Sunday, December 5, 2010

Operation Clean Fridge: Fried Ravioli

I took out a package of chicken and mozzarella ravioli from the freezer but the package was so big that I could only eat a little bit of it. I put the rest of it into a zip-lock bag and nearly forgot about it in the fridge. Until tonight.

I have a jar of frying oil in the fridge and I tapped into that and put it into a small pan. I only needed less than two inches of oil to fry since there wasn't a lot to cook. I only cooked two at a time too because the pan was so small and the ravioli had a tendency to stick together if they were too crowded. It's really very simple and you fry the uncooked (don't boil it) ravioli. A person could deep fry tortellini too. That would be delicious! Now remember that this really only works with the "fresh" type stuffed pasta. It's like a wonton.

The finished dish was yummy! I had this for dinner tonight with a dish of pasta sauce on the side. A salad would have been good with this but I haven't had salad since Dale left. He makes the best dressing! I miss him!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Beautiful Blackberry Jam

I've been on this kick to make all of my Christmas gifts this year and I've been having a ball (the pun was intended for those of you who know the "ball" reference) with canning. I made the pear-apple butter, which I've enjoyed because there was a smudge of it left that I couldn't can. I had it on a toasted bagel this morning and it was yummy! For those of you who really know me, I'm not a fruit person and definitely not a fruit spread person.

Today I was at Costco and the blackberries looked really good. So I grabbed four cartons of them and headed off to my local Ace Hardware store. They have a large canning section and I picked up some nice 1/2 pint jars and a flat of cute little 1/4 pints ones too. Those will be my office gifts. I'm going to make more pear-apple butter tomorrow and more bacon jam too.

I was really surprised by how easy it was to make fresh jam and I was glad I found a recipe that didn't call for any sugar. Looking at some of the recipes (online and on the pectin box) regular jam called for so much sugar. Nearly 4 cups per batch! So I found one that used honey instead of sugar and I was sure to get the pectin for no added sugar.

Blackberry Jam

One Batch Makes About 4 1/2 Cups (only make one batch at a time as you cannot double jam and get it to thicken properly)

2 and 1/4 pounds fresh blackberries (about 8 cups)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup honey
1 package of fruit pectin for no sugar added (like I said I got mine at my Ace Hardware store but I'm sure you can find it in your grocery store, even off season)

Prepare your jars, rings, and lids for canning and have your water bath near boiling. I got two 1/2 pints and five 1/4 pints from one batch. Or you could make two pint jars if you go through jam quickly.

Sort through, wash, and drain the berries then put them in a large pot. Take a potato masher and thoroughly mash the berries until there are no whole berries and then add the lemon juice. In another bowl mix the honey with the packet of pectin and set aside but within reach of the stove.

Put the pot on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring continuously so you don't burn it. Don't worry, if you pay attention and keep stirring burning is practically impossible. Like I said, I was really surprised by how easy it was to make.

As your mixture is boiling add the honey and pectin mixture. This will melt in and keep stirring. Once your jam has come to a vigorous boil time for about 3 minutes. I timed my boil at 4 minutes because of the altitude. Turn off the heat. The jam will be thicker but still runny.

Pour the jam into the jars, place on lids and rings and processes according to jar size. Let cool and seal. I applied labels with the ingredients listed. I think these are really pretty and the jam set up nicely because of the pectin. I actually tasted it and because there was only a small amount of honey the jam was a bit tangy and I thought tasted a bit like cherries. It was pretty good. Maybe my taste buds are changing as I'm getting older.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pear-Apple Butter

Wow, this is a lot of work for very little yield but I must admit that it was worth it. I must say that I even liked the finished product. I'm not a fan of pears or apples cooked (I don't like pears raw, but I do like apples) and when my butter was going through the cooking process it was at a stage of being sauce at one time and I thought...GAG! After 3-4 hours late it was looking and smelling pretty good to me and I tried some and I liked it! It was nice and sweet and slightly tangy. The flavors were very simple and intense and I could taste the blend of pear and apple. Now I just have to make more since I only ended up with 4 half pints.

