cooking

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Nachos Rule!In my recipe for Orange Rice, I mentioned my friend Carissa was a good enough chef to
“own the recipe.”  I didn’t talk much about it, but I got to thinking about it later.

I wrote that entire post off the cuff sort since I am between series right now and thought the recipe might come in handy.  Plus, I wanted to warn everyone of the dangers (at least to my taste buds ;)) of over citrusing rice.  Anyway, the term she could “own the recipe” got typed without me consciously typing it.

Later, though, it hit me what I had written and I started to think about what I really meant to own a recipe.

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The Finished Bread Pudding

Okay Carissa, you asked for it…

Egg Nog Bread Pudding with Tequilla/Orange Sauce

So the other night on Twitter, I got to talking with the abovementioned Carissa about egg nog bread pudding, which I promised I would write up the recipe for. True to form, it took me a few days to get around to it, but late is better than never, right?

I love this recipe. When I created it, I took a basic bread pudding recipe and decided to see how much I could gild the lily (to steal a term from Mario Batali). With egg nog only being available around Christmas time, I figured why not? This is obviously a holiday dish and why eat low cal for the holidays? Right?

So beyond using the egg nog, there’s bananas and raisins because they taste awesome in bread pudding and lots of cinnamon. However, the version in the picture above uses povotica, which is a Polish Christmas bread loaded with sugar and butter and all the things that make life worth living. (Unless your one of my vegan readers when I would highly suggest vegan banana bread, but that’s another recipe…)

No Rum Sauce? Why Tequilla/Orange Sauce?

Good question. Part of it goes back to the whole guilding the lily thing. I thought tequilla/orange sauce for bread pudding sounded really good. Plus, I was out of rum. However, rum can easily be substituted in the recipe below. (Hopefully that’s okay…)

Anyway, now to the recipe.

Egg Nog Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding Out of the OvenYou will need:

3 eggs
2 cups of egg nog
1 cup of skim milk
3 cups of diced bread
1/2 cup of sugar*
1/2 orange, zested (optional)
2 bananas, diced
1/4 cup of raisins
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Handful of pecans (optional)

* The amount of sugar is almost totally dependent on the sweetness of the bread you use. For my povotica version, I used 4 tablespoons of sugar because the bread and egg nog are so sweet. Also, no matter what type of bread you choose, remember the egg nog has sugar, too.

This one is real easy, I promise.

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a bowl, whisk the eggs until the are combined. Add the egg nog, milk, sugar and orange zest. Beat together until well combined.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir gently to combine.
  4. Pour into a buttered 9 by 9 glass baking dish. Top with pecans.
  5. Bake for 1 hour or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

Tequilla/Orange Sauce

Bread pudding is always better if it has a little sauce on top. Here’s the one I use. However, there is a caution flag on this one.

I really, really liked this sauce, but I like sipping tequilla. If that’s not you, cut down the tequilla or use a different alcohol.

You will need:

4 tablespoons butter at room temperature
1/2 cup egg nog
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons of corn starch
1/4 cup water
Juice of one orange
1/8 cup tequilla (or more ;))*

*If you are serving this to minors, you can use 2 tablespoons of rum extract for an alcohol flavor.

  1. In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted, add the egg nog, milk, and sugar. Bring to a boil.
  2. Mix the corn starch and water together and then add to the milk mixture. Stir constantly until the sauce thickens.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium low.
  4. Add the orange juice and the tequilla and stir for 3-4 minutes.

Pour on top of the bread puding and enjoy!

This is my holiday endulgence…now, what’s yours?

Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding Notes

  1. If you want your bread pudding to turn out EXACTLY like mine, start off using a bowl with a crack in it until you get to the step about adding the bread…
  2. If you still want to do it like I did, set the oven to broil and don’t realize it until after you start to smell burning and realize your pecans are a loss…
  3. If you’re still with me, one thing I noticed was that the top of my bread pudding still looked wet.  It was not.  In fact, it had set first and just looked kind of glazed.

To go along with the omnivore’s 100 and the vegan 100, I’ve decided to write out the top 100 foods that I want to cook and as I fix them, I will scratch them off and perhaps replace them with something new.  Some of these ideas are pretty mundane, some not so.  Some are vegan, some involve real meat.

If you like the idea, please create your own and leave me a comment so I can steal ideas see what you’re cooking.

