Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer Vacation: Cheese, Meat, and more

I hope you are all having a wonderful week! The Good Cook Doris team is enjoying a food-filled vacation this week. Once we get back into our routine, we'll have some delicious posts about our treat-filled travels. In the meantime here is a look at our vacation so far.

First stop: Burlington, Vermont for the Vermont Cheesemakers' Festival

Next stop: Montreal for Schwartz Deli Smoked Meat

Third stop: Bagel Tasting - Seeing which Montreal Bagel we liked best

Fairmont Bagel Bakery

St.-Viateur Bagels (our favorite - hot from the oven!)

See you  next week!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pizza Party (you'll never guess it's all vegetarian)

First, congrats to E1 (aka Erin) for being the winner of a full line-up of Want'ems chips and fusion dips! We pulled the winner using random.org. I'll be in touch to make sure you get your new snacks!

There is something so fun about having a pizza party. It brings back memories of celebrations in elementary school, get togethers with friends on weekends, and just those lazy nights when all you want to do is order in and watch a movie. And its the perfect opportunity to be creative!

When I was home visiting family in St. Louis earlier this spring, my cousin Leslie and her husband Andy hosted the family for lunch. I was lucky enough to grow up just a few houses down from my Leslie and her brother Eric until we were in high school, and then just a neighborhood away. In elementary my brother, cousins and I used to walk to school together, spend our afternoons playing in the yard, and just had fun being kids. As we moved into junior high and high school, Leslie and I had classes together and played softball and lacrosse together. For one year, all four of us cousins were in high school together (Grade 12, 11, 10, 9). It was fun! Now that we live about 1100 miles apart, we don't get to spend as much time together. But whenever we do, we have a great time! Here's a picture of us from her wedding two years ago.

Leslie and Andy love to cook and entertain and they put together some delicious and creative vegetarian meals. When we arrived for lunch, we came in the midst of the pizza preparation.

On the menu were a number of different pizzas. Each was carefully put together on top of a prepared crust and then slid into the oven to bake to crispy deliciousness. Here's a look at the flavorful pies they put together:

Barbecue "chicken": smoky barbecue sauce, meatless chicken nuggets, fresh diced red onions and tomatoes, and shredded mozzarella cheese.

Mexican Pizza: Refried black beans, shredded cheddar-jack cheese, sliced black olives, and topped with lettuce and salsa

Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil: As simple and delicious as it sounds with fresh cracked pepper and olive oil

Supreme Pizza: Tomato sauce, meatless meatballs, green peppers, tomatoes, red onions, and sliced black olives

And to start the meal a fresh and health salad topped with a St. Louis specialty - provel cheese! This creamy cheese is a St. Louis original. A patented blend of cheddar, swiss and provolone, it comes in ropes. Technically it can't be called a cheese, it is a processed cheese product. But it is delicious and creamy and was developed for use on St. Louis style pizzas. It melts into a beautiful pizza topping with no stringiness.

I love their dishes and bowls!

I've already made a few of these pizzas at home since the party. The Mexican black bean pizza is delicious topped with avocado slices, a squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro. Even though we are meat eaters in our house, we bought the 'chik'n' nuggets to top a deliciously smoky barbecue sauce covered pizza.

Thanks Leslie and Andy for a wonderful lunch and inspiration for some great meals. And thanks for always being so much fun!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Smokin’ Back Yard Cookout Part 2: Appetizers and a Giveaway

Every party has to start with appetizers! There is nothing worse than getting to a shindig and waiting and waiting and waiting for the food to be served. For a summer cookout there are a few things to consider when planning the menu. It is important to think about temperature, time, serving location, size of the main course and your guests. I knew that our appetizers would be set up inside, but would probably be out on the dining room table at room temperature for at least a few hours. That meant no dairy or other potentially quick-spoiling items. I also knew that at least one cilantro-averse friend was going to attend and made sure to adjust my recipes appropriately. And lastly – with a huge spread of meat for dinner nothing too heavy!

I decided on assorted dips with chips and vegetables. The first part of good chips and dip? Chips! Through a friend at work I was introduced to Adam and Noah over at Want’ems – a new snack food company started by the two friends. They are fellow Bostonians and have introduced a line of wonton chips and what they call fusion dips. You can check out their story over on their website. They offered some free samples, and I said I’d be happy to try them out. As usual, I did not receive any compensation other than free food and all opinions are 100% mine.

The chips are inspired by the wonton chips that you get at Chinese restaurants. However these are made with whole-wheat flour and have no trans-fats. While they wouldn’t necessarily qualify for Health Snack Wednesday, they are no worse for you than other snack chips. The chips come in two flavors – Original and Asian BBQ. In addition to the chips, they also created three dips. I tried the Sweet Chili dip (think a take on duck sauce) and a Thai Mango.

