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Friday Recipe Exchange: Smokin’

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Last week I found a nice, small pork roast on sale and decided it would be perfect to make a slow-cooker pulled pork. That reminded me that it would be a good idea to revisit JeffreyW’s smoking adventures with his backyard smoker. I’ve pulled a few recipes, but if you search for “smoker” on the blog, you’ll find a whole lot more of his mouth-watering pictures and recipes.

Let’s start with my slow-cooker Easy Pulled Pork, I posted two ways to make it here.

Next up, JeffreyW makes an assortment of goodies in his smoker:

Here is his recommendation for a smoker and some tasty Ribs.

Homemade Pastrami (click here) – serious mouth-watering photos.

Smoked Chicken (photos and recipe here).

My youngest brother also jumped on the Smoker band wagon and sent me photos of a great meal that included Smoked Macaroni and Cheese (link here). He didn’t include a recipe, but I think it’s safe to say, make your favorite Mac ‘n Cheese, place in an aluminum pan, cover and smoke it for about 45 minutes to an hour at 165-180 degrees.

Smoker people seem very passionate, so if you’ve got the bug, hit the comments and share your experiences and expertise. What delicious things do you have planned this weekend? Anyone getting the grill out yet?

Tonight’s featured recipe from JeffreyW:

Smoked Brisket

I thawed a beef brisket and was thinking corned beef but changed my mind.  I have a fresh made pastrami on hand so I decided on a straight smoked brisket.  The procedure is much the same as with making a pastrami except you are starting with a fresh beef beef brisket rather than a corned one.  I suppose you could use the same dry rub for both but I wasn’t sure how the juniper berries in the pastrami rub would taste so I went with a more traditional rub.  I was tossing various ingredients in and didn’t keep track of the amounts of each so I can’t do more than list them from memory:  Black pepper, kosher salt, onion powder, granulated garlic, smoked paprika, ancho powder, regular chili powder, fresh ground cumin, some powder out of a bottle of Goya “Adobe Seasoning” (it’s yellow – go figure), creole/Cajun seasoning, oregano, and probably a few more.

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I placed it on the top rack of my electric smoker, threaded the temp probe through the vent and into the thickest part, placed a drippings pan with an inch of apple cider under the meat, added the soaked hickory to the smoke chamber, closed the door and fired it up.  It’s been cold and snowy so I knew it would take a good while to get to the “done” temperature but I wasn’t thinking 23 hours.  That’s how long it spent in there before I pulled it.  The probe was registering 176 degrees.

I pulled the first drippings pan out because I think it was keeping the inside temperature in the smoker too low and replaced it with a dry pan after about 12 hours.  The quart of cider plus the drippings was reduced to what you see above.  If I could make it by the gallon I’m pretty sure I would be a millionaire in short order.  Awesome stuff.

That’s it for this week. No Bixby update, but he turns 10 months old this weekend, so I’ll put something together soon. Have a great weekend. – TaMara

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Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Two Ways

Slowcooker pulled pork

This recipe is so simple and so very good. It’s great to make and then have ingredients for sandwiches all weekend. Eat cold or reheat, both are good.

Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork

  • 2-3 lb boneless pork roast
  • salt and pepper
  • cayenne or red chili pepper flakes (opt)
  • red wine vinegar
  • favorite barbecue sauce (JeffreyW and I are both fond of Sweet Baby Rays – I like the spicy)
  • favorite rolls (I like multi-grain hoagie rolls)

Slow-cooker

Remove the string ties from the pork roast. Spread the roast out, season all sections with salt, pepper and if you like, cayenne or chili pepper flakes. Roll back up and place in the slow-cooker (don’t tie it up again). Add red wine vinegar (about 2 tbsp or more as desired). Cover and cook according to slow-cooker directions – usually 8-10 hours on low. Keep that lid closed.

Once its cooked, remove the roast and pour off all but about 2 tbsp of the liquid and fat. Shred the roast and return it to the slow-cooker, add barbecue sauce, start with 1/4 cup and add more as desired. I eventually used about 1/2 cup and a little bit more each time I reheated.

