Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Jean's Red Chile Sauce

Here is the red chile sauce I made from the past weekend. I served it over some enchiladas I made with ground lamb and refried beans, and topped with all sorts of goodies like farmer’s cheese, cilantro, tomatoes, red onion, and guacamole.

I used guajillo chiles in this recipe. They are long, red, dried chiles that can be found at just about any good sized supermarket. And Mexican oregano is different from the mediterranean variety, and it is very distinctive. Just about any spice department in a store will have this.

Lamb and refried bean enchiladas

The sauce is not overly hot. Removing the seeds and veins helps to diffuse the heat, leaving you with a nice, complex, and slightly smoky sauce. Enjoy!

Jean’s Red Chile Sauce

-5 guajillo chiles (can substitute New Mexico Red)
-2 medium tomatoes, whole
-4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
-2 thick slices of yellow onion
-1/2 t. Mexican oregano
-1/2 t. ground cumin
-1/4 t. ground coriander
-1/2 t. salt
-A few grinds of fresh black pepper
-3/4 to 1 cup water (depending upon how thick or thin you want it)

Toast the chile pods in a hot dry skillet for a couple of minutes until fragrant. When cooled, remove the seeds, veins, and stems, and set aside. In the same dry skillet, add the tomatoes, garlic, and slices of onion, and allow to cook until slightly charred. Set aside, and peel the garlic once cooled. Toast the Mexican oregano, cumin, and coriander for just a minute until fragrant. Now add everything to the blender, along with the salt and water. Puree until you have a smooth sauce. I like to make this a day ahead of time so the flavors have time to come together. Serve it over anything from eggs to burritos to enchiladas.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Road Food Pursuits - The Red Rooster

I moved to the Twin Cities about a dozen years ago, and at my first job there was this guy named Dale. Dale was a veritable encyclopedia of independently owned, unpretentious, out-of-the-way (and sometimes hole-in-the-wall!) restaurants where you could get a great meal, and he knew every one of them within a 50 mile radius. It was uncanny. This is one of those places that Dale loved. I will bet I had not been there in close to a decade. So in the spirit of finding more “road food,” I thought I would make a long overdue return visit.

The Red Rooster
1832 W. Wayzata Blvd
Long Lake, MN

The Red Rooster is just west of the Twin Cities on US Highway 12 in the town of Long Lake. It has existed right here on the main drag for 35 years. There is a bar that is separate from the dining room, and there is also a game room for those so inclined. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I had just finished my long weekend run, and I was hungry, so I went there for breakfast. They had definitely spruced up the place since the last time I was there. The walls were now covered in knotty pine, and it had a real outdoorsy feel to it. Looks very nice!

I opted for the “Rooster Favorite,” which consisted of two egg, choice of meat, hash browns or home fries, and toast; your basic egg-meat-potato breakfast.

The “Rooster Favorite”

I had my eggs scrambled, and chose the sausage and the browns. The scrambled eggs were fluffy and almost cooked in the style of an omelet, nicely folded over. The mound of hash browns was crispy on the outside, and the four sausage links were absolutely delicious. They tasted like they were loaded with sage; very well-seasoned and flavorful. All of this set me back a mere $5.99. Hey, it was certainly nothing fancy. But it was a darn good breakfast, and it definitely qualifies as road food.

I remember back in the day, they also served great burgers here. A quick glance at the lunch menu confirmed a variety of half-pound burgers to choose from. I’ll be back. :)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Split Pea Soup with Ham and Bacon

Split pea with ham and bacon could be my favorite soup.

It is one of the ultimate cold weather soups; hearty, earthy, slightly smoky, delicious, and simple to make. It doesn't require many ingredients, is pretty forgiving, and allows for improvisation. While it does require a bit of time to make, the time is worth the effort.

I make my version with a little twist. My sister-in-law makes a homemade bean and ham soup where she adds dark beer to the stock, which made for one of the best bean soups I have tasted. Given the similar ingredients, I figured it stands to reason that this would work with split pea soup as well, and the results are great. The beer adds a nice little tangy flavor to the soup that is really nice.

Depending upon how meaty your ham bone is (or isn't), you may wish to add some additional diced ham to the soup if you would like more meat. And, a little splash of a chipotle pepper-based hot sauce, such as Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce is a nice addition as well.

