Recipe

Fruity Pancakes

Yesterday at lunch time Sadie happened to see me heft the big Bisquick box by way of reminding myself that, yep, it was almost empty and we’d forgotten to buy more. It was one of the things I forgot on the BJ’s run.

That resulted in a chorus of “pancakes! pancakes! daddy make pancakes!”

I looked in the fridge and confirmed we were out of blueberries, which I pictured finishing in a half batch of pancakes for the kids.

Aha! I had an idea.

We have a big bag of BJ’s own brand of trail mix, a particularly fruity variety. It has some almonds and soy beans, and pretends to have a walnut piece here and there, but mainly it has apricot bits, raisins, cranberries, blueberries and cherries. It’s almost too sweet.

I heated a half cup or so of water in a Pyrex cup for 99 seconds in the microwave.

Into the hot water I put a large amount of dried fruit to soften and rehydrate a bit. Never thought of this before, but it’s a great trick for making fruit pancakes without requiring a relevant kind of fresh fruit in the house. Then again, even though they can be made with other kinds, to me the fruit for pancakes is blueberries or bananas. Thus having apples and nectarines on hand was beside the point.

The fruit soaked several minutes. I found there was around a cup and a third or so left in the box, so I finished it, using the Bisquick pancake recipe as if it were the full two cups. Figured the fruit would bulk it up, and a high proportion of egg would help it rise around the fruit as it cooked.

I scooped in the fruit, sans most of the water, and added a handful of sunflower seeds to make it more interesting.

I poured out larger pancakes than usual, doing two on the pan at a time, rather than four. The fruit was heavy and wanted to cluster enough that it was basically a matter of pouring out some batter and then scooping fruit onto it, trying to keep the amount in each appropriate. Otherwise it was just like cooking any old pancakes.

They were fantastic, able to be eaten without syrup, or with minimal syrup. It was a little like having a fruitcake flavored pancake, but not exactly.

Sadie devoured a full two good-sized pancakes. Valerie ate most of one avidly, and overall might have eaten as much as one and a half. They didn’t eat this much when we had blueberry pancakes. I ate the other six.

Definitely a keeper idea, and brilliant given our tendency to have trail mix or raisins in the house. We actually prefer Wal-Mart’s house brand large bags of tropical trail mix to the fruity one from BJ’s, but the fruity one was probably better for this.

Drumstick Rub and Grill Experiment

For the drumsticks I decided to try something based fairly closely on this rub recipe. The source recipe being based around a cup of paprika, resulting in three cups of end product, meant adjusting it down in a big way. I jotted down the ingredients in proportions rather than measures, like this:

1 Paprika
.5 Chili powder
.5 Cumin
1/48 Black pepper

And so forth.

My approximate measure mixed together thoroughly were:

1 Tablespoon Paprika
1/2 Tablespoon Chili Powder
1/3 Tablespoon (which is a lot like a teaspoon, eh?) Cumin
1/4 Tablespoon or less Black Pepper
A couple dashes Red Pepper
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar (rather than white)
1/8 Tablespoon Thyme
1/8 Tablespoon Garlic Powder
1/8 Tablespoon or less Onion Powder
A few dashes Salt
Dash of Allspice
Pinch of Savory

The last two ingredients are additions. Brown sugar is a substitution. based on my experience using it in similar stuff. For what it’s worth, I didn’t have trouble with the sugar burning on the grill, though I read in recipes that lacked it a warning not to use it for the grill for that reason.

A few hours before we went to the BYOM (bring your own meat) cookout, I made the rub, coated the seven drumsticks well, including under a large bit of detached skin, put them in a sealable plastic bag, tossed in much of the rest of the rub, and shook it to coat them even more. That went in the refrigerator for a few hours, then into the well-iced cooler for what turned out to be a few hours more.

I knew we would never eat them all, but wanted to let other people try them, especially if they turned out good.

I cooked them quite a while on the gas grill, turning them over a couple times. Depending where they were, they ranged from apparently cooked to falling off the bone.

The first one I tried tasted too peppery, and also seemed suspiciously underdone. It was probably fine; just not falling apart as I like. The second one I tried was quite good, but I would change the recipe. Meaning I’d do what felt right, as I usually do, rather than close to what a recipe said to do.

