Sunday, November 4, 2012

Chocolate Tangerine Waffles

Most weekends, Kristin and I make ourselves something interesting for breakfast on one morning or the other.  We alternate between pancakes, waffles, and French toast, and often try to improvise new ways to add to or alter the basic recipes and keep things interesting.  This recipe was one such attempt - we had some incredibly juicy tangerines sitting around, so we decided to see what we could do with them, and the results were pretty tasty!

You don't need much for these waffles: Bisquick mix, some tangerines to juice (or just some orange juice), a bit of vegetable oil, some baking cocoa, and an egg.  You may also want a bit of brown sugar to sweeten things up.

Start by juicing the tangerines.  Make sure to spill plenty of juice all over the counter.

Throw everything else together in a large mixing bowl, then add the juice.  Make sure not to let any seeds sneak in there!

Action shot!  Give the batter a thorough mixing - but don't worry too much if it stays a touch lumpy.  

There are lots of waffle makers out there in the world, so check the manual (you saved that, right?) for yours to see how much batter it wants per waffle.  Ours uses a half cup each.  Whatever yours takes, add that much and let it cook.

When your waffle is just a little crispy, pull it on out.  Repeat the process until you're out of batter.

Serve up the finished waffles with your favorite syrup and a side of OJ.

Recipe: Chocolate Tangerine Waffles
Prep Time: 5 Minutes | Cook Time: 10 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 8-10 Waffles


  • 2 cups Bisquick mix
  • 1 2/3 cups Tangerine Juice (juice of 4-5 tangerines)
  • 2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup Baking Cocoa
  • Optional: 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
  1. Squeeze juice from tangerines over a sieve or strainer to catch seeds.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Mix well.  Batter may be slightly lumpy.
  3. Add batter to heated waffle iron according to instruction manual.  Close iron and cook until slightly crispy.
  4. Serve hot with syrup and orange juice.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Crock Pot Italian Beef

If you're not from Chicagoland, you probably don't have easy access to good Italian Beef sandwiches.  In Chicago and the suburbs, I would bet you're never further than a 5 minute drive from a good Italian Beef.  Out here in Ohio, sadly, things are not the same.  All is not lost, however - it's easy to make a good beef sandwich in the crock pot at home.

Italian Beef sandwiches are traditionally wet-roasted to medium rare, then shaved thin on a deli slicer and finished in "the juice," then served on dense, chewy bread and topped with sweet peppers, hot peppers, or giardiniera (or some combination of the three).  I don't have a deli slicer handy, so my own version is shredded rather than sliced, but the result is much the same.  This recipe is an easy, delicious way to feed a large group - but make plenty, they may want seconds.

Here's what you'll need: 3-4 pounds of cheap beef (sirloin butt, top round, or bottom round), a couple of sweet onions, a couple of bell peppers, some beef broth, worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Start by chopping the peppers and onions into large pieces.  Too small, and they'll either end up mushy or disintegrate altogether after cooking all day - and that just won't do.

Cover the bottom of the crock pot with a little more than half of the chopped veggies.  The rest will go on top in a minute.

Next, nestle the star player into the pot on top of the veggies, and cover that enormous hunk of beef with the rest of the chopped vegetables.  My cut of beef was a little bigger than I usually use, so it just barely fits in the pot - it took a while longer to cook, but it still turned out just fine.

With the beef and vegetables in place, it's time to add the cooking liquid and the seasoning - add the Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to the pot.  Be sure to lift up the beef a bit to make sure that the liquid gets all the way down to the bottom of the pot.

With your liquid and seasoning in place, your beef is ready to cook.  Set the crock pot to low and cook 6-10 hours - the amount of time can vary quite a lot depending on the particular cut of beef you get.  The good news is that it's pretty tough to drastically overcook this beef, so if it goes an "extra" hour or two, no big deal.

You'll know the beef is done when it shreds very, very easily with a fork.  If it's at all tough to get apart, put it back in the pot and try again in an hour.  Once the beef is tender, shred it with a couple of forks until it's in nice, bite-sized pieces.