Here is how it's done:

Split Pea Soup with Ham and Bacon

-4 strips of bacon, cut into lardons
-1 medium onion, finely chopped
-2 large stalks celery, diced
-5 medium-sized carrots, sliced
-5 cloves garlic, minced
-Salt and pepper
-1 lb. dried split peas (picked over for any debris)
-Several sprigs of fresh thyme
-1 smoked ham shank, ham hock, or ham bone
-6 1/2 cups water
-1 bottle amber/dark beer

In a large soup pot, render the bacon until crisp, and reserve for later. Drain most of the fat, leaving just a little in the pot. Sauté the onion, celery, and carrots for about 5 minutes or so until slightly softened. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes more, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the dried split peas, thyme, ham shank/hock/bone, water, and the beer. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook covered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, occasionally skimming the excess fat from the top, until the split peas have broken down. Remove the ham bone from the soup. Allow to cool and remove the meat. Chop the meat and return to the soup, along with the reserved bacon. Serve, and enjoy. If possible, make it a day ahead of time, because the soup will be even better tomorrow, I promise!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Road Food Pursuits - Gold Nugget

After watching all four episodes of Alton Brown's fantastic Food Network show, "Feasting on Asphalt," I have become more inspired to find the "road food" in my area; meaning, those local, independent restaurants in the neighborhoods and along the highways and byways, that serve up great homemade food.

With that, I have decided that I will start my own “road food” pursuits.

Gold Nugget - Minnetonka, MN

Tonight, my pursuit of road food started in the Glen Lake neighborhood of Minnetonka. I made my way over to a local joint called the Gold Nugget. This is a small neighborhood place that is known for having some of the best hamburgers in the Twin Cities. It certainly did not disappoint.

The restaurant is tiny. There are perhaps 8 booths or so and a couple of seats at the bar, with some outdoor seating in the back. The booths are old and made of wood, there is a lot of old woodwork on the walls, and some stained glass windows on the front. It is a charming little place.

I ordered up the bacon cheeseburger, California-style, with fries. This was, without question, one of the best burgers I have had in my life. The patty had the perfect amount of char on the outside, and it was unbelievably juicy and delicious. And, as you can see in the picture, the fries are for real, too. They are the actual hand-cut variety with the skin still intact. Everything was just fantastic. Alton would have loved this place. I savored every bite of my meal.

The Gold Nugget's bacon cheeseburger, California-style, with real fries

There is a sad note to all of this, because the Gold Nugget is closing to make room for a condo development. (That’s just great, because if Minnetonka needed anything, it was more condos. Ugh! And a quick Internet search tells me that I have 33 McDonald’s restaurants within 10 miles of my apartment, so that should more than make up for the loss. God, I am depressed...) The gentleman serving me was telling the ladies in the neighboring booth that they were closing soon and had nowhere to go. That made me very sad. Here is hoping that, somehow, the Gold Nugget can be revived in a new location.

Archive of Road Food Pursuits

To keep things neat and orderly, this post will serve as an archive for my various searches for real, unpretentious food (a.k.a., "Road Food") from the great little restaurants, bars, and food shops.

The 5-8 Club Tavern & Grill - Minneapolis, MN
Barker's Bar & Grill (1st visit) - Hudson, WI
Barker's Bar & Grill (2nd visit) - Hudson, WI
Bernie's Grill - Faribault, MN
The Bierstube - White Bear Lake, MN
Brine's Bar & Restaurant - Stillwater, MN
Brookside Bar & Grill - Marine on St. Croix, MN
Choo Choo Bar & Restaurant - Loretto, MN
Country Glazed Ham Shop - Minnetonka and Maple Grove, MN
Crossroads Delicatessen - Minnetonka, MN
CurtiSinn Headwaters Restaurant - Akeley, MN
The Drive In Restaurant - Taylors Falls, MN
The Freight House - Stillwater, MN
Gold Nugget - Minnetonka, MN
Gordy's Hi-Hat (1st visit) - Cloquet, MN
Gordy's Hi-Hat (2nd visit) - Cloquet, MN
Groveland Tap - St. Paul, MN
Happy's Drive-In - Onamia, MN
J. Cousineau's Dram & Alehouse - Maple Grove, MN
King's Place - Miesville, MN
Kopper Kettle Restaurant - Osseo, MN
Lions Tap - Eden Prairie, MN
Lone Spur Grill & Bar - Minnetonka, MN
The Lookout Bar & Grill - Maple Grove, MN
Mainstreet Bar & Grill - Hopkins, MN
Mama G's - Maple Grove, MN
Meisters Bar & Grill (1st visit, breakfast) - Scandia, MN
Meisters Bar & Grill (2nd visit, lunch) - Scandia, MN
Meisters Bar & Grill (3rd visit, lunch) - Scandia, MN
Miller's on Main - Lino Lakes, MN
Minnetonka Drive In - Spring Park, MN
My Sister's Place - Grand Marais, MN
Nelson Bros. Restaurant - Clearwater, MN
North Country Cafe - Crosby, MN
Ole Piper Inn - Blaine, MN
Pelican Drive Inn - Pelican Rapids, MN
Peppermint Twist Drive In (1st visit) - Delano, MN
Peppermint Twist Drive In (2nd visit) - Delano, MN
The Red Rooster - Long Lake, MN
Sager's Bar & Grill - Centerville, MN
Snuffy's Malt Shop - Roseville, MN
Sydney's Frozen Custard - Grand Marais, MN
Trappers Bar & Grill - Lino Lakes, MN
Wagner's Drive In - St. Louis Park, MN
Washington Square Bar & Grill - White Bear Lake, MN
Wayzata Bar & Grill - Wayzata, MN

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Heirloom tomatoes

One of the great things about this time of year is the summer produce. I have been eating sweet corn daily for almost a month now, and we are starting to get some fantastic tomatoes.

