Category Archives: Gadgets

Friday Recipe Exchange: Fun with Gadgets

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When I was sick last month, I watched a lot of cooking shows while resting on the couch. One that caught my imagination was different things that can be made in a waffle iron. That spurred the idea for tonight’s recipe exchange. Unexpected recipes for various cooking appliances.

First up, Biscuit Breakfast Sandwiches made in the waffle iron. Not as elegant as JeffreyW’s delicious looking waffle, bacon and egg sandwich pictured above, but it’s a quick- less than 10-minute – tasty breakfast. Click here for recipe and directions.

One of the best ideas I’ve heard in a long time is Grilling Pizza outside on the grill. Recipes and instruction here.

And finally, make a spinach lasagna in the slow-cooker that tastes like it was oven-baked, with this recipe for Slow-cooker Lasagna here.

What’s on your plate this weekend? Anyone else have unusual recipes for kitchen gadgets? Anyone harvesting from their garden yet? It’s just about time for my favorites here, peas and new potatoes, along with lettuce, spinach and asparagus.

Tonight’s featured recipe solved my biggest issue with hash browns, how to make them easy, quick and crisp. The waffle iron was the unexpected answer.

Cooking the hashbrowns

It’s so easy.  The best part is, there is no need to wring the water from the shredded potatoes, my least favorite step of making hash browns. It’s messy, but without that, skillet fried hash browns never crisp up properly, even with my cast iron press.

The waffle iron to the rescue. Mine is 7 inches across and enough for one potato, but it’s so fast, it was easy to make enough for everyone. I just put the finished ones in the oven to stay warm.

I shredded the potato and lightly patted the shreds with a paper towel, I mixed in a little olive oil, salt, pepper, shredded onion and garlic powder. I brushed oil on both plates and pre-heated the iron, mine has temp settings, so I put it on the highest setting. I spread the shredded potato thinly over the iron, closed the lid tight and let cook for 2 minutes, checked on them, then removed when they were crisp enough. Over the four potatoes I made, the longest time was 4:30 minutes, shortest time was a little less than 3 minutes.

Waffle hashbrowns

It was so easy and the cleanup  was basically wiping out the waffle iron with a paper towel. The next time I do it, I think I’ll add some shredded green or red pepper. It’s definitely a good way to put my waffle iron to use.

That’s it for this week. No Bixby update, although he learned how to use a drinking fountain yesterday. Pretty damn cute. I’ll try to get video for next week. Hope you have a good weekend – TaMara

 

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Fun with Food: Grilled Pizza

I have friends who love grilled pizza and make it frequently. I always thought it sounded good, but haven’t tried it yet. If it sounds like something fun to try, here are two pretty reliable sources for how-to:

From J. Kenji López-Alt at Serious Eats

The Pizza Lab: The Complete Updated Guide To Grilled Pizza

Pizza on the coals from Serious Eats

Pizza on the coals from Serious Eats

How to Grill Pizza, a Crash Course

Grilled pizza is made by laying a stretched piece of dough directly on the grates over hot coals, cooking the first side, flipping it, topping it in reverse order (that’s cheese, then sauce), then returning it to the fire to cook the second side. As the second side cooks, the cheese melts, and the sauce warms. It’s as simple as that.

Here’s how to get it done.

Step 1: Pick A Nice Day

You preferably want to make your dough at least a day in advance, so look at the forecast, and plan accordingly. We picked this past Wednesday, which started out as a sunny, balmy 85°F New York summer day. Our hope was that we’d be down to comfortable lounging temperature at just about the time the grill was fired up and evening started to settle in.

Step 2: Make Dough – for the rest of the instructions click over to here.

And from Alton Brown at The Food Network:

Grilled Pizza from Alton Brown and The Food Network

Grilled Pizza from Alton Brown and The Food Network

Grilled Pizza – Various Toppings

Dough – Enough for 3 (16-inch) round pizzas:
16 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for peel and rolling
1 envelope instant or rapid rise yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
10 ounces warm water, approximately 105 degrees F
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons for bowl
1 tablespoon malted barley syrup

For complete instructions, click here.

