Thursday, June 30, 2016

Pickled Grilled Red Onions and Two Other Taco Toppings and #CookoutWeek 2016

Tacos are where it's at! It took me awhile to get on board, but let's just say I'm now shipshape! The fun thing about tacos, or quesadillas for that matter, is the variety of ways they can be topped. Toppings though are kind of an art form and to many or to little or not the right kind can take away from your creation. The balance of flavors is what makes a taco special. Each bite should contribute to the next, to the point of not wanting to put that taco down, because each morsel tastes so massively good. Little bites full of big flavor, but also a giant mix of textures come into play, in what seems like just a simple taco!

Tacos can be made with either corn or flour tortillas. I find the type I choose depends on the type of protein I'm using as a base to build the taco with. From there a combo of spicy, sour, salty and even sweet ingredients are added to round out the flavor of your taco. Then think crispy, crunchy, creamy as ways to add interest. Salsas add complexity and guacamole adds creamy and salty and savory. Ordering a taco at a taco joint may seem simple, but I guarantee there was a lot of thought put into that taco!

Below are a few simple taco toppings that I use to amp up the flavors of some of my favorite taco combinations. Use them also on burgers or sandwiches and anything else where you need a little extra! The avocado sauce also makes for  great dipping.

And if you haven't already...Don't forget to enter the drawing for a grill and other great summer foods! Check it out below!

Avocado Sauce
Serves 4
Time to Make: About 10 minutes
1 ripe avocado
2 T finely minced onion
2 T sour cream or Mexican crema
2-4 T heavy cream
1/4 t garlic powder
1/2 t salt
A few grinds of black pepper
Juice of 1/2 a lime

Mash avocado. Stir in all ingredients while mashing to a sauce consistency. You may want it chunky or smooth and that is your choice. If you want it more of a thin sauce, add more cream. Add your seasonings to taste. Avocados need to be bold. This sauce is tangier than guacamole and really brings out the richness of the avocado!

Grilled and Pickled Red Onions
Serves 10
Time to Make: About 10 minutes active/ 20 minutes inactive
1 large red onion peeled, but root end still attached.Cut into quarters without slicing through the root. Do not separate. Brush with some oil and sprinkle with salt.
3 T white vinegar
1 crushed garlic clove
Pinch of oregano
4 peppercorns
Pinch of salt
Preheat grill to medium high heat. Grill onion with bulb side down until blackened. Now turn over and rest root end on grill and grill until that is blackened. It will start to spread like a flower opening. I only grill this partially so that the onion retains some crispness. Take off fire and let cool. Now cut off root stem and slice into thin slices.

Place onion, vinegar and seasonings in a pot. Bring to a boil. (I know it seems like you need more liquid, but you don't.) As soon as it boils, turn into a container and let stand until cooled. These are great on sandwiches of all kinds and of course tacos or quesadillas! They keep in the fridge a long time!

Grilled Cabbage
Serves 4-8
Time to Make: About 15 minutes active/ 20 minutes inactive
1 head green cabbage
Olive Oil
Coarse Salt
Juice of 1 lime
Seasonings such as salt, smoked paprika, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder
Slice cabbage into 3/4" rounds. Brush both sides with oil. Season one side well with salt. Combine lime juice with seasonings and brush on to cabbage. Use more seasonings if necessary to cover cabbage rounds. Let sit for at least one hour or up to overnight. When ready to cook, preheat grill to medium high. Place cabbage rounds on an oiled grill and grill until cooked, but not soft. If some of the cabbage strings fall off gather them up and place a pile of them on a grill tray and cook them by tossing around until browned. Cabbage can be used as a taco topping or it can even be tossed with cole slaw dressing and served that way as a  taco topping or as a replacement for cole slaw.

Some More Great Mexican Recipes:
Mexican Shrimp Cocktail
Pico de Gallo
Pineapple and Chipotle Guacamole with Tequila
Nachos Al Pastor with Pineapple Salsa
How To Make Chorizo
Pulled Chicken Tinga Tostadas
Coconut Rum Tres Leches Cake

Pin For Future Use:
avocado sauce, pickled red onions, grilled cabbage, taco toppings

If you enter and win, this is what you get:
It's pretty much everything you need to host an awesome cookout this summer. It's a prize pack worth over $300! Thank you so much to all of the wonderful sponsors listed above, who have made #CookoutWeek possible.

