Monday, November 17, 2014

Easy Peanut Sauce

Happy Monday Dabblers. If you are in Minnesota, I hope you are bundled up with a cup of tea and a dog sleeping on your feet like me (or at least 1 out of 3). Cold weather always brings on cravings for spicy, comforting food- which for me usually means a trip to Naviya's in Linden Hills. T's favorite dish there is chicken with peanut sauce, so for the last several weeks I've been working on developing a recipe for something similar at home. This sauce is easy-peasy and super versatile. Use it as a dipping sauce for chicken satays, pour it over rice or noodles, or my favorite (and dinner tonight), use it as a sauce for chicken and veggies. 

Easy Peanut Sauce
-1 13.5oz can of coconut milk
-1 c natural peanut butter
-3 tbsp tamari
-2 tbsp rice wine vineger
-1 tsp toasted sesame oil
-3 green onions, chopped
-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust amount to your desired heat)

1. In a medium saucepan, over medium-low heat, combine the coconut milk and peanut butter. The heat will loosen up the pb and help you to incorporate it (ie. make it less blob-like). 
Stir gently until the pb is totally incorporated.

Next, measure and add in 3 tbsp tamari, 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar, and 1 tsp toasted sesame seed oil. If these are new ingredients for you, give them a little taste before adding them in so you can adjust this recipe to your liking! I always hesitate to purchase ingredients for a recipe if I am unsure about using them more than once, so allow me to encourage you...if peanut butter is your all three bottles. I have been making this recipe once a week and it makes great leftovers for lunches/dinners throughout the week. 

Chop 3 green onions and add them to the mix! I like to add 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes to this sauce to give it a subtle spicy backbone. Adjust the amount for your own spicy-levels, starting with less and building spice as you taste it.

 I love the color these two ingredients add to the sauce. 

Continue to heat on the stove for another 5 minutes, stirring gently. This allows the flavors to marry and percolate to the point of wonderful. Final step: Enjoy! I like to spoon the peanut sauce over veggies and chicken, and top the whole mixture with toasted sesame seeds.

Happy cooking, 

-The Delicious Dabbler

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Pepperoni Pizza with Baby Kale

Last night, the ever-powerful craving for pizza struck on my drive home from work. Usually, this means a trip to Pizzeria Lola (dangerous proximity to our house). However, I knew that I had most of the ingredients already in our fridge, I was just lacking crust. One of my favorite things to do is make sourdough crust, but I just couldn't wait for the dough to rise so I stopped into Whole Foods and picked up a package of their whole wheat, organic crusts (2 per package).

Pepperoni will be my forever-favorite pizza topping. We also had some fresh mozzarella in the fridge, but shredded mozzarella (or your favorite cheese) would work as well. The best part about this pizza? It's really easy. 

To get started, preheat your oven to 475. Now, let's talk assembly:

 Spread your marinara (or tomato sauce of choice) in a thin layer over the crust. This may be the point where your partner exclaims that your spreading skills are sub par and says, "let's call in the pizza master." To this, you should respond by hiding the spoon behind your back and doing a taunting victory dance. You could also ask them to do the dishes, gather other ingredients, and dj songs for the rest of the pizza-escapades. Oh, that's just our kitchen? Right...back to pizza:

 Top the crust with fresh mozzarella. 

 And then with pepperoni. 

 Okay, this is where your pizza flair comes in. I like to sprinkle parmesan cheese, dried oregano, dried basil, garlic powder, and red chili flakes over the top. 

 Why not take a closer look at all that deliciousness? 

When your oven has come to temperature, bake your pizza until it has reached your desired level of done-ness. This will depend on the type of crust you are using and the amount of toppings on your pizza. I look for crispy crust edges and bubbling cheese that has just started to brown. Ours took about 12 minutes.

You could certainly call it good at this stage and just dig in, but we were looking for a little more greenery in our lives last night. Grab a generous handful of baby kale and spread it in a thin layer over the fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza. The heat from the pizza will begin to cook the kale. Drizzle the kale with extra virgin olive oil and top with black pepper.

And, just like're done! Slice, serve and enjoy. 

Last night in our house, that looked like....carry the pizza board to the table and devour the pizza in minutes. It also included me capturing T mid-slice. Retribution for his sass throughout the pizza-making process!

Happy pizza making, 

-The Delicious Dabbler

Monday, March 31, 2014

Boneyard and a Melting Backyard!