The chips were good – they were light and crispy and paired well with all the dips at the party. I liked the original best. They weren't greasy, but still held up to all the dips. The sauces were chunky and a little sticky. I used the Thai Mango as a dip. It was a little sweet and a little spicy. I used the Sweet Chili as a marinade for the smoked chicken wings and it worked well. The verdict from the party was that the chips were a hit!  We all liked that the dips were chunky and you could see all the ingredients - like good sized pieces of mango in the Thai Mango dip. The flavors were bold and something different than the ordinary salsa or onion dip. I think the dips will be fun to use for a marinade or sauce for different grilled meats and vegetables. I can picture making a chicken and vegetable stir-fry and pairing it with the General Tso dip (I have not tried that one yet).

The partners behind Want’ems want you to taste their full line-up of products and come up with your own creative uses! Details on how to enter are at the end of the post. If you can’t wait for the results of the contest, you can check their website for information on availability.I was able to find some at my Boston area Whole Foods.

Another dip that went well with the Want’ems and sea salt and lime tortilla chips is my go-to recipe for Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa. This is one of those dips that makes the menu for most of our parties. It’s quick and easy to prepare and the tomatillo and lime keep it bright green. Each time I make it I adjust the seasonings a little. Sometimes jalapeno, other times green chili powder. And if it’s the right season – a handful of ground cherries! The salsa lends itself well to adjustments.

Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa
Adjust the number of ingredients based on your crowd size; this serves about 6 people as part of an assortment of appetizers.

4-5 raw medium sized tomatillos, husks removed and well rinsed
3 avocados, removed from skins
1/2 – 1 hot pepper (jalapeno or serrano chili, seeded)
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 of a yellow onion

Cut the tomatillos into quarters and set aside in a bowl
Cut the onion into a few pieces and set aside in a bowl
If using a hot pepper, remove the seeds and ribs and cut into a few pieces
Working in batches, add the tomatillo, onion and hot pepper pieces into a food processor and pulse until just smooth, add to a mixing bowl after pulsed
Remove avocado from the skins and add to the food processor, add in the fresh lime juice and a few spoonfuls of the tomatillo mixture and pulse until smooth
Add the processed avocado to the rest of the tomatillo mixture and mix until well blended
Season with salt and pepper
Add chopped cilantro if you know your crowd
Serve immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until party time

For the next post, I’ll feature another chunky salsa and some delicious side dishes from the backyard cookout. Now, on to the giveaway!

Enter to win a full line-up of Want’ems chips and fusion dips! Want’ems will send one lucky winner the following:

1 bag of Original Want’ems
1 bag of Asian BBQ Want’ems
1 jar of Thai Mango dip
1 jar of Sweet Chili dip
1 jar of General Tso dip

Three ways to enter!
Entry 1: Leave a comment sharing your all-time favorite chip & dip combination
Entry 2: Head over to Twitter & follow @wantems1 or Facebook and Like the Want’ems page
Entry 3: Follow Good Cook Doris through the Google Follow widget on the right side, or subscribe to the Good Cook Doris RSS feed

The fine print: This prize is provided by Want'ems and will be shipped directly to the winner. The winner must live in the continental U.S. Entries must be received by Tuesday, July 19 at 9pm. Winner will be announced on Wednesday, July 20. Good luck!http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wantems/190256281011929

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Smokin’ Backyard Cookout: Part 1

The smoke has cleared and I’m excited to share my latest cooking adventure!

Over the last two summers I did a fair amount of smoking using my gas grill rigged up with a smoker box and water pans. This year, I tackled smoking in a dedicated smoker! Last November I was lucky enough to win a Masterbuilt electric smoker and I finally put it to work. I know it’s not a traditional smoker that you’d see at a real barbecue place – but for a novice smoker in the ‘burbs it is perfect. The electric smoker maintains a consistent temperature and all it takes is some woodchip additions and monitoring throughout the cooking process.

With inspiration from my previous smoking adventures and my brother’s smoking expertise I put together a menu for a recent get together. When I entertain, I love to try out new recipes, new dishes, and new cooking methods. The challenge of trying something new is exhilarating! There are one or two items that always make an appearance on the table, but most of the dishes are new.

I tackled menu planning and party planning by starting with a list. First with a list of all of the dishes and their ingredients and second a timeline for when each dish would be made. A little cookbook, online research, and a phone call to my brother helped to put the finishing touches on the smoking timeline. The next step was to make labels for each dish for the serving table. This helps plan the table space and also ensures that dishes don’t get forgotten in the rush to get everything on the table.

