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>.

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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:

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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).

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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.


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.

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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.


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.

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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 »

I wouldn’t say that we use a lot of chili powder in our house, but we use enough that making it at home makes sense.   It was often a hit or miss proposition to find a chili powder we liked the taste of, was easy to find, and relatively inexpensive.    Many times the brand or supplier we counted on would reformulate the recipe or just stop producing the product we liked.    We tried using the chili powder from the bulk section of our local grocery, which worked OK, but the consistency of heat level varied enough to make it unreliable for recipe consistency.    We thought we had found a great, consistent supply, by shopping at the Penzey’s store that opened up in our area, but found the price to be a bit more than we were willing to pay.   Also having to randomly make a special trip to their store for just once spice was inconvenient.   Their stores are wonderful places, and we get many other spices there still, just not many blends. So, this resulted in my desire to pursue the idea of making my own chili powder at home.

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It was a sad, but fortuitously good, day a month or so ago when my long-lived Krups ice cream maker chewed through the gears in its almost-decade-old plastic gearbox.    It had helped make many delicious quarts of ice cream and sorbet over the years despite the fact that keeping the bases in the freezer used up valuable space that only occasionally paid off with ice cream.  To be honest, I’m not sorry to be getting rid of those freezer bases.   I never trusted that they were going to properly chill the ice cream base, even though they never failed to do so.   Maybe it’s just the techie in me that likes to see how things really work that had me leaning back to the past.


So, during my President’s Day three-day weekend, I decided it was time to stop by Bed Bath and Beyond and pick up a new ice cream maker.   I had done some research online and it looked like the Nostalgia Electrics ICMW400 4-Quart Wooden Bucket Electric Ice Cream Maker was the best choice for me, balancing cost and function nicely.  It seemed to be a good mix of old-school charm enhanced with an electric motor.  After scouring the reviews looking for nuggets of truth, it easily made the cut when I figured out that almost all of the lower reviews were mostly due to user error, lack of understanding about the ice cream making process, or an occasional mechanical failure.

I probably would have ordered it on Amazon, but the 20% off coupon we had for BB&B made it a deal too good to miss.   The fact that my lovely wife is an avid coupon-er saves us a buck, or two, or three pretty routinely.   It wasn’t much of a chore to convince this thing to come home with me, and it very quickly resulted in an excellent batch of ice cream.

On the way home we did need to stop at the store and pick up some ice cream salt and a bag or two of ice.  Maybe I just needed to add to my ability to brag about the fact that I now have about 15 unique varieties of salt in the house, and have uses for most of them.   The box says that it can even be used for de-icing the sidewalk.

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Recently, a blog I follow somewhat religiously (, posted about a Thai dish I have always held in contempt, Swimming-Rama.  Mostly I dislike it because it is typically made by the unimaginative and excessive use of an ingredient I love and love to make, peanut/satay sauce.  Every Thai restaurant I have tried this at literally drowns the dish in it.  I love peanut sauce though.  Coincidentally, along with the Swimming-Rama recipe I’m describing from her site, I use another GREAT recipe for the peanut/satay sauce from there too.     Her description of the Swimming-Rama dish made me rethink my position on it because of her beautiful descriptions and obvious love of Thai culture, so I added it to my to-do list in the dinner rotation at home.   I am seriously happy I did.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself and spoiling the ending.

I had my wife, during a supplies run today, make stops by a couple of our local Asian grocery stores looking for the Chinese Water Spinach called for in the recipe.  I tend to deviate from recipes fairly regularly when it appears that they won’t suit my tastes, are wrong in some other way, or we don’t have exactly the ingredients called for on hand.  For once though, I wanted to make a recipe as close to as-written as possible.   While we weren’t able to find the green listed in the recipe, we did manage to find something that looked similar, yue choi.   I think it’s a variant of Chinese broccoli, but it had long tender stalks and fine, long leaves.  It’d have to do, but I’m going to look for the ingredient really called for again very soon.   The store we found this at did say that they didn’t feel right buying the water spinach currently available to them from their supplier as it didn’t look very fresh or good and was very expensive right now.   It was nice to see a vendor caring about the ingredients they sell.   This country could use a bit more of that.

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PokPokBookIf I didn’t already love Andy Ricker and his stand-out Pok Pok restaurant in Portland, he cemented his placed as a hero in my brain for the following excerpt from his Pok Pok book:

“I’ve used volume for liquid ingredients, but also for those that are grated, minced, in powder form, or otherwise fine enough for volume to be an accurate measure.   I’ve included weight for most solid ingredients.   A good digital scale costs twenty dollars.  Splurge.  Calling for “2 small shallots” or a “medium daikon radish” just won’t do (one person’s small is another’s large).   Nor will “1/4 cup thinly sliced lemongrass,” whose impact in a dish will depend on the thinness of those sliced and the cook’s tendency to pack those slices into the cup measure.  It may sound fussy to call for “3 grams of garlic,” but it’s simply more precise……”

Reading recipes that call for “1 large” anything drives me insane.   You’re going to get different results depending on your perspective, or where you live in the country.    I have taken other bloggers to task recently for not recognizing that what is gospel or works for them isn’t necessarily the same for someone else.    I will try not to do that with recipes I share and try to be as precise as I can, and help out answering questions when asked with a hopefully non-biased and non-condescending answer.   Take me to task when something is obviously wrong or not as I described it.

I haven’t even gotten to the recipes in the book yet and I’m already in love with this book having merely read to page nine.