11/18/2010

Loaded Oats

I was recently craving oatmeal raisin cookies, which happen to be my favorite cookies in the whole world. After trying to ignore the craving for a week or two, I finally caved, and ventured to the store to get the missing ingredients. In addition to buying the missing ingredients, I also came across 100% whole wheat flour, which I’ve never used, so I bought some.

bag-of-flourI have a handful of recipes that I use for oatmeal raisin cookies, depending on my mood. There’s the recipe from my great-grandmother, the recipe from my very first cookbook (I must’ve made that one a million times!), and then there’s the old stand-by recipe that’s typically on the oats container—I chose the last one.

For those of you who know my cooking style, I like to take recipes and make them my own, and this time was no different. I substituted the 100% whole wheat flour for all of the all-purpose flour, added an extra cup of oats, added raisins (recipe didn’t call for any), used milk instead of water, added ground cinnamon and ground cloves, and used butter instead of shortening. I pretty much kept everything else the same.

Here’s the recipe, or at least as close as I can recall:

Loaded Oats: Oatmeal Raisin Spice Cookies

1 cup packed brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar)
1/2 cup Sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter (softened)
1/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup 100% whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups raisins
Ground cinnamon (to taste)
Ground cloves (to taste)
Honey (just a kiss)
1/2 teaspoon Salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease cookie sheet (I used a Silpat instead). Beat sugars, butter, milk, egg, and vanilla until creamy. In another bowl combine oats, flour, baking soda, and salt (optional). Add to butter mixture; mix well. Add raisins, cinnamon, cloves, and a kiss (to taste) of honey to mixture; mix well. Drop rounded teaspoons (I used a tablespoon) onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake 12 minutes or until light golden brown. Let stand 1 minute before removing to racks to cool.

(Using teaspoon sized drops it should make 6 dozen. Using tablespoon sized drops I got just over 3 dozen. Your results will vary depending on how much dough you eat).

rack-of-loaded-oats

That’s it. This recipe turned out some of the best oatmeal raisin spice cookies I’ve ever eaten. Soft and chewy, just how I like them!

by Bryan at 6:44:00 PM | | Permalink
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9/20/2009

Third Annual Tequila and Salsa Party Recap

It’s been just about a month since Julie and I hosted the Third Annual Tequila and Salsa Party. This party, unlike the previous two parties, was the first to involve a broader invite list. As such, it felt much more like a “regular” party, and a lot less like a “special event.” This isn’t to say that it was a bad time, it was—it just left me wanting more. Perhaps that’s a good thing. Maybe it means we need to have a winter and summer version of the party…

As usual, the tequila was stellar, with the top tequila award going to the brand new Republic Tequila. Other tequilas included one from Tabasco, Don Eduardo, Patron XO Cafe, Senor Frogs, and more that I can’t recall now. The surprisingly good Tabasco Tequila made for a really nice, spicy margarita.

The Tequila and Salsa Party would not be complete without an assortment of salsas—homemade and store bought. There were red salsas and green salsa, hot salsas and mild salsas, and even a fruity salsa. One thing that stood out to me was the lack of smoky salsas. Compared with years past, the chipotle was only a small part of the show. I know my salsas were all about fresh ingredients. Personally, I made a couple of red salsa, and a couple of tomatillo salsas, including one using the drippings from a green chile brisket.

And now we come to the real star of this Tequila and Salsa Party—the food! This year’s party featured a taco bar, with all of the fixings. For the filling, we had smoked pulled pork, the previously mentioned green chile brisket, and shredded chicken. All 3 made for excellent taco filling, though the pork and brisket were the favorites. Mix in an assortment of fillings, like diced jalapenos, pico de gallo, cilantro, chopped onions, cotija, jack and cheddar cheese, and even lettuce, guacamole, and sour cream, and you’ve got perfect tacos which were cradled perfectly inside of corn and flour tortillas.

Thanks to everyone who made this party possible, especially our friends Erin and Sara. I’m looking forward to the 4th Annual Tequila and Salsa Party, and perhaps a “3.5!”

by Bryan at 11:57:00 AM | | Permalink
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6/19/2009

Oatmeal Raisin Energy Cookies

The other day the boys and I got the taste for something sweet, but we didn’t have anything in the house, so I suggested that we make some cookies. Of course they thought that was a great idea, and I went to work finding a recipe and gathering ingredients.

The cookie of choice was oatmeal raisin, because that’s my favorite, and we didn’t have any chocolate chips. Fortunately we had plenty of oats, and raisins, but the only two eggs were about a month past their expiration date. I went ahead and cracked them open, just to see if they were still good, and while they didn’t stink, I decided not to use them.

