Thursday, August 18, 2011

Willkommen in Deutschland: German Potato Salad

Yesterday I got it in my head that I MUST have german food for dinner.  For years I've tried re-creating my grandmother's (that's Oma to you!) german potato salad recipe and for years I've failed.  She's given my sisters and I the recipe many times over the years, but it still never comes out just like she made it.  So I've gone from recipe to recipe, trying to find that perfect balance of tart with a hint of sweet. 

So having a craving for german potato salad and schnitzel for dinner, I hit the grocery store on the way home to get what I didn't have.  That's always the first mistake.. especially when I don't have a recipe down pat like I want it to be.  As I'm perusing the produce, my hands hovering over the yukon gold potatoes, I look to the right and there are red potatoes.  I love red potatoes.  The skin isn't too thick, they're a creamy potato and do so well in a mustand/mayo potato salad I thought for a second, "self, you could switch it up a little bit and use those".. then answered, "self, what a great idea!" and grabbed the red potatoes.

Happy with my decision I hurried home, cleaned, pierced and threw those red puppies in their salted water.  As I'm doing other prep work I start thinking, what is it I'm missing.. I have to try something different this time.  Tired of the oh-it's-so-close's, I start making the dressing, hopeful that this time I will succeed where others (myself included) have failed.. again, that perfect balance of tart with a hint of sweet.

Wait for it.. Wait for it..  Success!!!  That's right folks, I know it seems silly to be so excited over german potato salad, but you have no idea how long I've been trying to figure it out!  And today, I'm going to share with you my own recipe for deliciousness! 

First, remember when I said I was using red potatoes?  Well, go for it, it puts a nice twist on a comfort classic.  If you're hard-core stuck on using another salad potato, by all means go for it, but I beg of you, try it just once my way and see if it doesn't make all the difference in the world!

Doreen's German Potato Salad

German Potato Salad
Copyright 2011 Doreens Delectable Edibles.  All Right Reserved.

8-10 red potatoes, washed, pierced
4-5 slices thick cut bacon (don't chince and use the thin stuff!)
4-5 green onions (if you're like me, the more green onions, the better), chopped
2/3 c + 2 Tbsp water
1/2 c white vinegar (distilled, not wine)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp celery seed

Set your potatoes to boil.  Once they're boiling, let them cook about 15-18 minutes or until you can pierce them and they're firm but cooked.  While your potatoes are boiling, in a separate pan cook the bacon (I cut mine up to cook faster before it ever hits the hot pan) until brown and crispy (not burnt!) then take bacon from pan and reserve drippings.  Using the bacon pan add your water, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, celery seed and flour and cook on a medium heat, whisking constantly.  Once flour is whisked in add the reserved bacon grease and continue to whisk.  Heat for a good 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently until you get the desired consistency.  Don't rush this step otherwise you'll have that horrible lingering flour taste if it's not cooked long enough.  While your dressing is finishing, cut the potatoes leaving their skin ON!  This is where the recipe veers some, but trust me, it's delicious!  Add your green onion and bacon to the potatoes then stir in your dressing a little at a time.  I take mine from the pan and put it in a gravy boat to add a little at a time until I get the dressing where I want it to be.  Serve hot, warm or cold!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer Bounty: The Journey Part II

I can't believe I'm about to type this, it was horrible enough thinking it today, but Summer is winding down.  There, I've said it.  Sad, but true.  And here in Michigan it doesn't seem like it's been here for very long, what with our April showers that ran clear into June.  Planting was a chore this year for many because of the unpredictable weather changes.  And now it seems we've gotten over the hump of the blistering heat (at least I hope so!) and our gardens and local farm markets are just full of those late summer goodies:  tomatoes, pickles, cukes, potatoes, corn, squash and zucchini.  MMMMM... Zucchini...

For those who have grown zucchini, you know first hand just how bountiful this crop can be!  So just how many meals, sides or desserts can one make with zucchini?  Oh boy, tons!  Especially if you start experimenting!

