New England Clam Chowder – Go Pats!

Are you ready for some football? Can I say that? It’s probably trademarked but I’ve been “getting ready” all morning…well sort of! The 7 layer dip is prepped, the buffalo wings are pre-cooked, guacamole will most definitely be on the table for halftime and  in honor of my New England Patriots I also made New England Clam Chowder! The funny thing is, we are not even having a Superbowl party but we always watch the big game and it is just so fitting to have well; party food.
img_4951This is the first time that New England Clam Chowder has been on my Superbowl Sunday menu but I felt it was very appropriate being that New England is in the big game this year; Go Pats!!!
img_4944If I wanted to do a full New England spread I would have to have more seafood represented; maybe some fish and chips and definitely a lobster roll plus some Boston Baked Beans. I opted for more of wings, chips and dips kind of menu for the fam.
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Clam Chowder

6 slices bacon diced
1 large Onion diced
2 ribs Celery diced
4 potatoes diced
1 tablespoon flour
2 Bay Leaves
¼ teaspoon Thymes
Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
1 cup water
2 cups Clam Juice
1 can whole belly Clams
2 cans chopped clams
2 ½ cups Milk
1 tablespoon butter

In a stockpot fry up diced bacon till crispy; remove from pan to drain on some paper towels. Reserving 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat, saute the onions and celery till translucent. Add the flour and cook for 1 -2 minutes. Add water slowly creating a roux and cook for another minute or two. Add broth, thyme and bay leaves.  Add potatoes and simmer until they are cooked through.  Add milk and clams and finish off with a tab of butter.

Sauerkraut dish I didn’t know about

So I am extremely curious how many people will even continue to read this particular blog. I don’t know about you and your friends but my peeps seem to have a love it or hate it response when I bring it up.  I will especially be waiting for a comment from SF if he actually reads this one.
img_4912I will confess that up until a year or so ago I rarely ever bought it. The only time I used it was on hot dogs and half the time I forgot to take it out of the fridge so it never got on my dog. Luckily it lasts an insane amount of time in the fridge but I have thrown it out on occasion. I vaguely remember sauerkraut being in the house when I was a kid though I don’t recall ever having it any other way than on a dog. If my mom reads this I’m sure she can shed some light on if we had it any other way.
img_4913My husband and I had dinner at a friend of ours; who happens to be Polish; where he was going to make us dinner and asked if we liked sauerkraut. We said sure and the whole time I was thinking OK we are going to have hot dogs. I was pleasantly surprised with how delicious and simple it was, best of all I normally have everything on hand; minus the polish mustard that my husband fell in love with. This can easily be made any night of the week

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sauteing onions and a little sauerkraut juice to get up all the yummy bits of bacon

Side note: after 3 attempts I was finally successful making my very own sauerkraut from the cabbages in my garden. Most certain the only reason for my success was that I left it on my desk in my kitchen in plain sight. Not being a fan of having cluttered counter tops; my other attempts I had the crock in the pantry. Out of sight out of mind and that simply doesn’t work when you are basically performing a fermentation science experiment.
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1 medium or large onion diced
1 Package of Sauerkraut – slightly drained
1 package of Kielbasa – sliced into bite size pieces
1 package of bacon – diced
Freshly cracked black pepper
Mustard (optional)

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Saute the bacon till crispy, remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain & most of the fat from the pan leaving about a tablespoon or two so you can saute the onions. Once the onions are slightly opaque; about 3-4 minutes; add the mostly drained kraut and saute for a bit working to get all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the Kielbasa and cook for a couple of minutes, add the bacon back in and dinner is served.

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Maple Bacon Cinnamon Rolls

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the wonderful Mom’s out there!!!

I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to blog about today, last night at dinner my daughter texted me an early; at least for me; Happy Mother’s day; since she is 13 hours ahead of me it was technically already Sunday for her.

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A few weeks back she sent me a cinnamon bun recipe that I just “had to make” so I thought why not make them for myself tomorrow for breakfast; she immediately wrote back that she would also make them but for her dinner and we could Skype and eat them together.  Oh my how flipping cute is that, at least that was what I thought last night while at my nice dinner out with my hubby sipping my very chilled Cosmo.

