Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pan Fried Potatoes

There's hardly anything better for a side dish than pan fried potatoes.  I like to cut the potatoes in varying thicknesses. That way there is a variety of textures to the dish, as the thinner cut will cook quickly and almost melt away while the thicker cut will cook slowly and become mealy on the inside and golden brown on the outside.

This is a great dish to cook in a cast iron skillet.  Cast iron distributes the heat more evenly and doesn't cool down as much when food is put into a hot pan.

Pan Fried Potatoes

5 or 6 medium to large sized russet potatoes
1 large or 2 medium onions
2 teaspoons garlic powder
6 pieces of bacon or Canadian bacon
3 TBSP butter
3 TBSP olive oil

Peel potatoes and onions. Slice both into varying thicknesses, keeping in mind the thicker the piece the longer it will take to cook.  A mandolin works great for this, but I use my poor man's mandolin (pictured to the left). Strictly low-tech, but it gets the job done. I have no idea where I got it, but it works quite well. It's adjustable and can slice very thin to very thick. And it may look innocent enough, but the blade on the thing is very sharp.

Heat large skillet. Dice bacon and fry until crispy. If using Canadian bacon, it won't take as long to cook.  Drain all or some of the bacon fat out of pan,put in olive oil and butter. When butter and oil have heated through, put in potatoes and onions. Cover potatoes and onions with the oil and butter by turning the potatoes.  Add garlic powder, salt and pepper, and turn over potatoes some more to mix.  Let potatoes cook over medium high heat, turn every five minutes or so. don't have the heat too high.  Really good fried potatoes can take awhile to cook, depending on the thickness of them. When potatoes start to get brown and are cooked through, serve immediately.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Waffles

A great from-scratch recipe for waffles that can also be used for pancakes.  Buttermilk adds a unique flavor to these waffles.  Traditional buttermilk was the liquid that was left over after churning butter, but modern cultured buttermilk is made by the addition of lactic acid bacteria. This bacteria thickens the milk and gives it a tart taste. Modern cultured buttermilk is much thicker than traditional.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Batter
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup regular flour
  • 2 cups scalded and cooled buttermilk
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1/4 cup regular milk
  • 1/4 cup salad oil
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

In a large bowl, combine buttermilk and flours. Beat until well blended. Let sit for 30 minutes, or cover and place in refrigerator overnight.

Beat together eggs, milk and salad oil. Add to flour mixture and stir until blended. Combine sugar, salt and baking soda. Stir into batter until well blended and let stand for 5 minutes. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Coconut and Chocolate Macaroons

This recipe is quick and easy with a minimum of ingredients and a maximum of sweet flavor. 

3 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 bag (4 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine  coconut and flour. Add vanilla and condensed milk to coconut mixture and blend well. It will be very thick and sticky. Add chocolate chips and blend until combined well.

Drop spoonfuls of mixture onto an oiled cookie sheet.  I like to leave them rather gnarly. That way  when they cook there will be differing degrees of doneness, from crispy around the edges to chewy in the middle. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until they are brown around the edges.  The chocolate chips may be omitted to make plain coconut macaroons.

Coconut facts:
  • The first documented mention of the word coconut in English was in 1555
  • The name coconut was derived from a Portuguese word that means monkey face from the three indentations in the end of it
  • The coconut is not a nut at all, but a seed

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Another sweet memory from my youth! This recipe is pretty easy, as it uses a boxed yellow cake mix and canned pineapple. Of course you can substitute your favorite yellow cake from scratch recipe if you wish and fresh pineapple.  I make this recipe in a 10" cast iron skillet and it works great.
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 can pineapple rings
  • 1 small jar maraschino cherries
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put the cast iron skillet on medium heat, and place butter and brown sugar in it. When both have melted, place pineapple rings on the bottom of the skillet, and cut the rings in half and line the sides of the skillet standing up on edge. Put a maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple ring.

Prepare the yellow cake mix per the instructions on the box, but substitute all or part of the water called for with pineapple juice from the can of pineapple rings. Pour the cake batter over the pineapple rings in the skillet and place in oven.  Cook for length of time suggested on the cake mix box, and use the toothpick test to make sure it is done. Insert a wooden toothpick into the center of the cake and when it comes out clean the cake is done.

When done, remove the cake and run a butter knife around the edges to loosen the cake from the skillet. Let cool for at least 10 minutes, then comes the trickiest part of the whole recipe; turn it upside down on a serving platter.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Parsley - Not Just A Garnish

Parsley has been known since the ancient Greeks, and before. It  was recommended by the father of medicine Hippocrates as a cure for many ailments.  Ancient Greeks used it in a wreath for crowning the winners of sporting events and hung it on tombs.  The name parsely comes from two greek words, petros and selinon which literally translates as rock celery, no doubt because this herb originally grew wild on the rocky coasts of the Mediterranean Sea.

