And it hadn’t been for decades.

I supposed there are as many meatloaf recipes as there are people making meatloaf.  It’s absolutely one of those dishes that are “made to taste.”  Jennifer Paterson, one of The Two Fat Ladies those inimitable British chefs I love so much, once said, “Salt and pepper to your own taste.  No one knows what your taste is but you, so don’t be shy about it.”  Meatloaf is like that.

So I had a big bunch of hamburger that I needed to use and originally thought about spaghetti.  It’s easy and filling and makes enough to freeze for leftovers.  It’s a budget stretcher type of meal.  But I was a little bored with it.  We have it every couple of weeks.  Not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed the heck out of it.  But I decided I wanted something different.  Besides, Partner/Spouse was fighting a cold and his stomach was a little delicate and the acid from the tomato sauce likely wouldn’t be good for him.

Wouldn’t you know it?  I had all the ingredients for meatloaf!  That’s usually a surprise to me.  Not so much that I have the ingredients, but usually I plan for meatloaf to make sure the ingredients are all there.  But, I wasn’t a hundred percent certain since it has been a while since I made it.  So I looked on the box of onion soup mix.  Not there.

So I went online.  After searching through a couple thousand pages (okay not really, just had to go to the second page) of results, I found what I was looking for.  But it took me a half hour because I was reading so many other recipes.  Like I said, everyone has a different way of doing it.

The basic recipe is a pound of hamburger mixed with a cup of filler of some kind, an egg, a half cup of water, and some seasonings.  It’s shaped into a loaf, either free form or in a pan, and baked at 350 until it’s done.  It’s sliced and served with the standard veggie and starch to make a well balanced meal.

Back in the 50s 60s time frame, someone added dry onion soup mix to give it zest.

At some point, someone else put a layer of ketchup on top to form a glaze.  I’ve topped that glaze with sesame seeds for an added nutty flavor.

The filler became stuffing mix of any kind.

The topping transmogrified into mashed potatoes to give it a Shepherd’s Pie twist.

In college, I substituted the bread filling for cooked rice.  I love rice, so this was a no brainer and it was so good.

Then I changed it up and added shredded potato, or shredded carrot, then both.  At one time there was more shredded veggies than hamburger and it became a vegetable loaf.  But it was good.  A couple of times I’ve added a can of chopped tomatoes and turned it into a wonderful juicy loaf that tasted great.

But it always followed that same basic formula.  Then my mom shared something she’d read about putting a layer of meatloaf, then a layer of cooked potato, than a layer of meatloaf.  I tried that and it was good, but don’t use mashed potatoes unless they’re very stiff and not creamy.

Once, I put a thick layer of Tater Tots in the center.  The neat about that was they sopped up a bunch of the meatloaf grease with all the flavors and though they got a little mushy, they tasted wonderful.

Through watching food shows on television, I learned the technique of mixing the types of ground meats to get more flavor.  Seasoned pork, turkey, chicken, beef, veal, rabbit, I’ve seen them all used.  I’ve only ever mixed ground pork and beef, but the flavor was good.  You just have to be aware that the different meats will have different fat content so you may end up with more grease than you’re used to.

So, the other night, I had about two and a half pounds of hamburger.  I put in two eggs, one packet of dried onion soup mix, a tablespoon of onion powder, a tablespoon of garlic powder, a half cup of water, and for the filler, I put in half a pan of leftover cornbread.  After I mixed it all together, I decided there was enough filler and added some crushed Ritz crackers.  I had too much for a standard loaf pan so I put it in an 8x8x2 inch glass baking dish.  I cooked it at 350 for about an hour and twenty minutes to make sure it was cooked through.  When I pulled it out, I drained the fats and greases from the pan and set it aside while I made the potatoes and veggies.

It was good.  The cornbread gave it a hit of sweetness I’d never had before.  The Ritz crackers also added a buttery flavor.  All of it was good.  But I should have added salt and pepper.  It needed that extra hit but I was hesitant since there was a ton of salt in the soup mix.  Next time I’ll know.

