Chocolate Popcorn…yes, you read that right.

Cocoa Popcorn

Look away before it hypnotizes you!

Look away before it hypnotizes you!

You know those foods that taste so good that you just can’t stop eating them even though they are super rich and they kind of make you feel sick?  This is one of those.  I was literally moaning in pain as I continued to jam this popcorn into my face. It is so good.  It tastes like hot chocolate and popcorn together. It’s salty.  It’s sweet.  It’s chocolate.  It’s really easy to make.  It’s much harder to make yourself stop eating. I recommend making this for a party or making a much smaller batch if you plan to split it with a friend on the couch.

Ok, full disclosure… I made a poor choice of cocktail pairing.  I had Kahlua and coke with it.  Kahlua and coke is good, by the way.  It tastes like chocolate coke.  What it also is is very rich and sickly sweet.  Kinda like the popcorn.  Perhaps something more bitter or savory like a stout would be in order.  Or, again, learn self-control.  ….  beer it is.

Enjoy in moderation, as they say.

Superb owl (hat tip to Stephen Colbert, MFA)

This meal was a loosely structured attempt to make a vegetarian version of a traditional Super Bowl feast.  The centerpiece was supposed to be the beet chips from this issue of Everyday Food.  As it turned out, those were the weakest part of the meal.  I’ll get the usual formalities out of the way, so we can move on to talking about much tastier things.  If you stick with me, there’s an awesome recipe for slow-cooker BBQ tofu at the end of this post.  We just have to talk about these loser chips from the magazine real quick…

Beet chips

"Barbeque chips"

“Barbeque chips”

This turned out to be a ton of work for very little return.  I need to find another recipe.  I have faith that beet chips can be made at home.  I used to love the beet chips at a bar in Urbana, IL, Crane Alley.  They served them with a goat cheese dip that was just unreal.  I’ll be honest, though.  I think those were fried.  That might really be the secret here.  Don’t send the oven to do a deep fryer’s job.  I busted on the mandoline for this one.  I followed the instructions where you stack cookie sheets on top of each other in the oven!  I tried to follow the instructions about taking them out when they “changed color” and believed them when they said they would be crispier as they cooled.  They didn’t.  These were, for the most part, soggy little discs of beet that took forever and created a ton of dishes.  Sad trombone…  But I’m keeping the faith because those handful of chips that actually were crisp were really tasty.  I sprinkled them with smoked sea salt to approximate the taste of barbeque chips.

Buffalo-wing style cauliflower

"wings"

“wings”

Ok, let’s move on to the real stars!  I made a recipe that I’ve been dying to make since I first got on Pinterest.  The buffalo cauliflower.  Yes, Pinterest fans!  That one!  What a cool recipe.  You basically batter some cauliflower florets with a buttermilk batter, bake them in the oven (while wishing they were deep fried…), then toss them with buffalo sauce and serve them with blue cheese dressing.  Is it good?  My word, yes.  Does it taste like buffalo wings?  Don’t be silly.  Of course not.  It tastes roughly like roasted cauliflower with a tangy buttermilk pancake wrapped around it, all doused in buffalo sauce.  If that sounds good to you, you’ll like this.  If not, just make wings and move on with your life.

Slow cooker BBQ Tofu

"barbeque sandwiches"

“barbeque sandwiches”

Here’s the real winner, and I feel very awkward saying this because I’m not really one for self-promotion.  This is my recipe for slow-cooker BBQ tofu.  It is a modification, adjustment, and reimagining of two recipes.  One is a BBQ tofu recipe from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Family Favorites.  I made that recipe straight-up one time and found it lacking.  I thought the tofu itself was really good.  The slow-cooking gave it a kind of roasty edge.  The sauce tasted too ketchuppy, and it tasted like it wasn’t done yet.  At the same time, the tofu definitely couldn’t have been cooked any longer without ruining it.  The other recipe is the smokey onion tofu marinade from Bean by Bean by the impossibly-named and impossibly wonderful Crescent Dragonwagon.  By marinating the tofu pieces overnight in her marinade, slow-cooking the sauce for some extra time on its own before adding the tofu chunks, then finishing them all together, this winds up being, quite honestly, my favorite BBQ sandwich.  I crave this stuff.