I love zucchini.. grilled, sauteed, in any type of pasta sauce - whether it's red or EVOO based, in bread and my most recent discovery, in a crab cake.  Yep, that'd be a Zucchini Crab Cake to you.  I've seen and tried many recipes over the years from the "it tastes JUST LIKE a crab cake without the crab" to actual recipes that called for crab as an ingredient.  I've decided that I like them either way, but much prefer to have crab in it.  So after exhaustive research (really, who am I kidding I loved every minute of it!) I've come up with a recipe that I just love and hopefully you will too!

Zucchini Crab Cakes
  • 1 large zucchini (about 3 cups), shredded and dried
  • 3/4 c (about 1 can) crabmeat or 1/2 lb of the fresh stuff
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard (don't make the mistake of using honey dijon because the zucchini is already sweet enough and sometimes the crab is too!)
  • 1 c DRIED breadcrumbs - don't use fresh ones otherwise you run the risk of the center being "gooey".  You can use seasoned ones if you like as well!
  • 2 Tbsp greek yogurt.  You can use plain yogurt but I find the greek yogurt is thicker and holds everything together better
  • 1 Tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 clove garlic, minced fine or 1/2 tsp of minced garlic from a jar
  • 2 green onions, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp fresh, chopped parsley (if you're using dry, cut it down to 1 tsp) 
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp EVOO

Once your zucchini is shredded, place in a colander and sprinkle with the sea salt.  This will help draw out the water a little bit.  Press dry with paper towel after about 20 minutes and remove as much of the liquid as possible.  From here on out, its cake - zucchini crab cake - HAHA.  Just add all ingredients in mixing bowl except EVOO and blend well.  Form mixture into 8 patties (about 1/3 cup in each) and chill while you get your EVOO warming.  Once oil is at medium heat, add patties and cook each side until brown (about 3 minutes per side). 

It's important not to have your oil too high or you run the risk of beautiful golden on the outside, hot gooey mess on the inside.  And I don't care how much you enjoy zucchini, that's not going to be enjoyable. 

I should also mention that I've seen many recipes that call for an oil and butter mixture for cooking the zucchini crab cakes in.. One caution when going this cooking route, oil and butter together create a higher heat point than just oil alone.  If you really want that butter in there, melt a tsp or so and blend it right in with your patties.

Enjoy this summer journey with me.  Next time I'm going for a classic zucchini bread with a twist!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Summer Bounty: The Journey Part 1

Over the last few months, life has gotten away from me it seems.  Well, at least where it pertains to blogging about wonderful food creations!  And it's this time of year specifically that I begin to get excited about food in general again.  I mean, how many meals can you grill before it becomes old news fast?  The doldrums of summer food got you down?  Yeah, me too.  But now that my local farmers market has finally come to town and my container garden is starting to produce fresh veggies the fantastic ideas play around in my head of great entree ideas or better yet, great side dishes for those grilling days (which is really most of the summer anyway).

Recently, a friend passed on a recipe she found using one of my favorite all-time ingredients, avocado.  Excited to try something new, I quickly printed it out and within the next week was following the recipe, tasting, changing the recipe, tasting and then planning for the next time I made it with new ideas in mind.  While it was a great base to start with, I did what I typically do with recipes, I dismantled it, changed it and made it my own.  But without that base recipe to get the creative juices flowing, I would not have found a great new pasta dish for the summer that's not only tasty, incorporating some of my favorite flavors, but super easy to make as well for those busy summer days - so thanks Cassie for the inspiration!

Are you curious now?  Well, wait no more, the dish I'm sharing today is an angel hair pasta in an avocado sauce.  Yes, you read that right, an avocado sauce.  It must be said right off, do not make too much of this recipe, because it will not reheat well.  Well, it will reheat, but the color will not be appetizing ;)  So grab your food processors or blenders and let's get cooking what's sure to be the next summer hit in your kitchen!

