Growing up, my mom would always make us homemade popcorn on the stovetop. We’d sit around the tv, munching down our large bowls of popcorn, and lick the butter and salt off of our fingers when we were done. I remember the pot that my mom always used to pop popcorn in had turned almost entirely black, used only for popping popcorn, and had adapted this cast-iron quality to it. I asked her about the infamous “popcorn pot” during my recent trip to Wisconsin only to discover that my mom tossed it out years ago. I was especially saddened to hear that she has since fallen victim to the microwave and only makes microwave popcorn now.
Now, there isn’t really anything WRONG with microwave popcorn, if you like ingesting trans fats and scary chemicals. Microwave popcorn is convenient but stovetop popcorn is very easy to make and it’s cheaper than buying packs of microwave popcorn. A big bag of popcorn kernels is like buying popcorn in bulk – you save money in the long run. Plus homemade popcorn is like anything else you make at home, it tastes better than any processed food. How do you make delicious, perfectly light and fluffy popcorn in your own home you ask? Well let me tell you.
3 tablespoons coconut oil (my favorite) or extra virgin olive oil
Salt and butter (optional)
Put the oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add a couple kernels of popcorn. Cover and wait for the kernels to pop. Once they pop, remove the pan from the heat and remove the lid. This will ensure that the oil is at just the right temperature to pop your popcorn. Add the remaining kernels, replace the lid and place the pot over the heat again. The bottom of the pan should be covered in a single layer of kernels. Once the corn starts popping, move the lid slightly ajar so some of the steam can escape. This will result in lighter and fluffier popcorn. Give the pot an occasional shake from time to time.
When the popcorn slows to 1 or 2 seconds between each popped kernel, remove the pot from the heat and transfer the popcorn to a bowl. Season with salt, to taste. Drop a tablespoon or two of butter in the hot pan to melt it and drizzle the melted butter over your popcorn while tossing it with a spoon, optional (except in my household). Enjoy!
Have you ever wanted to make sun-dried tomatoes but you didn’t want to deal with insects, furry critters or any other outdoor elements? Maybe you’re like me and you’re afraid that your kitty will run off with all of your gorgeous garden tomatoes. This is a simple solution – oven-dry your tomatoes instead. Your precious tomatoes will be safe and sound in your oven and they’ll be ready to pop in your mouth by the end of the day. Sometimes I really love technology… unless my phone freaks out on me. Those moments really make me dislike technology. It’s a love/hate relationship.
This is a great way to use up leftover tomatoes that are about to turn. It’s a nice change from making marinara sauce. Plus sun-dried tomatoes may be the only dehydrated item out there that you could consider gourmet. Gettin’ fancy now.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F, or the lowest setting possible. Remove oven racks. Trim and discard the stem ends of the tomatoes. Halve each tomato lengthwise. Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, side by side and crosswise on cake racks set on the oven racks. Do not allow the tomatoes to touch one another. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
Place in the oven and bake until the tomatoes are shriveled and feel dry, anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. Check the tomatoes from time to time: They should remain rather flexible, not at all brittle. Once dried, remove the tomatoes from the oven and allow them to thoroughly cool on cake racks. (Smaller tomatoes will dry more quickly than larger ones. Remove each tomato from the oven as it is dried.)
Transfer the tomatoes to zipper-lock bags or submerge in olive oil with garlic and other Italian spices.
If you’re anything like me, you buy a whole pack of carrots and use two or three of them in one recipe and then before you know it, those gorgeous carrots start to dry out and threaten to turn. Because I’m a sucker and I buy the large bags of carrots EVER.SINGLE.TIME… I freeze whatever leftover carrots I have.
When you freeze fresh carrots, you should blanch them first. This way any unwanted bacteria is stopped in its tracks. Take that bacteria!
Begin by rinsing and peeling your carrots. Then chop off the ends (about 1/4-inch off of each side, give or take).
Chop your carrots however you deem fit. It’s always best to make letters in your pile of carrots afterwards. All of the best chefs do this. Try your best to keep each piece the same size so they blanch evenly.
I dice mine a little larger since I generally use frozen carrots in soups. Let’s call it a rustic dice-job.
