Grill

I’ve been a slacker this winter, I have to admit. I am usually a year round griller, but this year I didn’t do much grilling. It might have been because Wisconsin had a record 54 days below zero. It could have been because propane prices skyrocketed. Or it could have been just because I was lazy and wimp. But it was probably a combination of all of those things.

So my grill got its first workout in several months. I had been hoping to cook up some wild Ramps, but my recent scouting mission should me that I am probably 1-2 weeks away from being able to forage for them. I still had chicken breasts and a bunch of asparagus though, and with the nice weather, I had to get out and grill.

I have often ranted against store bought sauces and dressings, but I will admit we do purchase them. I try not to use them much in my cooking, but they can make a great base for sauce or glaze especially on a week night, after a long day of work, when you want to get a nice dinner on the table in relatively quick time. In this recipe, the glaze for the chicken, has as its base store bought raspberry vinaigrette. If you have homemade raspberry vinaigrette or raspberry vinegar in your panty then by all means use that.

Ingredients

I wanted to grill out while it was still daylight so that I could get a few nice pictures, which meant that I would have to save some for my wife who would be home an hour or 2 later. Unfortunately, one of our dogs, Buford, found his way into the kitchen and ate all the remaining chicken breasts while I was outside with my daughter practicing her baseball skills.

Buford

Imagine my surprise, when my wife got home and I went to make her a plate, only to find the plate of chicken completely empty. Luckily, Buford doesn’t like asparagus or those would have been gone also!!!

Grilled Chicken with Raspberry-Horseradish Glaze
serves 4

1 Whole Chicken, cut into pieces or the equivalent in other chicken pieces (I was using boneless skinless chicken breasts)
1/2 cup Raspberry Vinaigrette
1/2 Tbs. Horseradish
1/2 Tbs. Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. Honey
Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

Prepare your grill for direct grilling over medium heat. Meanwhile, combine the vinaigrette with the horseradish, mustard and honey. Liberally season the chicken with salt and pepper and place on the preheated grill.

Chicken-Raw

How long it takes to cook your chicken will depend on the pieces you use, their thickness, and exactly how hot your grill is, but you can expect most pieces to take about 20 minutes. With about 5-7 minutes cooking time left start brushing on your glaze. Brush it on the top side, cover the grill, cook one minute, then flip the chicken and brush the other side. Repeat so that you have glazed each side at least twice, but make sure that you are not doing this over too high heat as the glaze will want to burn.

Chicken-Cooked

When done remove to a serving platter and offer up any remaining glaze to your guests. Serve with the grilled asparagus (recipe below).

Asparagus-Grilled

Grilled Asparagus with Balsamic Onions
serves 2-3

1 bunch Asparagus
2 Tbs. Tarragon Vinegar
2 Tbs. Balsamic Vinegar
4 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 quarter Red Onion, thinly sliced
Freshly cracked Black Pepper
Salt

Cut, or snap off the lower 1-2 inches of your asparagus as this part tends to be pretty fibrous. Combine the 2 vinegars with the olive oil, some salt and at least 1 Tbs. of freshly cracked black pepper, or more if you really like pepper. Toss the asparagus with the dressing and place on the grill over medium heat. Grill, turning every couple of minutes, until the asparagus is tender and slightly charred. Meanwhile combine the red onion with the remaining dressing and allow the onions to soak it up. When the asparagus is done, toss with the onions and dressing. This can either be served warm or room temperature.

Grilled-Chicken-and-Asparag

Steak-Tartare

WARNING

This post is all about the consumption of raw meat and eggs. If the above and below images make you queasy then stop reading.

Tartare-Closeup

If you are a militant vegan or vegetarian you might want to stop reading.
If you are grossed out by eating raw foods you might want to stop reading.
If you work for the USDA you might want to stop reading or at least take note of the disclaimer below.
If you are a lawyer you might want to stop reading or take note of the disclaimer below.

DISCLAIMER

As much as I dislike having to put up this disclaimer, I feel that, in this society where no one wants to take responsibility for themselves and are always looking for ways to make a quick buck by suing others, I must provide this.

This post contains a recipe that includes the use of both raw beef and raw egg yolks. The USDA recommends that both eggs and meat be cooked to specific internal temperatures to render them safe from food borne pathogens. Since this dish is raw those temperatures are not reached and as such, may be unsafe for consumption (per the USDA). You have been warned. Eat this dish at your own risk. By re-creating this dish at home you assume full responsibility if you get sick. Don’t blame me.

