5/30/11

6 Grillin' Chicken!

The weather is finally warming up....it will be in the high 60's today!  What is more important, is that it is not raining....as much.

I love chicken and love grilling it.  Chicken will dry out on the grill unless it has been marinated.  I used store bought marinades until it dawned on me that I could use a simple vinaigrette salad dressing or even better, make my own.

I usually buy boneless skinless chicken that has been individually flash frozen at Costco.  I was disappointed in the last two packages that I purchased of their Foster Farms chicken...there was a ton of freezer burn on the chicken.  Fortunately, Costco has a great return policy ~  I decided to try their Kirkland boneless chicken.

This is what I found....

Each chicken breast is individually vacuumed sealed, reducing the risk of freezer burn!




Each individual package has a stamped date....no more guessing!


I put the unopened package of chicken in the microwave to thaw out.  While it was thawing, I made my Asian Sesame Ginger dressing.  It was a snap to make with my immersion blender!



Once thawed, all I had to do was snip off one side of the package and let the chicken slide out...

Yay!  I don't have to touch raw chicken!


Pour the marinade on top.  If you have a vacuum food sealer, it will only take 20 minutes to marinate; otherwise, allow 4-6 hours to marinate the chicken in a Ziploc baggie or other container in the fridge.


Preheat your grill on high and scrape of any bits with a brush.

Put the chicken on the grill and toss the leftover marinade.

Grill the chicken on high, uncovered, for a total of 20-25 minutes, turning it over every five minutes to prevent burning.


The result?   A moist, flavorful chicken!  It tasted great by itself and was even better the next day in a salad, with carrots, Chinese noodles and wrapped in a homemade flour tortilla.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.  Enjoy your day with your families, remembering loved ones and those who fought to preserve our freedoms!

5/27/11

15 Grandma's Cookies

On Mother's Day, while I visiting my mom, I raided her recipe box.

This is what I found.

A worn, well used 3x5 card in my Grandmother's handwriting for Chocolate Chip Cookies.



Immediately, in my mind, I was five years old, watching my grandmother's hands placing a still-oven-warm cookie onto a small square sheet of waxed paper.  She would fold each corner of the wax paper into the middle and secure it with a toothpick.  This sweet treasure was all mine to take with me on the long ride home.

I don't have a lot of memories of her as she passed away that following year.  The memories I do have of her are associated with food....I  remember her putting soft, homemade dinner rolls in large paper grocery sack and throwing it into the oven to warm up for a Thanksgiving dinner.  A large dish of barbeque potato chips on the kitchen table, ready for little fingers to dip into when we arrived.  Making homemade root beer in the summer....

Grandma = comfort food.



I'm not sure where she got this recipe and you will notice that it has no butter or shortening.  If you are concerned about hydrogenation or trans fats, this cookie is for you.



I made this with Canola oil.  Did you know that canola oil is a heart healthy oil?

One bite into this wonderful, soft, and nostalgic cookie tells me everything's all right with the world.



Thanks, Grandma.

Now ....  go raid your mom's recipe box....

and find YOUR favorite cookie recipe....

Grandma B's Chocolate Chip Cookies
(4x6 recipe download)     (full page printable recipe)

5/25/11

12 A Mother's Day Casserole....

Did you grow up on casseroles?  We did.

I remember this casserole because it had Tater Tots.  This was a real treat because we NEVER had Tater Tots....unless it was for this dish...
This is one of my son's favorite meals.

He loves it so much, he made it for me for Mother's Day.

Every year, for Mother's Day, my boys make a meal and clean up.  It's a gift I look forward to and cherish each year.


So what exactly is Tater Tot casserole?   This one is simply a meatloaf pressed into a 8x8 square pan, covered with a can of cream of chicken (or mushroom) soup, Tater Tots arranged on top and baked in the oven.  A meat, potatoes, and gravy lover's delight.

What is YOUR favorite casserole?

Tater Tot Casserole
(4x6 recipe download)     (full page printable recipe)


5/23/11

5 It's a Win ~ Win ~ Win Situation!

Each time you visit my site, leave a comment, or visit other pages within my site, I am monetarily compensated.  Think of that little corner of my blog as prime real estate; I'm just renting out the space.  It's not a substantial amount, by any means, but what you may not know is what I do with the money.