I gathered all the ingredients and turned on my computer, let Abbi know I was online, finally, and off we went. Since she has made them a few times before, I kept showing her my dough,” is what it is supposed to look like”? It was actually a lot of fun “baking with my daughter” this morning.

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I did have to tell her that I totally loved dough that was kneaded in my kitchen-aid versus by hand. She doesn’t have this luxury in her apartment in Japan, she was less impressed by this, though she did brag that she is well practiced in the art of dough making, she even had to point out that she can make dough wearing a black shirt and it would still be black when she is done, at this point I looked down and yup had flour all over me. I always make a mess, but I clean up real well…

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Dough

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour + extra flour if needed – I needed 4 extra tablespoons

1 cup buttermilk – warmed 1 minute in a glass measuring cup in the microwave (I had to make my own as I didn’t have any on hand) – 1 cup of milk, 1 tbs of lemon juice let sit a few minutes.

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2 ¼ tsp instant dry yeast

2 tbs canola oil

2 tbs granulated sugar

¼ tsp salt

Filing

½ cup unsalted butter, very soft

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

3 tbs cinnamon

2-3 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped

Glaze

2 tbs butter

2 tbs maple syrup

½ cup powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9×13 inch casserole dish by spraying with cooking spray

In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine all dough ingredients and knead for about 7 minutes, or until dough is soft, smooth, and has come together in a firm mass. If hand-kneading, you may need to knead a few minutes longer.  Note – Dough should be smooth, not overly sticky, and fairly easy to handle. If your dough is still wet, add 1 Tbs of flour one at a time until it comes together.

Turn dough out onto a silpat or cooking sprayed work surface, I have an awesome pastry mat I use lightly floured

Using a rolling pin, roll dough into a rectangle that’s approximately 9×14 inches

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Spread butter in an even layer over the surface of the dough, leaving about 1/4-inch margins around edges; set aside.

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In a small bowl, add sugars, cinnamon, and stir to combine. Evenly sprinkle mixture over the buttered dough. Sprinkle chopped bacon over cinnamon and sugar.

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Starting with the 14-inch side, roll dough up into a tight log

Make approximately 1-inch slices with a pastry cutter, or a sharp knife or even unflavored waxed dental floss.  You don’t want to squish the rolls too much, I used my pastry cutter I didn’t mind how they looked – kind looks like my kids made them when they were younger

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Place rolls into prepared pan.  Bake for about 20-22 minutes, or until cooked through and set. Watch rolls closely so you don’t burn them.

Making the glazed – over low heat melt the butter and maple syrup together; Remove from heat and whisk in 1/2 cup powdered sugar

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I do have to share with you all that it didn’t go as smoothly as it could have; I missed a step and had to unroll my dough as I forgot to add the bacon. Shit happens in the kitchen; at least my kitchen.

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recipe adapted from: beccabakes.com

Spinach Bacon and Cheese Breakfast Skillet

This week I found a new found respect for my cast iron skillet. Don’t get me wrong I have used it many times for certain dishes, mainly something to do with chicken. I actually like to use it on my gas grill for beer can chicken, it is very sturdy and I don’t have to use my nice pans on the grill which tend to get quite dirty. I definitely do not use it as often as I probably could or should.

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We do have the grill out and ready but have only been really able to use it only a couple of times so far, the weather has been unseasonably cold around here, just yesterday was the first day I didn’t have snow on my front lawn since last November, it’s got to turn around soon!!! We should be out cleaning the yard and gardens. Not sitting inside with the heat still on. Just this morning I made broccoli cheddar soup, chili and I am going to make a roasted chicken in a little bit. Those are all things I do in the Fall not in the Spring.

I had been craving a good burger for a couple of weeks now and I do make a mean burger so instead of going outside and freezing my butt off I decided to break out my cast iron and make a mess in the house. According to my guys “that was a great burger, thank you”.  I couldn’t agree more, the char on them was “AWESOME” I know that they wouldn’t have been as good if I used a different pan. Leaving the burger in place until the pan releases the meat is key to making the burgers delicious!!!!

