Ever have a recipe that, as soon as you see it, you KNOW you're going to have to try making it REEEEEALLY soon?
That happened to me when I saw this recipe for hot chocolate popcorn balls. Only, upon reading the recipe the "hot" part didn't appeal to me too much - I wasn't sure I wanted the cayenne pepper in the popcorn, yet I knew I wanted to try chocolate popcorn, especially since we'd just seen some for sale at West Side Market a week and a half ago...
After popping up a bunch of plain popcorn kernels in our popcorn popper (I started with a cup of unpopped popcorn - that makes A LOT of popcorn!), I dumped them in a giant mixing bowl and got to work on the candy coating. As soon as I put the regular Hershey's cocoa powder in with the other ingredients I wondered what it would've been like if I had instead used the Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder we have!? Arrrrgh!
Good thing one recipe of the candy coating wasn't enough for all that popcorn! So I had to make a second batch, and as I stirred it in the popcorn I was glad I added the darker cocoa to the second batch - you could just see the difference!
Turns out this is seriously good tasting stuff! But to answer the one question I was asked a few times, yes, the popcorn DOES lose some of it's crispness in the process. When I left it out to air dry on the counter yesterday evening it seemed to crisp up, but the act of storing it in containers softens it again. I might have to see if I can't find a recipe that results in a crisper end result - like maybe with less corn syrup?
Oh, and no way was I forming a bunch of balls with this! Instead I just crumbled it up into chunks for snacking on.
It was just over a week ago when everyone was talking about how beautiful it was outside. We'd already had plenty of snow fall over the weekend, and then temps dropped, and when people woke up Monday morning they were greeted with this:
No no, not my holly shrub - but the thick, spindly frost all over everything. When I got up some of the frost closest to the side of the house with the rising sun was already melting a little - so that holly picture doesn't really do it justice. Check out the windchimes!
What's really interesting is how most of the frost was growing off in one direction...
I really wish I would've found a ruler to measure it - I'd guess those frost crystals were at least a quarter inch long.
And in just the short time I was outside taking pictures, you could already tell some of the frost was disappearing. I wanted to get great pictures of it on all the plants but, sorry, I wasn't willing to set foot out in the deep snow - I'd already done that enough the previous couple of days.
It was really cool to see it up on the tall trees, and how it caught the sunlight.
Just two days before those trees were covered in thick, heavy snow, but then that disappeared off've many of the trees the next day thanks to wind and sun. And then the next day - FROST!
At first it looked like we'd been hit by an ice storm. We've had that happen where everything has a thick candy-coating of ice.
But not this time - that's all very brittle frost out there.
In less than an hour of my taking these pictures, most of the beautiful frost was gone... I'm glad I got out there to take the pictures when I did!
I don't know what triggered it - the snowy weather we've had lately, the itch to make bread, the desire to stockpile food...whatever did it, I had a craving for bierochs! Maybe you've never heard of bierochs, or just don't know them by that spelling. I learned about them as a kid when we'd go visit relatives in Kansas. I think both sides of the family made them....but the memories that stick with me most would be when visiting my mom's folks out on the farm. You'd have all the guys out working the fields of wheat, alfalfa or whatever - that'd include Grandpa Carl, Uncle Dennis, and whatever hired hands were also working with them that summer. I remember Blake (and his wife Linda) best - I know Blake worked for Grandpa for a number of seasons, and was fun to hang out with.
Anyhow, while the guys would be out working the field, the "woman folk" (plus whatever kids were along needed supervision) would often take food out to the guys, rather than have the guys always come back to the farm for lunch or dinner - this was probably dependent on how the harvesting schedule was going, weather threats, etc. The food taken out might include jello salads, green bean and tater tot casserole, sandwiches or bierochs.
To me, a bieroch is based off've those memories. I've found references to them on other sites and blogs where someone might include carrots or sauerkraut, or dip them in ketchup, or add cheese inside. Nope, not me! Cabbage, onions and beef, along with minor seasoning - that's all you need to wrap up in the slightly sweet roll dough to make the original "hot pockets". (Heck - I'm not even sure if it's "i before e" on these things - there's too many variations out there!)
