Month: March 2014

Finally! Finals Week

Hi folks! Just a little note to let you know that I’m going to be taking a few days off from the blog because it’s finals week. I have my written final tonight, and my cooking final tomorrow, then we have something called “Kitchen Appreciation Day” on Wednesday (cleaning. cleaning. and also, cleaning.) I’m working on something for Friday, and then I’ll be back to my regular Tuesday/Thursday/Sometimes the Weekend schedule.

I hope you all have a wonderful week! Please send “Remember Everything and Don’t Freak Out” vibes my way!

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Let’s Bake a Difference!

I’m totally stoked you guys! This year, I’ve signed up to take part in Share Our Strength’s Blogger Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry. On the weekend of May 1st through May 3rd, bloggers all over the country will be organizing bake sales to raise funds to help end childhood hunger.  If you’re not familiar with this wonderful organization, click the logos below to learn more.

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I’m teaming up with the charitable giving organization at my employer, “DH & I” Dice Holdings Cares, to put on this event in my office. We’re in a multi-story office building, so I’m hoping to get the whole building involved this year!

Of course, baking isn’t my forte so I’ll be recruiting fellow bakers to help out. Plus, kicking out dozens of brownies, cookies, and cupcakes is going to help Share Our Strength make sure every kid in the country gets nutritious meals every day, I’m SO down.

If you’re in the Denver area and you’d like to help me bake, just leave a note in the comments. If you’re somewhere else in the country and you’d like to pitch in, there are three ways to go about that:

1) Donate online, here.

2) Go to our team page here and click the “Join Team” link, become a Virtual Team Member, and spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or by word of mouth, to help us raise money. You’ll be set up with your own personal fundraising link that you can share with everyone you know.

3) Go to another blogger’s bake sale and buy some delicious baked goods! The list of participating bloggers is growing and there will probably be a bake sale near you.

MARCH MADNESS CHALLENGE: We’ve set a goal to try and raise $300 before the end of the NCAA Tournament. I think we can do it! Can you help?

Hi! I’m Ranty McRanterson!

Gird your loins, kids. I’m about to go on a little rant. Or maybe a big rant. We’ll find out together, eh?

Food & Wine magazine’s tumblr account recently made me aware of two things I did not know before:
– A body of alleged authorities on all things sausagey exists. It is called the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council.
– They believe themselves to be the highest authority in the land on how to eat a hot dog.

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Being a ruling body, you know these folks are making up some rules. Rules about the proper way to put a hot dog in your body. This instantly makes me feel rebellious. Who died and made them Hot Dog Gods? I mean, I think we all generally get the idea. It’s a fucking hot dog. It’s not that crazy puffer fish thing that has to be prepared in such a way so as to avoid deadly neurotoxins. It’s a hot dog.

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Right?

Before my head explodes too soon, let’s get into this thing.

I’m not going to list every single “do” and “don’t” because I honestly can’t believe there’s even a list, let alone a list that long. I mean, click that link. It’s like, potentially anxiety inducing.

Don’t…

Put hot dog toppings between the hot dog and the bun. Always “dress the dog,” not the bun.

Condiments should be applied in the following order: wet condiments like mustard and chili are applied first, followed by chunky condiments like relish, onions and sauerkraut, followed by shredded cheese, followed by spices, like celery salt or pepper.

So the bun isn’t that important, right? It’s just a vehicle for getting the hot dog and toppings to your mouth without making a mess, right?

Also, heaven forbid you want the cheese to melt a little. It won’t. It won’t be anywhere near the heat source that is your hot dog. It’s going to sit on top of all those cold condiments.
But wait! This just in…

Do…
Serve sesame seed, poppy seed and plain buns with hot dogs. Sun-dried tomato buns or basil buns are considered gauche with franks.

So the bun is important. But only in the sense that it should absolutely taste like nothing, nothing at all. Do not try to get fancy with your bun. The Hot Dog Police will show up and write you a citation for Just Going Too Far.

Also, can we discuss the use of the word gauche in relation to hot dogs? Isn’t the very act of putting food directly into your mouth hole with your arm shovels kind of negating any concerns about being gauche?

It gets super confusing when you consider these little nuggets of tubesteak wisdom:

Don’t…
Use a cloth napkin to wipe your mouth when eating a hot dog. Paper is always preferable.

Do…
Eat hot dogs on buns with your hands. Utensils should not touch hot dogs on buns.