Here we are with all of the ingredients except eggs. I really didn’t want to go to the store, so I searched (binged, not googled) for egg substitutes in baking. Among other things, I found a site that said I could use ground flax seed mixed with warm water as a substitute for the eggs. I thought “hey, we’ve got that!” And I set off mixing some flax seed and water, and making the cookie batter.

Before I added in the oats and raisins, I asked the boys and Julie if I should add in some peanut butter. They all agreed that I should, so I did (note: I didn’t substitute it for anything else, which I would do next time). I then added the oats and raisins, spooned the mixture out onto a cookie sheet, and went about baking the cookies, sampling a healthy portion of dough along the way.

The dough tasted good, so I was optimistic that the cookies would taste good, too. I was not disappointed. There was a hint of the peanut flavor, and some added nuttiness from the flax seed, and the texture was spot on. If I didn’t tell you that these were egg-less cookies, you would probably never know. The boys even loved them.

So there you have it, my oatmeal raisin energy cookies. I used the recipe off of the Quaker Oats container, adding a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter, and substituting ground flax seed mixed with water for the two eggs. I also used the “baking” Splenda, instead of regular white sugar. The next time I make these, I will leave out some of the butter for the peanut butter, and I might experiment with some different dried fruit.

Let me know if you try your hand at these, or something similar.

by Bryan at 11:44:00 AM | | Permalink
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5/18/2009

The Salsa King 2-Peat

I started this post on Cinco de Mayo, but got distracted, so I hope you all had a happy Cinco de Mayo! I hope you enjoyed mucho tequila, chips y salsa, and whatever else it is you might celebrate with. At work we celebrated with a potluck lunch, and another salsa contest. Just like last year, my salsa reigned supreme!

This year, I entered another roasted chipotle salsa. That’s my salsa with roasted tomatoes, chipotles, some other roasted peppers, roasted garlic—basically roasted everything, but the cilantro. It was might tasty.

I also made another salsa, this one had a ton of roasted jalapenos, roasted tomato, and fresh everything else (garlic, onion, and cilantro). And NO chipotles. It was my favorite of the two. The jalapeno pepper flavor really stood out, but it wasn’t too hot, as I stripped all of the seeds and most of the ribs out.

Look for a running update very soon.

by Bryan at 10:21:00 PM | | Permalink
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5/6/2008

The Salsa King

For my longtime readers, you know that I had a life before running, and that I do have other interests. One of those interests is cooking, and one of my favorite things to make is salsa. I love eating it, too. In fact, I love it so much, we have a party every year, celebrating Tequila and Salsa.

Over the years I've used my coworkers as my informal taste testers for my salsa, so when a salsa contest was announced at work to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, many of them asked if I'd be entering. I've got to admit, I haven't made a whole lot of salsa over the last couple of months, and we were going to be pretty busy over the weekend before the contest, so I really wasn't sure that I wanted to enter. However, late Friday evening I decided to go ahead and enter.

As it turns out, I didn't make it to the store to get my ingredients until Sunday night, and I didn't even start on the salsa until after 9:30 PM Sunday night.  Within an hour, the salsa was ready and tasting good. Monday morning rolls around and I take the salsa to work and set it out for the judging, and what do you know, I win the contest!

So now I am the proud maker of an award winning salsa! Does anyone know how to go about bottling salsa and getting it into the hands (and mouths) of consumers?

Oh, and if you're interested, the winning salsa was based on my Perfect Salsa.

by Bryan at 12:28:00 PM | | Permalink
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4/10/2008

Tequila And Salsa

For those of you who cannot get enough tequila or salsa, I'd like to remind you of my latest website: Tequila and Salsa Party. The Tequila and Salsa Party website is dedicated to, of all things, tequila and salsa--and consuming them with good friends. The website was created as a companion to the Tequila and Salsa Party, which we've held for the last two years.

The Tequila and Salsa Party website contains not only information on our annual party, but also information on tasty salsas and tequila, as well as Mexican food that goes great with both.

Make sure you head on over to the site, and subscribe to the feed for the latest in tequila and salsa.

by Bryan at 3:13:00 PM | | Permalink
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2/2/2008

Another Day, Another Salsa

It's late...we've got a busy Saturday...I really should be getting to bed, rather than writing this blog post. But I've just got to get this salsa recipe out of my head and stored somewhere a little more permanent.

