Guinness-Cream-Soda2

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and I feel like such a loser. My wife cooked up a big pot of Corned Beef and Cabbage yesterday, but after a long day of work, I dug into it without taking any pictures. Both my wife and I are big fans of Corned Beef and Cabbage yet we only seem to make it on or around St. Patrick’s Day which is a shame. We really should make it more often, not only for the main meal but the leftovers, afterward get turned into both Reuben’s and Corned Beef Hash. But will I don’t have anything to show for it, I did eat very well, so a big “Thank You” goes out to my wife!!!

Guinness-Stew-4105

But so not to leave you all totally empty handed here is a recipe I posted just over 4 years ago, Beef & Guinness Stew. While it might be a little late for St. Pat’s Day, it will be the perfect way to use up any leftover Guinness from your night of celebrating the fact that on today, we are all a little bit Irish, or at least pretend to be.

And finally, I leave you with a poem dedicated to one of the world’s greatest beers-Guinness.

An Old Irish Tale

author unknown

Some Guinness was spilt on the barroom floor

When the pub was shut for the night.

When out of his hole crept a wee brown mouse

And stood in the pale moonlight.

He lapped up the frothy foam from the floor

Then back on his haunches he sat.

And all night long, you could hear the mouse roar,

“Bring on the goddamn cat!”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!!!

Crab-Cheesecake2

So not long ago, my brother’s wife had a baby. It was a beautiful baby girl, which means the Martin boys are now 0 for 3 in the grandson category. Which is fine as each daughter; 1 for me and 2 for him, bring us all lots of joy, and while it might be nice to throw a boy into the mix, it will be fun to watch the three girls grow and bond. But, I digress. This isn’t about the new baby in the family, although I do congratulate my brother and his wife on the beautiful baby they have brought into this world. I mention that only because my parents were up to help with the new baby, and their 3 year old, so on a Saturday we invited them down to our house for a nice brunch, to give both them, and my brother’s family a little rest (I won’t allude to which party needed a rest more than the other since both my parents, and my brother read this blog). Normally I would do a big, traditional breakfast, but I was in the mood for something a little different and since my parents wouldn’t be arriving until late morning I thought a lighter, appetizer inspired brunch would be just the thing.

I decided that I wanted to do a savory cheesecake as kind of the centerpiece to the spread and since I had been craving shellfish for the past few days I decided that I had to do a Crab Cheesecake.

Whether for a brunch buffet, appetizer buffet, or light lunch (along with a salad) savory cheesecakes are great, especially since they are best prepared the day ahead an allowed to chill over night. Because we were a smaller group I didn’t want to make a full sized cheesecake, so instead I created a recipe to fill 2 7″ springform pans. That would be 1 for us and 1 to send home to the new parents. Even if I was throwing a larger party I would probably still do the 2 smaller pans. Going that route will help keep the buffet looking nice. With a full sized cheesecake it starts looking sloppy after half of it is gone. This the smaller cheesecakes things look a lot more tidy. But if you really want to make a larger cheesecake I would probably prepare 1 1/2 – 2 times the amount of filling. The crust ingredients will probably be enough for 1 large pan.

Crab Cheesecake
makes 2 7″ cheesecakes

2/3 cups Ritz Crackers, crushed
2 Tb. Butter, melted

8 oz. Cream Cheese,softened
1/4 cup Sour Cream
2 Eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
3-4 splashes Hot Sauce (Tabasco, Crystal or other)
10 oz. Crabmeat, picked clean
salt
pepper

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl combine the crackers and butter. Mix well and press into 2 7″ springform pans. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from oven and lower the temperature to 325°F.

Crab-Cheesecake-Crust

Meanwhile combine the cream cheese and sour cream and mix until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.

Crab-Cheesecake-Mix

Pour into the springform pans and smooth the top as best you can.

Crab-Cheesecake-Raw

Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven, prop the door open slightly and allow to sit in the oven for 15 minutes longer.

Crab-Cheesecake-Cooked

Run a knife around the edge of the pans to loosen then remove the ring from the base. Allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to chill completely.

Crab-Cheesecake-Cooled

To serve for a buffet you can “frost” the cheesecake with sour cream for a more elegant look and then garnish with herbs or just go with an herb garnish. Place on a plate surrounded by crackers and serve. For a plated meal, cut into wedges and serve individual slices plated with a small salad.

