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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hot Weather Cooking Tips

Now that the Summer is here in full force ( it was 103 today) I am reminded about some tips for cooking that make life a little easier.

1. Fruit Smoothies are very good and can be very healthy. I always add about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of crushed ice to the blender.  It helps to cool down the mixture and also leaves small ice crystals that are very good at cleansing the palate.

2. My Wicked Milkshakes are always a hit at a Summer Party.  Lots of variations but my favorite is Raspberry - buy some cheap Champagne ( Trust me you will never here me say that again!!) and some cheap Raspberry Sherbet.  Take some good ripe Raspberries - add some of the Champagne and some sherbet and mix in a blender.  This will cool off  a hot day real fast!  Just don't drink too many!

3. Cakes - bake these early in the morning and cool then wrap and put in the Fridge.  You find that they will hold the frosting better.  If you are using a Buttercream, as soon as you finish the cake stick in the Fridge or risk your Buttercream melting.  The cake will stay fresh for a day or two without any damage. 

4. Use your outdoor kitchen. Read my post on Summer Kitchens.  This is when all the time getting that ready will pay off.

5.  Sandwiches - Always use butter on any sandwich that you make in the Summer. It forms a nice barrier that keeps the bread moist and the filling from making the sandwich soggy.

So what tips do you have?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fresh Frozen Strawberry Lemonade Jam

Strawberries are in season! I wanted to make some jam to save the taste.  I love the no cook fresh frozen jams and jellies. This is a recipe I created on Monday.  It tasts like Strawberri Lemonade!


4 Cups of crushed strawberries
5 - 7 cups of sugar
1 Lemon - juice and zest
1 1/2 cup of cold water
2 packages of pectin - Sure Jell  or other brand.

Clean your strawberries and then process either in a food processor or mash with a potato masher.  Measure and place in a large bowl.  Add the lemon juice and zest and then the sugar.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.  (NOTE - you can the lesser amount of sugar but the jam will not set as well.)  Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.

Pour the water into a sauce pan and add the pectin.  Stir until dissolved.  Make sure that berries are done and have set at least 10 minutes BEFORE you start this step.  Cook the mixture over medium heat until it comes to a boil and then boil for one minute.  After one minute turn off the heat and stir into the fruit.  Keep stirring until the all the pectin is in and the sugar is no longer grainy. 

Put in clean jars or container and cover.  Let it sit on the counter at room temp for 24 hours and then freeze. It is ready to eat.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Easy Ribs

I had a craving for some Baby Back Pork Ribs.  I love good ribs that are tender and juicy. They are easy to do with this method.

Ribs - as many racks as you need to make - allow about 1 rack for two people unless they are big eaters then one per person.

DAVIS DUST - it is the best!! 

Prepare the ribs by rinsing them with cold water. Pat the meat with a paper towel and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.   They should be a little damp but not wet.   Sprinkle the DUST on them and then rub it in.  Turn over and do the same on the other side.  Cover with foil and seal the edges.  Bake in a slow oven ( 225F) for at least three hours.  After they are tender and have a lot of juices,  remove from the oven and cook for about 10 minutes on a medium grill. Baste with your favorite BBQ sauce ( or not ) the last few minutes.

If you want to smoke the ribs then put them in your smoker instead of the oven.  Either way works very well and you will have some tasty ribs!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Banana Cake

Lat night some of my friends invited me to dinner as post birthday celebration. for desert they baked one of my recipes from the cookbook - Banana Cake. It was so good that I thought I would share it with the blog readers.

Banana Cake is very simple. The original recipe bakes two round layers and uses Whipped Cream for the frosting.  Last night the baked it in a loaf pan and added chocolate frosting.  Either way is very tasty!!

BANANA CAKE

Use your favorite yellow cake mix or your favorite from scratch recipe.  Add two medium bananas that you have mixed to a liquid state.  Follow the directions for your recipe.  It is that simple. When it is done let it cool and then ice as you wish. Here are some suggestions.

1. Make sweetened whipped cream and use as your icing. Be sure to keep the cake in the refrigerator until time to serve.  I recommend using powdered sugar to sweeten the cream. It will keep it from separating and it will hold its shape.

2. You Can put slices of banana and/or strawberry in the middle with the whipped cream, if you like. However that means you really cannot save overnight the cake as they will cause the whipped cream to soften after about an hour.  Bavarian cream will work better.

3.Add a layer of chocolate in the middle or ice with chocolate butter cream

I hope you enjoy this recipe. It is simple. The cake will be very moist!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Summer Kitchen

Sorry for the gap in posting!!  It has been a busy week.

It was over 103 today so the heat is here.  One way I avoid adding more heat to the house is by creating a summer kitchen.  It is not that hard or expensive.  I have a covered patio that it just off the main kitchen. I keep a selection of appliances out there wrapped in plastic to keep the dust and bugs out.  This allows me the opportunity to cook food outside that normally would be cooked inside.  I also have a small refrigerator to keep drinks cold on those hot Las Vegas afternoons.  Here is a list of appliance that are easy to maintain outside.

