Saturday, June 15, 2019

Strolling After Dark; A Post Dinner Memoir

Dinner is served. The preparatory chopping, measuring and 'eyeballing' has been done and the kitchen is down to only the low hum of the appliances, things are running smoothly.  The dishes you chose to present have been plated and consumed, the once shuffling, clanging and wiping of plates and sawing of the knives and scratching of forks has subsided, recognition for a job well done is in order.  Surprisingly, the kiddoes  helped to clear the table this time.  There were no send backs, no burns, re-fires, nothing was raw, no allergic reactions...feelings of jubilation from the pleased palates and faces mark the time and date, the menu.  Cleanup is winding down, leftovers have been properly cooled and stored, midnight snacking may ensue.  Foggy brain and food comas for some, a nice glass of red for others, some whisky. SHIFT DRINK!  Chit Chatter continues about the day's occurrences, who wore something hideous, talks of the next game, the annoying office coworker and let's not forget that new line cook that can't pull their weight, new job openings for the establishment imminent.  Alas, all's well that ends well. Nothing like a romantic stroll to burn a few calories and expedite the digestion process.  Some will feel sand squishing  between their toes, some the soft matte of the grass, others the cooling concrete, once scorching hot from the day's sun.  The breeze of the ocean with its briny mist is welcome to the exposed skin of faces, legs and arms.  Melodic Aromas of dinners still happening, cafes still teeming with patrons, and dinners of home cooks who arrived late, permeate the air, the show must go on.  The smell of fresh flowers and cut grass, gas fumes and something not quite so pleasant may wander through the air as well.  Satisfaction is abundant, everything from light reading, to a bar or night club, is in the near future for those at the finish line, sleep is also an option. All these things made possible because dinner has been served; in restaurants, bars, food trucks and home kitchens.  You have given the people what they wanted.  On the morrow, you will be ready to do it all over again; for the passion, for provisions or for the hell of it.  Either way, it's time to appreciate, good job.

Southern Fried Tofu

This recipe is a quick and easy way to serve up some smiles featuring tofu.  It makes a wonderful protein for a veggie laden sandwich or for dipping in marinara, they're a snacking sensation, packed with protein, calcium and iron.  I used extra firm tofu for this recipe.  I drained and wrapped the tofu in paper towels to expunge all the excess moisture from the exposed surfaces.
The texture of the protein is nice and crisp on the outside, but also not mushy in the interior.  There is actual 'bite'.  I double dipped these pieces in milk and breading to protect the tofu and add an extra layer of insulation and backbone so it would not be so limp.
I added the element of ranch via the seasoning package.  It's safe to say that many Americans, especially southerners are obsessed with ranch flavors.  I personally prefer Southwestern Ranch, which consists of combining barbeque sauce and ranch, plus a splash of heat via Sriracha for me!  Another splendid duo I adore is ranch and  Thai Chili Sauce, a great dipper for crunchy, fried snacks like Cauliflower Egg Rolls or Delectable Beef n' Zucchini Wontons, also Chipotle Chicken and Caramelized Onion Wontons.  Dippin' and Dining that's perfect for small gatherings and game days or just a day you feel like eating something tasty!
1 pkg. tofu, extra firm
2 tbsp. Dale's Steak Seasoning or to taste
Seasoned flour, such as A1
1/2 pkg. ranch seasoning
oil for frying
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Wrap tofu in several paper towels to absorb excess moisture on outside of tofu.
After several minutes, slice tofu carefully and evenly and lay slices on more paper towels.
Drizzle slices with Dale's.
Refrigerate for about 20 to 30 minutes, until ready to fry.  Meanwhile heat the oil.
Once oil reaches 375*F, you are ready to drop.
Toss in Seasoned flour, then dip in milk, then toss again and place in hot oil.
Cook in small batches until floating and golden, about 3 minutes.
Drain on paper towels and serve.

For a Betterthaneverians version of this recipe, use one or more of the following:
Use liquid Aminos or  Nutritional Yeast to marinate
Use a blend of Organic Coconut and Almond Flour to coat
Use a nut milk to dip
Add a blend of freshly fine chopped dill, parsley and chives in place of ranch seasoning mix.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Roasted Chicken w/Meyer Lemon /Blood Orange Pepper Jelly Glaze