  1. Mango/chili powder sorbet
  2. Cayenne Hot Sauce
  3. Faux Short Ribs with Hard Bamboo Bones and Seitan
  4. Fajita Skirt Steak (the real stuff, it’s a long story)
  5. Mexican Flank Steak (Again, don’t ask)
  6. Seitan in an Asian Plum Sauce
  7. Silken Tofu Chocolate Cafe
  8. Noodles like I get at Shogun
  9. Miso Eggplant “eel” sushi
  10. Vegan spicy tuna roll
  11. Crab cakes with Match
  12. Chiapas-style Seitan
  13. Homemade rice pancakes (moo shu style)
  14. Vegan gnocchi
  15. Vegan nan (need a tandoori oven)
  16. Aloo Gobi
  17. Rucci Fry (my favorite vegetarian Indian dish, have no idea what’s in it except that it’s veggies, it’s red, and it’s FLAMING hot.)  Mmm…
  18. Berry banana silken tofu shake
  19. Vanilla/sugar sauted lobster
  20. Dozen oysters with horseradish finished with citrus and a hint of watermelon
  21. Seitan pepperoni
  22. Seitan salami
  23. Smoked tempeh
  24. Tiger cry seitan
  25. Vegan haggis (yes, I, too am puzzled by this…)
  26. Vegan shrimp substitute
  27. Vegan parmesan
  28. Sweet mash (sweet potatoes and bananas)
  29. Vegan hot dogs
  30. Turducken
  31. Cassoulet
  32. A vegan version of Cassoulet
  33. Vegan french toast
  34. Cashew cheese
  35. Cashew milk
  36. Homemade soy milk
  37. Lemon poppy seed cake
  38. Mini carrot cakes
  39. Kalamata olive bread
  40. Vegan sun-dried tomato spread
  41. Olive tapenade
  42. Vegan ham
  43. Barley risotto
  44. Sweet potato risotto
  45. Sweet potato ice cream
  46. Vegan cookies and cream ice cream
  47. Champagne risotto
  48. Salad with nicoise olives
  49. Pear puree soup
  50. Strawberry/tomato bruschetta (thanks forfeng)
  51. Jack Daniels glaze
  52. Bourbon sauce
  53. Margarita seitan
  54. Chiliaquelles
  55. Vegan alfredo sauce
  56. Sugar grilled asparagus
  57. Yu shiang asparagus
  58. Sa cha eggplant
  59. Dan dan noodles that don’t completely suck
  60. Blazing noodles from Pei Wei (I’m close)
  61. Seitan in a slow cooker
  62. Tea marinated seitan
  63. Tea smoked something
  64. Green tea ice cream
  65. Chipotle paste
  66. Serrano ginger paste
  67. Hard candy
  68. Carmel scallops
  69. Chinese pork bun
  70. Chili paste
  71. Mole
  72. Good Brazillian polenta
  73. Brazillian cheese bread
  74. Seitan scampi
  75. Collard greens
  76. Profiteroles
  77. Profiteroles stuffed with seitan
  78. Vegan cheesy mashed potatoes
  79. Vegan creamed spinach
  80. Garlicky sauted spinach
  81. Sweet Potatoe Souffle
  82. Vegan coconut drop cookies
  83. Vegan egg replacer
  84. Frittata with tofu eggs
  85. French-style omelet
  86. Vegan feta
  87. Flour tortillas from scratch
  88. Chimichanga
  89. Asian 5 Spice Seitan
  90. Peking Duck
  91. Stuffed portobellos
  92. Mango relish that doesn’t taste like crap
  93. Grilled stuffed peaches
  94. Deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  95. Fried cookie dough
  96. Mochahete
  97. Vegan sausage
  98. Peach cobbler
  99. Macadamia-nut encrusted cheese cake
  100. Jamaican jerk sauce

So…what’s on your 100? 

So I was talking with my wife the other day about being vegetarian and whether we should attempt being vegan.  I surprised myself.

I have been really pondering why I don’t eat meat.  At first, it was a health thing.  Not so much that a meat free diet is healthier (it is, by the way) but because part of my ability to lose weight depends on being able to control food. Vegetarianism = controlling food.  Hence I became vegetarian.

But the more I think about it, the more I find that I don’t really need to kill things to eat well.  I’m not sure if its the murdering that I am really finding distateful or the fact that commercial meat is full of fun things like mad cow and salmonella, not to mention cholesterol, triglycerides, and other things which cause a host of diseases.  But there is something about killing to eat that I find unnecessary.

Citizens of developed nations do not need meat to survive.  As a species, all humans once needed meat to have enough food to live.  Even after agriculture came along, we still needed meat.  The problem is industrialized countries (and non-industrial countries if the Developed Nations spent less time blowing up their neighbors and siding with dictators and more time building infrastructure and rooting out corruption) have enough technology and understanding of food science that if they so chose, they could live without meat. 