It was used as a medicinal herb long before it was eaten.  It was used to control blood pressure,  a tonic to strengthen the bladder, was rubbed on mosquito bites to stop itching, and many other uses. There is evidence in medieval Europe of parsley being used as a food, and also being worn around the neck to absorb food odors and as a poison antidote.

There are two main varieties of leaf parsley; curly leaf and flat leaf. The flat leaf or Italian Parsley has a bit stronger flavor and is mostly used in cooking. The curly leaf is used in cooking and as a garnish.  Parsley has a fresh, earthy flavor and is good in rice and potato dishes, in salads, in soups and stews.  And of course, as a garnish on dishes that can be eaten as a breath freshener after the meal.

Which to use, fresh or dried parsley?  With many herbs,  using dried versus fresh is a matter of using less of the dried because of the concentration of flavor.  With parsley,  fresh flat leaf parsley has the most flavor and should be used whenever possible. Dried parsley is very mild.

Don't Throw Away That Turkey Carcass! Make Turkey Stock!

You know the scene after a typical Thanksgiving Day turkey dinner.  Someone cleans all the meat off the turkey bones and saves it for sandwiches.  Then all the bones and skin gets tossed out. Don't do it! A delicious and versatile stock can be made quite easily out of the bits and pieces that can be used to make turkey soup. 

Turkey Stock
  • All the bones and skin from leftover roast turkey
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 onions washed but unpeeled and cut into quarters
  • 2 carrots washed but unpeeled and cut into big pieces
  • 2 ribs of celery cut into big pieces
  • 8 whole peppercorns
  • 2 cloves garlic, washed but unpeeled and smashed
  • 3 sprigs of parsley, whole

 Put all ingredients into a large stock pot.  Add enough water to within an inch of the top of the pot. Heat to just below boiling, then turn fire down to a low simmer. There will probably be a foam that forms from the vegetables, skim this off the surface until no more forms.  Try not to let the water reach a full boil, as this will cause some of the bones to break down and give the stock an off flavor. Simmer for 2-4 hours with the lid off.  You want some of the water to evaporate so the stock will be more concentrated in flavor. After it's done simmering, strain the liquid and put it into a large bowl. Place it in the refrigerator overnight to cool.  After it has cooled, all of the fat will have congealed on the surface of the stock. This seals the stock and helps to keep it fresh for up to a week.  You can skim as much of the fat off that you do not want, and either use the stock immediately or freeze it.

This stock is great for turkey noodle soup, turkey stew, and any other recipe that uses any kind of
poultry stock. The stock will be a gel when it is cold, which signifies how rich and flavorful it is. The more it has gelled, the better it is!

You may have noticed that I use no salt when making this stock. I prefer to season the stock when I use it. If you put salt in it when you make it, it can be hard to judge how salty it will be when it reduces.

You can use this recipe to make stock from roast chicken leftovers too. And don't just eat turkey on Thanksgiving! Turkey is one of the healthier meats you can eat (as long as you don't overdo it with the skin and fat!) and it is very versatile too.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Blonde Brownies

What's better than a gooey, rich Chocolate Brownie? A Blonde Brownie! Maybe not better, but darned good in their own right. My Mom used to make Blonde Brownies for her seven kids, and they certainly didn't last long! Blonde Brownies are made without chocolate (for the most part, although my Mom always sprinkled chocolate chips on the top of hers) and are made sweet and chewy with brown sugar.

Blonde Brownies
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • chocolate chips (optional)
Combine flour, soda, baking powder and salt. Add the chopped nuts to this mixture. Melt butter and add brown sugar in separate bowl. Mix well, and add eggs and vanilla to brown sugar mixture. Slowly add flour mixture and mix together thoroughly. Pour into greased 13 x 9 pan, sprinkle chocolate chips on the top if desired. Bake at 325 degree oven for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Kale And Chicken Stir Fry

Kale is in the same family of vegetables as cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and a whole lot more too numerous to mention. They are all classified as cruciferous vegetables .

There are numerous benefits derived from eating these kinds of vegetables. Preliminary studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables can lessen the chances of developing cancer and diabetes, just two examples of the benefits of these vegetables.

All of them are also high in many essential vitamins and minerals, with Kale being one of the highest in concentrations of beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein and calcium. To reap the benefits of all the goodness within these vegetables it is best to eat them raw. When cooking, it is best to steam or stir fry them.

Healthy is one thing, but how do they taste? For those that find some of these vegetables too strong in flavor, stir frying is an excellent way to offset any bold flavor with other flavors.

To prep Kale, wash thoroughly as the crinkly leaves of some varieties can hold dirt and grit. Make sure you remove the leafy part all the way up both sides of the stem. The stem is too tough to eat on its own, but it can be used to make a vegetable stock .