At the farmers' market this weekend, I bought a couple of heirloom tomatoes from one of the vendors. These beautiful, odd-shaped orbs were called "Big rainbow" tomatoes, and as you can see, they are as colorful as their name implies.

I made my bacon, basil, and tomato sandwich for lunch today, and it was the best I have ever had. And make no mistake, the tomato was the star. It was indescribably sweet and delicious.

I love this time of year! :)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fun with pizza

I love making pizza because it is essentially a blank canvas. You can really do just about whatever you want. Take tonight's dinner, for instance.

I had some sausage links in the freezer, and the rest of the ingredients were refrigerator leftovers from the weekend. What started out as a "pantry raid" turned into an almost upscale, classy pizza.

I used a locally produced blueberry and wild rice smoked sausage, crimini mushrooms, fresh basil, some leftover tomato sauce, and a little baby Swiss, fresh mozzarella, and aged provolone cheeses. It was absolutely fantastic!

Have I mentioned I love making pizza? :)

Road Food

Because of Alton Brown's show, "Feasting on Asphalt,", I have been surfing the Internet to research "road food." Perhaps not too terribly surprising, I found a website called RoadFood.com. It is an online database of some of the great regional restaurants along the highways and in the small towns and neighborhoods of America, complete with reviews and discussion forums. Lots of great pictures, too.

Kind of makes you want to hit the road. I see Minnesota is not very well represented at RoadFood.com, however. We might have to do something about that… :)

Monday, August 14, 2006

More feasting on asphalt

I can't possibly describe to you how much I have been enjoying Alton Brown's "Feasting on Asphalt" on the Food Network. I spoke of this show in an earlier post, but his cross-country motorcycle trip in search of America's "road food" ends this coming Saturday. The Food Network is running a marathon of all four episodes on Saturday night, so check it out if you get a chance.

I think the reason I like this show so much is because it reminds me of numerous family trips as a youngster. My family drove everywhere, and we always made a point to take some backroads so we could see different places. And one thing that "Feasting on Asphalt" reminds me is that exploring the two lane highways is an adventure. It's exciting and unpredictable. And so is the food you will find along the way.

When you hit the backroads and skip the chain restaurants, you tend to stumble into things. There was a memorable seafood buffet we wandered into completely by accident in Springfield, MO, and there was a not-so-memorable dinner in Story City, IA, that we could wait to get over with. I found a great hamburger in Colraine, MN, at, of all places, a golf course. I had my first "pasty" while in Copper Harbor, MI. I recall a delicious "Western skillet" breakfast at a truck stop in Curtiss, WI, made with locally produced sausage. And there was even a time more than 20 years ago in Tupelo, MS, where my family was refused entrance into a restaurant because we were wearing shorts (the place had a "pants only" policy for dinner, apparently). A customer emerging from the restaurant told us we didn't want to eat there anyway, and sent us to a little hole-in-the-wall seafood and gumbo joint down the road where we had an infinitely more enjoyable experience!

I'm rambling, of course. But my point is that things like this are possible only when you get off the beaten track. You never know what kind of food you will find. Some might be bad. Some might be outstanding. Whatever the case, it is bound to be a memorable part of taking the road less traveled.

Chinese BBQ Pork Stir-Fry with Thai Basil Sauce

This weekend I made a "fusion" stir-fry of sorts. I made my Chinese BBQ pork tenderloins (typically I use this for lo mein dishes), and I used them in a Thai-style stir-fry recipe that I normally make with chicken (sort of like holy basil chicken). The combination worked quite well.

As with many of my recipes, this was largely improvised, so I will try to be as specific as I can!

For my Chinese BBQ pork tenderloins: I marinated two tenderloins (about 3/4 lb. each) in perhaps a 1/4 cup of hoisin sauce, to which I added a little bit of white wine, minced garlic, a lot of fresh grated ginger, honey, soy sauce, and a healthy dusting of Chinese five-spice powder. I marinated them overnight and roasted them in a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes until the internal temperature reached 150. By the way, you can make these ahead of time, refrigerate, and slice them up right before you need them.

For the sauce, I actually do know the specific amounts! Mix the following together and set aside:

5 T. fish sauce
3 T. soy sauce
3 T. white wine
2 T. sugar
1 T. oyster sauce
1 T. chili-garlic sauce
1 T. fresh ginger, grated

Then, I prepped my vegetables:

-a few cloves of minced garlic
-a couple of carrots
-one red bell pepper
-a package of crimini mushrooms
-a can of water chestnuts
-a whole bunch of green onions.
-one cup of frozen peas (set aside)
-a large handful of fresh basil leaves (shredded and added at last second)

Here is what you do; In a hot wok or deep pan, heat some oil over high heat. Add your minced garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add your carrots, peppers, mushrooms, water chestnuts, and green onions and cook for a couple minutes. Add the sliced pork, the peas, and the sauce mixture. Allow to come up to temperature and heat everything through. At the very last second before serving, add the shredded basil leaves and give a final stir. Serve over jasmine rice.

