10 Perfect Holiday Gifts for Your Favorite Home Chefs and Foodies

Over the years my wife and I have bought some pretty amazing things that we would think the average foodie would love to receive as gift. With holiday season rapidly approaching, we figured now would be an appropriate to share our favorite items any foodie would appreciate. We didn’t stick to any pricing guidelines, but we think these are pretty reasonable gifts. So here we go.


1. Finishing Salt

10-foodie-gifts-finishing-saltI don’t think a lot of people think about salt when they think of ingredients, but any chef knows that salt can either make or break a recipe. Too little salt in a recipe is just flat and bland. Another way to add flavor or texture to a dish is to sprinkle some finishing salt on top of your finished dish.

My wife bought my first finishing salt last year for Christmas. Finishing salts are salts with a large grain size or salt that have been flavored with special ingredients like smoke, wine, or citrus. Finishing salts can also come from special regions where their source of salts is known for its distinct flavor characteristics, Hawaii for example.

Finishing salts are great on steaks or even some chocolate treats. My favorite use of them is probably in risottos. Risottos really need a healthy dose of salt for it to really sing true. Finishing salts come in a large range of flavors and crystal sizes.

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Witch’s Stew

Witch’s Stew is just a Halloween party variation of Frog Eye Soup.

Frog Eye Soup is just a variation of chicken and pasta that had been started as a soup recipe and turned into more of a pasta dish.  But the name has stuck in our family for about 20 years.

Frog Eye Soup got its name from the pasta shape that I had on hand for a Frog Eye Salad.  For those of you who have never heard of Frog Eye Salad, it is kind of a sweet dish in which ambrosia and pasta salad got mixed up in the same bowl.  It was very popular in the 60’s and 70’s.

I’ll try to make some in time for the spring holidays.  Right now, my house is in full fall and winter holiday prep.  For the blog anyway, you won’t find any carved pumpkins, graveyard scenes, or Christmas trees in the house just yet.  But give it another month and you might.

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Grape Jelly

Concord Grape Jelly is not anything I ever gave much thought too.  If you needed or wanted grape jelly you just went to the store and bought some right?  Well, after making this, my mind has been forever changed about that.  I don’t know that I can ever eat grape jelly from the store again.  I tried to eat some that I had in the refrigerator to see if I could actually tell a difference.  Let me tell you, they difference is undeniable.

One of my neighbors, and occasional reader of the blog – Hi Rick! – has been growing Concord grapes in his backyard for a few years.  This is the first year there were enough grapes for the birds and for jelly.

Having never seen or eaten a Concord grape, I was a little taken aback by the texture.  It tasted just like grape jelly, but the skins are tough and you need to pop the insides into your mouth.  The texture is kind of rubbery, but slippery.  I have never eaten a raw oyster, but this is what I suspect a small raw oyster might feel like in your mouth if you tried to chew it instead of swallow it.

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Mint Tea

I have been growing mint plant on the deck this summer.  For one, I love anything mint, for two, I found a chocolate mint plant and just had to impulsively buy one when I saw it outside of a grocery store.  Since replanting them in one pot, they have overtaken the pot.

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I have been searching for a use for all of this mint besides bath salts.  I mean, it is only about 10 degrees cooler than Hades in Oklahoma this year in June.  Way too early for this nonsense, and a hot soothing mint Epsom salt bath is the last thing on my mind.  We have endured the Mississippi Delta heat, Erica (bless her little kitchen heart), Ron and his family still tolerate it and we have lived through 9 Oklahoma summers, but this year is different.

Love our lawn crew, but it makes me a little sad when I see someone else taking care of the lawn.  Hit me up if you live in the Tulsa area and want the name of our company, they do a great job.  But, for as long as I can remember, Andy’s lawn has been his source of pride and joy.  This year is so hot, he willingly gave up lawn maintenance. Continue reading “Mint Tea”

Alien in the pantry

 

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I have only seen 3 mothers of vinegar in my life.  Once in a bottle of white vinegar I found hiding in the back of the pantry while packing for one of my vagabond moves, and 2 yesterday when I needed vinegar for a vinaigrette.  Both new finds were in a bottle of white wine vinegar.  They look gross and nasty, but this time I knew that they were harmless.  I had done some internet searching the first time I saw one.  Here and here are examples of what’s available for information online.