I feel I have to say a little more about my changes to the sauce recipe.  As I said before, when I made it the first time, it was ketchuppy.  What it was really missing was smoke.  Well, that’s a difficult one for a tofu slow-cooker recipe, right?  I added in smoke wherever I thought I could find it.  The Dragonwagon marinade uses liquid smoke.  I added liquid smoke to the BBQ sauce.  I also added a couple chopped chipotles in adobo, aka smoked jalapenos.  Those adjustments finally brought the smokey flavor.

It is with much trepidation that I release my baby out into the wild, but here it is.  The recipe that I’ve given the most work and the one of which I am the most proud.  Serve it at a Super Bowl party and make the veggies/non-veggies fall in love with you.  Or keep it all to yourself.

Slow-cooker barbeque tofu (adapted and adjusted from Not your Mother’s Slow Cooker Family Favorites by Beth Hensperger (Harvard Common Press: 2009))

The first step is to marinate the tofu pieces.

Smokey onion marinade (adapted from Bean by Bean: A Cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon (Workman Publishing: 2012))

  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and quartered
  • cloves from one head of garlic
  • 2 T cider vinegar
  • 2 drops liquid smoke
  • 3 16-oz blocks of extra firm tofu (no need to drain), cut into 1-inch cubes
  1. Combine all ingredients except for the tofu in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.  Pulse to break it up then process until it’s ground as fine as you can get it.  This is a sloppy, liquid marinade with little bits of onion in it.  It’s going to leak out of the food processor on to the counter.  Just a heads up.  If you have a very intense blender (I don’t) like maybe a vitamix, you could maybe do this in the blender and prevent that mess, but a normal blender will not break up an onion.  You don’t lose enough marinade to make this a big deal.
  2. Place the tofu in a nonreactive dish or large ziploc bag and pour the marinade over it.  Cover and refrigerate, trying to remember to turn the chunks every once in a while, overnight.  Crescent says you can let this marinate for up to 6 days(!)

Now that you have the tofu marinated, I’ll give you the rest of the recipe

  • 2 c ketchup
  • 1/4 firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobe, chopped fine
  • 2 T cider or red wine vinegar
  • 1 T spiciest brown mustard you can find
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/4 t citrus herb seasoning salt from the December 2011 Everyday Food, see this post (actually recipe calls for lemon pepper seasoning, which I’m sure is fine)
  • 1/4 t Angostura bitters
  • 1 t liquid smoke
  1. While the tofu is still marinating, get a jump start on the sauce.  In a medium bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce, chipotles, vinegar, mustard, paprika, garlic powder, citrus seasoning salt, bitters, and liquid smoke.  Stir to combine.
  2. Coat the inside of the crock with nonstick cooking spray.  Pour sauce into crock.  Cover and cook on low for 1 1/2 hours.  Stir the sauce well.
  3. Brush excess marinade off of the tofu and add it to the crock.  Just the excess.  Some bits will cling to the tofu pieces and that’s absolutely fine.  Cover and cook on low for another 4-6 hours, until very hot and fragrant.
  4. Serve on rolls.  I like this with raw onions and pickles.  I think it needs a little sharpness and snap.

Well, now I’m starving.

 

Holiday (scratch that) Super Bowl party!

Sweet and Sour Glazed Chicken Wings

Ginger red wine spritzer

Tequila cranberry cooler

Didn't try the glaze on the Rolos, but it would probably be good

Didn’t try the glaze on the Rolos, but it would probably be good

(What should have been a holiday cocktail party post has conveniently become a Super Bowl party post.  *wipes hands in a self-satisfied fashion*)

So here’s the deal with these three.  We did actually serve them all together.  We also put out mixed nuts.  And we made those lovely cookies.  It was a good day.