And frankly all we are doing by eating meat is killing ourselves.  People die of contaminated food (and yes, people died from bacteria in spinach, but that was traced to a pig farm next door…) and people die of the diseases that meat cause.  At the same time, the American Cancer Association is pushing people to eat vegetarian diets because they are healthy and they extend life.

Ultimately, I feel that not eating meat is the logical next step in cultural evolution.  I think it makes us more human and humane to stop killing the “lesser” creatures that live on it.  Yes, God made us dominion over all the land and all the animals on it.  However, the way we use that dominion is akin to me giving you dominion of my bank account and you losing it on slot machines or thousand dollar trinkets.  Yes, you had dominion over it, but wasted it.

So, to my mind: we don’t NEED meat.  We probably SHOULDN’T eat it and there are BETTER alternatives.  To me, it just makes sense that we find a new direction.

I expect a deluge of feedback for anyone who reads this.  I don’t consider myself a militaristic vegetarian, but I do wonder what would happen if we looked past our epicurean ways and tried to live a little healthier.

As befitting this special day, here’s a recipe I invented for special occasions.

You will need:

  • 4 tablespoons grapeseed oil 
  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced 
  • 2 pounds of meat, deboned, dark meat preferred
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cover the meat liberally with salt and pepper. 
  2. Over a medium fire, add the butter and half of the oil.
  3. When the butter is foamy, add the onions, carrots, celery, and a pinch of salt.  Cook until soft.
  4. Remove vegetables, increase to medium high heat, and add the rest of the oil.
  5. When the oil is piping hot, add the meat and cook four minutes per side.  If the meat is particularly fatty, as some victims…er… carcasses may be, the heat can be kept at medium and the fat rendered out.
  6. Finish the meat in a 350 degree oven.   Meat should cook 5 minutes per pound for medium rare.
  7. Serve atop the sauted vegetables.

Happy April 1!

This idea has really started to resonate with me.  After a Christmas party that carried a nearly $20/head charge, the Super Bowl, and my birthday coming up, entertaining has just been on my mind.  I try to stay away from entertaining as a topic here because there are many excellent blogs that cover it.  However, I did want to make this post.

 

So from personal experience I can say that parties are expensive.  Buying food, wine, beer, and cocktails can cost hundreds of dollars before party favors or plastic china (you know, the good stuff).  These tips will help control the costs and make the party fun.

1. Do Not Be Afraid to Have a Liquor Potluck 

Unless the cook has a reputation as a wine collector or beer expert, she should not be afraid to ask others to bring the booze.  This eases the financial burden on the cook and scratches off at least one store from her errand list.  More importantly, it lets others take a role in the party.  Guests that enjoy wine or have a favorite beer or mix a great cocktail are more than happy to share their passion.  Also, having others share their liquor will broaden everyone’s alcohol horizons.

2.  Make the Expensive Items

While it okay to buy from the store, sometimes this is not always the best strategy.  If a home cook can prepare a dish more cheaply than it can be purchased (barbecued items are a good example) the cook should strongly consider making it rather than buying it.

3.  Leave Healthy at the Store

A party is a time to eat junk food, fried foods, and desserts; all of those things that most people eschew during the normal work week.  This means that the party host does not need to worry about buying the best organic produce, reduced fat cheeses, or leaner cuts of meat.  All of these things cost money though their absence will scarcely be missed by partygoers.

4.  Buy in Bulk

In larger cities, most cooks know someone who has a wholesale club membership or have one themselves.  Because the cook is preparing food for a large number of people, this is the ideal to use those memberships.  If such a store is not available, the cook should still try to buy things is as large of cans as possible to lower the per unit cost.  Lastly, depending on the store, the cook may be able to negotiate a lower price on a larger order.

5.  It is Okay to Limit the Wow

While it is generally good to have one or two signature dishes at a party, not everything needs to be made with filet, lobster, and shrimp.  Sometimes the best dishes are the cheapest.

I try to cut fried foods out my diet when attempting to Keep my Resolution and lose weight.  Despite the fact that there is something insanely delicious about food submerged in oil, it is not healthy.  Yes, I realize that there are ways to make fried foods healthier but that does not mean that deep fat frying is as healthy as say baking or microwaving.

I do not want to give up my fried foods, though, so I have tried to find different ways to prepare fried foods without actually frying.  This gave birth to my wife’s and my oven fries recipe.  This recipe uses a two stage approach (baking and then broiling) to produce a perfectly cooked french fry suitable for the finest dijon ketchups.