Enter now:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Grilled Quesadillas and #CookoutWeek

I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to share these, but quesadillas are a family favorite. When the kids were still at home-and I must say I miss those days; especially the summer days-I often made these dinner. Yes, those were the days that Zoe only ordered cheese quesadillas in restaurants and though I'm sure she still does, I know her palate has greatly expanded. But restaurants don't do grilled quesadillas and in my humble opinion that is what makes these so good! Quesadillas on the grill are truly a mind altering experience. Well, maybe not mind altering, but pretty damn delicious!

Grilled quesadillas are perfect for party appetizers and as the main course. I usually made two big ones to a customer, sliced them in wedges, made a salad and my customers were sure to leave happy. Usually I set up a quesadilla bar and filled it with anything leftover from the fridge and allowed my "customers" to build their own. Paper plates came in handy to keep their creations on, until they were ready to fire on the grill. For parties, this is also easily done and trust me when I say these disappear faster than chocolate cake.

I use anything and everything to fill them. Lots of freshly grated cheese. Mangoes and goat's cheese are a luxurious choice. Sauteed mushrooms and onions and peppers for comfort. Leftover potatoes-hashed or baked. Chilies of all sorts. Fresh salsa. Chorizo-cooked and crumbled or dried and diced. Hot dogs for the wee ones, or the not so wee. Pestos make a flavorful base if you are tired of salsa. It's up to you how gourmet or how basic you want to keep these. One thing though is for sure; you never have enough. In the off chance we did have some left over, they were easily reheated in a toaster oven for a few minutes.

A few things I do...I always butter at least one side of the tortilla and then I salt it. Stack them and they are ready to go. Another thing that is quite tasty is adding leftover or stale tortilla chips that have been crushed to your ingredients. These give a nice flavor and some extra added crunch. Try it! I grill over medium high heat, but watch carefully, because while it is OK to get some scorch marks, you don't want to burn your bread!

You can grill these in two ways. Have your customer's pile their ingredients on one side of the tortilla and the cheese on the other. Place on the grill, close it, and cook for about a minute. Then fold  the cheese half to the other side. Press down gently and the cheese will hold everything together. Let the bottom side brown and then flip and give that side a few more grill marks too. Be careful not to pile on to much or it will ooze out. Better to make a few more if you are starving!

The second way to do these is to use one tortilla covered with toppings. Close the grill to melt the cheese. After a minute or so, place a salted and buttered tortilla with butter side out on top of the one on the grill. Press down and let cook a minute or so and then flip the entire tortilla over and cook that side. Both methods work well, but some folks don't like flippin'! Cut into wedges with your favorite kitchen scissors when ready to serve.

Have a quesadilla party. Actually quesadillas make dinner a party. Have fun with it. I'd love to know your favorite creations. My fave is grilled corn, chorizo, poblanos or green chilies, some leftover roasted potatoes, salsa or cilantro pesto, some cheese - either cheddar or jalapeno or goat's cheese and a sprinkle of crushed chips. But then again I love mangoes on there, too. This is such a hard choice, I think I'll have two!

Don't forget to enter the giveaway. Someone will win a grill. Really!

Grilled Quesadillas
Serves 1
Time to Make: About 20 minutes
Please see more notes above!
Flour Tortillas - I use the snack size but bigger ones work well also.
Butter - 1-2 t per tortilla
Salt - Coarse Salt for sprinkling
Salsa or pesto - About 1-2 T per tortilla. Don't make it to wet.
Veggies - Your choice. Cooked or not.
Chilies - I love roasted poblanos or Anaheims. Jalapenos, pickled or fresh work great.
Fruit - Mangoes or cantaloupe or even peaches.
Meat - Chorizos, Italian sausage, hot dogs, left over chicken, are just a few ideas
Cheese - 1/4 to 1/3 c per quesadilla unless you are a cheese lover in which case, add more! Any cheese works well. I like cheddar and jalapeno, and also goat's cheese.
Crushed tortilla chips - About 1 T per tortilla

These can also be served with guacamole or extra salsa for dipping into after grilling.

