Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Lemony Dill Red Potato Salad

  Here's another quick and easy cold salad to bring to your next cookout. It's familiar enough to please the crowd, but just different enough for everyone to sit up and take notice.
 I was kind of in the mood for a really good potato salad, but didn't want to go through the trouble of making an entire 5 lbs of my Mom's recipe (which is the only way I know how to make it... in 5 lb increments.. I'm not even kidding.) So this one seemed to be a good swap (no peeling!) It's inspired by a recipe from a blog called Barefeet in the Kitchen. And yes, I tweaked it a little because you know I can never leave well enough alone.
 So lets break it down, shall we? The fresh dill is SO good in this, it makes me think "why don't I use this herb more often?" And the lemon gives it such a bright tang that it has summer freshness written all over it. I also added some diced celery for a nice little crunch. And well, frankly, for me, potato salad is not potato salad unless it has eggs in it. So there you go!
Give this one a try and let me know how you like it!

3 lbs baby red potatoes
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2 ribs of celery, finely diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbs chopped fresh dill
1 tsp grated lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot of salted water, boil potatoes until fork tender. Remove potatoes from pot, drain, and set aside to cool completely. In the meantime, in a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut each one in half. Add potato halves to the bowl and toss to coat with the dressing. Chill until ready to serve.

I don't mind if the potatoes are still slightly warm when mixing with the dressing. This lets the potatoes absorb all the yummy flavor.
When chopping the eggs, I just use an egg slicer and slice them in two different directions, you know, like you do for egg salad.
The amounts of lemon and dill are just suggestions. Whenever I'm making something with fresh dill, I find that I always end up adding more than a recipe says. Same with the lemon juice and zest. Add it until it's the right amount for you!
Also, if you garnish the bowl with a sprig of dill (and even a slice of lemon on top), then your guests will know what ingredients are in the dish!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Joey's Macaroni Cole Slaw

 OK here's a really quick no-brainer of a side salad that made me think "why have we never done this before?" It's exactly as it sounds: cole slaw with macaroni in it. In other words, if macaroni salad and cole slaw had a baby, this would be it! It's so summery and fresh, it's the perfect cold side dish for any BBQ or cookout event. But, like, seriously, why have we never combined the two before? Crazy, huh?
This is my riff on a Taste of Home recipe. Feel free to swap out the veggies with anything you like. The ToH recipe had water chestnuts in it, but I didn't have any on hand, so I just went with what I had. I swapped out a few other things too. Make it how you like it! Easy!

1/2 lb large elbows or other cut pasta of choice
1 bag cole slaw mix
1/2 cup diced cucumber
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped scallion
1 cup mayo
2 tbs sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

In a large pot of salted water, boil the elbows until al dente. Drain and allow to cool completely.
Place in a large bowl with all remaining ingredients. Stir until well combined.  
 If you'd like to toss the ingredients and then mix the dressing separately before adding, that's fine, but I just dumped everything into the bowl and gave it a good stir. And that's it!

I think the cucumber is key. It makes it so fresh! I used a hothouse (aka English) cucumber which is a little sweeter, has tiny seeds, and doesn't even need to be peeled. Use whatever kind you like!
I also went with scallions instead of regular diced onions because I wanted a milder onion flavor.
 To save time, this can be made a day in advance.
And as always, if you like a lot of something, add a lot!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Cinnamon Watermelon Rind Pickles

