Giddy Up, It’s Beef Jerky Time

Beef JerkyThere is something that I truly love as a snack, or for that matter, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and that is beef jerky. I fell in love with this snack when I was roughly nine or ten years old. It all started with a tin of jerky. Looked similar to that of chewing tobacco. My dad also had a love for jerky, and he began to smoke, bake, and dehydrate meat combinations to find the perfect jerky. In my opinion, they were all delicious. My desire to get on the jerky train was all started a few weeks back when my brother-n-law (Mike) and I were at a store while on vacation. We decided we would buy some Corona beer, as it was a hot summer day. Upon check-out, there was a tube full of homemade jerky. This was no slim jim type jerky, and nor would I ever consider slim jims as beef jerky. That is just slim sausage. Anyway, both of us were like “yeah, dude, jerky”.

That day, I told Mike “I’m making this stuff!”. I started with the source, my dad. He sent me a recipe to begin with, and of course I tweaked it with some other ingredients. I wanted to use my smoker to slow cook the meat, however my dad informed me to place it in the oven for 10 hours at a low heat, in my case 140 degrees with the oven slightly cracked.

Here is what I did, along with ingredient breakdown:

Ingredients:

  • 2 flank steaks cut against the grain, 1/4 inch strips, or to your liking
  • garlic powder
  • a 1/4 tsp of liquid smoke
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of worcestershire sauce
  • pepper
  • onion powder
  • chili powder
  • oyster sauce
  • aluminum foil

Beef JerkyPlace the cutup meat into a large ziploc bag. Add the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly in the bag. Add the dry ingredients and begin to massage the meat from the outside, that way you are not touching the meat. 🙂 Seal the bag and place in a bowl in case of any leaks. Marinade overnight or 24 hours or so.

When you are ready to get jerky, take the meat out and pat dry. Cover 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil. Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature, in my oven’s case 140 degrees. My dad did stress that the oven door need to remain open. He also stated that the smell of the house in the morning would be so great that we would be jumping around like a bunch of monkeys; something like that.

I woke early that morning and immediately checked the oven and took the jerky out. You could tell it lost ‘weight’ and my dad was right about the smell (not that I needed to smell delicious meat like that at 7am).

I kid you not, the jerky was awesome. A bit salty, but for the first batch and getting a process nailed down, it was killer. I served it throughout the day as it was my daughter Elena’s birthday party, and literally, it was almost all gone.

My hats off to Mike for getting my brain thinking about making jerky, and to my parents for handing down their experience and recipe. Watch out for upcoming jerky recipes!

Pad Thai

Here’s the deal. Whenever we go out, or order Thai carry-out, there is always a dish my wife orders; pad thai. The other part of the deal is that when I know my wife loves something that much, I try to recreate it and make it better. 🙂

Here is my take on pad thai. For this recipe I used chicken because it was all I had at the time, otherwise, I normally throw in a about 7-8 medium to large shrimp for the meal. This dish is easy and takes about 30 minutes to prep/cook, depending on your chop and multitasking in the kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • Green onion
  • pho rice noodles
  • chopped garlic
  • Chicken or Shrimp, or both
  • Pad Thai Sauce (I’ve made my own as well), however store bought is easier
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Chopped shallot
  • 2 Eggs

I like to prep all the vegetables and meats ahead of time as this is similar to a stir fry. First I boil my chicken until cooked through, roughly 20 minutes. Let cool, and shred. Set aside. During this process, wash the vegetables and prep. Chop the garlic, shallots, and green onion.

I soak the noodles in hot water for nearly 15 minutes to soften them up. Careful not to overcook the noodles as they might get too soft and the texture will not be right.

Heat a pan or wok with few tablespoons of oil. I use olive oil, however you could use canola, or vegetable oil. Once heated (get ready) toss in the garlic and shallot, and cook for a couple of minutes. Enjoy the aroma! Add the chicken, then crack the eggs into the mixture and quickly scramble. Add the noodles and begin to toss everything in the pan. Add one jar of pad thai sauce, roughly 20 ounces, I believe. Heat through. Garnish with bean sprouts and green onion. Add chopped peanuts if you desire. Simple, tasty, and fun.

The Stromboli

Pizza Dough RecipeGrowing up, there was a food item that my parents always wanted when they visited my grandparents in Monticello, Indiana. It was the stromboli. This thing was beautiful. It was an italian sub sandwich of sorts, which had that tiny italian ground sausage, cheese, and sauce, however was in a french bread of sorts. This was not like a french bread pizza though, it was uniquely different. I miss that stromboli, or maybe it was the laked that I fished on in the early mornings, or possibly my grandparents and the table we ate it at. I even remember the packaging and the smell of the stromboli. I want to say it was from Abe’s Pizza in Monticello. I could be wrong. It was a long time ago.
Enough said. Twenty-five years later, I decided to make the stromboli. I am not going with the french bread route, however I am beginning to explore baking my own breads and could possibly stuff a bread with a mixture. Moving on. I have made the stromboli six times or so, and every time, literally, every time, both my wife and I (and now our daughter) cannot stop eating it. This is a lovely combination of ingredients that place a warm sensation in our body, and you crave for more. Bring on the stromboli.

