In the Kitchen: Grilled Pork Skewers

While I was in Texas a couple of weeks ago, I took my nephews to the South Texas State Fair. We got there in time for opening ceremonies, where I patiently waited through all the hoopla to not only get in free, but to gorge myself on the most awesome of fair foods: The Pork Kabob.

They don’t mess with veggies on these kabobs – it’s just a giant skewer full of marinated, slightly charred meat.

The boys spent their entire evening riding ridiculous things like this, while I kept my feet planted safely on the ground and periodically gnawed my way through my dinner on a stick.

When I got back to Kansas City, I made my way directly to the grocery store where I picked up several packages of country-style pork ribs. This cut of meat is can be found boneless, but does have a considerable amount of fat and connective tissue, so a little at-home carving is necessary before cooking.

But worth it. So worth it.

I couldn’t find anyone online willing to give up the marinade secret for fair kabobs, so I took inspiration from here for the basic idea and ended up with some tender, juicy kabobs that we polished off with much gusto. (And ok, I did throw in some vegetables to make it a proper meal. But they never, not once, came in contact with the meat.)

Grilled Pork Skewers

2 lbs boneless country-style pork ribs
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp garlic powder (or minced fresh garlic if you have it)
1 tsp white pepper
Two splashes of Sriracha, if you like heat

Trim the meat and cut into chunks. Mix ingredients in a large plastic or glass bowl. Marinate the meat overnight, or at least 4 hours.

Drain the marinade into a squeeze bottle, then slide the chunks of meat onto the skewers. (Be sure they are pre-soaked if you’re using wood.)

Grill the skewers over low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, basting the meat with the leftover marinade occasionally. Low and slow is key when cooking pork, otherwise you end up with shoe leather.

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In the Kitchen: Salmon(ella) Quiche

I meant to post this yesterday as an April Fools’ joke, but instead we were incredibly lazy and napped, sat around with the boy and then watched the entire season 7 of Weeds after he went to bed.

Image source

A few weeks ago, I had a hankering for some quiche. I’d eaten some with brie and asparagus awhile back and it was positively dreamy, so I figured I’d make my own and publish a long-overdue recipe post.

It turned out to be the beginnings of a nightmare.

Here it is, beautifully turned out. It tasted heavenly – cheesy and bacony and spinachy.

I ate two huge pieces, but hubs and the boy aren’t fans and barely touched theirs. Eh, more for me the next day for lunch, right?

But around five the next morning, when I woke up to bottle feed a litter of puppies I was helping to rescue, I got so dizzy I had to wake my husband. My head was pounding and I just felt…wrong.

I went back to bed for a few hours but when I awoke the room was spinning, my head still hurt and it felt like The 2012 Weasel Olympics were being held in my guts.

Throughout the day, my symptoms worsened. I took up residence in the bathroom.

Over the next five days, my fever would spike up to 103.2. I had violent chills but my husband, on orders from my grandmother who he’d called for advice, wouldn’t give me a blanket.

So I huddled under a sheet, basically vibrating from the chills. I began to hallucinate. I asked my husband for broccoli. I was pretty sure I was going to die myself dead.

I remained convinced through most of those lost days that I’d been the lucky host of a virus – a virus that was surely the biggest asshole ever because didn’t he understand I was a mom and moms can’t get sick and I had STUFF TO DO?!

Finally, that Saturday my husband ordered me to see a doctor, who diagnosed me with, you guessed it, food poisoning. He gave me drugs (blessed drugs) to kill the bacteria holding their Inaugural Intestinal Jamboree in my belly and, within three hours, I began to feel human again.

Hubs and the boy got sick as well, but were both somewhat resistant to the bacteria and barely felt the effects.

As a result of this illness, which we tentatively traced back to the eggs in the quiche, I can no longer live dangerously.

Image source

As someone who bakes regularly, I can tell you that not licking the bowl or spooning out a quick bite of cookie dough is torture. I almost took a bite of cake batter a couple of days ago and then froze, throwing the spoon into the sink as if it contained arsenic.

So here it is – Mamamash’s Salmonella Quiche – perfect for those occasions when you’d really like to lose 10 pounds in the most painful way possible.***

Quiche a la’ Bacteria

1 premade pie crust
6 eggs
¾ cup milk
1 small onion, chopped
1 10-oz package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
4 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
1 cup shredded cheese of your choice
salt
pepper

Place the crust in a pie pan and crimp the edges.

