20150219

CRISPY FRIED WONTON STRIPS


You know those crispy little wonton chips you get at the Chinese restaurant? The golden brown, bumpy, delicious little chips they serve with soups? Yeah, those. I love them. I love them and I never, ever thought of making them myself for some reason. When I stopped in at a new little Chinese restaurant nearby they served some with my hot and sour soup and I got all excited about them again.

I always have wonton wrappers in the house, I find them a great tool for making quick, stuffed appetizers for company. Since I do cocktails nearly every day for my cocktail blog someone is always dropping by at happy hour unannounced. It was then I realized what a great and easy cocktail snack they would make, way easier than stuffing the wrappers! So, I turned on my deep fryer and went to work.

CRISPY FRIED WONTON STRIPS

Ingredients:

1 Package of Wonton or Egg Roll Wrappers
Vegetable oil
Seasonings

Tools: Knife, Deep fryer or Dutch oven and a slotted scooping tool, paper towels.

Directions:

Heat your oil to 350 degrees.
For the wonton wrappers, cut each wrapper in 4 long strips. This gives you approximately a half inch wide by 4 inch long strip. I cut up a stack of them all at once. If you're using egg roll wrappers do the same thing but make sure they're not more than 3 or 4 inches long.
Add one strip to the oil to test it for temperature. The strip should immediately bounce right up to the top and start bubbling.
Cook about 10 to 15 strips at a time, depending on the size of your fryer. You don't want too many in at once because they will not crisp properly.
They take anywhere from about 8 to 12 seconds - yes, seconds - to get nice and golden. I take mine out just before they get to the golden color I want because they will continue to cook for a second or two.
Scoop them onto some paper towels to drain and season.*

SERVING SUGGESTIONS:

Because I always have some frozen raspberries on hand, most of the time I serve these up with my version of sweet and sour sauce which is a raspberry coulis mixed with some Chinese five spice and a little lemon juice. If I have time I'll make my Crab Salad (Dip).

You can season these with fun things like Parmesan cheese, powdered white cheddar popcorn seasoning, herbs or even make them sweet by tossing them in a cinnamon and sugar mixture.

* If you´re seasoning with Parmesan cheese or sugar and cinnamon, etcetera, the easiest way to season them is to toss them in a paper bag add the seasoning and shake!

Have a little fun and experiment with some of your favorite flavors.
Then serve them up with some of my great cocktails from TheMartiniDiva.com!





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20150207

SWEET & SOUR RED CABBAGE RECIPE



I like coleslaw, but I do not like cooked cabbage. I hate sauerkraut. I have terrible childhood memories of my Mom's reheated, slimy, stinky canned sauerkraut and, as a result, have never been able to wrap my head around any form of cooked cabbage for most of my life. As a result, whenever someone suggests I have a hot dog with sauerkraut on it I cringe.

I do, however, kind of like sweet and sour cabbage, having been exposed to that through some Danish friends of mine. This is most likely because I like pickled foods. (No, that wormy pile of conglomerated, canned sludge that passes for sauerkraut is not food, pickled or otherwise.) Sweet and Sour cabbage is still not in my top 10 favorite foods, but it goes pretty good with pork products and makes a nice change from the standard starchy side dishes.


This last New Year's Eve I was finally convinced to try a hot dog with sauerkraut, but homemade sauerkraut, and you know what? I kind of liked it! Of course my mind immediately started thinking of ways I could improve it and I went right to that memory of Danish style sweet and sour red cabbage.

This recipe was adapted from a recipe from one of my favorite food websites, Taste of Home. I didn't have any bacon but I had bacon fat and used that. I also replaced their white vinegar with a nice raspberry vinegar which added more sweetness. I didn't have an apple either so I left it out. (Well, that's not strictly true. I did have an apple but I was saving it for some Apple Cocktails.) Additionally, I was in a hurry and misread their directions, but it turned out just fine with my method. Here is what I did:

SWEET & SOUR RED CABBAGE

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 C. Cider Vinegar
1/4 C. Cane Sugar
1/4 C. Packed Brown Sugar
1 Medium Red Cabbage, Shredded
2 Tbsp. Bacon Fat
1/2 C. Chopped Onion
1/4 C. Water
3 Tbsp. Raspberry Vinegar
1/2 Tsp. Salt
1/4 Tsp. Pepper
1/2 Tsp. Caraway Seeds

INSTRUCTIONS:

Add both vinegars, sugars, water and seasonings together in a large stock pot and stir. Add in the shredded cabbage and mix thoroughly to coat.