Crab-Cheesecake

Thai-Kale-Soup2

It seems that every year I make a New Year’s resolution to eat better, lose weight and get healthy, and every year, by about 2 week I’ve given up and failed. As I was thinking about my New Year’s resolutions for this year I wanted to, once again, lose weight, eat better, and get healthy, but I realized something. January 1st is the worst time in the world to make a resolution like that!!! “Why?” you ask. It’s simple. there’s still tons of leftover cookies, candy, etc. from the holidays. How can you expect to keep a resolution to eat better with all that temptation around, so this year I decided to hold off until February 1st before starting a new healthy regime. And, so far, it’s going well. I won’t say that I haven’t faltered, because I have, but the next day I get right back up and work on it again. So far, the only big change I’ve made is to try and eat better. This week or next week, I hope to start adding a few days at the gym. That will really depend on my work schedule, but I’m motivated to get healthy. Right now I’m on cholesterol medication, high blood pressure medication and diabetes medication, all of which my doctor promised to reconsider if I would drop 40-50 pounds. So that is my goal.

The problem is, I’m not a big fan of vegetables and healthy foods. I don’t shy away from them, but I love bacon, butter, cream and sugar. And yes, I love my carbs. I truly believe that I could live on pizza alone, if I had to, and not feel to bad about it. Yes, I like the healthy stuff, I just like the unhealthy stuff more. I’m trying though, and I discovered by tracking my meals, I’m making myself more accountable and thinking twice about those high fat, high carb meals. I’m also trying to convince myself that healthy doesn’t have to be boring. intellectually I know it, but I still have to convince the irrational side of it.

The recipe I am sharing today is part of this process. Luckily, I made a big batch and I find myself dipping into it regularly. It’s healthy, filling and most importantly it tastes awesome. When I eat it, I don’t feel like I am denying myself something. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Thai Kale Soup
serves 10-12

2 Tbs. Vegetable Oil
1 medium Onion, peeled and diced
1 pound Mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch Bok Choy, chopped, stalks end and leaves separated as best as possible (doesn’t have to be perfect)
1 bunch Kale, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
1 pound Tofu, firm, diced into 1/2″ cubes
1 1/2 quarts Chicken Stock or broth
1/4 cup Soy Sauce
1 can Lite Coconut Milk
3-5 Tbs. Red Curry Paste (I use “A Taste of Thai” brand)

In a large pot heat the oil over high heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook until wilted. Add the bok choy stalks and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the soy sauce and chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Stir in the bok choy leaves and kale and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the tofu and coconut milk and stir in the curry paste. Simmer another 10-15 minutes or until the kale is tender. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve.

Thai-Kale-Soup

Granola2

One of my favorite, year round breakfasts is granola with yogurt. While I love to eat it year round, for some reason I find that I only make homemade granola in the wintertime. I’m not sure why this is as granola is easy to make and doesn’t require much time, although it does require firing up the oven, which is something I don’t necessarily like to do more than necessary during the summer. Maybe I should try to figure out how to bake granola on one of my grills!!!

Granola has a reputation for being a “healthy” food. While even the worst of granolas are a good source of fiber, they can also be high in calories and fats if you aren’t careful of what brand you chose or what you add to it. As easy as making granola is, I don’t see why anyone would want to purchase store-bought stuff that can often be full of high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. Now, any of you that have read my blog for awhile will know, I don’t always shy away from these “unhealthy” products, but I also don’t see the point in adding more of them to my diet when making granola is so simple and such a good addition to any weight loss diet.

Granola, even the best of them, tend to be pretty high in calories due to all the sweetening that makes them so yummy. They also tend to be high in fat because, not only do they often contain quite a few nuts, but also usually have added oil to help get the granola crisp. Neither of these things are necessarily a bad thing, but because of this I try to eat granola in moderation, which isn’t too difficult as I find it to be very filling. 1/2 cup of granola topping 1/2 cup of plain, homemade yogurt usually is enough to fill me up for breakfast.

While I give a very specific recipe below, feel free to play around with it to suit your tastes. The recipe contains 4 cups of oatmeal and 3 cups of other “dry” ingredients. Keeping the oatmeal the same, feel free to play around with the other ingredients, changing the ratios to suit your tastes or adding other things such as other nuts, seeds or grains. And while I kept this light on the dried fruit, feel free to add more dried fruit or vary the variety of dried fruits you use. If you would like to see another example of a good granola recipe, back in 2009 I offered up a recipe for Apricot, Almond, and Pumpkin Seed Granola. You can find the recipe here.