All right, now that the USDA and the lawyers have been appeased, we can get on with the good stuff.

It’s been awhile since I thought about Steak Tartare, that classic of French fine dining in the US, in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s. When I first started cooking you could still find it on a few menus, either in places that held firm to those old classic dishes, or in places that would put it on the menu in an ironic way. Yes, people were doing that long before “hipsters” made it a thing. But Steak Tartare’s time in the spotlight was coming to an end. First, there was Carpaccio, the Italians answer to Steak Tartare. In fine dining restaurants across the country chefs dropped the tartare and replaced it with Carpaccio as an Italian food became the new trend. And then, somewhere along the line, Americans became scared of their food. Warning labels went up, all over the place, warning us that eating undercooked food was dangerous to our health. And with the way that modern, American factory farms worked there was some truth in the concerns. Suddenly, Steak Tartare seemed to be headed for extinction, except in small isolated areas.

But, as with most trends, there has been a resurgence of people rediscovering many of these old classic dishes, and today you can find a number of recipes, and lots of pictures of Steak Tartare on the web. Unfortunately most of them are pretty bad interpretations of the dish, and some are just god-awful, and scary looking.

I have to admit, although I used to love the dish, I hadn’t thought about it in a while, until a friend of mine told me that she had her first taste of the dish while on vacation. From that conversation on I couldn’t get the stuff out of my mind and so one Saturday afternoon, I worked up a little magic and prepared some for me and my wife, who also had never had Steak Tartare before.

As I said, there are a lot of bad versions of Steak Tartare out there. Probably the biggest crime is sending it to the table in a deconstructed form and allowing your guests to make their own. You’ll know these versions by the picture of a pile of chopped meat with an egg yolk perched on top and all of the condiments set around the side. Unless you are going to mix the whole thing up, yourself, table side forget doing it this way. What your guests will end up with is raw meat, with globs of raw egg yolk and poorly distributed condiments. Doesn’t sound too appetizing to me. The second one crime I see, and probably the most severe crime is recipes that call for ground meat. First of all, unless you grind your own you will have no idea what you are getting, and when eating raw meat you had better know exactly what you are eating, and secondly, the texture is just disgusting. No, Steak Tartare needs to be hand chopped to get the right texture, consistency and flavor. If you want to use the short cut of using ground meat just make hamburgers instead. The final issue are recipes that over dress the meat. Believe it or not, raw beef is somewhat delicate in flavor and very easily overwhelmed. The sauce and condiments should compliment the beef not hide it. It is always best to start with too little and then add a bit more until you achieve the right taste.

A final word before I go on to the recipe and it has to do with what cut to use. Many recipes call for using tenderloin, but I find tenderloin to not have much flavor and it can be a little mushy in texture. My cut of choice is usually from the sirloin or an inside round. The meat can be a little tougher since it is diced so small, although I would avoid really tough cuts with lots of fat and sinew.

it also goes without saying that you need to purchase the freshest beef and eggs that you can, from a reputable source. If you can get locally raised beef and eggs then even better.

Steak Tartare
serves 4-6 as a first course

12-16 oz. Beef, preferably sirloin or round
1 each Egg Yolk
2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 large Shallot
1 1/2 Tbs. Capers
2 Tbs. Parsley
3 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
1 splash Tabasco
Salt
Pepper, freshly ground (coarse)
2-4 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Tartare-Ingredients

Finely mince the shallots, capers and parsley.

Tartare-Caper

Tartare-Onions

Tartare-Parsley

In a bowl, mix the egg yolk with the Dijon mustard, Worcestershire and tabasco. Drizzle in 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the capers, shallots and parsley. Season with salt and copious amounts of black pepper.

Remove all fat, connective tissue and sinew from the beef and dice as small as possible, but no larger than 1/4 inch. You should have 12 ounces of prepared beef when done. Pour dressing over beef and mix to coat. Add olive oil, a bit at a time, if the meat seems to dry. The dressing should just barely coat the meat with no excess dripping off of it. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

To serve either mound onto a single plate and have your guests help themselves or divide among the number of plates you need. Serve, immediately, with toast points.

Steak-Tartare2

Steak Tartare needs to be served as soon as it is prepared. It doesn’t take long for the meat to start oxidizing, turning an off gray color and it’s flavor quickly deteriorating and it is definitely not a dish that you want leftovers as it will not be any good the next day.