Margherita topping – Enough to top 1 (16-inch) round pizza (recipe here)

Date and prosciutto topping – Enough to top 1 (16-inch) round pizza (recipe here)

These all sound yummy and can’t wait to experiment with them. – TaMara

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Fun with Food: Slow-cooker Spinach Lasagna

Slow-Cooker Lasagna 2

This week I’m having fun with unusual recipes in unusual gadgets. Here’s one from December 2012:

This is a great take on spinach lasagna, using a slow-cooker. This entire dish completely surprised me. I was at work, one day, in our morning meeting – which was actually an excuse for the guys to wow me with their cooking ideas – when Vern told me about the slow-cooker lasagna he’d made the night before. I was skeptical. Lasagna in a slow-cooker sounded like it would have the consistency of canned ravioli. But he insisted it was really good. So I set out to see for myself. I have to say, he wasn’t wrong. It had a great flavor, the texture was very similar to having cooked it in an oven and the top was nicely browned and the cheese perfectly gooey. The only caveat is that it cooks in about 4 hours, so you can’t put it together in the morning and have it ready when you get home at the end of the work day. It would be burned to a crisp, even on low.

So, here is tonight’s featured recipe, my version of slow-cooker lasagna:

Slow-Cooker Spinach Lasagna

  • 1 lb lean ground beef (opt, you can skip to keep this vegetarian)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 carrot shredded (this cuts the acidity of the sauce, adds a touch of sweetness)
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 28 oz canned tomato sauce
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 tsp of dried basil, crushed
  • 12 ounces ricotta cheese (you can sub in cottage cheese if desired)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, washed and rough chopped
  • 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 12 ounces lasagna noodles, uncooked (I used brown rice pasta to keep it gluten free)

Sauce: Brown ground beef, along with onion, garlic, carrots and green pepper in a saucepan (if you are omitting the beef, sauté vegetables in a tbsp of olive oil). Add tomato sauce, paste and spices. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and let simmer on low while preparing remaining ingredients.

Mix together ricotta cheese and egg, until well combined. Fold in spinach.

In the slow-cooker, spoon a layer of sauce onto the bottom, add a double layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (break to fit) and top with a portion of the ricotta mixture and then a portion of the mozzarella. Add sauce, then a single layer of noodles, ricotta and mozzarella and repeat layers until ingredients are all used up. (Because slow-cookers vary in size, I unfortunately can’t give you precise layering, as I can with the traditional lasagna. You’ll have to eye it. The good news is, it will all cook together and be just fine regardless).

Finish with sauce, mozzarella and then shredded Parmesan.

Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.

 

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Fun With Food: Waffle Iron Breakfast Sandwiches

Breakfast Sandwich

Last month when I was so sick, I spent a lot of time resting on the couch, watching TV. This was on some cooking show, they were making a breakfast sandwich using only a waffle iron. Sounded like fun. It took me a couple of times to get the timing right because it all happens fast. Start to finish it was ten minutes per sandwich. And clean up was a breeze. Paper towel to clean out the waffle iron is all you need.

Biscuits

I started with the biscuits, because I didn’t want the bacon to flavor everything. I first tried refrigerator crescent rolls, but they were hard to work with and way too sweet. My second try was with refrigerator biscuits. I thought they worked about really well. The crew on the show actually reheated store bought bagged croissants. That would work, too. For the biscuit, I used one biscuit that I separated in half to cook. You could use two if you wanted thicker sandwich.

Bacon slices

Next up: bacon. My waffle iron is 7 inches across and easily held two slices of bacon, cut in half. It cooks up fast, so keep an eye on it.

Bacon slices 2b

It was crisped in less than 2 minutes. I then drained off the excess grease and it was time for the eggs and cheese.

Waffle eggs

I had no trouble with it sticking, because the bacon grease kept the waffle iron well oiled. Mine held only one egg. Milk worked better than water for mixing. And my iron has adjustable temperature, so on my second try, I lowered it to the lowest setting and got the egg the way I liked, less brown, more light and fluffy.

The eggs were surprisingly fluffy, no matter what, but milk gave them a bit more loft.  You could easily add green pepper or onions to the mix, maybe even tomatoes. Just watch the amounts because you don’t want the egg to spill out of the sides, then you have a mess.

The key to preparation is to have everything ready to go. Biscuits separated, egg beaten, cheese shredded and bacon cut. Then it is a quick process – biscuit took 2 minutes, bacon took 2 minutes, egg took less than a minute, then I added the cheese and that was another 30 seconds, tops. Assemble and eat. Yum.