Honey Glazed Granola
makes 8 cups (approximately 16 1/2 cup servings)

3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
3/4 cup Honey
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 Tb. Cinnamon, ground
1 tsp. Ginger, ground
1/2 tsp. Salt

4 cups Rolled Oats (not instant)
1 cup Wheat Germ
1 cup Pecans, chopped
1 cup Shredded Coconut, unsweetened

1 cup Raisins

Preheat your oven to 300°F. In one bowl, combine the first set of 6 ingredients and mix well.

Wet-Ingredients

In another, larger bowl, combine the next set of 4 ingredients.

Dry-Ingredients

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, and mix well to ensure that everything is well coated. Spread out onto 2 baking sheets and place in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring the granola every 8-10 minutes. Granola is done when it starts to turn a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow for 5 minutes. After the 5 minutes add the raisins. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

The granola will last for at least 2 weeks, kept in the airtight container. It might even last longer, but we never let it sit around that long to find out.

fermenting

It’s been about a month since I last posted. First there was Christmas, then we were gone for a week, on vacation and to celebrate my parents 50th wedding anniversary. Then things got busy at work, and to be honest, after doing a post a day, in December I needed a little break.

But I’m back, and back with a new fermentation recipe. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you’ll know that I love sauerkraut, pickles and all sorts of fermented foods, and thanks to my friends over at Cheftalk, not long ago I received a fermentation crock, which I have been keeping full. You can find my review of that crock over at Cheftalk, here. I’ve also written recipes for making sauerkraut which I’ve posted both on my blog and on Cheftalk. You can find those recipes here and here.

With my most recent batch of sauerkraut I wanted to try something a little different. In my mind, I have always associated cabbage and beets with each other. I’m not sure why, other than the fact that they are both stereotypical Eastern European vegetables. This association got me to wondering what it would be like to grate beets into my cabbage to make a red, beet sauerkraut. It was worth a try, I thought, so I called up my brother, who also happens to really be into the whole fermentation thing and he wasn’t very optimistic. He said that he had tried it once and was not happy with the results. His batch came out slimy and with an unpleasant taste. While I appreciated his advice I was determined to try it for myself and see what happens, but his experience led me to decide that a smaller batch was in order, just so not to waste a bunch of food, if it didn’t work out.

Luckily, I had much better luck than my brother. My beet sauerkraut came out a beautiful red color, with a crisp texture and an interesting, but not unpleasant taste. The beets lent a slight sweetness to the kraut and an earthy note that played well against the cabbage. The only drawback is when I sautéed the beet cabbage with some white wine it dulled the color considerably, but the wonderful flavor was still there.

Beet Sauerkraut

2 quarts Water
3 Tb. Kosher Salt

4 pounds Cabbage
1 pound Beets, peeled (weighed after peeling)
3 Tb. Kosher Salt

Bring the water to a boil and add the kosher salt. Stir until dissolved then remove from heat, cool to room temperature and set aside.

Remove the outer leaves from the cabbage, core and finely shred it. Using a large holed grater, grate the beets.

Shredded-Beet-and-Cabbage

Sprinkle with the kosher salt then mix everything together, pounding the cabbage and beets to make them start releasing their juices.

Beets-and-Cabbage-mixed

Pack, tightly, into your fermentation vessel of choice (see links above for more detailed explanations of making sauerkraut), and weigh down. The cabbage should have produced enough liquid, on its own, to cover, but if not, add some of the reserved brine, that you made, until the liquid tops the vegetables by about 1 inch. Ferment for 4-7 weeks, or until it is as sour as you like it. Pack into sterilized canning jars and top with lids but don’t screw them on tight.

fermenting

Place in the fridge. After 2-3 days, when the chill has slowed down the fermentation you can tighten the lids slightly. Serve as you would any other sauerkraut.

with-sausage

I served it as a quick Choucroute 1 night. To do this I browned up a couple of different sausages removed them from the pan, added onions and sautéed them before adding the kraut and a cup of white wine. I then added the sausages back to the pan, covered and allowed to simmer until the sausages were cooked through (about 20 minutes).

Poinsettia

December 24th – The Poinsettia

Well, tonight is my last post in this series. Yes, I know; advent calendars usually go through the 25th, but, to be honest, I think 24 cocktails are enough and I’m taking Christmas off from the blog. It’s been a lot of fun though! I’ve had a great time researching, experimenting with, and making cocktails to share here. The only drawback is that I think I’ve turned my wife into an alcoholic. Before this she didn’t drink very often, and now she’s barely home from work when she’s asking what kind of drinking I’m making her!! She’s going to have to start making her own now!!