The third one I ate was also tasty. My nephew tried one and approved. Enough so that he ate three more, finally encountering an over-peppered one on his last drumstick and seeing what I meant about that first one.

Mostly, though, a success.

What would I do if I were trying this again? Less pepper and paprika. Possibly more, and additional, poultry seasonings. Possibly more of something like allspice or ginger. Perhaps more lightly applied rub.

I once did a chicken rub centered around orange (I’m amazed I found the recipe so readily to link it). Something like that might be interesting on a grill. Heck, I baked it, but the section has a focus on barbecues and grilling, so yeah. Heck, had I thought of it sooner, I even have oranges in the house because Sadie was with me at the farm stand and wanted them. And I have cloves, which I don’t believe I did when I made that rub before. Even if I do have to grind them myself.

Anyway, that’s the result. I didn’t think of taking pictures, though I could have as we had the camera. Oh well.

Chili and Refried Beans

Sharon has what sounds like a tasty and easy chili recipe, complete with actual measurements. I notice it doesn’t call for chili powder, but you’ll note that it includes all the components of chili powder: cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic and oregano. I also love cornbread with chili. Her post and the cold weather inspired me to make some last night, even if it is nontraditional with pasta and red sauce. The kids just love it, until they get full and merely turn it into tiny crumbs.

I made my version of chili the other day and meant to write about it, so I thought it was funny we were doing unplanned chili synchronization between households.

First a bit about history.

Once upon a time, I used to make what I call faux chili based on cheap cans of Campbell’s Pork & Beans. Which isn’t so odd, in that they are pinto beans in a tomato-based sauce, and chili seems to be made normally with pinto and/or kidney beans. I considered it both tasty and part of eating cheap, which will be the topic of another post Real Soon Now. Let’s just say I didn’t know from eating cheap, and didn’t know at the time that cans of those beans on sale 3 or 4 to a dollar was not that cheap.

Back then, I’d cook up some pepper and onion if I had it, ground beef, toss in beans, season it mainly with chili powder, add some ketchup and a squirt of yellow mustard, add sugar or brown sugar as needed, and serve it to myself for 2 or 3 big meals. It was quite good. I believe I also used tomato paste at least sometimes.

Lately I’ve discovered the joys of dry beans, taking it back closer to scratch and being really cheap. When I knew I was spending my last cash for probably a couple weeks on stocking up groceries last week (except a little reserved for milk and a few other run-outs), knowing the rate we’d been using them and comparing the unit price, I bought a 64 oz. bag of pinto beans instead of the customary one or two 16 oz bags.

Dry beans require planning. You can’t get to 5:00 or 6:00 and say “hey, let’s have beans!” We put them in a pot of water, bring it to a boil, then turn them off and let the gassiness soak out of the beans for an hour or more before draining them and adding fresh water for the actual cooking.

At that point you have beans on their way to ready for whatever you mean to make. Heck, you could serve just beans with some butter, salt and pepper on them, the way my father loves shell beans. When I set out to make chili, I wasn’t sure if it would be truly ready on time, and even if so, we would also want refried beans around in the next couple days for burritos.

I cooked 16 oz. of beans, 2 cups dry, and when they were cooked enough, I took two cups or so wet out of the pan, and some of the water as needed, for refried beans.

For the refried beans, I actually used a medium sauce pan. I threw in a generous chunk of butter (probably 3 tablespoons), cooked a handful of chopped fresh garlic, onion and green pepper, all of which are optional or could be replaced with dry seasonings. All you really need is beans, if you want nothing more than their yummy flavor. What I missed is an effective masher, and I’d not cooked the beans to the point of mush before splitting them for refried and chili.

When the flavoring veggies were cooked right (translucent onions, for instance), I threw in the beans, did a lot of smooshing and stirring as best I could, adding liquid as needed to keep them from being too stiff and dry to work with or to cook without burning. I also added I forget what else, but mainly cumin, not a lot, and possibly some red pepper, cilantro or oregano. The beans came out tasting mostly like beans, to give some idea; more enhanced than flavored. They were absolutely fantastic and got raves. We did indeed have burritos that night and let the chili simmer longer. It was interesting making two suppers at once, but a huge treat not cooking the second day.