The wings were tasty, but kind of a hassle.  I mean, wings are always kind of a hassle, but the hassle of the glaze bears some mention.  When you do the baking step, you should grease the sheet at least a little and/or put down foil to keep them from sticking.  I lost a lot of skin and, frankly, quite a bit of meat just from trying to turn the wings.  The glaze was the real troublemaker, though.  I burned it on the first try.  Badly.  Like black ooze at the bottom of the pan, doors and windows open to clear the smoke and avoid waking the baby with the fire alarm bad.  I think the key is to just be sure you can keep an eye on it.  It goes from way too thin to burned really quickly, especially if you halve the recipe like I did.  Once it’s done and not burned, the glaze is really tasty.  The chili powder adds a lot.  The cayenne mostly just adds heat, but that’s welcome here.  We started rolling some roasted nuts in this glaze.  That was extremely good.  The glaze thickens a bit when it sits, so don’t get upset if it isn’t super goopy right off the range.

Sweet, spicy, sour, hot, awesome

Sweet, spicy, sour, hot, awesome

As for the cocktails, the spritzer was nice, but maybe a little forgettable.  I would rather just have a glass of wine, really.  I couldn’t taste the ginger ale and didn’t really even get a sense of the bubbles.  The kirsch or maraschino does add a little bit of cherry flavor and sweetness.  The maraschino adds a LOT of sweetness, really.  I preferred the drier taste of the kirsch.  We did a taste test with our guests, and we were evenly split between the kirsch kamp and the maraschino maniacs.  (groan…)  If you like something sweeter, pick maraschino. 

Red wine spritzer with those amazing palmiers and the macadamia nut bars.

Red wine spritzer with those amazing palmiers and the macadamia nut bars.

Now, the tequila cran cooler was an unqualified success.  I loved it.  The Campari cut the sweetness of the juices and the sharpness of the tequila.  Frankly, I might consider putting a little campari in margaritas next summer.  Also, the sugared rim was definitely welcome because the other tastes in the drink started to lean toward sour and bitter once the Campari was in there.  I think this would be some good training wheels for Campari.  In other words, B, try this one.  You’ll like it.

Coming to a BBQ near you: Summer 2014

Coming to a BBQ near you: Summer 2014

Go….let’s say Broncos. 

Put This One on Your SuperBowl Party Menu!!!

Spinach Pizza Rolls

The spinach makes this healthy, right?

The spinach makes this healthy, right?

So first, think of the texture of garlic knots.  Then think of the perfect level of salty -garlic-parmesan-mixed with herbs.  And you have the spinach pizza rolls.  Sure, the filling it pretty good too.  But the best part is the texture and the awesome flavor infused into the crust.

Is that a perfect golden brown or what?!

Is that a perfect golden brown or what?!

I would tell you I plan to make this again, but I’ve already done it.  Yeah.  I’ve made this twice in approximately two weeks.  The frozen spinach and the store bought pizza dough makes it so easy.  Next time you are craving garlic knots, skip them and make this instead!

Bacon-Wrapped Ginger Shrimp

Bacon-Wrapped Ginger Shrimp

Bacon, shrimp and ginger… what's not to like?

Bacon, shrimp and ginger… what’s not to like?

The bear can’t eat shrimp, so I had to wait for an opportunity without him to make this.  I went to my friend J’s house to enjoy this treat.

The unfortunate truth is that we couldn’t find any fresh ginger at the super market the night I made this.  I had to use the jarred grated kind.  As a result, I do think the dish suffered a bit.  The ginger flavor was really subtle, (I was the only one who was able to discern it, the other two people eating just tasted shrimp, bacon and soy sauce – which also wasn’t bad).  I like my ginger to have a nice sharp kick so I was a bit sad at how that turned out.

