Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Touchdown Taco Hummus

Back at the beginning of this football season I promised to publish a few heathful alternatives to the usual football snack items that tasted just as good as the junk food we all absolutely love. One of these items is Touchdown Taco Hummus. It has all the benefits of hummus plus a nice taco flavor that literally drove us wild here.

The Boss loves hummus way more than I do, so she's always taken charge of this snack dip. She uses a recipe from the guys at "Eat This, Not That" and modifies to her taste (as all cooks can and should do). I then decided that I'd make my own version from an idea off the internet and created Touchdown Taco Hummus.

As with hummus in general, the recipe is quite simple:

-- Touchdown Taco Hummus --

2 cans chic peas, drained and rinsed
1 large clove of garlic (or 2-3 small gloves)
1/2 teaspoon ground cummin
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup olive oil
1 package of taco seasoning (or 1-1/2 to taste)

Add all the ingredients into your food processor
Blend until proper consistency is acquired
(You can use the water from the chic pea cans or add an additional teaspoon or two if necessary)
Scoop into a serving bowl and garnish with cilantro, parsley, or chives. 

Most hummus recipes call for lemon, but for Touchdown Taco Hummus I put in a lime. The traditional lemon would work, but I like lime with other Mexican inspired dishes, so I kept up the tradition with this one.

The other great thing about this hummus recipe is it's a "two-for-one" recipe, because you can make it again on May 5... except you'd have to call it Cinco de Mayo Hummus.

Until next time...
Old El Paso offers up this super quick video that gives a slightly different visual version of this dip.

Tacoly Yours,

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

It's Beef Stew Season Too

This time of year, the magazine racks in checkout lanes at retail and grocery stores are packed with magazines and special editions of "comfort foods your family will love." And each publication throws headlines, pictures, and recipes you've seen and read a dozen times before. Honestly, they just recycle the same ol' things each year - they only update the advertisements. If you've read one of those magazines, you've read them all.

Don't waste the cash.

Two reasons why: 1) you can find all those recipes on the internet; and 2) you probably know how to make them anyway. But even if you don't, chances are good that if you've have any cooking experience under your belt, then you can figure it out.

That's what I did.

There was a time when even though I enjoyed cooking, my fear of screwing up drove me to buy things like the instant packaged stews to guarantee all went as planned. You know the kind, add a bunch of water, some meat, and dump the dried contents in a slow cooker. Wait four hours then serve. 

This time I wanted to do it the right way, So with about one minute of thought I wrote down the ingredients and figured out the directions from there. By the end of the day, I had a completely homemade beef stew, and like the chili I made a week or so ago, I plan to continue to modify this recipe so that with each iteration I make it better than the previous time.

Now, with all that being said, let me present to you a simple, basic beef stew. One that you can modify and adapt to your own preferences.

----- Basic Beef Stew -----

1-1/2 lbs of stew meat
1 large white onion, chopped
1-1/2 cups carrots, chopped
1-1/2 cups celery, chopped
3 medium cloves of garlic, minced
6 medium sized potatoes, cubed
4 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons salt (or to taste)

Turn your slow cooker on high
Dump in all the ingredients
Stir thoroughly until all ingredients are evenly distributed
Put the lid on.
Occasionally stir to make sure it all cooks evenly, but resist the temptation to constantly check it. Each time you check it, heat escapes, which will increase cooking time.
Once the beef and potatoes are cooked thoroughly, it's ready to serve (approximately four hours).  

This particular recipe makes enough for The Boss and me to eat multiple bowls per day for a couple of days, and like any good slow cooker stew or chili, the longer it sits, the more the flavor gets absorbed into the ingredients. In no time, your belly will be full, your eyes will droop with drowsiness, and you'll be all ready for the oncoming cold season.

Until Next Time...
Here's a video from Laura In The Kitchen that I wish I would have watched first. She has a couple of extra ideas I could have incorporated, and definitely will next time.
  Comfortably Yours,

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Chili Season -- The Boss Offers Her Recipe

It's Chili Season, folks - or what non-foodie's refer to as Fall.

So it's time for The Boss to put her chili skills to work and make a pot or two, or three. This year, though, we decided to take a slightly different approach. Basically, she'd write everything down and I would do the actual cooking. Then once I had her recipe down pat, I would begin making my personal modifications with the next few batches, and come up with my own style, which in the end would give us two or three separate chili recipes. Because, let's face it, no foodie can have too many recipes of anything.

I've always been the kind of guy, who when he craves some chili, buys a can of Chili Man, or swings by the local Steak-n-Shake or Wendy's. So with that in mind, my first instinct is to try to take The Boss's recipe and move it sideways to emulate some of the properties of either Wendy's or Steak-n-Shake (I haven't decided which one to try first). I could simply go out to YouTube and watch a dozen different videos on how to make copycat versions of each one, but where's the fun in that? I think it'll be more..."educational" (wink) to visit both restaurants a few more times and really study the chili, get to know the properties of each, and incorporate this in-the-field knowledge to my cooking artillery.