Preheat grill to medium. Prepare your tortillas by placing a layer of salsa or pesto on the bottom of the tortilla and only on one side, unless you are doing the flipping version-in which case, cover the whole thing.  Add your choice of toppings. about 2-4 T total, but this depends on the size of the tortilla being used! Just don't use too much! Sprinkle on the crushed tortilla chips last, if you are using them. Now sprinkle the cheese on the other half of the tortilla.  Have your creations ready to go. (See notes above). Place tortillas on grill. Close grill for about 1 minute. Fold the cheese side of the tortilla over to the other side to form a half moon. Press down carefully. Cook until bottom is golden. Flip and cook the other side for a few minutes. Watch carefully so these don't burn. Remove from grill when cooked and let cool for about a minute. Then slice into wedges. Serve with guacamole or extra salsa for dipping.

Remember to enter. You could win a grill and then invite me to dinner!
This is pretty much everything you need to host an awesome cookout this summer. It's a prize pack worth over $300! Thank you so much to all of the wonderful sponsors listed above, who have made #CookoutWeek possible.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check back throughout the week with all of the bloggers participating to get some yummy #CookoutWeek recipes. Here's the full list of participating bloggers:

The PinterTest Kitchen2 Cookin' MamasA Day in the Life on the Farmaddicted 2 recipesAimee Broussard & Co.Amy's Cooking AdventuresAngels Home Sweet HomesteadBakin' and EggcerptsBalancing MotherhoodBody RebootedCheese Curd In ParadiseCindy's Recipes and WritingsCook With 5 KidsCook. Craft. Love.Cookaholic WifeCricket's ConfectionsCrumb: A Food BlogEat, Drink, Be Healthy!Everyday EileenFairyburgerFood ParsedGet the Good Stuff!Goodie GodmotherHezzi-D's Books and CooksHome in the Finger LakesJennifer CooksJessie WeaverKate's Recipe BoxLife on FoodLittle House Big AlaskaLittle Scratch KitchenMaking MiraclesMoore or Less CookingRhubarb and HoneySavvy In The KitchenSeduction in the KitchenSimple Food 365Style IslandThanks for Cookin'!The Food Hunter's Guide To CuisineThe Hungary Buddha Eats the WorldThe Spiffy CookieThe Weekday GourmetThis is How I CookTramplingroseVintage KittyWest Via Midwest

Looking forward to sharing some yummy recipes with everyone! :)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Fire Grilled Tomato Salsa (Baja Style) #CookoutWeek2016

Summer is in full swing and Manservant is still gone and I haven't been cooking to much, so I've decided to join forces with some fun bloggers for #CookoutWeek2016! I've never done this before so I hope you have fun following along, while I attempt to figure all this out. In any case, I do think   some great food will be appearing all this week and there are super great prizes. I mean everyone likes prizes, right?

I am going to try to post every day which will be an amazing feat, if I can pull it off. I've never done this in my blog history, so this will be a first also. I have a great Mexican menu planned, all cooked on the grill, from appetizers to dessert, to serve up this week. If you haven't figured out your menu for the 4th, this may entice you and give you some fun, simple ideas to keep you out of the kitchen.

Over 50 of our blogging friends are coming together to bring you #CookoutWeek - an entire week filled with yummy summer recipes perfect for your next cookout, along with a fun giveaway, courtesy of some awesome sponsors. Check it out!

It's super easy to enter, and one lucky winner will get:
It's pretty much everything you need to host an awesome cookout this summer. It's a prize pack worth over $300! Thank you so much to all of the wonderful sponsors listed above, who have made #CookoutWeek possible. Personally I want to thank Allison at the PinterTest Kitchen for putting this all together!

Before you enter I want to share with you my very favorite salsa. I've been eating this for years at Baja Fresh and have seen countless copy cat recipes for this roasted tomato salsa. It is a cooked salsa, unlike a pico de gallo, and frankly I think it would also make a great gazpacho with a few extra veggies thrown in. (I just might have to try that!) My friend Biz at My Bizzy Kitchen makes a version of this also, but for the life of me I can't find it on her blog. I don't know why it took me so long to finally make this stuff, but now that I have I am so happy! And trust me, it is not easy to make me happy!

Check out my recipe below. This makes the perfect everything salsa and is easily made on the grill. I then threw it all in the blender and was amazed at what came out. I used to always quiz the guys at Baja Fresh to tell me the secret and they always made me think it was some gourmet chile that made it so special. Man, did they have me fooled. Nothing out of the ordinary in this salsa. But all these ordinary ingredients do make some extraordinary salsa!

