Mostly about food, this blog is just a place for me to throw things that are of interest to me. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by an look around. This represents just some of the stops on the various pathways that this amateur home cook finds himself.

You may find that these foods tend toward protein and away from carbohydrates - this is due to diabetic issues, so I try to only sparingly use carbs, and good ones at that. Of course, sometimes I forget....

Feel free to drop me a line with any suggestions or just to let me know what you think. Thanks!

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I want to thank you for the time that you spend here, and hope that you can find useful things here.


Friday, April 24, 2009


I picked this up from Diane, who grew up in the vicinity of the Java Sea. She has lots of good stories, and shared some good food ideas. I have changed it little - mostly just quantifying the ingredients. Tasty and addictive, they are darned good when fresh from the oven, and pretty tasty even from the fridge. The filling even freezes and keeps well. The quantities below are what I used for this batch, but the recipe scales very well, so you can make as much as you like. You'll never want to make just a little...

2 1/2 lbs* bottom round steak, diced into 1/4" pieces
white onions, diced into 1/4" pieces, equal volume to amount of meat
potatoes, diced into 1/4" pieces, equal volume to amount of meat
canned biscuits (not the flaky type)

*(you can scale this recipe to about any amount - makes about 20 per pound of meat)

For each pound of meat, you will need:
1/2 tsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp oil
1 tsp Malaysian hot curry powder, vary amount to taste

salt & pepper

Clean your meat well of all fat, gristle and connective tissue.
Dice it into even cubes, about 1/4" in size. Form this into a pile on a clean plate or cutting board.
Next, cut potatoes to the same size, 1/4" dice. Keep doing this until you have a pile equal in size to the meat. Repeat for the onions. You want to end end up with three equal-sized piles - meat, potatoes and onions.
Add oil to large frying pan over medium heat, then when at temperature, add meat and brown. Reduce heat and cook until tender. When done, remove meat and set aside.
Next, add butter, onions and potatoes to frying pan, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent and potatoes start to soften. Below is a bad pic of the curry powder I use. There are many kinds available, but the Malaysian has a unique balance of heat, sweet and flavor that work in this dish. The others don't seem to have the same effect.
Add the meat back to the frying pan, add the curry powder, and stir to incorporate. Turn heat down and stir occasionally, letting the flavors meld.
Remove curry filling from pan, set aside, and let cool. Then refrigerate until ready to assemble the puffs.

You can make the dough yourself, and roll it out to make these. I know how good they are, and don't want to wait that long to eat some. After all, the dough is only the delivery vehicle for the main event. I find that cheap 'whomp' biscuits work out well for this, and are always the perfect size. Just don't use the flaky kind.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Open up a can of biscuits and separate them out. The following works best if you keep them cold. Pull, stretch and flatten the biscuits out to about a 5" diameter. Try and do this without creating holes, as they can be difficult to close back up successfully.
Drop a heaping tablespoon of cold filling in the center of the biscuit, taking great care to keep it away from the outer inch of the biscuit round.
Carefully fold the biscuit in half, pinching the edges together. Try and get the air out of inside as you do this.
Repeat the above until you have enough to space out on a greased baking sheet. Actually, I use a Silpat, so there's no oil and no sticking. Place the pan in the oven and bake them until they start to turn a golden brown on top. You know what biscuits are supposed to look like - they should look like that. I started peeking at these after about 15 minutes.
Pull them out, move them to a rack to cool and repeat the process until you have made as many curry puffs as you like. Freeze the remaining filling -it keeps well for a long time. Finally, the reward!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Chicken & Dumplings - Thick, Rich and Simple

There are probably more recipes for chicken & dumplings than anyone can count. Some are very simple, and some are just exhaustive. This recipe is very simple, but it takes a fair amount of time, start to eat, about 3-4 hours. Although simple, it comes out nice and thick and rich.

3 1/2 -4 lbs of chicken, either one whole bird or several parts
1 1/2 lbs of white onions, about 3 medium onions
2 oz. (1/2 stick) butter
2 t salt
1 t ground black pepper
1 t garlic powder
1/8 t cayenne pepper
32 oz. chicken stock (I used low-sodium boxed stock)
'whomp' biscuits (more on this later)

In a large dutch over or heavy pot with lid, melt the butter over medium heat. Coarsely chop the onions, and add onions and salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne to butter. Stir occasionally until onions are translucent.
Raw fresh chicken almost always needs to be cleaned well before being cooked. There is inevitably a lot of excess fat and skin to remove:After you get it all cleaned up, you can see all the trash you wont have to eat:
If you are using a while bird, you'll find a lot of removable stuff at the rear opening - just cut off all the loose skin and fat, and the tail. You can really see the difference with all the junk removed form your chicken:
Place your whole trimmed bird (or trimmed pieces) in the pot on top of the onions, and add chicken stock. Add water if needed to almost cover chicken.

