Posted by: scootrah | August 30, 2014

NATIONAL BACON DAY! Time for Grilled Bacon Halos

IT’S NATIONAL BACON DAY! And in honor of this momentous and delicious event, I bring you the ultimate in bacony goodness that will definitely BLOW.YOUR. MIND.

Have you ever cooked bacon on the grill? It’s easier than you think and when you do it right ends up smoky, crisp and delicious. Then paired with cheese, onion, pineapple and BBQ sauce, how could you go wrong? My partner Rolland sent me an online recipe clip for a version of this a couple months back and I wish I’d made them sooner because they’re ridiculous! I intended them to be an appetizer – and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be – but they could also be a meal in themselves. We literally ate so many of them the first time I made them we never got to what I’d made for dinner.

Then last week we went to visit my mom and brother and I made some up to throw on the grill with the big T-bones and prawn skewers Todd had for our dinner. While he was eagerly devouring his second helping, he casually said, “You have to top a burger with these…” GENIUS! 

And so I present to you the miraculous creation of GRILLED BACON HALOS so you too, can enjoy this little bit of heaven on a plate.

Start with a can of pineapple rings, some mozzarella/string cheese sticks, an onion, bacon and BBQ sauce

IMG_7712

Cut the onion into nice, fat rings, so you have some “curve” to them when you separate the rings….

IMG_7713

…take your mozzarella stick and tear it into fourths, then fit the pieces inside the onion ring…

IMG_7715

…and top that with a pineapple slice. Make sure you’ve drained it well first…

IMG_7716

…now drop the end of a piece of bacon through the hole and pull a bit out to the side…

IMG_7756

…start wrapping the bacon around the ring – overlap the pieces slightly – you’ll need two slices of bacon per ring…

IMG_7758

…once the ring is completely and tightly covered by the bacon so the cheese won’t ooze out, sprinkle a little of your seasoning on it – I used some creole seasoning mix, but you can use what you want – paprika, garlic powder and cayenne are all good choices. If you don’t think the bacon is sticking to the ring, skewer it with a couple of toothpicks so they stick together (soak them in water for about 15 minutes so they don’t catch fire on the grill)…

IMG_7721

…put it on the grill pineapple side down first and grill this bad boy over medium heat for about 10 minutes (if your grill is too hot, the bacon grease will run out quickly and cause flare ups, which means you’ll have Satan’s burnt version of these – not a good thing). I cooked mine with the cover to the grill on…

IMG_7722

…turn the ring over and continue to grill another 10-15 minutes until nice and crispy. Now’s also a good time to baste with a little BBQ sauce so they will get a good cooked-on glaze. My brother Todd’s BBQ sauce is perfect for it and you can get the recipe if you CLICK HERE

IMG_7725

…remove from the grill and let stand for about 10 minutes – the cheese is molten in there and you don’t want to burn yourself…

IMG_7726

…eat them as an appetizer, put them on their own bun, or top a grilled burger with a halo of their scrumptious bacony love - delicious!

IMG_7763

Like tasting HEAVEN on a plate!

P.S. I was describing the amazingness of these halos to my friend EJ and she said “Hey – I bet that would be really delicious basted with teriyaki sauce with a grilled chicken breast in place of the burger!” Uh, YEAH IT WOULD!

So there you go – two culinary masterpieces for you to try with the angelic BACON HALO – can’t you hear the angels singing their praises?

Happy National Bacon Day and have a great Labor Day Weekend!

 

Posted by: scootrah | August 27, 2014

The best canned Biscuit you can buy

Usually I don’t endorse “pre-made”, packaged foods because the stuff is generally loaded with too many chemicals, salt and fat, and I’d rather just make it myself which I think tastes better anyway. But those things are easy and convenient! And every once in awhile, I pick something up for speed or to test out a recipe somebody sends me.IMG_7316

I was pleasantly surprised to find IMMACULATE BUTTERMILK BISCUITS a couple weeks back at Grocery Outlet. I’d never seen these refrigerated biscuits at the stores I usually shop at, and since hey were only a buck, I picked a couple of cans up to use as a “cheater crust” for the top of a chicken pot pie I was making. What a find! These things are freaking DELICIOUS, and as I started reading the label, realized they’re way better than the brands available at the grocery stores I usually shop at.