This was a very tasty and spicy stir fry dish. Your get the wonderful chili and basil-infused sauce with the crisp vegetables, and the pork, with its elusive notes of the five-spice powder, is very complimentary. Good stuff all around!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita is a classic, and an exercise in simplicity. There are basically five components; pizza dough, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and olive oil. That’s it.

The story goes that in 1889, a pizza maker named Raffaele Esposito created this for Queen Margherita. The pizza had the red tomatoes, white cheese, and green basil, all respresenting the colors of the Italian flag. The pizza Margherita was born.

I have a working camera now, so I am back in business! :) The pizza Margherita, ready for the oven

Of course, to be considered traditional Neapolitan pizza, there are rules governing the type of ingredients, how the dough is made, and even how the pizza is cooked. Because of that, I can’t make an “authentic” pizza Margherita in my apartment. But the ingredients I am using are traditional in nature, and it just tastes darned good, so for the home cook, I figure that is all that matters! :)

For all my pizzas, I use Alton Brown’s pizza dough recipe. The only difference is that I make mine with 75% all-purpose flour and 25% whole-wheat flour. This makes enough dough for two approximately 12-inch pizzas.

The toppings I used were as follows:

-Organic, whole Italian plum tomatoes (pureed),
-Fresh mozzarella cheese (sliced)
-Fresh basil leaves
-A drizzle of really good olive oil.

Just top the pizza and bake on a pizza stone at 500 F for 7 minutes. There you have it; a simple, but unbelievably delicious, pizza!

Fresh out of the oven

Friday, August 11, 2006

Breakfast Burrito for Dinner

The camera is still broken, so I can't share any photos... :(

But I can still tell you what I made! I haven't been grocery shopping in a week, so I kind of had to improvise with stuff I had on hand.

Tonight’s dinner was a “breakfast burrito” of sorts, but a little bit upscale in a way. A couple of scrambled eggs, a couple strips of that fantastic applewoods-smoked Nueske’s bacon, a dollop of guacamole, a couple tablespoons of a hot and spicy salsa, a really creamy Beemster Graskaas cheese from the Netherlands (very, very good...a great "melter"), all wrapped up in a whole-wheat tortilla.

Would using a Dutch cheese in my burrito make it “fusion cuisine?” :)

It was a simple, quick, and very tasty meal!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Feasting On Asphalt

I am really enjoying Alton Brown's new show on the Food Network, "Feasting on Asphalt." I recorded the second of the four episodes on Saturday and watched it last night.

For those who have not seen it, Alton is trekking across the country on a motorcycle. He is avoiding all national chain restaurants, as well as all Interstate highways, in search of "road food." So far, he has made it from South Carolina to Missouri, dining at roadside barbecue joints, diners, cafes, and drive-ins. The show has been a lot of fun for me.

I always enjoy getting off the beaten track and have recently taken a couple of short trips like this where I purposefully avoided freeways. It is great to see that you can still find America out there, and Alton is proving that.

Check it out if you get a chance. Saturday nights on the Food Network!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Broken camera

The day after I start my food blog, and my camera is broken...ugh!

Just wanted to let you know we might be going sans photos on Jean's Food and Cooking Blog for a little while.

On a positive note, I made Giada's balsamic roasted chicken for dinner tonight, and it was awesome. I can't show you what it looked like, but trust me, it was a thing of beauty! :)

Until next time,


Mom's Lasagna

I have to credit my Mom with this recipe. She has been making this for decades. It is so tasty, so easy, and very versatile.

Mom’s Lasagna

1 lb. ground beef
28 oz. of your favorite red sauce, homemade or store-bought
Lasagna noodles, uncooked
8 oz. sour cream, divided
12 oz. cottage cheese, divided
3/4 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Brown the ground beef and drain off the fat. Add the red sauce to the beef and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

In a 9x13 baking dish, add half of the meat and sauce mixture to the bottom and distribute it evenly. Top the meat and sauce with a layer of lasagna noodles.

Take half the sour cream and half the cottage cheese and mix together. Spread evenly over the top of the lasagna noodles. Top that with half of the shredded mozzarella.

Repeat the process with the remaining meat and sauce, another layer of noodles, the remaining sour cream and cottage cheese, and the remaining mozzarella.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 75 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes until the top is brown and bubbly. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting into.