We both ate a good chunk, and Partner/Spouse took some for lunch, but I ended up freezing a little over half of it.  In retrospect, I should have divided the mixture into two loaf pans, cooked them both, then frozen one and kept the other for sandwiches, etc.

So what ways do you mess with meat loaf to make it more palatable for your family?  I’ve heard of barbecue sauce, dill pickle juice, and jalapeno peppers being used.  Tell us your favorite meatloaf dish.

And as always,

Post #605 It’s Called Peanut Butter

October 21, 2018 at 3:56 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

There’s a love-hate relationship with peanut butter.  You either love it or you hate it.  I’ve read article headlines that seem to claim the ability to like peanut butter is written in your DNA.  I’m not certain about that, but I know that I both like peanut butter and despise peanut butter.  How can that be?, you ask.  Well, I’ll tell you.

Like most people, I grew up eating PBJs.  My mom was never too worried about school work as long as we passed each grade.  She thought our time was better spent playing in the fresh air and eating peanut butter sandwiches.  I still eat peanut butter sandwiches.  The only way I like my PBJ now is two slices of bread that match when they close (my little brother laughs heartily every time he sees this), only smooth peanut butter spread not too thickly and not too thinly edge to edge, and ice cold grape jam spread thinly edge to edge.  And don’t bother to cut those puppies, and leave those crusts on.  That’s the only way I will eat peanut butter.

Oh!  And I like these things:

But that’s likely mostly to do with the chocolate.

So, don’t hand me a cracker with peanut butter on it.  Don’t try to tempt me with a warm peanut butter cookie.  Throw that spoonful of peanut butter you’re trying to entice me to eat to the dogs.  It just won’t work.  I don’t like peanuts much either.

I like most nuts, but there are two I won’t touch unless forced to.  One is the peanut, the other is the almond.  I once got into a conversation with a flight attendant on a trip where we discusses the curiosities of the nuts people leave behind.  Apparently, more people don’t eat their almonds than I realized.  It seems to be a universally enjoyed nut.  And in the 70s, you couldn’t get a jar of mixed nuts that wasn’t mostly peanuts due to their low cost.

I will eat crushed peanuts in Asian foods like Pad Thai.  And I’ll eat almonds when I can’t get away with spitting them out.  It’s not the flavors I mind; it’s the fact they exist.  It’s weird, I know, and I have no rational explanation.  I just don’t like them.

So, what’s all this got to do with peanut butter?  Since I seem to be rambling.  Well, I ran across that old ad a few days ago, and it sent me on the path of reminiscing about a Christmas in upstate New York, very near to where we’re at now.

At that time, I was in second grade.  Everybody wanted this.  My latent cooking skills were just starting to emerge.  Remember, this is about the time my dad started to teach me how to make the family’s popcorn using that suicidal electric contraption that I still can’t believe was ever sold legally.  Easy Bake Ovens were all the rage and I wanted one of those, too, but it was a girl’s toy so I never got one.

A Mr. Peanut Peanut Butter Maker was something everyone could enjoy.  So the three of us begged and pleaded and it magically appeared under our tree that year.  We were so excited.

The commercial made it look so easy.  You set the contraption up, poured some peanuts in a hopper, turned away at the handle, and peanut butter appeared, after some time, coming out the other side of his head.  What we learned was that the stuff that came out the other side of his head only appeared after a long, laborious amount of time, and was pretty grainy.  We also learned that if we put the results through the process again, it got a little smoother, but it would never reach the true creamy smooth stage we got in jar.

And there was only enough peanut butter to make one small sandwich.  So to make it fair, we spread it on crackers and each had a couple.  We pronounced it good, and went to the kitchen to make real PBJs cuz it was lunchtime and we were hungry.  That was the only time we ever used it because it was a bitch to clean so I don’t think we ever did.  You can guess what it looked like the next time we looked at it.

