Saturday, September 12, 2015


I must admit that since the first time I made this luscious chocolatey hazelnut butter, I have scarfed down three pint jars of the stuff!  Three, and all by my lonesome.  I love this concoction more than I do the commercial brand.  It's not as pasty or smooth as the original, but the texture is very nice and I love it.  It might not be for you, and it may be cheaper for you to buy the commercial, but I don't think it's as good.  But that's just me.  Give it a try!

Once you jar it, depending on the ambient temperature of your house, you may have to microwave it for about 20-30 seconds and stir before applying it to whatever.  It's been in the lower 60s in our house, and it's quite solid in the jar.  Now, when it was 80 degrees, the stuff flowed...right into my face and right into my belly!  Nom, nom, nom...

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
(Makes 2 Cups)

1 cup raw hazelnuts; this can be heaping as they will shrink a bit while toasting
12 ounces milk chocolate, chopped; can use a bag of milk chocolate chips like Giradelli (one standard 11.5 oz. bag works, the half ounce isn't going to throw off the recipe)
2 Tbls. canola oil
3 Tbls. confectioner's sugar
1 Tbls. unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt; more or less depending on your taste, but I think this amount is perfect

Preheat your oven to 350°F.
I use my counter-top toaster oven.

Spread hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the heated oven.  Check every 5 minutes and give the pan a shake to move them around.  They will become slightly browned and the skins will blister.  Be careful not to burn them!  Take them from the oven.

I roasted some pretty dark and it made the finished spread have more of a deeper, almost coffee-like flavor.  I didn't mind this, but it I think burnt ones would be terrible.

Wrap the nuts in a clean kitchen towel (or a large clean cloth napkin like I did) and rub vigorously to remove most of the skins.  It's okay if some still stick.  Okay, I admit that I have OCD and I sorted through the nuts by hand and peeled off as much of the skins as I could, but you don't have to be that picky if you're not compelled to be so.  Let the nuts completely cool.

In a food processor, grind the hazel nuts until fine.  Then add the oil, sugar, vanilla, cocoa powder and salt and continue to process until the nuts have become a paste.  This make take some time and you may have to scrape down the bowl.  The more you grind the better to alleviate any unpleasant grittiness.  Unless you like that!

Melt the chocolate in the microwave.  I set the timer for 1 minute and 20 seconds and stopped it every 20 second intervals and stirred in between.  Microwave until chocolate is mostly melted.  It's best to still see pieces and stir until all has melted.  The residual heat will melt the chocolate nicely and it will be cool enough to add now.

Add the chocolate into your nut paste and process until very smooth.  It won't be perfectly smooth like the commercial kind, but I like it and it's not as pasty

The mixture will be very runny, but will thicken a bit when cooled completely.  Pour into re-sealable jars (1 pint jars work great) or two ½  pint jars if you want to give one to a friend, but who wants to do that??

This will keep on your counter for up to 2 weeks...that is if it will last that long.

I love this slathered onto warm toast, graham crackers, and my tongue!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

No-Fail (No-Kidding) Peanut Brittle


Peanut brittle is one of my favorite "old fashioned" candy, but I've only made it once or maybe twice because it can be a bit temperamental cooking the conventional way.  Brittle is a bit labor intensive because it takes a long time to cook your sugar to a hard-crack stage and burning is always a worry.  In fact, I think that we [our family] just left this brittle making to our Grandmas to slave over it at Christmas.  Yeah, they only made it once a year because it was a pain-in-the-butt to make.  Until now.

My Dad loves peanut brittle, and for years I've been sending him brittle via the Internet from gourmet stores.  Gawd, the prices were outrageous!  After all, I was leaving the task to making it to someone else.  Sometimes brittle would cost up to $25 for a 2 lbs. gift.  Holy crap.  All of the ingredients are fairly inexpensive, but I am paying for the process of making it.  Until now.

Thanks to my sister, Dori, who gave me this recipe when she came out to visit over Memorial Day weekend.  She had run this recipe through her "test kitchen" many times and was able to get the same, perfect results every time.

My first batch I made was with Habanero pepper and it was pretty hot since we put about a tablespoon in.  That was a bit too hot so I cut down the recipe to 1 teaspoon if you decide to use it, but you can adjust to your taste*.  The sweet caramel flavor is wonderful with a little heat.

When I made this again for this post, I omitted the peppers.  I plan on sending some to my Dad and I know he's old school and prefers it the old fashioned way.  I also made a cashew nut batch.  Yum!

No-Fail (No-Kidding) Peanut Brittle
Yields a little over a pound

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 heaping cup party peanuts (or any other lightly salted nuts) (get your nuts at a bulk or discount store...Dori told me that BIG LOTS is her "go-to" place)
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbls. butter
1 tsp. finely minced Habanero* pepper (this is optional)
1 tsp fresh baking soda

Line an edged baking sheet with a SILPAT® mat or grease very well (butter or non-stick spray) and set aside.  I recommend that you invest in a couple of the SILPAT® mats.  These are the best for baking or candy making, and I've had mine for 20 years.