Now, keep in mind this is only the starting point, and it never gets made as basic as this. Think of it as your blank canvas! Of course, you will want to add a little minced garlic to the beef while it is browning, and you will need to season it with some salt, pepper, and some Italian herbs. Or would you like Italian sausage instead? How about adding some mushrooms? Black olives? Maybe some bell peppers or even artichoke hearts? Oh, and don’t forget that a blend of cheeses would be really nice, perhaps adding some aged provolone, grated parmigiano-reggiano, and a little fontina to the mozzarella. Don’t forget to sprinkle in some fresh herbs like thyme or torn basil leaves, and also a dash of crushed red pepper for a little spice!

You get the idea. Use this basic recipe as a starting point, and let your imagination run wild. I think you will like the results!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Shredded Pork Tacos

Here is a dish that can be done ahead of time using the crock pot.

I took a 2 1/2 lb pork shoulder, coated it with a spice rub, seared it quickly in a hot skillet to give it a nice crust, and then placed it in a crock pot. I added one 12 oz. bottle of beer and a few crushed cloves of garlic. Nine hours on “low”, and it came out moist and fall-apart tender. Then all you have to do is shred it with a fork, and you are ready to make tacos.

The spice rub was improvised. It contained chili powder, ground ancho chiles, cumin, coriander, cayenne, dried red pepper flakes, onion powder, thyme, sage, salt and pepper. The chili powder and ground ancho was probably the biggest component, and the least used would be the sage and cayenne (just a pinch of each). The rest of the spices fell somewhere in the middle, but adding more or less of any one of them isn’t going to screw anything up.

The meat was really moist and tender. It was seasoned gently with all of the spices, and developed a delicious, slightly tangy flavor from being braised in the beer. I got myself some whole-wheat flour tortillas and all the fixings; refried beans, sharp cheddar cheese, salsa, guacamole, chopped tomatoes, red onions, and cilantro.

This really hit the spot!

"BBT" Sandwich

Years ago, I saw this idea on some cooking show (which one escapes me), and the “BBT” sandwich has since become a summer staple for me. It consists of bacon, tomato, and instead of the traditional iceberg lettuce, you substitute a few big leaves of fresh basil. I think this brings a lot more flavor to the party. And we all know how well basil goes with tomato!

All you need is five ingredients:

-Two slices of good bread, toasted
-A few slices of good bacon, cooked
-A couple slices of tomato
-A few big leaves of fresh basil
-Mayonnaise for the bread

This is a quick and easy summertime meal, and it is especially fun later in the summer when you can get some really good tomatoes and some quality sweet corn on the cob to go along side. Yum! :)

Giada's Balsamic Roasted Chicken

Tired of the same old roasted chicken? This dish from Giada De Laurentiis of the Food Network gives an old favorite a new twist.

Giada is one of my favorite chefs on the Food Network. She is actually the granddaughter of the famed movie producer, Dino De Laurentiis, but she opted for culinary school instead of the family business. Her show, Everyday Italian, really demonstrates the simplicity of Italian cooking. Most of her dishes are very easy to make with ingredients that can be easily found just about anywhere. Plus, she is really cute, too! :)

Her roasted chicken with balsamic vinaigrette has fast become a favorite of mine. By marinating it overnight (be sure to marinate this overnight, if at all possible) in the mixture of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and olive oil, it becomes tangy, flavorful, and moist, but it also gives the skin a really nice and dark color.

As with most written recipes, I do some things differently:

The ingredients for the marinade aren’t written in stone (the amounts for this same recipe are different in her cookbook!), so feel free to play with the amounts of balsamic vinegar, mustard, lemon, and oil, if you so desire. I also add fresh thyme to the marinade because I love the flavor.

Also, I don’t mess around with making a sauce with the pan drippings. I find that there aren’t all that many drippings to work with anyhow, and I prefer just to drizzle it with some aged balsamic vinegar and have a little mustard on the side.

And, I find that the chicken will be done in 45 minutes at 400 degrees, but use a meat thermometer if you aren’t sure.

I have tried a number of Giada’s recipes, and I haven’t made anything that I didn’t like. This chicken is great stuff, and the leftovers are fantastic, too.


"Good Eats" Meat Loaf

This was a dish I made back in early May

What could be better on a cool, dreary day than some good comfort food? Not much! And after a couple of good, long runs this weekend, I thought I would treat myself. So today I made meat loaf. This is one of the ultimate ”Blue Plate specials” from the diners of yesteryear.

My favorite recipe is that of Alton Brown of the Food Network. I follow most of the amounts pretty closely, but as with many recipes, I don’t do everything exactly as written!

-For one, I make my meat loaf with 2 parts beef and 1 part pork, so I ground up some fresh beef chuck roast and some pork shoulder this morning.

-Also, I mince the vegetables by hand and like to cook them first before adding them to the meat mixture, just sweating them in a skillet for a few minutes. This way, it softens them up a little, and it makes for a more complex flavor, I think.

-I add a little squirt of ketchup (a few tablespoons?) and a splash of Worchestershire sauce to the meat mixture.

-I use two eggs instead of one.