This is a great time to improve your chopping skills. Here is a boo-boo of mine. Poor little guy, sometimes I chop too fast for my own good.
Fill a pot with water, enough to cover all of your carrots, and bring the water to a roaring boil. Add a bit of salt if you’d like (and I like). Add your carrots to the water and set your timer for 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the size of your carrots). If your carrot chunks resemble mine, set your timer for 5 minutes.
Drain your carrots and immerse them in icy cold water (complete with ice cubes). Let them sit in the icy water for 5-10 minutes. Drain your carrots again and place them in a single layer on paper towels to dry. Once your carrots are dry, place them in a freezer bag, write the date on it and freeze for up to 12 months.
Use the frozen carrots like you would use any frozen vegetable… in soups, stir-frys, or as a side dish. Simply pop the frozen carrots in a bit of boiling water for a few minutes to thaw and heat them through.
How was your Memorial Day Weekend? Did you get some BBQ in your belly? Chlorine in your hair? This weekend was, after all, the un-official kick-off to summer.
My weekend was simple. I got a few errands done, spent some time with some good people, ate some fantastic food, and whittled away at the apartment project. Oh and I almost forgot, I re-potted my plants too. My little seedlings are growing up so fast! I’m such an herb nerd.
In other news, I fell in love… with a sweet potato! Up until this point, I hadn’t really tried a sweet potato. Don’t judge me!! As a kid, my family would always serve a big bowl of canned yams and it left a weird impression on me. I never gave the sweet potato or yams the chance they deserve.
Lo-and-behold I bought one this weekend, baked it and I’m a fan! Deemed my new favorite snack. This recipe is so easy and tasty AND healthy! Whoa… my head is spinning. I’d better sit down and eat another sweet potato before I pass out.
Pre-heat the oven to 350° to 375°. Wash the potato lightly to remove dirt without breaking the skin then dry with a paper towel. Pierce the skin a couple of times with a fork to allow steam to escape and prevent possible bursting in oven.
If you wish to eat the skin (as I do), the skin may be coated lightly with some butter or a vegetable oil. DO NOT wrap in foil as you will get a soggy potato (the steam didn't escape) instead of the desired texture.
Place potato(s) on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 45-55 minutes (depending on the size of the potato and your taste in doneness). 50 minutes is perfect for eating by itself. 55 minutes for mashing. Flip the potato over halfway through cooking to distribute the butter/oil better.
Test potato for doneness by squeezing gently...if done the potato will be slightly soft.
Serve immediately with butter, cinnamon, chopped pecans, or brown sugar, etc.
To get restaurant quality Hollandaise sauce is a little tricky. The emulsion of egg yolks and butter that has dated as early as the 17th century is not something that comes easy to the novice chef. Hopefully with these tips, you’ll crank out the perfect Hollandaise sauce in your own home.
The most important part of this recipe is to keep the eggs moving constantly over a low, gentle heat (not piping hot but not room temperature either) then add the butter slowly to create a stable emulsion. If you do this, your sauce should turn out creamy and rich every time.
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fill a medium sauce pan with 1-inch of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low.
Place egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk until they lighten in color, about 1 minute.
Add the lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Place bowl with eggs over saucepan with simmering water and whisk constantly until thickened and doubled in volume, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove bowl from saucepan with water and whisk in butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Season with salt and use immediately or keep warm, covered, over double boiler over very low heat for up to 30 minutes.
Save your arms and make this in a Blender --
Put the egg yolk, lemon juice, and cayenne in a blender. Pulse a couple times to combine.
Put the butter in a small microwave safe bowl and melt in a microwave until just melted. With the blender running, gradually add the melted butter into the egg to make a smooth frothy sauce. If the sauce is very thick, blend in a teaspoon of lukewarm water loosen it up. Season with the salt and serve immediately or keep warm in a small heat-proof bowl set over hot (but not simmering) water until ready to serve.
Onions are naturally sweet and when you cook them oven an extended period of time, the natural sugars in the onions brown and caramelize. You’re left with sweet, buttery onions that are full of deep, rich flavors.