Enter now:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check back throughout the week with all of the bloggers participating to get some yummy #CookoutWeek recipes. Here's the full list of participating bloggers:

The PinterTest Kitchen2 Cookin' MamasA Day in the Life on the Farmaddicted 2 recipesAimee Broussard & Co.Amy's Cooking AdventuresAngels Home Sweet HomesteadBakin' and EggcerptsBalancing MotherhoodBody RebootedCheese Curd In ParadiseCindy's Recipes and WritingsCook With 5 KidsCook. Craft. Love.Cookaholic WifeCricket's ConfectionsCrumb: A Food BlogEat, Drink, Be Healthy!Everyday EileenFairyburgerFood ParsedGet the Good Stuff!Goodie GodmotherHezzi-D's Books and CooksHome in the Finger LakesJennifer CooksJessie WeaverKate's Recipe BoxLife on FoodLittle House Big AlaskaLittle Scratch KitchenMaking MiraclesMoore or Less CookingRhubarb and HoneySavvy In The KitchenSeduction in the KitchenSimple Food 365Style IslandThanks for Cookin'!The Food Hunter's Guide To CuisineThe Hungary Buddha Eats the WorldThe Spiffy CookieThe Weekday GourmetThis is How I CookTramplingroseVintage KittyWest Via Midwest

"Looking forward to sharing some yummy recipes with all of our readers. :)"

Fire Grilled Tomato Salsa (Baja Style)
Serves a lot!
Time to Make: About 30 minutes
Adapted from Todd Wilbur (Top Secret Recipes)
14 cold tomatoes (I used Romas and mine weighed out to about 2 lbs) Dice 2 and reserve.
3 jalapenos - remove stem and also seeds if you don't want this to spicy
3 cloves garlic
1 t salt
1 1/2 c water
Juice of 1 lime
6 T finely chopped white onion
5 T chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat grill to high heat. Place 12 of the tomatoes, stem side down, directly on the grill. Roast the tomatoes over the flame for 10 to 20 minutes or until they are very charred and blackened. Flip over and continue to grill until this side is also charred and blackened. Add jalapenos to grill after you flip the tomatoes for the first time. These will also blacken but make sure to turn them to get all sides charred.

Take the tomatoes and peppers off the grill and place in a large zip lock. Let cool for about 10-15 minutes. When cooled dump tomatoes, peppers, and any liquid into a blender. Add garlic and salt and blend on high speed until pureed. Be careful not to over puree! Add the water and lime juice and blend again until mixed. The salsa darkens as it is chopped finer!

Pour mixture into a container and add the remaining two tomatoes. I pureed my mixture a bit too fine, so I added about 4 diced tomatoes to get this to the consistency I wanted. Add the onions and cilantro-do not be afraid to add more or less, depending on how you like your salsa. Cool in the fridge. As it cools it will develop even more flavor and the water will be more absorbed into the salsa.

A Few More:
Nachos Al Pastor with Pineapple Salsa
Avocado Corn Soup
Red Chile, Chorizo and Cheese Breakfast Enchiladas

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Grilled Halloumi and Peach Salad and a #WholeFoods#Giveaway

Peaches are my favorite summer fruit, without a doubt. When summer rolls around, they are the first fruit I look for. They are so beautiful in their blush colored jackets, that truly they can't be missed. Though I love them best out of hand, they taste glorious in pies and cobblers and as a change from strawberries with shortcake. They make great sauces for bbq and can be used for salsa, but this year I decided to use them hot off the grill. Yes, they are superb in salads and the grill gives them such a robust flavor.

Last week I had lunch with my friend Karen. I have two friends named Karen and this Karen is actually almost family. Her dog, Logan, is Geordie's dad and so I guess that makes us cousins! In a round about way, of course. It was a lovely day outside and since we are now getting August temps in June, I thought salad would be a perfect main course. Combining grilled halloumi, a great salty and squeaky Greek cheese, with grilled peaches worked out really well. Topping it with a dressing made from my fresh oregano made it even better. If you don't have oregano, basil and basil pesto works great, too! Throwing on some fresh shaved fennel, some gorgeous red pomegranate seeds, truffle salted almonds and some red onions, put it over the top. And let's not forget the tomatoes. Choose several colors and slice them into quarters, and watch how they pair with the peaches. Served on this gorgeous platter that my mother got me in Italy years ago, made a good thing look even better.