Creamy Avocado Pasta
  • 1 medium medium avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1/2 box angel hair pasta (you can use others but angel hair is my all-time favorite!), cooked al dente as you're making the sauce
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (I find 1 and a 1/2 cloves is just the right amount, but if you go ga-ga for garlic, add 2)
  • 3 Tbsp EVOO (one reserved for pasta)
  • 1 ripe lime, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 c cilantro
  • 4-5 basil leaves
  • Pinch of sea salt and pepper to taste
In your food processor add 2 Tbsp of EVOO, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, basil leaves, salt, pepper and pulse until chopped well.  When noodles are done and strained, add 1 Tbsp of EVOO to them and mix well.  Add avocado to food processor and let it go until mixture is creamy.  Pour avocado sauce over hot noodles, add lime zest, toss and serve. 

This dish would be delicious with or without a protein.  I think next time I make it I'm going to toss in some grilled skewered cilantro lime shrimp and make it the entree with some great parmesan garlic bread on the side.  And the best part about this meal?  It's creamy because of the avocado without the guilt of using a heavy cream sauce!  Enjoy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cake Pops - The Newest Candy(?) Craze

Delicious looking little things, aren't they?  Are they candy?  Are they cake?  They're both!  I ran across a recipe for the a year or so ago, without the sucker stick though, and have been playing around with it ever since.  And now I'm starting to hear about them all over the place.  So I decide to do a little Internet search, because if you know me, you know Google is my best friend ;)  And lo' and behold, these little guys are all over the place!  Varying flavors, prices, sizes, shapes, etc.  Now to me, I make them for my kids, for my friends, for fun, not for profit though I have been asked many times to make them for money, I never make a business out of it.  Why?  When it's so obvious they're such a big hit?  Mainly because I love making them, but I think if I had to be surrounded by cake pops all day, every day, I may just have to scream.  So why do that to myself?  No.  I will leave well enough alone and make them for my and my friends and families enjoyment.  But if you're looking to buy them, trust me they're out there.  And for a price.  My advice to you, if you get a chance to take the time to make these little beauties you'll appreciate how little money they take to make and make you think twice about paying what others out there are selling them for.  Just sayin ;)

One of the best things about these cake pops, which started out as faux truffles in my original recipe I found a year ago or so, is that you can play around with the flavors and really make your cake pops taste like some great candy truffles just by mixing flavors with cake mixes and frosting's.  By far my favorite one to make is the one I named the chocolate covered cherry.  It is, without a doubt, the best tasting concoction to date I've made.  Now days with the frosting selections out there, you can make ones that taste like chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate truffles, white chocolate raspberry just to name a few.  They're easy to make, fun to decorate and always a hit! 

So has your interest been piqued enough yet?  Are you ready to see how easy these are to make?  Then let's move forward.. Pick your favorite boxed cake mix and follow the instructions to bake the cake.  Allow the cake to cool completely then break it apart in a large mixing bowl, like this:

Easy so far, right?  Gets even easier!  Open up your choice of frosting, just a regular size canister.. I prefer to use a whipped frosting or a cream cheese frosting.  Mix it in gently but thoroughly so there isn't a dry piece of cake left, like this:

Yep, same butter golden cake, I just used a milk chocolate whipped frosting in it!  Once you have it mixed, I throw my bowl in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes while I start to melt my chocolate candy coating in a double boiler on the stove.  Don't have a double boiler?  Grab a pot with some water and put your chocolate pieces in a coffee mug on low heat.  If you heat the chocolate too fast and too hot it will get all crumbly and you'll have to start all over again.  It's best to use chocolate candy coating, not chocolate chips for this! 

After about 20 minutes take the mixing bowl out and begin to roll your mixture into small balls and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Do not make the balls too large otherwise they'll be heavy on the sucker sticks (which did I mention you can get at your local cake supply shop?) and have a tendency to fall off when coating with the chocolate. 

