Archive for the 'Cooking' Category

Thanksgiving Cooking

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  I know I did.  We had dinner at some friends’ house who were hosting a group of the misfits (mostly from Cincinnati) for the holiday. 

My plate of food on Thanksgiving.

The hosts cooked a bunch of the food, but I volunteered to bring over a couple of dishes to share.  I choose to make the sweet potatoes and a green bean casserole.  After hearing that someone at the party either was allergic to or didn’t like mushrooms, I decided to try something different for the green bean casserole.  I found this recipe and followed the directions exactly.  This dish turned out great, but I wasn’t overly impressed with it.  Maybe it was just all of the great food that was prepared, but I think it could have had even more flavor.  Still a very pleasing alternative to the traditional casserole. 

Grandma's Green Bean Casserole.

I settled on this recipe for the sweet potatoes, mostly because it was the highest rated sweet potato dish I could find.  Let me say that I would have to agree with the rating on this one, it was delicious, and seemed to be the favorite of many of our group.  With that said, I had a few problems with the recipe, which I again tried to follow exactly.  It seemed that my sweet potatoes weren’t nearly done enough after only fifteen minutes in boiling water.  I removed them from the water at that time and I couldn’t mash them at all.  I returned them to boiling water for another ten minutes, and I still had problems mashing.  Unfortunately I didn’t realize the problem before I added the sauce to the potatoes.  So rather than boiling them anymore, I was forced to put them into the oven to cook. 

I baked them for around ten minutes, and finally I was able to start mashing some of the potatoes, though not nearly half as the recipe indicated.  Again, I baked them for another ten minutes and finally I was able to get half of the potatoes mashed.  I think that cutting the potatoes up into smaller pieces at the start would have helped fix my problem.  I had another problem with the last step of adding marshmallows to the top and baking until brown.  It seems my dish was a little too liquidy, and the sauce was boiling rapidly in the oven, which quickly disintegrated most of the marshmallows.  Rather than trying again, I simply mixed the remaining marshmallows into the dish and watched them melt.  Despite these issues, the sweet potatoes were excellent. 

In rushing to get the potatoes finished, I forgot to take a photo of them.  You will just have to trust me that they looked as delicious as they tasted.

Thanksgiving Number One

We had our first Thanksgiving dinner over the weekend.  A good friend of ours will be leaving the country for work before Thanksgiving arrives, and she wanted to have a great American meal before she left.  This group of friends are all quite the cooks, so I had to prepare a couple of my favorite recipes for the occasion.  The first are these wonderful garlic mashed potatoes.  I’ve been making them for years, and I don’t think there are any better mashed potatoes out there anywhere.  I also made a large batch of stir fried asparagus.  I followed both receipes closely, except for I heated the teriyaki sauce for the asparagus until it thickened and was much more like a glaze.

Just as I was posting this, I remember that today is the Thanksgiving potluck at work.  So I am actually having my second Thanksgiving meal of the season right now.

Making Potato Pancakes

This past Saturday friends of our decided to host an Oktoberfest party.  They provided their handmade brats, and everyone else brought along a German side.  While researching my options, I realized that either Germans eat a ton of potatoes, or we Americans think they do.  Either way I decided to make potato pancakes based on this recipe.  The prep work wasn’t too bad, but cooking well over thirty pancakes took some time.  The recipe said to cook each side for about three minutes, but I found it was closer to four minutes.  At the suggestion of a few reviewers, I added parsley to the ingredients, but followed everything else exactly.  I wish I would have taken a picture of my creations, but they looked a lot like this.

Other items at the party included German potato salad, fries, sauerkraut, and even some home-brewed Hefeweizen!  It was all so good, and the potato pancakes were a hit as well.  Prost!

Reaping The Gardening Rewards

Harvest season is here and we are finally reaping the rewards of our vegetable garden.  So far we have picked a half-dozen or so tomatoes as well as tons of kale.  The kale is used to feed Amstel, our pet rabbit, while we have really enjoyed the tomatoes.  There is nothing quite like a fresh tomato.  So far we had BLT sandwiches last week, and I made a delicious Arrabbiata pasta sauce last night with the remaining tomatoes.  The recipe I followed was one that I have used many times before, but I substituted all fresh tomatoes instead of the can.  I think it turned out the best yet.  I’m still holding out hope for some green peppers, jalapenos, and squash before colder temperatures set it, but I’m not sure it is going to happen.  Next year I may have to move the garden to a different location.

Cheesy Grilled Corn With Basil Butter

Last night Kim and I prepared a corn on the cob recipe from a book I mentioned earlier titled Patio Daddy-O at the Grill. I highly recommend the book as everything we have tried has been full of flavor and relatively easy to prepare.  Here is the recipe:

The cure for fresh corn fatigue: Char the ears in their husks, strip them naked, then roll them in soft butter spiked with basil and lemon.  For a final flourish, hit the glistening rows with a  flurry of grated Parmesan.