First off – NO GMOs – hooray! As far as I’m concerned with health for people and the planet, the fewer GMOs in this world, the better. There’s also no bleached flour, no preservatives and NO HYDROGENATED OILS – another big hooray! My partner Rolland had two open-heart surgeries a few years back, and the first couple months of recovery his cardiac surgeon said :Don’t be too concerned about trying to eat low fat right now, just don’t eat ANYTHING with hydrogenated oil!” It’s nasty stuff.IMG_7415

So about the biscuits – light, fluffy and they baked up to a beautiful golden brown, and the taste was SUPERIOR. I have to say that the biscuits were being eaten off of the chicken pot pie with requests for “more biscuits!” long before the pie filling itself was eaten. These reminded me of a home-made biscuit rather than that canned, store-bought taste. Although I’ve not seen them pop up in my usual grocery store yet, whenever I swing by Grocery Outlet I pick them up if they’re available – delicious!

If you're not a fan of canned biscuits, I swear these will change your mind - delicious!

If you’re not a fan of canned biscuits, I swear these will change your mind – delicious!

And I have no connection or affiliation with Immaculate Baking Company, but I checked out their website and I think their mission is pretty great. They say they are working to change the canned, refrigerated dough market and I believe it – lots of interesting offerings way beyond the dough boy such as blueberry biscuits and cinnamon scones. They offer pie crusts and lots of different cookies too, and they’re now working with the NON GMO Project to get all their products verified, they use organic ingredients and offer gluten-free options as well. Check them out, and if you see a can of those red biscuits, grab it and see for yourself!

 

 

Posted by: scootrah | August 18, 2014

Tips for Picnic Food Safety

Yesterday was our big family reunion. Now a lot of you out there would rather jump off a bridge than spend times with your family, but I LOVE mine! They’re really fun, funny, warm people and we have a lot of laughs together. A couple of the older cousins had brought photos of relatives long-gone that none of us had ever seen before, and pics of the old family homestead back in Kentucky – what a treat! There was lots of amazing food to eat, and I took a peach pie for my cousin Leslie because the two of us LOVE pie, and she brought one of the most amazing carrot cakes I’ve ever tasted (and promises to share the recipe with me for an upcoming blog post).

My cousin Joyce and her family always take on the task of arriving early to set everything up in the park for the rest of us. I was so impressed with their clever idea for the food table – her first smart move was to pick a shaded, covered spot that wasn’t in full sun, then she had her husband made a simple frame from 2 x 4s that fit on top of the table. She stretched a disposable plastic painting tarp across this and filled it with several bags of ice so the bowls and plates of food could be set inside and stay chilled. At the end of the event, she just poked holes in the bottom for the water to drain out and easy clean up. The food stayed well chilled – and safe – an no stomach aches for the drive home.

There’s still a lot of warm picnic and reunion weather left stretching past Labor Day, so I thought it would be good to do a quick picnic food safety refresher.Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 11.09.15 AM

First and foremost,  keep raw foods away from cooked foods. If you’re going to grill or BBQ at your event, the raw meat (especially chicken!) should not come in contact with cooked food. Even if you’ve covered bowls well with plastic wrap or foil, meat juice could drip onto bowl rims/sides that you then put your hands on and touch something else. Just put the meat in its own chest or insulated bag with ice packs and you’ll be fine. Don’t forget that utensils and cutting boards shouldn’t be kept with raw meat either.

To serve grilled food, use a clean plate or platter. Cooked meat should never be put back onto a plate you placed the raw meat on unless it has been thoroghly washed. Fortunately, paper plates for serving and eating make this easy!

Cover picnic tables with cloths or disposable covers – you don’t know what has been on the table before you got there, and because most tables at public parks and camp sites are unpainted/untreated wood, you can’t properly wipe them down.

MAYONNAISE: For years we’ve heard that mayo would make us sick if left outside too long. Actually, the real problem is foods the mayonnaise is mixed with, especially foods that have been handled/mishandled a lot (think potatoes cut for salad at home – were you wearing gloves when handling them before they went into the salad?) and protein foods. These are often added to mayo-based dressings/filling while still warm and that’s when bacteria can start to grow.

