This project only has $215 to go to get this awesome invention in production.   Anyone who uses a wok on a home gas stove NEEDS one of these.    I know I routinely struggle with getting my wok up to a high enough temperature on my 30k BTU gas stove, so something like this would make my stir fries (especially noodle dishes) even better.    To be fair, I have pledged to this campaign, so I’ve got a slight self-interest in seeing this thing shine.

http://www.crowdzu.com/funding/campaigns/19/wokmon/

Crowdzu Wokmon

14. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Artorius Says, Reviews

When a recipe “makes your soul scream,” please don’t cook it.

Cooking Light’s “Thai Chicken in Cabbage Leaves” is one such recipe and I ignored what my brain was telling me as I read the instructions.   One portion of the instructions says to add the first three ingredients (chicken, sliced red onions, and water) and cook in a non-stick pan.  Not too bad so far, but the combination of water and a non-stick pan gave me pause.  Fond development is always a good thing that seems to have been ignored by whoever developed this recipe.   The next instruction was “cook until chicken is done and then drain”.    WHAT??!!!   My soul screamed as I could see what little flavors those ingredients might have developed, as the chicken cooked, going down the drain.   I imagine that the folks at Cooking Light thought they were doing the readers a favor by saving a few calories on the oil that would normally be used to perform the chicken cooking step.   Cooking liquids are often very full of flavor and should not be tossed without a very good reason.   I saw no such reason here.

Even after modifying the recipe, and shamefully serving it to my family anyway trying to salvage what I knew was going to be a disaster, it still sucked.   The dish was very heavily unbalanced, tasting only of fish sauce and lime.   I tried to fix it by adding some things to sweeten it, make it a bit saltier, and add some umami.   Mirin and some medium sweet soy sauce (a variant of kecap manis) were added.   While the resulting dish was edible, it was a lost cause at the start that my meager skills as a “chef” could not save.   I can only imagine what the unmodified dish would have been like.   I am still shuddering at the thought.

So, when your brain tells you that a recipe is seriously flawed, do yourself a favor, listen to it and don’t cook it.   I could have done much better creating this recipe ad hoc from the depths of some severely damaged brain cells and still have been money ahead in this race.

I hope to never post such recipes here and take credit for them as my own.   This I pledge to you.

-Artorius

27. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Other, Recipes, Sauces

Ahhh, fondue.  Very few dishes I make scream to me luxury, deliciousness, and indulgence as much as fondue.  This one screams it pretty loud, and justifiably so.  Maybe this is why it doesn’t get made very often in my house; I’m lazy.  Indeed, it is fatty, heavily caloric (my fancy-pants word for fattening), doesn’t seem to trigger that “I’m full” response that tells you to stop eating, and is so INSANELY difficult to make.    Wait a second, maybe that last one isn’t so true.  In fact, it’s absolutely not true at all.  Making fondue isn’t one of those rocket-sciency cooking endeavors.

As with most dishes, most of the time-sink work on this one is in ingredient prep, but even that’s not so bad here.   If you can slice, chop, grate, and stir, you’re in good shape.

More »

26. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Artorius Says

I picked up these artichokes at the store today.   All I could think when I saw them was holy cow!   Of course, my next thought was YUM!   I’m going to steam these and serve them as a light side for a dinner-time rack of ribs that’s going into the smoker in the morning.    Now all I need to do is come up with a dipping sauce to go with these gargantuan, but hopefully tasty, leaves.

ChernobylChokes

12. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Breakfast, Recipes, Reviews

This morning, there was a request for waffles for breakfast.  Because they tend to be labor intensive, I’m not often in the mood to tackle them first thing in the morning, but today there was energy in the morning air, so waffles sounded worth tackling.   The thought of chocolate waffles energized both the wife and the kid-lings, making the effort even more worthy of tackling.

This recipe was in our multiple volume “recipes to try” binders.   There were about four different waffle recipes in the to-try pile.   Two pumpkin waffle recipes, one chocolate, and one banana cinnamon competed for attention, but chocolate won out, well, because it’s chocolate.   Who am I to argue will the will of the universe?

This recipe I had in the to-try book was from a March 2012 copy of Food Network magazine.   Only sitting in the book(s) for two years before trying is actually a fairly short span for me.   This recipe should feel lucky <grin>.

More »

02. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Food Products, Recipes, Soup

A friend of mine, after reading my post about Chicken & Cabbage soup,  commented about how awesome a beer cheese soup he’d tried was.   Since then, I have tasted, and seen prepared a few times, good beer cheese soups.   It got me thinking that I could do that, but do it with goat cheese.    I hadn’t seen anyone attempting a beer cheese soup using only goat cheeses and I knew such a thing could be done and likely be better than the ones made with cow cheese.   Quest accepted!

So, I went cheese shopping, looking for goat cheeses ranging from ultra soft and gooey, sharp and flavorful, to moderately firm, but melt-able.   If I’m looking for specialty goat cheese, my first port of call is usually a local chain called New Season’s Market.  They seem to hit a sweet spot that combines quality local food, mass-market offerings, and some hi-end “foodie chow” type stuff.   There is always something interesting in their cheese case.   For cheese variety selection close by, it was either New Season’s or Whole Foods, and I find that the selection of goat or sheep cheese seems to be slightly better at New Seasons, and a bit cheaper as well.  Trader Joe’s also seems to have a  small, but dependable, selection of goat and sheep cheese at very good prices. Our mainstay “Goat Gouda” comes from here for about $8/lb.  They’ve got a great goat brie as well.  I’d have tried TJ’s for the soup cheese, but I knew they weren’t going to have the flavors I was looking for.   Maybe on my next batch, I’ll use some of their down-to-earth goat cheese varietals and see what I end up with.

