If You Make Corned Beef . . .

I love corned beef, so I am thrilled when stores put this meat on sale around St. Patrick’s Day. After the dinner with corned beef,  a domino effect influences our meals for the next week. If you make corned beef, you might have some leftovers. Those leftovers will make a great Ruben sandwich.

So if you plan to make a Ruben sandwich, you will need sauerkraut, but you won’t use all the sauerkraut in your sandwich.

Now I need another dinner where I can use sauerkraut. Dillyburgers* on the grill require sauerkraut. But you have to be sure you have propane in the tank for your grill.

Once you have procured the propane you have to install the tank, but you can’t remember how the pieces attached. So you look for the manual, but it is no where to be found. You use Google to find the pdf of the manual for your grill. Now the propane tank is back attached to the grill.

Since you are grilling dillyburgers, you might as well grill a pan of veggies too.

Finally, all the odd ingredients have been used and the dominoes have stopped falling. Now I wonder what’s for dinner tomorrow?

*A dillyburger is a double hamburger patty with a filling of sauerkraut, chopped dill pickles, onion, and mustard between the two thin patties of beef. It is eaten with a knife and fork and not on a bun. We tend to apply a generous portion of ketchup to this meat.

Not Your Mama’s Mac ‘n Cheese

What’s for dinner? The budget was small, the family was large (five kids, two adults). You would think mac ‘n cheese would make a regular appearance on the nightly menu, but it didn’t. Meat and potatoes were the staples on the dinner table. Once and a while we would have spaghetti. Not once was mac ‘n cheese served.

I don’t know where or when I discovered mac ‘n cheese, but I fell in love with its creamy goodness. Favorite meal at school (as a teacher) included mac ‘n cheese.

Flipping through the Southern Living, years ago, I saw a recipe for Mac and Texas Cheeses with Roasted Chiles. My mac ‘n cheese radar went into high alert. I scanned the recipe, and thought I can do this, even though I had never worked with poblano peppers before.

Carefully I followed the recipe. First step is to broil the peppers. Get them as blistered as possible.

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Once they are charred, quickly put them in a ziplock bag, seal, and the steam will loosen the skin of the pepper, which makes it easy to peel that skin away.

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Once the peppers were prepared, I could concentrate on the macaroni and the sauce.

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Mix all components together and bake.

IMG_0768Delish!

This is now the only mac ‘n cheese that I prepare. Of course this only gets a showing once a year because it will wreak havoc with a diet, but oh so worth the splurge!

If you look at the recipe, you may notice it calls for bread crumbs on the top and my picture does not have bread crumbs. I’m not a fan of bread on my mac ‘n cheese. Besides, who needs those extra carbs, right?

 

 

Pie

The date (3-14) sent me to Google for a place lost in my memory. Quick search of pie shops in St. Louis and there it was, Pie Oh, My! Quick snap of the phone camera of the address and my mouth began watering.

Oh my, pie . . . what kind of pie will I get? Visions of coconut cream, key lime, or perhaps a fruit pie. I love pie! I imagine the difficulty I will have making a decision.

Google maps helps us find the most direct route to the pie shop. Of course, it wasn’t easy sailing, we missed a turn, tried again, traffic prevented us from the exit, but finally we located the shop. Lucked out on a parking spot, anticipation was high.

We entered the shop and joined the line slowly making our way to the register. My eyes searched for a menu board to list the pies, no list. My eyes turned to the cases where pies should be, none in one case, two choices sat on the counter. Concern began crowding thoughts in my mind. Where was the pie?

Finally we are at the register to learn that apple and pecan are the only slice choices left. I am crushed with disappointment, my visions of pie evaporated.

“We do have these five inch pies,” the girl behind the counter offers. Hope springs forth in my heart as she brings out two choices. “This is a blueberry lavender or a caramel apple chile crumb pie.”

“Let’s try the caramel apple,” my husband says. They have just added empanadas to the case. “And let’s get two empanadas,” he adds.

She rings up our order and I’m taken aback by the high price, but we pay and leave. The empanadas are not what we expected. They must have just come out of the fridge, they were stone cold. The pie was saved for home.