   OK, I have a question for you. What kind of eater are you? Are you an adventurous eater? In other words, do you purposely order something from a menu specifically because you've previously never tried it? Or are you a "stick to the plan , never stray from the path, stay with the tried and true" kind of eater? If you know me, you already know that I fall squarely into the former category, not that there's anything wrong with the latter. Some people know what they like, and that's fine, but I'm always one for trying new foods, especially when it comes to canning!
 I had heard of pickling watermelon rind, but I had never tasted it, and it has been on my to-do list ever since I learned how to preserve things in jars. And now I've finally gotten around to making it! So here we go.
 Where does one even find a pickled watermelon rind recipe? In my many google searches, I discovered that this is clearly a big Southern thing, and it's also very frugal since you are using up just about the entire melon. I discovered that many famous chefs and cooking personalities have their own versions of it, so it was kind of hard trying to decide which direction to go. I looked at Martha Stewart's recipe, Paula Deen's, Alton Brown's, and several others. I also immediately noticed that many recipes for pickling any kind of fruit often have warm spices in them. I found recipes with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and so forth. I guess that makes perfect sense that you would preserve your melon rinds and fruits during the summer, and then eat them in the Autumn and Winter months. So I needed to decide how spicy I wanted to go. For my first time pickling fruit, I thought "lets just keep it simple" (that's often the best rule in cooking). I decided to go with this recipe is from Ball Canning, or as I like to call them "the canning people." Side note, I ALWAYS use their line of mason jars and canning materials, and I have more than one of their canning cookbooks. As far as I'm concerned, they are simply the Canning Authorities.
 But anyway, lets talk about the TASTE! I mean, that what everyone is wondering, correct? I absolutely love them and could eat them right out of the jar, especially when they're chilled. In fact I'm already trying to find ways to use them in other recipes. My niece Attie's reaction was "interesting." (Still not exactly sure how she felt about them.) My nephew, Gregger, immediately said that it tastes like apple pie. Well, yes, you do get a hit of cinnamon at the first bite, and the texture is very similar to apples baked in a pie, but the vinegar syrup will quickly tell you that this is definitely not an apple pie. And my sister, Cathy, was too polite to say that they weren't exactly her favorite thing. But hey, I get it! Not every food is for every person! Like my Mom always said "You don't have to like it, you just have to try it." So I'm thrilled that Cathy was good enough to give it a try.
 So that brings me back to my original question: What kind of eater are you? If you're looking for a new something to try, this might be the recipe for you! It was DEFINITELY worth the effort for me, and I will absolutely be making them again. And yes, I bought the watermelon specifically so I could pickle the rind. (You knew I was gonna say that, right??) Let me know if you give them a try. I'm curious to know what you think!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Slow Cooker Milk and Honey Corn on the Cob

 Every so often, I'll stumble upon a recipe that makes me stand up and say "WHOA, where has this been all my life?" Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it has happened again! It's so good that I can't even wait until next Monday to post it (as is my usual. well, most of the time).
 This is corn on the cob cooked in a slow cooker! Whodathunkit, right? It's BRILLIANT! No steamy hot pots of boiling water on a swelteringly humid summer day! How perfect is that??? And adding coconut milk to corn, for me, is an absolute revelation. I never had it before, but now I want it in every corn dish I've ever made. They go SO well together. No, it doesn't taste like a coconut Easter egg. You use unsweetened coconut milk, which I've always found to be more buttery than coconutty. (Coconutty?) So it makes perfect sense to pair it with corn, right???
 The recipe is from a website called The Magical Slow Cooker, and seriously, this one is just that. MAGICAL! I think this is now my go-to recipe for corn on the cob. It's just absolutely delicious! Make this for your next cookout and I'll betcha there won't be any leftovers!

6-7 ears of corn shucked and broken in half 
13.66 oz. can light coconut milk 
2 Tbsp. honey 
1 stick salted butter

Add the corn to the slow cooker. Pour over the coconut milk. Drizzle over the honey. Cut up the butter into pieces and add to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours without opening the lid during the cooking time. (4 hours for frozen corn) To serve, roll each corn piece in the buttery coconut milk mixture.

Be sure to use a large slow cooker. 6 Qts or larger.
If you don't want to use coconut milk, you can just you two cups of water or other milk of choice.

Joey's Tips:
Since I have a large slow cooker, I was able to do more than just 6-7 ears of corn. So just fill yours all the way up, fitting the ears in as best you can, and make sure the lid will fit snugly on top so the corn can steam.
 The original recipe says to use light coconut milk, but I used regular. The reason for using light is that is has more of a milk consistency, whereas the regular coconut milk is much thicker. And usually all of the fat solidifies in the can, but I just whisked it together until is was smooth and creamy and pourable.
If you only have unsalted butter, just add a pinch or two of salt over the top!