Minnehaha Creek Meltage

Could it be true that spring weather has finally arrived in Minny? I know that rumors of snow are circulating today...but I'm blocking that out and instead focusing on the beautiful day we had yesterday. I hope you all were able to get out and enjoy a piece of it. T and I walked around Harriet and I'm pretty sure all of the inhabitants of Minneapolis had the same idea. Dogs, strollers, walkers, runners, and the occasional over-zealous biker trying to weave through the traffic, all came together to enjoy the sunshine and cheer on the melting. 

T and I uncovered our patio furniture early in the day. Given the sun exposure of our backyard, this did involve a bit of ice chipping (T obliged even though he thinks I'm a bit nuts)... I was determined to take advantage of every sunny moment! Someone else was pretty excited to have her favorite sunning-spot back in action as well. 

 Outside of the sunny weather, the highlight of the weekend was trying out the new uptown eatery, Boneyard Kitchen & Bar with my good friends on Saturday night. This restaurant opened about a month ago and is located where Old Chicago used to be on Hennepin Ave. It has a summer comfort vibe with a nice mix of modern/industrial decor touches. My fave component was the back wall display of cast irons skillets. They have a fun variety of "libations" to choose from, including craft cocktails and a large variety of beers on tap. I tried the Point Brewing "Burly Brown" out of Stevens Point, WI, and really enjoyed it. 

Our server recommended the Crab Hush Puppies and the Deviled Eggs, so we opted for both. 

It's hard to go wrong with hush puppies...fried dough? I'll take it. We all really enjoyed the curry-mustard dipping sauce they were served with. 

 An inside view for you. Light, puffy, and crunchy. Again, fried's tough not to like. 

 I was most excited to try the deviled eggs. Are deviled eggs making a come back? How do you feel about it? As someone who frequently has hard boiled eggs for lunch...I'm in full support. Seriously though, is this a thing? Martha Stewart has been pinning recipes for several gourmet recipes lately. I digress...back to these deviled eggs: they were delicious. I  loved the jalapeno and bacon toppings-a bit of salty crunch, and a bit of zippy spice. 

The menu has a lot of great choices, and it was hard to turn down fried chicken and waffles, but we all ended up ordering the "3 Meat Combo," mostly because we couldn't decide which meat we most wanted to try! The platter (enough for at least two other meals), came with brisket, pulled pork, st. louis ribs, coleslaw, and a buttermilk biscuit. You also got to choose two sides. I opted for sweet potato french fries and mac and cheese (made with pimento cheese). 

I really enjoyed the ribs, especially because they are served with 3 bbq sauces for you to choose from. Truth be told, I didn't even get to the brisket or pulled pork at the restaurant because I was stuffed. I took those parts home and T and I made wraps with them for lunch on Sunday. I enjoyed the sweet potato fries dipped in the mustard-based bbq sauce, but I wasn't super thrilled with the coleslaw or mac and cheese. This discussion on Eater Minneapolis suggests that if I visit again, I should go for the cottage fries. 
*Update: a friend gave a strong recommendation for the cornbread, mashed potatoes, and baked beans as alternate side choices!

 Overall: the vibe was fun and the bbq/beer were tasty. Most importantly, I got to spend time with my favorite people sampling food. It doesn't get better than that.  So far, Boneyard has gotten positive reviews on Yelp, and I saw a tweet from MSP Magazine yesterday that the outdoor patio was packed. So, here's hoping it stays around!

Have you tried Boneyard? What other new restaurants are on your radar?

Wishing you a great week, 

-The Delicious Dabbler

Friday, February 21, 2014

Post Blizzard Plans? Head to Brasa

Happy Friday dabblers! Did you survive the snowpocalypse? A lot of hibernating was done at our house last night, and a lot of shoveling was done this morning. I saw some quality "stuckness" on my drive in today. Many a car was stranded in a plow pile.

In honor of the return of our winter-tundra weather, I thought I'd share a great dinner spot that will be sure to warm you up. A few weeks ago, T and I ventured over to Brasa on East Hennepin in Minneapolis. The vibe is casual, and the food is delicious. Think lots of wholesome, well-sourced ingredients cooked low and slow with great depth of flavor.