Crumble in onion, spinach, bacon and cheese.

Beat eggs with milk, salt and pepper and pour over the mixture in the crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, until eggs are set.

***Please never make this. Ever.

Also! Back when I started blogging, I met a crew of people through the community at Yeah Write, which was at the time called Lovelinks. Headed up by the Princess of Picky Prose, Erica M, the community proved to be a great place to meet other bloggers of all backgrounds and genres. For old time’s sake and to help Yeah Write meet its new goal of a full slate of 75 weekly entries, I’m linking up this week. C’mon, you do it too.

In the Kitchen: Sausage and Kale Soup with Focaccia Triangles

I came across a soup recipe last week that I pinned in hopes of tricking my boys into eating some healthy kale and white beans.

This is a monumentally difficult task because my husband could live on chilidogs and Cheez Its and my son won’t touch anything lately that’s not a Cheerio.

When I finally got around to making the soup today, I was missing a few ingredients, but I made some decent substitutions and after serving himself a third bowl, my husband proclaimed, “This is the best thing I’ve eaten in a such a long time.”

Ha. You just ate veggies sir. Score.

Sausage and Kale Soup
(original recipe posted here)

1 pound smoked kielbasa or Polish sausage, sliced
3 medium Yukon Gold or red potatoes, chopped
2 large shallots, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch kale, trimmed and torn
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
1 large tomato, diced
1 can (15 oz) white beans, rinsed and drained
cups water

Heat a large soup pot. Drizzle in oil and sauté sausage, potatoes and shallots. You’ll get a bit of brown on the bottom of the pan, that’s good. We’ll get it later.

Add the garlic and seasonings then stir for another minute or so.

Pour in one cup of the water, and scrape the bottom of the pot to pull up the brown bits that will now dissolve into the broth, adding some fantastic flavor.

Add the rest of the water, the tomato, the beans and the bay leaves. Bring the soup to a brief boil, the add the kale, reduce the heat and stir occasionally while the kale wilts – about 15 minutes.

Serve with triangles of focaccia from this easy recipe for a hearty, warm and immensely satisfying cold-weather meal.

In the Kitchen: Bacon-Swiss Chicken

I love perfect trios. Red, white and blue. The Scarecrow, The Lion and The Tin Man. Jack, Chrissy and Janet. The Bee Gees.

And of course: Chicken, bacon and Swiss.

My bacon-Swiss chicken is a bit like a certain famous dish at that overpriced-but-tasty chain restaurant that uses a bad Aussie accent and cheesy commercials to promote itself. The cheese is different – as is the lack of any fungus tucked under the other toppings poised and ready to gross out my husband – but the basic slightly-greasy goodness is the same.

Bacon-Swiss Chicken

4 slices baby Swiss cheese
4 slices bacon
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Kick’n Chicken seasoning (or whatever you have around the house)
1/3 cup honey
¼ cup mustard
2 tbsp mayonnaise
salt
pepper
shredded cheddar (optional)

Trim excess fat off the chicken breasts. Cover with plastic wrap and beat the hell out of ‘em until they are of a nice, uniform flatness. I’m not going to tell you to pound to ½ inch thickness, because who really goes around measuring their meat after they pound it?

Put your hand down.

Drizzle a bit of the oil over the chicken then season well with salt, pepper and seasoning mix. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Cook your bacon using whatever method you prefer: skillet, microwave, oven or idling engine. Set out to drain on a paper towel.

Mix the mayo, mustard and honey and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the rest of the oil in a skillet and brown the chicken breasts.

Cover a cookie sheet with foil and place the chicken on top. Cover with the mustard mixture, bacon and sliced cheese. If you like a bit more color, cover the Swiss with a bit of shredded cheddar.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the chicken reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

*Yields one man-sized serving, one mama-sized serving and one extremely-picky-but-will-eat-this-every-time-toddler-sized serving.

In the Kitchen: Basic pork roast

Pork roast is one of the staples in my freezer. It’s something I grew up on and have continued to share with my family.

A quick search on Pinterest or Tastespotting will reveal that it’s also a beautifully blank canvas on which you can create a variety of tastes.

Make it sweet, make it spicy. Make it stuffed, make it saucy.

Occasionally I’ll branch out and try these variations, but usually I stick to the slightly adapted version of my mom’s tried-and-true recipe.

