No Dip Mix? No Problem!

I ran out of Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning. I usually buy it in the big containers because it will last a while. I forgot to pick up a new container. I don’t like making dip in big batches unless it is for special occasions or certain functions. I just don’t sit and eat a whole thing anymore. Yes, anymore, as in I was a ravenous teenager who could sit and eat a whole bag of chips with dip and burn it off in no time. I wish my metabolism was still that good!

I began experimenting with my spices and the sour cream. I don’t mind the taste of plain sour cream as much as I use to. It has become a staple in my home… Dear, Peanut Butter, I miss you. While I have made dips in the past from scratch they have come out less than pleasant or even edible. It could be my changing pallet as well. Here is what it looks like: IMG_1846

It doesn’t look too scary, right? This is what transpired:
– Sour Cream
– Parsley
– Minced Onion
– Onion Powder
– Chives
– Garlic Powder
– Creole Seasoning
– Paprika
– Pinch of Sea Salt

Everything was added to taste. You need to let the minced onion sit a bit as it can be crunchy. I would say this is some place between onion and veggie-tasting. Not so much like ranch. The flavor is mild and could probably use a bit more of something but I have yet to figure out what. In the mean time, I am going to enjoy it with a bowl of chips, hot chocolate, and Netflix!

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Bacon and Eggs – Not just for breakfast

ImageFor years I have refused to use egg as a binding agent in meat dishes; I never understood the point to be honest. You’re adding extra fat and cholesterol for the sake of holding meat together while it cooks. Personally, I’ve never had trouble with meat staying together in a patty or in a pan in the oven. I’ve also tried the same thing in cupcake tins, which makes cute little circular meat loafs for individual servings. The point is that it’s not necessary.

So why follow the rules? Being stuck at home with a contagious disease may have played a part of it all (don’t worry, all better now), and the other reason was that I had hamburger, bacon, and eggs that all need to be used before they went bad.

For my meat loaf, I probably used close to 3-4lbs of 85% lean certified angus beef. I like the flavor of it, and I can usually buy it on sale, but if it’s available, I usually get the 93% lean. I threw in a bit of Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, McCormack hamburger seasoning, clover honey, onions, and peppers. I did’nt have fresh garlic and I had very little of the dried kind, so I added garlic butter crackers, about 14-20 crackers in all. I also added two eggs.

ImageThe bacon I weaved beforehand in the dish I intended to bake with, to make sure it would cover the top. I used a whole 16oz package. I then slid it out and onto a plate. How I did this without the weave coming apart I have no idea. It slid fairly well, so just do that and don’t try to lift it. I used the same process to put it on top and pulled the ends a bit to stretch it out.

I baked it covered with tinfoil on 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 35 minutes, then for another 30 minutes without the tinfoil on it to crisp up the bacon. The pieces on the bottom of the weave come out softer, but still cooked.

After eating some, I realized that the egg did not make a drastic difference, but the bacon is pretty awesome! As far as texture goes, it compares to my other meatloaf recipes. You really don’t need a binder; just need the right meat and some patience. It was pretty good, but I think I’ll refrain from using egg in the future. The bacon on the other hand…

Finnish Cardamom Bread

ImageCardamom bread is wonderful to make, but it can be time consuming,. The recipe I used can be found here: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Finnish-Pulla/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e11=finnish%20sweet%20bread&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Recipe

ImageThis bread tastes great with coffee. You can also slice it and make delicious French toast.

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Now you are probably wondering–what happens if I have extra dough left? Do I just make a tiny braid and bake it? You can if you want. It is truly up to you. Here is what I did: Roll out the dough on a floured surface into a long rectangle shape (or as close as you can get to one). Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar to coat the dough. Roll towards you so that you are rolling the longest edge. Cut into one inch pieces. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Note that if you are not lazy like me, you can pinch the edges so you retain more of a circular shape. If you want to be lazy, you can display these in a lovely 69 position on a platter. I recommend serving this with a cream cheese frosting. Just mix one stick of butter, with one package of cream cheese. Add 2-3 cups of confectioner’s sugar. DON’T FORGET THE GINGER BRANDY!! You can add a few scoopfuls of that for flavor. You can also just leave it plain or add a number of other ingredients to enhance the flavor like cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, etc.

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Mystery Pecan Pie

Since I could not find my own recipe, I decided to use Paula Deen’s: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/mystery-pecan-pie-recipe/index.html

Mystery Pecan Pie

The Competent Chef’s Mystery Pecan Pie Baking

I like this particular recipe because it should be fool proof. You can use one of those Pillsbury pre-made pie crusts or make your own.

Once again there is a difference! Instead of vanilla, I used ginger brandy to flavor this delicious pie. I’m sure you can see a theme here…

Here is how it came out!

Mystery Pecan Pie(Complete)

Mystery Pecan Pie(Complete)

Banana Bread (Complete)

Banana Bread (In Process)

I used the following recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/banana-banana-bread/

Please note that I added two caps full of ginger brandy to this mixture and some chopped walnuts. I let the butter soften just enough so I could mix it with an electric mixer. That is what leaves the little clumps you see in the photo. The reason for this? My mom always did it like that!

Edit—-

And here is the finished product. It needed less time to cook than the recipe stated. I put it in for 60 minutes and while I checked when it had 20 minutes left, it still needed another 5 to go. I always end up with a darker-looking banana bread in this oven. Next time I may use foil.

Banana Bread (Complete)

Banana Bread (Complete)

Red Extravaganza – Lobster Frannie’s Way

I usually prefer not to cook lobsters myself. Granted, I love to eat them, but I’ll turn their head away from my view when I do. I’ve always done it and I don’t know why. It’s not a bad thing to have a connection to your food, but I have a hard time bringing myself to cook these tasty creatures. This is a fear I need to rid myself of.

(CompetentChef)

Lobsters are gross, and I’m a terrible New Englander.

(IncompetentChef)

Mastering The Art Of Pigging Out - My Life In Food - John C. Picardi

alobster 6
When Frannie called to invite my parents and I to dinner all he had to say was, “Hello John,” and my immediate response was, “We’d love to, when and what time?”

Dinner at cousin Frannie’s house is always a phenomenal treat especially when he is making the old family recipe, Lobster in tomato sauce, a dish he has made for my parents and me a few luscious times before. This brilliantly red extravaganza is one of his specialties and it is quite frankly earth shatteringly and outrageously delicious. Upon first bite of this masterpiece I always become instantly happy I’m related to Frannie, and not only that, any person who murders lobsters for family members is aces in my book.

alobster 2

Frannie doesn’t mess around here, he uses fat lobsters with claws big enough to snap your head off, San Marzano Tomatoes, virgin olive oil, red hot pepper flakes and garlic. It’s a straight…

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Straight Up: Braised Chicken and Kale

some text
Incompetent Chef: i made some straight up julia child shit today

Competent Chef: ooh? with butter?

Incompetent Chef: yes

Competent Chef: did you take a photo?

Incompetent Chef: i thought about it but then i ate it

Incompetent Chef: it wasn’t that pretty but it was pretty good

(CompetentChef)

Recipe: Google’s Braised Chicken and Kale from bon appétit

Photo by: Danny Kim

I had to go grocery shopping yesterday (since my fridge was devoid of any fresh food), so I went to Trader Joe’s and picked up some organic, free range chicken drumsticks and bagged kale. When I got home I was hungry, so after some googling I came across this recipe and decided to give it a shot. I nixed the wine, since I didn’t have any (sadface), and added butter because, butter. I would have taken pictures but my kitchen looks like a legitimate bio-hazard right now, so you get the official, pretty photo.

(IncompetentChef)