WATERMELON: What picnic or reunion isn’t that much better with big, ripe slices of watermelon to enjoy on a hot day? Cut melons need to be kept cold – Bacteria that can cause food-borne illness is often present on the rind of melons, so make sure they are washed thoroughly before cutting, and since most melons are not acidic, they can support the growth of harmful bacteria. Don’t make it complicated, just wash, cut and refrigerate or keep chilled – take an extra cooler with ice along to a big gathering for keeping cut melon in.

And speaking of coolers, take a cooler for sodas and bottled water that is separate from a cooler for chilled food. You can open the beverage cooler often without fear of chilled food getting warm. I like to leave a stack of napkins or paper towels next to the beverage cooler to wipe soda can rims – kids are often playing games, building sand castles or mud pies before they reach in for a cold drink, getting ice and cans dirty.

Leftovers
When the party is over and the good byes have been said, pack your leftovers with care. If the food has been sitting out for more than two hours on a table, throw it out. The outside temperature is probably warmer than you think (it was 80° yesterday at our), and if the temp is over 90 degrees, food becomes unsafe after an hour! If you do pack leftovers to take home, use the same tips you did to get the food there – cover it with plastic wrap or place in sealable bags, use ice or ice packs to keep chilled. Then don’t forget to unpack and refrigerate right away!

Don’t over-worry, stress and fret about food safety for your event – these few simple steps are EASY and if you just use common sense you’ll be fine. You’re there to have fun, so help yourself to an extra helping of potato salad, don’t forget to hug grandma an extra couple times,  and remember when you pack up, “If in doubt, throw it out!” REALLY.

Posted by: scootrah | August 11, 2014

Pasta with Jam Sauce – WTH?

So my friend Aileen called and asked me a favor, “Could you review a recipe my kids are making for a scavenger hunt?” Um…ok…”What is it?” I asked. If you’ve read my blog before, you know Aileen is one of my cooking-challenged friends who “hates to cook”, so I was a little suspicious. “It’s called ‘Pasta with Jam Sauce'” she said. Wow. This has something to do with #GISHWHES, which is the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen – (look it up online cuz I don’t really get it) but Aileen’s kids Grayson and Red are cool and I wanted to help them out. I arrived at the house to find a steaming bowl of brown glop and a LARGE glass of water waiting for me. “Dig in”, Aileen said. It was hard to know what to do first, so I started with what I’d do for any food judging or tasting, and smell it. It’s quite difficult to describe the aroma, but I think malodorous is a good start – a weird combo of sweet, chocolate and ketchup. Then I had to taste it, and where to start – the large, unpeeled chunks of apple, the wheel-shaped pasta or the icky, thick brown sauce? As it turned out, it really didn’t matter. The taste was a sweet/syrupy, slightly acidic, gloopy train wreck, and the only redeeming taste was the apple chunk, but after the sauce was completely wiped off of it.

photo

One positive thing about the dish is the “ONE POT” cooking concept

After my “mouthwatering” sample, I was told the recipe was invented by a four year old. Until Aileen revealed that, I thought somehow she’d managed to get my uncle’s second wife to whip this up, a woman known for making dishes “heart heathy” by replacing any fat in the recipe with the equal amount of Molly McButter. I can’t say I would recommend Pasta with Jam Sauce, but I will say that if you’re looking for an adventure in culinary improvisation, this would be it. Make sure to check out “Cooking fast and fresh with West” – the Thanksgiving episode, as that’s where this inspiration all started. It’s cute and I will say I think it’s great to have kids run loose with their imaginations in the kitchen and get them cooking. But I won’t say you’ll want to make this for yourself. But then again, I don’t have kids…

photo 3

I’m about to sample “Pasta with Jam Sauce” – the aroma wasn’t exactly enticing…

  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • 1/ bag of chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups strawberry jam
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (the original “recipe” called for carrot juice, but this clever substitution was made when none was on hand)
  • 1/2 pound wheel-shaped pasta
  • 1 unpeeled apple, cut up

Put EVERYTHING into the pot at once and cook about  7 or 8 minutes until done. Serve and ENJOY immediately – and make sure you have lots of water on hand…

Posted by: scootrah | August 4, 2014

Todd’s Simple but Sassy BBQ sauce

My brother Todd and I share a love of BBQ – last year we  both became certified judges for the Pacific Northwest BBQ Association (PNWBA) and we had a blast judging barbecued chicken, brisket, ribs and pork all over the northwest last summer. One of the things that was so great about judging, is it made us want to BBQ even more, trying out some of the flavors and techniques we’d been so fortunate to sample.