Once we are back home, I split the pie.

Caramel apple chile pie

Caramel apple chile pie

I would like to say it was the best pie ever, but I can’t. It was okay, glad we tried it, but I won’t be rushing back. Pie, Oh, My! you let me down, you were not the pie shop of my dreams.

Pay Attention!

Grilled cheese for lunch is great, but it can be a lot of work if you follow my How-To from a previous post. Some days, I take a shortcut and have an open-faced broiled cheese. Much quicker, however not as satisfying.

A properly broiled cheese sandwich

A properly broiled cheese sandwich

Some parts are the same, still using sourdough bread, but usually a single slice. I still want two cheeses, but they are alternated on the bread, not a double layer. Sadly there is no butter. Just place the bread under the broiler to toast to the shade of brown you prefer. Then flip the bread over, add the cheese, and return to let the broiler turn that solid chunk of cheese into a mass of ooey, gooey, melty cheese.

Yesterday, I had the bread broiling, the cheese cut, so I decided to read a few posts that landed in my inbox on my iPad. I began reading Megannora’s post My Mother, the Trendsetter! (read it if you haven’t). I was engrossed in her post, but still kept an eye on my bread while it browned. I grabbed the cookie sheet in the nick of time, bread was perfectly browned. Quickly laid my cheese out and popped it back under the broiler so I could finish the post while it melted the cheese. (If you are sharp thinker, you should be thinking uh-oh, you skipped a step.)

Cheese melted, post read, I’m waiting for the cheese to cool, and thinking about my comment. Still thinking of my comment, I tear the bread in half (it was really long), take a bite, and recoiled a bit. Where’s the crunch from the toasted bread? This is . . . soggy! I flip the bread over and it is as white as the canvas from yesterday.

Quickly I realized that I pulled the bread out, piled on the cheese, and did not flip the bread over. Now what? I turned the broiler back on, laid cheese side down, and toasted the white side . Yes, I know my cheese will melt onto the pan, but I can scrape it up and slather it on my double toasted bread. Which is what I did.

So what did I learn from this? Pay attention!

Cheese disaster! But still tasty. :-)

Cheese disaster! But still tasty. :-)

Grilled Cheese = Comfort

Comfort food is essential when the winds howl between houses, sleet taps on window panes, snowflakes blanket the ground. Comfort food requires something warm, something oozing with yum, something with a delicious crunch. Grilled cheese checks off all the boxes reqired. For the past few years, I have been perfecting my grilled cheese sandwich, because winter requires a lot of comfort.

It used to consist of two pieces of whatever bread is on hand, whatever cheese is in the fridge grilled with margarine spread on the outside of the bread. Once it is toasted to a golden hue, it is cut and eaten as fast as possible before all the cheese oozes out. But this practice has been banished from my kitchen.

Now I prefer sourdough bread as the basis for my sandwich, but other flavorful breads will work too. Butter, not margarine, is spread from crust to crust, every bit of the surface coated. Then I consider my cheese choices. Rarely will you find me making a single cheese sandwich these days. I love to blend two cheeses. Today’s choice has colby-jack and pepper jack cheese.

First layer is colby-jack

First layer is colby-jack

Today's second layer will be pepper jack

Today’s second layer will be pepper jack

A layer of each before placing the bread on top. Sometimes I may sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese on the butter for a crispy bite of cheesy flavor. Of course then I might need to add a touch more butter to seal the cheese onto the bread.

A sprinkling of parmesan gives an extra crunch to the bread

A sprinkling of parmesan gives an extra crunch to the bread

Grilling cheese is not quick. The burner must be low so the cheese inside has a chance to melt and the butter seeps into the bread creating a crispy exterior. You may peek to check on the grilling process, but try not to disturb the sandwich too much. When the bread is toasted to your satisfaction, flip the sandwich.

Side one is finished

Side one is finished

There should be a sizzling sound as the fresh butter meets the hot pan. Now would be a good time to turn the heat down just a bit more as the second layer of cheese begins the melting process.