To assemble a sandwich, pile plenty of beef onto a good, chewy sandwich roll.  Drizzle with extra juice and/or serve with a cup of juice on the side.  Top the sandwich with roasted sweet peppers, giardiniera, hot peppers, or any combination thereof.  This time around, we used these Pickled Hot Peppers to great effect.

While this sandwich may never entirely stave off my craving for a Portillo's sandwich, this recipe is a nice approximation of the Chicago classic.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Crock Pot Italian Beef
Prep Time: 10 Minutes | Cook Time: 6-10 Hours in Crock Pot | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 12-16

  • 3-4 lbs Beef (sirloin butt, top round, bottom round)
  • 2 large Sweet Onions
  • 2 large green Bell Peppers
  • 4 cups low-sodium Beef Broth
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Black Pepper
  1. Chop onions and peppers into large pieces.
  2. Line bottom of crock pot with half of chopped vegetables.  Set beef atop vegetables, then cover with the other half of the onions and peppers.
  3. Add Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to crock pot.  Add enough beef broth to cover all of the ingredients.
  4. Cook in crock pot 6-10 hours on Low until a fork can easily pull the beef apart.
  5. Shred beef into small pieces with two forks.
  6. To assemble sandwiches, pile beef atop chewy sandwich rolls.  Drizzle with additional juice and/or serve with a side cup of juice.  Top with sweet peppers, giardiniera, and/or hot peppers.  Serve hot.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pickled Hot Peppers

Pickling is pretty cool.  You take some food, throw it in something nice and acidic, and after a while the taste is transformed and your food will last way longer.  Neat!  I'm not the hugest fan of traditional pickles, but you can pickle lots of things, and pickled peppers are particularly tasty.  Kristin and I have eaten these peppers on Italian beef and hamburgers recently, and both have been really fantastic.  We've got half of a batch still in the fridge right now, and they'll likely go on some nachos later in the week.  If you haven't already, try some pickling.

Here's what I used for this batch of pickles: jalapeno peppers, poblano peppers, anaheim peppers, hungarian peppers, shallots, garlic, thyme, cider vinegar, salt, and sugar.  You can vary the peppers and veggies as you see fit - I went for a nice mix of milder and hotter peppers and it made for a nice heat level that's definitely noticeable, but doesn't take over the whole dish.  If you want things milder, you can include some regular belle peppers.  If you like it spicier, add some hotter peppers - the sky is the limit.

Start by chopping all of the vegetables.  I like to chop things fairly rough so that the finished product has a nice, firm texture with plenty of bite.

Once things are chopped, combine the vinegar, salt, sugar, and thyme in a saucepan.  Bring the contents to a boil, stir well to make sure that all of the sugar is absorbed, and remove your pan from the heat.

Once the brine in the saucepan has cooled a bit, add the chopped vegetables.  Let this sit until the whole mixture is room temperature.

When everything is cool, transfer the vegetables and brine into jars or your storage medium of choice.  Kristin and I intend to go through these fairly quickly, so we're not bothering with a long-term canning process.  If you want to make larger batches or save these longer, be sure to use safe and sterile processes.  For our purposes, we just re-used some well-scrubbed pasta sauce jars and plan to eat the pickles expediently.

Throw your jars into the fridge for at least 6 hours, then open them up and invent as many ways to eat these as possible.

These really may be my new favorite condiment.  We've made a couple of batches already as we keep on thinking of new ways to use them - I imagine there will only be more variations and more applications to come.  If you make these or something like them, leave a comment and let me know how it went and how you used them!

