I am constantly amazed at how animated and talkative people get when you mention food. The mere aroma of certain foods can evoke memories that transport us back to a special place and time. Food can bridge the gap between all ages, races and ethnicities.
Let's face it, the only thing that should ever come between people is a table and some serving bowls.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

This Post Just "Popped" Into My Mind.

Popcorn is one of those blank slate ingredients that allows your imagination to run wild. You can go sweet or savory; make it Mexican with a little chili powder or Italian with some garlic and basil. You can drizzle it with chocolate or caramel or add fruits and nuts and turn it into a trail mix. You can roll popcorn into balls or press into cakes, make it into clusters or just eat it loose out of bag, box or bowl.
Popcorn is so inexpensive; it's filling, loaded with fiber and for the most part very healthy depending on how we prepare it.
I don't believe that I have ever met anyone who doesn't like popcorn.....so get popping and start snacking!

Pizza Popcorn

1/3 c. butter
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. onion powder
10 c. fresh popcorn

Melt butter. Add Parmesan cheese and seasonings. Pour over popcorn in shallow baking pan. Stir to mix. Heat in preheated oven at 300 degrees for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Popcorn Cake
1 Bundt pan full of popcorn
1 (12 oz.) jar dry roasted peanuts
1 (16 oz.) pkg. M&M'S®
1 (16 oz.) pkg. marshmallows
1 stick butter

Important: Spray all utensils with a non stick spray.

In a large mixing bowl, mix popcorn, peanuts and M&M'S®. Melt butter and marshmallows together over low heat. When completely melted, pour over popcorn mixture in bowl and stir gently. Pack in Bundt pan. Let stand for 10 minutes. Turn pan over and lift off. Cake should slide right out.

Chocolate Popcorn Clusters

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 tbsp. butter
2 c. popcorn
1 c. coarsely chopped nuts

Lightly oil cookie sheet. Melt chocolate and butter over hot water in double boiler. In large bowl mix popcorn and nuts, then pour melted chocolate over, toss. Spoon candy in clusters onto oiled sheet. Store in tightly covered container in cool place, layered by wax paper or plastic wrap.

Peanut Butter Popcorn
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. corn syrup (light)
1/4 c. peanut butter
4 c. popcorn, popped

Combine sugar and syrup in large pan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to full boil. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla. Mix well. Pour over popcorn and stir until coated.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rockin' Good Rabbit

I just saw my neighbor walking into his house joined by his hunting dog and their obvious catch of the day, three rabbits. I guess I am not as squeamish as I use to be as a child, don't get me wrong I did say to myself; awe poor cute little bunnies. I do sometimes feel like such a cold heartless individual when I crave and eat meat but it is an honest natural craving I cannot escape.
I have had rabbit prepared in so many different ways from country fried, braised in wine and I have even had it barbequed which is very good by the way. As good as all those preparations have been this recipe has to be my absolute favorite. There is uniqueness to these flavorings being combined together, it actually seems like it shouldn't work but let me tell you that it does. These flavors work in a big way, you find yourself slowly processing each individual bite with an inquisitive delight.
This recipe is side dish friendly so whether you like potatoes, rice or stuffing, salad, cauliflower, or broccoli. Whatever you choose they will all compliment this rabbit perfectly.

Cinnamon Rabbit

1 rabbit cut into pieces or 3 rabbit loins
4 Strips of bacon cut into bite size pieces
1/4 cup of melted butter
1 tbsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Nutmeg
2 tbsp. Horseradish
1/2 cup of water
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sauté the 4 strips of bacon over medium-high heat in butter till some of the bacon grease renders, do not let bacon get crisp, add rabbit and brown in butter and bacon, about 2 or 3 minutes on each side. Place rabbit and drippings along with bacon pieces in baking dish. Stir remaining ingredients into a 1/2 cup of water and pour over rabbit.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 35 minutes or until tender.

FYI- No need to hunt for your rabbit these days, most grocery stores carry most game meats packaged and ready to go for your convenience.
In a pinch this recipe works equally well with any type of poultry.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mutant Muffins

As much as I love eating popovers I actually think I like the process of making them even more. It is like watching some fascinating science experiment that mutates right in front of your eyes. Out of nowhere this seemingly harmless batter just begins to morph and expand into this magical mushroom cloud in your oven. When this happens it leaves the middle of the popover full of giant air pockets which are perfect for holding little pools of melted butter just waiting to trickle down your chin, now doesn't that sound good.

