Sunday, August 30, 2009

Picture Perfect Caramel Peanut Chocolate Bars

Obviously I'm into food. But if you haven't already figured it out, I'm also REALLY into junk. So whenever possible my posts will combine those two loves. One way to do that is by creatively displaying food using junk.

Vintage cameras make wonderful display pieces.

If it comes with a tripod, it will provide height. All you have to do is figure out how to deal with that nub.

A little cardboard and duct tape did the trick here.

It won't last real long, but neither will the bars!

Picture Perfect! They look good enough to eat!

Caramel Peanut Chocolate Bars
Mix together by hand:
1 pkg. German Chocolate cake mix
3/4 C. oleo -- melted
1/3 C. evaporated milk
Melt together:
1 14 oz. pkg. caramels
1/3 C. evaporated milk
Grease & flour a 9 x 13 pan. Press 1/2 of dough into pan. Bake at 350 for 6 minutes. Sprinkle 1 C. chocolate chips and 1 C. Spanish peanuts over warm crust. Over that spread the caramel mixture. Crumble remaining dough on top. Return to oven and bake for 15-18 minutes. Cool slightly and refrigerate to set caramel.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hobo Dinners (But Don't Ask Me Where the Name Comes From)

Well, my posts about The Great American 4th of July Cookout may be over, but summer certainly is not over. And neither is cooking out. So I'll share another oldie but goodie in the summer cookout world.

The beauty of this one is it's easy, it's a complete meal, minimal cleanup, it's fun ....oh, yeah....and it's delicious and nutritious. It can easily be made ahead of time -- you could even pop them in the cooler, head up north, throw them on the grill while you set up camp, and once you're done you have a nice hot meal waiting for you.

Start with a piece of tin foil -- about 15"-18" long. I used heavy duty foil to make sure it was sturdy.

Place a hamburg patty in the center.

Add some sliced potatoes -- slice them quite thin so they'll be done at the same time of the other ingredients.

Add some carrot slices -- again sliced thin.

Now some onions.

Lastly, add some cabbage.

Add a second piece of tin foil on top and fold around all edges, forming a good seal. If desired, you get use two pieces on top so you could create a seam down the center (makes it easier to check on cooking progress).

Here are all of mine bundled up and ready to head out to the grill.

Cook on a lower heat grill. I placed mine a little higher up, too, so it would not burn on the bottom. Flip at least once. Mine cooked in about 30 minutes. But simply check on yours to insure that it's cooking, but not burning.

Enjoy! And then go have some fun, there's no dishes to do!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Want to be Cookout Royalty? How about Queen of Beans

I started to slip on my blog posting, but I wanted to finish out the classic Great American Cookout meal with this last dish. I saved it for last not necessarily because I was saving the BEST for last, but I certainly would say this one ranks right up there. Any time there's a cookout, I'm asked to "bring those good beans". The great thing about them is that they're SO good, but yet they're SO easy to make. If you'd like to be dubbed the Bean Queen (well maybe you don't!), give 'em a try. You'll be glad you did.

One reason they might be so good is that they are definitely not meant for the vegetarians out there. This dish is a meat eater's delight! Start by frying up together 1# ground beef and 1/2# bacon that's been cut into pieces. By cooking together, the bacon gets cooked but not crispy.

In a casserole or oven-proof dish put the cooked meat and add the beans. I use 2 cans of pork & beans including the liquid. Then I use 3 other varieties, usually butter beans, black beans, and kidney beans -- but you need to drain the liquid from these cans before adding them.

The only other ingredients you need are 1 C. ketchup and 1/2 C. brown sugar. Mix all the ingredients together. Cover and bake in 325 oven for at least one hour, but longer is okay too.

BE CAREFUL! They will be extremely hot when they first come out of the oven. But they are well worth the wait. And don't be surprised if you become known as the Queen of Beans!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Who's Chicken? (yes, that IS grammatically correct)

So it's smack in the middle of summer and you've got the cooking out bug. But maybe you're not so bold as to try a new recipe like "spiedies". Maybe you just want some good old fashioned, safe, chicken on the grill. Well here's a marinade my family has been using for years to make moist, delicious grilled chicken.


2 C. vinegar
2 C. water
1 C. oil
1/4 C. salt
2 T. worchestershire sauce
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. lemon juice
1 t. tabasco sauce
1 t. red hot sauce

Stir together in a large bowl the marinade ingredients. Add your chicken pieces, place in refrigerator, and let sit at least 2 hours-5 hours for best results.

Grill on low to medium-low heat. Also, because the liquid in the pieces tends to drip and cause flames that can burn the chicken, I usually place pieces on a higher rack.

Once they're done, I like to eat them just like that. But I suppose you could add some BBQ sauce if you wanted to.



Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wing and a Prayer Potato Salad

If you're like me, some of your favorite dishes come from your mom's kitchen. So naturally, once I had a family of my own, I wanted to duplicate some of them. That was fine when she had a recipe to pass along. But often there was none and she'd say "oh, you know" (no, not really mom), "you just put in some of this and a little bit of that. It's so easy." So I've been trying to master my mother's "easy" potato salad for years. And now that she's been gone awhile I REALLY have to wing it, and I say a prayer of thanks for the many years that I did have her around for food questions (and many other things).