T and I wanted to be able to sample a bunch of the different meat options, so we got small sizes of the Smoked Beef, Slow Roasted Pork, and Pulled Chicken. We also tried the Roasted Yams and Andouille, and the Creamed Spinach with Jalapeno. The spinach side was absolutely amazing...I think we easily could have devoured a large of that and called it good.

 T and I had been to the St. Paul location awhile ago, and we both remembered ordering the Slow Roasted Pork and loving it. It was an easy decision to get it again and the garlic/lime flavor is just killer good.

I was most excited to try to the Pulled Chicken this time around. Its pretty hard to say no to something that is listed on the menu as "simmered in light cream and pepper gravy." Sold. It was delicious and would be the perfect comfort food to pair with our current weather.

We rounded out our sampler trio with the Smoked Beef. We both wanted to try the Sweet-Spicy BBQ Sauce and it was great. Definitely the most "zesty" plate on our table. 

If you are looking for a post-blizzard pick me up, head on over to Brasa. Next time we go, I am hoping to try one of their sandwiches. The Slow Roasted Pork Sandwich with ginger mayo, cilantro, and pickled vegetables is calling my name.

Have you dined at Brasa? What menu items did you love?

-The Delicious Dabbler

Thursday, February 20, 2014

1950 Called...But, They Can't Have Their Waffle Iron Back

As I eluded to in yesterday's post, I recently acquired a 1950s Sunbeam Waffle Iron via an ebay purchase. At this point, you may naturally be wondering...'why would anyone do that?'

Well, T loves waffles, but I have resisted making them at home because most (all) waffle irons sold in the stores these days are coated with some sort of non-stick layer. I was discussing my quest for a "traditional" waffle iron with my family awhile back and the next day my wonderful sleuth of an uncle sent me this link. Vintage waffle irons restored to their former glory! So fantastic, but the prices...ouch. I made note of the brands and have been casually browsing ebay for the last several months for a Sunbeam.

I'm fond of this brand because our electric griddle (aka pancake-maker extraordinaire) is made by them. This griddle has been passed down in our family and is so well-loved and used  (and not easily replaced because of the same non-stick issue), that it lost one of its legs. My grandpa mended it with a wooden replacement, so now it has a peg-leg :)

Anywhooo, back to the waffle iron at hand. I snarfed this gem off ebay for a mere $10 +shipping. It arrived just in time to be T's b-day present.

I wasn't really sure what to expect when it arrived. The seller had labeled it  in "OK condition." 

There she blows in all of her glory (why am I prone to nautical phrasery today? I'll blame it on the peg leg reference above). 

Well, needless to needed a good cleaning. Like, a real good cleaning.  

My guess is that this waffle iron was found in the basement of the seller's parent's home and had not been used for a few decades. It also hadn't been cleaned since its last use...there were still waffle crumbs pasted to the inside. 

4 Brillo Pads and a significant amount of labor later...she was shiny (and sanitary) again :)  The cord on the back needs some wrapping with electrical tape in a few spots just to be safe, but other than that- she should be good to go. 

This is my favorite shot. I didn't want to risk turning it on right after the washing (water...electricity...), so I am hoping to plug 'er in tonight and see how it goes. We are having my grandparents over for the inaugural waffle run this weekend. 

As luck would have it, when I logged onto bloglovin' today, I saw that the Pioneer Woman just posted a waffle recipe. Eureka! Fingers crossed that we will be enjoying waffles with some delicious Caribou Cream Syrup this weekend. If this machine is a total'll be pancakes instead :)

-The Delicious Dabbler

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Get Thyself to Birchwood

Howdy everyone. Happy Wednesday. I'm feeling particularly jubilant because of our 40 degree weather today. Just the hint of spring weather makes my tropical-wanting soul fly. (Yes, I know there is a winter storm warning going into effect tomorrow...deny deny deny). 

Have you tried Birchwood Cafe yet? Birchwood is one of my favorite Minneapolis brunch (and all meals) places. If you haven't checked it out...go this Saturday! This Saturday at 9pm, Birchwood will close in order to undergo an expansion/remodel. Birchwood raised over $112,000 through a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign in order to pursue this project. How cool is that? You can read more about it on their blog

T and I went there for brunch a few weekends ago to get our last waffles in before they close the doors.

I love places that give you your own mini tea pot. (T...put me in the picture! put me in the picture!)