I love a good glaze.  I love the added layers of flavor they bring to the table.  The sticky goodness that prompts the here and there finger lick is a part of being connected to the foods we eat.   Glazes on foods make us more inclined to be comfortable eating with our hands.  I certainly prefer a knife and fork partly because our society is one that has conditioned us to believe that is the appropriate way.
 Eating definitely becomes more intimate when using our hands and can contribute to a relaxed atmosphere when we fellowship.  Napkins are good too, a must have, regardless of the dish, but I am not afraid to use my God given wetnap, if it fits the bill.
I found this particular base for my glaze at Walmart.  I am a big fan, no shame.  I like to use the specialty jellies they have to add body for quick and easy elevation of my proteins.  I generally pair the glaze with seasoned rice vinegar, soy, fish sauce and/ or ketchup.  I also like to reinforce my glazes with strained pan juices.  This kicks up the flavor profile tremendously.  I also like add fresh garlic and herbs, aromatics are everything!
After condensing the pan juices by boiling in a small saucepan, usually to about 1/3, I simply stir in about 2 tbsp. or less of the jelly, plus a couple of the above mentioned, and your family thinks you have spent hours preparing a sumptuous feast.  There are countless combinations, but I like to have a sweet/savory, salty/sour /hot result to hit all the right notes in a tastebud medley.
Boneless proteins can especially benefit from a coating of some sort, be it breadcrumbs or a sticky one.  It helps to seal in moisture and aids in color development towards the end of cooking process.
If you're tired of your usual suspects in the kitchen, but stick with them because they are safe, try a delicious glaze to transform and elevate your menu.  Your tasters will thank you for it!

Monday, June 10, 2019

5 Cheese/Pepperoni Keto- Fabulous Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I had a hankering for something stuffed, creamy and cheesy; these Italian inspired gems are a good fit.  Prep is relatively easy and the kids loved the results.  This is also a recipe your kiddoes or tween can help you with.  I served this chicken with a cauliflower mash to round out the meal and complement the cheeses. A green salad adds a great, fresh crunch, plus essential vitamins and minerals.  Making sure the breasts are proportionate to one another will ensure smooth sailing and a fantastic meal you can enjoy and be proud of.

6 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless and about 6 to 8 oz. each
1 pkg. deli sliced or bulk  pkg.pepperoni
12 slices Provolone cheese
1 8oz. pkg. Italian cheese blend
Italian Seasoning
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)

Preheat oven to 375*F.
Carefully make a slit along side of each chicken portion, without going all the way through.  You are essenially making a pocket for the cheeses and pepperoni.
Each chicken portion gets :
2 deli sized or 6 small pepperoni
2 slices Provolone Cheese
1 Pinch Cheese Blend
Layer ingredients, then fold in half to insert.
After all breasts have been stuffed, place in baking vessel sprayed with cooking spray or drizzled with olive oil.
Arrange chicken evenly spaced and drizzle with olive oil and SPST.
Sprinkle with Italian Seasoning.
Bake covered about 20 minutes, then remove foil.
Cook until chicken starts to turn golden and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Continue until cheese is melted and internal temp. reaches 165*F.
Let stand for several minutes before serving.
Goes well with Cauliflower Mash, (cauliflower steamed or cooked in chicken stock, then SPST, little cream or milk and butter, optional)

Friday, June 7, 2019

Grandma's Apple Butter Bread Pudding

Instead of chucking your loaf of day or two old French Bread, transform it into an old fashioned classic, bread pudding.
Bread pudding dates back, way back, and made its debut here in the Americas, by way of immigrants that settled in Louisiana.
Bread Pudding started as a way to utilize stale bread and stretch a buck. Over the years, it has evolved and made its way to even the Michelin starred tables.
A rainy day like today is a perfect day for the warm and inviting smells and satisfaction of a freshly baked bread pudding.  I successfully canned my first batches of Apple Butter this past summer and used some to execute this warm and cozy recipe.  Prep is relatively a cinch and the results can rival any actual Grandma's recipe, because it's made with the same heart and soul.  Of course recipes will vary, depending on your finished apple butter product, but delicious will still be in the description when it's all said and done.
1 lb. day or 2 old Fench Bread, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 c. milk, I used 2%
1/2 c. heavy cream, optional, you can use more milk if desired
1 8 oz. jar Apple Butter, preferably Grandma's homemade
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
4 tbsp. butter, unsalted, cut into small chunks
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. good quality Vanilla extract
Pinch of salt or to taste
Raw Honey to Garnish, optional
Vanilla or your favorite icecream for an extra special experience
Whipped Cream, optional
Combine wet ingredients, cinnamon, vanilla and pinch of salt until well incorporated.
Spray or grease baking vessel with cooking spray or butter.
Place half of the butter cubes along bottom of vessel.
Arrange bread cubes evenly across baking dish.
Pour liquid over bread slowly, giving bread time to absorb. 
Dot with rest of butter pieces.
Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. 
Remove plastic wrap, but not foil . You will be baking this covered for the first 30 minutes or more, allowing the custard to rise and set.
Bake in a 350* oven for about 35 minutes, then remove foil for last 15. 
Bake time depends on depth of vessel. 
Bake until golden, also until toothpick inserted towards center, comes out clean.
 I used individual serving cast iron pans and cut the time more than in half. 
Serve Warm or room temperature not Hot for best results.