As stated, I will explore this with a homemade bread, however I used the pizza crust recipe and performed a double rise on the dough.

Dough:

1 package active yeast
1 cup warm water
1 TB Sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 TB olive oil
3 cups all purpose flour

Here’s the deal on the dough.

Add the water, yeast, sugar and stir to combine. You will notice after 5-8 minutes that it begins to grow and become frothy. Yum. Smell it. It’s yummy. Add the salt, oil, and begin adding the flour. I use a Kitchen-Aid mixer with a dough hook for this process. I know nothing else as my parents purchased this when I was eighteen years old. It was a graduation gift from high school, I think. 🙂 I love it to this day. Anyway, mix until the dough begins to form. You will know when the dough begins to come off the edges of the bowl.

I tend to have a small bowl of flour near me as it prevents the stickiness from removing the dough, as well as allows me to work with it quite nicely. Remove the dough from the hook/bowl and knead it slightly. Form it into a ball, and place it into a medium bowl so it can rise. I place a bit of olive oil on the bottom (1/2 tsp) and drizzle more on top. Olive oil rocks, so I have no problem with the drizzle or the tsp. I dampen a large cloth and cover the bowl, and forget about it until I get hungry.

Once the dough rises (this is an exciting process), I flour my hands, punch down the dough, fiddle with it a bit, and place it back in the bowl, cover it, and let it rise again. An hour later, if that, I do the same thing, however this is when I roll the dough out.
Stromboli ingredients (what I use):

Thinly sliced ham
Italian sausage out of the casing and cooked
Pepperoni
Cheese
Onion
Sauce

– Add what you would want in a pizza, this is what makes it fun.

Once the dough is rolled out, add sauce, cheese, meats, and other ingredients.
Remember, this is a stuffed pizza log! Make room. Roll over and crimp the edges with a fork. I use egg wash to make it golden.

Cook in over at 425 degrees for nearly 45 minutes. Remove, let cool and slice into portions.

Roasted Corn

If there is one thing about Summer time, it is about grilling and corn on the cob. You know how it works. In the early stages of the corn season it goes 4 ears for $2.00 then progress to 10 ears for $1.00. Well, it is that time of year. Festivals have corn roasts and the smell and taste is something of the amazing. While living in Dallas, Texas, there would be corn stands, typically outside of a supermercado, that would sell an ear for $1.00. The beauty about spending that dollar on one ear was the fact that they dipped in warm butter and topped it with your liking (I always got Parmesan cheese). Other condiments included chili, and mayonnaise.

In the past, I typically removed the husk from the corn, and boiled in water for 20 minutes or so. I always thought this was great, until last week when I approached a new method of cooking corn, on the grill.

There isn’t much of a trick here (well, I guess you could burn the corn), however there is one important step that you should never forget. If you want corn that is intense in flavor, tender, and absolutely delicious, then try this one out.

Ingredients: (could not be easier)

  • Ears of Corn
  • Water
  • Grill

Clip the loose ends of the corn husks off as they will burn pretty easily on the grill. Submerge the ears of corn in a deep pan of water for 30-60 minutes. Heat the grill to medium. Once the grill is ready in temperature, place the ears of corn on the grill (husks in tact), and begin cooking. Cook for nearly 30 minutes, rotating each ear, every 5 minutes. You know the corn is ready when the husks begin to turn a very dark brown. Remove them from the grill and let cool.

The best thing here is simply pulling down the husks and using that as your handle. Lather in butter, salt, pepper, etc. This last batch I made a butter with lime zest and course salt. It rocked in flavor. Try different combinations in your butter using chipolte peppers, Parmesan cheese, or any other flavors you are looking for in a good piece of corn.

Deep Dish Pizza

This dish is my wife’s favorite. I have made several attempts to master the pie since my wife would like to call an order into Pizzeria Uno’s, nearly 30 minutes away. My ingredients (store bought, and garden) cost under $7 and made one large and one small pie. This is also served great as left overs. 🙂

Great Deep Dish Pizza Recipe

Dough:

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 2 Cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of fine ground yellow cornmeal
  • 5-6 cups of flour

Add the water into a mixing bowl with the yeast and let it begin to bubble for nearly 8 minutes. Then add the oils, cornmeal, and begin to mix in the flour slowly. Mix and scrape down the sides for nearly another 8 minutes until the dough comes together.