Summer fruits are now in season at Whole Foods so check them out. The cherries are divine this year and I've already told you about the peaches. Stone fruits such as plums, apricots and nectarines, are all perfect for the grill. I always toss them with a touch of olive oil and sprinkle with some fresh herbs before grilling. Preheat the grill to medium high and place cheese slices and peach quarters on the cleaned grate. Watch them carefully so they don't burn. This may take up to 2 minutes per side. Grilling, caramelizes the sugars in the peach, which seals in the juices and makes them extra scrumptious with your first bite. As an extra tip, I grilled the peaches and the cheese ahead. I kept them at room temperature and then just before serving popped them in the microwave for about a minute. This warmed them back up and I then placed them on the salad. This way I didn't have to be grilling while entertaining family!

Remember peaches aren't just for dessert anymore!

Whole Foods is giving away 1 $25 gift card to help fill your basket. This post is sponsored by Whole Foods but all opinions are mine. Open only to US residents. No compensation has been given, but products have been provided. Giveaway closes on July 15, 2016Winner will be chosen by Random Number Generator. 
How to Enter:
· Enter once by leaving me a comment and telling me your favorite way to use peaches-or not.
· Enter twice by subscribing to This is How I Cook
· Enter again by following me on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  

Grilled Halloumi and Peach Salad with Fennel and Lemon Oregano Dressing
Serves 4
Time to Make: About 20 minutes
1/2 a bag of Spring Greens Salad Mix
1/2 a bag of baby arugula
2 peaches, washed and quartered , brushed with oil and grilled
1 8 oz package Halloumi cheese, sliced and brushed with oil and herbs and grilled
Handful of pomegranate seeds
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 T Marcona almonds, rough chopped
4-6 Tomatoes-all colors, quartered (How many depends on variety)
6 T Lemon Oregano Pesto or basil pesto thinned with buttermilk, until a dressing consistency is reached
Pile salad greens on platter. Grill peaches and Halloumi and set aside until ready. (See notes above.) Top greens with all ingredients. Scatter peaches and Halloumi on top and drizzle with dressing. Serve with bread and your favorite Rose!

Other Summer Dishes:
Peach, Green Chile and Sage Salsa Cheese Bites
Halloumi and Oregano Shrimp
Corn Bread Blueberry Bread Pudding with Peach Sauce
Perfect Peach Recipes from Whole Foods

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Vietnamese Soft Shell Crab

It really isn't fair that I'm sharing these with you. It isn't because I don't want to share. It is because soft shell crabs are hard to find and the season is probably over. I'm sharing because these truly are one of my most treasured foods. You might be able to find frozen soft shells-I've never tried them-but I can guarantee that Vietnamese restaurants must be buying them frozen because they serve them year round, and these babies are only in season for a short time. The short time is when they are growing and molting from their shell and their new shell hasn't had time to harden. Lucky us. Poor them.

My love affair with these sweet and luscious crabs began many years ago - pre kid - is how I remember it. We first discovered Vietnamese food in a sketchy part of town that really isn't so sketchy anymore; it's actually quite colorful. I remember reading a restaurant review about a great new joint serving Vietnamese delicacies. Since we lived in the mountains at the time, and drove by this exit to get home,  we figured we'd stop. Little did we know everyone else had stopped too. In general, Manservant and I are not waiters. We are not the patient type; but being in a part of town we weren't yet familiar with, we decided to wait. Life has never been the same since.

Vietnamese food is a world away from Chinese or Japanese or even Thai. It has French influences and even uses butter in some sauces. Fresh ingredients are played up, which is one reason I adore Vietnamese cuisine. It combines sweet and spicy, salty and sour elements, in a unique way. As we stood in line; inching forward in this hole in the wall, we slowly found ourselves standing by the kitchen where we ogled every dish that passed under our noses. We quickly discovered that soft shell crabs, piled high on platters with fresh greens and herbs were quite popular. They also smelled very good.

Upon being seated in our cozy booth, we immediately placed our order for the crabs. Now crabs aren't cheap and still we splurged. Of course crabs are still not cheap and our budget doesn't seem to have really changed, so they are still a splurge, but a worthy one. Succulent sweet crabs in a crunchy light batter wrapped in soft leaf lettuce, filled with fresh herbs and then dipped in a salty, spicy, sweet fish sauce is one of life's greatest pleasures. Yeah-they are even better than that. Whatever that may be.

So it wasn't too long ago when I found myself in the heart of Denver, near one of the city's more gourmet markets; the kind of place you go when you want special meat or fish or those hard to find ingredients. I decided to stop in to see what I might find for dinner and spotted the sign for soft shell crabs. At $8.99 apiece one, well at least this one, has to stop and think how badly does one want said crab. Knowing Manservant was abroad and probably eating at some fancy restaurant on his expense account, sealed the deal. I had them clean two, and went home and fried these up.