Once they are all formed, take the tip of your sucker stick and insert in your melted chocolate about a quarter of an inch and insert into the cake ball about half way.  This will help secure the cake onto the stick when dipping into the chocolate.  After you've inserted the sticks into all of the cake balls slide them back into the fridge for another 20 minutes. 

Before getting to the dipping, it's important to know where you're going to put your cake pops to set.  I stand mine up in blocks of Styrofoam from the craft store since it's sturdy, cheap and reusable.  If you don't have anything to use you can always put them down so the sticks are facing skyward.

Now comes the fun part!  Your chocolate should be nice and smooth, ready to go by now.  So after 20 minutes take those cake pops out and start dipping them in the chocolate.  Make sure to let them hover to get the extra drippings off before placing them back down.  It's important to mention that you need to cover the ENTIRE cake ball.  If you leave cracks near the base you'll find little tendrils of cake pushing itself out, which while cute is a little disconcerting when you're not expecting it.  This happens when the chocolate is too hot as well or you leave the cake in the fridge too long.  Try not to keep in the fridge longer than 20 minutes.  You'll also get cracks if the temperatures are too far apart from each other too.

If you're doing sprinkles or edible glitter, you'll need to put those one while the chocolate is still glistening or it's not going to stick.  If you're going to decorate with other color chocolate ribbons like in the picture above then let them dry for about 10 minutes and then pipe away.

So there you go.. sounds super easy, right?  It really is.  You don't have to be a master baker to get these little beauties down pat.  Just have fun and enjoy!  Keep them out of the heat, they're like chocolates and will melt!  I keep mine in the fridge when I have any left ;)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Herb Gardening ... time for the truth

I have to say, any time in previous years that I've gone and done my own herbs indoors I've had loads of success.  This year, I'm finding it to be a bit more difficult.  I'm not entirely sure why either which is all the more frustrating.  I'm all about trial and error and learning from my mistakes, blah, blah, blah.. but truthfully what is bothering me the most is that the herbs I desire the most to be coming up, are the ones that are failing miserably.  Like my cilantro.  Or my rosemary.  Or my thyme.  Sigh. 

The positive side of it is that my sweet basil, garlic chives and even my parsley are doing quite well.  I've even taken a cutting from my Italian basil plant and grown roots and successfully replanted it recently.  Which is fortunate for me and hubby because I like to use those large basil leaves with slices of tomatoes and fresh mozzerella and a dash of balsamic vinegar and sea salt and make a delicious, light appetizer that the kids (haha... their loss!) won't even think about eating. 

I'm also happy to report that I have my sun gold and sun cherry tomatoes have started flowering and even started producing small green cherry tomatoes.  And my heirloom and brandywine tomatoes are building strong. 

So why?  Why won't three of my most often used herbs come up for me?  I used good seeds.  I used organic garden blend soil.  I used the proper fertilization.  I water properly.  They have all the sun they need.  And did I happen to mention that they are all on the same windowsill my other, more successful, herbs are located?  Hmmm..

Well, as much as I wanted them to be the fruits of my own labor and as much as I wanted to start them from the seed and use them for many months to come in my meals with pride, I'm just going to have to take my ball and go home with these three plants.  No choice in the matter really.  And now that I've vented a little bit about it, I guess I'm okay with it.  After all, you know what this means, don't you?  It means a trip to the Farmer's Market tomorrow, that's what it means! 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring has sprung, and the BBQing has begun!

Ah yes, Spring.  It seems as though (and I say this while knocking on this wooden looking surface my keyboard sits atop) it has finally reached us here in MI.  And the last couple of days, with a vengeance with temps in the low 80s.  If you live in MI you know that you can never really count on Spring being here until Summer arrives :)  Seriously, we've been known to have full blown ice storms in the middle of April (remember the ice storm of 2002??  Anyone?).  So we Michiganders really take advantage of the warm weather when we can get it.  And taking full advantage means opening our grills and starting to BBQ.

