Cooking Good Housekeepings Kielbasa Stew

I know what you’re thinking: what kind of fool makes a stew in the middle of one of the hottest New York summers he’s ever experienced? This one, apparently. As I’ve mentioned several times in the past few weeks, we’re working off of a budget lately, so I’ve been a lot more conscious about using up everything I have on hand as far as ingredients go. Last week I happened upon Good Housekeeping’s recipe for Kielbasa Stew in my Big Blue Binder, realized I had almost everything already on hand — I only had to buy the sauerkraut and kielbasa, which was on sale — so I decided to give it a shot.

As far as preparation goes, this is a pretty simple recipe, but you’ve obviously got to have the time to get it together in the middle of the day (or morning depending on if you’re cooking on high or low). I cooked the celery, onion and caraway seeds in a pan and then threw it in the bowl with the cubed potatoes and all the other ingredients. The only change I made was using a pour of apple cider vinegar instead of apple cider because, you know, it’s the middle of summer. With all that together, I put the slow cooker on high and went back about my day.

I’ve got to say, even though I made this on a hot day and it’s a stew, this wound up being a really wonderful meal. The potatoes and chicken stock turned into this creaminess that worked so well with the kielbasa and the added sauerkraut. It all came together for a very German dish that made me think of a soup version of the kind of dog sausage you’d get while walking around NYC. My wife had the genius idea of putting some deli mustard on top, taking up another level of greatness. I will one hundred percent serve this again, though I might wait around until the temperature takes a bit of a dive. I will say, though, that a slow cooker is a great way to keep your kitchen from heating up too much.

I will also add that this was a great dish to make with my three year old helping out. She loves to stir things, so I had her do that and add in the new ingredients as I was done cutting them up. It gets an extra thumbs up for that!

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 70

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The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 70 is pretty scattered thanks to Jack’s repeated interupptions, but I do talk about not getting the house we were looking at, our continued search and a few things about this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con. My apologies for changes in tone and voice, plus all the ums and uhhhs.

The phone interview I mentioned doing last week was for this story posted on CBR about the cool new Mondo toys!

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If you’re interested in bidding on Iron Fist’s first appearance or lots of Iron Fist and/or Power Man & Iron Fist, go check out my ebay auctions.

The park we hit up in PA is called Firefly Field. It’s worth checking out if you have kids.

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If you’re in the area, do yourself a favor and check out Dutchess Marketplace in Fishkill, NY! Here’s Lu and her new, old Lisa Simpson doll.

For more of me check out UnitedMonkee.com, MonkeyingAroundTheKitchen.com, Comic Book Resources and @PoppaDietsch on Twitter.

Wok This Way: Damn Delicious’ Pineapple Fried Rice

I continue to have a lot of luck when it comes to making recipes posted over on Damn Delicious. A few weeks back I saw her post this one for Pineapple Fried Rice and wanted to give it a shot. It not only looked tasty with that mix of salty pork and sweet-sour pineapple, but also utilized a few ingredients that were on sale at the grocery store that week: pineapple and pre-cooked ham (the same stuff I used in yesterday’s post). The only change I made to the recipe was skipping the corn and peas because I didn’t happen to have any on hand and must have missed that slug in the recipe when making up my grocery list. I also threw in a red pepper because I did have one hanging out in the fridge.

As you can probably imagine, this was not a very difficult dish to put together. It mimicked many of the previous wok recipes I’ve done and could have also been done in a high-sided pan. This actually reminded me of a bit of Alton Brown’s Sweet & Sour Pork but much easier to put together. The sweet, tangy, saltiness of the dish was just what I was looking for.

One quick warning, though. If you do use the pre-sliced ham like I did, you might get some funky leftovers. My wife noticed it first at work and said the ham got kind of crumbly when heated up a day or two later. It’s almost like it disintegrated, so I’d probably change the kind of ham I use next time or make just as much as I need.

Cooking Aaron Sanchez’s Cemita Sandwiches With Roasted Tomato-Chile De Arbol Salsa

Earlier this year I picked up Aaron Sanchez’s Simple Food, Big Flavor cookbook. I love how it’s organized because he starts off with a kind of sauce and then gives readers a variety of dishes that incorporate that very ingredient. I decided to try out Cemita Sandwiches (page 64) which was a part of his recipe for Roasted Tomato-Chile De Arbol Salsa (page 52). Since there were so many working parts, I’ll break them down here.

First off I got to work on the salsa, which is a really simple and easy process. I used two chipotle peppers in adobo which was a huge mistake because it made this condiment way too hot for us. I tried mixing some honey in which helped a bit, but there’s still an underlying smokey hotness that I don’t know if I’ll be able to use this much.

