Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Poke Tuna Florida Style

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

I was gifted with a beautiful big piece of super fresh Yellowfin Tuna today.  I rarely ever cook beautiful tuna, it seems to be a let down from delicious, raw tuna.  So, I looked at a couple of different poke recipes, and picked this and that, and came up with my own.  It was fantastic!

INGREDIENTS:  1 lb. Sushi Grade Ahi Tuna; 6 Thin Scallions, finely sliced, white and tender green parts only; 2 tbsp. Soy Sauce; 1 tsp. Sesame Oil; 1 Tbsp. Sesame Seeds, 1 tsp. Rice Wine Vinegar; 1 tsp. Fresh Ginger, grated; 1/4 Jalapeno pepper, finely diced; 1 tsp. Key Lime Juice.  Note:  You can also add some avocado, or serve in avocado halves, but I skipped that part, because I didn’t have a ripe, gigantic Florida avocado today.

Keep tuna in the refrigerator until the sauce is complete.  Make the sauce. Combine the sliced scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, ginger, chopped jalapeno, and lime juice in a small bowl).  In a small fry pan, toast the sesame seeds until they are a light to medium brown.  Be careful, they go from just toasted perfectly to burnt in five seconds.  When they’re done, pour immediately into the liquid in the bowl.  Sizzle city!  Set aside.  Take the tuna out of the fridge, and dice with a super sharp knife into 1/2″ cubes.  Place in a bowl, and pour over the poke sauce.  Stir carefully to combine.  Give the poke tuna about five minutes in the freezer to get super cold.

Serve on individual pieces of bib lettuce, crackers, or (like me) with a pair of chopsticks.  Share if you can bear it.  Otherwise, eat it all yourself!

Chocolate Chocolate Cake ~ Best Ever

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) makes the most delicious super-duper chocolate cake in the world, called Beatty’s Chocolate Cake.  It has become our “go-to” birthday cake.  Merrion made it last year for Mason’s birthday (she’d never made a “scratch cake” before), and her comment was “it’s so EASY!”.  Give it a try…..highly recommend!

It seems a little strange when you’re making it, the addition of hot fresh coffee (we use Starbucks’ Komodo Dragon, as always) makes the batter seem very loose and liquid.  You’ll think “no way” this is going to work, but the recipe for the cake is absolutely perfect!  The only thing we do differently is to use 9″ pans instead of 8″ pans.  They come out of the oven so rich, and dark, and moist, that they almost look black!

Right out of the Oven

Right out of the Oven

If you rotate your pans half way through baking, the cakes will be so nice and even that you won’t even need to trim your cake before icing it.  Speaking of icing, we always make a double batch.  Because there is no such thing as too much chocolate buttercream!

Melting the Chocolate for the Buttercream Icing

Melting Chocolate for the Buttercream Icing

After letting the cake and icing cool for a bit, it’s time to put the icing on the cake.  Then sit back, and enjoy the kudos you’ll get from the birthday boy or girl!  (The picture of our cake is from a rather low angle, the cake is much taller than it looks in the photo).  Island Girl & I made this one for our friend, Gloria….who told me it didn’t even last one whole day!

Chocolate IS Love

Chocolate IS Love

The addition of coffee in the batter is barely discernible, it just seems to enhance the flavor of the chocolate.  The instant coffee (we use Starbucks’ Via) in the buttercream icing is more apparent, and so delicious you won’t believe your taste buds!  Give this recipe a try, I promise it will become an instant hit with all of your chocolate lovers.

Bon Appetit!

~ Blonde Gator

How to Perfectly Roast Chile Peppers

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

Since meeting the Iguana Man, I’ve learned how to cook with both dried and fresh chile peppers.  But, until today, I hadn’t quite mastered the art of “roasting” of fresh peppers.  I don’t have a gas stove, so I’ve been scorching them on my grill.  And in this summer heat, suffering to the point of heat stroke every time I’ve roasted them!

