Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gingerbread Mummies and Skeletons

Gingerbread Mummies and Skeletons

With Halloween being two days away, I thought it might be a nice idea to make some gingerbread men then get them all dressed up for the holiday.  While this is the same recipe as the gingerbread cookies I usually make for Christmas, the video I made for this blog post focuses more on the rolling, cutting and decorating techniques while the first video focused more on the recipe.

I’m surprised we don’t see more gingerbread cookies on Halloween.  The flavor of these warmly spiced cookies fits in so well with the season.  

No more saving these cookies until Christmas for me.

Who’s with me?

I've re-posted the recipe below so you don’t have to hunt around for it.  And I apologize for not getting this posted a little sooner as it might be tough to get these whipped up with Halloween approaching so quickly.  

Hopefully you’ll tuck this idea away in your mind and whip up of a batch of these mummies and skeletons for your next Halloween bash.

Gingerbread Mummies & Skeletons
Prep time: 15 min
Bake time: 10-12 min

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 ½ cups gluten free Bisquick or GF self-rising flour  (see note)         
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg

Note:  If you’re not following a gluten free diet you can stir together (3 ½ cups flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt) in place of the gluten free Bisquick.

Video Tutorial

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (or 175 °C)
  2. Stir together the gluten free Bisquick and spices then set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter, brown sugar and molasses until light and fluffy then scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula, add the eggs and beat until you have a smooth fluffy mixture.
  4. Stop the mixer; add the dry ingredients and beat until you have the dough thoroughly combined.  Be sure to stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl a few times to ensure you have it well combined.
  5. Divide the dough into four equal parts then transfer each section onto a sheet of plastic wrap and pat the dough into a rectangular shape, wrap in plastic wrap.     
  6. Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap on top of a cutting board for easier  transport to the fridge.
  7. Roll the dough to 1/8 -1/4 inch thick then transfer the cutting board with the plastic covered sheet of dough to the fridge for 15 min or so to chill and firm up before cutting the cookies.
  8. To cut them out, remove the top sheet of plastic and use whatever cutters you want to cut the cookies then transfer the cookies to the baking sheet and bake them for 12-14 minutes.  
  9. Cool on a rack before decorating.
  10. To decorate the cookies I used a powdered sugar glaze made by mixing together roughly 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar with 1 tbsp of water or milk and a drop of vanilla until smooth.  Try to keep the glaze on the thicker side so that it is easier to work with as you draw on whatever designs you want.

Notes:  If you’re not following a gluten free diet you can stir together (3 ½ cups flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, ¼ teaspoon salt) in place of the gluten free Bisquick.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Beef and Mushroom Ragout with Gorgonzola Polenta

Beef and Mushroom Ragout with Gorgonzola Polenta
The moment I finished butchering that whole beef tenderloin a few weeks ago I began dreaming about how I might use the scraps.  I thought about making a stir fry or perhaps doing a version of Philly cheesesteaks as an homage to my home.  But as the temperatures outside began to drop I couldn't stop thinking about beef stew.

This slow simmered beef and mushroom ragout hits all the right flavor notes.  There’s something magical about beef that’s simmered in red wine setting it apart from other stews.  This dish might have started out as a pile of meat scraps but the end result is an upscale looking plate of wonderful. 

And since beef pairs so nicely with blue cheese I decided to forgo the usual potatoes and make a creamy gorgonzola polenta instead.  It was a good choice indeed.  Just wait until you try this one.

Beef and Mushroom Ragu with Gorgonzola Polenta
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 1 hr 30 min
Servings: 4-6

Ingredients for the Ragout:
  • 2 ½ lbs beef tenderloin scraps
  • 2-3 cups of red wine
  • 20 oz mushrooms (10 oz baby bella, 10 oz crimini cleaned and halved)
  • 2 medium carrots chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • olive oil as needed

Ingredients for the Polenta:
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3-4 oz gorgonzola

Video Tutorial: 

  1. In a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven, over a fairly high heat brown half the meat in a tablespoon of oil with some salt and pepper then once browned remove it from the pan and repeat with the second half of the beef.
  2. Once all the meat is browned and removed, add a little more oil and the mushrooms to the pan and saute until they start to release some of their liquid and deglaze the pan.  Once they develop some color add a little salt and saute for another minute before setting them aside with the beef. 
  3. Add the carrots, onion and garlic along with another tablespoon of oil and some salt and pepper and saute until the the veggies just start to wilt and develop a bit of color.
  4. Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute or so before adding the wine, ¾ cup of water, bay leaves and thyme then give it another stir, bring it up to a boil then lower to a slow simmer, cover and allow it to simmer for 45 minutes covered then 15 minutes with the lid slightly ajar to evaporate some of the liquid.
  5. To finish the sauce stir in 2 pats of butter to make it glossy then remove the bay leaves and make the polenta.
  6. Follow the package instructions for cooking 1 cup of polenta then during the last 30 seconds of cooking stir in about ½ cup of milk, turn off the heat, add 2 tablespoons of butter and the gorgonzola and stir to combine.
  7. Serve the ragout over the polenta and top with parsley and additional gorgonzola for garnish.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pan Seared Filet Mignon

Pan Seared Filet Mignon

When is the last time you had a perfectly done filet mignon?  For me it’s been a while.  Who can afford to pick up this cut of meat anymore?  My luck was about to change. 

The food gods smiled down upon me when I found a great price on a whole beef tenderloin.  I proceeded to quickly educate myself on how to butcher this beautiful piece of meat to yield delectable filet mignon steaks.  This recipe centers around how to pan sear the steak to get it just the way you want it.  If you scroll to the bottom of this post you’ll find my video on how to butcher the tenderloin.  