Now that I’m older (way older, but that’s enough about that)(Sheesh, more than half a century since that Christmas!) I got to wondering about making peanut butter at home.  There are stores you can go to where you can make your own nut butters out of any nuts they sell.  I’ve been to craft festivals and farmer’s markets where you can get almond butter, walnut butter, peanut butter, pecan butter, sesame butter (tahini), sunflower seed butter, ad infinitum and any blend you want made as you watch.  I’ve never tried them, but people I know who have eaten them say they’re good.  But for a good home version, what do you do?

Turns out, it’s not so hard.  It can be made with one simple ingredient, but can also be made with up to four.

The first ingredient is peanuts.  Let’s talk about those.  There are many varieties of peanuts and I’m not going to go into that now.  But the primary thing about the peanut when being used in peanut butter is they must not be raw.  Have you ever eaten a raw peanut?  It’s pretty good.  It has a naturally sweet flavor to it, and doesn’t taste overwhelmingly like peanuts.  However, don’t use raw peanuts to make peanut butter.  The result is . . . well, kind of gross.  Use roasted peanuts, or boiled.  Roasting tastes better, but it’s up to you.  That’s if you’re starting with raw peanuts.  Mostly you won’t be.  So use peanuts that have already been cooked, whether it’s roasting or boiling.  The skins on the peanuts need to be taken off completely.  If you’re using roasted or boiled peanuts, go the extra step and get them skinless, too.

The second ingredient is salt.  This is entirely up to you.  Most commercial brands use a little salt simply because it tastes good.  You make that call.  But be careful.  Once you put salt in, you cannot take it out.  Salt can be added at any point during the process.  You can even use roasted and salted peanuts.

The third ingredient is oil.  Now this is totally optional except Alton Brown suggests using it, and nearly all the commercial brands use it.  Mostly it’s peanut oil, but it can be other types.  It’s used as an emulsifier to make the peanut butter smoother and creamier, and to stay together better.  But, you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.  You decide based on the finished product.

The final ingredient is sugar.  Odd, isn’t it?  We put salt in for flavor, but we don’t use sugar for that, although if you use too much, you’ll certainly know it.  The commercial brands use more or less of sugar and all for the same reason.  When you make peanut butter, it tends to be kind of liquid-y, and sugar helps bind it together.  Some brands use a sugar syrup, but that’s not a consideration for us since the amount you’d use is so small as to be almost negligible.

So!  There’s the ingredients.  I already knew all those from my Mr. Peanut from decades ago.  Now the process.

Before I started researching it, I assume the first peanut butter was made by pounding the peanuts with a rock, or a mortar and pestle.  A reasonable assumption based on how flour was first produced, and how seeds and grains were first processed.  And there is some evidence that a form of peanut butter was made by the ancient Aztecs a bazillion years ago through a process of boiling and pounding.  However, peanut butter as we know it wasn’t made until the mid-1800s, far passed the “pounding with a rock” stage.  Interesting fact, peanut butter wasn’t created by George Washington Carver as most people assume due to his experiments and articles about the peanut.  It was first made by Marcellus Edson in Canada.  And he milled it, meaning he used a grind stone, of sorts, to mill the peanuts into a paste.

So, since pounding wasn’t going to be involved, and simply breaking down the peanuts by machine was the way to go, my nimble brain immediately latched onto the food processor.  Bingo!  According to all the recipes that are reputable, a food processor is the perfect machine to make peanut butter.  If you don’t have one, you can use a strong blender.  So here’s the recipe:

  • 2 cups roasted peanuts, salted or not, skins OFF
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt, optional
  • 1-2 tablespoons peanut oil, optional
  • 1-3 tablespoon sugar, optional

Place the peanuts in the bowl of the food processor with the processing blade intact.  Process steadily for two minutes.  Unplug the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Plug the machine in and process for 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Unplug the machine, and taste the product.  If using, add salt, sugar, and oil by halves to control flavor.  Finish processing correct taste has been reached for one more minute.  Unplug machine, scrape peanut butter into a clean jar with a tight fitting lid.  Store in fridge for up to three months.  Considered rancid when it emits a sour smell.  NOTE:  If using a blender, be certain to scrape unprocessed peanuts from the bottom of the blender.

Roughly crushed peanuts can be stirred into the finished product to achieve a “crunch” texture.