The stiff texture of the beans made me picture making sandwiches based on them. I figured mix a small amount of finely shredded meat in with them, maybe use meat broth to imbue them with meat flavor, and there you’d have a serious meat stretcher or substitute. Which means I just reinvented the idea of falafel, sort of.

Back to the chili…

My new favorite thing to do is make chili not with expensive ground beef, but with the cheapest on sale beef, like top round for London broil at $1.69 or whatever. By comparison, I recently bought 90% ground beef and by buying it in a 6.67 lb package at BJ’s got the remarkably low price of $2.29. Chili would be fine with the fattier ground beef, fortunately, but we normally buy and freeze one kind and use as needed, rather than running to the store specifically for a variant for a meal we decided to make.

I cut the beef into small chunks and add it to a frying pan with, optionally, stuff like chopped garlic, pepper and onion. I add spices to it, or to the butter before it goes in, including but not always celery flakes, cilantro, red pepper, black pepper, paprika, allspice, ginger, cumin, oregano, and chili powder. Without the real versions added, that would include garlic and onion. I basically stir regularly and cook until done, letting some of the juice cook off but keeping some.

If I ever remember, I will probably throw a small amount of vinegar in with the meat not long after it starts cooking.

In the meantime, I’ve thrown some chili powder and maybe other spices into the beans. Tomato-based stuff can go in before or after the meat. I normally use tomato paste, as small can, and ketchup, using more as needed later to adjust the flavor. Diced tomato, tomato soup, or whatever would work, depending what you have and what you like. The beauty of chili is it’s highly variable and a matter of taste.

A little vinegar can be good, giving it added tang, especially if you are not using ketchup, or have too little ketchup on hand. I keep forgetting until the chili is well underway, and then this time I added too much. The small dribble turned into a good sized glug. It didn’t ruin the chili, but it added more tang than I planned and needed to cook and soak in far longer to balance the flavor.

After everything is mixed together, it’s just cook, stir, taste, adjust as needed. I normally throw in a not insignificant amount of brown and/or white sugar. I normally add more chili powder at least once, and perhaps other spices depending how strong the flavor seems. If you get it too spicy, it remains too spicy, but at least sugar tends to ease the bite.

What amounts to no more than 3/4 of a 16 oz. bag of beans and no more than 2 lbs of beef makes us two good meals. It can be served with shredded cheese, a dab of sour cream, tortilla chips, bread and butter, or corn bread as mentioned earlier. It can be made thinner or thicker. It can be made in greater or lesser proportions of beef to beans. It can be made hotter or milder. Whatever I start with, mine tends to come out in a particular taste range, frankly almost identical to the taste I used to achieve starting with Campbell’s beans and owning a smaller variety of spices. I haven’t tried it on hot dogs yet…

I actually have pictures off the camera in time to use them in the actual post. Some orphan pictures should follow today in their own post. I had some fun with raw ingredient or cooking stage pictures this time around, just plain trying to get interesting pictures.

Partially cooked and then mostly done refried beans:

The chili, done or near the end:

Shredded Pork Tacos

Okay, I have mention a couple topics I was going to talk about once I felt I had time. Close enough.

First, shredded pork tacos, as shown in this pictorial. The kids normally get the various ingredients loose on their plate, which is handy for pictures that show said ingredients.

Here is the recipe as originally found [dead link – glad I replicated the recipe below] here:

4 Flour tortillas (or taco shells)
1 Cup chicken broth
1/2 Cup enchilada sauce
1 Boneless pork roast 2 1/2 lbs
Choice of toppings such as shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, olives (ick), avocado, sour cream, or presumably anything else you might think is appropriate.

Trim the fat and put the pork in a crockpot, add broth, and cook on low 8 – 10 or high 4 – 5 hours.

Remove meat and discard broth. Shred meat. Put 2 cups of the meat in a medium saucepan, mixing with the enchilada sauce and heat on low to medium heat until hot.

Heat the tortillas or taco shells as needed and assemble as desired, like any other taco.