Don’t want barbecued pork, how about Carnitas? Just change out the spices:

  • salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 orange, cut in half

Mix together spices and oil and rub over the roast liberally. Add the roast, garlic and jalapeno to the slow-cooker. Squeeze the orange over the meat before adding it as well. Cover and cook as above. No need to drain, just shred the pork and serve on tortillas.

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Nutella Brownies

Nutella browniesSerendipity was afoot last week. I had read a recipe for Nutella flourless brownies and promptly went to the store to buy a jar and make them. Turns out, on that same day, the creator of Nutella died at 89.

The brownies are pretty good and one of those recipes that taste much better the next day. The process is very similar to my Chocolate Flourless Cake, recipe here.

I prefer the chocolate cake, but the Nutella brownies were a good second. If I make them again, I will add toasted hazelnut pieces (they should be chopped fine so they don’t all sink to the bottom of the batter).

Both recipes are super easy and a make for a very moist chocolate treat. And gluten-free as an added bonus.

Nutella Brownies

  • 4 large Eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups Nutella
  • Powdered Sugar for dusting

8×8 baking dish or springform pan, oiled and lined on the bottom with parchment cut to fit

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Beat eggs on high for 5 to 7 minutes until they have tripled in size. Beat in Nutella on low until fully incorporated*. Pour into the baking dish. Tap the dish on the counter firmly to remove any bubbles and then bake for 30-35 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out with a just few crumbs, no batter. Mine actually took about 40 minutes, but I forgot to preheat.

Cool completely before dusting with powdered sugar, cutting and serving. I found it tasted best the next day. Also it freezes very well.

*some recipes call for you to microwave the nutella, but since the jar specifically says, DO NOT MICROWAVE, I just used a spatula to scoop out most of a 13 oz jar.

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Friday Recipe Exchange: California Dreamin’

Mmm, Dinner Final

I was on the run all week, so I didn’t even have time to make you hot cocoa, which was my original plan for the recipe exchange.  Instead, I went looking through the archives and found my LA diary and thought, perfect for this dreary day.

This time last year I was planning my March trip to Los Angeles, dreaming of driving up the coast and getting ready to cook up a storm.

Zuma

Since I’ve been wishing all month that I was making the trip again, I thought the least I could do was repeat the recipes from a night of cooking I did while I was out there. Nothing new here, but favorite, easy recipes – all at the request of my hosts. The menu for that evening was:

Chicken Piccata (recipe below).

Buttered Potato Pie (recipe here)

Sides and dessert

Tossed Salad with Cranberry Gorgonzola Dressing

Chocolate Walnut Flourless Cookies (one of my most requested desserts, recipe here)

Gluten Free cookies

This was the view for the evening:

LA SKYLINE 2

Dinner was basically a cooking lesson in an awesome, if underused kitchen. It fun helping others find their innner chef. What’s going on in your kitchen this weekend? Besides California Dreamin’, what are you planning to help get through the mid-winter blues?

Tonight’s featured recipe:

Chicken Piccata prep

Chicken Piccata with Herb Noodles:

Chicken Piccata

  • 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, pounded flat
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon, sliced into very thin slices*
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tbsp fresh snipped parsley
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice

bowl, skillet

Combine breadcrumbs, basil, zest, and pepper in bowl. Mix ½ tbsp oil and garlic together. Coat both sides of chicken with oil/garlic and dredge in breadcrumbs. Over medium-high heat 1 tbsp ea. of butter and oil in skillet, add chicken and cook 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken – keep warm – add lemon slices to pan, sauté 30 seconds, add water, parsley and juice, boil for 1 minute, spoon over chicken.

*Scrub well before slicing.

Herb Noodles

  • 12 oz egg noodles
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp basil, crushed
  • ½ tsp oregano, crushed
  • ½ tsp rosemary, finely crushed
  • ¼ tsp crushed garlic
  • Sesame seeds, opt

saucepan, serving dish

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain well. Melt butter in saucepan, add spices, mixing well. Toss with noodles. For an extra touch you can add 1 tbsp of sesame seeds.

That’s it for this week. I’ll try and get a Bixby update up tomorrow. He’s 7 months old and weighs 101 lbs now, as you can imagine any spare time I have is devoted to training and entertaining him. See you next week – TaMara

Zuma 2

Christmas Eve Recipes: Smashed Potatoes

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JeffreyW luckily made some Smashed Potatoes and took a great photo. 