Sharp Cheddar Popovers

2 eggs
1 c. water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese, well packed

In bowl, beat eggs, water, salt and flour until smooth, using a wire whisk. Blend in the cheese. Grease popover pans generously, you may also use a muffin pan.                                                                                                              ]

Fill cups no more than 2/3 full.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 35 minutes longer. Remove from cups. Pierce a hole into side of each popover to allow steam to escape to keep popovers crispy. Keep in warm oven no longer than 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 popovers.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sometimes Nasty Is Good

I love the nasty bits, which is why I am such a huge Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern fan. I absolutely love tripe, I grew up eating it Italian style in tomato sauce and over the years have had the pleasure of enjoying tripe in a variety of preparations. During the cold winter months I tend to eat more soup than usual, it just seems to warm me from the inside out which is quite welcoming when you are cold to the bone 90 percent of the time. It is the perfect food any time but even more so when the thermometer dips below freezing.There is a traditional Mexican soup that incorporates some of my favorite nasty bits; tripe and pigs feet. If you're lucky there are some restaurants that make their menudo with all assorted types of nasty bits which might gross most people out but for me it is pure taste bud heaven. Another traditional ingredient in this soup is hominy, which is dried corn that has been soaked in lye-water to remove the hull. The soaking causes it to swell and it is about three times the size of a normal corn kernel. Hominy comes in white or yellow depending on the corn they used, it has a strong unique flavor that is hard to describe but quite delicious and hearty.
This recipe I have used is very open to variation feel free to add more meats, chili's, herbs whatever you would like but it must have the tripe, pigs feet and hominy to keep it traditional....but there are no food police here so do with it what you will.
Menudo cooks long and slow in order to tenderize the tripe and soften the pig's feet, this slow cooking also intensifies all the flavors. Whenever possible make your menudo a day or two ahead of time for all the flavors to truly marry for the ultimate experience.

Easy To Make Menudo

3 lbs. honeycomb tripe
2 pig's feet
2 lg. cans hominy
1 can enchilada sauce
48 oz. can chicken broth
6 large cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
1/4 c. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. of crushed red pepper or cayenne (may also chop up a jalapeno or one of your favorite hot peppers for added spice).
Chopped white onion
Salt to taste
1 Lime, cut into wedges
Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish as well as flavor
1 package of flour tortillas steam to soften or quickly run them over a hot flame. Tortillas are traditionally served with this soup instead of the usual crackers or bread used with other types of soup.

Wash and cut honeycomb tripe into bite size pieces. Put in large soup kettle along with pig's feet. Cover with water and boil with garlic for about 30 minutes. Add all other ingredients except onion. Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer for about 3 to 4 hours. When cooked, serve in soup bowls, spooning fresh, chopped onion on top and a squeeze of fresh lime and a generous sprinkling of cilantro.

This soup freezes very well so make extra to have on hand.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Julie's Got Game!

My father, grandfather and Uncle all went hunting together when I was growing up so we ate quite a variety of game meats. I was fine with eating the rabbit...that is until I saw the cute little furry thing blood stained being carried in the house by my father. I'd like to say the sight of that rabbit sent me running towards vegetarianism but sadly it did not. It merely kept me from partaking in rabbit for a short time.
I very much enjoyed the pheasant it was very mild in flavor not gamey at all but I do have to say I had a real hard time with the venison. My family loved it but no matter how many different ways that it was prepared I still found it too strong and much too gamey.
Over the years I continued to try venison in various forms but it wasn't until I was in my early thirties that I really developed a love for it. One of my favorite preparations using venison is chili. I actually think chili tastes better with venison than it does with any other type of meat. I am given a great deal of venison meat each year so I am always trying to come up with different ways to make it so we don't get bored eating the same old thing over and over again. I have hit on a couple really great flavor combinations using venison which I will share with all of you in future posts. For now lets start with a truly delicious recipe for venison chili of course if you are unable to get any venison you may substitute any meat of your choosing.

Venison Chili

2 lbs. venison, cubed or ground
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
4 lg. tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 med. onions, coarsely chopped
2 bell peppers, large dice
1 Jalapeno pepper, remove seeds and mince finely
2 cups of water
2 tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup of molasses
1 cup of red wine
4 tbsp. cooking oil
1 tbsp. sweet basil
1/2 tbsp. black pepper, coarsely ground
1 tsp. salt

In a large pot, sauté venison in hot oil until slightly browned. Add garlic, onion, and bell pepper; continue to sauté until onion is translucent. Add water, tomatoes, jalapeno pepper, chili powder, cumin, molasses, salt, pepper, and basil; simmer for at least 2 hours. 30 minutes before serving, add red wine.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Begin Again In 2010

A New Year’s Toast

Here’s to the new year...
May it bring more joy and success
And less grief and regret.
To our dreams...
May we never stop believing in them
and taking the actions that will make them a reality.
To our friends, loved ones, associates (or colleagues)...
May we take the time to let them know
how much it means to us
to have them in our lives.
Let us encourage more and criticize less,
Give more and need less.
And whenever we can,
Let us create harmony and peace.
To new beginnings...
Let us start fresh, right now,
To make this the very best year ever.
A very Happy New Year to all of us!

By Joanna Fuchs

10 Cup Cookies

1 c. butter
1 c. peanut butter
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. coconut
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. raisins
1 c. chopped nuts
1 c. quick cooking oatmeal
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Cream the peanut butter, butter, sugars, and eggs. Add combined flour, baking soda, baking powder. Stir in chocolate chips, coconut, raisins, nuts, and oatmeal. Drop by teaspoonful on slightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.