Monday, August 31, 2009

Pressure Cooker Chili

Last night was Pressure Cooker Chili night! I was really excited to do this recipe because I have never used a Pressure Cooker before! Luckily instead of having to buy one, my Father-in-law who is also an AMAZING cook had one that he let me borrow. As you can probably guess our guests of honor last night were my Mother, my Nephew and my amazing 2nd parents Sonja and Andy! Once again all the ingredients were bought at Kroger (Side note: Kroger should really pay me for as much as I advertise them!) EXCEPT Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce. This is where the adventure begins. My Mom and I looked EVERYWHERE at Kroger and couldn't find this ingredient (this was Saturday), so figured we would go on Sunday to Tom Thumb and surely they would have it, right? Well of course, we go and search Tom Thumb high and low and even ask Customer Service for help and the 16-yr-old that informed us in all his years working there (1 year) he has never even heard of this ingredient. I said I knew what it looked like and it does exist, just can't find it. So after he took us up and down every isle we had already looked on, we called Adam (who usually can provide me some insight as to where to go) and he said to try Whole Foods or La Michoacana. He highly suggested La Michoacana because he thought he had seen them there before. Of course we start on our way to Whole Foods, because I wasn't too excited about going to "Mexico" where if we ran into any problems between my Mom and I, no one could help us because all we can say is Si and No! BUT on the way I had a feeling and Adam is usually right about these things so we stopped at La Michoacana and BAM...first isle my Mom and I walked on it was right in front of us and looked as if a light from Heaven was shining on it, leading us towards it! Ok not really, but that's how I felt because I really needed this ingredient, it was a main component to the dish! So anyway, enough about Chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce! I got home and the first thing you do is take the 3lbs of meat out of the package and put it in a large bowl and mix it with the peanut oil and salt. Just incase you didn't know I hate touching raw meat, this is usually Adam's job when we are cooking, but this is all about challenging myself, so I just went for it! My hands were freezing because the meat was so cold and I was totally disgusted but it was over quickly! Next you are suppose to heat your pressure cooker to high (lid off) and place the meat in there to brown in 3 batches (so basically 1lb per batch). So I go to place the first batch and WOW, it looked like I was trying to burn the house down! It started smoking uncontrollably and the fire alarm went off, I couldn't see anything, Kai was saying "shut it off" to the fire alarm, my Mom was saying "What's wrong" and Adam was scrambling to shut off the fire alarm and open the back door! No worries though, I stayed put and probably got a little smoke inhalation and browned that first batch of meat REALLY good! HA! It was over in a matter of minutes and I turned the heat down. So word to the wise, when it says to place it on high, I would do maybe between a 6 and 7! The next 2 batches went smoothly and browned perfectly! I then took the meat out and you are suppose to use a "medium ale" beer to de-glaze the brown goodness on the bottom. Backtracking a little, when I was at Kroger I asked about 3 men at the beer station what a good "medium ale" beer is and of course they had no clue and looked at my like I was crazy! Where is a beer connoisseur when you need them? UGH! So I just went with some Hawaiian Pale Ale beer I saw. Once you de-glaze everything you throw the rest of your ingredients into the pot and shut the lid. Wait until is hisses and then turn the heat down to a low simmer and cook for 25 minutes. Super easy to do and cooks really quickly! After the 25 minutes I opened the lid and this is really a recipe you shouldn't judge by its cover. It looked like dog food, but smelled delicious! So we all sat down around the table and dug in. I provided either bread, saltines or tortilla chips to go along with it. First bite was a surprise to all, it was really spicy! Of course I LOVE spicy food, but everyone else doesn't have taste buds of steel like I do, so they added extra crackers/chips/bread to theirs to soften the blow of the heat. I then went around the table and did a little survey of what everyone thought of the recipe, what they would change, etc...The general concensus was that they would cut the meat into smaller cubes and maybe do a few tweaks to the ingredients for next time, but overall it was a hit! Adam even said it was his favorite recipe of all the 3 I have done so far. So success with yet another recipe!