Todd and I judging the big Tree Top "Skewered Apple BBQ Competition" in Selah, WA last September -

Todd and I judging the big Tree Top “Skewered Apple BBQ Competition” in Selah, WA last September -

Now Todd is a really great cook – even though he’d tell you he isn’t. He’s famous for his double chocolate cookies, roasts a fierce prime rib and his razor clam fritters are so delicious I can eat almost an entire limit of clams in one sitting. But next to the awesomeness of his fritters are his baby back ribs – loaded with garlic and slow roasted, they are BBQ heaven. And topping off those killer ribs is his BBQ sauce. One of the things I admire about Todd and his cooking is he’s fearless when he’s creating something new. Unlike the way I often tend to cook – endless experimenting and fussing to get it “just right” – Todd makes it easy so he can remember how to do it exactly the same the next time around. And he doesn’t use a lot of ingredients, usually just what’s on hand. I love that! So this is his ridiculously good BBQ sauce that you will love. And of course, I had to tinker with it just a bit, but he agreed it was a good addition. And in my book, his approval of my cooking is golden!

One of the best parts about this is you can get your ribs or chicken on the grill, then get the sauce started – love it when we can multi-task on the meal DURING the meal…

So to get started, put the ketchup, coke, brown sugar, and garlic powder into a saucepan…

IMG_7005

…I used Mexican Coke* for this because it has real cane sugar and thickens up and caramelizes nicely,and I loved the result. But Todd says he only uses regular Coke and it works just fine…so I tried it with regular coke too. It was OK, but I thought the Coke with sugar gave it a better taste and made a smoother sauce. So use whatever you like!…

IMG_7006

…now add your Tapatio (my FAVORITE hot sauce, but you probably already know that), then bring it to a boil, reduce to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until reduced by half…

IMG_7011

…stir in the balsamic vinegar and remove it from the heat…

photo 1

…when it cools, you’re ready to use it on the grill!

IMG_7013

Try it on your burgers – or even better yet, mix in 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce into 1 lb ground beef, form into patties and then grill – YUM

photo 2

Todd’s Simple but Sassy BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup Coca Cola
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Tapatio hot sauce – or more if you like it hotter – after making this a couple of times, I prefer 1 1/2 tsps, but I like to be cautious with the hot the first time I make something (or use your favorite hot sauce, but Tapatio is the best!)
  • 1 Tblsp balsamic vinegar (my addition)
  1. Combine the ketchup, Coke, sugar and garlic powder in a sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about a half hour – you want it to thicken and reduce by at least half.
  3. Stir in the vinegar and remove from heat.
  4. Slather on ribs, chicken, burgers or use in baked beans – yum!
IMG_7416

Simple but Sassy BBQ Sauce is the perfect mate for grilled chicken – dive in!

*We have an Hispanic grocery store nearby where I found the Coke, but you could check specialty stores for it – I’ve also found it at an upscale butcher shop here because people want to use it in their cooking, and a couple of family-run burger joints that serve “Old Timey” bottled sodas -

Posted by: scootrah | July 23, 2014

Citrus Lovers’ Orange Rice Salad

I love summer. It brings back memories of childhood spent at my grandparents’ house on the beach and pool parties, scavenger hunts, miniature golf, croquet tournaments and big family parties filled with delicious food. I celebrate summer today with BBQs at my own house, marshmallow roasts on our patio, attending my nephew’s baseball tournaments, time spent with friends and the abundance of fresh produce available at the farmer’s market and the grocery store. But I also love summer because of YARD SALES! We can hardly be in the car for five minutes on a weekend outing without me yelling to Rolland “Pull over! There’s a SALE!” Beyond the crazy stuff I’m always looking for – vintage linens, mid century furniture, old paintings of people and/or dogs, vintage Barbie dolls – I love finding old church and hospital guild cookbooks or boxes and notebooks stuffed with handwritten recipes, or items ripped from magazines and newspapers and glued onto index cards. They’re entertaining – who would EAT this stuff?! – and every so often, I find something I want to try out.