I also want to point out that the bacon strips should really be quartered.  I did a few pieces with the full half strip and the bacon was too thick to actually crisp up in the oven.  I did the rest with the quarter strip and the outcome was much more satisfying.

Another addition that I think would be awesome would be grilling these instead of baking them.  They were laying in a rather big puddle of bacon grease when they came out of the oven so I think either baking them on a rack or grilling them so the grease can drip off would be a bit tastier.

With all that being said, it really was yummy!  I served it with salad greens to make it into more of a meal.  Make these!  But make them with fresh ginger as suggested!!!

Mini Ham and Cheese Quiche

Yet another recipe that is not online...

Yet another recipe that is not online…

So these mini quiches seemed like a lot of trouble to go to while I was making them.  Unless you are planning on using these as appetizers go ahead and just make one big quiche using this filling.

The unique part of this recipe is that rather than using a pie crust, you use slices of bread which you squash down with a rolling pin and cut into circles.  This was yet another point at which I though it was a lot of trouble, and wasted bread (and unnecessary calories!), for some little quiches that would be perfectly happy in a pie crust.

With all the irksome aspects of this recipe, the quiches were kind of addictive.  They were small enough to just keep popping them in your mouth… until you realize you have eaten nearly half a loaf of bread and start to loathe yourself a little bit.

Since once again, the recipe is not online, here you go:

Ingredients:

2 melted tablespoons of butter

12 slices white bread, flattened with a rolling pin and cut into little circles

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup diced ham

1/4 cup shredded white cheddar

1/4 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degs.  If you happen to have a mini muffin pan, make sure you cut the flattened pieces of bread into small circles.  I only have a normal muffin pan so my circles pretty much took up the entire piece of bread.

Brush the inside of each muffin cup with butter, fit a bread circle into each cup and shape it like a little bowl.  Then brush each piece of bread with butter.  Pop that into the oven and bake until the “crusts” are golden brown.  About 20 minutes.

Mix the remaining ingredients up in a bowl.  Once you have your nicely browned “crusts”, fill each cup with a little of the filling.  They really don’t hold much, even when you are using a full size muffin tin.  It does work out pretty well to have just enough filling for the prepared crusts.

Bake until the filling is set. About 15 minutes.

*adapted from Everyday Food, issue 47, November 2007, pg. 68.

Let them cool slightly, then enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Baked Brie with Pecans

The spread.

The spread.

Just a quick Thanksgiving teaser!  Since we are having a later dinner, I decided to make the Baked Brie with Pecans.  It was so worth it!  Once the cheese has softened in the oven (or in my case toaster oven), you toast the pecans and then basically make a thin caramel sauce out of the brown sugar and maple syrup.

Mmm... Gooey...

Mmm… Gooey…

It gets super gooey once you cut into it and kind of all melts out, but that just makes it easier to scoop up cheese, nuts, and sauce all in one go.  It’s so good.  Maple and pecans might be best friends.  I really hope all of you make one of these this holiday season.  It’s so much easier than a brie en croute but definitely a crowd pleaser.

I also hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving!  Expect to see an epic post from me soon featuring my Thanksgiving dinner!

I Really Went Off Target On This One…

Marinated Bocconcini

www.marthastewart.com/332743/marinated-bocconcini

September 2007, pg. 138

image

Now, when I say I went off target, I mean I very slightly modified the recipe to accommodate the ingredients I already had in my kitchen.  The first difference was that I used a sliced up ball of fresh mozzarella.  One of our favorite summer meals is fresh sliced tomatoes layered with slices of fresh mozzarella and then drizzled with pesto, balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil.  We had recently come across a sale on fresh mozzarella so stocked up (as much as you reasonably can with fresh mozzarella).  So anyway, I cut the remainder up into lovely little triangle.

The second major difference was my laziness when it comes to fresh herbs.  I somehow find that I can never get through a batch from the little packages they sell at the supermarket before it gets a little funky. However, I had recently bought some thyme for several other recipes in the issue and thought that would probably make a decent substitute.