Recipe Rating: Easy
Good Leftover: Yes, actually a little better because all the ingredients have time to meld
Tip: Have a fan readily available, in case of heavy smoke
Stay tuned in 3 weeks- Eggplant Pasta

You can find the Pressure Cooker Chili recipe here:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

French Onion Soup-bon appetit!

This week my recipe was French Onion Soup! I'm actually a HUGE fan of this soup, but it was going to be interesting because Adam has never tried it before. When I told him it was pretty much broth, onions and soggy bread you can imagine he wasn't too enticed! Our guests this week were my Dad (also a HUGE fan) and his wife Glenda. Everything started, yet again, at Kroger and luckily this time I found all the ingredients I needed. I've never really bought fancy cheese before so the only shocker for this recipe was how expensive Fontina cheese is ($6.50 a package). Other than that, everything was fairly simple and easy to find! I came home and first things first was to get all 4lbs of my onions prepped. Of course chopping and peeling onions reeked havoc on my eye balls and nose! It was taking me forever to cut them because I kept having to walk away to wipe my nose and wash my eyes off because it burned so bad. So my husband, being the wonderful man he is, equipped me with a respirator to cut the remainder of the onions. I looked silly, but trust me it worked wonders! If you don't have a respirator I've heard there are other methods for cutting back the onion tears you can do. So once the onions were chopped into half moons, into the pan they went layer by layer: Butter, Onions, Salt, Onions, Salt, Onions, get the idea. Then you have to let them "sweat it out" for 20 minutes or so before you do your first stir. Then it says to stir occasionally for 45-1hr to get onions to a dark molasses color. Of course 45 minutes goes by and my onions are still white and some are maybe translucent. Then an hour goes by and still nothing! It says to keep it on low heat as to not scorch the onions, but at the rate I was going we wouldn't have been able to eat the soup until Monday. So I turned up the heat and after about another 45 minutes (yes a total of 1hr 45min passed) my onions were finally PERFECT! This was the "hardest" part of the whole recipe because after you get the onions to perfection, you just throw everything into the pan and let it sautee another 20 or so minutes! I did improvise on 1 thing and that was the bouquet garni. You are suppose to take fresh thyme, bay leaf and parsley and tie them together. Instead of buying them at the store and tying them together, I had them already in my spice rack, so I cleaned out a tea bag and placed them all in there and tied the string around it so they couldn't get out and placed it in the pan to simmer. It worked perfect and I'm sure if you don't drink tea you could also use a coffee filter. Once it was done sauteing, it was time to toast the bread and grate the cheese. Of course I had the oven on broil and put my 4 bread pieces in and got to grating the cheese and completely forgot the bread. Even though they were in there for a minute and a half they were "crispy" to say the least! Luckily I came equipped with 2 French loaves so there was plenty to spare! Second try was a success and the bread was perfectly toasted! So I ladled the soup into my nifty little soup crocks I got at Bed Bath Beyond (also WAY expensive $30, ugh! But I do love them) and placed the toast, toasted side down and topped with cheese. Then in the broiler they went for another minute or so until the cheese was golden brown. The recipe does have Cognac as an optional splash to the top, but I didn't think I would like that, so I opted out! We served the soup with grilled chicken and steamed veggies. You can't forget dessert either...we had Key Lime pie one of my Dad and Husbands favorites! Overall everyone said it had great flavor and they loved it! Adam wasn't too keen about the soggy bread, but loved the cheese. My challenge to you for this week...Open a cookbook you rarely use to a random page and make that recipe and share with me what you make and any adventures you have during the process!