From there I got to work on the sandwiches. First, my changes. I went with regular sandwich bread and skipped the papalo leaves. Basically, this just involved a lot of cutting. You’ve got tomato, avocado and mozzarella. The ham was a bit more work intensive, but I took a pretty big shortcut by buying some pre-sliced smoked ham at the grocery store. I still mixed the spices as suggested in the recipe, but instead of pounding out pork loin, I just spread it on the ham and cooked it in the pan. I’m sure the flavors didn’t go nearly as deep thanks to my modified way, but I’d also wager it cut off a good deal of time.

With all the meat cooked, I was basically in assembly line mode, just like when I made Bangin’ BLTs not long ago. The bread went in the toaster and when it popped, I went back to my sandwich making roots, adding the veggies, cheese and passing it off to the fam.

All in all, this might have been a truncated version of Sanchez’s meal, but I thought it still came out really tasty. There was definitely some heat coming off of the meat, but that was quelled a bit thanks to the mozzarella and avocado. The mozz also brought in a nice creamy tanginess that I appreciated. We even tried some of the super hot salsa on the bread as the recipe suggests which worked out pretty well. If I make this one again, I’ll have to go wimpier on the salsa and maybe actually try that whole pork loin thing.

Making Sunny’s Homemade Ketchup

A few weeks back I caught an episode of Food Network’s multi-host culinary talk show The Kitchen that was all about burgers. There were some tasty looking variations on there, but the real star for me was Sunny Anderson’s Homemade Ketchup.

In the mood for another homemade challenge, I decided to give it a try to go along with some homemade burgers, buns and mayo on Fourth of July. As you do, I went to FN.com, searched around and found the recipe linked above. But, like many of the commentors, I was surprised to find that it differed from the one presented on the show. Two major ingredients — a cinnamon stick ans a star anise — were nowhere to be found and I want to say the cooking process was a little different than on the show, but I couldn’t fully recall.

So, I decided to follow the recipe as posted while adding the star and the stick, but cutting the sugar to a heaping half cup. The rest of the process is pretty simple but does take some time. I’ve heard that homemade ketchup winds up tasting pretty different from the store-bought stuff and that’s definitely the case with this recipe, especially if you use the anise. After I took the handblender to the cooked tomato mixture I was surprised to find that, not only was it too sweet, but also nearly overpowered by that rich licorice flavor from the star. From there I stirred in a combination of salt, apple cider vinegar and regular vinegar to subdue some of that sweetness. Eventually I had to move on to other things so it went into the fridge to cool.

The next day I tasted the ketchup and, while it’s still pretty far from Heinz, I’ve got to say that it’s mighty intriguing. It’s basically ketchup’s sassier cousin with the crispness of the tomatoes along with the acid notes from the vinegar and that overarching unique sweetness from the star anise. It might not be what I’m used to, but it worked really well with the burgers and has served us well since. When I try this next time, I might leave the anise out just to see what the results are like.

I did all this a day or two before I was going to use it so it would have enough time to cool. I also wound up dividing the condiment into three parts, one going in a squeeze bottle I picked up at the grocery store and the other two in individual freezer bags.

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 69

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The Pop Poppa Nap Cast 69 not only features a guest host in Jack Dietsch, but also gives an update on the moving situation and talks about kiddie troubles.

 

Here’s Lu playing with her new Avengers toys!

Batman: Brave & The Bold is the best kid-friendly Batman cartoon in ages. Check it out on Netflix or buy it on Amazon through that link.

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For more of me check out UnitedMonkee.com, MonkeyingAroundTheKitchen.com, Comic Book Resources and @PoppaDietsch on Twitter.

Fairtrade Kit Kats Are The BEST!

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A few weeks back my folks went to Ireland. When they came back they brought us some surprises, including a Kit Kat for my wife and I and a bottle of amazing Jameson’s Irish Whiskey for me. I don’t have the proper vocabulary to describe how good the booze is, but I can say that the Irish Kit Kat, which is actually made with Fairtrade cocoa, was SO much better than the ones you get in the states. I’m no Fairtrade warrior, but there’s no denying the difference in taste and quality here. The wrapper reports that there’s 66% milk chocolate in this bar while I have no idea what’s in the Stateside stuff. I do know that the US bars tend to have a chemically aftertaste that is completely absent when dealing with this better, richer, more flavorful chocolate.

On a side note, I went to Australia and New Zealand between seventh and eight grade and grabbed a few different foods that we had over here, but sported different labels. Kit Kat was one of those and I’m pretty sure that the label hasn’t changed since then (or at least not much). This was not only a tasty treat, but also a nice trip down memory lane.