This morning I brought the cast iron out again and it didn’t disappoint, I saw a Spinach & Cheese Breakfast Skillet recipe on Eating Well online. I did change mine up a little bit, I added chopped onions, I didn’t pre-cook my potato and I added more bacon and an extra egg than their original one listed. 

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Spinach & Cheese Breakfast Skillet

2 Medium sized potatoes peeled and diced in small cubes

1 small onion diced

2 Slices of bacon – I used 3 and it was too much – if that is even such a thing

3 cups fresh baby spinach

1/8 tsp salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Freshly cracked black pepper

2 Tbs water – for steam – helps cook the eggs quicker

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Peel and wash potatoes, slice in approx. 1/2” cubes. Cook bacon in skillet till crispy remove and set aside. Add potato to bacon grease cook till browned and tender, add diced onion. Cook until onions are slightly browned. Add spinach, stir till combined and barely wilted.  Make a couple of wells and crack an egg in each. Reduce heat to medium low and cook until the eggs are partially set, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese, add water and cover and cook until the cheese is melted and the egg whites are completely set. Chop the bacon and sprinkle on top, garnish with generous grinding of pepper.

Wilted Spinach Salad

This last week there wasn’t a lot of cooking going at Clark Towers. It’s been quite some time since we ate out more than in; which is a little sad since I do love to cook and thankfully it doesn’t happen very often but I’m dealing, I did however make lunch yesterday for me and the guys just so I could actually make something well that and I needed to use up some fresh spinach that I bought before it went bad. Mind you this is not the first time I bought a big bag of spinach to make this dish, it usually just ended up in regular tossed salads.

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My husband remembers fondly of a wilted spinach salad that his mother made from his childhood. I on the other hand would not eat spinach (its green) to save my life when I was a kid. I’m am pretty happy I got over my no green food rule, I was missing out on some pretty fantastic options (I can see my mother smirking now). such as avocados – Guacamole is one of my absolute favorites and I make it all the time. Fresh spinach is also yummy I might just need to add this salad to my list of greens I like to eat now.

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I was definitely watching my husband take his first bite, I got nothing… (uhh deflated) he waited for his 3rd bite to finally speak – nodding his head he said he loved it! Phew I was a little worried, well not worried but curious if I pulled it off. My son on the other hand wasn’t in love with it, he is not a big egg fan so next time I would probably use 1 less egg, or not; he is old enough, he can fend for himself.

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The only problem is this is not a salad that will stay long; you really need to eat the whole thing at one sitting. I should have taken a picture of my husband coming back to the table and using the salad tongs to take one or two more bites.

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Wilted Spinach Salad

6 cups spinach, washed drained very well and torn into bite-sized pieces

¼ cup sliced green onion

2-3 hardboiled eggs, chopped

6 slices of bacon, cooked until crispy and chopped

3 Tbs reserved bacon drippings

¼ cup vinegar

2 Tbs sugar

2 Tbs water

½ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp freshly cracked black pepper

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Place eggs in a sauce pan cover with cold water, bring to a boil, cover and turn off the heat. Let sit 13 minutes and then run under cold water, peel and roughly chop. Set aside.

Cook bacon in a skillet until crispy, transfer to paper towels to drain

Combine spinach, onions and eggs in a large bowl

In a small bowl add vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper, while bacon is draining on paper towels add vinegar mixture to 3 Tbs of the reserved bacon drippings, heat to boiling, stirring just to blend.

Pour hot mixture over spinach; gently toss and sprinkle with bacon

Serve immediately

Clam Chowdah – I am from New England – it’s legal

I was sitting at the island yesterday morning updating a couple of FB pages we have, my husband’s company website and scheduling some cooking classes when my husband decided he would love for me to make him some clam chowder. I didn’t have any clam juice or can’s of clams in my cupboard. which is kind of shocking to even me, especially since they would sit quite nicely next to the beans, mustard’s and San Marzano tomatoes among everything else I have in there. I guess I could change that.