Pear-Apple Butter

Yields 4 Cups (I recommend that you double this just to make the time worth takes a long time but so worth it)

2 1/2 pounds Gala apples
2 1/2 pounds Anjou pears
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cinnamon stick

Peel, quarter, and core all of the apples and the pears. This takes some time, but if you're good with a paring knife this shouldn't be too painful. Take the fruit and chop it up (in batches if you need to) in a food processor. Don't worry if the puree starts to turn brown because you'll be cooking the bejeezus out of it. Put the puree into a large slow cooker and cook covered on high for four hours. Carefully puree until smooth (in batches if you need to) in the food processor and put back into the slow cooker uncovered for four more hours. It will not burn but turn dark and thick.

I made the mistake of putting the fruit into my larger slow cooker for one batch. So I transferred it to my smaller one, but by then it had taken forever to reduce down. If you double the batch the larger cooker will be fine. I finished the butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat, stirring constantly until the fruit was very, very thick and there wasn't much moisture. It should be able to hold it's shape if you stir it up with a rubber spatula and look a bit like canned pumpkin.

While the mixture is still hot fill your hot jars for canning. Process half pints according to the directions. I did mine for 12 minutes because of the high altitude.

I can't wait to give this as gifts! I'm planning on making a double batch again very soon!

Bacon Makes Everything Taste Better...

...practically! Who doesn't agree? And if you don't, you're crazy!

The very words bacon jam bring two reactions. Either sheer delight or sheer disgust. Hey, don't knock it until you try it! This would be wonderful on a warm biscuit or a piece of buttered toast or even a juicy burger. The below recipe is doubled because since it takes quite a bit of time it's best to get your times worth.

Bacon Jam

Yields 5 Cup

3 pounds of slice bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces (this doesn't have to be the top quality thick sliced bacon, in fact the cheaper stuff is great for this because it's usually sliced really thin)
4 medium yellow onions, diced small
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled (I use the jarred chopped garlic)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 1/2 cup brewed black coffee

I used my electric frying pan, cook bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned (about 20 minutes, and I had to do this in batches since I doubled the recipe. That's right...three pounds of love!). With a slotted spoon transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet. Save the rest in a jar in the fridge. Bacon fat is delicious in all sorts of things!

In the skillet add the onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent (about 6 minutes). Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and black coffee and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping all of the brown bits (about 2 minutes). Add bacon and stir to combine and slowly simmer on low (simmer setting) in the pan for 1 hour. The slow simmering intensifies the flavor. There will be quite a bit of juice leftover after simmering. Turn up heat and simmer at medium heat until the juice has reduced to a nice syrup.

Shut off heat and put mixture into a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Your mixture will have a jam texture. I then put the jam back into the pan on warm setting and added 2 teaspoons of cider vinegar. After tasting the jam it was nice and sweet and the extra added cider gives it a bit of a zing.

I heated up water, sterilized my half pint jars, lids, rings, and all utensils then I brought my water bath to a boil. Putting the mixture back in the pan kept it warm. You want warm jam to put into the warm sterile jars. I filled to the threads (you need head-space) and put on the sterile lids (boiled these in a separate pan...that's what my Mom always did) and screwed on a ring until finger tight.

I put my filled jars into the water bath and brought it to a boil. Once it started boiling I timed 11 minutes. Normally at sea level the processing time is only 5 minutes, but I am 6,000 feet above and I had to add a minute processing for each 1,000 feet. It seemed to do the trick since all of my bacon jam jars sealed!

Neato! I wrote out cute labels I had with the name and ingredients. I can't wait to give these as gifts. I think I'm going to have to make another batch. I don't think that 5 jars are enough to give out. I tried some on a little bagel and it was very good and rich. A little will do, but that's all you need to savor the wonderful taste of this delectable jam! Enjoy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Operation Clean Freezer: Mini Beef Loaves

My sister, Darcie and I have been making these since we were children. I'm not sure where there recipe originated but I'm sure my older sister, Deb was involved somehow. When we were growing up we used to stay with her a lot.