It’s pretty easy, and because I use a crock pot it’s one of those “set it and forget it” type meals that are perfect for busy weekdays or hectic holiday weekends. Also, it’s great for when you’re feeling stabby. You’ll see why in a bit.

Savory Pork Roast and Gravy

1 3-lb pork roast
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
½ cup pickled peppers of your choice
2 cups water or broth
Seasoning salt
Pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil

Start with a fresh or defrosted pork roast, whichever cut you prefer. This time, I had a sirloin roast in the freezer. Stab your roast repeatedly on all sides. This is great for relieving holiday frustrations.

Stuff each hole with alternating garlic and pepper slices, then liberally coat with seasoning salt and pepper. This time, I used Cavender’s Greek seasoning (this stuff is amazing and I put it on just about anything), kosher salt and black pepper.

Heat oil in a skillet and sear all sides of the roast.

Place the sliced onions in the bottom of the crock pot, set the roast on top and pour the water or broth (I used some leftover veggie broth) over the top.

Cover and cook on low for at least 4 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit. I left this one to cook for about 6 hours, and it was fall-apart tender.

It’s traditional in my family to thicken the gravy with a tiny bit of cornstarch slurry and to serve with rice and some kind of greens.

Check out Glory canned vegetables if you get a chance, they’re my favorite when I’m too lazy to make a side dish from scratch.

In the Kitchen: Caramel Apple Pie

I know a lot of people closely guard their favorite recipes. Some won’t even write them down for fear of sneaky pilferers. I have a cousin who makes a great banana pudding and said she’d tell me how if I promised never to bring it to a family function, because it was her thing. (I promise, Jenny, I’ve never served it to anyone you know, and I gave you full credit when I did make it.)

When I decided to share my apple pie recipe, I admit, I felt a little naked. This pie is, along with my praline-filled carrot cake, my thing. But I’d love for you to take it and maybe make it your thing if you’d like. This is me, learning to share.

But first!

You know when you take a stand on something and then later you go against what you said? Awwwwwkward.

Awhile back my friend Denae asked me to write a guest post for her about holiday traditions, but I ended up breaking tradition. Oops.

Follow me here and see how I screwed up.

I was featured on New Mom Adventure

Now on with the pie. Pronounced PAH with a Southern drawl. Get it right. 

Last year, our sweet neighbor had a bumper crop of apples, and he would walk through the neighborhood once a week and drop off huge bags full of fruit.

I had apples in bowls, apples on countertops, apples taking up every drawer in the fridge.

And my husband hates fruit.

Except.

Except if it’s baked in a pie.

Now, believe it or not, I had never made a fruit pie before. I spent an afternoon hanging out on AllRecipes.com reading reviews of different recipes. It was overwhelming.

People are fanatical about their pie, especially apple pie. Nobody makes pie better than mom/grandma/Aunt Sue and don’t you even try to pretend like you can serve storebought crust and call yourself an American.

I was so stressed out that I turned to the bottle.

And then I had an idea.

Instead of soaking the apples in lemon juice, like one recipe suggested, what if I marinated them in Maker’s Mark, then seasoned them, then made a caramel-ish sauce and drizzled it over everything?

And what if I went ahead and bought premade crust at the store, but made up for it by cutting a latticework top?

So I made one. It lasted a day thanks to some visitors with hefty appetites. (Really, my husband ate the whole thing, but he made me write that.)

The next day, my neighbor showed up again with two bags of apples. Peeling and coring all that by hand did not sound like fun, so I went and picked up one of these brilliant things, and spent an entire weekend baking pies.

I sent one to the apple man, one across the street, one next door. Pie for everyone!

I was really looking forward to a repeat performance this year, but my neighbor’s trees did not yield a single apple. Not one. We were very sad.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of them at the market and even though they’re not free and they don’t taste nearly as good, they’ll still make a pie. Or four.

Mamamash’s Caramel Apple Pie

1 premade pie crust in a pan (freezer section)
1 premade pie crust, rolled (refrigerated section)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup water
8 tart apples – peeled, cored and sliced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons Maker’s Mark plus 1 shot
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 can 7UP

In a tall glass, mix a shot of Maker’s Mark with a can of 7Up over ice. Put your feet up and sip while your husband/kid/friend who owes you a favor peels, cores and slices the apples.

Place apples in a bowl with cinnamon, nutmeg, whiskey and juice.