Food bloggers will understand that it takes time to do a post; to research the recipes, purchase the ingredients, make the food, photograph the food, edit the photos, write the post, and edit the final draft of the post.  They put their whole heart and soul into worthwhile content for YOU to enjoy!

It IS a lot of work, but when you DO what you love and LOVE what you do, it does not feel like work.  I know a fantastic blogger that relies on her food blog for income, as her husband is looking for a job.  She loves what she does and it shows in her blog posts.  Other food bloggers have full time day jobs and their blog is simply a hobby; a creative outlet for them.

So what do food bloggers do with their blogging income?  Some of them turn the money around and use it for food.  Great dishes begin with quality ingredients and as all of you know, the cost of food is on the rise. 

Others may use their money to host their site, pay for their blog design, or pocket it for something fun like cute shoes or a purse.

Me?  I like to use my blogging income for giveaways.  I believe in what goes around, comes around.  Reciprocity.  Call it karma, if you wish.  It is a win ~ win ~ win situation for everybody involved.

A WIN for my family to enjoy great food, even though they have to wait patiently for me to photograph it.

A WIN for me in several ways.  I get to use my creativity in the kitchen.  I get to meet so many fantastic bloggers and try their recipes.  I have a place to store recipes for my family and friends.  Oh yeah ...  I get to eat the food!

And a WIN for YOU, the readers.  You get to enjoy the post, photos, tips and hopefully make the recipe with the ones you love.  You get to participate in a giveaway and hopefully win.  See how this works?  It's one ginormous circle!

I get giddy when it is time to do a giveaway.  I love picking out a quality item and posting about it.


I love to read each and every comment on the giveaway.  It's really cool to go to Random.org, punch in the numbers, feel the anticipation, and see what it spits out.



Then I get to email the recipient and tell them the GREAT news!!  Many times, they tell me that "I never win anything....I'm so excited!"



And that makes me smile.

Congrats, Freckles and Sunshine!  Look for an email from me.....

5/20/11

19 Roasted is Always Better...


When a neighbor of ours gave us some awesome sweet corn last year, my hubby threw a couple of cobs into the fire pit.  The result?  A sweet, smokey tasting corn that we all loved!

It begins with fresh, sweet corn.  Corn on the cob begins to lose its sweetness the minute it is picked.

We grill our corn using this method every summer.  It's easy:  soak the corn in the husk, throw it on the grill, and bake!

Freezing corn and enjoying it year round is great too...a great way to bring a little summer sunshine into a dreary winter day!

My father in law found some corn on sale and gave us a few ears.

I soaked the UNhusked corn in my kitchen sink filled with water while the fire was built.  A bucket of water works, too.

You want to put the soaked cobs directly onto the white, powdery coals.  Not into the orange, fire-y coals.


Turn them every 5 minutes or so, till the husks are black, about 25-30 minutes.

As the fire burns, move the corn cobs toward the center of the fire.


After 30 minutes, pull the cobs out and handle carefully with hot pads.

Pull the husks off....the silk comes of easily....butter and season as you wish...salt, pepper, cayenne, Season All, bbq seasoning....


Are you ready for summer?



5/18/11

15 Com'on Lil' Doggies!


Many years ago, when my kids were little, I tried to make corn dogs.  Emphasis on the word, tried.

Tried and failed.

What happened?

The batter just wouldn't stick.  I tried drying off the hot dogs and got some of the batter to stick.

As soon as it hit the hot oil, the batter just sliiiiiiiid off and left the naked hot dog to cook on its own.

Enter the Internet.

I searched high and low to find the perfect corn dog recipe.  There are SO many variations.  I read every recipe, review, and wrote down copious notes.

So here ya go, folks!  The perfect corn dog!

If you are lucky enough to have a wheat grinder, use it to grind UNpopped popcorn kernels on the coarse setting.

Fresh cornmeal.  Nothing like it.  Don't worry, packaged cornmeal works great too.


Though the original recipe did not include it, I used honey as part of my sweetener.  Tip:  spray the inside of your measuring cup/spoon with oil, measure the honey, and it will sliiiiiiide right out.  Cool!


Kids don't like a gritty corndog, so I let this mixture sit for a good 30 minutes or so.  This also allows the flour to absorb all the wet ingredients.