The best part about barbecuing is that you can still make your meals healthy.  Since any fat drippings go right through the grates, you don't have to worry about your food sitting in it and soaking it up.  For me personally, if I don't have to turn my oven on all Spring/Summer long, I will find a way to cook all my meals outdoors.  Who wants to be stuck in front of a hot stove on a hot day?  Not me!

One time you will find me at my stove is when I'm making potato salad.  And even when I'm doing that, I typically will make it the night before I want to serve it so it's still not that bad being by the stove.  Potato salad comes in many forms - german, mayo, mustard.  My potato salad is a combo of mayo and mustard and is often a staple at a barbecue when I offer to bring a side dish.  It's minimal ingredients really makes the flavors pop and if you make it the night before and let all the flavors join, it's even better!

Whether it's burgers and dogs, or chicken and steak, potato salad goes with it all!  And the recipe of mine below is tried and true!  Served with the hamburger bean dish I wrote about recently in my Examiner article, it's the perfect barbecue companion!  It's the one dish every Spring/Summer season I don't have leftovers and get asked often to bring!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

4-6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small red onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped (this is optional if you don't like eggs or have someone with an allergy)
2 c mayo (don't use a sandwich spread like Miracle Whip, it totally changes the taste!)
2/3 c yellow mustard
2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp sweet relish
Paprika to garnish

Boil your potatoes and cook until they are firm but cooked, not falling apart as you'll have to mix them without turning them into mashed potato salad.  **Hint:  using yukon gold potatoes is a no-no, they will fall apart, Idaho are a good bet.  Rinse with cold water and set aside in collander to drain and cool.  If your potatoes still have too much warmth when you put the dressing on them, they will soak it up and you'll be left with a drier potato salad.

In another bowl mix your mayo, mustard, celery salt, pepper and relish together until well blended.  Set aside until potatoes are cooled.

Add your chopped onions, celery and eggs to the potatoes and then a little at a time add your mustard dressing.  Some people perfer their potato salad dry, while some prefer it more wet.  When doing this the night before, it's important to remember that your potatoes will soak some of the dressing up and leave your salad drier which you may want to reserve any left over dressing to add to it fresh the next day.  Mix your salad well, sprinkle paprika over the top lightly, cover and put into fridge overnight or at least 2 hours before serving.  I also sometimes will take an extra hard boiled egg and slice it and place on top.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

BBQ Pulled Pork in the Slow Cooker

I had a friend joke the other day about how I was going to continue my cooking now that I was starting a new job.  With my kids' school schedules, their sport schedules and now my own work schedule to contend with, how was I possibly going to keep up on my regular routine of cooking?  Well, miss you-know-who-you-are, the simply answer - preparing ahead and for today, using my slow cooker while I'm at work.

I love using my slow cooker for so many dishes, but nothing makes it more worthwhile than to be able to have a meal cooking while I'm not home.  When I walk in the door, all I need to do is prepare my side dishes, pull my pork and I'm done.  So here, friends, is a delicious recipe for those who don't have the time to stand over something all day long!

5 lb boneless pork shoulder roast (I use a loin from time to time as well)
2 red onions, sliced
2 green onions, sliced into rings
3/4 c BBQ sauce (I like to use a honey bbq)
1/4 c chicken broth

For the spice rub:
2 Tbsp sea salt
2 Tbsp brown sugar (I use a little more if I'm not using a honey bbq sauce)
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp black pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine all your spice rub ingredients and rub generously on the roast or loin until completely coated.  Place the pork into the crock pot AFTER you've added your onions, green peppers, bbq sauce and stock and mixed.  Place it on top of the mixture.  Cover and cook in slow cooker on the lowest heat setting short of WARM (mine has 5 different settings and I use the 10 hour low cook setting).  After about 7-8 hours pull pork from slow cooker and pull apart with a couple of forks.  Return pork to liquid in crock pot and stir well.  If you like you can add about another 1/2 cup of bbq sauce as well at this point and serve!