I used to just turn the flames up, and let the chiles cook, standing in front of the grill and turning, and turning, and turning.  Sometimes they’d be burned, to the point that the flesh under the skin had disappeared.  Other times, the peppers weren’t cooked enough to easily peel off the skin.

Here’s the perfect method:  Start all four burners on your grill, turn down to medium, and let heat up for ten minutes or so, until the internal temperature reaches 425 degrees.  Place the chiles on the grill, putting the largest chiles on the hottest parts of your grill.

Close the cover, and set the timer for 4 minutes.  Here’s what your chiles should look like…note there’s some char, and blistered skin, but not overcooked chiles.  This photo was snapped right after the first turn.

Roasting the Chiles

Roasting the Chiles

Turn all of the chiles, and reset the timer for 3 minutes, again cooking with the cover shut.  Remove the chiles, to a big bowl, taking off the most charred chiles first, and moving any that are still not slightly scorched to a hotter heat source while removing the well charred chiles.  Cover the chiles with tight fitting plastic wrap, and let them steam for about 25 minutes.  Once they’re cool enough to handle, it’s time to peel and de-seed them.

The easiest way I’ve found to peel them is to use my lasagna pan, and put a small bowl of water in the middle of the pan to rinse off sticky skins and seeds.  Be sure to use latex gloves…or your hands will tingle from the capscasin for a day or two!

Ready to Peel

Ready to Peel

Just get comfortable (I sit on the sofa and peel & remove seeds as I watch TV).  Try to remove almost all of the skins, and most of the seeds.  Use the water to clean your gloved fingers off….don’t dip the chiles in the water if you can help it.  Some seeds are good!  Save the yummy juice in the bottom of the bowl, too!

A Whole Bowl of Chili Peppers, Ready to Bag & Freeze

A Whole Bowl of Chili Peppers, Ready to Bag & Freeze

I’m so thrilled that I finally found THE easy way to prepare the chiles, that I just roasted off 14 lbs. of Anaheims, which Walmart is conveniently carrying!  That’s about 1/4 of the cost of ordering them (and having them shipped) from New Mexico.  The final weight of the roasted/peeled chiles is 5 1/2 pounds!  I put between 7 – 7.5 ounces of roasted, peeled & seeded chiles (and 2 tbsp. juice) in each ziplock sandwich bag, removing all of the air in the bag, then froze the baggies on a flat surface for easy storage later.

A baggie or two is perfect for Green Chicken Chili (depending on the size of your chili batch, of course), or use one baggie of chiles, chopped, to make a delicious salsa for eggs, enchiladas, etc.  I also am fond of making “green cream”….about a cup of heavy cream, whipped with a 1/2 tsp. salt, and a baggie of chopped green chiles.  Be careful….that stuff is totally addictive!

Bon Appetit!

~ Blonde Gator

 

mmmm…Cheesecake w/Chocolate Crust

Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Happy Father’s Day to the Iguana Man.

Chocolate Cheesecake

Chocolate Cheesecake

Recipe is here (at the bottom).

~ Blonde Gator

Happy Today, Happy Tamale!

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Every once in a while I get the Jones’ for Tamales.  And serindipitously, the banana trees just happened to push some beautiful, new, unblemished (untorn) leaves.   (Click here for the “before” pics)….. So, before the yard guys got here to trim up the bananas, I cut some of them to make my favorite tamale wrappers.

Delicious!

Delicious!

While I love chicken enchiladas, I just don’t think the chicken filling works as well as pork with red chili in the red tamales, so those are my go-to.  I roasted off about a seven pound pork butt, and made two big trays of red enchiladas, as well as about a dozen tamales.

The recipe for roasting the pork for both applications is here.  Making the enchiladas is here.  And the recipe for tamales is here.