 

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Sammich Pr0n – More Burger Than Bun

DSC_0298 (1600x1060)I bought a griddle iron, a thing to weigh down bacon and such like on a griddle to keep it from curling, and found it pretty useful as a burger patty flatten-er.  DSC_0312 (1600x1060)Roll a ball of ground beef and place it between two sheets of parchment paper and bear down on it.  The patty comes out fairly round and about as thin as you want.DSC_0291 (1600x1060)

Sammich Pr0n – Panini

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Our grill press has been getting a workout.  These went a tad too long and toasted up more than I like but they ate well enough.  In the category: Wonders, Never Ceasing, I noted the time and temperature and dialed the time back from 15 minutes to 10 and lowered the temp dial from medium high to medium-ish:DSC_9281 (1600x1060)

Both of these have roast pork, chopped fresh jalapenos and cheese, the first also has some ham I had leftover from something else and provolone, the second is sans ham and has Swiss.  The mustard is a spicy mix store brand honey mustard.  I’m not too sure what the peppers are, exactly, but it doesn’t make a bad dip. The buns were generic deli submarine/hoagie rolls, just about any of the softer buns and rolls will work fine but you will want to avoid really crusty breads.  The placement of the samies in the grill makes a difference, adjust so you get a full, even contact from the top element.  It’s open all around so a little trial and error will get you there quickly.  A little pre-grill smush by hand will help, too.

Friday Recipe Exchange: Ice Cream and Gelato Treats

Key Lime Pie2

I’m swamped with work, trying to catch up after a week away, so tonight in true summer fashion, we’re going to have a repeat. But it’s a delicious repeat. Last year, friends lent me their Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker to test drive, so I spent a week making various frozen treats, testing them on all the neighbors (I was very popular that week) and posted the results. This summer I bought my own Cuisinart, so I thought it was time to pull out the recipes and make some ice cream and gelato. After all, it’s just been too hot to cook. Perfect time for frozen treats.

While Gelato is by far my favorite, I played no favorites and included ice cream and sorbet in the selection. These recipes all make between 1 and 1-1/2 quarts.  Here’s the lineup:

Vanilla and Strawberry Ice Cream (recipes here)

Blueberry Sorbet (recipe here)

Chocolate-Hazelnut Gelato (recipe here)

What’s your recipe for fun this weekend? What delicious things are you cooking up for this final weekend of July (oh, how can that be)?

Now for the recipe that started the whole thing, the reason I borrowed my friends’ ice cream maker. A while back I was searching for gelato recipes and came across one for Key Lime Pie. It sounded awesome. I tucked it away, planning to try it someday. Someday finally came and I put my own twist on it:

Key Lime Pie Gelato

  • Gelato Plain Base (recipe below)
  • 1 graham cracker crust, broken into pieces and frozen (recipe below)
  • 3 tbsps fresh lime juice, preferably Key lime*
  • 2 tsp grated lime zest

Make the Gelato Plain Base and chill as directed. Make the graham cracker crust as directed and freeze.

To make Key Lime Gelato: Gently whisk the limejuice and zest into the base. Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Just after churning quickly stir in the graham cracker crust pieces, reserving some for garnish. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.

*after you mix in the lime and zest, give it a taste and add more limejuice as desired. If you’re prefer it a bit more tangy, you can add up to 2 more tbsp without worrying about consistency.

Graham Cracker Crust

Note: You can substitute graham cracker pieces if you don’t want to make an actual crust. I just like the buttery flavor and texture of the actual crust in the gelato.

For the graham cracker crust: Mix 1/2 cup melted butter, 2 tbsp sugar and 2 cups graham cracker crumbs together. Press firmly onto the bottom of a well buttered 8×8 glass baking dish and bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. Cool and remove from the baking dish, break into bite-size pieces and freeze in a covered container.

This recipe is the base for most gelatos, it’s also good frozen by itself:

Gelato di Crema (Gelato Plain Base)

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup sugar

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170°F.

Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar until it is well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper* the egg yolks by very slowly pouring in the hot milk mixture while whisking continuously. Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185°F. Do not bring to a boil.

*The best way to temper is to add a tablespoon at a time until you’ve added about 1/4 cup. Then you can add a full ladle at a time, slowly.

One final note. If you’re wondering what the difference is between Gelato, Sorbet and Ice Cream, click here for a pretty good explanation.