Of the 23 prior cocktails I’ve shared here this month only 1 has been a Champagne based cocktail. Before I finish I want to share another one, as Champagne is such a great celebratory drink. The Poinsettia has been around for awhile and it makes a great drink for that last minute Christmas party or a fun and festive drink to serve on New Year’s Eve.

Again, thanks for reading. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this month of cocktails as much as I have enjoyed sharing them. Please let me know what you thought of the cocktails I offered up this month. I’d love to hear what your favorites, for the blog, were or other favorite holiday tipples that you enjoy.

The Poinsettia
1 drink

3 oz. Cranberry Juice
1/2 oz. Cointreau
Champagne

In a Champagne flute mix the cranberry juice and Cointreau. Fill with Champagne and serve.

Poinsettia2

Deck-the-Halls

December 23rd – Deck the Halls Cocktail

It’ hard to believe that we are only 1 day, and some change, away from Christmas. This December has flown by in a hurry. Next thing you know, it will be 2014 and we can say good-bye to 2013. I realized today, that I think I’m getting old. I don’t feel old, but I was thinking about something that happened not long ago. I thought it happened merely months ago and when I figured it out it was actually over 1 1/2 years ago. I find that happening to me a lot recently, where time seems to be slipping by more rapidly every day. I can still remember feeling, as a kid, that the summers would last forever (hey, that’s a great line, someone should use that in a song!), but now time just seems to rush by. It’s kind of an odd sensation if you try to analyze it too much.

But enough of me babbling away. Time for another cocktail. I’ve got to stop this soon as too many cocktails have made me start thinking too deeply about life, in general, recently.

I realized that I haven’t used any vodka in any of my cocktails for this little experiment. I’m not averse to vodka, it’s just not my first go to when I want to make a drink or play around with cocktails. The whole concept behind vodka alludes me. I don’t get the point of a liquor that, if made properly, shouldn’t taste like anything. I want a lot of character in the booze I drink, so I just don’t get it. But that’s just my personal opinion. I will admit that there are a number of flavored vodkas that I enjoy quite a bit, but that’s because it’s all about the flavoring, not the vodka itself.

This is another new creation I came up with. I’m not a huge fan of the name, but I wanted something Christmasy. The drink itself is pretty good, if not one of the best of my creations. It still pleased my wife and a few others that tried it. I hope you enjoy!!

Deck the Halls Cocktail
1 drink

1 1/2 oz. Citrus Vodka (any type of citrus vodka will do, I used lime for mine)
1/2 oz. Triple Sec
1/2 oz. Grenadine
2 splashes Orange Bitters
1 tsp. Sugar, granulated
4 Mint Leaves
Cranberry Ginger Ale

In the bottom of a large cocktail glass mix sugar, bitters and mint leaves. Muddle just to bruise the mint, helping it to release its flavor. Add the vodka, Triple Sec, and grenadine. Mix and fill the glass with ice. Top with Cranberry Ginger Ale. Garnish with an orange slice.

Holiday-Gin-and-Tonic

December 22nd – Holiday Gin and Tonic

For a long time Gin & Tonics were my mixed drink of choice. Somewhere along the way I kind of lost my taste for them, but I still, occasionally, find myself with a craving for one, especially on hot days, when that mix of gin, tonic and lime juice becomes the ultimate thirst quencher.

While this past month’s cocktails may not really show it, I am a big fan of traditional, classic cocktails. While I enjoy playing around with all sorts of ingredients, I also like the simplicity of many of the classics. Today’s cocktail is a reflection of that mind set. I start with a classic Gin and Tonic and simply replace the lime with orange and cranberry, leaving the drink, at heart, pretty much the same, but giving a slight nod to the holiday season. Both the orange and cranberry are pretty subtle in this drink, playing against the strong flavors of both the gin and the tonic. If you are not a Gin and Tonic fan this drink will not be for you, but if you like Gin and Tonics I think you will really enjoy this slight rift on the classic.

Holiday Gin and Tonic
1 drink

1 slice Orange
4 each Cranberries, fresh
2 oz. Gin
Tonic Water

In a highball glass gently muddle the orange and the cranberries, ensuring that the cranberries pop open. Fill the glass with ice then add the gin and tonic water. Give a gentle stir. This drink doesn’t really need a garnish as you can see the orange and cranberries in the drink, but if you want you can garnish with either an orange or lime wedge.