Now I take mental notes whenever I prepare this potato salad, but adjust as needed. I must say mine's getting to be almost as good as hers, almost.

Of course, it starts with potatoes. I'm not fussy about new or old, I just use basic ones -- in this case 13 of them. I peel, quarter, and boil. Add the potatoes to cold water or boiling water, it doesn't really matter. Make sure, however, you remove from heat and drain the water once they're fork tender, you don't want mushy potatoes . What DOES matter, a lot, is adding salt to the water with the potatoes. In this case I added about 3 T. and it wasn't at all too salty, I might even add more salt the next time. After the cooked, drained potatoes have cooled a bit, I cut them into bite-size pieces and put into my BIG bowl.

I like boiled eggs in my salad. I usually use about the same number as the number of potatoes -- so, yes, in this case 13 eggs. Use whatever method of boiling you prefer, as long as your eggs are nicely hard boiled. Peel, chop up, and add to the BIG bowl.

Now for the veggies -- afterall, it IS a salad. Not everyone is a fan of radishes, but I really like them in potato salad. They add wonderful color and a nice crunch. I wouldn't say the same number as the potatoes and eggs, but maybe half that, so about 6 this time. I slice into thin semi-circles and add to the BIG bowl. I also chop up celery -- about 6 stalks -- and add to the BIG bowl. My family doesn't like onions in their salad so I didn't add any, but my mom's version always came with chopped onions.

Now I have to mix up a batch of dressing in a separate bowl. I use about a cup of mayo (or salad dressing) then pour in a little milk (maybe 1/4 cup). Basically I want to produce a good stirrable consistency. Next, squirt in some yellow mustard (maybe 1T.) to get a nice shade of yellow. Finally, add a little sugar (about 1 T. ), tasting as you go to get a nice flavor. Pour the amout you think you'll need into the chopped ingredients (the BIG bowl). Stir. Add more if needed. If you run out of dressing and the salad still looks dryish, you can always whip up a little more dressing. The dressing does tend to absorb into the salad over the course of a day, so this is one of those dishes that can easily be prepared the day before.
Ahhh. Just like mom used to make......almost.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Spiedies -- Pronounced: SPEE dee (you know, like Gonzalez!)

Okay, let's see a show of hands. How many of you have heard of "spiedies"? What? You haven't? I hadn't either. Until I married a guy whose family originates from the Binghamton/Endicott New York area. Apparently they are very well known there. Many area restaurants serve them up. And there's even a spiedie festival every August.

So this year our Fourth of July cookout included a batch of spiedies. OK, OK! SO JUST WHAT ARE SPIEDIES?

Well, you start with cubed up meat. I used 3# of stew meat--beef. But traditionally they are made from pork, lamb, or chicken. Venison's good too. The cheaper cuts are fine -- and here's why.....

you are going to marinate the meat. The longer, the more flavorful and tender the meat. I marinated mine for several hours, but I heard through the grapevine that 2 days is a typical timeframe.
There are a variety of marinade recipes (usually well guarded) but the one I used was:
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 Cup oil
1 Cup vinegar
2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 1/2 T. ground sage
After the meat's marinated, place on skewers. DISCARD THE USED MARINADE, DO NOT USE FOR BASTING! Instead, if you wish to baste your skewered meat, set aside some of the prepared marinade ahead of time.

The word "spiedie" comes from the Italian word "spiedo" which means spit. However, ours were cooked on a good old fashioned gas grill, medium heat. It only took a few minutes (I think it's all that marinating).

Now, this is crucial to the whole lore of the spiedie-- you HAVE TO use Italian bread. Then, you simply slap the meat, still on the skewer, onto the bread. Hold on tight and slide the skewer out for an instant sandwich.

It now needs no other outfittings, the flavor is all in the meat!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Just Dessert...for the Fourth

Well, just because I didn't post a FABULOUS Fourth of July spread doesn't mean I didn't prepare one! Okay, "Fabulous" might be a stretch, but it was good and included some basic, classic dishes I like to prepare for any old-fashioned cookout. So I will be posting those all week long.

But let's be honest. Doesn't any true food lover look most forward to dessert?

So that's where we'll start, with this red, white, and blue dream come true!
I make trifles a lot for a quick, simple, easy-cleanup, low-cost dessert. Yet they always look so fancy! Prepare and serve in a clear trifle-dish or bowl to show off the layers.

For this one I used a store-bought angel food cake and then simply chunked it up. I got the cake cheaper ($2.30) because it was on the reduced bakery shelf, but it makes no difference in the end result. Whenever I DO see a reduced one, I buy it and stick in the freezer so I'm ready when I need a quick dessert.

A trifle consists of several layers -- cake, pudding, whipped topping, fruit, REPEAT.
For the pudding I prepare two boxes of instant pudding, but usually use about half the milk you're supposed to. That way it's a little thicker, and then I stir a little bit of the whipped topping into it. This time I stuck with a basic vanilla pudding. I used two 8oz. tubs of whipped topping (minus what I had already taken out for pudding) for the whipped topping portions.

For the fruit layer, in honor of the holiday, I used blueberries and sliced strawberries. But the real beauty of a trifle is that you can use many different combinations of the various ingredients to fit the occasion.
And there is nothing "scientific" about this dish so you can be light or heavy here and there, but you CAN'T mess up this dish. It will turn out yummy every time!