Roasted Tomato and Tomatillo Salsa
  • 6 Roasted tomatillos
  • 2 Roasted roma tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz. can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes
  • 1 Roasted Poblano pepper
  • 1 ancho chile pepper
  • 1 habanero pepper
  • 1/2 shallot (minced)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • a few cloves of roasted garlic
  • salt
  • white vinegar

Maybe someday I'll come back and tell you how I took all of these ingredients and turned them into this salsa:

by Bryan at 2:15:00 AM | | Permalink
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1/28/2008

The Perfect Salsa?

Mmm...delicious! I think that I am very, very close to perfecting my salsa. On the heels of last weekend's success, and with the Tequila and Salsa Party less than two weeks away, I thought it was time to give it another go.

Using last week's salsa (mine, not the Ersatz Papalote) as the basis, I put my roasted tomatoes in a pot on the stove, added chipotle peppers, salt, and some water, brought the whole thing to a boil, and then simmered for around 20 minutes. While the tomatoes and chipotle peppers were simmering away, I minced up some shallot, and chopped up some cilantro. (I also roasted some garlic earlier in the evening.) After about 20 minutes of simmering, I added equal parts red wine vinegar (less than last weekend) and white vinegar to the tomato mixture, and simmered another  minute. I then poured the tomatoes and peppers into the blender, added the cilantro, shallots, and roasted garlic, and chopped until the salsa was a nice smooth consistency.

Check out the final result in the picture, shown along with some homemade tortilla chips. The salsa might just be the best I've ever made--I can't wait to try it tomorrow!

by Bryan at 11:19:00 PM | | Permalink
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1/19/2008

Making Some Salsa

My Dad's birthday was today, and I was asked to make some salsa and guacamole to go along with fajitas. Figuring that this would serve as good practice for the 2nd Annual Tequila and Salsa Party, and I never pass up the opportunity to make something tasty to share with family, I agreed. My guacamole recipe is pretty much set, with a slight variation from time to time, so the next step was figuring out exactly what sort of salsa I wanted to make.

Our friends, Erin and Sara, have been perfecting some awesome salsa over the last few months, so I really needed to figure something out that would really step it up a notch from my normal salsa (my normal salsa is pretty damn good!). After a little googling, I came across this Ersatz Papalote Salsa recipe from Chow.com that sounded worth trying. (Go ahead and click over to Chow and check out the back story on this recipe.) I decided that I would make this salsa, and another of my own creation, but one that varied from my normal salsa, and headed out to our local grocery store.

Armed with all of the ingredients to make the Ersatz Papalote Salsa, plus several more ingredients for my own salsa, and the guacamole, I headed home, where I  began working my way through the recipe. One extra step I had to take was making my own ground dried passilla peppers, as I could not find any ready-made powder. Of course, I didn't mind doing this, as it takes no time at all, and makes for the freshest powder. As the Papalote Salsa was cooking, I started devising the game plan for the other salsa.

While googling for recipes, I saw a lot of people mentioning Muir Glen's Fire Roasted canned tomatoes, and I was lucky enough to find them at the store. (Typically I roast my own tomatoes under the broiler or on the grill, along with my peppers, garlic, and sometimes onion.) The plan was to use the Muir Glen Fire Roasted diced tomatoes, some chipotle peppers, roasted garlic, cilantro, onions (so far very similar to my normal salsa, minus the fresh tomatoes), and a new ingredient--red wine vinegar.

The Ersatz Papalote Salsa used white vinegar, and I know of at least one other really good salsa that uses vinegar, so I figured I'd try incorporating it into my salsa. I also decided to simmer most of my ingredients in some water for 20 minutes, prior to putting everything in the blender (this step came from the Ersatz Papalote Salsa). So into the pot went a big can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes (drained), a handful of dried chipotle peppers, a couple of cloves of garlic (whole, and not roasted), salt, and about a cup and a half of water. I brought this to a boil, and then simmered for 20 minutes. At the end of the 20 minutes, I added 3 TB of red wine vinegar to the pot, and let that simmer for another minute. While all of this was cooking, I chopped a bunch of cilantro and white onion. Once it was done cooking, everything in the pot, along with the cilantro and onion, was dumped into the blender, where it was blended until mostly smooth. At this point, I gave it a quick taste, called it good, and jarred it up and placed it in the fridge to finish coming together overnight.

The next morning (this morning), I gave it a taste and decided that the red wine vinegar was a little overpowering, so I roasted a couple of roma tomatoes and a couple of jalapeno peppers. I poured the salsa back into the blender, and added the tomatoes and peppers and blended. I also added some lime juice. At this point, the salsa was still pretty tangy and very hot. The salsa went back in the fridge until it was time to go to the party, where it was a huge hit!