But first, let's start with the base, i.e. the main recipe I'll be working from. I want to call it The Boss's Chili, but since I've already named a pizza after her, I'll need to come up with a new name eventually. Its working title at the moment is: Ta-Da Chili.

----- Ta-Da Chili -----

  • 1 can red beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 1 large green pepper (diced)
  • 1 large red bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 red/purple onion (diced)
  • 6 cloves of medium-sized garlic (diced)
  • 2 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 lbs of lean ground beef
  • 1 lbs of lean ground turkey
  • two packets of chili seasoning (this time, The Boss chose Chili Man brand seasoning)
  • 2-4 cups of water (per preference)
  • Combine the meats and brown in a skillet. Drain if necessary. If the meat is lean enough, then don't drain and let the juices be a part of the final pot.
  • Transfer meat to a large enough stew pot and toss in all the other ingredients.
  • Add water to obtain the thickness of the chili that you desire. No more than four or else you'll have soup instead of chili.
  • Serve.
  • You can add the shredded cheese of your choice (pictured above is cheddar).
  • You can also add any hot sauce to your preference (The Boss favors sriracha).
The yield is enough for two grown adults to eat on for over a week.

So that's it, gang. A nice pot of chili, ready for football games, late night television mysteries, or sharing with neighbors around a fire pit in the backyard.

Until Next Time...
If you want to take the quick approach to learning how to make Wendy's Chili at home, here's a short video of everything you need to know.

Chilily Yours,

Thursday, September 22, 2016

St. Louis Style Pizza (The Debate)

Many locales across the country have their unique style of pizza, from the Brooklyn style on one coast to the California and Hawaiian styles on the other. A pizza fiend such as myself can always find something new, some unique combination of ingredients or crust or tradition. That's one of the things that makes pizza fun and has earned it a spot as one of the most popular food in the United States.

For just a regular consumer who is just as likely to eat a frozen pizza from the store or buy one from a local pizzeria or chain like I did for years, the world of pizza is just that. Pizza is pretty much pizza --- easy to make and delicious to eat. End of story.

People are generally aware of their local pizza style along with a few others, but don't really give it much thought beyond that. In my region it was St Louis style pizza. And while I actually grew up a few hours east of St. Louis, I was well aware of the style and ate it nearly all the time. In fact, the first and third pizzeria I worked at served St. Louis style pizza even though they didn't call it that.

I wouldn't call it my favorite style of pizza because I have so many I love, but I would definitely say it's my preferred and "Go-To" style.

So imagine my surprise when reading "Pizza: A Slice of American History" by Liz Barrett when the author referred to St. Louis style pizza as a subcategory of "Bar/Tavern/Party-Cut" style and lumped it in with many other style of pizzas that come from the midwest. I'm sure I wasn't the only one put off by this slight. She even included the Chicago (non-deep dish) style in this category. Her basic argument was that if it is cut into squares, came from the midwest, and originated sometime during the 1950s, then it was "bar" pizza.

Of course my first thought was "New York Snob." You can find this sort of snobbery in many aspects of society, from the arts to clothing. Basically, if it's not from New York or California, then it's automatically inferior. Now, keep in mind, that was my gut reaction from previous experiences, so that may not be the case here and I'm just defensively jumping to conclusions.

Yes, she's more of a pizza expert than I am currently am, but there are plenty of other pizza experts who do consider St. Louis style a style of its own and do not relegate it to a subcategory of bar owners who wanted to sell cheap pizzas to drunk guys playing pool. 

What makes St. Louis style unique begins with the crust. Not only is it cracker thin, it contains baking powder instead of yeast. It is also topped with Provel cheese, which is a combination of up to three different types of cheese, and does not include mozzarella. From there, it's pretty standard compared to other pizzas, but it is cut into squares both for stylistic and practical purposes since the wedge shape on such a thin crust doesn't bode well for holding a lot of weight in cases of multiple toppings.     

If you've never had this style of pie, you should give it a try just to put that notch on your pizza belt. But do be cautious: Never tell a St. Louisan that St. Louis style pizza is just "bar pizza" and not worthy of its own category. (wink)

Until Next Time...
Here's a video of a home cook explaining how to make a St. Louis style pizza. She clearly isn't from St Louis since she sometimes says "St. Louie" and the phrase she quotes at the end is actually a commercial jingle for local chain "Imo's" and is not anything anyone in St Louis actually says. But if you want to know how to do it, this is worth the seven minutes.

Squarely Yours,

Monday, September 12, 2016

Football Snacks - First Tackle Baked Potato Skins

I should know by now, the first time I make something it rarely turns out as pretty as I picture it in my head. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised, but most of the time I'm slightly disappointed in the dish's appearance. That's why I continue to "practice," and each subsequent attempt turns out better and better.