Cover the pot and let simmer for at least 45 minutes and check chicken for being done. Once done, remove chicken pieces and let cool somewhat on a rack.
Now comes the time-consuming part. Once the chicken pieces are cool enough to handle, get a large pan and start picking. You'll be pulling all the meat off of the chicken with your fingers. This is the best way to get all the pieces - fingers are the best tools. Once you get all the meat together, discard the remaining bones, fat and skin. Now, using your fingers, go through the meat again, shredding it as you go.
This also gives you another chance at catching and pieces of fat, gristle, bone or other junk that sneaked by the first time. You don't want to serve this with little pieces of crap in it. Dump the shredded chicken back into the pot of onions and broth.

"Whomp Biscuits"

Time for the dumplings. There are dozens of ways to make and add dumplings to your dish. They pretty much all involve the same ingredients, and frankly, it's not worth the extra time to me to make the dough, etc. So for this dish, I take an idea from a friend. I get one can of the cheap biscuits from the refrigerated case at the store. I was told they are called 'whomp' biscuits because you whomp them against the counter edge to open them. Good enough for me.

More tedious work ahead. Separate the biscuits and lay them out. Now, take each biscuit and tear it into little pieces, rolling each into a rough ball shape. In the picture below all those little pieces are from one biscuit. You really do need to make these small like this, because they really plump up in once they hit the pot, as you will see below. Toss all of these little balls into the simmering dutch oven, and when done, stir well.
You will notice that no matter what you do, they will stay floating on the top, just floating and mocking you.
Cover the dish again and let them simmer for another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When you can stir the pot and they remain all mixed in, and no longer rising to the surface, they are done. Now it's time to taste and adjust salt & pepper and seasonings as you see fit.
You'll see how thick and rich this turns out, considering the short list of ingredients and simple preparation!
Served up and ready to go...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Walkabout Mini-Fatties

This has been poking around in my mind for some time, so I finally decided to give it a shot. I know there are many of you out there that love a good fattie, or would like to. No, I'm not talking about THAT kind of fattie, but the kind that you cook in a smoker. As delicious as they are, they have one drawback - they aren't all that handy to eat neatly and they tend to be a bit messy. Well, here's my attempt to fix that problem. And no, walkabout doesn't mean they are made with kangaroo...

1 lb. of my homemade sweet & spicy Italian sausage
4 pre-packaged mozzarella sticks
1 pkg egg roll wrappers
4 oz. marinara sauce
fresh Parmesano Reggiano cheese
fresh Peccorino Romano cheese
bell pepper, julienned
onions, julienned
sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
oregano, basil, salt & pepper

First of all, prepare your mise en place. That's fancy French chef talk for "get all your stuff ready first!"
Roll the sausage out into a thin layer. As these are going to me small fatties, the sausage needs to be pretty thin while still staying together. Divide the sausage into individual thin sheets, about 4 1/2" by 6" inches. Apply a decent stripe of marinara, add your spices, onions, and grate the Parmesan and Romano onto the sauce.
For each fattie, add the strips of pepper and tomatoes, and the mozzarella stick. You might need to trim off a bit of the cheese depending on the length, or the size of your wrappers. I had to cut off about 3/4" of mine so the wrappers would be long enough.
Roll up your fattie nice and tight, sealing the ends well. Twist then into shape in a wrapper and put them in the fridge to set up. Once nice and firm, unwrap them and get them in the smoker. Realize as small as they are, they won't take very long and so won't take up a lot smokiness. Check them after 20 minutes, and take their temp every 5 minutes until the sausage is at 160 degrees F. Take them out and let them cool on a rack, and wick away any external grease with paper towels.
Once cooled, roll each fattie in a couple of egg roll wrappers. Two sheets makes the package a little more substantial for easy handling. Moisten the final flap of the wrap with a little water, and press it tight to seal.
Wet your fingers again, and wet the inside and outside of the ends of the wrapper that extend past the meat. Now fold them in a bit at a time, overlapping the folds and sealing the ends of the wrapper.
When you are all done it should look something like this:
Now it's time to heat up your oil. Get it to 360-370, and understand that your fatties won't be in it long! Prepare a place to drain them when removed from the oil. One trick I learned is to put a couple of paper towels in a sheet pan, then put a cooling rack on it - upside down. This way, the oil will get absorbed into the paper towels without sticking to them, because the rack is there. Using it upside down allows oil to flow tight into the paper, without having to accumulate and drip through an air space.