Soft shells are easy to prepare. And fast. The hardest thing was taking the photos. I really didn't want too, but knowing I don't make soft shells often, I wanted to show the kids my idea of a proper last meal. I swear if you see anything shiny in the photo, well, it is probably drool. This was one quick photo shoot, because I didn't to want to  rewarm these babes. I didn't want to lose the crunch or the heat. I wanted to savor the salt of the sea and the sweet white crab, as quickly as possible. I just have one last thing to add. I wish I would have bought three.

Vietnamese Soft Shell Crab
Serves 4
From: Vietnamese Home Cooking
Time To Make: About 30 minutes
Note: This batter would also be great for most any seafood!
4 Jumbo soft shell crabs cleaned
2/3 c flour
1/2 c cornstarch
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 t ground turmeric
1/2 t kosher salt
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1 medium egg
1 t rice wine vinegar
1 12 oz bottle wheat beer (not a bitter beer)
Canola or peanut oil for frying

Nuoc Cham Sauce for Serving
Leaf Lettuce

Make sure your fishmonger cleans the crabs. In a 2 c mixing cup, stir together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, turmeric, salt and cayenne. In a larger bowl, whisk together the egg, vinegar and 1/2 a bottle of the beer. Using a spatula, fold the flour into the beer mixture. It should have the consistency of thin pancake batter and may be a bit lumpy, do not over mix. Add more beer if needed to achieve the desired consistency. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make your nuoc cham sauce and get your salad plate ready. I made an additional sauce of black pepper, lots of garlic and butter. That's pretty good, also!

When ready to fry, pour oil to a depth of 2 inches into a high sided skillet or wok. Heat oil over high heat to 375. Preheat oven to 250 if you want to keep these warm and cover a baking sheet or plate with paper towels. Dip crab into batter and allow the excess to drip off.  Holding the crab by the shell flaps, carefully lower the crab legs and body into the hot oil. Wait for a few seconds and then drop the entire crab into the oil. Repeat with other crabs. Cook for about 6 minutes until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in oven until all crabs are ready. Cut each crab in half and serve with sauce and salad plate. To eat, wrap each half of the crab in a lettuce leaf, add some of the herbs, fold taco style and dip in sauce. Your life will never be the same!

More to try:
Vietnamese Meatball Noodle Bowl with Nuoc Cham
Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup
Vietnamese Style Cole Slaw and Coconut Corn

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Grilled Bread Salad with Peppers, Onions and Urfa Chilies

It is with regret that I mourn the loss of gas in my grill. I know I will be able to remedy this, but I must mention that attaching a propane tank to my grill is a skill I have not yet mastered-let alone tried. Thanks goodness the grill was still working when I grilled these peppers and onions. It only became officially out of gas when I decided to have friends over and then decided to grill Peruvian chicken. I was able to preheat the grill and that was that. Said chicken was placed in the oven.

I also discovered my swamp cooler is not blowing cold air. It appears someone while fixing the sprinkler system, turned off the water to the swamp cooler, which left my home hot and it's not just the hot flashes talking. It was quite hot, except at night when I am fine leaving the windows opened. I couldn't figure out if it was broken until Manservant who has been on the receiving end of my laments, told me to check to see if water was flowing into it. After steeling myself to wade through tall grass and thorny weeds and the possibility of snakes, I discovered that the water was off. It is now on, but it is also leaking from the faucet.

Additionally, my car has not started for about two weeks, that is until today when my trusted neighbor came over to help me jump start it for the 4th time. This was quite stressful for me because after leaving the battery charger hooked up for 4 days to my lovely old car, it did nothing. Not a peep or a crank or a whimper. So then after getting out our ancient jumper cables, I could not determine the red side from the black side, which meant I had no idea where to place these giant clothes pins and I am not one that likes shocks. Enter my trusted neighbor who obliged me with her knowledge and helped me get the car started, so that I could quickly drive it to Sears without stopping, for a new Die Hard battery. The last Die Hard battery died, so they gave me quite a large refund. Here's hoping the new Die Hard doesn't die so hard and so fast.Thank goodness, that's all it was.