If I had to choose a comfort food, it would be rice – yes I like brown rice, wild rice, pilaf and risotto, but give me a steaming bowl of white rice with some butter, salt and pepper, and I’m a very happy guy. So I’m constantly looking for new ways to eat my favorite food, and right now I’m on a salad kick. I’m also wanting to find something that require minimal cooking because it’s been unusually hot for a Seattle summer and the last thing I want to do is heat up my tiny, un-air conditioned house any more than it already is. When it gets this hot, I find I want to cool down with something citrus, so to combine rice with citrus is a home run for me.

This recipe was inspired by one of those recent yard sale cookbook finds – I streamlined it a bit and made a couple changes (a few too may canned vegetables in the original for my taste), and I love the result. The colors are so fresh and vibrant! Now I have to admit this is similar to a salad I made before with mint, oranges and rice, but it used a vinaigrette to dress that and the flavor profile is pretty different. I like the vintage taste of this with the mayo dressing. They’re both delicious and you should try the other one too and you can get that recipe HERE. But back to this rice salad…

You start with 2 cups of uncooked white rice – I use the juice and zest of a lime in this dish, so start with the juice of your lime in your measuring cup, then add water to make 4 cups, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil and cook for 15-20 minutes. You want to cool the rice after it’s done – if you’re using a metal pan to cook your rice in, remember that metal is a heat conductor, so it won’t cool quickly in the pan. Just spread it out on a plate – it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to cool enough to use in the salad.

IMG_7043

There aren’t a lot of complicated steps to this dish – HOORAY! – so while the rice is cooling, get out two stalks of celery, three green onions and a large can of Mandarin oranges. I like to use no sugar added because Rolland is diabetic and the sugar in the oranges along with the carbs of the rice is plenty for him, but if you prefer to use oranges in syrup, that’s fine. Drain the oranges really well….

IMG_7044

…chop the celery and onions – I like to split the stalk of extra-wide celery and then cut it. When you’re done cutting it up, toss the vegetables into a large bowl with the oranges…

IMG_7045

…next you’ll add the cooled rice to the bowl and stir gently to combine. Don’t worry, the oranges are going to start breaking apart as you mix it up. That means you’re going to get that delicious orangey taste throughout the salad rather than in just big bites of orange segments…

IMG_7046

…now add 1/2 cup mayonnaise, the lime zest, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and stir everything to combine. You should let this chill at least an hour, but if you’re like me, you’ll already be sampling it before it gets to the fridge…

IMG_7054

…just before serving, put the rice in a favorite serving dish and garnish with a little of the green part from the onion – beautiful and DELICIOUS!

ORANGE RICE SALAD

  • 2 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • zest and juice of one lime
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 15 oz. can Mandarin oranges
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Put the two cups rice into a saucepan – put the juice of the lime into a large measuring cup then add water to make 4 cups. Cook 15-20 minutes until tender. Pour onto a plate to cool for about 30 minutes.
  2. Drain the Mandarin oranges well while you chop the celery and green onions, then them all into a large bowl.
  3. Add the cooled rice and mix it all together gently.
  4. Add the mayonnaise, lime zest, salt and pepper and mix them gently into the salad ingredients.
  5. Chill for at least an hour.
  6. Before serving, adjust seasoning, transfer to a serving dish and garnish with green onion of desired.

IMG_7048

Posted by: scootrah | July 4, 2014

Strawberry Cupcake Cones

Yesterday I had a phone call from my niece Nicole, about a cupcake idea for the 4th of July. “What do you think about Red Velvet cupcakes, uncle? Are they too heavy for summer?” I don’t think you can go wrong with cupcakes at a picnic or summer party, and told her Red Velvet was a great choice for the patriotic decorating ideas we’d discussed. And as for me, I told her I already had a plan in mind too, fresh strawberry cupcakes!

IMG_6884

These local berries at the farmer’s market were begging to go home with me!

I’d been planning on trying out a couple of different recipes earlier in the week, but we had what we consider a “heat wave” here in Seattle with a high of 94° , which I know to some of you sounds like summer, but around here we don’t usually get it and nobody has air conditioning, so there’s a lot of uncomfortable people around. And my little 1940s house seems to hold heat in during the summer (but NOT during the winter!) like an oven, so with the inside temp of the house about 85°, the last thing I wanted to do was turn the oven on and BAKE! Fortunately it had cooled down enough by yesterday to get my project underway.