Smoked chicken wings – plain, buffalo, and sweet chili
Chunky pineapple salsa*
Tomatillo-avocado guacamole*
Sea salt & lime tortilla chips*
Want’ems chips with Thai mango dipping sauce
Carrots, broccoli, and celery for dipping (these went untouched)

Main Course
Smoked brisket with coffee dry rub
Smoked chicken with garam masala rub
Homemade garam masala barbecue sauce
Smoked tofu for the vegetarians
Smoked vegetables - summer squash, zucchini, garlic scapes, and mushrooms
Grilled corn on the cob
Tastes Better with Friends’ Peanut Apple Coleslaw

*Old favorite – always on the table for parties

There are too many delicious things to cover in one post, so I’ll start today with the smoked meats and barbecue sauce.

I decided to smoke an assortment of items to test out my new toy. I picked my favorite meat to cook – brisket. Using the temperature required for the brisket, I adjusted the cooking times for the rest of the items. The smoker has different shelves which allowed me to easily add each item at the appropriate time. Everything turned out flavorful, but my hands down favorites were the chicken wings and the chicken breasts. The meat was juicy and the smoky flavor infused each bite.

Smoking Temperature: 225 degrees F
Wood chips: Equal parts Maple and Apple woodchips

Smoked Chicken Wings

2 pounds fresh chicken wings
Smoking time: 1.5 – 2 hours

Seasoning: A generous sprinkling of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Prep time: Let seasoned chicken wings refrigerate for an hour or two while the brisket is smoking

Serving styles:
1: Naked – served as is with no sauce
2: Buffalo – I received a free bottle of KC Masterpiece hot buffalo sauce through Foodbuzz. Since I’m not a fan of buffalo flavoring it was a perfect addition to the party. I tossed of the cooked wings in the sauce and every reported that they loved the flavor and spice.
3: Sweet Chili – this sauce, made by the folks behind Want’ems chips is inspired by duck sauce. I was given the sauce to sample. The dip/sauce is full of onion, pepper, garlic, and jalapeno pepper. I tossed wings in a generous helping of sauce. They were sweet, with just a little kick.

Smoked Chicken Breast with Garam Masala Rub

4 whole chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
Smoking time: Approximately 2 hours, until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees

Seasoning: Garam Masala seasoning
My coworkers traveled to India earlier this year and brought back an assortment of spices for me to add to my pantry. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to try them out! Garam masala is a spice blend that is made a little different by each person. It often has cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, nutmeg, and cloves. Those are all spices that go well with poultry. I rubbed each chicken breast generously with garam masala – making slits in the skin and putting the spices underneath the skin as well. Let the seasoned chicken rest in the refrigerator for an hour or so. Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil before adding to the smoker.

When the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, remove from the smoker and let rest for 20 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve with barbecue sauce. Eat it on its own or make a messy sandwich.

Smoked Brisket with Coffee Dry Rub

1 - 4.5 pound brisket, fat layer trimmed to about 1/4 inch thick
Smoking time: About 6-7 hours for this size. After 4 hours wrap brisket in foil and continue to smoke for another 2-3 hours. The internal temperature should reach 185 degrees.

Seasoning: Coffee Dry Rub. I first made this seasoning two years ago when I smoked my first ribs. The combination of coffee, brown sugar and chili powder gives the meat a great flavor.

Coffee Dry Rub (courtesy of Whole Foods Fire Up the Grill flyer, summer 2009)
2 cups light brown sugar (I used dark brown, it's all we had)
1 cup chili powder
1/4 cup paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup medium ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely ground dark roast coffee

Serving: Let the brisket rest for at least 20 minutes before thinly slicing. Serve plain, douse in barbecue sauce or make a sandwich! Reheat the next day in barbecue sauce.

Garam Masala Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue sauce is really easy to make. If you have an extra 20 minutes, it’s well worth whipping up your own unique sauce. I wanted to incorporate the garam masala to pair with the chicken flavoring. I did some internet searching to find a recipe to consult for proportions of ingredients. I happened upon a Barefoot Contessa recipe for a basic barbecue sauce. Using the recipe as a starting place, I created my homemade sauce.

1/2 diced yellow onion
1 garlic scape, minced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup brown mustard
1/2 cup soy sauce
3-4 tablespoons Garam Masala
1 very light sprinkle of hot red chili powder (part of my Indian spice collection)

Heat a large saucepan over medium-low heat
Add vegetable oil, chopped onions and garlic scape and sauté for 10-15 minutes until onions are translucent
Add the remainder of the ingredients and simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally
I wanted a smooth sauce, so I used an immersion blender to blend the onions and garlic into the sauce

Makes approximately 1 quart of sauce. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator if there is any sauce leftover.


That's all for this post. Stay tuned for the next installment with appetizers and a giveaway!

The Want'ems chips and dips were provided to me as a free sample. I was not obligated to review and I did not receive any financial compensation. I received the KC Masterpiece Buffalo sauce through the FoodBuzz tastemakers program. The sample was also complementary and all thoughts about it are shared voluntarily. The rest of the food I bought at the farmers market and grocery store!


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