Allow this to pickle together for 15 minutes. 
Lightly brown the onions in the bacon fat then pour this all over the cabbage mixture until blended.

Simmer for 25 to 35 minutes, checking at 20 minutes for level of crunchy. I wanted mine thoroughly cooked because it was a hot dog topping, but if I was serving as a side dish I think I'd prefer it with a little tooth.


This is now my favorite hot dog topping. Add a little mustard and you're good to go. Because I made this primarily for hot dogs, I do wish I had added another whole onion and next time I will. (This go round I just tossed a few chopped green onions on my dogs.) I also think some shredded carrots I might be nice, but not for my hot dog topping.

I will also buy packages of pre-shredded cabbage, the shredding was a pain and my kitchen was bombed by tons of little bits of red cabbage.

Whaddya know, Mom, I like cooked cabbage! I can now call truly myself part Czech!



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20150116

Cooking Breakfast on a George Forman Grill


For some reason everybody has been cooking weird things on waffle irons lately. I don't have a waffle iron, but when I saw someone do hash browns on one it occurred to me I might do hash browns on my George Foreman grill. So I greased my little grill up, tossed on my hash browns, shut the lid and went for it and it worked!


Then I thought, "hey, what about bacon?" That worked too! Although it was a slow process, the bacon came out perfectly crisp and not at all greasy.


No, I stopped short of scrambled eggs, but I bet you could fry an egg on that grill, albeit an oddly rippled Whoville kind of egg. But I love my eggs cooked in butter and the butter kind of slides away (like all fats) on this kind of grill so I opted for a pan on my stove.

I'm not suggesting you toss out your pans, but in a pinch (like when my kitchen was being remodeled), in a dorm room, an RV or any other tiny home, it's kinda nice to know you can break out a pretty decent breakfast on an electric grill. And yes, you can even make grilled bread aka toast!

So don't ignore your little counter top grill, it does a lot more than chicken breasts and burgers!





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20141222

Cranberry Italian Sausage Meatballs with Spicy Cranberry Dipping Sauce


I am not a huge fan of canned cranberry sauce but I always seem to have a can in my pantry during the holidays. Maybe I unconsciously pick it up in memory of my mother, she loved the stuff and it was always served at holiday meals in my house growing up. So, 
sometime in December I am always staring that can down and trying to decide what to do with it!

On the other hand, I love the meatball appetizers which always seem to be on every holiday buffet and potluck table, usually smothered in some ketchup-y sauce and served in a crock pot. Those are fine until they've been sitting around for hours and the sauce has reduced to concrete and the balls are dry as cardboard. That's why I prefer to serve mine as dippers, warmed up just before serving and replenished fresh as they disappear! 

I've added a little holiday to these with some dried cranberries, that ubiquitous can of jellied cranberry sauce and a better way to serve up:


CRANBERRY SAUSAGE MEATBALLS

1 Pound Sweet Italian Sausage
1 Package of Pork Stuffing Mix
1/3 C. Dried Cranberries
1 C. Water
1 Small Onion, Diced
1 Stalk Celery, Diced
1 Tsp. Fennel Spice Mix
1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Egg
1 Tsp. Salt

Pour the dry stuffing mix and seasonings into a large mixing bowl.
Cook the sausage until nicely browned. Remove sausage and set aside.
Sweat the onions and celery in the sausage fat until translucent. Remove and set aside.
Deglaze the pan with the water, getting all the nice brown bits (the fond) into the liquid. Pour this liquid into the stuffing and bread crumb mixture.
Add the sausage, onions, celery and the egg into the stuffing mixture and mix well, then form into 1" diameter balls and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. 
Bake at 350F for 20 - 25 minutes.
Plate up warm on a nice holiday dish with some toothpicks and serve with the sauce below. 

Sweet & Spicy Cranberry Dipping Sauce

1 Can Jellied Cranberry Sauce
3/4 C. Heinz Chili Sauce
3 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
Juice of 1 Orange
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tsp. Garlic Salt

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and warm on medium until the cranberry sauce is completely dissolved. Serve warm in a ramekin next to your Cranberry Sausage Meatballs.

This is great served up with one of my Cranberry Cocktails!

TIP: The leftover meatballs make a fantastic meatball sandwich the next day and the leftover cranberry sauce is a great glaze for a pork roast!



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20141015

Super Rich, Chocolate Cocoa Recipe

http://popartdiva.com
I make a freakin' GREAT super rich, chocolate-y cocoa and when I had insomnia the other night I made myself a cup and posted the photo and recipe up on my Facebook.  So many people commented and tried it I decided I'd share here too!
 