Use these onions on brats or steaks, for soups, dips, pizza or whatever. Heck, I’ll even eat them by themselves, they’re so good! Just keep in mind that any amount of onion you start with will reduce down like crazy. Make sure you have enough for everyone. 5 large raw onions will reduce to about 2 cups of caramelized onions.
If you make a big batch, caramelized onions will keep in the fridge for up to a week in an air-tight container. They freeze really nicely too. Keep small portions of onions in your freezer to thaw when needed.
Slice off the root and top ends of the onions and peel them. Cut the onions in half. Lay the cut side down and slice the onions lengthwise to desired thickness.
Use a wide, thick-bottomed sauté pan and coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and butter (about 1 teaspoon per onion). Heat the pan on medium to medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with oil. Spread the onions evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally. After 10 minutes, sprinkled some salt and sugar over the onions. Add a bit more butter and a splash of water to keep the onions from drying out.
Let the onions cook down for 30 to 60 minutes, stirring every few minutes. As soon as the onions start sticking to the pan, let them stick a little and brown, but then stir them before they burn. After the first 20 to 30 minutes you may want to lower the stove temperature a little, and add a little more oil if your onions are on the verge of burning. Scrape up any brown bits that may have formed on the bottom of your pan. Continue to cook and scrape until the onions are a rich, browned color.
At the end of the cooking process you might want to add a little balsamic vinegar or wine to help deglaze the pan and bring some additional flavor to the onions.
I wanted to make him something really special to make him feel welcome. I looked in my All About Roasting cookbook for some ideas. I like this book because it breaks down the science behind roasting everything and includes a million delicious recipes. In regards to chicken, the writer, Molly Stevens, describes how you can prep chicken two different ways: in a wet brine or dry salted. I used the brine method this time to create my tender and juicy chicken. This recipe is a take on my Lemon-Tarragon Chicken recipe.
For the brine, I used:
1 gallon cold water
3/4 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 lemons and their juice, quartered
1 bunch tarragon leaves (this is optional, but I love this flavor with chicken)
Bring all the ingredients to a boil and cool (or add ice cubes if you’re in a hurry). Remove the giblets from the chicken, put the chicken in a large ziplock bag and add the brine. Remove as much air as possible, seal and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours. This brine will leave your meat nice and moist while the skin crisps up in the hot oven.
For the chicken, we put our veggies (chopped in inch or so chunks) and red potatoes (quartered) in the pan first, then topped it with the dressed chicken. This way the veggies simmer in the flavorful chicken drippings. Yum!
I like to believe that Follow had the best meal of his life tonight. Welcome to Colorado little guy!
1 bunch tarragon leaves (this is optional, but I love this flavor with chicken)
For the chicken:
One 3-1/2 to 4-pound chicken
2 teaspoons olive oil or unsalted butter, softened
salt and pepper
1 lemon, reserved from brine
Vegetables, roughly chopped (optional - carrots, red potatoes, onion, etc.)
For the brine:
Bring all the ingredients to a boil and cool (or add ice cubes if you're in a hurry). Remove the giblets from the chicken, put the chicken in a large ziplock bag and add the brine. Remove as much air as possible, seal and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.
For the chicken:
Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Reserve one lemon from the brine and discard the rest. Let the chicken stand at room temperature for at least an hour. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 400 degrees F (375 degrees convection).
Arrange vegetables in a single layer in the bottom of a large ovenproof skillet or roasting pan. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables, breast side up, and tuck the wing tips back so they are secure under the neck bone. Place the lemon quarters in the chicken cavity. Rub the olive oil or butter evenly over the breast and legs, season heavily with salt and pepper. With a sharp knife, cut slits into each leg to ensure the legs cook evenly with the breast. Tie the chicken legs together tightly if you have some butcher's twine (or stab them with a soaked skewer like we did). This will plump the breast up and not only make your chicken more attractive, but help the breast cook evenly as well.
Roast the chicken with the legs facing the rear of the oven (the back of the oven is usually hotter, so this helps the legs cook more quickly than the breast). Continue roasting until the juices run clear with only a trace of pink when you prick the thigh and an instant thermometer insterted in the thickest part of the thigh (without touching bone) registers 170 degrees, 1 to 1-1/4 hours. If the chicken is not fully cooked, place it back in the oven. I've found that 15 minutes of cooking averages an increase of 10 degrees F internal temperature. Once the chicken is cooked, lift the chicken with a meat fork or sturdy tongs inserted in the cavity and carefully tilt to pour the juice from the cavity into the roasting pan.