"Wait, what about the Ersatz Papalote Salsa," you ask? Well, it came out a little more orange than the picture on Chow.com, which could've been due to blending it for too long, or perhaps it was just due to a difference in the ingredients (I followed the recipe, but you never know), but it was delicious. Being in Texas, this salsa was very different from the normal salsa here, but it was good! The toasted pumpkin seeds added a richness that you wouldn't have expected, as well as a nuttiness that was excellent. As for the guacamole? 8 large avocados went into the guacamole, and it was gone by the end of lunch.

As I am writing this, I just finished off a small bowl of both salsa, and I must say that they've continued to come together as the day has worn on. They are delicious, with just the right amount of kick. The next time I make my new salsa, I think that I'll use a little less red wine vinegar, perhaps cutting it by a tablespoon, and adding a little white vinegar to the mix.

by Bryan at 11:11:00 PM | | Permalink
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1/28/2007

The 1st Annual Tequila & Salsa Party

Last night, Julie and I hosted the 1st Annual Tequila & Salsa Party. We came up with the concept for this party on New Year's Eve, when we were discussing homemade salsas and drinking Patron with some like-minded friends. The idea is simple, really...everyone is encouraged to bring their own homemade salsa or bring a jar of their favorite salsa, and bring tequila for sipping and/or mixing. Including ourselves, we had 9 people in attendance, and it seems like everyone had a great time. Here's what we had at the party:

Tequila

  • 1800 Silver
  • Sol Dios Platinum
  • Milagro Reposado
  • Patron Anejo
  • Sauza Blanco
  • Tres Generaciones Anejo
  • Jose Cuervo Classico

Salsa

  • Chunky Tomato Salsa (mild)
  • Chipotle Salsa (medium)
  • Mango Salsa
  • Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (medium-hot)
  • Roasted Tomato and Chipotle Salsa (medium)
  • Roasted Tomato, Poblano, Garlic, and Lime Salsa (medium)
  • Roasted Tomato and Poblano Salsa (medium-hot)

Food

  • Beef Tacos
  • Brisket Tacos
  • Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
  • Tortilla Soup
  • Mexican Corn Dip
  • Sopapilla Cheesecake
  • Guacamole

The salsas were excellent, as was the tequila, food, and the company. We will definitely be doing this one again.

by Bryan at 8:02:00 PM | | Permalink
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12/20/2005

Jerry's Bars

My mom started making these for my uncle when he went away to college. Approximately 40 years later, she still makes them every year for his birthday.

2 tbsp butter
1 c brown sugar
1 c pecans, chopped
5-6 tbsp flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
Powdered Sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in 9x9 (13x9 if doubling) baking pan (in oven while preheating -- 2-3 minutes). Mix brown sugar, pecans, flour, and baking soda in bowl.

Beat eggs. Add brown sugar mixture and vanilla to eggs and stir to mix. Pour in the center of the baking pan. Do not stir.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Sprinkle powdered sugar on top using a strainer.

by Bryan at 10:51:00 PM | | Permalink
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3/8/2005

My First Attempt at Making Chicken Piccata

I am a longtime fan of the magazine "Cook's Illustrated," as well as the accompanying television show, "America's Test Kitchen," and a recent subscriber to their website -- www.cooksillustrated.com. As such, I get the occasional email offer from them, usually for a new cookbook. In a recent email offer for their "Italian Classics" cookbook, they included a recipe for Chicken Piccata. I love chicken piccata, and have always wanted to fix it myself. I decided that this evening was as good a time as any to try it out.

After a quick trip to the store, I began my prep work. There really wasn't much to it -- minced a shallot and some parsley, sliced and juiced a couple of lemons, and rinsed off some capers. Then it was time to season and flour the thinly sliced chicken and cook it. About 15 minutes later it was ready, sauce and all. It was good, but a bit salty (probably my fault, but could be from the capers or the chicken broth). The family liked it, including my 4-year old (always a good sign).

If you're still reading, you're probably interested in the recipe. Unfortunately, I don't have a link to the recipe, but I'd be happy to forward the email with it to whoever wants it. Here it is: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipe.asp?recipeids=219 (might require free registration).

by Bryan at 8:09:00 PM | | Permalink
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3/6/2005

New Coffee Maker

For quite some time, I've been looking at French Press coffee makers. I'd heard from many people that when done right, they make the best cup of coffee. Before I could take the plunge and put Mr. Coffee away for good, I had to overcome a few hurdles. Laziness, no tea kettle, no burr grinder, and of course no French Press.

There's no getting around my laziness, it is what it is. I figured I must simply bite the bullet, and see if French Press made coffee is worth the little bit of extra work. Today, I overcame the remaining hurdles and bought a tea kettle, a burr grinder, and a French Press. After getting home and washing everything, I set off on my coffee adventure.