Now I have to figure out how to fix the leak in the waterfall, but that may be easier said than done. More importantly I need to figure out how to move 4 yards of Planter's Mix that will be dumped in front of my house next Tuesday, to our lower back yard. I have one person, but he has a bad back and I am not so sure he will be the one to accomplish moving two pick up trucks or 8,800 pounds of dirt into the lower yard, so that I can have some new trees planted. This was not my project, but I am left holding the bag while Manservant gallivants around Europe for the next 6 months.

Yes, Manservant has departed the Colorado world and left for the other Continent, shall we say? As has happened in the past, it is never a good time. The yard project was his project, the cars are his project and if he wants to eat-well-the grill is his project. Now they are my projects and I am not so happy. Additionally the groomer discovered that this cute boy has fleas-only three-but I had to deal with a lot of washing and freaking out that such a cute guy can have fleas.

 And yeah, he still sleeps above my head. The good new is I have not discovered one on me. It appears he may have picked them up while chasing rabbits under the deck or perhaps it was under our spruce trees. In any case he has destroyed two bunnies-sorry-and I have discovered the remains of three snakes in our yard. Manservant found two of them with teeth marks, and I did not so closely examine the one I found. I left it where it was, so the mower people could dispose of it.

Let's see. I still have to get 4 fence posts fixed. I have to get the elliptical fixed. And I have to finish cleaning the basement which I can actually approach now that Manservant has departed. He began his journey outside of Amsterdam in a quaint town called Breda, and tonight went to Dusseldorf and next week will be in Vienna. And I am here, lest he forget. He is not sure where he will base himself as he is just figuring out where the projects are and then must rank them in importance. I, of course, feel I should be at the top of the list, but I am not so sure his company feels the same.

So to recap. Today I solved the battery problem and the swamp cooler problem, even though I have a leak. An oh yeah. I reunited a female finch with her mate. She flew into our home-apparently while I was out in the garage- trying to jump the car. Geordie was trying to show her the way out, but not doing such a good job. With both doors open and armed with a fly swatter and a clean towel, lest I would have to pick her up, she bravely flew out the door to her waiting mate. Not such a bad story, I think. Perhaps I should take the finch's lead.

And on another note. I asked Alex Odie San China Boy to send me some pictures of himself. He is known for sending food pictures and top of building pictures, but not pictures of him. This is what I got.

And on that happy note, I will tell you that I love peppers and onions. It doesn't matter whether they are on top of a burger, a hot dog, a Philly cheese steak or even fajitas; I think peppers and onions go together like strawberries and shortcake or limes and tequila or a finch and her mate.

In this case, these sweet and sourish peppers and onions pair perfectly with grilled bread and make a perfect summer salad. One could embellish this with some avocado, some corn, or one could just delight in this simple salad that can be kept room temperature until ready to serve. I love the addition of Urfa chilies. They are rich with chocolate notes and add a note of understated heat to an uncomplicated salad. Yes, they are optional, but if you get your hands on some you will find yourself using them on everything!

Grilled Bread Salad with Peppers and Onions and Urfa Chilies
Serves 4
Time To Make: About 20 minutes
Slightly Adapted From: Bon Appetit
6 oz approximately of rustic style country bread with crusts removed, torn into large pieces (I used olive bread)
6 T olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2 large peppers, halved, ribs and seeds removed (I used red and yellow)
2 small red onions, peeled and quartered, with some root attached
3 T Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/2 t smoked paprika
2 T chopped fresh chives
Urfa chiles sprinkled on top-about 1/2 t

Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Toss bread with 2 T oil in a large zip lock. I used garlic olive oil, but it is not necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Place bread on grill. Now add peppers and onions to large zip lock bag. Add 2 T olive or garlic oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place on grill next to bread. Grill bread, turning occasionally util golden brown. Transfer to a large bowl. Grill veggies, until tender and charred in spots-about 8-10 minutes for peppers and 10-12 for onions. Transfer to a cutting board.

Trim root end from onions and separate into layers. Transfer to a large bowl with bread, add vinegar and paprika and toss to coat. Remove as much skin from peppers and cut into 1 1/2" strips. Add to bowl with onions and bread. Add remaining 2 T oil and season again with salt, pepper, chives, chilies and more vinegar if needed.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Toffee Bundt Cake with a Fudge Ripple and a Caramel Glaze #peoplehoodofthetravellingswirlypan

It's not often that Dorothy and Toto come for a visit, but January found me being a good host. I had lots of fun showing Dorothy around and hearing her stories and imagining all the places she's been. It was cold back in January so she brought a lot of warmth into our home and we all enjoyed the visit. By now you may be a bit confused, but Dorothy looks like a bundt pan and Toto is the book that accompanies her on her journeys. I had signed up to receive her from Jenni Field of Pastry Chef Online and the Peoplehood of the Travelling Swirly Pan who is sending Dorothy almost around the world and then gathering her stories. I'm not sure what she intends to do with them, but I thought it would be fun to contribute. Reading about her journeys and all the great things that were baked in her glorious shape, was quite entertaining.