I was tempted to experiment, but I stuck with the recipe as closely as I could. In my case, “chicken broth” meant a single chicken bullion cube dissolved in a cup of hot water (I fill a Pyrex cup and microwave 2 minutes, then drop in the cube).

In my case, I had five frozen pork loin steaks that came to about the right weight, which it turned out made exactly two batches of meat filling. I used the crockpot on high about four hours, flipping the meat a few times.

The pork came out tasty but extremely salty. Probably salt content of the bullion combined with the cooking method soaking it in so well.

I had a 10 oz can of I forget which brand of enchilada sauce. That made half a can close enough to what the recipe required for each batch. I would imagine brands of the sauce vary. I can see why you’d use it as a quickie surrogate for the type of liquid and spices you’d use in traditional taco meat.

We used our standard burrito size flour tortillas, which we heat on a round flat pan, flipping a time or three as needed. When I start burning my fingers, it’s hot enough. Heh. You can tell, and it’s a matter of taste whether you want only to soften, or to crisp them slightly. The former is more traditional, but kids happen.

I shredded a bunch of cheese. For this sort of thing we usually do a mix of Monterey jack and medium cheddar, but it depends what we have. The second night of these it was mostly a Colby/jack marbled cheese that’s tasty on crackers. The anti-veggie crowd might stop there, or there plus sour cream.

We had lettuce and tomato on hand, so I cut up some of that. The girls have a surprising love of that stuff, especially tomato.

We put it together and it was fantastic. It tasted oddly similar to something you’d eat at Taco Bell. Fascinating.

Which makes me think of my reaction when I bought cumin for the first time. Cumin smells like Taco Bell. So I assumed cumin is an ingredient of enchilada sauce and… Helllloooo Google!… I looked it up and sure enough, it is. In fact, my impression is that enchilada sauce is essentially Mexican gravy. Some recipes call for tomato sauce. Others don’t. They all call for oil, flour, water or beef stock, and spices, prepared similarly to the way I would make gravy. Go figure.

Anyway, I was looking at recipes for barbecue shredded pork when I found the taco recipe. Those are an interesting and varied lot. I’ll want to try the taco variant again, but in a more do-it-yourself, experimental way. I’d also like to try the barbecue variant, which I should be able to pretty much make up as I go along. I wouldn’t object if anyone has a good recipe to share, though.

On a final note, some of the barbecue shredded pork recipes actually call for cloves. I’m intrigued by that. I have some whole cloves and would love to use them more. They smell divine. I had thought of them as being much stronger and more bitter than these give the impression of being. I could see it being good, imbuing the pork with a hint of cloves to work with the relatively strong flavor of barbecue sauce.

Rachel Lucas, Cole Slaw, Ketchup and More!

So Rachel Lucas is back to blogging, which actually does relate to food somewhat, in that I once e-mailed her and got her deviled egg recipe. I just e-mailed her, replying to the original e-mail, no less, suggesting she post it.

Which is exactly what she did with her coleslaw recipe. I have never made coleslaw, but I do enjoy eating the stuff, which has many variants. Seems like a good place to start.

The best coleslaw I ever had was probably what my brother-in-law’s late father used to make in mass quantities for gatherings. That was a variant containing pineapple, which I’m sure some would consider heresy. He learned to make it in the service, where he cooked for a crowd regularly. Hey, “enough to feed an army” is a hyperbolic expression based in fact.

What about you? Pineapple or not? Carrots? What’s amazing is how the flavor varies from restaurant to restaurant, considering it’s essentially shredded cabbage and dressing, so we’ve probably all found restaurants that excel and others that most decidedly do not.

Finally, on a subject related only by food, Rachel Lucas, and a question of preferences, I am please, proud, and downright tickled to note that she prefers Heinz and Jif when it comes to ketchup and peanut butter. The posts about those preferences have been many over the years, including more than once by me, but people always come back for more. Undoubtedly at some point when I can think of nothing better, I will resort to a “favorite condiments” post here. Until then, feel free to carry on in the comments about ketchup and peanut butter, as well as deviled eggs, coleslaw recipes and restaurant versions of same.

Burritos

[Edited]

One thing we eat all the time is burritos and related items. They’re easy, flexible and tasty.

