Gluten-Free Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints

IMG_1146Peanut butter and jelly. Apply between two slices of bread. Consume with a glass of milk, if desired. Suddenly, I’m happy. This flavor combination is classic, because it is sweet and salty. It transports us back to the time where we’d open our lunchboxes and eat a PB&J sandwich at lunch. Wasn’t life was a lot less complicated as a child? Even now in my thirties, when I come home and too lazy to be bothered to cook anything, I’ll prepare a PB&J sandwich. If I’m reading through a menu and I see PB&J in any item, it’s pretty certain that I’ll order it.  I love peanut butter and jelly.

These thumbprints are gluten-free, so you can get your peanut butter and jelly sandwich experience, without the bread. Sadly, I couldn’t figure out how to make this recipe calorie-free.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints
 
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Gluten-Free Peanut Butter and Jelly Thumbprints
Recipe type: gluten free, peanut butter and jelly, dessert, snacks
Serves: 1 dozen
Ingredients
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar (golden or dark)
  • ¼ tbsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 whole egg
  • ⅓ cup of jam
  • ½ cup of sugar for tossing the thumbprints
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • small pinch of nutmeg (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Open can of peanut butter and remove any oil that collected on the top.
  3. In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, ¼ cup granulated sugar, ¼ cup brown sugar, whole egg, salt, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg. Mix by hand until all the ingredients are combined and the dough comes together.
  4. Use a small ice cream scoop to portion out the dough balls. Toss the dough balls in the sugar and then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Arrange the dough balls about 2 inches apart.
  5. Using your thumb, press down into each of the dough ball to make a small indentation.
  6. Fill each indentation with jam.
  7. Bake in the over for about 9-12 minutes until golden brown.
  8. Makes approximately 1 dozen thumbprints.

 

 

 

 

 

Biscuits and Gravy


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This is my ideal breakfast. Soft, fluffy buttermilk biscuits with Jimmy Dean Breakfast sausage patties, creamy scrambled eggs and white sausage gravy. To be clear, this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a healthy breakfast. Don’t get any blood work or cholesterol screenings within a week of consuming this. Health warnings aside, this is a fantastic way to start a Saturday morning.

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Let’s talk biscuits. Specifically, the flour for making biscuits. Many recipes I read called for White Lily flour as a must when making biscuits. It is a soft wheat flour that is also a self-rising flour. My local grocery doesn’t stock White Lily, but I did have cake flour. After doing some research online, I decided to try a mix of cake flour and all-purpose flour instead. I’m glad I did because the biscuits came out soft and fluffy. My previous attempts at biscuits resulted in tough, crunchy discs that were essentially crackers. I think this new blend of cake flour and all-purpose helped to keep the biscuit soft and tender. I also increased the amount of buttermilk a little to ensure a moist biscuit. And since my cake flour and all-purpose flour are not self-rising, I added baking soda and baking power to help the biscuits rise. I was not disappointed at the end result.

Now, on to the gravy. Alton Brown has a great Sawmill Gravy recipe that I enjoy and so I incorporated into this recipe. I made a small tweak to it by seasoning my gravy with a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Beyond biscuits and gravy, I like to serve mine with scrambled eggs and Jimmy Dean sausage patties. I did say that this wasn’t healthy. But it sure tastes good. Definitely not something to eat regularly, but when you do make it, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re still feeling guilty, I suggest going for a run before making breakfast or take a long walk after breakfast.