Take the dough out (I flour my hands to prevent any stickiness) and punch the dough down. Oil (1-2 Tablespoons) the bottom of a large bowl, add the dough, add a bit more olive oil to the top, and cover with a dampened warm towl. The trick to this dough is a double rise. After an hour, check the dough. If it has risen, punch it down, and let it rise again. This will then double to triple in size.

Once you are ready to make the pie, you will need some deep cake tins. We so happened to have these from my wife’s grandmother’s house and they have came in handy for the deep dish pizza. Lightly oil the bottom of the pan(s). I split have of the dough and begin to mold it into the bottom of the pans, then working it up the sides. Once you have molded the dough, begin my adding your ingredients.

Pie Ingredients:

Sauce, I made homemade (roma tomatoes, garlic, basil, onion)

  • Fresh garlic
  • Fresh, chopped basil
  • Mozzarella Cheese (I buy the squares and layer them in the bottom)
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Italian Sausage or Pepperoni
    (You can add whatever you like in the pizza)

Here is how I made mine, and highly recommend it:

The trick is to add the mozzarella cheese on the bottom. Then add the cooked sausage or pepperoni (or whatever you want), chopped basil and garlic, then the sauce. Sprinkle generously with the parmesan cheese and cook in a preheated 475 degree oven for 40 minutes. Let cool, slice, and enjoy.

Sticky Rice with Spicy Thai Dipping Sauce

If you like something that is truly spicy, tangy, and packed with flavor, you must try this sauce. It is so easy to make and is compatible with barbecue and rice. This recipe takes very little time to make, so lets get started.

Ingredients:

1-2 cups Thai Sticky Rice
1-6 Thai Peppers (depends on how hot you want it)
4 TB Sugar
1 Lime
3 cloves of garlic
3-6 TB Fish Sauce
Soak the rice overnight in a bowl of water. This softens the rice and shortens the time to steam. When the rice is ready, rinse the rice and place in a bamboo steamer. The steamer can be found at your local asian market for under eight dollars. Cover and let steam for nearly 10-15 minutes per side. I say side because you will want to remove the bamboo steamer and knock it against the counter as to loosen the rice. Then you can toss it so it flips over. Sounds difficult, it is not. Continue steaming the other side for ten minutes.

During the time the rice is cooking, chop your other ingredients and place in a serving bowl and mix well. Feel free to taste as you go along. If it is too salty, add more sugar or lime juice.

When the rice is ready. Take the ball out and place it on a cutting board as you will want to flatten it out a bit and begin to fan it, as to cool the rice. I purchased a bamboo container that I can cover the rice for four dollars.

Keep in mind that the rice should be served warm and cannot be saved for leftovers. 🙁

Our kids love rolling the rice into little balls, (we do not let them eat the sauce), making shapes, and then eating.

Enjoy.

Spiced Chicken and Mozzarella Panino

ChickenNearly six months ago, a wonderful appliance was added to our kitchen, the panini maker. The panino is an Italian sandwich which is commonly filled with meat, cheese, or other food, and typically served hot. Since the panini maker has been in our house, we attempt to enjoy paninis at least once a week, basically because they are so easy to make and take a very short time to cook. Some of our favorites are ham and swiss cheese, turkey and gouda cheese, ham, egg, and cheese, and now the spiced chicken and fresh mozzarella.

I started by pounding by butterflying two chicken breasts and pounding them slightly . I then seasoned them well with fresh cracked pepper, sea salt, basil, and olive oil. Once the breasts are done marinating, I threw them on the grill. While the chicken was nearing completion, I placed a slab of fresh mozzarella cheese onto each breast and let it warm through for a few minutes, then removed them from the grill.

PaninoI plugged in the panini maker and waited for the warming process, which only takes 4-5 minutes. During this time, I took out some rustic Italian bread (the bread is extremely important) from the freezer. I use a brand called Turano which appears to be local to the Midwest. Laying down a medium sized piece of bread on the maker, I then added a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese to that, then the chicken breast, then another piece of bread. Slowly close the panini maker and apply some pressure. I hold it down for a minute or so, then began to make a fresh tomato, cucumber, and mozzarella salad with olive oil. Once the sandwich had some nice grill marks, I took it off and plated.

I hope you enjoy this sandwich as must as we did!

I want my baby back baby back, baby back ribs

Our anniversary was last night. Six years. It’s been fun thus far, trust me. We decided to stay around the house this year, so with that in mind, of course my first question was, ‘What would you like me to make for dinner?’. The response was, how about some appetizers and some wine? That was a remarkable idea, however nothing was coming up to mind that would allow a variety of appetizers without spending a lot of time in the kitchen.

Rib PlatterMy solution started by baby back ribs, egg rolls (as we wrapped plenty), stuffed mushrooms, homemade french fries, and a cucumber and tomato salad with olive oil. My main focus in this post however is the ribs.