In a microwave-safe glass 2-quart bowl,  stir sugar and corn syrup until combined and microwave for 4:00 minutes on HIGH (I have a 1,000 watt microwave).  I recommend that you use a  heat proof silicone spatula.  These are very versatile tools to have in your kitchen.  I have many sizes of the GIR (Get it Right) spatula.

Remove and immediately stir in nuts and microwave for 3:30 minutes on HIGH.

Remove and immediately stir in butter, vanilla, and Habanero peppers (if used),  and microwave for 1:30 minutes on HIGH or until a medium golden brown or a rich caramel color.  The darker color will add a depth of flavor, but be careful not to burn!

Immediately stir and then fold in baking soda.  WORK QUICKLY!  The mixture will foam as you fold it.  Be careful not to over stir or it will collapse.  Pour onto prepared pan and move the pan back and forth to spread out mixture.

Let it cool completely before gently breaking into pieces.  The round back of a heavy ladle or a jar works great for this task.  If you used SILPAT®, you will need to remove it from the mat and place it back onto the baking sheet before breaking into desired sizes.

Store in an airtight container, or you can seal in zip-top bags and it will keep for a week.  Your humidity level will effect freshness as well.  Here in the humid northwest of the country, we have to eat our brittle immediately.  All of it.  We don't like soggy or sticky brittle.  Yeah, that's what we tell ourselves to justify being little brittle pigs.


*WARNING: to anyone who puts a tablespoon of Habanero in their not eat a lot at one time.  We made the mistake of scarfing down the whole pan (minus about 1/3 pound which I gave to the neighbors) throughout the afternoon and all of us were hit with horrible side effects of too much capsicum.  Capsicum is the compound that makes a pepper hot.  Too much can cause diarrhea, and the Habanero has a lot of capsicum...a lot.  I'm not trying to gross you out, but you have been warned.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sous Vide for me, please...

I've fought a long-lasting battle against over-cooked meats, eggs, and burgers...until now.  Alas, I have found just a weapon to win my battle.

Behold!  My ANOVA Precision Cooker...a temperature-controller-water-circulating thingie that I can fit into most pots in my house.  Wondering what those little white ball things are in the picture?  No, I'm not cooking giant fish roe.  Be patient young Padiwan...I'll get to that later.

Hey, I don't have anything against shoe leather for all of you "well-done" folks.  It's just that I'd just rather have shoe leather on my feet and not in my tummy.  My oldest brother, Dean, is a "well-done" man.  Or should I say "If it ain't's too raw" kind of guy.  Ugh!   
I have always been fascinated with the cooking technique used in many a professional kitchen, called "sous vide." Sous...what, you ask?  Sous vide, which simply means "under vacuum" in French.  No, I'm not cooking in a pressure cooker or in my vacuum (ew), but I am vacuum sealing (or putting in zip-top bags) food into pouches and submerging them into a temperature controlled water bath for a certain amount of time.  The results are amazing.  It is truly a blend of science and food.

Here is a perfectly cooked (for 1 1/2 hours) medium-rare (at a constant 136° F) rib-eye steak.  I seasoned the raw steak(s) with lots of fresh ground salt (our million year-old pink stuff) and black pepper and sealed them up using my trusty FoodSaver.  Which I finally replaced with a newer model.  Can you believe the one I had was the first model and I had gotten that in 1999?!  

Anyhoo, back to topic.  You can season your steak however you like.  Olive oil, marinade it (use the FoodSaver for that, it's fantastic!), or anything your taste buds desire.  You then set the ANOVA to the temperature you need (started out with hot tap water), slip the steak(s) in and forget it for the next hour and a half.  You can leave it in the water for up to three hours!  No grill to tend to.  You can actually do other things while you cook perfect (and expensive) cuts of beef.  After it's done, I cut open the pouch and removed the goods.  Then I finish it off (this is a must) by giving it a good sear on all sides of the steak with a butane torch.  Gotta love fire! 