Gluhwein

December 21st – Gluhwein

For me, the holidays are a time for traditions, some old, that have been family traditions for generations, and some new, that my wife and I and have created with our family. Normally, I don’t like to consider myself a creature of habit, but when it comes to the holidays I don’t like a whole lot of change.

One of those traditions, that has been altered over the years, was the annual, “Day After Thanksgiving” trip to Chicago. Living in Indiana, each year we would take the train to Chicago for day of sight-seeing and holiday window shopping. I always loved those trips and it was probably due to them that I moved to Chicago later in life. My parents still made the annual trek to Chicago and I would join them to hike up and down the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Ave.). At that time Chicago’s Christkindl Market was in its infancy, but it quickly became a required stop on our holiday browsing spree.

Nowadays, living 2 1/2 hours away, I don’t always make it to the Christkindl Market every year, but we try our hardest, and for me, the holiday just doesn’t seem quiet complete if we miss the journey into the city. Besides looking at all the homemade crafts, and picking up a few more homemade glass icicles for our Christmas tree, I look forward to 2 things. The first is a plate of Currywurst, a sausage sliced into bite sized pieces and smothered in a curry flavored ketchup (I know, it doesn’t sound that great, but if you’ve ever tried it you’ll know how addictive it can be). The second, and probably most important is a mug of Gluhwein, the German take on Mulled Wine.

Now like so many recipes for Mulled Wine, Gluhwein recipes are as varied as the people who make it. Some add only 1 or 2 spices, while others add 6,7 or 10. Some people fortify it with brandy or other liquors, while some actually dilute it with water. And of course, what spices, or fruits are added can almost be infinite.

The recipe I offer up takes pieces from some of the best Mulled wines I have made in the past. And it uses a technique I just recently read about where you make a “base” of water and honey in which you infuse your spices so once you add your alcohol it doesn’t have to cook so long and lead to a loss in the potency of the alcohol. I hope you like it.

Gluhwein
serves 3-4

1/4 cup Honey
3/4 cup Water
2 each Cinnamon Sticks
15-16 Peppercorns, whole
10 Cloves, whole
12 Allspice Berries, whole
3 Cardamon pods (optional)
2 Oranges, sliced
1/3 cup Brandy (or dark rum)
1 bottle (750 ml) Red Wine (preferably a fruitier red wine with minimal oak to it)

Combine the honey, water, spices and oranges in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, covered. Add the wine and brandy, cover again, and heat, over low flame, just until hot. Pour into mugs and serve piping hot.

Hot-Buttered-Rye2

December 20th – Hot Buttered Rye

We’ve been have some lousy weather the last 24 hours. A mix of freezing rain and snow, which means driving is dangerous and there’s a damp chill in the air. I don’t mind the cold, but the damp air, along with the cold, I can do without. The good news is, it’s perfect weather for a nice, warm pick me up. Luckily I came across a recipe, from Southern Living, for a Hot Buttered Rye; you can find the original recipe here.

I have to admit, I’m not a huge Rye fan. Not because I don’t like it, but because I haven’t taken the time to really explore this facet of the whiskey world; something I plan on changing in the near future. So a variation on Hot Buttered Rum using Rye intrigued me. Then seeing that the recipe pairs the rye with maple syrup, I was hooked. This could easily become one of my new winter favorites.

I kept the recipe pretty much the same, but decided it could use just a bit of sweetening so I decided to add a bit of brown sugar to the mix, providing both sweetness and a subtle molasses flavor that compliments the flavors of the rye. My suggestion; try both the original and my version to see which one you like best, and if necessary try each one again, just for good measure.

Hot Buttered Rye
1 drink

Maple Cream
1 cup Heavy Cream
3 Tb. Maple Syrup

Mix the cream and maple syrup together and whip until thick but no peaks form (whipped cream should just barely mound and hold its shape). Set aside. Makes enough for 6-7 drinks

Hot Buttered Rye
2 oz. Rye Whiskey
1 oz. Domaine de Canton or other ginger liqueur
1 tsp. Brown Sugar, packed
Hot Water
1/4 cup Maple Cream (see recipe above)
Nutmeg

In a heat proof, glass mug, mix the rye, liqueur and sugar. Fill mug, to within 1/2 inch of the top, with hot water and give a stir to dissolve the sugar. Top with the maple cream and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Hot-Buttered-Rye

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