I have a portable Deep Fryer ( electric) that I use most of the year for anything that I want to deep fry.  The best part is that the fumes and heat are also outside. This gets a lot of use for chicken wings or fingers; french frys or onion rings and even fish and chips.  These units clean easily and can be covered once they are cooled down and unplugged.  I use peanut oil and strain it after every use.

I also added a convection toaster oven. This is great when company comes over and I need to heat up appetizers or cook something quickly that requires an oven rather than a microwave. The convection feature is a must as it helps to keep food crisp and cooks much quicker.  Very handy!

A rotisserie oven - small compact and very effective.  I use this a lot too. Does a great job on chicken.

Of course I have my gas grill that houses a smoker and a rotisserie as well as a large grill area.  I do smoke a lot of meats.  ( I love a smoked turkey for Thanksgiving.)

With just a small space you can create a wonderful outdoor cooking area that you use most of the year.  In the summer it helps to keep the electric bill down because the heat is outside not in the kitchen.  Give it try!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fresh Fruits

You can already get a lot of fresh fruit in the supermarket. Sometimes it is very tempting to buy more than you really need.  If that happens you certainly do not want it to go to waste.  So how can you save it?

Strawberries and other berries can be frozen.  Trim off any stems or blemishes.  You have several manners to freeze these.  1. place them on a baking sheet and put in your freezer until they are frozen and then put them in a freezer bag.  This is the best way to keep them whole and separated but it is not fool proof.  2. make fresh frozen jam. You have to buy pectin. It will have the recipe. 3. Make a Compote - or sauce and then freeze.

Bananas - if they start to get too ripe freeze the banana whole.  Those are great for making banana bread.  or you can cut them into pieces and freeze to use in a smoothie.  They can go dark so sprinkle some fresh lemon juice on the pieces before freezing.

Melons - make a fruit salad!  These cannot be frozen,

Almost any fruit can be cooked and then frozen. Or make jelly or jam.  This very true of most tree fruit such as apples or peaches.  No sense in letting the harvest go bad!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"DUSTED" Grilled Chicken

I finally had time to do grill yesterday!  This is a new recipe I tried that was very good so I am sharing it with the Blog Readers and will be included in the next cookbook.

DUSTED Grilled Chicken

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
DAVIS DUST
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
White Zinfandel
Lemon Juice

Marinade
Use a large enough pan to fit all the chicken in a single layer.  Do not use a reactive pan such as aluminum or iron. Stainless Steel is OK as the marinade is quick.  If you want to marinade overnight then use a re-closeable plastic bag.

Sprinkle DAVIS DUST to cover the bottom of the pan.  Rinse and pat dry the chicken and then place on the DUST in the pan.  Sprinkle the top of the chicken with Lemon Juice and Olive Oil to moisten.   Sprinkle on more DUST and rub the seasoning in.  Turn the Chicken to make sure that is coated with the DUST.  Add about 1/2 cup of the White Zinfandel to the bottom o f the pan.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Turn the chicken over after on hour. cover and return to the fridge.

Heat your grill on high for five minute to burn off any reside.  Turn down to low,.  Take a cloth or paper towel dipped in vegetable oil and oil the grill.  Put the chicken on and set a timer for 8 minute.  After 8 minutes turn the chicken 90 degrees to get grill marks.  Cook for another 8- 10 minute and then turn over.  The total time will be about20 - 35 minutes depending on how thick the chicken is.  The internal temperature should be at least 160 F. If you are using a Charcoal Grill - put the chicken over indirect heat and adjust your cooking time as needed.

I made enough that I could freeze the leftover for salads or sandwiches.  It would also be good on pizza.

Enjoy!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Salads

Salads can be more than just a side dish or minor note in the meal. It is very easy to create a meal with a salad. One of my favorite is a chopped salad.  Growing up we called these "Aunt Wanda's" salad. My Aunt would put everything she could find into a salad.  Sometimes that was a good - sometimes they missed the mark.  Who know that she was on to something big? The idea is to add protein and vegetables to your favorite lettuce.

Chopped Salad

1/2 head of iceberg lettuce - chopped
1 head of Romaine - do not use the "round" end it can be very bitter - also cut the lettuce as you would for a Caesar Salad
2 tomatoes - seeded and cut into bite size pieces
4 scallions - sliced
Diced Cumber - take the skin off
4 Radishes - sliced
Green and Red Peppers - about 1/2 cup diced
1/2 cup of cooked chicken breast chopped
1/2 cup of diced Ham
bacon bits


Combine all of the above in a large bowl and toss.  Then add the dressing and serve. Make sure that you do not drown the salad in dressing.  People can always add more.  For me a simple tablespoon of Mayonnaise is great as a base dressing. It will not wilt the greens as fast as a bottled dressing and is neutral enough that if someone wants a different dressing they can still add their choice without overdressing.  Top with shredded cheese -  Parmesan or Cheddar are good choices.