Recipe: Pickled Hot Peppers
Prep Time: 15 Minutes Hands-On + 6 Hours Refrigeration | Cook Time: 5 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy


  • 5 Jalapeno Peppers
  • 3 Anaheim Peppers
  • 3 Poblano Peppers
  • 3 Hungarian Peppers
  • 2 Shallots,
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 cup White Sugar
  • 2 cups Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Thyme
  • 2 tsp Salt 

  1. Chop peppers and shallots and mince garlic.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine vinegar, thyme, salt, and sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and stir to dissolve sugar.  Remove from heat and let cool several minutes.
  3. Add chopped vegetables to saucepan and rest until completely cooled.
  4. Transfer vegetables and brine to glass jars.  Seal lids and refrigerate at least 6 hours.  Use sterile canning processes if storing pickles longer than 10 days. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

Roasting can be an unsung hero among cooking methods.  It's not flashy or noisy, it's simple.  It's not fiddly or complex, it's easy.  All you need is plenty of heat and plenty of time.  This week I roasted some broccoli and cauliflower, veggies that I would usually just steam.  Roasting took longer, but the flavors and texture were leaps and bounds more interesting than my usual methods.  This makes for a side that can stand up to just about anything, but without becoming too heavy or overpowering itself.

The ingredients this week are simple and inexpensive.  Here's what you'll need: broccoli, cauliflower, a lemon, a few cloves of garlic, some olive oil, salt and pepper, and a bit of Parmesan to sprinkle on top if you're so inclined.

There's lots of chopping to do.  Break down the broccoli and cauliflower into florettes, leaving a couple of inches of stalk.  Also mince the garlic and zest the lemon.

Throw everything you just chopped and zested into a large bowl.  Drizzle the mixture with olive oil and the juice from the lemon, then sprinkle with salt and black pepper.  Stir it around a bit and let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes.  Pre-heat the oven to 425 while you wait.

After you've waited 10 or 15 minutes, give the veggie mixture another good stir, then pour it out into a single layer on a greased sheet pan.

Roast in the oven at 425 degrees for 25-35 minutes, turning halfway, until the vegetables are nicely brown and tender enough to pierce easily with a fork.  These actually went back in a little longer after this shot, because I like mine quite crispy.  Don't fret if you end up with some really, really dark pieces - they may look burnt, but they're probably the tastiest ones.

Serve hot with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if you so desire.

Recipe: Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower
Prep Time: 5 Minutes | Cook Time: 25-35 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 4-6


  • 1-2 pounds fresh Broccoli
  • 1 head fresh Cauliflower
  • 1 lemon
  • 3-4 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Optional: Grated Parmesan Cheese
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Chop broccoli and cauliflower into florettes with 1-2 inches of stalk.
  3. Mince garlic and zest lemon.  Add to large mixing  bowl with broccoli and cauliflower.
  4. Drizzle olive oil over contents of bowl.  Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper and stir to mix.  Let sit 10-15 minutes.
  5. Arrange vegetable mixture in a single layer on a greased baking sheet.
  6. Roast vegetables 25-35 minutes, turning halfway, until well-browned and tender enough to pierce easily with a fork.
  7. Serve hot with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if desired.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Moo Shu Pork

Here are some things that are delicious:
  1. Pork
  2. Sauteed vegetables
  3. Mushrooms
  4. Eggs
  5. Hoi sin sauce

Conveniently enough, the items on this list can be combined to become something even more than the sum of its parts: Moo Shu Pork.  It's one of my dad's favorite dishes when we go for Chinese food, and for good reason.  When you take that pork mixture and wrap it up in a pancake with plenty of sweet-spicy Hoi Sin sauce...oh man.  Good things happen.  My Moo Shu may never quite stand up to the stuff we got from our favorite Chinese place growing up, but it's a pretty tasty alternative to make at home.  

Here's what you'll need: pork tenderloin, shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, eggs, hoi sin sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, cornstarch, garlic, sake or rice wine vinegar, and some pancakes.

Your local grocery store may or may not have exactly what you would like - in my case, my pancakes are just flour tortillas, but many stores do sell pancakes specifically meant for moo shu and peking duck in the Asian food section.  It's also perfectly effective to shred cabbage yourself rather than grabbing cole-slaw mix, but I was in a weeknight hurry and the shredded stuff worked just fine.