It's kind of inspired by the way the Aztecs used to drink their cocoa, spiced up, however I like mine sweet so I added sugar which the Aztecs never used.
 
The whole key to this recipe is the DARK cocoa powder ... and the spices and booze. . .

Super Rich, Chocolate Cocoa
INGREDIENTS:
1 Tbsp. Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Cocoa Powder
1 Tbsp. Scharffen Berger Cocoa Powder
2 Tbsp. Sugar (or to taste)
Pinch of Sea Salt
Pinch of Cinnamon
Pinch of Chili Powder
2 Tbsp. Water
1 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Half & Half
Optional: 1/2 Oz. Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
DIRECTIONS:
Warm water over medium heat with cocoa powders, spices and sugar until a thick syrup is formed. Add the milk and half & half and heat until just scalding, don't boil!
Pour into your favorite cup, add the optional booze, and top with marshmallows or whipped cream. Garnish with some shaved dark chocolate curls and a dash of cinnamon.
 
Yes, that IS my Cool Beans Coffee Art at top!  I just photoshopped out the coffee beans and repurposed my original colored pencil drawing. Which you can also get on Prints for $15 (shipping included!)

http://divaoftinyfoods.blogspot.com/2010/04/why-chocolate-is-better-than-bad-sex-20.html

 

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20140831

TRAIL MIX, GORP or PEMMICAN?



August 31st is National Trail Mix Day! 

Trail Mix, that ubiquitous, portable energy snack beloved of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts worldwide, is typically a mixture of dried berries, fruits, nuts and/or seeds. Some forms include dried meats and, in modern times, even chocolate and granola. The most common mixture is the simple combination of {Good Old} Raisins and Peanuts, possibly the root of the name GORP.


Despite there being multiple references to Trail Mix being invented by two California surfers back in 1968, there is an earlier reference to this hiking snack back in Jack Kerouac's 1958 novel "The Dharma Bums". Going back even further, native Americans made Pemmican, a mixture of jerky (dried meat), animal fat and berries, which lasted for months. 

Prior to that, forms of this highly nutritious and compact food was around in ancient cultures worldwide. Whether it's called Studenterhavre, Agil, Bwyd Dewey, Scroggin, Schmogle, Pemmican, Gorp or Trail Mix, some version has been sustaining humanity on the go for a very long time.     

Requiring no cooking, trail mix is a compact, high energy snack utilizing high protein nuts, seeds and/or meats and high carbohydrate dried fruits, which can be stored for long periods of time. This made it an ideal road trip nosh for everyone through history from the ancient Nomads, to Native Americans and explorers of the Old West, to today's surfers, students and even busy soccer moms and computer nerds.

No matter what you call it or what you put in it, Trail Mix is a delicious and nutrient packed finger food.

MY FAVORITE TRAIL MIX RECIPE:

2 Cups of Walnuts, Pecans, Cashews
1 Cup Dried Cherries, Apricots
1 Cup M&Ms
1/2 Cup Pine Nuts, Sunflower Seeds

For camping and outside activities I leave out the M&Ms.

Happy National Trail Mix Day!


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20140815

Coconut Curry Chicken Soup


I was making chicken stock to replenish my supply and wanted to make something different with the chicken itself. I've been craving Asian and Middle Eastern flavors lately and thought a coconut curry soup would be nice. I don't care if it's summer or not when I'm craving comfort foods, all I care about is how it fills my tummy and makes my palate smile!

I didn't have all the typical ingredients but I found a couple of cans of yams and had some frozen bell peppers so decided to go with those for my main vegetable elements.

This turned out to be a really great tasting soup, so much so that I did something I rarely do, I made another pot immediately after finishing the first one!

Coconut Curry Chicken Soup Recipe:

4 Cooked Chicken Breasts, shredded
2 Cans Coconut milk
2 Cups Chicken broth
1 Cup Heavy cream or Half & Half
4 Tbsp. Curry powder
2 Tbsp. Turmeric
1 Tsp. Fresh ginger
2 -14 Oz. Can yams, with syrup
1 Onion, Chopped
6 Cloves Garlic, Crushed
1 Red Bell Pepper, Chopped
1 Green Bell Pepper, Chopped
2 Tsp. Lemon Zest

Bring all the ingredients except the cooked chicken to a boil in a stock pot then reduce the heat and simmer for around half an hour, or until the onions and bell peppers are tender.
Add in your chicken and continue to simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Garnish with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche and a few rings of mini peppers or some chives and serve with a loaf of crusty bread or some naan. Feel free to add some cooked rice or quinoa to add heartiness!

By the way, this is one of those soups that tastes better the second day!


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