-I bake it right in the loaf pan (I don’t care, I like it that way!). And no need for a fancy probe thermometer. Increase the temperature to 350 and bake for 1 hour (adding the glaze after 40-45 minutes) and your meat loaf will be right in the 150 - 155 degree wheelhouse.

OK, maybe I don’t follow the recipe that closely. But hey, Alton always says, “play with your food,” so I will! Whatever the case, this stuff is delicious. But what I am really look forward to is tomorrow, because leftover meat loaf is almost better than freshly baked. Can you say cold meat loaf sandwiches for lunch this week? :)


Jean's Singapore-style Rice Noodles

I made a Singapore-style rice noodle dish with assorted vegetables, shrimp, and curry powder that turned out quite nice.

I looked at a few different recipes for ideas, but this was pretty much improvised. This dish had a whole lot of flavor and hardly any fat, so it makes for a tasty, healthy, and very colorful meal (Remember as a kid when you were told to "eat your colors?" Here is the perfect opportunity to do that!). You could use whatever veggies you like, and you could also easily substitute chicken for the shrimp. I tried to document what I did as best I could, so here goes nothing:

Jean's Singapore-style Rice Noodles

-6 T. soy sauce
-1/4 c. chicken broth
-3 T. white wine
-1 T. rice vinegar
-1 T. fresh ginger, grated or minced
-1 T. sugar

The rest of the ingredients:
-1 T. peanut or vegetable oil
-2 T. garlic, minced
-1 T. fresh ginger, grated or minced
-1 1/2 T. curry powder
-1 tsp. red chile flakes
-1 lb. mixed fresh vegetables (carrots, peppers, bok choy, snow peas, mushrooms, etc...the choice is yours!)
-1 lb. shrimp 40-50 count raw shrimp, peeled
-7 oz package rice stick noodles (soaked in hot water until soft, drained)
-Sriracha chili sauce to taste.

1. Mix up the sauce ingredients, and set aside (this sauce is thin; if you desire a slightly thicker sauce, consider adding a tsp. of cornstarch)
2. Heat the oil in a wok or large pan over high heat and add the garlic, ginger, curry powder, and red chile flakes. Stir for about 15 second, just until fragrant.
3. Add all of the vegetables and stir fry for a couple of minutes until warm, but still crisp.
4. Add the shrimp and give everything a good stir.
5. Pour the sauce over the veggies and shrimp, allowing everything to come up to temperature.
6. Toss in the rice stick noodles and stir until everything is and heated through and coated with some of the sauce.
7. Serve immediately with a bottle of sriracha chili sauce on the side for some added heat if you so desire.


Spaghetti and Meatballs

Let me clarify something; this is not the healthiest dish, but it is definitely comfort food! There are few things that smell better than a pot of red sauce with some sort of meat simmering in it. Every so often, I make spaghetti and meatballs, and why not? It tastes great, everyone loves it, there is a lot of protein and carbs for us runners, and it is quite possibly even better the next day, so the leftovers are awesome.

I have never really had a standard recipe for meatballs, as there is an awful lot of leeway here. If you like more or less of something, by all means, add or subtract freely. But, I tried to keep track of what I did so I could share!

A few notes:

I like adding sun-dried tomatoes to the meat mixture. You can just as easily do without them, but I think they add a lot of flavor. Be sure to use the sun-dried tomatoes that you buy in a bag, as opposed to the kind packed in oil (too greasy for this kind of recipe, I think).

Regarding the bread crumbs, it is hard to give an exact amount, because all batches of meatballs are different. A half a cup is a good starting point, but you might need a little more. You are looking for everything to bind together nicely without being too wet. Be sure not to skimp on the bread crumbs, though. Chef Mario Batali from the Food Network said on his show, "Molto Mario," that the bread is the key to keeping the meatballs soft and moist!

I made a homemade red sauce with crushed tomatoes, garlic, onion, red wine, basil, and various dried Italian herbs. But nowadays there are some downright fantastic store-bought sauces out there, so don't be afraid to use those as a convenience (believe me, I keep several jars in my pantry!).

I do like to fry my meatballs before simmering in the sauce, however. I know, some recipes simply have you drop the uncooked meatballs right into the sauce. But I think frying them brings so much more flavor to the party, because you get all of those wonderful bits of caramelized goodness that contribute to the complexity of dish.

Good grief, I've talked long enough! Here is what I made, with excellent results:

Jean's Spaghetti & Meatballs
makes 18-24 meatballs

-1 lb. ground beef
-1 lb. ground Italian sausage
-1 T. fresh rosemary, minced
-1 T. fresh thyme, minced
-2 T. fresh Italian parsley, minced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-10 sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in warm water and chopped
-2 whole eggs
-1/2 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
-Salt and pepper
-1/2 to 3/4 cup of fine bread crumbs (the amount may vary)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the bread crumbs. Stir together until things are well distributed. Add the bread crumbs to the mixture a little at a time. Keep mixing together until the ingredients are well incorporated, everything binds together, and the mixture is not too wet (keeping in mind you might need additional bread crumbs to bring it all together). Using your hands, roll out individual meatballs. Make them whatever size you like (I generally make them slightly larger than a golf ball). Fry the meatballs in a large skillet until browned on all sides. Then transfer them to a pot of your favorite red sauce and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Stir occasionally, taking care not to break them up. Serve over spaghetti and open a bottle of red wine.