So, Steak Tartare may not be for everyone, but if you’ve always wondered what all the fuss is about, I encourage you to try this recipe and decide for yourself whether the dish lives up to its hype or not.

grandcafe_brand

It was Saturday morning and neither me, or my wife, felt like cooking breakfast, nor was I in the mood for just cereal and/or bagels. I wanted something substantial, which meant gathering everyone up and heading out for breakfast. But none of the restaurants, in our town, appealed to me. We have some decent breakfast places here, in Fond du Lac. The problem is, they are all pretty much the same. Change some of the wording, on the menus, and they are pretty interchangeable, and while good, for what they are, none of these places are really known for their creativity. To be fair, these places are all “family restaurants” and part of their charm and appeal is their familiarity. Unfortunately, this is all we have, in the way of breakfast places and so if you are looking for a different experience you have to head out-of-town.

Much to the annoyance of my wife, I suggested we head out-of-town and drive an hour south to Wauwautosa, WI to check out Café Hollander. I have been reading quite a bit about this place recently, checked out their menu, online, and really wanted to check out their brunch.

We got there around 10:30am and the place was packed, which I expected. Not only was it late morning, but the Lucky Leprechaun 7k Run had recently gotten done and many of the runners had stopped in for a post run beer or Bloody Mary. We knew it would be busy so I dropped the wife and daughter off, so that they could put our name in while I went and found a parking spot.

Needless to say, our experience didn’t start too well. As I said, they were packed. While I parked the car, my wife and daughter waited in the bar area for our table to be ready. Immediately my wife tried to get the attention of a bartender to order a couple of drinks, Bloody Mary’s for us and chocolate milk for the daughter. 10 minutes later, when I walked in my wife had still been ignored. I tried to hail a bartender, but the one that finally noticed me said that she was just a bartender for the service bar and a regular bartender would be with us eventually. Finally, after another 10 minutes we were able to flag down a bartender and get us our drinks. I understand that they were very busy, but numerous times the bartenders, both those taking care of the bar and those running the service bar, made eye contact with us and then promptly ignored us. Sure they were busy, but a brief acknowledgment and a quick “Someone will take care of you shortly” would have gone a long way. I was starting to regret my decision to make the trip down here.

Once we did get to order our drinks, they came up pretty quickly and I was impressed with the Bloody Marys. I am quite a fan of a good Bloody Mary and while easy to please, I’m hard to impress and I have to say that Café Hollander makes a damn good Bloody Mary. Things were looking up. Soon after that our pager went off and we were seated.

Looking at the menu created another dilemma. It was full of new and interesting takes on the standard breakfast fare. I’d read the description of an item, decide that was what I wanted, then read the description for the next item and wanted that one. My wife had the same problem and it took us longer than usual to decide what we were going to eat. Maybe, just maybe this place did deserve the hype it has received.

Our server was quick to greet our table and see that we already had drinks so she left us to our own devices as we tried to decide what we wanted to eat. Luckily, we had a hard time deciding what we were going to have as it was awhile before our server returned. Don’t get me wrong she was a wonderful server; pleasant and upbeat, but struggling somewhat to handle the large number of tables she had. We had no plans, and nowhere to be so we took the slow service in stride.

Finally we ordered. We started with an appetizer of Sweet Potato Frites.

Hollander-Sweet-Potato2

The Frites come with one of Café Hollander’s dipping sauces. We order 2; the Roasted Garlic Aioli and the Siracha Ginger BBQ sauce. Both sauces were excellent; the aioli had a nice garlic flavor but wasn’t overpowering like aioli can often be if not made correctly, while the BBQ sauce had a nice heat which was balanced by its sweetness. The frites themselves were good. While I’m not positive I am guessing that the frites are not house made and come frozen. I can forgive this as Sweet Potato Fries can be very difficult to make from scratch. I have had numerous versions that are either soggy and limp or over fried, almost to the point of being burnt. I’d much rather have a frozen product, which can be quite good, than eat poorly made Sweet Potato Fries, just because a place is determined to make everything “in-house.”

Hollander-Sweet-Potato-Frit

I chose the Biscuits and Gravy. Their take on this southern classic is to use Mexican Chorizo in place the standard breakfast sausage, in the gravy. I was intrigued. I love Chorizo and have used in numerous different applications but had never thought of making breakfast gravy with it. I had to try it.