I started by using my rub to generously season both sides. Once the season is in place, get your hands the ribs and really rub the seasoning into the meat. I then place ribs in a ziplock bag and used about 3 tablespoons of sherry cooking wine added to the bag. I rubbed everything in together, sealed the bag, put it in the fridge, and forgot about it for a while. Actually, every time I opened the fridge I took a peak, and my mouth began to water.

rib seasonedI planned on putting these on the grill a bit later, however in the meantime, I preheated the oven to 325 degrees, and placed the ribs on a pan, foil on the bottom, and covered with foil. These cooked in the oven for 1 hour. I took them out, and let sit until I was ready for the grill, approximately a hour later. The ribs were still warm when the foil was uncovered.

rib grilledThe grill was set to around 350. I placed the ribs on the grill and seared them on both sides. I then lowered the heat and let the sugars from the rub and the ribs begin to caramelize. I love this process. You can almost begin to visualize the meat falling off the ribs. I continued to flip these every fifteen minutes or so for approximately 45 – 60 minutes.

Upon completion, I decided to add some Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce. This stuff was phenomenal. It was a perfect blend of sweet and spice. I like to add my sauce towards the end, still on low heat. I coated the ribs throughout the cooking process around 3 times, then removed them off the grill, served with egg roll, salad, and fresh fries.

In the words of my lovely wife of six years “these are the best ribs I have ever had”. We did not say a whole over dinner, there were lots of ‘ummmmms, ahhhhhs’ which to me always means that the food is really good.

Everyone has their recipe for good ribs, but my philosophy is this:

  • Use a rub and let it set in for hours
  • Slow cook ahead of time before searing and slow cooking on the grill
  • Choose the right sauce

It’s All in the Rub

Whenever you are cooking, especially on the grill, there is one thing that I think you should always use. Rub. Rub is so versatile that you can sprinkle some on vegetables, eggs, and plenty of other food, however because of the word ‘Rub’, I do just that. I rub my meat(s) generously. The all American rub that I have been using is really simply to make and trust me, it is pretty killer.

Ingredients include:

  • 1/3 cup course salt
  • 1/4 packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3 tablespoons ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

As you can tell by these ingredients, it is going to be great.
Store these in air tight containers for up to 6 months. Typically this rub could be used with 5-10 pounds of meat.

You could be creative as well and in a creative container give these as gifts. Stay tuned for my Rib recipe which blew the socks of my wife. It’s a good one.

How to make Vietnamese Spring Rolls

There are a few times throughout the year when spring rolls touch my heart. This is one of those times. The smell in the air from flowers and plants blooming, and the cool breeze to name a couple. This past weekend was one of those weekends where the weather was simply amazing; warm and breezy one day, cool the other. These feelings sparked something that I love to make and enjoy eating. Spring Rolls. Sit back and enjoy this recipe and the appetizer. They are fresh and really easy to make.

I make nearly 12 spring rolls and here is what I used.

Ingredients include:

  • shredded carrots (3)
  • angel hair or vermicelli pasta; 1/2 a box
  • shredded green onion (cut lengthwise) 4-5
  • cooked shrimp, sliced in half; nearly 15 (30 when sliced)
  • cilantro (1/2 bunch, chopped)
  • spring roll wrappers (12 or as many as you are going to make)

If you have reviewed the ingredients you can determine a few things; they are healthy, tasty, and easy to chop/dice/slice. Trust me, the only time intensive piece here is soaking the wrapper in warm water to allow softening for the wrapping.

Ready? Here we go.

Get your noodles cooking and boil as the box says. Drain and let cool. Cool is the message here on the noodles as you do not want to put warm or hot noodles in the wrapper.

As the noodles are cooking this is a great time to prepare your ingredients by chopping/slicing your ingredients. Because of the transparent wrapper, you can determine how you want to layout your ingredients. Do you want to guests to see shrimp on the outer layer, lettuce, carrot? You can be as creative as you want here. Keep slicing.
Cooled noodles, and veggies and shrimp ready to go? Good. Get ready to wrap.

When visiting an Asian market, you can find several types of wrappers. I use this type of wrapper. They are cheap, plentiful, and reliable.

Fill a large bowl with warm water. Submerge a wrapper in the water and move it around for a minute or two. You will begin to fill it soften. Please note that if you let it go too long, you might as well toss it because it will most likely tear in the wrapping process. (If it tears while wrapping, do not fear, just eat it.)

O.K. Wrapper is soft. Get it on a plate and lay it flat. Arrange Noodles, green onion, carrot, and cilantro in the mid to lower section of the wrapper. Fold the bottom area of the wrapper of the ingredients and begin to roll. Tuck in the sides, and continue to roll. The wrapper will seal itself.

Continue this process. Do not worry if you tear a few. This is the learning process as to how long you need to soak the water, as well as how much you can stuff these things.

I serve them with a sweet chili sauce. Enjoy.