All along I knew I wanted to put these into ice cream cones. My mom, who was never that interested in baking, used to do this when we were kids for our birthdays and parties at school. It’s fun and you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to do with the wrapper, you just get to concentrate on the cake! This makes them a no-brainer to include for picnics or outdoor parties, and everyone gets excited at the fun way to eat them. The easiest way to do them is to set the batter-filled cones into a muffin tin that you set on a cookie sheet. There seems to be less jostling around with the potential that the cones will tip over while you’re getting them in the oven. You also want to test the cakes for doneness as they take just a bit longer than a usual cupcake takes to bake.

Cones are filled with batter and oven ready!

Cones are filled with batter and oven ready!

As for using strawberries, that decision was twofold – I’d found a beautiful basket of super plump, super ripe local berries at the farmer’s market that were screaming “take me home and eat me!”, and I stumbled on a recipe using fresh berries that was very simple. A lot of recipes I’d looked at online for inspiration used strawberry jam, which just wasn’t the idea I had in mind. The recipe I used for this was on Sally’s Baking Addiction, which you should totally check out because she has some great stuff. The only thing I did different was to sift my dry ingredients together and I used a whisk on the wet ingredients to make sure the yogurt was well incorporated. But I don’t recommend a whisk for incorporating the dry ingredients into the wet – if you’re overzealous with the whisk, you can incorporate too much air into the batter which could result in a drier, “holey” baked product.

I love the way the batter is marbled and the plump chunks of strawberry show through - YUM

I love the way the batter is marbled and the plump chunks of strawberry show through – YUM

Keep it simple and use your favorite vanilla or white frosting recipe to top them off with. Sally includes a topping of fresh strawberry whipped cream that I’ll try another time, but wouldn’t hold to the heat of a summer day.

Happy 4th of July!

Let's celebrate and EAT!

Let’s celebrate and EAT!

Strawberry Cupcake Cones

  • 12 flat-bottomed ice cream cones
  • 4-5 large strawberries, or enough to make 1/3 cup puree
  • 1 and 2/3 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup strawberry yogurt (Greek or regular yogurt)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place the cones in a muffin tin on a cookie sheet and set aside.
  2. Slice strawberries and place in a food processor or blender. Pulse until strawberries are a chunky puree. If your strawberries are very ripe like mine were, you can simply mash them with a fork.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Stir in sugar – mixture will be gritty.
  5. Whisk in egg, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined.
  6. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Fold in the strawberry puree. Batter will be thick.
  7. Divide batter among the 12 cones and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Look at these gorgeous Red Velvet cupcakes my talented niece Nicole created for her 4th of July party!

Look at these gorgeous Red Velvet cupcakes my talented niece Nicole created for her 4th of July party!

 

Posted by: scootrah | June 30, 2014

Red, White and BLEU Salad

I love making different salads for potlucks and parties because they can feed a lot of people and it’s a great way to use up smaller bits of stuff in the pantry and refrigerator. The ones that turn out best I always post on my blog and include a citrusy rice salad, a roasted corn and tomatillo salad, a diabetic-friendly “faux-tato” salad, a super fast cole slaw, my favorite pea and almond salad with curry dressing and a parsley pesto pasta salad. So with the 4th of July a few days ahead and the chance that we were going to have some glorious BBQ weather (remember – I’m in Seattle and our summer doesn’t start until August!), it was time to come up with something new.IMG_6876

It seems that everyone jumps onto the “red, white and blue” theme for holiday food, and I had every intention of joining in. The thing was, I didn’t want to just fall back on the standard blueberries, raspberries and strawberries thing. But it’s a challenge because how many BLUE foods are really out there? I was thinking blue corn tortilla chips, blue potatoes and then I kind of hit the wall until I realized I didn’t need to be so literal with the color, but go with the name! And the first thing to hit my brain was bleu cheese – as a creamy dressing I could get the “blue” and the “white” covered – the ball was rolling! Add some red leaf lettuce, tomatoes and red onion and all the “red” was covered too.

The dressing I came up with is kind of a ranch style with bleu cheese in it. You can add the bacon to the dressing if you like, but of course you can leave it out for your vegetarian eaters and serve the bacon as a condiment to crumble on individual salad portions.