First, chop the tenderloin into small strips.  Throw it in a bowl or ziploc bag with some soy sauce, sesame oil, a bit of sake or rice wine vinegar, and some corn starch.  Give it a good mixing, and let it sit for at least a half-hour.

While the pork is marinating, you can start in on the other components.  First, heat up a bit of oil and add your lightly-beaten eggs to the pan once it's hot.  Let the eggs set over medium heat, then flip the whole sheet and cook for just another minute or so.  Pull the eggs out of the pan, chop the sheet into small pieces, and set the eggs aside for later.

Add a bit more oil to your pan, then add your minced garlic and chopped green onions.  Saute just for a minute or so - be careful not to overcook - then add the shredded cabbage and bean sprouts.  At this point, it should be clear why I'm using a dutch oven rather than just a skillet: I'm making a whole lot of moo shu, and all that cabbage takes up lots of space.

Throw in a bit of sake or rice wine vinegar, since cabbage loves a touch of acid.  Let the veggies cook over medium heat, stirring often, until they're slightly wilted but still plenty crunchy.  The volume in the pan should reduce by about half.  Pull out the veggies and set them aside for later.

Add a bit more oil to the pan and bring the heat back up to medium-high.  Chop up your mushrooms, and saute them with the pork, marinade and all, until the pork is just barely cooked.  Do this in batches to make sure that the pan isn't too overcrowded.

Once your last batch of pork is done, the bottom of your pan will be covered in deep brown, flavorful porky goodness.  Don't let it go to waste!  Deglaze with some sake and soy sauce, scraping the bottom of the pan to mix in the porky goodness.  This will have the pleasant side effect of smelling divine.  Inhale deeply.

When you've got the pan nicely deglazed, bring back all of the elements that have been sitting and waiting so patiently on the side - the eggs, the veggies, and the pork mixture.  Mix well, and sample to see what flavors need adjusting.  Add more soy, sesame, or salt as you see fit.  Don't forget, this mixture doesn't need to do all of the heavy flavor-lifting - there's delicious hoi sin sauce to come, as well.

When you're ready to assemble, smear the center of a pancake with a generous amount of hoi sin, then spoon on plenty of the filling.  The filling retains a lot of liquid, so be careful, these can get messy fast - it wouldn't hurt to assemble using a slotted spoon.  Fold up your moo shu like a burrito, and you're ready to eat!

After writing this post, so am I.  Good thing we still have plenty of moo shu leftovers in the fridge.

Recipe: Moo Shu Pork
Prep Time: 30 Minutes | Cook Time: 30 Minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 12-16

  • 2-3 pounds Pork Tenderloin
  • 1 large bag (14 oz) Cole Slaw mix
  • 1 bag (8 oz) shredded Red Cabbage
  • 8 oz. Shiitake Mushrooms
  • 3 Eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 bunch Green Onions
  • 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
  • 2 tsp Sesame Oil
  • 3 tsp Cornstarch
  • 1 cup Sake wine
  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 jar Hoi Sin sauce
  • Moo Shu pancakes (or tortillas)
  1. Cut pork into thin strips.  Add to large bowl or ziploc bag with 2-3 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, a splash of Sake, and 2 tsp cornstarch.  Mix well and let sit at least 30 minutes.
  2. In a large pan or dutch oven over medium heat, cook lightly beaten eggs in a small amount of oil until barely set.  Flip and cook an additional minute.  Remove from pan and slice into small pieces.  Set aside.
  3. Saute minced garlic and chopped green onions in a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat for about one minute.  Add cole slaw mix, red cabbage, bean sprouts, and sake. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are slightly wilted but still crispy.  Volume will reduce by about half.  Remove vegetables and set aside.
  4. Saute pork and chopped mushrooms in small batches with marinade over medium-high heat until pork is just cooked.
  5. After last batch of pork is finished, deglaze pan with sake and soy sauce.
  6. Return all ingredients set aside to the pan and mix well.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
  7. To assemble, spread a generous amount of hoi sin sauce onto a pancake, then add several spoonfuls of Moo Shu filling.  Roll burrito-style and serve warm.