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I probably don’t have anything clam related on hand because I personally don’t eat clams, I do tend to make other soups, that I also eat, more often than clam chowder but both my guys really like it. Even though they do comment that mine is “different” don’t get me wrong they love it, but it is definitely not as creamy white (I do use milk not cream) as the ones they get when they order out. And I don’t recall ever seeing thyme in any clam chowder they have ordered. Regardless I know they love it when they ask me to make it and make a special trip to the store to pick up the ingredients for it.

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Clam Chowder

4-6 slices of bacon

1 medium onion diced

2 sticks of celery diced

1 bulb minced garlic

½ cup water

2 cups milk

4 cups clam juice

4 tbs flour

3-4 potatoes peeled and diced

2 bay leaves

½ tsp thyme

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

2 Tbs (optional)

Cut bacon into a few pieces, brown in stock pot on medium heat. Remove bacon to paper towel to drain, reserve 2-4 tablespoons off the bacon grease.  Add diced onion and celery; saute on low until soft. Add garlic saute another minute. Add flour cook thoroughly, add water and clam juice slowly stirring until smooth, add thyme and bay leaves, season with salt and pepper, add diced potatoes and boil till tender 15-20 minutes.

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Side note if you want to thicken without or in addition to the flour/fat roux route and you have a potato ricer, you could peel a few potatoes and add them to the chowder, take them out and place them in the potato ricer, it will help thicken your soup/chowder

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Add clams, I tend to you use a combination of whole belly and chopped clams.  Add the milk and you can finish it off with a couple of tablespoons of butter.

Shredded Hash Brown Cups

I have never been a huge fan of the traditional quiche. They never tasted as good as they looked to me for the work you had put into them. Strata’s are just so much easier, no crust needed! However I found a recipe for a quiche with the crust being shredded hash browns; it piqued my interest. I bought the ingredients a few weeks ago and never got around making it. Having an extra-long weekend and the weather at the beginning being pretty sucky I had time to play a little. The quiche was pretty successful. My guys and I had a few critiques that we think would make it better. This happens more often than not, they are very opinionated.

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This morning sitting at the island drinking my tea with my husband and his coffee; I asked what would he like for breakfast. He said something with egg in it. Big help he is! I had some leftover hash browns to use up and have always wanted to make hash brown egg cups. I saw them on the cover of a magazine a few months ago. So I looked up the basics from the magazine and got out what I hand on hand and what was close enough to get by with. They used prosciutto which I did not have; I had bacon and ham on hand. I usually try to make a dish the way I find it and then change it to our taste but sometimes I have to use what I have on hand; actually that happens more often than not They were delicious we liked the ham better than the bacon.  Before we ate my husband asks me if I took a picture of them. After we ate he asked if I was going to blog about them, I was thinking about it, he said you totally should.

A good friend of ours went to the Azores a month or so ago and brought me back some sweet paprika that he enjoyed while there. This was my first opportunity to try some, it was excellent.

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While my guys had definite opinions for the quiche the egg cups were a huge hit. The only comment was when can you make these again?

When cooking I really don’t measure anything, so I will give you my best guesstimates for the cups. As you can tell I didn’t have enough hash browns to fill all of the cups.  Use what you have on hand!

Frozen shredded hash browns–thawed and squeezed of all their water use enough to fill 12 cup muffin tin about 1/2 full. (this part is very important if you want them to release from the tin)

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp fresh rosemary chopped

½ tsp sweet paprika

mix all the above in  bowl to combine, you want to make sure the potatoes are seasoned

Bacon Prosciutto or ham or any combination works

(12 cups is 6 slices of bacon)

12 room temperature eggs (take out of the fridge at the start and that should be fine)

Chives for garnish

Spray your tin well. Add hash brown mixture, the bottom matters more than the sides, but you want an indent so the meat and egg fit in. Spray the hash browns and bake at 375’ for about 30 minutes. take out of the oven and place the meat you are using in the center. If bacon slice in half and then half again; crisscross them. They can hang over a little. Crack an egg in a small bowl and then carefully transfer them to the each tin. Bake for 10-15 minutes, I watched them because I wanted the whites cooked but the yolk runny. There is a fine line so cook to how you like your eggs. Scrape around the edges to release.