Monday, July 1, 2019

Hot Milk Cake

  I like to think of myself as being pretty knowledgeable about cakes. I can tell you why a 1-2-3-4 Cake is so named. I know that German Chocolate Cake is not from Germany at all. I can tell you the difference between a Swiss Meringue Buttercream and an Italian Meringue Buttercream. I know that all Jelly Rolls are Roulades, but not all Roulades are Jelly Rolls. I've heard of mayonnaise cake, tomato soup cake, potato cake, even sausage cake. (yes, that's really a thing.) I've baked King Cakes, Cheesecakes, Carrot Cakes, Red Velvet Cakes, Hummingbird Cakes, Tres Leches Cakes, even Wedding Cakes!  So I seriously can't even express how excited I get when I discover a new kind of cake! Well, actually, this is not new at all. New TO ME,  of course, but this cake goes back over 100 years! Nothing like standing the test of time, huh?
 I first read about it in an article about Depression Era foods, which talked about recipes that used simple ingredients that were stretched as far as a dollar could stretch. I love the idea of going back to basics and making foods that our grandparents and great grandparents made. Hmm... maybe I'll have to look into that a bit more and see what other delicious ideas I can discover.... but I digress...
 Lets talk about this cake! The flavor is a light vanilla, not unlike a pound cake, but the texture is much lighter and fluffier, and the crumb is much more delicate. You can enjoy it just as it is, maybe with a little powdered sugar over the top, you can bake it in layers or even in a bundt pan, or you can do a 9x13 pan and top it with berries and whipped cream frosting like I did. It's perfect for any holiday or special occasion because it feeds a crowd, and it's DELICIOUS!!! I think that pretty much covers all bases, right?
 So there you have it. As much as I love coming up with new recipes, I love going back to revisit some of the old and tried and true. Just like the song says, Everything Old Is New Again! You probably already have all the ingredients on hand anyway, so why not give it a try?
 It's definitely a keeper!

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups milk
10 tbs butter

In a large bowl, beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add sugar, beating until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder; gradually add to batter; beat at low speed until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat milk and butter just until butter is melted. Gradually add to batter; beat just until combined. Pour into a greased 13x9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Originally, I was gonna top the cake with cream cheese frosting, but decided that would be a bit too heavy. So I decided to do a whipped cream cheese frosting instead. Just mix a bar of cream cheese with a cup of sugar VERY well until it's smooth, then fold in whipped heavy cream and a tsp of vanilla extract. Easy!
Oh, one other thing.. I almost forgot to mention that this recipe is from Taste of Home. I found several recipes, and they were all quite similar, but this one seemed to be pretty easy and straight forward, so I went with it! 

Monday, June 24, 2019

Candied JalapeƱos aka Cowboy Candy

  Even though I'm not really a spicy food kinda guy, lately I've been kind of in the mood to push my own flavor boundaries and turn up the heat just a bit. In my neverending search for new and fun things to preserve in jars, I discovered these little gems of sweet-hotness that are absolutely amazing and delicious on EVERYTHING. I mean, yes, you can serve them on crackers with a schmear of cream cheese, but seriously, they're great on sandwiches, salads, you name it. They're sweet and syrupy, the spice is definitely there, and the pepper flavor is just as present. And the addition of the cayenne pepper gives it a slow burn that I just love in a sweet heat. I found the recipe on a blog called Foodie with Family, and I followed it EXACTLY to the letter. I know. I know. It's crazy that I didn't tweak it somewhere along the lines which is my usual MO, but for me, hot peppers are kind of uncharted territory, so I stuck with the plan and didn't stray from the path. I'm pretty thrilled with how they turned out! And I happened to find a few RED ones, so I added a slice or two to each jar for a little pop of color. I'm thinking this the current front runner for holiday gift giving this year.
They're just that good! Boom.

