Popcorn

PopcornI believe the first thing my parents allowed me to cook on the stove was popcorn, at least that is what I recall. My parents stove at the time was gas, so as you can imagine, me, being in middle school and cooking on a gas stove was pretty cool. Popcorn has always been a favorite snack of mine. Whether it be in the day, night, or heck, even for breakfast, it is something that I will always enjoy. There are countless memories with my grandparents, and now with my own kids, where popcorn has been present. I believe that my parents allowing me to cook on the stove at a young age, and in particular, cooking popcorn, has allowed me to master the snack. I find it funny that my wife was brought up the same way, doing the same on the stove, so it is always funny to compete with one another when making popcorn. After all, she does make great popcorn.

Please note that microwave popcorn is for the weak, and only the weak.

Ingredients:

  • Good popcorn (heck, I use Orville Redenbacher)
  • Canola Oil
  • Butter
  • Salt

PopcornIn a large, deep pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil. Let sit for nearly one minute on medium to high heat. Add two seeds to the oil and cover with a lid. Within a couple of minutes the corn should pop. Add seeds to cover the bottom of the pan, and place the lid back on. Shake the pan to coat the seeds. Reduce the heat to medium. Get ready to shake it baby as the seeds are getting ready to pop. As the corn is popping, begin to shake the pan so not to burn the corn. Within minutes your corn will be ready, and most, if not all seeds should pop.

Please note that during the popping stage, I heat a pan with 2-3 tablespoons of butter and let that melt down. Once the corn is ready, empty it into a large bowl, salt, and add butter. Toss the corn as to coat with butter and salt. You might add more butter or salt depending on your mood. 🙂

My kids absolutely love the popcorn. In due time, they will begin the cooking process as my wife and I once did, and continue to do.

Please note that you can also use other toppings such as parmesan cheese, chili powder, and tabasco sauce. Are there toppings that you have used that are not listed? If so, let me know.

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.