Do you notice how this steak is medium-rare all the way through?  None of that over-done meat with a medium-rare center that you achieve from conventional cooking methods.  Regardless of the thickness, all of the meat will be cooked at that perfect temperature.  
Here is a perfectly cooked egg.  Yeah, I'm one of those that likes their eggs super-soft and creamy.  Just like velvet!  It took me awhile to figure this one out, and after cooking and eating five or so eggs, I got it right!  Good thing I love eggs.   This egg was cooked in its shell at 167° F for 14 1/2 minutes.  I usually gobble these up as soon as they are done cooking, but logic would tell me that I could hold eggs at this temperature for some time.  So you could cook a dozen and have them all be perfect for an Eggs Benedict horde.  I'll have to try it out. 
And here is a perfectly cooked hamburger patty.  This photo is not the best, but your burgers don't shrivel up to hockey pucks and you get a succulent, juicy, perfectly medium cooked burger.  We serve our burgers on homemade Brioche hamburger buns.  I'll post that recipe at a later date.  After you have these, you'll never buy store-made again!  Oh, and that's my special melty Velveeta-like cheese (made from just a few ingredients) on the burger.  I'll save that post for a later date too.
I've cooked chicken breasts using sous vide and I must admit that I will be hard pressed to eat white meat any other way.  I've also cooked chicken thighs using my ANOVA, and they were tasty as well.  I have not experimented with fresh veggies yet, since I've been on a meat kick.
Yeah, this kitchen gadget may be considered one of those shi-shi, luxury items, but if you are truly annoyed by, or just plain refuse to eat overdone food, I suggest that you give it a try.  I bought this on for $179.  It was a reasonable price for me and since a good steak can cost anywhere from 15-20 bucks a one-inch thick slab, then it was money well spent in my opinion.

Oh, those little round things in my pot?  Those are polypropylene balls used to "blanket" the surface of your water as you heat up and cook with.  These simple little orbs help you maintain your heat, therefore saving on electricity.  They also reduce water evaporation, therefore keeping you from having to replenish the water during those hours and hours of cooking.  Hours and hours you say?

Yes, you can cook a cheap, tough-ass cut of meat until it falls apart and it could take hours and hours, but I'll leave that for another time.

Teeny Tiny Korean Food


 My sister, Dori came out to visit me during the Memorial Day weekend, and she came bearing gifts.  My favorite thing!  These little gifts were itty-bitty and highly detailed dishes and pots of delicious Korean food.  What a wonderful gift!  A combination of my love for miniatures and Korean food, these were right up my alley.

I spent the good part of this morning capturing each meal (along with a penny to give you an idea of how small they really are) and had to post this.  I used a little lens set given to me by my other sister, Darcie for Christmas last year (or the year before...I can't recall!).  The macro lens worked very well and you would think that these were life-sized by the fine quality.  "Best qwwalrity"...Darcie would say. 

The thought and care used to paint these are evident and each little detail is near perfect.  There were even tiny chopstick, spoons and chopstick rests.  Each item of food and drink had to be placed into each of the dishes.  My favorite is the Gujeolpan, the octagon shaped serving platter.  Each of those wedges and the middle come out as individual dishes.  Amazing!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Krazy for Kalbi

Wow, I've been away from food blogging for way too long!  Well, I'm back and I've got great recipes and food to share with you.

Korean BBQ has become more popular across the country and there aren't many out there who don't like beef kalbi (ribs).  Dale and I love these savory slabs of goodness.  The cut of meat that I usually use is called L.A. Kalbi style (easily identified by the cross cuts of beef short ribs).  It's not traditional but the most common cut for these BBQ'd morsels and a lot of grocery stores carry these. 

I was given a fantastic and authentic Korean kalbi (Thanks, Chris Yi!) marinade recipe and it took me a long time to get around to making it, but I finally did and loved it.

Authentic Korean Kalbi Marinade
Serves about 4 to 6

1 large Korean pear, peeled, cored, and cut up (if you can't find these you can use 2 Bosch or Anjou pears)
1 large white onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 small can of canned pineapple slices (four rings) and juice
30 cloves of fresh garlic (more or less if you want)
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar (you can go up to 1 cup if you want it sweeter)
1/2 cup water
1 Tbl. black pepper, ground
2 Tbls. sesame oil
1 Tbl. peanut oil (optional)
2 lbs. L.A. style cut beef spare ribs

Soak meat in cold water for 20 minutes and rinse with cold water several times until water runs clear.  Lay meat out in a non-reactive dish (glass or plastic).  I like to stand my slabs-o-beef on edge so the meat is upright and the marinade can surround it.  Puree all of the other ingredients in a food processor or blender until all is well blended.  It will be thick like runny apple sauce.  Do not dilute. The idea is to coat the meat to tenderize and flavor it.

Pour the marinade on the meat.  Place a piece of plastic wrap over and press to the surface to keep the air from the meat.  Let sit for at least 48 hours in the refrigerator.  You can move the meat around after the first day to ensure that all of the meat is coated.  Don't be tempted to marinade your meat longer as it could turn mushy.  That's not very tasty now is it?

Remove ribs from marinade and cook on hot grill or Korean BBQ grill and cut up with scissors to serve. I usually keep one bone in each piece.  Serve with hot white rice, lettuce leaves (to make wraps), and a variety of Korean kimchis and side dishes.

These are great to put in a Crock Pot and take to a potluck with a rice cooker full of rice.  Believe me, you won't have any leftovers! 

맛있게 드세요! Enjoy your meal!