So!  Home made butter, home made peanut butter.  Wonder what I’m going to “home made” next?

Post #604 Mock Up A Que Sauce

October 18, 2018 at 11:15 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Way back in the misty years of time, while I was a young adult still living with my parents, my younger brother came over and asked if anyone had any cash on them.  This was in the days before debit cards, ATMs, and the like, and even credit cards were “not the norm” in our town.  Heck, the big thing going then were check guarantee cards, and it took a lot of work to get one of those suckers.  So, if you had no cash on you, you just didn’t have any money to spend immediately.  He had no cash, and oddly, neither did I or my parents.

Dad asked, “What did you need it for?”  If the need was great enough, he was going to write a check, which in those days was the alternative to cash.

He said, “We’re going to barbecue some chicken and need some barbecue sauce.  And some potatoes.”

I chuckled, “Some chicken too?”

He grinned, “Well, now that you mention it.”

Mom and I went to the kitchen.  She grabbed some chicken and some potatoes and a couple of other things for him, but she couldn’t find any barbecue sauce.

“Don’t worry,” I said.  “I’ll throw some together.”

I know my brother’s tastes, or I did then.  This was over 40 years ago.  And I knew what I liked.  So I looked at what we had.

First, I didn’t want to cook this at all.  He wanted it now so they could start their dinner.  So I needed something that was already a sauce.  Well, tomato sauce was the obvious, but it would need to be cooked.  Oh, ketchup!  It has a robust tomato flavor, and a sweetness that would hold up well with some tangy elements.  It would help cling to the chicken while on the grill and caramelize nicely.  So I grabbed a big bowl and dumped a couple of cups of ketchup into it.

Ketchup by itself would not do, though.  It needed some smoky earthy flavors.  I put a couple of drops of Liquid Smoke (remember that stuff?) and some Worcestershire sauce.  Then for added flavor I put in some garlic and onion powder.

I also wanted some kick and some tanginess.  Heck, we lived in the desert southwest, so kick was easy.  I diced a jalapeno and threw it in, with the seeds.  For tanginess, I thought about vinegar, but I didn’t want to dilute it, so I put in some prepared grainy brown mustard.  With the addition of the peppers, the sauce got chunky instead of staying smooth, so I decided to put it in the blender.

So, after pouring the whole thing in, on a whim, I added several cloves of garlic, a slice of onion, a spoonful of brown sugar, and a drizzle of honey.  Then I put it on puree and let it go to town.  This blender was the workhorse of blenders that my mom had owned since the day she got married.  I defy a glacier to stand up to those blades.  In a few minutes, the sauce was ready and had a nice reddish brown color.

I called my brother out to the kitchen and held a spoon out to him.  “Taste.  Let me know if it needs anything.”

He shoved the spoon in his mouth and swallowed.  His eyebrows went up to his hairline.  “That’s great!  How’d you make that?”

I shrugged.  “It’s a gift.  It doesn’t need anything?”

He shook his head.  “It’s perfect.”

I poured about half into a jar and closed the lid tight.  “Enjoy!  Let me know how everyone likes it.”

They loved it and I was forced to actually write down the “recipe” for it.  Years later, my niece was after me for the “recipe.”  I was forced to tell her that it was just a mash up that I’d thrown together of flavors I knew we all liked.  I re-created  what I remembered, and she’s used it ever since.

So, I thawed out the ribs we got at the farm over the weekend and I wanted to put a dry rub on them to cook into them.  I wimped out and used a prepared rub.  I rubbed the stuff over the ribs and put them in the pan.  I sprinkled more over them, then drizzled olive oil on them.

The combination of the dry rub, the olive oil, and the natural juices from the meat created a wonderful sauce in the bottom of the pan that tasted like a really good barbecue sauce.

The ribs themselves were amazing!  You may recall that this farm was all organic, no hormones, and humane slaughter.  The ribs tasted like it.  So much flavor you just don’t get from the large meat packaging plants.  So tonight I’m braising the chicken we got from them in a roasted salsa verde.  Can’t wait.

Let me know about your favorite mock ups.

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