Recipe Rating: Easy
Good Leftover: Only if you do the bread and cheese the next day. Don't save ALL put together
Tip: Have some febreeze handy, the onions do make a stink of things!
Stay tuned in 2 weeks- Pressure Cooker Chili

You can find the French Onion Soup recipe here:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hot Diggity Dog

Corn Dogs were the first recipe I was to tackle (hence why Adam chose this book). I love corn dogs, but they aren't exactly figure friendly, but the deal was to cook from start to finish every recipe no matter what. All the ingredients were simple and I could get them on our normal grocery shopping trip to Kroger. Of course, once I get to Kroger, though, they are completely out of jalapeno's and the produce stocker barely speaks enough English to explain to me that they won't be getting more until the next day and to just get serrano peppers that it would be just as good. I was a little frustrated because I wanted all the recipes to be exact, but didn't want to drive to another store for 1 jalapeno. Another thing I didn't like was the price of the peanut oil...GEEZ!! It costs a lot to get fat these days! Luckily Kroger brand saved us some money and 1 gal was "only" $10. Good thing I don't have a deep fryer, because the peanut oil for that was $45!! Anyway, I think I was most excited about buying a thermometer. Of course corn dogs are fried and we aren't "fried food eaters" so I have never purchased a thermometer. Now I have my very own...not sure how much use it will get but just cool to have one (yes I'm a dork). I get everything home and I start to prep anything I could ahead of time. Not having experience with serrano peppers I wore latex free gloves to cut it and de-seed it. Good thing I did because I cut off a piece to taste (you have to taste what you're using) and it had a little kick. If you know me, I have an immunity for spice, so it was to my liking. I chopped the onion, mixed the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another, poured the peanut oil (which I hear is the best oil to use to fry) in the pan and clipped on my new handy dandy thermometer and then I waited. Once it was time to fry, I turned the burner on high to heat up the oil. This was the only tricky part I encountered! I needed the oil to be at 375 degrees and of course it shot up past 400, so I had to wait for it to come down. Once the temperature came down I was a little nervous because I didn't want the dogs to splash and burn me and didn't really know what to expect because I have never fried something in 1 gallon of oil before. I made Adam come in the kitchen to stand with me for the first "dunk". I skewered the hot dogs, dipped them in and out of my batter and in the oil they went. It wasn't as dramatic as I thought it would be at all! It just bubbled a little bit, no burns, no explosions...everything went smoothly! Of course once the first cold dogs went into the oil, the temperature dropped again and I had to keep tweeking my stove to make it hot, but not too hot. After the first few I finally got it down and before you knew it the dogs were done and golden brown! Our first victim, I mean guest was my Mom because I knew if it was a disaster she would still eat it and smile and tell me how delicious they were! Luckily, I don't think anyone had to lie and overall the corn dogs were a success. For dessert I threw in some white chocolate dipped pretzels with strawberries (I would recommend getting the pretzel sticks for this, it makes less of a mess when dipping)!

Recipe Rating: Easy
Good leftover: Only if heated in a toaster oven, otherwise you get soggy dogs
Tip: Use the left over batter to make hush puppies. Great compliment to fish!
Stay tuned in 2 weeks- French Onion Soup.
*Sorry, the only picture I got was the day after when Adam heated them up for lunch! Too bad he used a microwave...soggy dogs! UGH!

You can find the corn dog recipe here:

Background of Frying Pickle

I was watching TV a few weeks ago and saw the preview for the movie Julie & Julia, a story about a girl named Julie cooking her way through a Julia Childs cookbook. I was inspired by this and love trying new things, so I thought "What better way to utilize my cookbooks than to start on p.1 and cook my way through to the end". I ran the idea by my husband and told him that we would have to eat every recipe no matter what it was and if we didn't like it Pizza Hut was a call away. So we decided, since some recipes can be pretty expensive, to do 1 recipe a paycheck. We also decided to cook them on Sunday evening and invite new people over each time to try the different recipes (of course we would tell them of our back-up plan should they not like it). Now the next step was to pick a book. I grabbed 3 of my favorite cookbooks and read the first recipe out of each book and had my husband choose which one I would be doing, based on that. He chose "Food Network Favorites", which is a book with most of the BIG Food Network stars in it (Alton Brown, Paula Dean, Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray, Giada De Laurentiis, Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, etc...). So now the adventure begins...