So first thing first - I thinly sliced a head of cabbage and a couple onions, and got them steaming/sauteeing in a pot. I tossed in some salt and pepper for both taste, and to try to extract some of the water from the cabbage so it wouldn't scorch too much in the olive oil I'd added to the pot.
Once the cabbage was MOSTLY tender, I dumped it into a big bowl and browned the ground beef. I seasoned this with a little more salt and pepper, some Worcestershire sauce, some garlic powder, a little sweet paprika and some dried mustard - these were various suggestions I picked up on the web that appealed to me most. Trust me - NOTHING was measured...I just did it to taste.
As the cabbage and beef were cooking, I got to work on a nice sounding roll recipe I found online. I wanted one that I assumed would be just a touch sweet, and very tender (it seems those that start off with some warm milk tend to be nice and soft). Oh, and I skipped all the recipe results that included a bread machine - I was gonna be putting my Kitchenaid to work - as you can see here with the dough dancing around inside the bowl! I did find the recipe was a BIT too sticky so near the end of mixing I added in maybe a 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour to finish it off. (Why whole wheat? Eh - I could pretend these were more healthy!)
I let the dough rise in it's bowl, with the detatched bread hook still in the dough, for an hour on the stove. Brett was making chili so that had things nice and warm - perfect for rising bread dough! After the first hour I put the bowl back on the mixer, whizzed it around a few times, and set it to the back of the stove for a second rise. By then it was looking and smelling REAL good!
Time to start pulling off blobs of dough, rolling them out, cutting them into pieces that were "just the right size" (ummmm....you know - "that size" - the one that's perfect for the size bierochs you want!), blopping on about a 1/4 cup of meat/cabbage filling on each, and folding over the corners and pinching to seal in all the good stuff!
As you're doing this, you're going to have some spillage - sometimes you cut a piece of dough a bit too narrow/small, and then you've got beef or cabbage coming out...and then that gets worked into the dough of your next round of bierochs. Oh well - so some of the finished product look a little imperfect!
After I filled all the dough (with just enough extra dough for four small rolls, which are in the freezer to bake later), I covered them with plastic wrap and a dishtowel, and again, set them to the back of the oven (the chili was still simmering!). After maybe an hour or so I heated up the oven to 400 and tossed 'em in for maybe 15-18 minutes total, swapping the pans in the oven about half way through. Oh, and about 3/4 of the way through I decided I should've buttered the tops, so they got pulled out for a quick brushing of melted butter.
Each of the ones above is about the size of a small clenched fist. There's 24 that looked perfect, and then this guy, who was a bit smaller, and a bit malformed.
Hey, SOMEONE'S gotta do a taste testing, right??
I tell ya, for as brown as the top of the dough looks, these babies are TEEEEENDER and soft!! And the filling? Just right!!
Now to find room in the freezer to stash a bunch of them for quick snacks/meals later. And you KNOW Brett won't touch them because they have cabbage! So they're ALL MINE! ;-)
I have the CIA's Baking Boot Camp book out from the library right now, and one of the first recipes I saw to catch my interest were the mudslide cookies - they looked like big soft, crackly-topped brownies in the shape of cookies. Oh man, I HAD to make them!
I was a little concerned that the only chocolates in the recipe were bittersweet and unsweetened, but hoped the sugar would counter all the bitterness. Also nice was the addition of a little espresso powder - coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate, and depending on how much is added, you may not even notice the coffee flavor. (I don't drink coffee - can't stand the stuff! I DO, however, love coffee-flavored stuff!)
What was really interesting was how long the recipe has you beat the initial ingredients - the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Instead of just mixing until incorporated, you whip them together for 4-6 minutes - and after this time they become thick and really gain some volume!
Here's the end product:
Wow, they were GOOOOOOD!
But I would most definitely tweak the recipe next time. While folks at work loved them, they were a little TOO "adult" for me - I could use a slightly sweeter chocolate cookie. I DID like the espresso powder in them - you could taste the coffee flavor, but I didn't think it was overwhelming. I DO think the next time I make them (and yes, there WILL be a next time), I'll modify the chocolate a little - reducing the unsweetened quantities and adding just a little semisweet in it's place I think.