Looking for a good homemade Apple Butter recipe, I will be posting mine soon.  Be sure to follow up for the recipe!;)

Thursday, June 6, 2019

From Spare Ribs to DAO Ribs: From Coach to a Private Jet

Spare ribs aren't an item you'll find on the menu at your favorite bistro or rib joint, but let me tell you, they should be.  They are the least expensive of the rib variety, partly because of the bone/meat ratio, but also because of the rat/lean ratio.  As consumers, we eat with our eyes first and have unfairly decided that less bone means better, and we pay accordingly.  
I am a supporter of spare ribs, and I prefer them over the more sought after baby back and St.Louis style, even though for the St. Louis, it's just a matter of where you cut the slab.  Like a T bone steak, it has the New York strip and the filet on the same bone. Likewise, A spare rib has the St. Louis style included, it simply must be trimmed to achieve a more uniform and easier to manage protein.

I like the fact that the spare rib is looked over sometimes, that keeps its reasonably priced, because some don't want to put in the minimal effort it takes to break down the protein.   If you are entertaining and want to present well to your guests, odds are, you probably won't pick spare ribs.  I like that it is versatile and will stand up to the demands of a recipe, albeit braised with potatoes, simmered in tomato sauce, gravied or pressure cooked, smoke kissed and slathered with homemade SAUCE! Gotta Have Some Sauce! 
You can dress them up or down and not be judged.  Spare ribs can be elevated, and once they are, it can be phenomenal. The bones and fat have them loaded with much more flavor and body.
Heck, we pay upwards of 40+ dollars basically for the bone that makes a Tomahawk Steak so appealing.  I feel the premise is the same for the spare rib!  I'm just glad enough people don't realize this and drive the cost of these guys through the roof! lol Ribs... I think I'll call it the DAO RIB. The Dao is an ancient Chinese weapon, one of the most common and widely used weapons of it's time.
Yeah, I like that.  It's loosely shaped like a DAO, so I'll go with it. I hope it catches on!
Eating ribs require that you understand that there is a certain amount of getting your 'hands dirty' involved, some excessive wiping, and some finger licking, YES, it is allowed.  I love having fresh aromatics like sage and rosemary on hand to pair beautifully with my pork and other proteins for the  preparatory process.  I love knowing where my herbs come from too; my garden. 
Perhaps my love of the lowly 'spare rib' comes from a more humble place.  A time when families
 were lucky to have meat at all for most meals, much less a cut from an animal being sold in the markets. It took some social classes many generations to eat "high on the hog".   Not too long ago and maybe now, some families ate only what they could capture or kill;  if rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, opossums and groundhogs were what they obtained, from hunting on their land or someone else's, then wildlife it was.
Deer were also an option and offered much more variety, but also sweat equity.
The good ole pig came first to Cuba, thanks to Queen Isabella of Spain via Christopher Columbus circa 1493.
Hernando De Soto came with 13 pigs to the Americas in 1539, which reached the 700's in a mere 3 years and the rest is delicious history.
Alas, that is a story for another day.
1.  I pressure cooked these spice rubbed ribs 45 minutes in my Ninja Foodi, which I LOVE, I know my oven is so jealous haha!  If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can par boil them for about 1 1/2 hours in a seasoned broth, flavored chicken stock, onion, garlic and celery.
2.  Next, I put them on the grill using charcoal and indirect heat, while I mowed the lawn, (about 1 1/2 hours) imparting another layer to its flavor profile.
3. After the heat died down to low, I brushed the DAO ribs with homemade BBQ sauce, and placed them over the warm coals. After about 30 minutes, I removed them from the grill.  I finished them off by dousing them with another round of sauce. BANANAS!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

DIY Serving Boards 2: Serving Up A Message

I had some more fun customizing my bamboo cutting boards.  I am happy with these results as well.  If you may recall from my first installment Hearts and Crafts: DIY Serving Boards, I created the design using a six pack ring.  This was a wonderful project to share with my youngest, Bronwyn.  I was actually having so much fun with it, It didn't feel like work at all.  Completion took about 1/2 hour, give or take and I was sad to reach the end.  I was satisfied with the overall design, which I made up as I went along, but most of all, the message.  Reduce, Re-use, Recycle.
There is a little something we all can do to reduce our imprint on the Earth, from reusing sour cream or other plastic containers as disposable storage vessels, to refilling your used water bottles with suitable drinking from the store bought gallon or water from home.  We have well water that extends down about 330 feet underground and I think it's better than any bottled water I've had to date! There's nothing wrong with picking up trash that isn't your own along the roadside, it makes your area more beautiful.  Separating plastics and metals etc. at home is awesome.  Composting, if you have the space and/or a garden, is great too.  Remember every bit counts.  The next time you serve up some delicious sandwiches, cheese and crackers or charcuterie, serve it with a message; one of hope, preserving our future and extending our relationship with Mother Earth, Bon Appetit!