Use all beef dogs.  Yes, you will pay a little more, but it makes a GREAT corn dog.  You won't regret it.

You will want your dogs room temperature....these fry up pretty quickly and no one wants a hot corn dog with cold insides.  They can sit out safely for the 30 minutes that your cornmeal is soaking.

Dry them off with a paper towel.


Coat them with all purpose flour.  Some recipes call for cornstarch.  I used all purpose flour.  After some trial and error, I discovered that cutting the hot dogs in half fit better in my fryer and were easier to cook.


This batter looks too thin.  I was right.  It slid off and this is what I got.


I added more flour till I got this consistency:


Bamboo skewers were cut in half (remember to cut the pointy end off!) and stuck into the floured dog.  They are then dunked into a glass filled with batter, lifted up and "swirled" slightly to help the batter stop dripping.


I have seen posts where corn dogs are fried in a heavy cast iron skillet, being turned as they cook.  Make sure you can fill it with 2"- 3" of oil.

I used my deep fryer, with and without the basket. 

Without the basket, it sank and stuck to the element, creating burn marks on it.  I was more successful with the basket, QUICKLY turning the corn dog with a fork.  If I didn't turn it, it would stick to the basket and stay stuck there.  The dogs will float to the surface and are easily turned there, as well.


Put them to drain on a paper towel lined rack, and cut one open.

Woot!


How did they taste? 

Crispy outside, and juicy inside.  Perfect!

This recipe covered 16 full hot dogs, which made 32 doggies.  These freeze really well and warm up in the microwave nicely for a quick meal.

You can even cut them in fourths, omit the sticks, use tongs to dip and fry...

Corn dog bites!  A great appetizer, don't you think?


Give 'em a try.  It'll bring out the kid in ya.

Perfect Corn Dogs
(4x6 recipe download)      (full page printable recipe)

5/16/11

12 A Buttery Alternative....


There are not very many cookies that I will buy from the store.  Oreos are one.  Pecan Sandies are another.  There's something about the crunchiness of these cookies that I crave.

I decided it's time to expand my cookie collection...I really, really wanted a pecan sandie.  The crispy cookie with the melt in your mouth "sandy" texture and this is the recipe I found.

Sables.  The name for a classic  French Butter cookie, "Sable" literally means "sand."  Kind of unnerving to think of eating sand in anything, but this is a delicate, crumbly, smooth, melt in your mouth kind of sandy texture.  You'll have to try it for yourself and see.

It begins with an unlikely ingredient.  A hard boiled egg.


I know what you're thinking, but the yolk is what gives this cookie it's sandy texture!  All you need is one perfectly boiled and peeled egg.  Too bad I didn't find this recipe around Easter time!

The yolk is pushed through a mesh strainer into a creamed mixture of butter and sugar.


I chose to make two batches:  one vanilla, and the other chocolate.  Check this post for a neat cocoa measuring tip! 


I took half of each dough and rolled them into a 3" log, wrapped in plastic and chilled for one hour.

The rest, I rolled each dough into a rectangle 1/4" thick, wrapped them in plastic, and chilled them in the fridge for one hour.

The plain chocolate and plain vanilla logs were cut into 1/4" slices,


while the layered doughs were rolled into a tight log and cut into 1/4" slices.


The tops were brushed with a mixture of egg white, (the raw liquid kind) water, and sprinkled with coarse (turbinado) sugar.

I couldn't wait to taste these decadent, pretty cookies!


This cookie is rich, buttery, and has just the right sandy texture.  These cookies were not very sweet, so the sugar topping complimented these cookies very well.  My favorites were the vanilla and the swirls.  The all-chocolate ones were just a wee bit cocoa-y for me, but you may like them!

My mom said these would be pretty enough for a bridal or baby shower.  I thought they would make an excellent addition to a Christmas cookie platter.

In any case, they were way much better than the store bought sandie cookie! 

Cravings cured!

French Butter Cookie (Sables)
(4x6 recipe download)     (full page printable recipe)

5/14/11

5 Penny-isms in Food Photography

Meet Penny De Los Santos, photojournalist and photographer.

Ree Drummond, from Pioneer Woman Cooks, introduced her to me.

Virtually, of course.  I "met" Penny through an online photography class through CreativeLive.  It has been two days of the best reality tv I could ever imagine. 