The ingredients start with flour tortillas. These can be from the store, or they can be homemade. For the former, we prefer Manny’s brand Market Basket’s store brand. Usually it’s the burrito size, but the smaller ones work fine too. For the latter, we naturally like Mama Jedi’s Flour Tortillas. These are much tastier than store bought, if a lot less uniform.

That is perhaps all that is consistent about the ingredients here, though cheese is also customary. I could imagine leaving it out if there were no cheese or you were not a cheese eater (the youngest is not a cheese eater in some contexts, despite outgrowing the dairy allergy, and this is one of them). Thus the list of ingredients is mix ‘n’ match, with some combos more likely than others. Possible ingredients are:

Meat – Chicken, Steak, or Hamburger. Presumably pork, venison, etc. could work too.
Cheese – Usually shredded with a grater, normally some combination of cheddar and/or jack.
Refried beans, usually canned but can be homemade easily and cheaply.
Shredded lettuce
Chopped tomato
Corn
Rice
Sour Cream

I’ve also tried adding salsa, and if you were fanatical about onions or such those could work.

Corn or rice are potential sides, as well as potential ingredients [in practice those have become primary, due to preference of the kids, and we have abandoned lettuce and tomato for the most part]. We are more likely to use them if we don’t have beans, lettuce or tomato, or have eaten too many beans too recently.

For chicken, I thaw if needed, cut into small pieces or strips, and cook them in butter or oil I’ve heated with spices. Cook until somewhere between done enough to eat and crisped fairly well. Spices vary to taste. More can be added later in the frying. Typically I use black pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, cumin, cilantro, and a touch of powdered ginger. [I don’t remember ever using ginger! I do use Turkish oregano, which I prefer to Mexican oregano despite the context. Sometimes also paprika or chili powder in modest amounts. Amounts vary depending which meat. I sometimes add a tiny bit of powdered cloves to burger, but would never add that to chicken. Also, I left out salt.] Only the first two are what I would consider absolutes. You can also use chili powder instead or in addition. that is essentially a mix of red pepper, cumin and garlic, though somehow with a distinctive flavor I don’t seem to get from combining the individual items. You can also use some oregano, some celery flakes [I don’t remember ever doing this, though with chicken it could work] or salt, or a touch of allspice [applies more to beef, just as with cloves]. That’s just what I have tried or what comes readily to mind; the sky is the limit. You could make a more traditional poultry spiced chicken to serve in wraps with other ingredients; use the tortilla as a delivery system without pretending to be Mexican about the flavor.

For steak, I thaw if needed and then fry it whole. I either spice the butter or apply a dry rub. The dry rub came out so amazing when I tried it recently that it is likely to become my method of choice. The spices are similar to what I’d use for chicken, but stronger to be able to penetrate. You could use a grill if you have one, make a marinade, pretty much do whatever you want. Cook to your preference. I like steak well done [I’ve become less vehement but still prefer it not too rare], but it’s better if you get it off the heat still slightly pink, or at least not too overcooked. I slice it into thin/small pieces and try to ditch any fat or gristle you’d not want to run into while chewing.

For hamburger, I spice the butter [actually, I don’t normally use any butter, especially for fatty burger, and I just spice the meat], crumble in the burger and cook it up as if I were going to make scrambled hamburger, or were doing the initial prep for a store bought taco making kit. Speaking of which, taco seasoning from one of those would also work [turned out the kids hated commercial taco mix compared to my own], with or without other spices, especially in the hamburger variant. Hamburger can be stirred into the beans if you’re using them, or used as a separate ingredient. You may want to add a dribble of water to the beans to thin them and let the meat mix better. The result can also be served with tortilla chips, rather than as a burrito filling.

Chop, grate, and heat as appropriate for the other ingredients of your choice. A can of refried beans – we have a mild preference for Old El Paso, with Taco Bell probably second, but none we’ve tried are actually bad, and we prefer traditional, but low fat/no fat/vegetarian labeled ones can be okay – heats up quick in a saucepan. [We’ve come to prefer Ortega, which conveniently cost the least, at least at Market Basket.]