See how the parmesan browns on side two

See how the parmesan browns on side two

Once both sides are toasted to your satisfaction, move the sandwich to your plate, but don’t cut it. Just as meat needs to rest, so does the cheese. These few minutes are unbearable as you gaze on the toasted bread hiding the melted cheese, but wait. When the cheese has had a few minutes to firm up, cut the sandwich. Have a napkin handy to wipe your fingers of the buttery goodness. Or just lick your fingers. It’s all good!

YUM!

YUM!

Not Just Another Christmas Cookie

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This comment (from my cousin) was in response to my post about my traditional Norwegian Christmas cookie post. I took this as a challenge, so I texted him asking for the recipe. A few days later, it arrived in the mail with an additional page of hints and clarifications to the recipe. As I read over the notes and recipe, I tried to visualize each step, it seemed complicated. I put it aside for a few weeks, planning to return to the challenge once I was finished working in schools.

Ingredients were gathered, I reread the recipe, made a quick call to my cousin to clarify a point, then I began. First I stirred up the almond paste filling. It seemed easy enough, I divided it into fourths, then rolled it into a log, wrapped it in Saran wrap to be refrigerated.

Almond aroma fills the air as I stir the filling.

Almond aroma fills the air as I stir the filling.

Pleased with how the filling went, I tackled the pastry portion. This seemed a bit trickier, there were only three ingredients: flour, butter, and ice water. How in the world were these three ingredients going to turn into a flaky pastry? I carefully cut the butter into the flour with the pastry cutter. Slowly I added the ice water, stirring until it became a dough ball. I divided the ball into two portions, wrapped them up, and refrigerated them for several hours.

Once the dough was thoroughly chilled, I rolled it out on my counter (I sprinkled a little cornstarch to prevent sticking). The dough was split down the middle and a tube of filling was placed inside. Working quickly I sealed the dough around the filling with a bit of water.

Rolled dough and almond filling

Rolled dough and almond filling

Soon all dough was rolled out, sealed as tight as possible to prevent the filling from leaking out. I pricked the top to vent the pastry, brushed on egg white, and sprinkled with sugar.

Before baking, wondering if it is sealed.

Before baking, wondering if it is sealed.

After removing the tray from the oven, I took a picture and sent it to my cousin, “Do these look right?” I inquired. “Great for a first try!” was the response I got. But we would not know if this was a successful endeavor until we took that first bite.

After baking, no filling leaked out. The brown bits are from the egg white brushed on them.

After baking, no filling leaked out. The brown bits are from the egg white brushed on them.

I sliced a piece off the log roll, the outside was crispy and flaky. The inside was delicious almond goodness. I think I have a new holiday tradition to bake every year, my Dutch heritage will insist that Banket (bahn-KET) be a part of our holidays.

Banket is hard to resist.

Banket is hard to resist.

 

Christmas Cookie

Yesterday was the perfect day to begin my holiday baking. The temperatures were frigid. The streets were glazed with ice.  There was no good reason to be out and about. The scent of cookies baking would be perfect.

Every year, I take five simple ingredients, sugar, flour, butter, eggs, and vanilla, and blend them together. The result is a Sandbakkel, a Norwegian sugar cookie. This cookie is part of my heritage. All generations of my family have made this cookie.  It is time consuming, but it is not Christmas until they are made.

Once the ingredients are measured and stirred together, you have to chill the dough to make it easier to press into the fluted tins.

These tins are waiting for the dough to be pressed in.

These tins are waiting for the dough to be pressed in.

Scoop out dough, use your thumbs to press it into the tin. You must be careful to press it evenly and not too thick.

The dough is pressed into the tins, ready to bake.

The dough is pressed into the tins, ready to bake.

Bake for fifteen minutes, then let them cool.

Golden cookies are cooling on the counter.

Golden cookies are cooling on the counter.

Once they are cooled you can lightly squeeze the tin and they should pop out. Sometimes the dough was too thin and the cookie shatters as if falls out.

Oh no! It broke, guess I'd better eat the evidence.

Oh no! It broke, guess I’d better eat the evidence.

Now the Christmas season can begin, the Sandbakkels are made.

Perfectly golden, buttery, and crisp, now all I need is a cup of coffee.

Perfectly golden, buttery, and crisp, now all I need is a cup of coffee.