Monday, May 7, 2012

More Tips on Burgers

If you like a lean burger you know that they can be dry and not have all the juices that one with more fat may have.  This is true of Turkey and Beef Burgers. To add some moisture and keep it healthy try adding a little EVOO to the meat before you cook it.  I usually add the Olive Oil along with some seasonings such as garlic and onion powder and a little salt. It makes a big difference.

Another tip is grind your own meat to make the burger.  That way you can add what you want to the meat and control the fat and moisture.  Experiment - use a little pork or add some sausage to your meat. Try different spices. (DAVIS DUST work well - hint hint!)  I will add unusual meat such as brisket or flank steak. Just be sure to girnd it twice to have the consistentcy that you want.

Also if you use charcoal, don't put the meat right on the hottest spot.  Set it off to the side so that the juices don't flair up so much.  Keep a clean spray bottle with water close by to stop flair ups.

These are few of my tips.  How about you?  Got any you want to share?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Some of my Best Burger Recipes

Here is one of my favorite Burger recipes.  These are great on the grill and as we all know it IS that time of year again! This one is in the cookbook.

CHACHITA’S SOUTHWEST BURGERS
(C) Wes Davis 2010/2012 - all rights reserved
Inspired by a friend who was always spicy and way too friendly! 

INGREDIENTS

2          Pounds ground beef – 15% fat or less ( you can use ground turkey or chicken)
2          cans diced mild green chilies – you can use Jalapeno but I prefer more taste and less heat I use     Hatch chilies
2          cloves garlic – minced or pressed
½         teaspoon ground cumin
½         cup finely diced onions Red are the best choice but white will do
8          oz cheddar cheese
½         teaspoon salt

Put ground beef in a large bowl and add the chilies, cumin and onions.  Mix with your hands or a fork until well combined. Put the cheese in a food processor and pulse until it is in rough small pieces.  Add to the meat mixture and add the salt.  Mix again until combined.  Form into patties and place on a plate with plastic wrap or parchment paper separating the layers.  Chill in refrigerator for at least one hour.   Note:  usually you form hamburger patties loosely.  However with this recipe use more force when forming or they will fall apart when you cook them. If you have a burger press this is an ideal use for it.
Cook burgers over indirect heat on your grill.  Do not press them while cooking or they will fall apart and the cheese will ooze out.
Serve with hot toasted buns, cool lettuce and tomato and the usual condiments – Mayo, catsup and mustard, sliced onions and have salsa on the side.

Ole Chachita!! 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pasta Salad with Veggies!

Summer is all about what is fresh and in season. One of my favorite salads for a lunch or picnic is a Pasta Salad.  Here is one of my recipes.

PASTA SALAD 1

1 cup of Broccoli florettes
1/2 cup of shredded Carrots
1 cup of diced peppers - Use a combination of Green, Red and Orange if possible otherwise what ever you have is fine
3 Scallions - sliced - green and white parts
2  Roma tomatoes - sliced or diced
1 small jar of Artichoke Hearts - Drain and then slice or dice as you prefer.
2 cups of dried pasta - use shells, macaroni or your favorite
Italian Dressing
Parmesan Cheese

Bring the water to boil for your pasta. before you put the pasta in drop the Broccoli in and cook for about 2 minutes.  Remove using a slotted spoon and put  it in ICE WATER.  That will shock the Broccoli and keep it green and crisp.  Proceed with cooking the pasta to al dente.  When it is done drain and put in ICE WATER to cool and drain again.  Doing this allows the pasta to cool and you can assemble the salad right away.

Put the rest of the ingredients excpet the cheese in a large bowl, add the cooled pasta and mix so that all the veggies are distributed.   Add the dressing (A note about the dressing. Use a good bottled Italian Dressing that has some cheese in it or make your own.  You will use most of a bottle as after the salad sits, the pasta will absorb most of the dressing and you may have to add a little more before serving.)  Refrigerate the salad for at least an hour before serving.

Just before you serve add some grated Parmesan cheese.  Be sure to keep the salad cold if you are serving it outside.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Picnic Lunch

Good weather means picnic lunches or at least taking food outside. When you do remember to keep food at the proper temperature.  Hot food HOT cold food COLD.  Here are some ideas to help.

1. Buy a container and/or lunch boxes that have a place for a frozen section to keep food cold.  The Container Store has a HUGE selection of these.  There are reusable "ice" solutions as well as  totes and bags that have a place to keep the cold food cold. If you do  not have one of these double bag some ice in a re-closeable bag and put it in the tote/bag etc. at the bottom with the most critical food on top and then another on top.

2. Salads - keep the dressing off until you are ready to eat. It is easier to keep a small amount of dressing cold rather that a big salad that has dressing on it.  This also improves the salad as greens won't wilt. If it is a potato salad then you must keep it cold as it made ahead of time. The same for Pasta Salads.

3. Sandwiches - lightly butter your bread before you do anything else.  That forms a barrier to keep the bread fresh and prevent it from getting soggy.  This is a big help for PB&J as well sandwiches that have mayo. Keep them cold!

These are just a few tips. I will have more later in the season.