Everything is ready to go, all I have to do is pop the Cornish Game Hens into the oven. Once they are done, I’ll up the temperature to 450 degrees and finish up the potatoes while the chickens rest.

I boiled the potatoes this morning and let drain completely and then refrigerated them until it’s time to crisp them up.

Smashed Potatoes

  • 2 lbs of small red or gold potatoes, no more than 2″ in diameter
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

saucepan, baking sheet

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender.  Drain completely.

Drizzle olive oil on baking sheet – use plenty so the potatoes don’t stick – and arrange potatoes on the pan, leaving room between each so they can crisp up. Using a a potato masher or heavy glass, smash each potato flat. With a basting brush, generously brush oil over each potato. Salt and pepper to taste and garish with fresh rosemary or pieces of minced garlic.

Bake in a 450 degree oven until potatoes are crisped. 15-20 minutes.

See the full Christmas Eve menu here.

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Christmas Eve Recipes: Roasted Cornish Game Hens

I’ve roasted my share of Cornish Game Hens, but I went looking for something a little different and found it here.

You MUST click the link to see the fun video.

From Patrick and Gina Neeley:

Photo from FoodNetwork.com

Photo from FoodNetwork.com

Roasted Cornish Game Hens

1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon-pepper
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 Cornish game hens, about 1 1/2 pounds each, rinsed and dried thoroughly
1 green bell pepper, large dice
2 stalks celery, large dice
1 onion, large dice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

For the full recipe and great video, follow the link.

See the full Christmas Eve menu here.

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Holiday Sweet Treats

 

Assorted Cookies1

Lots of cooking going on. And look what Santa dropped off early:

Mystery Machine

Just in time to hold the assortment of cookies I made this week. Most of them are going into gift boxes, but I’ll hold enough back for my annual Christmas Eve dinner.

Let’s get right to it. Pictured above:

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies, recipe here

Spritz Cookies, recipes and instructions for using a cookie press here.

Not pictured because I still have to make them, Chocolate-Walnut Flourless Cookies, recipe here. I love these because you’d never know they were flourless and they taste like brownie bites.

Looking for side dishes for your holiday dinner? You can click here for a lot of different types. And for the pet lovers, Bixby posted an update here and here is photo evidence of how the cats torment him, try not to laugh, it hurts his feelings.

How about you, what’s on your menu for the holidays? Share your holiday traditions, both edible and otherwise.

Mexican Russian Pecan Cookies

Tonight’s featured recipe had a bit of a serendipitous beginning. I was having lunch with friend LFern and told her I was still working on what type of cookies I was going to make for my gift boxes. LFern mentioned she really liked Russian Tea Cakes. I’d never heard of them, so I googled, figuring I’d surprise her with them in her gift box. Turns out they are also called Mexican Wedding Cookies. Next day I was visiting friends Larilyn and Alton (not that one) and what do they bring out to go with the coffee? Mexican Wedding Cookies. Turns out Al calls them Mom’s Pecan Cookies and he shared his mom’s recipe with me. So no matter what you call them, they are tasty.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped nuts pecans
  • Powdered sugar for rolling

Preaheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix butter, ½ cup powdered sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add flour, salt and mix until the dough comes together. Stir in the nuts. At this point, I mixed by hand until the dough stuck together and was smooth.

Scoop about a tablespoon of dough, roll into shape and place on baking sheet

Bake cookies for 18-20 minutes until bottoms are just slightly brown. Remove from oven and cool for just a minute. Fill a small bowl with powdered sugar and roll each cookie in the sugar until coated. Place on a rack covered with wax paper (keeps the sugar mess to a minimum) to cool.

You have to roll them in powdered sugar while they are still hot, which hurts like hell for the first two, but after that, your fingers are coated in powdered sugar and it acts like a heat shield and you’ll be fine. Look, holiday gift baking isn’t for wussies. It’s an extreme sport.

After they cooled, I coated them with more powdered sugar for a festive look.

That’s it for…this year. We won’t have another recipe exchange until January. But I will be posting the recipes for Christmas Eve dinner between now and Christmas. The menu is: Roasted Cornish Game Hens, Smashed Potatoes, Cranberry Chutney, Spinach Salad, and an Ice Cream Sundae Bar.