While I'm sure I'd have the CIA breathing down my neck if I started reprinting all their recipes, I DID find a blog where someone had their altered version of the recipe... Hm, maybe that's what I'll have to do - next time I make them, and adjust the chocolate quantities, I can then post it as my version of their recipe?
Oh, and just FYI - this CIA is the Culinary Institute of America. ;-)
We recently had one of those nights where I came home from work and didn't feel like doing any "real cooking". With our dishwasher experiencing "technical difficulties" these days, sometimes I don't feel like washing lots of dishes by hand (I know, I'm delicate, what can I say). Plus sometimes ya just don't feel like doing any serious cooking.
Ok, so what to do!?
Thinking back to when we were last up a Chicken Thistle Farm (formerly Bluebird Meadows Farm), and the wonderful food Andy & Kelli whipped up for us, I decided to pull some of the smoked brisket from the freezer, grab a bag of chips from the pantry, and get to work.
I had some leftover black olives from a recent recipe that didn't use an entire can, and I dug the glass jar of home-smoked chipotles from the freezer (hm, this pic makes the chipotle look REALLY dark!), and chopped 'em all up.
After starting up the oven to 400F, I lined a half sheet pan with foil (remember - I didn't feel like washing dishes!), and then spread out a single layer of tortilla chips. (Unfortunately we were near the bottom of the bag, so most were busted up)
Then I loaded up the chips with some sharp cheddar cheese...
Sprinkled on the very finely minced chipotle pepper...
Tore up small pieces of the smoked brisket I'd thawed out and scattered those all over...
Scattered the black olives on MY half (because Brett won't touch 'em!)...
Added some finely chopped green and red serano that I pulled from the freezer (hard to see here)...
And baked til warm and melty...
Mmmmm! I have to say, when I first saw Andy putting shredded smoked meat on nachos I thought it seemed really strange. Um, that's where you're supposed to put seasoned ground beef if ANY meat! But, wow, that was really good!! This, along with some sliced apples, made an excellent dinner of finger foods, and had minimal mess. Thanks Andy!
Time for another round of making healthy snacks! Unfortunately, we plowed through all the apples from the orchard pickings ages ago (it helps when you can use up a lot of them making dried apple rings and apple butter - which you can then turn into apple leather) - so I've had to resort to buying apples from the store again.
A Christmas present from Brett was two more dehydrating trays - so now I can stack 7 at a time! One of the problems I was running into was not having enough trays - it was so fun (and tasty) to make all these dried apples, but it seems like I can only fit about three apples to a tray once they're peeled/cored/sliced. Two more trays really let's me process more apples!
This time I bought a bag each of golden delicious and red delicious. The orchard-picked golden delicious and red delicious apples were SOOOO tasty! NOTHING like grocery store apples - admit it, red delicious from the grocery store just aren't packing much flavor. They look pretty, and that's about it. Welllll...I forgot all this after all the wonderful apples we had from the orchard, and picked up big bags of each from Walmart recently. The golden delicious were pretty good, but the reds had ZERO flavor! I ended out making a diluted bowl of pineapple juice and dipping the red delicious slices in there before drying - that really helped!
Since I took some dried apples to my folks' at Thanksgiving and found my nieces loooooves them, part of their Christmas present was they each got a good sized container of dried apple rings that I prepared just for them! My brother said they went through them really fast. Heh heh - I'm guessing they were pretty regular after that!
Oh, and kids aren't the only ones who love dried apple rings:
Storms will come at us from the W or SW, and they will actually split and go around this particular area of Ohio.... The big snow storm moving in is coming from the west, with most of it's mass south of our direct line... If you were to look at the animated radar right now, you'd see this big "jaw" of storm wrapping around us and now closing in on us. Looks like we should be getting rain, ice and/or snow annnnny time now!
In one month I will turn 41. Ugh. Shouldn't be as bad as 40 sounded like it would be (ok, it wasn't that bad). Anyhow...I think I know what I'd like for my birthday! Any one of these would be nice... This one in particular would do!
And it would be nice if I didn't even have to assemble it....but I'm guessing I'll probably have to handle that part. ;-)
If you're a comic book geek like me, particularly if you're one that's followed the DC Universe for a long time, and if you're reading the Blackest Night storyline these days...well, this news release and accompanying cover might just get ya a little excited!