You’ll want a big flat frying pan. We have a round one, flat like a griddle, the kind of thing good for pancakes, which is perfect. Use that to heat your tortillas one at a time. Call it medium heat. Lay it down, give it a moment, flip it over, give it another moment. If it starts to have pockets inflate with hot air, it’s probably ready to flip or remove. The goal is to warm and soften, unless you like them crisped a bit. You can use the microwave, but they aren’t as good that way.

With the ingredients and tortillas at the ready, everyone can start piling on whatever they like. If it’s with beans, I usually put beans, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato if available, and sour cream. Speaking of which, we’ve found sour cream is best served with a small plastic “baby” spoon, to get dabs the right size. If there’s no beans, usually I’d smear on sour cream, add meat, rice and/or corn, and cheese.

Fold up the tortilla around the fillings, burrito style, or fold it like a taco if you like. Leftover meat, beans or cheese can be used to make quesadillas the next day.

The beauty of all this is it needn’t be spicy. When I make it, it’s usually less spicy than it probably sounds. Or you can make it more spicy. You can make them more or less meaty. You can make them vegetarian-ish, using just beans plus other ingredients. In fact, bean burritos are quite good, and can be faster to prepare.

Do you make anything similar to these? Any ingredients I’ve overlooked or ideas I’ve not tried?

Moroccan Carrot Salad

[Edited]

I mentioned in my intro post that I might repost past stuff from the other blogs. I’d stumbled across a Moroccan Carrot Salad post from June 25, 2006, and wanted to remind myself I’d intended to experiment with the recipe. It’s summer, or at least the weather deities believe it should be in these parts, so now’s the time.

Last night I made Moroccan Carrot Salad, as seen on the rec.food.recipes newsgroup. It sounded intriguing and I figured it would supplement our contribution of mass quantities of beverages to my grandmother’s birthday party today.

I upped it to two pounds,¦ highly approximate on the carrot front, as it was the end of a 3 lb bag and part of a new 3 lb bag. We’ve been going through carrots lately, cooked and in salads. Sadie loves carrot sticks, though it’s freaky when she chipmunks them and spits them out an hour later in favor of eating something else.

I bought a real lemon on my trip to the Farmer’s Outlet, with no clue how much juice a lemon produces. It turned out to be exactly the needed 4 tablespoons. Cool.

Having no idea what orange blossom water even was, but being intrigued by the idea of a slight orange tinge, I added some juice squeezed from an orange section. That, maybe a tablespoon, was too much. The half cup of extra virgin olive oil seemed to be too much, too.

I was unimpressed right after it was done and well stirred together. It was sour/oily/orange enough then that I added two extra tablespoons of honey.

After sitting overnight, it’s good. Not fantastically amazing, and still needs to be tried with variations to make it more to my taste (might be as simple as adding more ginger and/or cinnamon, of which I added almost none), but sort of tangy, sweet and nutty at once. Sadie seems to like it a lot. Deb likes it but thinks the lemon and honey taste like they’re doing battle. Indeed. I suspect it’s going to be a matter of taste, who likes it a lot or not so much.

For convenience, here’s the actual recipe as I originally saw it on Usenet and used it in slightly modified form, all credit the the source link:

Moroccan Carrot Salad

1 lb sweet carrots peeled and fine grated/fine shredded
1/2 cup light or dark raisins
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp orange flower water or to taste
cinnamon and powdered ginger to taste
salt and pepper to taste

The orange flower water adds a delicate and exotic orange flavor to this different but pleasant tasting salad. I serve the salad in a dark blue serving bowl for a striking appearance. Mix all together and adjust flavoring ( honey, lemon spices etc. ) to taste. Chill very well. Garnish with fresh mint. Yield 4 to 6 servings. Multiply recipe as needed.

(And yes, I did use a blue bowl, which coincidentally happened to be my best option for one-bowl prep and serving. It is a nice visual.)

I’m thinking that allspice might be another flavoring option, besides ginger and cinnamon. Indeed, allspice is one of those things I use surprisingly often, now that I have some. Not in the traditional ways – for instance, you can taste allspice if you eat a blueberry cake donut from Dunkin’ Donuts – but as dashes or pinches in things that could use a flavor adjustment.

When I get around to trying this again, I’ll make a small recipe, just for us. It was kind of risky, making an unknown item for a crowd.