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Tidbits

DSC00222 (1600x1200)St Francis broke ground on a new building the other day.  The dog in the floppy hat is named Zeus and has a nice story.  He had a slight limp on the day he was rescued from a kill shelter but that limp soon turned into a severe problem where he couldn’t even walk.  About all he could do is wag his tail but that was enough for the staff at St Francis.  He was fostered by a physiotherapist and got the whole rehab treatment including sessions in a pool.  He made steady progress and a year later he gets around pretty well.  They aren’t sure what the malady was but they assume it was distemper.DSC00226 (1600x1200)We keep parsley in a couple of containers on the patio – one for garnishing and one for the swallowtail caterpillars that just love the stuff.  I saw a caterpillar acting strange the other day but didn’t think much of it until I noticed that he had changed into a chrysalis.DSC_4705 (1600x1060)The little silk band is all that holds him to the stalk.  I knew very little about the life cycle other than caterpillar>[magic happens]>butterfly!  Here is a very short time lapse Youtube video of the process.  If I’m lucky I’ll get some photos when the butterfly emerges.DSC00184 (1600x1200)Moar kittehs!  DSC_8669 (1600x1060)The batch of sauerkraut I mentioned starting last month is finished.  It worked great with beef sausages and fried potatoes for  dinner yesterday.  The mason lid fermentation airlock gizmo worked well:DSC_4627 (1600x1060)We’ve been streaming Scandal through Netflix and we like the show so far.  Here Mrs J shares a little ice cream with Bitsy:DSC_4721 (Copy)This post needs more sammiches!DSC_8667 (1600x1060)Pulled pork with slaw and a nice bbq sauce.  On the side is what the Kroger deli calls baked potato salad.  Good stuff!DSC_8654 (1600x1060)Filet of fish with slaw and tartar sauce.  The sauce is doubly dill, it has dill pickle relish and dill weed in with the mayo, and lemon juice, horseradish, onions, and chopped parsley.  Hushpuppies and baked beans round out the meal.  Beenie Weenies!

Fried Pies – Gadget Post

DSC_8646 (1600x1060)We saw one of these pocket pie crimping gadgets on one of those cooking shows and had to have one.  This one makes a pie about 5″ or 51/2″DSC_8642 (1600x1060)The crimper is good for all kinds of pies, empanadas and pierogis and suchlike.  They are made in several sizes so the smaller ones should be great for Asian style dumplings.  Of course our first go had to be Mrs J’s Famous Fried Pies.  These are mixed berry filled – blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.

I went for the powdered sugar to make the glaze and found none in the cupboard.  I guess we used it all on cake frostings.  No problem!  I put some regular sugar into our spice mill and spun it for a minute to make a small batch – plenty for what we needed.

Tidbits

DSC_8485 (1600x1060)I’m calling these dogs The Full Monty – Chicago style.  Sides are a bacon sour cream potato salad and a slaw with a sweet creamy dressing.DSC_4622 (1600x1060)I’ve been keeping an eye on these cherry tomatoes, wanting to maximize the yield on the bunch.  The older fruits were starting to split, and one fell off being a tad too ripe.  I gathered them in just after this photo.  Mrs J used them in a salad:DSC_8479 (1600x1060)The sweet corn is in at the store and it’s very good.  I baked the potatoes in the oven after coating them with olive oil.  They took about 30 minutes at 400, turned once.  Still haven’t fired the gas grill – the steaks cooked on my cast iron griddle/grill that spans two burners on the stove top.  My range has a purpose built grill module that doesn’t work any better and is a pain to deal with. IMG_5081 (1600x1200)Here’s a kitteh!  The staff named her Abby and Mrs J says she’s a sweetie.  She came in last week.DSC_4627 (1600x1060)Someone mentioned making small batches of sauerkraut in Mason jars with lids adapted for  fermentation airlocks.  I had one of the airlocks on hand from making apple cider so I cobbled a thing together with a rubber grommet set into a hole bored into a wide mouth lid.  I managed to cram a whole head’s worth of shredded cabbage into a half gallon jar.  I mixed the cabbage with 2 tablespoons of pickling salt, a few juniper berries, and a teaspoon of caraway seeds.  It should take about a month to finish.DSC_8470 (1600x1060)Summer is sammich season and nothing says sammich like cheeseburger.  It’s just an all around favorite.  The bacon doesn’t hurt it a bit.  I think 90% of the time my burgers get pickles, onion, and mustard but I’m not above dragging the sammy through ketchup that may have fallen off of the fries.IMG_5096 (1600x1200)This is Mow Mow, an 8 year old calico that was surrendered a few weeks ago along with Cooper, a long haired dachshund.  Mow Mow and Cooper, both, have been adopted.

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