These are a great meal for grown-ups as well as kids. It's a twist on a basic meatloaf recipe but pretty simple and kids can help with the preparation.

Mini Beef Loaves

Makes 8 loaves, serves 4
This recipe doubles easily (just use more muffin tins)

1 pound ground hamburger (get something fairly lean since you don't want a ton of fat pooling in the muffin cups. I used ground buffalo because that's all I use these days in lieu of burger)
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs or finely crushed crackers (I remember using Ritz, but used breadcrumbs when I made these now)
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes (fresh onion can be used, but mince fine)
2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
mozzarella cheese (all I had were string cheese, but these were nice and easy)
ketchup (I used yummy curry ketchup)

In a bowl mix all ingredients (minus cheese and ketchup) thoroughly. You could use onion soup mix if you'd like instead of all of the spices above. I know there are so many variations of meat loaf. Use whatever you like. Just make sure if you use other veggies that they are minced. The loaves are pretty small.

Take a couple tablespoons (or ping pong ball size) of mixture and pat into each muffin compartments in a muffin tin. I was able to get only 7 because I put more meat in each compartment. Make sure you press the meat up the sides of the compartments and leave a well in the middle for the cheese. Save enough mixture for the tops of the loaves. About a tablespoon or so. It doesn't have to be a lot, but enough to cover.

Place cheese into each compartment before you put the tops on. Seal the top on fairly well although the cheese will bubble out. Cover each loaf with ketchup. In a preheated 350 degree F oven put in the loaves and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until done. Be careful not to over cook so your loaves aren't dried out. No one likes dried out meat loaf either.

Once cooked take a fork and remove from the muffin tin and enjoy while they're hot!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Operation Clean Pantry: Samgak Kimbap (Triangle Kimbap)

I love these things! When I was in Korea a buddy of mine and I traveled around quite a bit and we would stop at convenience stores while on the road. I usually got a coffee or small soda and a couple of these samgak kimbap. These are rice and roasted pressed dried algae (kim) usually stuffed with meat and hot sauce. They are really clever because they are wrapped a certain way where you peel the plastic off and the kim is still nice and crunchy when it touches the rice.

I loved shopping at the local stores such as E-Mart or Lotte Mart. Mega shopping centers with tons of cool stuff and food. I found these plastic wrapped kim made for making samgak kimbap. I brought a bunch of them home with me.

I decided to make these and give these out to friends. I think they are really tasty and fun to make and eat. You can find the sheets of kim at a well stocked Korean store. Ask and you may be able to order them. Sometimes they come with the mold, but you can mold them by hand if you need to.

Samgak Kimbap

Makes 8-9 Kimbap

4-5 cups fresh cooked Korean rice (warm)
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons white sugar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

Mix the vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl until dissolved. I usually microwave it for about 30 seconds to speed up the process. Pour the mixture over the rice (in a big bowl) and cut in and mix with a rice paddle. Set aside and let cool.

Can tuna, drained and squeezed well
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
black pepper

Heat vegetable oil in a pan and add tuna. Cook for a minute and add garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar and stir. Cook for another minute. Mixture will be dry. Turn off the heat and add the sesame oil, seeds and black pepper and mix. Put in a bowl and set aside to cool.

Once the rice and tuna mixture are cool start making your triangles!

Using damp hands press a little rice into the bottom of your mold. I make a slight indentation in the middle to hold the filling. Put in some tuna filling and a little Korean red pepper sauce. This makes it taste really good!

Then using damp hand press some more rice on top. You'll want to press firmly but don't over pack it. Lay out a sheet of the prepared kim with the writing side down. Pop the rice triangle out and place the top tip at the top of the kim. Usually the kim package will have instructions. Bring the bottom of edge of the kim up and fold the sides in and use the stickers provided to seal.