Maple-Glazed Salmon with Ancho Chile Crust

Salmon is a such a wonderful, healthy food, and this is a dish I have been making for years now. I got the recipe idea from Bob Blumer, who is known as ”The Surreal Gourmet.” However, I have significantly altered the recipe to give it my own twist.

Blumer's original recipe just called for maple syrup and soy sauce in the marinade. I tried that, but I thought it turned out too sweet and candied. I felt it was missing some spice and a certain zippiness to balance out the sweetness.

So, over the years I have tinkered with the recipe, and I think I have something pretty good. I mixed in some balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and a little bit of Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce to add a smoky, spicy element. I also started dusting the top of the fillet with a little ancho chile powder, along with the cracked black pepper that Blumer uses.

The overnight soak in the maple mixture violates every rule there is about marinating fish, but this recipe is the exception. The results are great. This process almost "cures" the salmon. When cooked, you will end up with a sweet, spicy, and tangy fillet of salmon with a firmer texture on the outside, but a moist texture inside. By the way, the marinade is enough for probably up to 4 fillets, so no need to increase the amount of marinade for a few more pieces of salmon.

Maple-Glazed Salmon with Ancho Chile Crust

-1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup (the real stuff, not Aunt Jemima!)
-2 T. Dijon mustard (feel free to experiment with other gourmet mustards!)
-1 T. soy sauce
-1 T. balsamic vinegar
-A few shots of Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce (or some other chipotle-based hot sauce)

Remaining ingredients:
-6 oz. fillet(s) of fresh salmon, skin removed
-Fresh cracked black pepper
-ancho chile powder

Instructions: Mix up the maple syrup, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and Tabasco chipotle sauce. Place salmon fillet(s) in a large plastic zip bag, pour the marinade over the fillet(s), and refrigerate overnight, turning the fillets occasionally. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 475 F. Place some aluminum foil over a baking sheet and brush with a little olive oil. Remove the fillet(s) from the marinade. Put the salmon on the foil-lined baking sheet. Crack some fresh black pepper on top of the salmon, along with a dusting of ancho chile powder, to form a flavorful crust when baking. Bake for 7 minutes, no longer (trust me!). Serve immediately.



Venison Ragu with Whole-Wheat Spaghetti

Here is a venison ragu I made last weekend.

-I had probably a pound of venison stew meat that I ran through the meat grinder with about 1/4 pound of pancetta. I browned that up, seasoned it with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, drained it, and set it aside.

-Then I caramelized one yellow onion, cooking it until very, very brown. I added several cloves of garlic (minced), and a heaping spoonful of tomato paste, stirring for a couple minutes. Then I deglazed it with about a cup of red wine.

-I returned the meat to pan and added 4 fresh tomatoes (chopped), 1 cup of beef stock, 1/4 cup of rehydrated porcini mushrooms, an 8 oz. package of crimini mushrooms (sliced), and a sprig of fresh rosemary. I let it simmer away for a few hours until I had a thick, rich meat sauce. I severed it up over some whole-wheat spaghetti.

You end up with something similar to a Bolognese-style ragu (minus the carrots, celery, and cream). It was great! The leftovers are even better, and the sauce freezes very well also.

Roasted Chicken with Dill and Lemon

A couple of months ago, I made a roasted chicken with lemon and dill that was absolutely awesome, if I do say so myself. I didn't really use an exact recipe, but the inspiration was from a recipe in Norwegian chef Andreas Viestad's "Kitchen of Light" cookbook that accompanied PBS's New Scandinavian Cooking series (an awesome show, especially for anyone who would appreciate Scandinavian cuisine).

There are conflicting opinions about dill. Emeril Lagasse of the Food Network thinks fresh dill can be overpowering, and that a little bit goes a long way. However, Viestad says fresh dill is delicate and fragile, and that you can feel free to use a whole bunch of it. It is all personal preference, really, and perhaps it is the Norwegian in me, but I agree more with Viestad. I like a lot of dill, so I use a lot. If you side with Emeril, use less. If you hate dill altogether, you could easily substitute other herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme…or all three in combination!).

All I did was take a 3 1/2 lb whole chicken, and stuffed the cavity with a head of garlic (cut in half), several lemon wedges, a bundle of fresh dill, and then truss the bird. Then I took about a 1/2 a stick of butter and mixed in a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh dill, about a tablespoon of lemon zest, some salt, and fresh black pepper. I rubbed the chicken with the butter mixture. Using my fingers, I took some of the butter mixture and went under the skin of the breast (very gently so as not to tear the skin) to help add flavor and moisture. I drizzled some fresh lemon juice over the chicken just before putting in the oven.