I watched.

I listened.

I laughed.

I learned.  A lot.

She used descriptive words that I call, "Penny-isms."

Crusty

Sexy

Hot

Cool

Messy

Dirty

Loose

Amazing

Great

Gorgeous

Pretty

Does that make sense? 

Well, she said that, too.  It made her human and she connected, really connected with everybody. 

She was engaging, thought provoking, and most of all, encouraging.  I am such a newbie to photography and came away with a whole new perspective. 

What did she encourage us to do?

1.  Practice your "seeing" daily.  Study food magazines, food photo books, food photo sites.
2.  Use beautiful ingredients.  The more beautiful, the easier the shot.
3.  Use natural light.  Always, always, always.

I also learned that it is important to be passionate about what you do. 

Do what you love, love what you do.

Thanks, Penny!

There is ONE session left tomorrow.  The videos from the first two days are available for free on the course page, or you can purchase the download for $99.  After the program ends, the price will go up to $149, so sign up and watch the magic happen!

5/13/11

26 Another Favorite Hamburger Bun!


First of all, it's Friday the 13th and I'm a little miffed that Blogger has deleted over 70 comments for my Cuisinart Immersion Blender giveaway!! 

Grrrr......

I tried to re-post your comments and Blogger won't let me.

Double grrrrrrr....

So, for TODAY, you can enter TWICE

Back to our regularly scheduled post....

My all time favorite hamburger bun is whole wheat.  This one pictured is a very, very close runner up.  Albertson's (now known as Fresh Market...still can't get the hang of the new name..) has some yummy French bread hamburger buns and one day...

they were out.

As in, "No, we don't have any, and are not making any more today."

Wha.......? 

Then a thought crossed my mind, "Why don't YOU make your own?"

Hello....duh.

A true French bread recipe has simple ingredients: yeast, water, salt, and oil.  I choose to add a wee bit of sugar to assist the yeast and give this bread some of its golden brown color.

Let's have a go, shall we?

All purpose, unbleached bread flour (I love to use Lehi Roller Mill's Turkey flour), active dry yeast, Real Salt, and some sugar are thrown into the bowl.

Give it a quick stir.


Stick your finger into some warm water.  If it feels warm, it's too warm.  If it feels cool, it's too cool.  If you can't feel any temperature difference, it's just right!

A real Goldilocks moment, huh?

Add some oil to the water.  I like to use canola oil.  Dump this into your flour mix.


Give it a mix, making sure to scrape the bottom.  Allow it to sit for 15 minutes.

This will give your flour some time to absorb the liquids and the yeast to create some lovely little bubbles...


Add the rest of your flour, a cup at a time, till it looks like this...


Is it ready?

No.

Give it a few more minutes of kneading and it will look like this!


Touch the dough lightly.  It should feel smooth, wet, and tacky.  Not sticky.  No dough should stick to your fingers.

Is it ready?

Yes!

I love my bowl scraper.  Here is is in action, cleaning the dough hook and scraping down the sides:


Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise till double.  Here in Utah, that only takes 30 minutes.  It may take up to an hour, depending on where you live.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces.  If you have a scale, each piece will be about 4 ounces.

Pull up the "corners" of the dough and tuck them into a smooth ball.


Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, or use a parchment or Silpat sheet.  Lightly grease the tops and cover with plastic wrap, rise till double, around 30 minutes or up to an hour.

To get a crispy crust, put an old pan in the bottom of your oven.  Turn the oven to 400ºF.

Just before baking, slightly smoosh the buns to 1"


Find a serrated knife (this is a tomato knife) and make a quick 1/4" deep slash.



Throw a cup of hot water into the old pan in the bottom of the oven, put the buns in, and quickly shut the door.

Wait 30 seconds, then quickly spritz the middle of the oven with water.  Shut the oven door.

Do this two more times, then turn the oven temperature down to 375ºF.

The combo of high heat and water will create a crispy, chewy outer crust.

You must remember to turn your oven down or they will bake too quickly!

In 15 or so minutes, this is what you will have...


I made Juicy Homemade Hamburger Patties with melted cheese, and made a Classic Burger Sauce which paired fabulously with these buns that have a tender crumb and slightly chewy crust!


French Bread Hamburger Buns
(4x6 recipe download)     (full page printable recipe)
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