Do…
Use paper plates to serve hot dogs. Every day dishes are acceptable; china is a no-no.

Do…
Condiments remaining on the fingers after eating a hot dog should be licked away, not washed.

So we’re worried that it’s the sun dried tomato hot dog bun that’s going to make us appear gauche? It’s not the paper napkin or the eating with our hands or licking our fingers or the paper plates?


Don’t…
Take more than five bites to finish a hot dog. For foot-long wiener, seven bites are acceptable.

Ma’am, I’ve been counting your bites and it would appear you’ve violated Rule 4, subsection 2.1 of the Hot Dog Consumption Code. You’re going to have to come with me.

I’ve got a bite you can count.

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Don’t…

Use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18. 
Mustard, relish, onions, cheese and chili are acceptable.

File this one under Oddly Specific. Imagine getting carded for condiments.

I don’t like ketchup on my hot dog, but I am not gonna tell you not to have it. When you eat food, you want it to taste good to you, right? It doesn’t have to taste good to High Lord and Emperor of Hot Dog Land, just you. Put ketchup on your hot dog if you damn well want. Open your mouth. Put it in your face. You’re getting to eat while that guy is still over there dressing his dog in layers like this is a flipping fashion show and not a back yard picnic.

I can’t even go on. It’s just too much. I just have one final message for the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council…

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Kitchen 101: DJ! B-B-B-Break it down!

Touching raw chicken is icky. I’m getting that off my chest. I like chicken. I love cooking it and I love eating it, but I do not love touching it. Of course, as someone who wants to teach others to cook for a living, I realize it’s not the most inspiring thing to see your instructor making the “eww” face when handling an ingredient, so I’ve pretty much come to terms with the fact that barring me going militant vegan (NOT gonna happen), raw animal product and I are fated to be in contact.

Having said all that, I do see the benefit of taking matters into my own hands when it comes to doing a little of my own home butchery. There are all sorts of good reasons:

– Understanding the anatomy of the animal helps you know how each part of it should be prepared.
– Seeing the whole animal, or at least a larger part of the animal than just that nice, neat, packaged bit that’s already broken down for you, puts you face to face with the fact that this was once a living being, and if you’re going to eat it, I believe it’s important to honor the fact that its life was taken to provide sustenance for you and your family. I realize not everyone will have access to (or will ever really want access to) the entire process of raising an animal for food, but acknowledging that the act of eating meat does not begin with my trip to the grocery store feels important to me.
– And then, once I’m done with that little preachy bit, we’ll finally get to the “meat” of this week’s Kitchen 101–  It will save you money to break down the meat yourself.

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Most of the time, whole chicken costs less per pound than cut up chicken parts. In terms of yield, you’ll get more usable meat from that whole chicken by breaking it down yourself than you would from a whole, cut up chicken. From one whole fryer chicken you will get, at minimum, two large breasts (which can be further broken down into cutlets), two thighs, two legs, two wings (throw ’em in the freezer and eventually you’ll have a dozen or so that you can turn into an appetizer), plus the carcass, which can be used to make chicken stock. You can generally get (depending on how you’re preparing it) at least four meals out of that for a family of four, even more if you’re just a couple or a single. The chicken fat, which is referred to as “schmaltz”, can also be used in place of other types of fat or oil for sauteing or making sauces. When you buy a whole chicken, you’re also not paying for extra packaging or the cost of having someone else break it down for you.

You also may not have realized the potential food safety factors. A whole chicken is handled/processed less than a cut up chicken, thus reducing the risk of exposure to pathogens that lead to food borne illness. If you take what you’re saving from buying a whole chicken vs. the more processed one, that might give you the extra three or four dollars you’d  need to buy an organically and locally raised chicken, vs. one from a factory chicken farm. That means some of those “throw away” parts you might normally avoid using (like the bones, the skin, and the fat) can be safer/cleaner to eat.

And now that I’ve told you all that, you might be wondering about the most efficient way to break down a whole chicken. If you’ve never done it before, it might take a few tries before you’re able to get the full yield of meat from a whole chicken, but once you get a feel for it, and an understanding of the anatomy, it will become second nature.

I had a video for you from my instructor to demonstrate the process of breaking down a chicken. It’s a good one, and fairly entertaining, to boot. However, I looked at several others, as well, and found one on BuzzFeed Food’s YouTube channel that demonstrates a method that I think is incredibly approachable for the average home cook.