She arrived soon after our journey to Costa Rica. Yes, my favorite China Boy was still home. He ate heartily of Dorothy's cake and even brought an extra loaf to his grandparents in Scottsdale. I also baked a jalapeno cheese bread in Dorothy's inner recesses, (from Paul Prudhomme) that was super spicy and super good. That was served with piquant shrimp on play off day along with this luscious cake.  I decided to make this Toffee Cake, because as a child, my mom often made a cake with Heath bars. I do recall her making bundts, and but she often used a 13 x 9 pan for the famous Heath bar cake. Not having her exact recipe I used a variety of recipes and came up with this. I couldn't help myself so I then added a fudge ripple and to take it over the top embellished it with a caramel glaze. Well, you do know that all good things come with a fudge ripple and caramel, right?

I do have an old Bundt pan that I bought way back, when I was in college. I made a few good things with it, but mainly it is lurking in the recesses of my lower cabinet. Every cake I ever made seemed to stick to the pan, so I took it quite seriously when a few note takers said to grease Dorothy well. Thank goodness I heeded their advice and had nary a problem. This was a great cake. Moist and rich and gooey enough that Odie San's friends who were watching the Broncos play off game, devoured it along with their beers. Picnic lovers would love this cake. Full of flavor and perfect for transporting-without the glaze-this cake will satisfy any chocolate and caramel lover out there.

Dorothy soon went on her way accompanied by her beloved Toto. It was fun entertaining her and looking back I wish I had snapped a few more photos. Alas, like any good visitor, the good ones leave too soon!

Toffee Bundt Cake with  Fudge Ripple and a Caramel Glaze
Serves about 12
Time to Make: Active Time about 45 minutes/Baking Time about 60 minutes
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 c dark brown sugar
3 eggs
2 1/2 t vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
2 1/2 t baking powder
1 t salt
2 t instant espresso
1 1/2 c sour cream
2 cups of chopped toffee bars or Bit of Brickle
1 c dark chocolate chips

Fudge Ripple
5 oz cream cheese at room temperature
6 oz melted chocolate chips
1 egg
1/2 t vanilla

Caramel Glaze
1 c packed brown sugar
1 c heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350. Grease bundt pan very well. Flour the bundt pan. If you aren't sure you greased it well enough, give it a second coat with more grease and flour!

Cream the butter for three minutes. Add half the sugar and cream for two minutes. Add rest of sugar and cream two minutes more. Add eggs one at a time, creaming well between each. Add vanilla and mix well.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt and espresso. Add 3/4 c flour mixture to the butter and mix well. You may want to cover your mixer with a towel, so that the flour doesn't fly everywhere. Now add 3/4 c of the sour cream and mix well. Now more flour. Now more sour cream and finish up with the flour. With mixer on low, add in the toffee chips and chocolate chips.

Now make your fudge ripple by beating the cream cheese with the melted chocolate chips until creamy. (I use my hand mixer for this!) Now beat in the egg and vanilla until well mixed. Set aside.

Pour cake batter into bundt pan until it is about 1/2 full. Add your fudge ripple and spread it over your batter. Top with the rest of the batter until your bundt pan is about 3/4 full. (If you are using the famous Dorothy swirly pan, please note that it is smaller than most bundt pans. I was able to get an extra 9 x 5 loaf from this recipe. I did use all of the fudge ripple in the bundt pan, though!)

Bake for about 1 hour. Let cool for 10 minutes and then invert on rack to finish cooling. I didn't have any problems with sticking, though I greased this extra well!

While cake is baking combine brown sugar and cream in a pot over low heat. As sugar melts whisk into cream. Let this cook for about 45 minutes on low so it will thicken and form a lovely glaze. It will also harden up after cooling.

After cake has cooled, pour this over cake and garnish with some extra toffee chips.

More Picnic Desserts:
The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
Magic Cookie Bars
Katherine Hepburn Brownies
Cream Cheese Pound Cake