You will need:

  • 4 large potatoes, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of seasoning salt (optional, recommended)
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic powder (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. 
  2. Cut the potatoes into your favorite fry shape.  We tend to use 1/2 inch by 1/4 inch by 2 inch pieces.  There is no rhyme or reason to the size, it is just what our family prefers.  Cut the potatoes into whatever size you would like, but remember the deeper the potato, the longer the cooking time and adjust accordingly.
  3. Wash the potatoes to remove excess starch and pat dry.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the olive oil and cut potatoes until the potatoes are covered in a thin coating of oil.  This will let them brown.
  5. To really minimize oil usage, buy an olive oil spritzer and sprtitz the potatoes.
  6. Bake the potatoes for 15 minutes or until the are start to dry.
  7. Set the oven to broil and continue cooking until crispy.  In my oven this is 3-5 minutes, but depending on the strength of the broiler and the positioning of the rack, it could be less time.
  8. Immediately after removing the fries, sprinkle the salt and any desired spices on top of the potatoes.

Serve with hamburgers or sloppy joes or hot dogs as normal.

This is a little trick I have used many times when trying to remove fats and oils from cooking healthy.  Instead of sauteing in oil, many types of food can be sauted in broth or stock or soy sauce.  The liquid, especially if it is contains a little bit of fat, will prevent the food from burning and will act as a medium of transfer.

To do this:

  1. Heat the skillet and add enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan 1/8 to 1/4 inch high.  That should be less than a quarter of a cup.
  2. Add the food and cook as normal.   

Now, the texture of the finished product will be different.  The broth or stock is not going to crisp up the food being sauted like an oil would, but it is going to be much lower in fat and, for many dishes, the cooking liquid will add flavor.

Other Tips About Oil

Whenever possible, cook with heart healthy oils like olive oil.  Olive oil contains a good amount of fat, but doctors have shown how the fats from olive oils can be good for the body when taken in small doses.  So no matter which oil is used,  keep the amount of oil to a bare minimum.

When eating out, ask the chefs to limit the amount of oil they use or eliminate it entirely.  One of my personal vices is Chinese food, but it is heavy and fatty, even the non-deep fried items.  I have taken to asking the chef to make the dishes without oil.  They tend to look a little puzzeled at first, but then prepare a dish that tastes almost exactly like the heavy, oily dish.

So I kind of flaked on spice week.  I blame the extreme sickness that came and visited me for too long.

Because I only posted three recipes, I wanted to follow up with a fourth post on unique spices.  For this post, I shall talk about file powder.  Pronounced FEE-lay, it is a term for ground sassafrass leaves and is one of two ingredients that work with roux to thicken gumbo (the other being okra) and is a flavoring spice in other cajun food.

File makes the gumbo broth dark and gives the whole dish an earthy, savory taste that is not present in okra-based gumbo.  In addition, file powder seasons the entire broth whereas the only thing that tastes like okra is the okra.  As an added benefit, file powder does not get slimy and chewy like okra that has been cooked to long.  Which is not to say that I do not like okra gumbo.  I make it a lot, I just prefer file-based gumbo.

So here is my challenge to you.  In the United States where I am at, the weather is starting to get cold and winter will soon be upon us.  Cold weather is the perfect excuse to try out a new soup or stew recipe, so if you have not had a file-based gumbo, give one of these recipes a try!

http://www.cooks.com/rec/search/0,1-0,gumbo_file_powder_ingredients,FF.html

Okay, the following recipe is not mine…at least not completely.  I came across this recipe one day as I was flipping channels and happend to pass by the Food Network.  There, in primetime no less, was the lovely Paul Deen staring back at me over a mixing bowl.

With her Southern belle smile, she announced she was going to make a pumpkin cheesecake.  While she had me at “Hey y’all,” I sat in rapt attention as she made this recipe.

I had never made a cheesecake before.  I made that cheesecake.

I can bake.  Who knew?

If you decide to try it, follow the baking instructions exactly.  That’s my best advice.  My second best advice would that next time I make the recipe, I am going to add a half cup more sugar and double the spice.  I like my pumpkin pies bold with big flavors.  Paula’s pumpkin cheesecake was good, but it did not explode with sweetness, nutmeg, and clove like I prefer.  That is not Paula’s fault.  Everyone else who has tried the recipe loved it and wanted more. 

And besides, it’s a Paula Deen dessert.  You know it has to be good!