These are so delicious. Unwrapping them takes a bit of practice but that'll just give you an excuse to eat more of them! I got this recipe from my favorite online Korean cook, Maangchi and you can watch her demonstrate as well. Thanks, Maangchi!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Operation Clean Freezer: Hot Wings

This is my first attempt at making hot wings. I know! It's about time right? My sister, Dori is really good at making "wings" and they are really tasty, and well, she does live in Texas so her secret is to fry them in oil and then toss them in sauce.

Since my home is not the colossal sized house that she and her family enjoy, frying food in her nice deep fryer and in all that space isn't so bad, but I don't want my place to smell like a fried chicken shack for days. So, I am going to bake them. Plus baking is a bit healthier or at least I would like to think so!

So I thawed some frozen chicken wings from the freezer and patted them dry with paper towels. I think this is one of the most crucial things when you're going to make wings. You want any excess moisture to be gone and this goes for baking as well as frying. Especially when frying because the excess water can be explosive when it mixes with the hot oil.

So I arranged them on a pan and then sprinkled both sides with this great local seasoning called Schultz's Gourmet Premium Seasoning and Rub. I bought this at Costco and it's a local company. They make a hot sauce that rocks beyond belief. That's what inspired me to make hot wings in the first place. This seasoning is going to be good because the salt in it will help pull out some moisture from the skin and make it somewhat crispy. I hope!

After laying out all of seasoned wings I threw the pan in a 400 degree F oven and baked them for about 30 minutes and then I carefully poured off any juice from the pan making sure not to tip it too much and toss any wings into the sink! Then back in the oven they went.

After another 15 minutes of cooking I then turned them over, gave a few of the wings a light sprinkle of the seasoning (some of the seasoning went with the juice), and reset the timer for another 15 minutes (or until meat is done and the juices are running clear. The skin should be golden, brown, and delicious. I turned them again in between this cooking period so they weren't sticking to the foil.

These wings would be good just as they are since the seasoning is so good, but I tossed mine with the special hot sauce as well. I'm not a fan of dipping my hot wings in bleu cheese or ranch dressing so none for me. All I need is a good cold beer (sad, none in the house so a Coke will have to do) and a good warm cloth to clean up my fingers and lips in between feasting.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Operation Clean Fridge: Pulled Pork

Yum! This was so good. Like I mentioned I thawed some pork country spare ribs and cooked them in the Crock Pot last weekend. This is the way pork should be eaten in my book. This was so simple because I had the piece in the fridge stored in a zip-lock bag. What I did was squeeze the pork in the bag and microwaved it for about 30 seconds to heat it up a bit. Then I opened the bag and sprinkled in some dried onion, put in some BBQ sauce and some hot sauce and I kneaded the bag so everything was nice and mixed. I then microwaved it for about a minute or so. Then when it was good and hot I put it on my buns (using the Thomas Bagelthins these days) and put some string cheese on top and nuked it one last time for about another minute until the cheese was melted. YUM!

Operation Clean Fridge: Skillet Breakfast

So the quest continues to clean out the fridge and the freezer. Today I used some leftover pork that I thawed from the freezer and cooked last weekend in my little Crock Pot. It was so tender and I've been eating it in soup. This morning I felt like a skillet breakfast. This is when you take whatever and brown it in a skillet, throw it on a plate and slide some eggs on top. I used the pork, some more of those Potato Oles and some awesome seasoning I bought at Costco. Yum!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Our Wedding Was Just Ducky

Dale and I were married on October 2 this year. We had a private ceremony with a few close friends and we plan on having something bigger when he gets back from his deployment to Iraq.

My "sister," Carmen was kind enough and sweet enough to get us this cake. I bought the rubber ducky toppers and they matched perfectly. The cake was as delicious as it looked.