Kale And Chicken Stir Fry

  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 bunch of Kale
  • 8 ounces of button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced on an angle
  • 1 celery rib, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 green onions cut in 1 inch pieces
  • 1 can baby corn
  • 2 TBSP peanut oil
  • 1 tsp sherry
  • 1 TBSP corn starch
  • 1 TBSP oyster sauce
  • 1 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
Clean and destem Kale and tear into pieces. Prep all other vegetables and cut up chicken into bite sized pieces. Combine oyster sauce, soy sauce, corn starch and sesame oil in a small bowl. Add enough cold water to dissolve the corn starch.

Heat up wok. When hot, add peanut oil. Add chicken and diced onion. Stir fry for a minute or two, then add sherry. Stir fry until meat is cooked through. Remove chicken and onions and set aside.

Add more oil to wok if needed. Add mushrooms, carrot, celery and green onions. Stir fry for one minute. Add Kale and baby corn. Stir fry until Kale wilts, then add chicken back into wok. Stir fry for a minute while thoroughly combining all ingredients in the wok. Stir the corn starch mixture and then add to wok. Continue stir frying until mixture thickens. Serve on rice or oriental noodles.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sandy Noodles

An easy and quick side dish that's a break from potatoes.

Sandy Noodles

  • 1 package of whole grain noodles or any kind of pasta
  • 1/2 stick butter or margarine
  • 4 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 medium onion, diced fine
  • 3 TBSP fresh basil chopped fine, or 3 tsp dried basil
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped fine, or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup whole grain cracker crumbs
Cook noodles or pasta per directions on the package. When done, drain. Add butter and olive oil to pan big enough to hold and mix the cooked pasta. Put on medium heat to melt butter. When butter is melted, add cooked noodles. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Egg Foo Yong

One of my favorite Chinese foods is Egg Foo Yong, which is nothing more than a Chinese-style omelet. Egg Foo Yong is like the 'Chinese' dish Chop Suey in that it was not developed in China, but in America by Chinese chefs. This dish can be cooked in a wok, but a cast iron skillet or griddle works much better, as more can be cooked at one time.

Egg Foo Yong

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup drained bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup Chinese Napa cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 small stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • peanut oil for cooking


  • 1 cup cold water, or beef, chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 can mushroom stems and pieces, drained

Break eggs into large bowl. Whisk eggs together with fork. Add bean sprouts, cabbage, celery, onion and salt and combine. Heat wok or skillet, put in a tablespoon or two of peanut oil. When oil is hot, add about 1/3 of a cup of the egg mixture. Fry until golden brown, turn over and fry other side until golden brown. Continue until all egg mixture has been used.

In a small saucepan, combine water, soy sauce, garlic powder and cornstarch. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. When mixture boils, turn down fire to simmer and add mushroom pieces. Continue to cook sauce until mushrooms are warmed through. Serve over Egg Foo Yong.

A versatile recipe that you can add 1/2 cup of cooked ham, pork, beef, seafood or even cheese to the egg mixture.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Oriental Beer Batter Chicken With Rainbow Peppers

A recipe that highlights the versatility of the wok as a deep fry and stir fry pan. As a safety feature when using the wok to deep fry, always have the lid nearby! There is a possibility of a wok or any other vessel that has hot oil in it to ignite. Quickly putting on the lid will snuff the flames out. NEVER try to put out an oil fire with water!

  • Boned chicken breast or thigh meat cut into strips
  • flour
  • beer
  • 1 green bell pepper cut in thin strips
  • 1 red bell pepper cut in thin strips
  • 1 yellow pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced diagonally
  • 3 green onions cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1-tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying

There needs to be room for displacement when the food to be cooked is added, so fill the wok less than half way with oil. Heat to 350 degrees.

Put enough flour for the amount of chicken to be cooked into a large bowl. Slowly add enough beer, (preferably room temperature, even better if it's been opened for a few days and has turned stale) stirring constantly until a smooth batter forms, about the consistency of thin pancake batter. Set aside. Put one cup of flour into a plastic or paper sack. Add chicken to flour in bag and shake to coat. This is done to help the batter stick to the chicken. Remove chicken from bag of flour and dredge into batter mixture. Let excess drip off. CAREFULLY put into hot oil in wok. Turn food over occasionally while cooking. Chicken strips take less time to cook than pieces with the bone still in. When pieces float and have a nice color, remove a piece of it and test for doneness. When done, drain on rack or paper towel, set aside.

Combine soy sauce, chicken stock and cornstarch. Stir until blended, set aside.

Carefully pour out all but two tablespoons of the oil from wok. When oil is hot, stir fry all the vegetables for 2 minutes. Add the cooked chicken; stir-fry with vegetables for 1 minute. Add corn starch/broth/soy sauce mixture and cook until sauce thickens. Serve over rice or oriental noodles.

My Zimbio