Steamed Banana Leaves (rolled up), Steamer Basket w/2 Layers of Tamales, 8 Quart Pot, Ready to Steam

Steamed Banana Leaves (rolled up), Steamer Basket w/2 Layers of Tamales, 8 Quart Pot, Ready to Steam

Bon Appetit!

~ Blonde Gator

P.S.  I found out I could FREEZE the steamed banana leaves, so I will no longer have to wait for a sufficient number of perfect leaves to make tamale wrappers out of.  Woo Hoo!  Merely cut out the center stem, pile atop one another, roll them into a tight cylinder, steam and then wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, then foil, for the freezer.  Voila!

A Happy Easter Was Had By All

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

My BFF & I, the Island Girl, decided to do up Easter by making several dozen sugar cookies, flooded with Royal Icing, as well as making up some fancy baskets for Mason & Blonde Mom.  Island Girl is an expert baker (I was the pan holder, and I learned a lot from her about the difference between baking and cooking….precision is the key!).

The Sunday before Easter, I gathered up my stuff, I’d gone on a preparation safari to JoAnn’s fabrics, where I purchased baskets, ribbon, some cool cookie cutters, egg dye, Bunny Pez, Peeps, a Transformer Egg, “straw”, etc., as well as the (recommended by Island Girl) Gel dyes for the icing and some other stuff at another store.  AND I found some really spectacular Easter Egg dye….instead of the usual same-old with cups, vinegar, water, and dipping….these had pastel metallic dyes in little ketchup-like packets, and baggies for each of the five colors.  So we sat on IG’s patio (whilst visiting the Tea Trolley), in between making batches of cookies, and dropped beautiful colors on our hard boiled eggs, (drying was a problem, as it was raining, a beautiful spring tropical misty rain, 100% humidity)…and then dropping them in another color.  We were super pleased with the results.  After a leisurely day of baking cookies, and just having fun, we had 40 big cookies.

Wonderful New Egg Dye ~ Love These!

Wonderful New Egg Dye ~ Love These!

We spent three more days, about 3 hours each time, decorating the cookies.  Island Girl had never done the “flooding” with the Royal Icing before…and of course, not being a baker, neither had I.  But before we started out, I did a fairly thorough search of internet pictures for ideas (we had a bunny and a big egg cookie cutter), and printed out some ideas.  And we also watched about 25 minutes of YouTube videos.  Let me tell you….it’s NOT AS EASY AS IT LOOKS.

Cookies in the Early Stages

Cookies in the Early Stages

On our last day, we finally got the correct techniques down (both the consistency of the icing….and the piping) and got pretty speedy at it.  We were very pleased with the results.  Here they are, all wrapped up (fortunately the expert baker, IG, had the appropriate “treat bags”, the only ones I could find were all decorated…what’s the point of that w/beautiful cookies?).  I took this at night, most of the “orange” is actually bright pink…alas color saturation was off.

Some of the Finished Cookies

Some of the Finished Cookies

And then, we put the whole shebang together.  Kudos to the Iguana Man (*cough* chocoholic *cough) for the wonderful treats.  Super happy with the results of the basket adventure.  Did I mention there are now 1 lb. solid Reese’s bunnies?  Who knew?

A Basket for a Reese's Fiend (1 lb. Chocolate Reese's Bunny)

A Basket for a Reese’s Fiend (1 lb. Chocolate Reese’s Bunny)

 

Blonde Mom's Easter Basket

Blonde Mom’s Easter Basket

A Huge Basket Any Six Year Old Would Love

A Huge Basket Any Six Year Old Would Love

Sugar highs all around.

~ Blonde Gator

 

 

“It’s SOOOO Cheesy!”

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

That was the response when I fed the kindergartener my homemade spinach & mushroom lasagna.  Not bad for a little kid, who generally prefers red sauce and is a super sausage fiend.  He was so sweet…”you’re a really good cooker”….and of course, the reply is “well, you’re a REALLY good eater!”.  (No kidding, he ate 3x an adult portion, LOL!!!!).