  • 6 ears corn, husks on
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil for the grill
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Soak the corn in a large bowl of water for 1 hour (so the husks don’t catch fire).
  2. Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or preheat a gas or electric grill to medium-high.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the butter with the lemon juice and basil, and season with salt and pepper.  Spread out the butter in a 1/4-inch-thick layer in the center of a large plate or baking sheet and set aside.
  4. Brush the grill grate with vegetable oil.  Grill the corn, turning often, until the husks are evenly charred all over, 25 to 30 minutes.  Carefully peel back the corn husks, but leave them attached to the cobs.  Discard the corn silk and use the husks as handles.  Roll the corn in the softened butter, and top with Parmesan cheese.  Server immediately.

We only prepared half of the recipe, and used only 2 tablespoons of butter.  That seemed to be enough butter for us and we left the remaining butter mix ingredients at their full six serving amounts.  We didn’t have lemon juice so we used lime juice instead.  The results were delicious!

Black Bean Burgers

For dinner last night, Kim found a black bean burger recipe that she wanted to try.  Normally I would be hesitant to try one of these “veggie burgers.”  No, not because I love regular burgers.  It’s quite the opposite actually, as I don’t really eat red meat.  I just have never had a desire to pretend I’m eating something that I really don’t want to eat.  No turkey burgers, no veggie burgers, etc.  However, a few weeks ago Kim ordered a black bean burger from a restaurant, though I can’t recall which one.  She remarked at how good it was and offered a bite.  I decided to give it a try and was surprised at how tasty it really was.

Anyway, Kim found a recipe and she prepared the burgers while I finished painting our entryway.  The recipe says that they aren’t quite firm enough for the backyard grill, but we had no problem grilling ours.  I think she used all of the flour called for in the recipe, which actually helped to firm up the outside of the burgers.  We added some slices of cheddar cheese to ours, along with toasted wheat buns, ketchup, mustard, and pickles.  They weren’t quite as good as the burger Kim ordered a couple weeks ago, but they were still pretty good.  I’d give them a seven or eight on a scale of ten.  I’d like to keep experimenting with the recipe and adding additional things to the mix to spice it up, but it is defnitely a great starting point for some healthy food.

Dad’s Pan-Fried Green Beans

Wednesday night Kim and I hosted a gathering at our house for part of the group from our recent hut trip.  We were getting together for dinner and to exchange pictures.  Though I didn’t end up offering samples of my recently kegged homebrew, I prepared another hit at the party.  In addition to serving grilled chicken, I prepared this green bean recipe that I’ve used numerous times before.  Though it is very easy and requires very few ingredients, the results are very tasty and approved by our group of snowshoeing hikers.  In fact, it is so simple that I’m sure we could make it on next year’s hut trip as it doesn’t require more than the beans, a premixed sauce, and some garlic.  Give it a try.

Chicken Fettuccine Recipe

I prepared this recipe the other night and must say it was really delicious.  I wanted to not only share it but also get it up online in-case I ever lost it.  It comes from a recent issue of 5280 Magazine from Holly Hartnett owner of Venue.

  • olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 6 cloves garlic, slivered (I used minced)
  • 1 cup light cream (I used heavy whipping cream)
  • 6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 16 ounces frozen young peas, blanched
  • 2 jars marinated artichoke hearts (I used 1 regular size can)
  • lemon juice to taste (I didn’t use any)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cayenne to taste
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 pound fettuccine, cooked and strained

In a deep saute pan, heat three tablespoons of olive oil and add chicken.  Sear until golden; remove from pan.  Once you are able to handle the chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces.  Lower heat and add more olive oil if necessary.  Add garlic and cook until lightly golden.

Add chicken, cream, and goat cheese to the pan and simmer until chicken is cooked through.  Add peas, artichoke hearts, lemon juice to taste, sale, pepper, and cayenne.  Add Parmesan to desired consistency.  Add cooked pasta to the pot and combine all ingredients.  Serve additional cheese on top.

From Tacos To Burritos

Last night I was really looking forward to making these chicken tacos. I’ve made them a few times before and I’m really happy with the way they turn out. I started cooking it up, but when Kim came down to the kitchen she said that the chicken I was using smelled bad. We had just bought it on Monday, but I guess the store had it for too long? It was a major disappointment, but I quickly heated up some refried beans and had burritos instead. Regardless, I would highly recommend the recipe linked above. I look forward to trying it again in the near future.

Big Ben Pale Ale

With mixed results from my first homebrew, I’ve decided to move on and start on my second batch. My parents sent a kit for Big Ben Pale Ale for my birthday a couple of months ago. I cracked open this box and finally got around to brewing it a couple of Saturdays ago. I followed pretty much the same system as I used the first time in the brew process. Once again I was happy to find some bubbling in the airlock the day after brewing, so at least the fermentation started alright. I hope it does a little better this time around, and I’m thinking it should since the fermenter is at a slightly higher temperature than the first time.

I’m hoping the fermentation will be finished this coming weekend, and then this time I will transferring it all into a Cornelius keg (also a birthday gift) instead of bottling it all. This is supposed to be much easier than bottling, and I should be able to carbonate the beer really quickly with some forced CO2. I still have to make some modifications to my lines in the kegorator, but eventually that’s exactly where this brew is going. I can’t wait to have my own beer ready and waiting on tap at all times. I just hope I enjoy this batch a little more than the last, which I’ve started using in some of my cooking. I used a bottle of the beer in place of water in a recent batch of turkey chili. I think this really added to the flavor of the food, and I’m happy I’ve found a use for it!