Have a wonderful holiday, whatever you celebrate. Thanks for coming along for the ride – TaMara

Christmas balls

 

Holiday Gift Ideas: Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m busy baking for my annual gift boxes. These won’t be in them, because I”m working on two new cookie recipes I’ve never tried my hand at before. More on that later…

Chocolate Chocolate Cookie

These are pretty and very tasty.  They’re easy and just a touch above regular chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or peanuts), chopped

mixing bowl and cookie sheet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream together butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla, mixing well.  Sift together salt, soda, flour and cocoa, then add to butter mixture, blending well.  Add nuts and chocolate chips.  Spoon onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on cooling rack.

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Originally posted Nov 2011

Holiday Gift Ideas: Spicy Nuts

This week I’m focusing on recipes you can give as gifts (and you thought I was just going to annoy you with Christmas Carols). This week is about sweet and salty.  A change from the traditional sweet treats. Here are two spicy nut recipes that are sure to be welcome gifts:

Cajun Spiced Nuts

  • 1 tsp teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tsp teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 cups unsalted deluxe mixed nuts
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt

Mix spices together and set aside.  Heat the nuts in a dry skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to toast, about 4 minutes. Add the butter, stirring, until the nuts begin to darken, about 1 minute. Add the spices, the sugar, 1 tablespoon water, and the salt, stirring until the sauce thickens and the nuts are glazed, about 5 minutes.

Remove the nuts from the heat and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Make sure they are all separated. Let the nuts stand until cooled and the sugar has hardened, about 10 minutes. Store in an airtight container. Makes 6 cups

Indian Spiced Nuts

  • 1 cup unsalted roasted peanuts (or cashews)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 4 tablespoons shredded coconut (either fresh or unsweetened)
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix the nuts coconut, butter, sugar, coriander cumin, garam masala and salt together and pour onto the baking sheet. Toast for 40 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through for even baking. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool. Store in an airtight container. Makes 2 cups

Now once you have these recipes completed, how about some creative ways to wrap them?  Colored plastic wrap and ribbons, holiday Chinese take out containers are always fun, glass canning cars with fabric inserts between the rim and the seal, or even more fun, wrap the nuts in decorative paper cones, tied with ribbon.  These are all creative ways to present your gifts and you make personalized labels to enhance the presentation.

From MakeandTakes.com click on the picture for instructions.

 

 

 

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Originally Posted December 2011

Holiday Gift Ideas: Flavored Popcorn

I’m repeating the holiday gift series this week. We’ll start with flavored popcorn:

One of my favorite things is the mixed can of flavored popcorn.   Unfortunately they can vary in quality and price.  And if you’re paying a premium, well let’s face it, it all hype, because popcorn is cheap, as are most of the ingredients that go in flavored popcorn.  So  I thought I’d pull a few recipes together this week so you could make your own variety tin of flavored popcorn.  I actually have a tower of gift boxes that I’m thinking of filling with different flavors.  You can use decorative plastic and ribbon, or holiday tins, or zip-lock bags placed in pretty gift bags.

For the first recipes, I thought something cheesy.

White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn

  • 8 cups popped corn
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 cup white cheddar cheese powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried mustard
  • dash of cayenne
  • salt to taste

It might be easiest to do this in two batches.  In a large bag, toss popcorn thoroughly with butter to coat completely.  Mix together cheese and spices, toss with popcorn in the bag until everything is well coated.   Spread out on to baking sheet for 30 to 60 minutes before packaging (this keeps it from becoming soggy).

Chili-Cheese Popcorn

  • 8 cups popped corn
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • dash of garlic
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan (I’d use the Kraft style for ease)
  • salt to taste (the Parmesan may make it salty enough)

Again, you may want to make this in batches.  Mix together butter and spices and toss with popcorn in a large bag.  Add cheese and toss again until well coated.  Spread out on to baking sheet for 30 to 60 minutes before packaging.

Additional flavor ideas:

White cheddar cheese powder and taco seasoning.   Parmesan and dry packaged  buttermilk ranch dressing seasoning.

 

Originally posted Dec 2011

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