Spinach Lasagna done

 

I read a couple of different recipes (Emeril, Tyler, Food Network, AllRecipes), and did a combination, per the usual.  My final recipe is here.

Do give it a try, it is spectacular.  The roasting of the mushrooms, and really squeezing the moisture out of the spinach gives it a beautiful texture.  Plus, how can you beat spinach, baby bellos, and 4 cheeses?  Not even my Gators can do that!

~ Blonde Gator

Fall is Just Around the Corner

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Late Friday night, I heard the train blow its crossing whistle about three miles away, which means the wind is from the west and a very tiny “cold” front had come through.  In South Florida, this doesn’t mean much in the way of dropping temperatures in September, but it does lessen the sauna-like humidity somewhat.  It is also the signal to get ready for growing season!

Fall is arriving in other areas of the country as well.  Iguana Man lived in Albuquerque, and has shared the tales of the Hatch, New Mexico Chile Festival, which happened last weekend.  Since we couldn’t go to New Mexico this year (but we’re going to Black Mountain, NC in a couple of weeks), we did the next best thing, and ordered 10 lbs. of Hatch Green Chilies.

They were beautiful when they arrived (although one had already turned red!):

Hatch Green Peppers, Freshly Arrived from New Mexico

So, after the Gator game yesterday (whew!), I fired up the grill and roasted off the peppers.  The key is to roasting the peppers is to keep them from becoming over-charred, but to make sure that all sides of the pepper are thoroughly blistered.  After grilling, place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, and let them steam until they’re cool enough to handle.  The peeling and de-seeding is pretty straight forward, although a bit messy and time consuming.  But well worth the effort:

Roasted, Peeled, and De-Seeded Hatch Peppers

So tonight we’ll be having some green chicken chili, and I’ll be bagging and freezing this seasonal delicacy for future use.  I promised the Island Girl I’d bring some to NC in a couple of weeks.  But before I go, I have to get my garden prepared, and get my specialty pepper and tomato seeds going, as well as replant my annual herbs.  Once the weather cools a bit, the growing season will truly get under way, and there’s a special bonus, too….the orchids start blooming again after their Death Valley summer (they grow like weeds but don’t bloom in the heat).

Bon Appetit

~ Blonde Gator

[Edit:  Green Chicken Chili Recipe ~ Delicioso!]

Something New, Something Old

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

I made raviolis the other day….stuffed with baby bellos, spinach, garlic and parmesan, using my new KitchenAid and pasta roller.  It was so much fun!  (I’ll take some pics next time, this was a trial run).

When I shared my joy about something new with my good friend and fellow cook Mary….she sent me back the most delightful e-mail, explaining the old-fashioned way her mother and grandmother used to make raviolis (authentic!!!):

….I stick with the traditional ricotta cheese filling.  Never did like meat-filled ravioli, and well, if I put mushrooms in, I wouldn’t eat them, and if I put spinach, my hubby wouldn’t.  LOL

 Anyway, they are fun to make.  Now.

Can you believe it, my mother and grandmother made them all the way by hand, rolling out the dough on a huge board that my grandfather made, with a wedge to set over the edge of the table, so the board wouldn’t shift when pushing with the “rolling pin” which was actually a nearly 3 foot section of 2” diameter wooden dowel. They would knead the dough by hand, and roll it  into a HUGE circle, (Michelle Obama thinks SHE has great arms??) then put dollops of filling a little way up from the edge, fold the dough up over, and then shape with the fingers, cut the long line, then into squares.  Keep going up row by row until  they ran out of dough, then start over.  The kids’ job (me and my brothers, whoever was around) was to go around each one with a fork to seal them.  My mother used to put a clean sheet on her bed, and that’s where we put them to dry until it was time to cook them.  If the whole family was coming over, we would make over 100 of them like that.

My mother was SO happy when she finally got a hand crank pasta roller!!