Transfer the chicken to a carving board with a trough and let it rest for 20 minutes before carving and serving.
Reserve the chicken drippings to make chicken gravy if desired. Reserve the chicken bones and boil with various vegetables (onion, carrot, celery) and spices to make a delicious homemade broth.
Okay, maybe not that last one. Maybe. Just don’t come running to me when you feel sick from chugging a gallon of olive oil. Just sayin’.
Here’s what you do.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grab a baking dish large enough to hold all of your garlic comfortably. Take one of the heads of garlic and whack off about a half an inch off of the top. You want to expose the garlic enough so that it’s easy to get out once it’s roasted. Set both sides of your garlic in your baking dish (wrapper and all).
Now take your bottle of extra-virgin olive oil and dump the entire thing into the dish. You want your garlic to be completely submerged in the oil.
NOTE: If you only want roasted garlic instead of garlic-infused oil, simply drizzle the tops of your garlic with oil instead of submerging it.
Tightly cover your pan with aluminum foil and pop it into the oven. Roast this puppy for 45 – 60 minutes. This time will vary depending on the size of your garlic and your pan size. Start poking your garlic cloves with a fork after 30 minutes. You want your garlic cloves to be soft and lightly browned (soft enough to spread on a piece of bread is my preference), but you don’t want the tips to burn either.
Once your garlic is softened and let everything cool off (this will take a while). Take the cloves and pop them out one by one into a container. Pour a little oil in the container, cover and put it in the fridge to use later (or if you’re like me, you’ll find the smell so irresistible that you’ll spread it on something immediately and devour it!).
Roasted garlic (in a little oil) will keep in a refrigerator for months.
Pour the oil back into your original bottle (a funnel is handy here) or your favorite olive oil bottle and store chilled for up to two weeks.
Now go enjoy your immensely flavorful olive oil and roasted garlic.
I am sitting in my PJs watching Brazil and listening to the lid of the crock pot bubble and pop as my tri tip simmers. As I put my dogs up and sip my beer I have this sudden urge to get up and dance. I burst up, shooting droplets of beer everywhere in a golden frenzy and my feet start to move!
First, my toes begin tapping to a latin beat. Then my whole foot gets into it. Before I know it, I’m bounding and leaping across my entire apartment, spinning and dancing as if I were in a musical. Completely magical.
Anywho, this post has nothing to do with dancing, Brazil or tri tip for that matter (that will come in due time my faithful friends). Instead, I discovered this fantastic method of cooking chicken breast. The results are moist and tender and practically fool-proof. That’s right, I said it. I’ll even say it again … FOOL-PROOF.
Mix about a half teaspoon of salt in with the flour along with a little pepper. Chop the herbs finely, if using, and mix in well.
Quickly dredge the chicken breasts in the flour, so they are lightly coated with flour.
Heat the saute pan over medium-high heat. When it is quite hot, add the butter and the olive oil. Let them melt and swirl the pan.
Turn the heat to medium. Add the chicken breasts. Cook for just about 1 minute to help them get a little golden. Note that you are not actually searing or browning the chicken, you are simply creating a layer to lock juices in. Flip each chicken breast over.
Turn the heat to low. Put the lid on the pan. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and walk away. Do not lift the lid. Resist ever urge to peek!
After 10 minutes, turn off the heat. Reset the timer for 10 minutes and leave the chicken breasts in the pan. Again, do not lift the lid and do not peek.
After the 10 minutes are up you can finally peek! You should have soft, tender, juicy chicken that isn't dried out. Double check them to make sure there isn't any pink in the middle. Slice and devour.
I was at my local super market for something completely unrelated to this post when I ran into a couple of artichokes. Now, this wasn’t my first rodeo with an artichoke (you can see my handy work here), but these artichokes were particularly rude. These rabble rousers were wreaking havoc amongst the customers in the store. Punks. I decided to take them home against their will, trim their leafy bodies, chop off their heads and boil their insides until they were soft enough to devour.