When it comes to tomatoes in salad, I prefer putting in cherry or grape tomatoes – it’s a visual thing because it seems to me there is more intense color spread through the salad. But one thing that’s not fun is standing and cutting all those tiny tomatoes one-at-a-time. So to save you the time and hassle and hopefully influence you to start adding them into your salads as well, I’ve got a super easy way to cut a bunch of them at once. And it’s a trick that works for grapes, olives and pitted cherries too – click HERE to see it and become a believer!

One of the things I love about bleu cheese is how well it goes with grilled meats, especially hamburgers, which tend to be the standout at a summer BBQ, and you could even top your burger with this salad if you like. Bleu cheese is great with pork as well, and would be great to accompany grilled pork chops or tenderloin, and I’m already thinking I’m going to make it to go with my next batch of “Picnic Chicken” – oops – I haven’t gotten you that recipe yet, but trust me it’s delicious and you’re going to love it, so stay tuned!

Have a fun, safe and delicious 4th of July!

Red, White and Bleu Salad

  • One head red leaf lettuce – washed, dried and torn into bite size pieces
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced into thin rings and separated
  • 2 or 3 slices bacon, cooked crips and crumbled (use in the dressing if you prefer)

Dressing

  • 1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream (Greek yogurt will give it lots of tang if you like that)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tblsp fresh chives, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • scant 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Combine the dressing ingredients, mix well and refrigerate at least an hour – if you can make it a day ahead the flavors will blend together really well and you’ll love it even more!

Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine.

Just before serving, add the dressing and toss well – one more hint: when you add dressing to a salad, pour it around the outside edge of the salad in the bowl, NOT in the center. The ingredients will get more contact with the dressing and be more evenly distributed when you do this – trust me! (And don’t look at the way I did it in the picture!)

IMG_6869

Posted by: scootrah | June 23, 2014

Grilled Chorizo and Lentil Soup

My friend LeAnn recently dropped by with a basket full of organic and sustainably raised meats, cheeses and snacks – items I’d not normally buy myself, but was thrilled to get the chance to try out. One of my favorites was a package of heritage pork chorizo sausages. If you’re not familiar with the term “heritage” as it’s associated with meat, it refers to traditional livestock breeds that were raised by farmers in the past, before the drastic reduction of breed variety caused by the rise of industrial agriculture.  Did you know that 190 breeds of farm animals have gone extinct worldwide in the past 15 years,and there are currently 1,500 others at risk of becoming extinct? In the past five years alone, 60 breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry have become extinct! So along with helping save livestock breeds, heritage meats are generally raised in more humane conditions that include terms like farm-raised or free-range, which results in a better life for the animals, and ultimately a better food supply. Anyway…

So it also happens that I’m crazy about chorizo – I love it scrambled with eggs and I think it makes a great filling in burritos. These sausages were screaming at me that they wanted to be grilled. Now I could have just grilled them and eaten them with a little salsa, but I thought they needed to be paired with something else. Not just as the protein part of a meal, but combined with something to create a delicious Mexican-inspired synergy. And for some reason the thing that popped into my head was soup. And it had to be lentil soup.IMG_6414

We’re really at the chilled rather than hot soup season, but I wanted a hearty hot soup that I could “cool down” with some toppings or garnishes – and of course as I write this from Seattle, it’s 53° and raining in the middle of June, so hot soup works just fine! Unlike a bean soup that requires lots of pre-planning to soak the beans, dried lentils cook up in 20-30 minutes, which means dinner can be ready in a flash even if you have no idea what you’re going to cook when you walk in the door from work. I grilled the sausages after I got the soup simmering and they were perfectly done and ready to add when the soup was finished.

I also wanted to make this soup easy by using ingredients you and I would probably have on hand in the pantry – no extra trip to the store! As you know my “secret ingredient” in a lot of my cooking is Tapatio – just a few drops add a wonderful base to so many things – it seems to “round out” the flavor and give it a nice base without adding spicy heat like Tabasco or Louisiana-style hot sauces do. A bottle is about $1.50 (but I usually get mine for a buck at the Dollar Store) and it’s an inexpensive investment for you to experiment in the kitchen with.