And then Mary added a final helpful hint:

At the end, they would take the scraps of leftover dough, roll it out into ropes, cut into pieces, and using a butter knife, do a little mash-pull thing, then pushing the flattened thing out with the thumb,  making the little pieces into little macaroni shapes we called “hats.”   Nowadays they call them Orchiette, or “ears.”  No dough went to waste.

I found an Italian blog about Orchiette, here.

Many thanks, Mary!  I shall enjoy making ravioli even more, now….knowing the time, effort, and special equipment (the size of the rolling pin!) used in days past.  That is a story that is just too good not to share.

Bueno Appetito.

~ Blonde Gator

Something Very, Very Old….Resurrected

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

In my book re-packing project, I found my grandmother’s ancient kitchen notebook, filled chock full of memories from my childhood, all handwritten in her old-fashioned, spiky hand, pages faded with age, splotched from constant use, and nibbled around the edges by time and (gack!) bugs.  Of course, as most really old recipes are, my Grama’s recipes are mostly just lists of ingredients, without much in the way of further instructions.  And one recipe stood out…jumped out, really.

Our Favorite Cookies

For years, my mom has told me of her adventures as the wife of an Army Air Corps cadet during the War years, following my father around the country as he learned to fly.  My mom worked for Wright Aeronautical (she was formally trained at Katherine Gibbs Secretarial College in New York City, so she never had a problem finding suitable employment as she camp-followed).  Although once she waited tables in San Antonio at the Chick Inn, for room and board!!!  But that’s a story for another day.

Another tale of the family folklore goes like this.  My grandmother’s father, a well-to-do man in the small New Jersey town of Glen Rock (he drove a Pierce Arrow!), owned several buildings in town, including one which he rented to the Post Office, where he and his second wife lived upstairs.  During WWII, he and his wife baked cookies….which became a local hit, because they shipped overseas so well without shattering into crumbs.  Mom calls them “sandies”.  The demand for my great-grandfather’s sandies became so great that he and his wife became almost full time bakers in their second floor apartment….in order to fulfill the demand for cookies “for the boys”.  My mother has very sharp memories of the smell of cookies baking, wafting down the stairs and out to the street when she’d go to visit Dad’s grandfather.

And lo and behold, I found a recipe in Grama’s little notebook…”Our Favorite Cookies”.

My good pal the Island Girl is an experienced baker (I’m a neophyte)….she’s been fascinated by both the tale and the “recipe” in Grama’s book, puzzling over it for hours.  Her opinion is that it’s a “short” recipe, as in shortbread, and the Island Girl has endlessly questioned my mom about the size, shape, thickness, etc., trying to winnow out the “how”.  And unlike the cookies we bake today, due to War rationing, the list of ingredients is rather simple.

So for Mother’s Day, the Island Girl surprised us, and baked up a batch (using her experience to make up for the lack of instructions) of Great Grandfather’s sandies.  They are sublimely simple, but delicious, and I can see why they were so popular due to their texture.

Our Favorite Cookies ~ Delicious!

My mom, however, says they are not quite right….so I think my grandmother left out a secret ingredient that only she knew!!!  The recipe does say “add nuts if desired”, but I think there may be something like cinnamon or vanilla (probably not that due to war time rationing)…..I suspect perhaps almond extract as my father was a fiend for butter letter, which has almond paste.  So the Island Girl and I are on a mission, to recreate these cookies exactly.  The Island Girl’s first attempt was rather spectacular.  I have to say, I kind of like them just the way they are, simple and pared down, but absolutely delicious.  And a bit historic.  Well, in my family, anyway.  Oddly, I don’t remember eating the sandies as a kid….but don’t get me started on my great aunt’s peanut butter cookies!

~ Blonde Gator

Island Girl’s Instructions.  I’ll update that link as we try to perfect the cookies that live in my mom’s memory.  I’m getting a twidge in the back of my head about cookies with chopped nuts and maybe some brown sugar on top???  Stay tuned.