Eggs In a Nest

Well, I'm back in the saddle again...back in the kitchen again and it's time for my version of Iron Chef. Since Dale is gone I really haven't been cooking for myself. I'm sorry to say that I've done a lot of dining out, eating those leftovers or fast food! Gasp! However, I am starting to get back into cooking and being creative with food.

I go through my own personal Iron Chef challenge on occasion. It's a way to clean out my pantry or freezer to make room for newer and fresher food. I don't like pushing that pack of mystery meat clear in the back only to discover it ages later like an ancient woolly Mammoth! So, the cooking begins. When Dale was getting ready to leave we really cut down buying in bulk and we called that "Operation Pantry/Freezer Clean Sweep." Now I will finish the mission.

I love eating special breakfast and I wanted eggs today. I normally eat my health friendly yogurt and Kashi Go-Lean. This mornings comestible (and it really was tasty) comprised of some leftover Potato Oles that Dale and I had when he ordered the Pack 'n Pound at the Taco Johns on Fort Carson. This meal comprised of 6 tacos and a pound of Potato Oles. We had a bunch of the potato rounds leftover. So they sat in the fridge and we didn't eat them and then I popped them in a bag and into cryogenic suspension waiting...waiting.

Give this a try. It was really good and I think kids would like it because it's fun.

Eggs In a Nest

Serves One

Hashed Brown Potatoes (I used my leftovers, and you can too)
2 Eggs
Crumbled Bacon (I used this bagged stuff I have, but you can use fresh cooked or stuff you prepped a long time ago and froze)
Butter or cooking spray

Heat your pan (I have a small one, but you can use whatever size) on medium and add butter or spray with cooking spray. I used the spray because the Potato Oles are pretty greasy due to their fast food origin. Brown your potatoes in the pan until golden, brown and delicious. When they are ready, turn down the heat a bit and push the spuds to the edges of the pan leaving a hole in the middle, or if you are using a larger pan make a bird nest size. Add a bit more butter or spritz of spray in the middle and crack your eggs in and sprinkle bacon around the edges of the egg. I basted my eggs (put in a little water around the edges and on the yolks and covered with a lid) but you can make them anyway you want. If you want over easy, take the potatoes out and make the eggs and then arrange on the plate. That goes the same for scrambled.

Voila! Slip the nest out onto a warmed plate and enjoy with a slice of buttered toast if you'd like. This is fun and scrumptious. This is a bit like my past post Toad-in-a-Hole breakfast. Although that really isn't Toad-in-a-Hole but I like to call it that.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sorry I Have Been Out of the Kitchen

It's been a long, long time. I can't believe it's been a year since I cooked, photographed, ate and posted something delicious and beautiful.

It's been a very busy year with great additions to my life and some not so great discoveries about my life. I met, fell in love, and married my husband, Dale. He's in Iraq now and I long for the day to see him again.

I was also diagnosed as a pre-diabetic earlier in this year. So, I had to drastically change my eating habits to try to stave off the full blown type 2 diabetes. Obviously this has put a damper on my love for cooking and eating. I must admit that I ate with vigor and most likely to excess like so many of us do. Unfortunately with me getting older (turned the big four-o) and the metabolism isn't like it used to be plus I have the history of diabetes in the family (Korean Granny has been diabetic forever) has taken it's toll.

Of course I started to count carbs and was quite depressed when I realized that I couldn't dive face first into a deep dish of pasta or eat a whole two foot long French baguette on my own anymore. I boycotted cooking and photographing and posting.

Now with some time on my hands I have come to the acceptance that life is too short as it is and I'd rather have quality than excessive quantity. My granny is after all pushing 90 and she's done pretty well for herself with this ailment. I am going to get back into cooking delicious meals and try to be a bit more healthier. We'll see how my new venture in the food world will go. So, I've got some ideas and my cookbooks out. I bought a new kick-ass camera with so many bells and whistles on it and I'm ready to head back into the kitchen. More to follow.