I found three cheeses that seemed to fit the bill at New Seasons:

More »

01. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Artorius Says, Meat-beef, Meat-chicken

There was just something about a rainy spring Saturday that screamed ROASTED HOT DOGS!   And doing so around the fireplace in the comfort of my own home sounded even better.   Not that roasting hot dogs out in the middle of nowhere in the cold around a camp fire isn’t a thing, but in my part of the world it’s not camping season yet.   A night of hot dogs is usually on such a trip’s menu though.

Saturday’s hot dog prep started with a batch of hot dog buns from a slightly altered King Arthur flour recipe where we substitute the butter for a tablespoon and a half of olive oil.   Doing this replacement is just another way we remove butter (cow dairy) from our regular routine.    We probably make hamburger or hot dog buns from that recipe a couple of times a month and they only take a few hours to put together with not a whole lot of “active” time.

To shape the hot dog buns, the dough gets cut into eight portions (~3oz) and then rolled into a log just a little bit larger than a hot dog.  Then the final proofing happens and the buns are almost ready to go into the oven. To finish them off before putting them in the oven, we paint on a quick egg wash (one beaten egg and about 1 tablespoon of water) and then sprinkle the shaped rolls with either sesame seeds or some chunky salt (flake salt, sea salt, kosher salt, etc).

More »

01. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Artorius Says, Drinks

I found a new drink to love, a Cucumber-Tequila Cooler, on a once beloved blog.    Maybe sometime later I’ll talk about why they are falling in my esteem, but occasionally flickers of brilliance from their former heights of glory surface.   The cucumber drink was one such height.

I am always looking for cocktails to make better use of the bar ingredients I’ve amassed.  Instead of the household liquor bottles being relegated to the top shelf of a book case (mainly devoted to Arthurian literature), last year I built a floating shelf to hold my bar ingredients.

BarShelf

Since putting it up, it has been nice to see the bottles on display and be reminded that I need to step out of my happy beer-comfort-zone and try some cocktails to tease my palate more often.  Previous go-to cocktails have included rum punch, Pimm’s cup, electric watermelon, Long Island iced tea, Japanese slippers, and various margaritas.

Last night, the Tequila-Cucumber Cooler sounded like a good cocktail to go along with some hot dogs we decided to roast over the fire while spring had its way with our neighborhood.   It was a nice contrast to the beefy hot dogs and chips.  With the celery and the cucumber in it, it’s very “vegetal”, but in a very refreshing way. Those flavors both offset and complemented the tequila in the drink. My only modification to the recipe as written would be to add a tiny bit more of the agave syrup to sweeten it up a bit.

More »

25. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Meat-pork, Recipes

One of the most wondrous Thai ingredients I have discovered is a sweet and spicy paste commonly referred to as Thai Chili Jam.  It is sweet in a great funky way, with a spicy backbone to round out its flavor.  Its heat doesn’t invoke the “make you break out into a sweat and run for the water” spicy response.  It has one of those gentle heats that makes you want to keep eating.   By the time you’re done with a dish of this, your whole mouth will feel roundly warm. If you’ve ever had Cashew Chicken in a good Thai restaurant, more than likely this is one of the main components of their sauce.

Pictured below is the brand that I am most easily able to find in the Asian grocery stores that surround my ‘burb.   And wouldn’t you know it, as I am reading up on this stuff to provide you with some background information, I find that my favorite brand contains MSG.   Discovering this, I’m a bit disappointed in myself for not seeing this earlier as I’ve been using this product for a few years now.   I guess it’s time to branch out into some new brands.   ThisThai food and travel blog provides information about what really happens over in Thailand and has some recommended brands.  I guess I’ll have to try and find Butterfly Brand or Mae Ploy.  Shesimmers also has a great write-up providing lots of information on this great ingredient too.

ThaiChiliJam

The trouble making ingredient-mixing neurons in my brain decided for me that trying to smoke a pork butt/shoulder marinated in this stuff would be a good idea.   My mouth started salivating at the thought of a layer of smokiness resting atop a slab of smoked pork.   Without any more pressing ideas from the culinary rabble in my brain, this sounded like a good choice for this weekend.

More »

17. March 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Meat-chicken, Recipes, Vegetables

I don’t normally fall under the sway of “needing” to create recipes or dishes to highlight certain days of the year, but this St. Patrick’s Day, the idea appealed to me.  Of course there are exceptions to this rule, and today seemed a good day to deviate from the rule.   It could be that my recent cravings for something cabbage-y could have influenced this decision too.  I hadn’t made a loaf of soda bread in a long time either, but that’s another post.   It did pair exceptionally well with the soup though.

I could think of no better way to quench my craving for cabbage and bread than to make a chicken and cabbage soup served with a side of Irish soda bread.    Allow me to share with you my newly created soup recipe.  I hope it brings you the warmth and comfort it brought to us tonight.   Happy St. Patrick’s Day, or whatever is left of it in your time zone. More »