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 68

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The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 68 covers further adventures with the kids while my wife returns to work, a new book review and a huge, life changing announcement. Sorry about the background noise, it’s way too hot here to turn the AC off for recording.

If you cook, you should definitely start your own Big Blue Binder (choose any colour you like).

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Here’s Lu and Danny, formerly Annie, playing with the Fisher-Price Farm House.

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The episode of The Simpsons with the Finding Nemo-based plot point is called “Homer Scissorhands.”

I wasn’t kidding around when I said you see Tarzan’s dead parents in the Disney animated version. That movie is DARK.

The current version of Arthur’s Eyes by Marc Brown is available on Amazon. I have no idea if the interiors have been re-drawn or not, but the cover clearly has.

For more of me check out UnitedMonkee.com, MonkeyingAroundTheKitchen.com, Comic Book Resources and @PoppaDietsch on Twitter.

Baking Homemade Hamburger Buns

When I started thinking about preparing a Fourth of July meal for my folks, I figured I’d try my hand at making my own ketchup (post coming soon). While the wheels turned about that one I had a thought pop into my head wondering, “Hey, how do you make burger buns?” I went to Google and found one on Taste Of Home called 40-Minute Hamburger Buns. I don’t do a lot of baking, but since I started making most of the pasta I use, I’ve gotten more and more okay working with dough, so it wasn’t too scary.

This particular recipe appealed to me because it’s so simple. You’ve got seven ingredients, most of which I already had on hand, so I decided to try it out a few days in advance. The process itself wasn’t hard at all, but I will say that the 12 buns I got that time would have worked for sliders, but not full-sized burgers. With that new knowledge, plus the idea that you’ve really got to pat down the dough so you don’t get those crazy outgrowths, I gave them another shot, this time breaking the dough into 6 buns, which you can see in that last photo. Still, if you’re looking for rolls or slider buns, go with the dozen.

I should also note that I made these two different ways. The first time was with the mixer and the second was just by hand in a big bowl. Both worked really well. I’d probably go with the bowl just because it makes fewer dishes, really. Anyway, these buns turned out so good in both forms that I had trouble keeping everyone away from them so we could have burgers on them. They’re just so light and airy with a bit of sweetness that makes for awesome rolls or buns. In fact, as you can see in the following images, they also make great rolls for mini breakfast sandwiches if you’ve got some spare eggs, cheese and ham/bacon/sausage around! IMG_7192

Cooking Damn Delicious’ One Pot BBQ Chicken Pasta

I’m all about Damn Delicious these days. I’m pulling a recipe or two a week for my menus these days including this one last week for One Pot BBQ Chicken Pasta. I was a little leery about this one, not because of the recipe itself, but because I sometimes have trouble getting into a dish if I associate it with one style of food. I had this problem when I made Taco Stuffed Shells a while back. Stuffed shells are just an Italian dish that should have ricotta or cottage cheese as far as my taste buds are concerned. Would I have the same problem with this barbecue sauce-infused pasta dish? Luckily, no!

I’m a big fan of the one pot method for cooking this dish. You cook the bacon in the pan (I skipped the olive oil because of the bacon fat) and then toss in the diced chicken breast. From there you add the garlic and onion followed by the rest of the ingredients, including the pasta which actually cooks in the tomatoes, chicken stock and milk. Cover that up and let it cook for about 15 minutes, mix in the cheese and bbq sauce — we had Sweet Baby Ray’s on hand — and you’ve got dinner!

I wasn’t sure if the the sweetness of the sauce would throw my tongue for a loop, but this whole dish worked so well together that I didn’t even think about Italian food. In fact, the sweetness really popped and worked well with the saltiness of the bacon and the tomatoes. It all worked really well together and you can’t complain about making a whole meal in one pot!

Cooking Steak With Chickpeas, Tomatoes & Feta

As I mentioned last week, we’re trying to stick to a budget, so I’m paying a lot more attention to grocery store sales when coming up with our weekly menus. Last week, Hannaford had Flat Iron steak on sale, so I looked around in my Big Blue Binder for something and came across Real Simple’s Steak With Chickpeas, Tomatoes & Feta.

Recipe-wise, I used this as more of a guideline as you can see if you click through to the link. I mixed it up with the type of beef, went with hot house tomatoes instead of plums and swapped out cilantro for some thyme from our mini herb garden. Oh and I went with lime instead of lemon juice because that’s what I had on hand.

For the steak, I did my usual: rub down with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and throw in a very hot cast iron pan. I’m moving away from using the grill type pans and have just been working with the flat ones lately. Once I got the steak to the temp I wanted, I pulled it out and put the tongs underneath to help get the air all around it.