I realize that sometimes it’s simple time saving convenience that might cause you to just get the parts you need vs. the whole chicken. That’s ok. I’d never tell anyone they have to do something. However, I do recommend that you try it enough times to get this skill into your bag of tricks because it’ll just be another thing you can do that makes you feel more confident and capable in the kitchen.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Let’s get lucky.

Boy do I have a treat for you!

Last week, Sweet and Crumby attempted to make a lightened up version of this delicious Irish Whiskey Bread Pudding. It seems she has the same problem I do. We start out with the best of intentions, and then before we know it we’re adding all sorts of goodies that cause our recipes to take a bit of a detour. I’m not mad at her though, because the moment she admitted to throwing caution to the wind and simply focusing on making a really delicious dessert, I quite happily followed her lead.

I didn’t detour too much from her recipe, and I recommend that you click that link up there and go check out the original. I’ll walk you through it though, and include the very minor changes I made (some on purpose, and one completely accidental).  This recipe is easy enough to throw together that you still have time to make it in honor of today’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities, but I think once you’ve made this once, it’ll be a popular repeat in your dessert rotation.

Equipment:
9 x 11 baking pan of some sort
large sheet pan
measuring spoons and cups
large mixing bowl
mixing spoon

Ingredients for the Bread Pudding:
1 large loaf of Challah bread, torn into pieces
1/3 C Irish Whiskey (I used Jameson’s)
1 3/4 C 2% milk
one 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 T vanilla extract
2 lg eggs, beaten
3/4 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 C melted butter
1 1/2 T cinnamon/sugar blend (I’ll let you decide the ratio)

Instructions:
Preheat your oven to 350°.

I was prepared enough to buy the bread a few days in advance, but not prepared enough to get it torn up and air dried ahead of time, so I dried it out a bit in the oven. Dry/stale bread soaks up the custard much better, while still retaining its basic structure. Her recipe calls for the bread to be left in slices and drizzled on both sides with the melted butter then put into the oven to toast. I melted the butter but totally spaced actually putting it on the bread, so I ended up just pouring it into the custard. What the hell, right?

Anyhoots, it won’t take too long to get the bread just dried out enough to be more absorbent. Remember, you’re not really trying to brown the bread, just toast it up a bit to accept the custard.

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While the bread is drying, you can mix up the custard.  In the original version, you’d put the raisins in the whiskey ahead of time to help plump them back up, but since I skipped the raisins I just poured it directly into the custard mixture, along with the milks, eggs, vanilla, and sugar. Dump your dried out bread into the custard and very gently fold it to combine. You don’t want to break those chunks of bread up too much. Add the chocolate chips and fold them in, too. Food Made Simply has a great explanation for the difference between stirring or mixing and folding here, if you’re a little confused about that. Basically, folding is much gentler and helps to ensure your pudding isn’t going to be over-mixed into mush.

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Use cooking spray or butter to lightly grease your pan, then pour the mixture into it. Spread it out a bit to get it into an even layer, but don’t smoosh it down too much. Sprinkle your cinnamon/sugar mixture over the top and pop it into the oven for about 30 minutes.

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While it’s baking, you can get the Whiskey sauce together.

Equipment:
small pot or saucepan
whisk
measuring spoons and cups
fine mesh sieve or some sort of strainer (you might not need this, but I did)

Ingredients:
1/4 C butter
1/2 C granulated sugar
1 beaten egg yolk
2 T water
2 T whiskey/bourbon

Instructions:
Melt the butter in your sauce pan, then add the remaining ingredients. Cook and stir or whisk for about 5 minutes over medium heat, until the sugar is all dissolved and the sauce comes to a boil.

Here’s where the strainer comes in– My egg yolk started to cook a little. If I had been thinking about it, I probably would have tempered it a little to minimize the chances of that happening, but if the same thing happens to you don’t panic. Just let the sauce finish cooking and then strain out any bits of egg before you serve it.

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I brought mine into work, so I just drizzled the sauce over the top of the whole thing, but if this is something you’re making to serve after dinner you can just serve it on the side.

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If whiskey isn’t your thing, but you still want to get in on the St. Patty’s dessert parade, Sweet and Crumby’s blog post from March 12th has a recipe for Bailey’s Chocolate Devastation Cookies that might be a little more up your alley. Yum!