Then, I roasted it in a 350 degree oven for 90 minutes, basting every 30 minutes (feel free to use a meat thermometer if you want confirmation it is cooked through). You should end up with a golden, brown, moist, and delicious bird. Let it rest at least 15 minutes before carving. Enjoy!

(By the way, the leftovers stay quite juicy and make for excellent sandwiches!)

Gourmet Grilled Cheese on Cinnamon-Raisin Bread

You are going to think this is really strange, but please bear with me.

Tonight for dinner, I made (as Emeril might say) a really “kicked up” grilled cheese sandwich. It contained sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, ham, tomato, and a surprise ingredient; I used my cinnamon-raisin bread.

Before you scoff and say, “How disgusting,” let me tell you this actually works very well.

If you take the ham out of it, I had the very same sandwich years ago at the now defunct East Bay Hotel restaurant in Grand Marais, MN. It was absolutely delicious, and I was thinking about that last weekend when baking my cinnamon-raisin bread.

And, I have learned from Food Network star chef Giada de Laurentiis that cinnamon and cured pork products go very well together, as her awesome recipe for Cinnamon-Pancetta Carbonara showed me.

The cinnamon gives warmth, the raisins and the tomatoes give sweetness, and we get a contrasting salty, smoky goodness from the bacon and ham. Add a nice sharp cheddar to the mix and you have a dang good sandwich. I can’t explain it, but the ingredients seem to balance each other out. Trust me, this is good!

All you need is the following:

-A little butter or oil for the pan
-2 slices of cinnamon-raisin bread (or any good bread, in case you don’t trust me!)
-1 slice of smoked ham
-2 slices of good bacon, cooked
-2 slices of tomato
-Grated sharp cheddar cheese

Top the bread with all the ingredients and cook on a griddle or fry pan over medium heat for a couple minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. It helps to press down on the sandwich while cooking in that it makes more solid contact with the pan, thereby cooking quicker. Slice it in half and enjoy!


Welcome to Jean's Food and Cooking Blog

Hi, and welcome to Jean's Food and Cooking Blog!

I opened this blog site to share my two of my favorite hobbies; cooking, and talking about food. I had been operationg a blog site to chronicle my running and racing exploits (other favorite hobbies), and I found myself talking about food an awful lot. So I decided to separate to two and open this site to focus on the food.

Please join me as we explore the culinary universe!


Archive of Recipe Posts

To keep things neat and orderly, this post will serve as an archive for my recipe-related posts.

Breads and Baked Goods

7-Grain Honey Wheat Bread
Cinnamon-Raisin Swirl Bread
Jean's Maca-Toffee-Choco-Cino Cookies
"Pantry Raid" Pizza
Pizza Margherita
Valentine's M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

Fish and Seafood

Grilled Tuna Steak with Soy-Ginger-Honey Glaze
Maple-Glazed Salmon with Ancho Chile Crust


Balsamic-Marinated Strip Steak
Beef Jerky
Chinese BBQ Pork Stir-Fry with Thai Basil Sauce
"Church Basement" Calico Beans
Giada's Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops
"Good Eats" Meat Loaf
Jean's Beef & Guinness Stew
Minnesota Trail Tacos (Venison Tacos)
Norwegian Venison Meatballs
Pork Tenderloin Stir-Fry
Shredded Pork Tacos
Tacos with Salsa Fresca
Thai Yellow Curry with Venison
Tony Stewart's Cheese-Stuffed BBQ Meat Loaf
Venison Stroganoff

Pasta and Noodle Dishes

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Mushrooms
Bolognese Sauce with Spaghetti
Duck and Wild Mushroom Ragu
Giada's Chicken Ragu
Giada's Stuffed Pasta Shells
Gobbetti with Vodka Sauce, Chicken, and Mushrooms
Hamburger-Noodle Hot Dish
Jean's Singapore-style Rice Noodles
Jean's Spicy Chicken Lo Mein
Jean's Venison Sausage with Fusili, Fennel, and Red Wine
Mom's Lasagna
Pheasant Cacciatora
Ragu of Pork Shoulder
Spaghetti & Meatballs
Venison Ragu with Whole-Wheat Spaghetti

Poultry and Egg Dishes

Breakfast Burrito
Frittata with leftovers
Giada's Balsamic Roasted Chicken
Moroccan-Spiced Cornish Game Hen
My Kung Pao Chicken
Pollo alla Cacciatora
Roasted Chicken with Dill and Lemon


"BBT" Sandwich
"BBT" with Balsamic-marinated Tomatoes and Curried Mayonnaise
Gourmet Grilled Cheese on Cinnamon-Raisin Bread


14 Bean Fire Roasted Chili
16 Bean Soup with Ham and Bacon
Jean's Beer Chili
Split Pea Soup with Ham and Bacon
Vegetable Beef Soup
Venison chili