Melt butter in a sauce pan. Stir in flour. Add white sugar, brown sugar and water; bring to a boil. Reduce temperature, and simmer 5 minutes.

Fill your bottom crust with apples, mounded slightly. Cover with a latticework crust.
Learn how to do that here.

Gently, slowly, ever-so-carefully pour the sugar and butter liquid over the crust.

Cover the edges with foil or pie crust savers and bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes.

In the Kitchen: Talkin’ Turkey

Last year I hosted Thanksgiving at my house, which meant not only did I have to clean behind the toilet and wipe off the three inches of dust that collected on the ceiling fan, I also had to provide the turkey.

Now, I’m a pretty experienced cook but the thought of tackling the turkey freaked me out. I couldn’t face the possibility of burning the bird and having to serve cold cuts along side our beautiful casseroles and perfect pies.

Luckily, my mom had come into town and she walked me through the basics. I also added in a couple of ideas of my own and we ended up with a fantastic turkey and a magical meal.

I had a few requests from friends to share my turkey tips, so here you go.

Mamamash Talks Turkey: Do’s and Don’ts

DO plan ahead. Most turkeys are sold frozen, so you’ll need to plan for defrosting time. It takes 24 hours to defrost 5 pounds of turkey, so do the math and realize that 20-pound bird you’ve purchased needs four days just to reach a non-frozen state.

DON’T defrost the bird in the sink. It must be kept cold. Place the turkey in the refrigerator in a jelly roll pan lined with paper towels so you don’t end up with unwanted juices mingling with the fresh produce. Salmonella is not a good way to lose the holiday weight.

DO remember to remove the giblet bag once your turkey is defrosted. It’s not a nice surprise to pull it out in the middle of carving your bird at dinner.

DO brine your turkey. Once your turkey is defrosted, you’ll need an extra 12 hours to brine it. The night before, while you’re off marinating yourself in martinis in order to calmly handle your houseful of relatives, soak the bird in a salt solution in order to increase the moisture holding capacity of the meat. You can choose from many brines, like this one here, or this one, or this.

DON’T substitute one cup of table salt for one cup of kosher salt when making your brine. Table salt is much saltier.

DO continue to keep your bird chilled while brining. You must keep your turkey chilled to at least 40 degrees Farenheit during the brining process. If your brining container won’t fit in the fridge, put the turkey in a cooler, cover with ice, and pour the brine over the top. Stick it in the garage overnight if it’s cool outside. Last year, my turkey hung out in its cooler in the bathtub. To be completely honest, it was very odd to be doing my business next to a large dead bird, but definitely worth it.

DON’T attempt to deep fry a frozen or wet turkey. It will explode and burn down your house. Seriously, Google fried turkey mishaps. You’ve been warned. In fact, here are some great tips for frying birds.

DO let your turkey come to room temperature before cooking it. It will roast/fry/smoke more evenly that way.

Now, if you’re smoking or frying your bird, check here and here for tips on those two methods. I’m going to continue on discussing how to roast the perfect turkey.

DON’T be afraid of the butter. Pull a Paula Deen and set out a whole stick of butter, y’all. Soften it, then gently separate the skin from the bird and rub that butter all over the place. Give the bird a nice butter massage.

DO be creative. If you want to use herbs, place them inside the gap you’ve made between the breast and skin. If you like citrus, throw some orange slices into the bird’s cavity. Be sure to salt and pepper the skin as well. If you don’t have a roasting rack, line the bottom of a roasting pan with carrots and celery stalks to elevate the bird.

DON’T ever cook the turkey with stuffing inside. Yes, I know that’s how your mom did it. No, the fact that fact that you never got sick doesn’t discount the fact that it’s a recognized health hazard. If you must have your dressing flowing out of the turkey as you place it in all its glory on the table, stuff it with separately cooked stuffing when you pull it out of the oven.

DO truss up the bird’s legs for more even roasting. Also, it looks cool. Look, you’re a chef!

DON’T forget to preheat the oven. It can take 30 minutes for a cold oven to reach 325 degrees Farenheit.

DO roast the bird with its foil-covered breast side up in the oven at 325 for 20 minutes per pound if previously frozen and 12 minutes per pound if fresh.

DON’T even think about peeking until about 45 minutes before you estimate the turkey to be done. Remove the foil so the breast will brown and check the internal temperature. Baste with the pan juices.