The first step was bringing some water to a boil. With a tea kettle, this is trivial, and suprisingly fast. While the water was coming to a boil, I used my new burr grinder to grind some coffee beans into a nice coarse grind. This was trivial as well. The grinder that I got has a coarseness setting, as well as a capacity setting...I simply set those to things and press "Start" -- no holding down a button, and counting. By now the tea kettle was whistling, so I took it off the burner briefly while I measured the ground coffee into the French Press. (You want the water to be just south of it's boiling point). I then poured in the water and stirred, put the French Press lid on, making sure that the spout was not open, and let it brew for about 4 minutes. After four minutes of brewing, I pressed plunger down, filtering out the grounds, and poured the coffee into my favorite mug. That's it. The coffee was ready in around 10 minutes.

Now for the important question -- how's the coffee taste? In a word, delicious. It was worth the little bit of extra effort, and honestly, my laziness didn't even come into play. I've now put the Mr. Coffee away. I am sure it will make an appearance from time to time, but not often.

by Bryan at 3:05:00 PM | | Permalink
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3/2/2005

Chili Cook-off

At 4 PM yesterday afternoon, I decided to enter a chili cook-off that my department's social committee had organized as part of a Texas Independence Day themed pot-luck. Short notice, I know, but I knew I could work some magic in the kitchen. With such a short time-frame to work with, I didn't want to go the normal route of winging it completely, so I found a nice base recipe and then went to work.

The end result was nothing short of phenomenal. I let myself start thinking about winning the cook-off (though winning was not the goal when I entered, I am way too competitive to keep it from becoming THE goal). As the other entries arrived, and people in the department began sampling, my confidence grew. The feedback was excellent. Then came time for the judging.

There were three judges, and as far as I could tell, only one had any previous experience at doing this. Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for arrived. There was only to be the announcement of a winner -- no 2nd or 3rd place awards. However, the judges deviated from the rules and announced an honorable mention. This chili was voted #1 by one judge, while the eventual winner was tops with the other two. Mine was the honorable mention.

Disappointed? Yes, but I could live with it. I figured the winning chili must be pretty damned good. Wrong! I tasted it and had to choke it down. A coworker spit it out. Others mentioned it as having an "almost rancid" taste. How does this happen? How does one chili win out with 2 out of 3 judges, while losing out with nearly everyone else? I demand a recount, an investigation, bribes must've been handed out, favors had to have been called in, the winner must've had dirt on two of the judges! For the record, it was the judge with previous judging experience that picked mine as #1.

In the end, it was all good. My coworkers loved my chili. Who cares about the judges anyway. It isn't like there was some huge award for 1st place. My prize was a near perfect bowl of red, and the satisfaction of knowing my peers enjoyed it too.

Before I forget, I want to thank my kitchen staff. Without you, I might have won...just kidding.

by Bryan at 1:43:00 PM | | Permalink
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6/2/2003

Zolon

I went with a couple of co-workers to check out the latest addition to the downtown Fort Worth restaurant scene today, Zolon an everyday bistro.

The food was outstanding. I had the Western Salad and Three (pizza, see the menu). I also had a taste of Four (again, pizza, see the menu). Everything was delicious. Very fresh, and very tasty. Almost everything is offered in half-orders, and they suggest you go that route -- mixing and matching items to suit your taste.

If you find yourself around Sundance Square in Fort Worth, and are in need of a meal, check out Zolon.

by Bryan at 2:11:00 PM | | Permalink
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2/11/2003

Stacey's Cafe

Went to Stacey's Cafe for dinner this evening. Scott Adams is a co-owner. Surprisingly, aside from the menu (you must read the menu, which is available at their website), there was very little to tip you off that Scott Adams is involved in any way.

By the way, the food was really good, I had the filet mignon -- cooked to perfection.

by Bryan at 11:30:00 PM | | Permalink
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1/20/2003

Real Simple

I saw a magazine the other day while I was walking out of my local Barnes & Noble. I didn't flip through it or even pick it up (I don't even recall having ever seen this magazine before), but one of the stories listed on the cover caught my attention -- a month of dinners.

I've just browsed through the recipes listed, and already I've found several things that I would like to try. The rosemary-garlic chicken looks like a good place to start.

If anyone out there decides to try some of the recipes, please let me know how they turn out.

by Bryan at 11:41:00 AM | | Permalink
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11/4/2001

Yummmmm

OMG, this place is Goooood! It is just down the street from us, which is probably not a good thing, considering how much I love Tex-Mex.

by Bryan at 9:38:00 PM | | Permalink
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