3 pounds fresh firm, jalapeno peppers, washed 
2 cups cider vinegar 
6 cups white granulated sugar 
1/2 teaspoon turmeric 
1/2 teaspoon celery seed 
3 teaspoons granulated garlic 
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

 Wearing gloves, remove the stems from all of the jalapeno peppers, and discard. Slice the peppers into uniform 1/8-1/4 inch rounds. Set aside. In a large pot, bring remaining ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pepper slices and simmer for exactly 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers, loading into clean, sterile, hot canning jars to within 1/4 inch of the upper rim of the jar. Turn heat up under the pot with the syrup and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes, (which means a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred away). Use a ladle to pour the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeno slices. Insert a chopstick to the bottom of the jar two or three times to release any trapped pockets of air. Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel and fix on new, two-piece lids to finger-tip tightness.
Place jars in a canner, cover with water by 2-inches. Bring the water to a boil. When it reaches a full rolling boil, set the timer for 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints. When timer goes off, use canning tongs to transfer the jars to a cooling rack. Leave them to cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. When fully cooled, wipe them with a clean, damp washcloth.  For best flavor, allow to mellow for at least two weeks, but preferably a month before eating.

-This recipe makes quite a bit of syrup compared to the amount of jalapenos. The original recipe suggested canning the extra syrup in jars because it's so yummy brushed on meats or anything you grill, but even after doing that, there was still quite a bit. So I just used it to make a batch of candied Habaneros! If you plan to double the recipe, (and you definitely should!) don't double the syrup ingredients. You'll have plenty!
-Instead of using a food processor or mandoline, I chose to slice the peppers by hand. Yes, that's a little tedious, but I wanted to make sure they were all perfect little rings that were the perfect thickness. The food processor and mandoline weren't helping me to that end. You don't want the slices to be too thin, otherwise they'll just turn to mush. Oh, and definitely wear gloves and take care not to touch your eyes or any other part of your body. Oof.
-If you're not interested in preserving them in sealed jars, just follow the recipe up until you fill up your jars, then just keep them in the fridge. They'll keep up to 3 months.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Beef

  When you think of barbecue, you usually think of firing up the grill, correct? Or if you're really hardcore, you think of firing up your smoker, am I right? Well, what do you do if you want something barbecue, but you live in an apartment with no way of grilling? You use your slow cooker, of course! That's usually my go-to when I want pulled pork, but this time I wanted to do a pulled BEEF.
 Now, normally, I would just pour some barbecue sauce over a chunk of meat and let it cook all day, but this time I kind of wanted to do a dry rub instead. Can you put a big beef in a slow cooker without any added liquid? Absolutely! For one thing, there will be a lot of juice from the beef itself. And for another thing, you really don't want to BOIL the beef in all that liquid. You just want it to slow cook in its own juices. And then, finally...FINALLY....., after patiently waiting for it to cook all day ... you pull apart the most tender beef you've ever cooked......  you add some barbecue sauce, just until it's enough, and then you serve it up on some fresh rolls with some cole slaw or potato salad and a crisp crunchy pickle spear.
OH. MY. GOD. Seriously, for me, that's Summer on a plate. All I need now is some Jersey corn and a few Jersey Tomatoes, and I'll be living like Royalty, wondering what the poor people are doing. SO GOOD! There's just nothing like it!
So, give it a try. If you're all about that beef, then this is one for you!

1 3-5 lb chuck roast
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp smoked paprika
a few pinches of crushed red pepper flakes
1 sliced onion
Barbecue sauce

Mix together the spices and brown sugar. Using your impeccably clean hands, rub the spice mixture all over the beef. Place beef in slow cooker. Top with onion slices. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. When the beef is falling apart, use two forks to shred it. Add your favorite barbecue sauce until it's as saucy as you like it.

If there is quite a bit of juice, just remove a little before you add the barbecue sauce.