Biscuits and Gravy
 
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Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Southern
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • Buttermilk Biscuits
  • 1¼ cup cake flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ cup butter, cut into small cubes, kept very cold
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • White Sausage Gravy
  • 1lb breakfast sausage
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Cut butter into small cubes, place into a small bowl and put back into the fridge.
  3. In the bowl of your food processor, whisk together the cake flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt until well blended. Add the butter cubes to the food processor. Pulse the flour and butter together just until it resembles crumbs.
  4. Add the buttermilk to the food processor and then pulse again until the dough comes together into a ball, being careful not to overwork the dough. Remove from the food processor onto a surface that has been lightly floured.
  5. Gently fold the biscuit dough onto itself several times. This helps to create a flaky texture to the biscuits. Then, gently flatten out the biscuit dough until it is about ½" thick.
  6. Cut the flattened out biscuit dough into rounds using a biscuit cutter (or the mouth of a glass turned upside down). When cutting, press down directly onto the dough; don't twist the cutter. Remove the cut rounds from the dough. You can re-fold, flatten and cut into the dough scraps to get a few more rounds.
  7. Remove the biscuit rounds to a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Place the rounds so that they are gently touching each other. This helps them to rise a little higher, and to have softer sides. If you prefer them to be crusty, place the rounds about 1 inch apart.
  8. Bake for about 11-13 minutes until the biscuits are a light golden brown color on top and bottom. Do not over bake.
  9. When done baking, remove from the baking tray and place in a bowl or basket with a towel to keep the biscuits warm.
  10. Make the white sausage gravy.
  11. Cook the sausage in a cast iron skillet, set to medium high heat. When the sausage is browned, remove the sausage from the skillet with a slotted spoon, leaving 2 tablespoons of fat. If there isn't enough fat, you can use butter.
  12. Set the heat to medium and whisk the flour with the butter/fat to cook out the floury taste, approximately 5 minutes. You do not want to brown the flour.
  13. Remove the skillet from the heat and whisk in the milk in stages, allowing the mixture of milk and flour to smoothen out before adding more milk.
  14. When all the milk has been added, increase the heat to medium-high and stir while the gravy comes back to a simmer and thickens. Before serving, return the sausage crumbles to the pan. Stir together to combine, and season with salt, pepper (and cayenne pepper if desired) to taste.
  15. To serve, cut the biscuits in half, place a sausage patty on the bottom piece, then some scrambled eggs. Top with a spoonful or two of the sausage gravy.

Baked Salmon with Dill and Meyer Lemon

IMG_0894I don’t often cook healthy dishes, but when I do it typically involves Salmon. We all know that Salmon is good for your heart, your brain, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and so on and so forth. But it also tastes really good. I’m not a fan of overly fishy tasting fish, which is why I like salmon so much.

When I make salmon, I usually pan sauté it with olive oil and butter, but tonight I tried to make it even healthier by leaving out the butter (sorry Paula Deen) and roasting instead of sautéing.

The salmon is seasoned with salt, pepper, thyme, dill, onion and garlic powder, smoked paprika and topped with sliced meyer lemons and lemon juice. It’s then roasted in the oven for 12-15 minutes. You can make this dish in under 30 minutes and the oven does all of the work.

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Baked Salmon with Dill and Meyer Lemon
 
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Baked Salmon with Dill and Meyer Lemon, with a Dill Sour Cream Sauce
Recipe type: Dinner, Seafood, Fish
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 Salmon Fillet (preferably Atlantic or King)
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • 1 Meyer Lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp paprika (regular or smoked)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. To prep the salmon, run your fingers along the fleshy side of the salmon, feeling around for pin bones. If any pin bones are present, remove them with tweezers. After making sure there are no bones, place the salmon filet on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Lightly coat the salmon filet with olive oil. Season the salmon filet with the salt, pepper, brown sugar, garlic and onion powder, paprika, and 1 tbsp of chopped dill. Slice ½ of the lemon into thin slices and layer them on top of the salmon. Let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, prepare the dill sour cream sauce. Chop up the dill weed so that you have about 2-3 tbsp of dill. In a small bowl mix together the dill, sour cream, mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice if desired.
  4. Place the salmon filet in the oven and roast for up to 15 minutes until the salmon s almost cooked at the center at the thickest part of the filet. Remove the salmon from the oven, cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  5. To serve, cut the salmon crosswise into serving pieces and serve with lemon slices and the dill sour cream sauce.

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Tips for a great steak

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Recently, I was asked how to grill a steak. Here’s a few tips on how to grill up a tasty, juicy steak. My favorite cut is the rib eye, but the same tips apply to other cuts.

  1. Meat: Get good quality meat, 1-1.5″ inches thick. Look for a nice even marbling of fat throughout the slab of meat. Fat is flavor, and will help to keep it moist and juicy while it cooks. I typically get my steaks from Costco or Whole Foods.
  2. Season: You can simply season the steaks with kosher salt if you’re a purist. I like using Emeril’s Steak Rub as I enjoy the combination of spices. Lightly apply some canola or vegetable oil to the steaks and then apply your rub. The oil will help deliver the flavor of the rub to the steak. After seasoning, let your steaks come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes, covered with some saran wrap/cling film.
  3. Heat: I cook my steaks on a $99 weber grill that I got from Home Depot. I use any charcoal readily available. I like the high heat that grilling over charcoal provides. Use a charcoal chimney to get your coals nice and hot. When flames are coming off the top of the chimney and the coals are starting to turn ashy white, pile the coals on one half of your grill. This helps to focus the heat and leave room for you to move your steaks in case you run into flare-ups.
  4. Leave it alone: Once you start grilling the steaks, leave them alone. Only touch the steaks if you encounter a flare-up. If this happens, spray the coals with a spray bottle filled with water to make the flames subside, or drag the steaks to the cool side of the grill until the flames die out, then drag the steaks back to their spot. I prefer my steaks medium rare. For ribeyes, I cook the steaks for about 3 minutes each side, depending on the thickness.
  5. Rest: Once your steaks are cooked, you must let them rest for 8-10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. If you cut into the steaks immediately after removing them from the grill, all the juices will run out of the steak and it will be swimming in a pool of steak juice. Be patient, let the steaks rest and you will be rewarded.