T loves a good buttermilk waffle. It's his go-to breakfast/brunch order when we eat out. As a future-post-teaser, I may or may not have just purchased a 1950s wafflemaker off ebay as T's birthday present.

I got my favorite- The Savory Waffle. The flavors rotate seasonally. This one was a sweet potato, quinoa, and parmesan waffle topped with cranberry-apple chutney, ginger-honey butter, spiced walnuts, bacon lardoons (...just beyond good), and a sunny-side-up egg. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Birchwood is the best and I can't wait to visit them for a post-renovation waffle.

-The Delicious Dabbler

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Our Super Bowl Game Plan

Happy Super Bowl Sunday dabblers! I love this, appetizers galore, and...the Puppy Bowl. Our game day plans are pretty low key this year, which I'm all about. Many people have asked me what I am making this year (Ultimate Game Day Nachos  or Easy Taco Layer Dip would be likely candidates), but guess what...T is cooking!

Here's our game day snack line-up:

Puppy Tails from Isles Bun and Coffee (a sweet treat delivered by my friend in honor of the Puppy Bowl). 

Pre-game snack: guacamole. 

And, the main dish: T's wings! He is making two flavors: buffalo and "asian zing." He researched the recipes, made his grocery list, and we picked up the ingredients this morning. Wing start-time is slotted for 4:00pm. Wish him luck!

Also, to keep things interesting, T and I have some side wagers going. Here's our list: 
1. Broncos or Seahawks?
2. Will Peyton be named MVP?
3. National anthem over/under 2:25?
4. Total number of points: odd or even?
5. Will there be a missed field goal during the game?
6. Will there be a score in the first 6 1/2 minutes?
7. Will the game ever be tied after 0-0?
8. Will the first person to score a TD have a jersey number in the 80s?
9. Will there be a shirtless member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers?
10. Pick the first Bruno Mars song.
11. Will Eli Manning be shown over/under 1.5 times?

And finally, 
12. Will Tim's chicken wings taste good or bad?

Happy footballing to you all, 

-The Delicious Dabbler

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pork Chops with a Hard Cider Reduction Over Cheesy Quinoa/Polenta with Power Greens

The time has come dabblers, for the ever illusive "pork chop post." This is a weeknight meal that I made on a whim a few weeks ago. I forced myself to take photos for the blog and put one photo out via social media so I would be accountable to post it :) A tad late, but here it is for your cooking pleasure.

Pork chops are not #1 on my fave-protein-items list, but they are a nice weeknight-switch up and we happen to have a bunch in the freezer right now after a sale. I think people get scared away from pork chops because it's easy to overcook them and dry pork chop is pretty nasty. But, have no fear: you have braising in your cooking arsenal!

Many of my friends have reported that they feel intimated by cooking-especially by something that looks on the "fancier" side. My response is that truly, you can do this! Plus, food failures are grab someone you like and have a cooking adventure together. You can't build skills or confidence unless you push yourself a bit.

Be brave. Be bold. Go buy some pork chops and prepare for a hopefully-helpful photo montage:

To get started, heat some extra virgin olive oil over medium hit in a skillet. This will be the pan you use for the whole process, so make sure your skillet is deep enough to accommodate a lid fitting over your pork chops.

Enter, our chop friends. While your olive oil is heating, season one side of your chops. I like to use sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. No need to measure...just sprinkle so that you get even coverage, adjusting the cayenne pepper for the amount of spice you like.

When your olive oil is hot, add your pork chops- seasoned side down. How can you tell when your olive oil is hot enough to add your pork chops? A few suggestions:
  • You will be able to smell it. The olive oil fragrance will build in poignancy as it warms up. 
  • If you move the pan, the olive oil ripples as it moves across the surface. 
  • Take a kernel of sea salt and drop it in the pan. Little bubbles should immediately form around it. 
If you don't hear that classic sizzle noise when your pork chop makes contact with the pan, the pan isn't hot enough and you won't get the great searing that you are looking for.

While the first side is searing, take the opportunity to season the other side.

How will you know when the first side is done and ready to be flipped? Awesome question. The pork chop should easily come away from the pan when you try to pick it up. If you experience any resistance, it isn't ready.

Here is a picture of the pork chops after they have been flipped. You can see that searing creates a caramelized crust of sorts on the top of the pork chop. The crust helps to seal in the moisture, develop depth of flavor, and improve the visual appeal and texture of the chops.