Pan Seared Filet Mignon
Prep time: 1 min
Cook time: 7 min (rare)
Servings: 1

  • 6 oz Filet Mignon Steak
  • 2 tsp Vegetable Oil
  • Coarse Grey Celtic Sea Salt
  • Cracked Peppercorns

Video Tutorial: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F if you want the steak medium to well done.  There’s no need to use the oven if you want a rare steak. 
  2. Brush the steak with vegetable oil and heavily season with salt and pepper.  Oiling the steak vs the pan will cut down on excessive smoke when frying.
  3. Place the steak onto a hot cast iron skillet and don’t move it for 2-3 minutes since it needs to develop a golden brown crust before it will release easily from the pan.
  4. Flip it and sear for another 2 or 3 minutes on the second side then sear the sides for 20-30 seconds per side.
  5. Once the whole surface is seared you've got the perfect rare steak.
  6. For medium rare place it into a 400 degree oven for 4 to 6 minutes, for medium well 6 to 8 minutes and for well-done 8-10 minutes.
  7. Let the steak rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Notes:  When cooking a steak it’s best to start with a room temperature piece of meat.  But if you like your meat blood rare you might want to bend those rules a little and start with a chilled steak.

How to Butcher a Whole Beef Tenderloin:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs - Review & Giveaway

Review & Giveaway - Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs

A few months ago I showed you how to make gluten free corn dogs.  Actually, at the time, I thought that homemade corn dogs were the only option for those of us following a gluten free diet.   

Turns out, I was WRONG!  I had no idea that Foster Farms was producing a gluten free corn dog until I was contacted by the company to see if I was interested in reviewing their new Gluten Free Honey Crunch Corn Dogs.  Wow! Had I heard that right?  Was there actually a gluten free version of this carnival classic now available right in the freezer section?    

Of course I was interested.  Who wouldn't be?

As a general rule, I've found that when a company contacts me to sample their wares, they’re usually confident about the quality.  After all, who on earth would volunteer to send out samples if they knew that the recipient would be disappointed and spreading the word.

To make a long story short, the confidence that Foster Farms exhibited was backed up by a fabulous corn dog.  I was actually a little shocked.  Truthfully, I didn't expect them to be good after reading the words “100% Chicken Frank”.  I figured that the gluten free corn dog coating would be pretty good since I had had a successful result in my own recipe.

But a chicken frank???  

Yes, they’re a lot lower in fat and calories but could they possibly taste as good as the all-beef hot dogs I've loved all my life.  In short, yes they can.  The corn dogs were delicious.  They were actually so good that I decided I’d throw a few boxes into the oven and serve them at my daughter’s 13th birthday party. 

Don’t you think they’d be perfect next to a huge pot of chili on game day too? 

I prepared them using the oven baked method and they cooked perfectly following their instructions.  The coating was crunchy with a sweet corn bread flavor and the hot dog was very tasty.  I would have never guessed that it was a chicken frank.  The package also gives directions for deep frying, which I didn't try, and microwaving which I did try.  The microwaved version cooks perfectly but the crust is not nearly as crunchy as the oven baked method.     

Beyond them being delicious, they have the added bonus of being a mere 180 calories per dog.  That’s about half the calories of the homemade version I did a few months ago.  But beyond them being lower calories, there’s practically no work or mess involved in making these guys.  

The next time I crave a corn dog, believe me, I’m heading for the freezer section.

They’re available nationwide at many retailers including:
  • Safeway (Safeway, Vons, Randall’s, Tom Thumb)
  • Kroger (Kroger, Fry’s, Smith’s)
  • Raley’s
  • Lucky
  • Albertsons
  • Giant Eagle
  • Woodman’s
  • Copps / Roundy’s
  • Schnucks
  • Food Lion
  • HyVee
  • Marsh

Shoppers can also call Foster Farms to help locate a retailer in their area at 1-800-255-7227

Some Additional Facts about Foster Farms Gluten Free Corn Dogs:
  • Each full sized corn dog is contains 180 calories and features a 100% chicken frank dipped twice in a delicious honey crunchy batter minus the gluten of course.
  • Each box contains 12 full sized corn dogs.
  • Foster Farms Honey Crunchy Corn Dogs are America’s top selling corn dog line.   
  • They’re certified gluten free by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) to contain less than 10ppm of gluten per serving.
  • As I understand it, the (GIG) evaluates each ingredient to ensure that each is gluten free.  They also audit production facilities to evaluate any risk of cross contamination. It’s a process that leaves me feeling confident that safety in being seriously considered. 

My Video Review:

The Giveaway:

Foster Farms has generously agreed to give away 5 vouchers for a free box of their gluten free corn dogs to members of my social media audience.  The giveaway is only open to US winners since the product is only available in the US.  It would be useless to send a voucher to a location where the winner cannot obtain the product. 

To Enter the Giveaway:

You MUST go to the Foster Farms Facebook Page and like their page then leave me a message either here or on my YouTube video announcement stating that you did.

To Earn Additional Entries:

You can go to my facebook page  Like & Share the post about the giveaway.

You can go to my twitter page and Retweet the giveaway announcement.

The Giveaway will end on Halloween 10-31-14 at midnight EST.  Once I have compiled all of the entries, I’ll conduct a random drawing then notify the 5 winners according to the way that they entered.  If you win, I’ll request your name and mailing address to forward to Foster Farms so that they can mail you the voucher directly. 

Good Luck 
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