Anyway, I was super pleased with the outcome, even with all my changes.  And I have to say, this will probably be on my appetizer menu for the next time I entertain.  It really was very simple to prepare.  The hardest bit was peeling the lemon rind. It was also really delicious with the recommended salami and tomato.  I put all three on a skewer together and was quite satisfied.

image

Next from me: Shrimp Fried Rice!!

Everyday rogue

Pigs in a Blanket (unable to find the source recipe, but I went so far away from it, suffice it to say it was close to this one)

Ja wohl!

Ja wohl!

Pigs in a blanket, you say?  Puff pastry and cocktail weenies?  Sounds adorable.  Sounds delicious.  Sounds nothing like the picture you’re looking at.  Those are mini bratwurst baked in a pretzel.  Let me explain how I got here.

mini brats and scissors for scale...or because I forgot to get them out of the shot

mini brats and scissors for scale…or because I forgot to get them out of the shot

I love to shop at Aldi.  Aldi is a German company.  What we know as Aldi in the United States is actually one of two Aldis, Aldi Sud (where’s the umlaut on WordPress?  Don’t answer that.  I’m too lazy).  If you want to kill some time, I highly suggest reading the Wikipedia page on Aldi.  But I digress.  No doubt because Aldi is a German company, every year around October they have German stuff at Aldi.  Some of it it straight ahead: sauerkraut, mustard, usw.  Some of it is mini bratwurst.  I saw the package of mini brats and knew they were coming home with me.  But what does one do with mini brats?  Well, if one is writing a blog about Everyday Food, one tries to find a mini brat appropriate recipe.  The pigs in a blanket seemed like an obvious choice.  But puff pastry?  Enter the Auntie Ann’s pretzel-making kit.

Anne

This is was a Christmas gift that’s been languishing on top of my fridge since it was moved from the top of another fridge at our old apartment.  The trouble is, in general, I don’t do yeast.  I don’t have the time or patience for things to rise.  Judging from the expiration date on the box, it was a gift in 2011.  The only thing in it that could possibly go bad is the yeast.  I had other yeast in the fridge.  Boom.  We’re in business.  The kit comes with a recipe for pretzel dogs.  Do you see where this is going?  I did.  I was going to kill a flock of birds with this one fatty stone.  Use the mini brats, finally use the pretzel kit, and complete another recipe for this blog.

I will admit that they look hideous before they're cooked.

I will admit that they look hideous before they’re cooked.

The recipe itself was simple enough.  Auntie Ann’s had you start the hotdogs cooking by putting them in a dish of hot tap water for a few minutes.  That part was disgusting.  I don’t want to talk about what the water looked like when I was done soaking mini brats in it.  Suffice it to say, it had a sheen to it.  To make the pretzel part you make the dough, roll pieces out into strips like you were going to make pretzels (width of a finger and let’s say 8 inches long) and wrap the mini brats in the strips like a chunky little barber pole.  The kit came with a rather large packet of baking soda.  The instructions were to mix the baking soda with very hot tap water until it is nearly dissolved.  Then you dip the wrapped dogs in the mixture, dry off the excess with a paper towel and put them in a greased baking sheet.  I think that’s how pretzels get that brown crust.  You bake them in a 425 degree oven for 5 minutes, rotate the sheet 180 degrees, and bake for another 3-5 minutes.  I gave them another 5 minutes, but they were probably done after 2 or 3.  Once the dogs are out, you brush the tops with melted butter and marvel at how photogenic they are.

Add some root veggies and mustard, and you've got yourself a meal!

Add some root veggies and mustard, and you’ve got yourself a meal!

D and I had the pretzel dogs with Dijon mustard and a side of vegetables that J, our son, did not eat.  That’s his loss.  It was carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes roasted in olive oil with a little salt and pepper.  Definitely not something to put into your mouth and then immediately push back out with your tongue.  Just saying.

All this is to say that I did not follow the recipe in EF for this one even a little.  I’m an everyday rogue.