The first new item I decided to tackle for Opening Day of the NFL Season (Broncos v Panthers) is the traditional Baked Potato Skins. An appetizer staple in many restaurants, both small and franchised, this simple little item is fun and quite tasty.

I began by frying the bacon the night before. This had the benefit of saving me time during the game, and had the added benefit of filling the house with the smell of bacon and driving The Boss The Boss crazy because I wouldn't let her have a strip.

The next evening, prior to the game we had T-bone steaks and fresh green beans. Once that meal had settled a little and I finished my beer, I headed back to the kitchen and prepped the potatoes in time with the opening kickoff.

Unintentionally, I kind of did them backwards. Many people put the bacon in first and then the cheese on top. It allows for monitoring how much the cheese melts and determining when to pull them out of the oven. What I did, though, was to put the cheese into the skins first and then sprinkled the top with the bacon. As the cheese melted, the bacon sank, and made it hard to judge the state of the cheese, and also made these less visually appealing than most renditions of the recipe.  So while they may not have been the prettiest thing to come out of my oven, they were tasty enough that The Boss and I ate way more than we should have.

I did learn a bit from these those, including how essential it is to drizzle the potato skins with olive oil prior to adding the ingredients and sticking them back in the oven. If you skip the olive oil, the skins don't crisp up.

  1. Bake approximately six potatoes (feel free to use a microwave if you want)
  2. Cut the potatoes in half, remove most of the pulp
  3. Drizzle in olive oil.
  4. Add your chosen ingredients, for instance, cheddar cheese, bacon, chives/green onions, 
  5. Put dressed potatoes in oven pre-heated at 400 degrees or more
  6. Remove once cheese is melted and skins look crisp. Can be 7 - 15 minutes depending on your oven. 
  7. Add sour cream or yogurt if you desire.
Easy enough? Of course. And you can have fun by experimenting each Sunday with new ingredients. Which has me thinking - The Boss and I both like anchoivies. I wonder how those would be.....?

Until Next Time,
Here's how a professional makes this same appetizer.

Potatolly Yours,

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Football Party Snacks Traditional and Healthful

I'm always emotionally torn this time of year. I love Summer and nearly everything about it. But I like Fall as well. Fall, though, has an additional advantage that Summer lacks - Football!

Yes, it's that time of year again when The Boss losses me every Sunday until February. From years of experience she's learned that if she wants anything out of me, she better ask for it on Saturday.

This year will be only slightly different. Oh, I still won't be doing any major projects on Sunday, but as far as dinner and cooking, that will be taken to a whole new level and realms unexplored.

In the old house, Sunday dinners were quite an ordeal as I ran back and forth between the kitchen and television, eventually leaving us with a subpar meal or one that was prepared so late it was nearly time for bed. But now, with the new house, I have a clear view of the large screen television from the kitchen,  and as an added bonus, I have DirecTV NFL Sunday ticket. I won't miss a single Seattle Seahawks game while I party in the kitchen.  Can you say "awe inspiring"?

The temptation to cook more and more elaborate snacks and appetizers will only increase with each week of the season as I try to add variety and originality from the previous weeks. It will be Football Food Heaven - all varieties of chicken wings, imaginative pizza combinations that will spin your head, and chips with salsa, cheese, and chili that'll leave ya bloated until next week.

But when I think past these immediate exalted images and sensations, I realize that this approach may not necessarily be a healthy one - afterall it was over ten years ago when I quit smoking and spent entire Sundays at a local sports bar, watching football and drowning myself in hot wings and beer, eventually earning an additional 60 pounds of bulk to carry around by the time Spring hit.

So with that in mind, I've decided that each Sunday of this coming season I'll have one of the traditional, often high calorie, snacks paired with at least one healthful alternative. And I'm talking more than just your average veggie tray (which for many football fanatics is usually nothing more than scooping large amounts of Ranch dressing with a celery or carrot stick).

A quick search of the internet has landed two new appetizers already. The first snack comes courtesy of Old El Paso and is simply called Taco Humus (let that idea roll around in your head a moment). I figure I can pair this with the traditional Loaded Nachos, and have a Mexican theme snack day.

The second snack is Zucchini Parmesian Crisps directly stolen from The Food Network website. Since it's zucchini and parmesian, I'm guessing this might go well with my personal favorite - Pizza. The Italian spices on the pizza will be a good compliment with the sprinkled parmesian baked on the zucchini.

If you can't wait to see how they turn out for me, follow each of the links I provided above to find the recipes and discover for yourself.

In the next few weeks, I'm going to continue to comb the internet and pull all the cook books off the shelves in my search for inspiring healthful alternative. I'll share each one here, as well as post pics on my Instagram account. So bookmark this blog, follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and I'll see you on the I mean, the kitchen.

Until Next Time...
Here are two videos (Video #1 and Video #2) that tackle the theme of gastronomically entertaining football parties.

Scoringly Yours,