DO ensure that the meat reaches 180 degrees at deepest spot between the leg and the breast.

DON’T immediately cut into the bird. Tent it with foil and let it rest for 20 minutes so the meat can absorb all the juices back in.

DO lay claim to your favorite piece before allowing anyone else near the bird. After all, you’re the one who’s been working on this dish all week and if you want a leg, dammit, you get a leg.

If you happen to run into a turkey emergency, don’t forget the awesome experts at the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. I’ve never used their services, but I’ve heard that they are enthusiastic and very helpful.

Also, if you’d like to bring something besides green bean casserole to your family’s celebration this year, try this corn casserole from  The Bearded Iris.

Good luck and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

In the Kitchen: Tomato Basil Soup and Grilled Gruyère Sandwiches

The bright red leaves are almost gone on our beautiful silver maple in the front yard, and the temperatures have been teasing their way toward freezing for the last week or so.

I’m prone to developing the winter blues, so to avoid spending the next several months in fetal position in the corner, I’ve tried to focus on the fun things about the season: warm fuzzy socks, flannel sheets and fabulous food.

While I was delightedly browsing soups, stews and crock pot creations, hubs spoke up and said he’d really like some tomato soup and grilled cheese.

Now, he’d probably be happy with Campbell’s out of a can and a couple of pieces of Wonderbread with a slice of American slapped in between, but I had other ideas. Ideas that involved fresh basil, and cream, and roasted tomatoes. Ideas that called for rich smoked cheese and fresh crusty bread.

Ideas brought to fruition with the help of Tastespotting, which led me to SpoonForkBacon.

Go on, look. It’s drool-worthy. The recipes are fresh and easily recreated, the food styling is enticing and the photography is gorgeous.

I decided to try the Creamy Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup and made a couple of small adjustments to fit the contents of my pantry. I paired it with some grilled cheese sandwiches made with Smoked Gruyère and just a touch of mustard, and we all sat around dipping crusty, cheesy goodness into the rich soup and watching the Chiefs endure an ugly beating from the Dolphins.

I like to think the men were crying because the food was so good, and not because it was such a devastatingly sad game.

Creamy Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup
Serves 4

10 Roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tbsp dried thyme
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 cups fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 cup heavy cream

Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake at 375 degrees for about an hour.

Sauté onion in butter until the bits begin to brown. Add garlic and thyme, sauté for another couple of minutes.

Add the can of tomatoes, dried and fresh basil and sugar. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Add broth and roasted tomatoes, cover and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Carefully transfer soup to blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend until smooth.

*Pro Tip: Don’t fill the blender to the top then blend on high unless you like tomato-spattered walls.

Pour the soup back into the pot and slowly stir in the cream. Continue stirring over low heat for five minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve with Grilled Gruyère Sandwiches.

Grilled Gruyère Sandwiches

1 loaf good, thick-cut white bread
8 oz Smoked Gruyère
½ cup yellow mustard
1 stick butter

Grate the cheese. Try not to eat it all before it ends up in the sandwiches.

Butter one side of the bread. Spread a small amount of mustard over the other side and place on a griddle set to low heat, butter side down. Sprinkle cheese over the mustard, top with another slice of bread, buttered on top. Turn when the bread reaches a dark, golden brown.

Slice in half and serve.

In the Kitchen: Italian Wedding Soup

I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of this until I found a recipe while FoodGawking one day. When I expressed my utter joy in having discovered such a fantastic food, everyone laughed at me like I’d just discovered Google or something.

Perhaps your mom/grandma/Aunt Gus makes this, or maybe that café on the corner serves it for Tuesday lunch and you’ve already been there, done that.

But if you haven’t! Oh my. Give this a try. The key here is to layer the flavors, so be sure and take enough time between each step for the tastes to meld. I’ve simplified the recipe quite a bit, so if you’d like to make it more authentic, use your favorite meatball recipe.

Italian Wedding Soup

16 oz frozen Italian-style meatballs
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 cup minced onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
8 cups chicken stock (can use Better than Bouillon to make this)
1 cup orzo
10 oz ounces baby spinach, washed and trimmed
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Sauté the onion, carrots and celery until the onion is transparent.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and meatballs, return to a boil, and cook until the pasta is soft, about ten minutes. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning to your liking with salt and pepper. Add the spinach and simmer for a couple of minutes more.

Serve with Parmesan, if desired.