I like to sear all edges, so use your tongs to sit the chops up on their sides. The edges won't take as long, but appreciate a little color as well.

Here's a visual of a seared edge.

When you have seared your way around the chops, grab a plate and take them out of the pan for a brief rest. You should be left with a surface that looks something like this...a bit of olive oil and a whole bunch of brown bits. Those bits=massive flavor. We want to leverage all of that flavor in our sauce for these chops, so the next step is "deglazing" (ie. using liquid to get all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan). The liquid you deglaze with is up to you. I really like apple flavors with pork chops and we had some hard apple cider in the fridge the night I made these, so I went with that. Other ideas:  apple juice/cider, white wine, or chicken stock.

Add your chosen liquid to the pan. This will likely create a large steam moment (your pan is hot!), so don't be alarmed. I couldn't capture it on camera. If you are using something alcoholic and are cooking over a gas safety first: pick your pan up off the stove, add your liquid, and then return the pan to the stove. As soon as you have added your liquid, use your tongs to scrape all those brown bits off your pan. (Important note: this is one of the many reasons I prefer to cook in traditional pans (versus non-stick). If you are using a non-stick pan, you are likely also scraping the coating and chemicals into your sauce).

After you have gotten all those bits off the bottom of the pan, add your chop friends back into the mix. They are going to cook in this environment and take on that delicious apple cider flavor. I love this method because braising keeps everything moist. It's hard to dry something out when it is surrounded by liquid, right?

At this point, I like to cover the chops to seal the heat and moisture in and wish them wonderful cooking thoughts.

Okay, now that your main dish is happily bubbling away: let's start the side! Cheesy polenta/quinoa with power greens. This particular component got a lot of love online and I was excited to show you how simple it is. Have you seen these Ancient Harvest products in your store? Our co-op carries this brand and it is the best thing to speed up a healthy side dish. It is organic and pre-cooked. All you need to do is heat it up and add in your extras. The other characters in this mix: chicken broth and power greens (baby kale and spinach).

Weird-looking start, right? Just unwrap the quinoa/polenta blend and cut it into large chunks in a medium-sauce pan over medium-low heat.

Add in your liquid and use a fork to begin to break up the pieces of quinoa/polenta. I pour in enough chicken stock to cover the quinoa/polenta. You can add more as you go. If you want this to be on the richer side, you could also add in milk or cream.

The consistency will get creamier as you go and you will start to see air bubbles popping up (the mixture is boiling). At this point, you can reduce the heat and add in your greens.

Add as many greens as your pan can hold. I am always amazed by how much spinach and kale cook down- so be aggressive with your adding. If this picture stresses you out, use a bigger pan to begin with :)

I use my tongs to begin folding the quinoa/polenta up and over the greens pile. The heat from the quinoa/polenta will cook the greens and in a few quick moments, the pan appears much more manageable.

Next step: add your cheese! (the best part). We had some soft herb/chive cheese in the fridge this night, but use your favorite. I used about a cup of cheese, but I encourage you to break out of the measurement mold! The amount you add depends on your taste and the type of cheese you are using, so grab a spoon, taste your creation, and adjust from there :) When your cheese is melted in, remove the pan from heat and cover it to keep it warm.

Meanwhile, across the stove in pork chop land...your chops are likely near done. If you are a meat thermometer person, you are looking for 145 degrees. Random side-note, who knew that the internal temperature of pork was a controversy in 2011?

I'm not a meat-thermometer person unless it is the turkey on Thanksgiving, so I usually make a small cut into the pork chop to make sure the juices that emerge from the cut run clear and that the meat is predominantly "white". If you clicked on the controversy link, you will note that the article makes specific mention that some pink is okay.

At this point, remove your chops from the pan to let them rest. This allows the juices in the meat to redistribute so that they don't all run out when you make your first cut into your chop.

Left in your pan is that wonderful cider and all that delicious pork flavor. I let this sauce cook uncovered for about 3 minutes so that it reduces and the flavor intensifies.

While that is happening, you can begin plating. Take a spoon and make a little nest of your cheesy quinoa/polenta-power-greens mixture.

Place a chop on top and locate your plate near your cider sauce for easy transport.

Spoon a bite of your cider reduction over the chop and voila: you just made a fantastic meal.

Serve it up to your lucky dinner companion and be proud of yourself!

Happy cooking,

-The Delicious Dabbler