And as for serving a hot soup on a hot day, just before serving cool it down by stirring in or garnishing the souplots of chopped fresh cilantro, chopped green onion, fresh avocado, sour cream or creme fraiche and a squeeze of lime – they are all great to beat the heat and they’ll add another dimension to the soup. You’ll probably end up wanting a 2nd bowl!

Grilled Chorizo and Lentil Soup

  • 1 lb. chorizo sausage links
  • 1 lb. dried lentils
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 5 or 6 drops of Tapatio hot sauce, or to your taste

For garnish:

  • Chopped cilantro
  • Chopped green onion
  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges
  1. Heat a grill to medium.
  2. Combine lentils and all ingredients but chroizo in a stock pot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce to a simmer.
  3. Grill the chorizo sausages 15 -20 minutes until cooked through and remove to a plate to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. When the lentils are tender, slice the chorizo into coins and add to the lentils. Adjust seasoning.
  5. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime – add remaining garnishes of your choice.

 

 

Posted by: scootrah | June 17, 2014

PB and Bacon Sandwich “a la Josh”

Although I can say I’ve been a fan of bacon for as long as I can remember, I’m still kind of new to the “bacon with everything else” food trend of the last few years. I’ve had a number of delicious maple and bacon things recently like caramels, donuts and waffles, as well as a couple of flops – most notably a maple/bacon bundt cake I tried to create earlier this year as part of “Bundt Fest”. But even with less-than-great bacon, it’s still BACON, so it wasn’t all bad – you know what I mean?

Life's better with BACON!

Life’s better with BACON!

In spite of my bacon experimenting, I hadn’t yet jumped onto the peanut butter and bacon concept until I read a post on Facebook from my friend Josh. His post went something like this: Over the years sandwiches have been a favorite food of mine and I have dabbled in things which I dare not discuss in public forums. Some were epic masterpieces of cheesy deliciousness and some were horrific failures beyond anything I could have imagined. Today I brought back an old favorite – bacon and peanut butter on un-toasted sourdough – don’t judge. Instead of just leaving delicious things as they lay, my fat kid brain kicked in and said to me, “Fry that bitch in some bacon grease!” And so Josh got me wondering, “Am I finally ready to embrace this new and mysterious world of bacon and PB?” And the answer was, YES!

So first I got some great, thick cut bacon and fried it crispy. This is an important step because limp, greasy bacon with the slight greasiness of peanut butter would be gross (do you like the way I’m building up a case in favor of this concoction?). Then I poured out the bacon grease and wiped the pan clean of any dark crumblets. I used a pastry brush to lightly coat two slices of sourdough bread with the bacon grease and returned them to the pan to toast. I added creamy peanut butter and the bacon slices, then tasted my sample. There was something lacking.

Remembering a sandwich staple from my own childhood – PB & lettuce – I thought that might be the perfect addition I needed. AND it made me feel a little less guilty about all that bacon since I was adding vegetables to the sandwich. I didn’t have any lettuce on hand, but I did have arugula, and eureka – it was a taste sensation! The arugula added crunchiness, a nice peppery bite (which you could probably get with pepper bacon), and with my good-for-you wellness slant on this, the healthy vegetable part of the meal. I have to agree with Josh that sourdough is the right bread for this – sturdy enough to hold up to toasting but not enough distinct flavor to compete with the PB and bacon.

I’ve decided this sandwich will be getting a revival very soon, and the second try will have me using regular lettuce, probably romaine, in place of the arugula. And now that I’ve dipped my toe into the waters of PB & bacon, I think the addition of bananas won’t be far behind. Yes, the spirit of Elvis is alive and well in my kitchen.

IMG_6562

Start with some good, thick bacon and fry it up nice and crisp…

...wipe out the pan, then brush your bread with a little bacon grease and return to the pan to toast...

…wipe out the pan, then brush your bread with a little bacon grease and return to the pan to toast…

...spread peanut butter on each slice of bread in the pan...

…spread peanut butter on each slice of bread in the pan…

...add your bacon...

…add your bacon…

...then some fresh arugula (or lettuce or maybe bananas?)...

…then some fresh arugula (or lettuce or maybe bananas?)…

...and you're ready to enjoy a PB & Bacon "a la Josh" sandwich!

…and you’re ready to enjoy a PB & Bacon “a la Josh” sandwich!

 

 

 

 

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.