Then you make the salad, which is also super simple. Toss the chickpeas in the pan you just grilled the meat in and cook for 3-5 minutes before mixing in the tomatoes, lime juice and herbs. Once that was done, I put the mixture in a bowl and stirred the feta in.

I think this was probably the first time I cooked Flat Iron steak and I’ve got to say it was really tasty. I read in various places that that’s because it’s got good marbling. I have trouble remembering all the ins and outs of meat, but this one will hopefully stick out in my mind as a solid piece of meat for a simple grill session. Meanwhile, the tomato and chickpea salad was a really nice side dish that has room for all kinds of new flavors and additional veggies. I’d like to try this with some corn and see how that plays with the feta.

Cooking Arugula Pesto Pasta Primavera Salad

I’ve noticed recently that I’m getting to a place with my cooking where I don’t mind using a recipe as a spring board instead of a by-the-numbers rule book. Part of that comes from being a lot more comfortable in the kitchen and part comes from not reading recipes all the way through before adding the ingredients to my shopping list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll get to that day’s recipe read it through and realize there’s a major part I missed. In the case of this recipe for Arugula Pesto Pasta Primavera Salad from Hannaford’s Fresh magazine, I didn’t see that a major part of the process involved roasting vegetables in the oven at 450 degrees. I don’t know about where you guys are, but it’s been in the 80s for weeks now here and there’s no way I’m adding to that heat if I can avoid it. So, I decided to sauté my veggies. I also completely forgot the green beans and made homemade pasta for my version.

Aside from making the pasta which is always a time consuming, but rewarding process, this is a super simple recipe to put together that just involves the cutting up of some vegetables, some sauté time and a bit of food processing. To make room in my small kitchen, I made the pesto first. I followed the recipe as written, but wound up with a really bitter pesto from all that arugula. To balance it out, I added about 1/4 more parmesan and the juice of half a large lemon which helped balance everything out.

With that out of the way, it was veggie cutting time. I took my knife to the red pepper, squash, onion and tomatoes before tossing them in a bowl with oil and then popping them in my high-sided pan for sauté time. At this point I also had the water going for the pasta so everything would get done at about the same time for mixing. My timing wasn’t perfect, but everything came together nicely for a solid alternate version of pesto packed with vitamins and nutrients that my family really enjoyed.

The Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 67

pop poppa nap cast logoThe Pop Poppa Nap Cast Episode 67 gets into the realness of my first full day taking care of both kids, fixing our refrigerator and dealing with no water.

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I wrote about the crucial Itzbeen here, buy your own over on Amazon.

The books and movie I mentioned in the book review section are Ludwig Bemelmans’ classic Madeline, the Madeline: Meet Me in Paris DVD and Pinkalicious: The Pinkamazing Storybook Collection by Victoria Kann. if you’re curious about any of them, follow those links right to Amazon.

For more of me check out UnitedMonkee.com, MonkeyingAroundTheKitchen.com, Comic Book Resources and @PoppaDietsch on Twitter.

Cookbook Nook: My Big Blue Binder

I realized while writing yesterday’s post about the Ginger-Sesame Marinated Pork Loin that I’ve talked a lot about my Big Blue Binder without actually saying much about it. I stole this idea from my wife completely and I’m glad I did because it’s been a great way to integrate a variety of recipe sources into one place. Basically, this thing’s packed with recipes and ideas ripped out of magazines with a few printed off the internet or passed my way from family members, all of which are in plastic pockets so they don’t get too messed up in the binder or in the kitchen.

The main sources for these recipes are a series of magazines my wife and I have gotten over the years. I always pick up the Hannaford magazine when there’s a new one. That’s usually good for a few ideas. There was also a mysterious Good Housekeeping subscription that came in my name for a year even though I never paid for it and no one said they gifted it to us. But my wife’s subscriptions to Real Simple and Martha Stewart Living probably make up the majority of the book. When I get the okay from her, I basically go through a big stack of magazines and rip out what looks interesting and then put them into the BBB. This clears up space in your house and also gives you a piece of paper you can write on or toss if it doesn’t work out for you.

Originally, this thing was just a mess with all the recipes mixed up together, but then one day I figured it would make the most sense to actually get organized. I picked up a pack of those tabs and got to work breaking them down into subjects like Soup, Salads, Beef and the like. Of course, I soon ran into a problem when I realized a large number of pages don’t easily fit into one category. You know what I mean, those magazine spreads with a full meal laid out. So, I went with the easiest solution and just put them under a Misc. tab and moved right along.

While it did take a while to get things organized, I’m so glad I did. It’s great having books and websites that are relatively easy to search, but it’s nowhere near as easy when you’re dealing with a hodge-podge like this so even this level of organization can really streamline the process.