Chorizo-Gravy

The biscuit had been toasted on the griddle, topped with fried eggs and covered in the gravy. This was then topped with a Sweet Corn Relish and served with a side of their breakfast potatoes. The dish was awesome and something I plan on experimenting with at home. The gravy was spicy and flavorful, the biscuits, buttery and the corn relish played a nice counterpoint to the rich spicy gravy. The potatoes were nicely browned and crispy. They were good. Not great, but good. There was nothing special about them, but they were a solid rendition of American Fries.

South-Coast-Benedict

My wife opted for the South Coast Benedict; a take on the traditional Eggs Benedict, this one replacing the English Muffin with roasted Portobello Mushrooms. The Canadian bacon got replaced by slow roasted turkey, which, in turn got topped with a tomato relish (halved cherry tomatoes), avocado, poached eggs and Hollandaise Sauce. The dish might not be much to look at, but it sure tasted good!!!

The daughter opted for the Kid’s Waffles, 3 wedges of Belgian waffle accompanied by real maple syrup, butter and some fruit. I was impressed that even the kids are served real maple syrup instead of “pancake syrup.” It was a solid version of waffles and my daughter ate it all up heartily.

So what is my overall opinion of Café Hollander? Despite the few service issues we experienced we loved the place. The atmosphere is vibrant, the food is excellent and creative. They could have used another server on the floor and another bartender behind the bar. These issues could have turned into real problems but the staff, for the most part, seemed like they really enjoyed what they were doing, and that positive attitude can go a long ways in smoothing over issues. I want to get back there one night to try their dinner menu and explore their beer list, and we, most definitely will be heading back to check out their brunch again. There were just too many, tasty sounding dishes that need to be tried.

Spinach-Arugula-Salad

It’s a typical March week here in Wisconsin. One day it’s up to 40°F (short sleeve shirt weather up here) and the next it’s cloudy, gray, foggy and snowy. But what do you expect, it’s Springtime in Wisconsin and that means the weather can change in a heartbeat. I’m just praying for more nice weather. I usually enjoy winter but it’s been a long, cold one and I’m ready for Spring, and not just the occasional teaser. I’m ready for some sustained nice weather.

Late winter-early spring can be a rough time to find good produce, even in this day and age of rapid transport. It tends to be a time when the southern climes are in a lull between plantings and for those of us in the north, the weather isn’t warm enough to be planting and growing much. A couple of the earliest items that often get grown in early spring spinach and arugula. Often grown in hothouses and cold frames, these leafy greens are usually some of the earliest local crops available. Paired with segments of grapefruit and toasted pecans this makes a perfect salad to help chase those Springtime gray skies away.

Spinach and Arugula Salad with Grapefruit
serves 4-6

3-4 cups Baby Spinach
3-4 cups Arugula
2 each Grapefruit
1/4 medium Red Onion
3/4 cup Pecan halves
Grapefruit Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Preheat your oven to 300°F. Roughly chop the pecans (I usually just break them up by hand to make sure they stay nice and big). Place on a sheet tray and place in the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes, stirring twice. Watch carefully so the nuts don’t burn. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, using a knife peel the grapefruit. Cut the top and bottom off and then, following the curve of the fruit cut off the peel and white pith beneath.

Grapefruit-Peeled

Using your knife, remove the segments of the grapefruit by cutting towards the center on either side of the membrane that holds each segment together so that you end up with supremes of grapefruit that only contain pulp and flesh, and none of the membrane. Be sure to catch all the juices and save for the dressing.

Grapefruit-Supremes

Cut the red onion into a paper-thin Julienne. Mix together the spinach and arugula. Place on a platter or in a large bowl Arrange the grapefruit, pecans and onion over the greens and serve with the dressing on the side so that guests can dress their own.

Spinach-Salad-Closeup

Grapefruit Vinaigrette
makes approximately 1 3/4 cups

1 1/2 cups Grapefruit juice (should be able to get most of that from the leftover pulp from cutting the supremes)
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

In a non-reactive sauce pot, bring 1 cup of the grapefruit juice to a boil. Reduce to just less than 1/2 cup. Set aside to cool. Once cool mix in the remaining grapefruit juice, the mustard, some salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Slowly drizzle in the oils, whisking constantly so that the dressing emulsifies. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Grapefruit-Dressing

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

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