Put them in the oil carefully, two at a time, to keep from dropping the oil temperature too much.
Pull them out when they are the shade of brown you like, and place them on your draining pan to shed the remaining oil.
That's it! Pass 'em out and eat em'. The egg roll wrappers are nice and crunchy, and if you paint them inside with garlic butter before rolling - instant garlic bread!

I guess you could have a little dipping sauce available, but not if you want to go walkabout....

. . . . .

It's hard to tell the scale of these things with no point of reference, so here's a shot of my hand on the plate, a Walkabout Mini-Fattie, and my miniature cheese grater.

Now you have some convenient Walkabout Mini-Fatties - eat them with no muss and no fuss!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Keeping Herbs Fresher

If you use fresh herbs as I do, even occasionally, you are probably too familiar with the fact that they just don't last that long once you get them home. Here are a couple of tips for keeping them fresh as long as you can.

For smaller bundles of herbs, here's a trick that works quite well. Separate your herbs by type, and then orient them all together. Pat them dry enough that there is no obvious water on the leaves or stems.
Take a full paper towel, fold in in half four ot five times, and then wet it under the faucet. Squeeze all the water out, so that the paper is just damp. Unfold it all until it is folded just once, and lay your herbs on the paper towel.
Fold the paper towel gently over your herbs. Don't squish them or break the leaves.
Trim the stems to create fresh ends. Place the whole package into a plastic zip top bag and close. If you are saving several different herbs, you can place all the packages in a larger bag together, unless some are very aromatic. Those you might want to store separately.

If you have large bunches of herbs, there's a better way to keep them fresh. I use a LOT of cilantro, so I do this frequently. Clean the bunch of stray or withered stems, and trim the stems a bit to provide newly cut ends (like flowers). Remove any leaves off of the bottom 2-3" of the stems. Using a glass the appropriate size and height, put a couple of inches of fresh water in the glass - try not to use chlorinated or soft water, as neither chlorine or salt is good for you or your food.
Now, take one of the thin plastic bags that all the grocery stores have to put loose veggies in and use it to cover the leafy part of your herbs. Important - leave the bottom of the bag wide open to the air. What you are doing here is creating a little micro-climate for your herbs, contained enough to stay humid but open enough to keep from getting soggy. I have kept fresh herbs over ten days in this manner.
Place your glass of goodness in the fridge, but away from the coldest areas in there. Now get cooking!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rib Tips in 3 Chile Sauce

Okay, so you've been trimming all those spare ribs to a nice St. Louis cut, and instead of tossing the trimmings on the smoker with the ribs, you've been socking them away for a rainy day. Well, the rainy day has arrived, and here's a tasty way to put them to good use.

6 ancho chiles
2 chiles de arbol
2 guajillo chiles
10 garlic cloves, minced
2 t kosher salt
2 T coarse ground black pepper
1 t ground cumin
1 t dried Mexican oregano
1/2 C oil
3 lbs cleaned rib tips
2 bay leaves
2 C water
1/2 C frech minced cilantro (or 3 rounded T dried cilantro)
2 T paprika

This recipe uses de arbol, guajillo and ancho chiles. They should be available at any large supermarket or laatin ethnic food store in their dried form. They will keep almost forever. Clockwise from top: anchos, guajillos, de arbols.
Boil the chiles in water in a small sauce pan until softened. Remove, drain and let them cool.* Peel off the skins and discard the seeds, reserving the meat of the chiles.
Add the chile meat and the garlic cloves to a blender, and process until smooth. Add the salt, pepper, cumin and oregano and blend to mix it all together. Here's what goes in with the chili mixture.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Thaw your previously saved rib tips and make sure they are trimmed of excess fat and silver skin.
A little fat left behind is no big deal. Cut them into bite sized pieces (about 1" across). Add the pork to the oil and stir occasionally until browned. Add in the water slowly and cook until tender and the liquid has reduced a bit. This will all take about 20-30 minutes.
Stir in your chile puree mix and add in the two bay leaves. Add the paprika. Drop the heat down low and let this simmer to thoroughly consolidate all the flavors, another 20-30 minutes or so. The paprika really makes the color pop.
This can be served as a main dish with sides, or as the basis for a chile dish with other ingredients. Black beans, pintos or onions would make nice add-ins. You can even create some tasty tacos with a couple of slices of avocado!

To really mix up cultures... here it is served over farfalle pasta with Asadero chees strips, and topped with a dollop of sour cream to balance out the heat.

*(You should save the chile cooking liquid and reduce it over a simmer until the sauce concentrates. This is good stuff to keep and use whenever you need to add a little zip to another dish sometime.)