Finding a slimy, jellyfish looking thing in your pantry can be kind of creepy.

When Andy saw it today he was 6 kinds of freaked out.  

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Honey Peanut Butter

 

honey-peanut-butter-feature1So who doesn’t love peanut butter? Well, I sure as hell do. I love peanut butter everything. My mom even has a peanut butter icing recipe because I love peanut butter just that damn much.

About three years ago I received some homemade peanut butter from a CSA I was participating in. Since then, I have been hooked on homemade peanut butter. It was hands-down better than anything you could get at the grocery store. I wasn’t able to figure out exactly what the farmer was using in his peanut butter, but this blog post is about the recipe I came up with. It’s pretty damn good and it frequently replaces our normal brand. I do keep the store bought stuff around for when I’m too lazy to make peanut butter.

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Chipotle Brined Pork Chops

I love pork chops, and my favorite way to prepare them is with a chipotle brine. Almost everyone skips brining their meat, but learning how to make a brine for my pork and chicken recipes have really been beneficial. My wife and I can’t cook a pork chop or a Thanksgiving turkey anymore without good soaking in a delicious brine.

If you don’t know what a brine is, it’s pretty simple. It’s just a salty liquid. The most important reason to use a brine is to improve the overall juiciness of the meat you are soaking in the brine. Brining works wonderfully with virtually all cuts of poultry and pork.

In this blog, we are going to stick to cooking pork chops. I feel pork chops are the one cut of meat that is traditionally cooked to oblivion and usually to the point of it being dry and tough. Using a brine fixes both of these issues.

My pork chop brines are usually composed of 10 parts water and 1 part salt by weight. I start with 500 grams of water, 500 grams of ice cubes, and 100 grams of salt. I know weighing out water and salt seems a little anal retentive, but it’s the one sure way my brine concentration is always consistent. A food scale is probably the most used tool in my kitchen.

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Sweet Potatoes and Killer Bee Honey Butter

There are many things in the kitchen that are pretty easy to cook and mashed sweet potatoes is one of those things. In my opinion, cooking a sweet potato is cooking 101. If you’re a relatively inexperienced chef, keep on reading. If you’re an experienced home chef,  you can probably skip to the delicious recipes closer to the bottom of the post.

Everyone has seen someone massacre a sweet potato by boiling it in water. I think this is about the worst thing you could ever do to a sweet potato. Roasting it in the oven or baking it in aluminum foil is the best way to maintain, if not improve, the flavor. The key to baking a sweet potato is knowing when it’s done. Under cook it and you’ll be eating grit. Over cook it and you’ll squeeze the moisture out of it and you’ll be left with a watery stringy mess. Bleh!

Ok, a critical part to cooking a sweet potato begins at the grocery store. The size really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you buy all of the same sized sweet potatoes. You want them all to get done cooking at the same time, so don’t go buying big potatoes and little potatoes. I have seen some pretty huge sweet potatoes and some so small I’m not sure why the store is even selling them. I prefer to buy sweet potatoes that are about 2.5 inches in diameter. Buy too small and they can over cook quickly. Buy too large and the interior can be under cooked while the exterior is mush.

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Simple Versatile BBQ Rub

Every “pit master” has their own BBQ rub. Some will fight to the death with their award winning recipes. I’m not that anal retentive with my love of smoked meats. I don’t don’t compete with my BBQ, so in this post I share my very versatile BBQ rub.

versatile-bbq-rub-pork-shoulderThis rub goes with just about every kind of meat you can toss on your grill or smoker: pork shoulder, ribs, chicken and even brisket. I know, I hear some of you yelling over the computer screen about putting a rub like this on a brisket. I know brisket is typically rubbed with only salt and pepper, especially in Texas, but I can promise you this BBQ rub is fricken awesome on the fatty bits of a brisket. Plus, I like to do things my own way.

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