Finally, for you visual learners, check out this video of Chef Zakarian preparing a rib eye. http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/chef-zakarians-grilled-steak-0189658.html

Braised Pork Belly

IMG_0884Just another delicious lunch at Cafe Macs. As I mentioned before, one of the first things I do when I get to work is check what’s on the menu at our various cafes. Today, I saw pork belly…game over. I immediately knew what I was eating for lunch.

This was a delicious Niman Ranch pork belly seared and braised with herbs, onions, celery, carrots and white wine, topped with pickled watermelon radish. It was served over a Winter Root Vegetable Farro slowly cooked in white wine and herbs, with sautéed rainbow chard.

What was surprising on this dish was the rainbow chard. It had the right amount of bitterness to cut through the fatty unctuousness of the pork belly. Plus the pickled watermelon radish, which I’ve never had before, was excellent as well.

And come on…pork belly. Of course it was delicious.

 

Stuffed Shells

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Sausage, spinach and ricotta stuffed shells with asiago, fontina and parmesan cheese sauce.

Hickory Smoked Ribs

There is something primal that awakens within me whenever the smell of smoke hits my nose. I starts to salivate, and immediately look around to find the source of the smoke. Even if I had eaten recently, suddenly I’m hungry. Pork is a delicious reason to eat. Slow smoked St. Louis style spare ribs, covered with sauce, smoked for 6 hours… game over.

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I mean, come on. Look at the smoke ring! These were the best ribs I have ever eaten. Bonus points for making them at home on my smoker! If you don’t have a smoker, check out the Traeger wood pellet grill line of smokers. I have the Traeger Junior smoker.

Traeger Junior wood pellet grill smoker

Traeger Junior wood pellet grill smoker

This little smoker puts out some of the best smoke meats I have ever eaten.

I prepare my ribs using the 3-2-1 method. 3 hours of smoke, 2 hours wrapped in foil, 1 hour unwrapped back on the grill. This particular method gives you the most fall-off-the-bone tender ribs that you will ever eat. Simply follow the instructions and you’ll be amazed.

You must also be patient, grasshopper. This takes 6 hours of cook time, not including prep. But believe me when I say it’s worth the wait.

Hickory Smoked Ribs (3-2-1 method)

Ingredients

  • 2-3 racks of St. Louis Style Spare ribs, but you can also use baby back.
  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Myron Mixon’s Pork Rub
  • Myron Mixon’s Pork BBQ sauce
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  1. Begin by prepping the ribs. Be sure to remove the membrane on the back side of the ribs.

Hello world!

I am a geek, there’s no denying it. And I’m proud of it. At geek school, it’s a common tradition that the very first item, whether it be a program, post, or print to console output text should say “Hello world.” I continue in this proud geek tradition.

Though I geek it out during the day as an engineer, I’m often thinking about food. Actually, to be honest. I’m thinking about food constantly. Typically, the first thought that enters my mind when I wake up is, “What am I going to eat today, and when?” One of the first things I do when I sit down at work is to check the menu for the various cafes to determine if I’m staying on campus to eat, or going off-campus. During work, when I get distracted, I’m looking at recipes and pictures of food (food porn). Driving home from work, when I’m stuck in traffic I’m asking myself should I cook something when I get home or go out to eat. If I decide to cook, I think about which dish to make; do I go with a classic or try something new? Food Network and The Cooking Channel are probably the most watched channels at home. Before I go to bed, I’m thinking about what to eat tomorrow.

Seriously, I don’t know how I get things done if I’m constantly thinking about food. I love food. Cooking it, learning about it, feeding it to people, trying unique dishes, eating it (from hole in the wall places, to food trucks, all the way to three-star Michelin restaurants).

I’m starting this blog as a way to share some of the food I’ve cooked, great places I’ve eaten at, and photo documentation of my culinary adventures. As you read through this blog, don’t hesitate to comment and ask questions because I like talking and discussing food.

And finally, here’s the first ever food photo posted on this blog. I can think of no better photo to post than of my first attempt on Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. Bon Appetit!

Boeuf Bourguignon a la Julia Child