They were asking for it, after all.
And now ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for a step-by-step guide (artichokes beware): How to prepare a fresh artichoke.
1. Trim off the little thorns on the end of the leaves.
2. Slice about 3/4-inch to an inch off of the top of the artichoke.
3. Pull off any small leaves towards the base and the stem.
4. Cut excess stem, leaving up to an inch on the artichoke. The stems tend to be more bitter than the rest of the artichoke.
5. Rinse the artichokes in cold, running water.In a large pot, put a couple inches of water, a clove of garlic, a slice of lemon and a bay leaf. Insert a steaming basket and add the artichokes. Cover. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 25 to 45 minutes or until the outer leaves can easily be pulled off. Cooking time depends on how large the artichoke is.
TO EAT AN ARTICHOKE
Pull off outer petals, one at a time.
Dip white fleshy end in melted butter or sauce. Place in mouth, dip side down, and pull through teeth to remove the soft, pulpy portion of the petal. Discard the rest.
3. Continue until petals are removed.
4. With a knife or a spoon, scrape out and discard the inedible fuzzy part (called the “choke”) covering the artichoke heart. The remaining bit is the heart. Cut into pieces, drench in sauce and devour.
Note that I couldn’t help taking a nibble out of the heart before I took a picture.
Today’s focus is on sinfully sweet chocolate and melting techniques. Chocolate is a fairly fragile substance and burns rather easily. So when it comes to those melty chocolate recipes you really don’t want to expose your delicious morsels to direct heat. There are a couple different methods that work well to melt chocolate.
Firstly, chop your chocolate into uniform pieces so it will melt at equal time.
Because all microwaves are different, this is my preferred method. Also I feel you have much more control over the melting of your chocolate than with a microwave.
To use this method, fill the bottom of a double boiler with water and place on low heat. Place your chocolate in the top of the boiler over hot (not boiling) water and allow it to melt. Do not cover. Stir until smooth and immediately remove the top of the boiler from the heat.
NOTE: If you do not have a double boiler, you can easily cheat this method by using a pan as your lower half and a large glass or metal bowl for the top half of your make-shift double boiler.
Place your chocolate into a glass container and place it in your microwave for 1 minute. You will probably need to melt the chocolate further. In between each heating, make sure you stir the chocolate to prevent scorching. Repeat until completely melted.
Fans of whipped cream know that homemade whipped cream is very different than then stuff that comes from an aerosol can. It tastes better, looks nicer, and it has no preservatives, which is always a plus.
The following is a step-by-step guide on how to create your own perfectly light and smooth whipped cream:
First things first, do not over-whip your cream! It happens fast, so watch for it. You’ll know by the texture and taste. Over-whipped cream is grainy and tastes heavy. Really, REALLY over-whipped cream starts to separate and form butter. You want your whipped cream to create soft peaks, and is light and billowy.
Start with cold heavy cream, granulated (or fine) sugar, and vanilla extract. You can also flavor the cream with vanilla sugar. You’ll need a whisk (if you’re up for some vigorous wrist action) or a hand mixer. A standing mixer is good for larger amounts of whipped cream, but you risk over-whipping. Your bowl should be big enough to accommodate the expanding cream.
Being whipping the cream. Rotate the beater around the bowl at a medium speed.
When the cream starts to thicken into the first hints of soft peaks — you’ll see little wave-like streaks through the cream., add a small amount of sugar and a few drops of vanilla. Add the sugar to taste. If you like barely sweetened whipped cream, use about 1 teaspoon per cup of cream. Load up to 1 Tablespoon per cup if you like sweeter creams. 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract per cup of cream should do it.
Reduce speed (to medium-low) and watch carefully. It’s almost done at this point. Note that with an electric mixer, a half-cut of cream will whip in under 2 minutes.
The whipped cream is done when it holds together enough to hold a dollop shape. Use it right away if possible. Spoon and enjoy!
Note: For a stiff and stable whipped cream (for decorating a cake), soften a little gelatin in cold water and then heat it to a simmer until the gelatin dissolves. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and add it to the cream, along with the sugar and vanilla.