Monthly Archives: January 2011

What’s For Dinner? An App Can Help

 

I figure if I stare at my open fridge long enough, something will jump out at me.

What's For DinnerWhat's For Dinner

I assume that’s the way many of you go about concocting some kind of meal plan too. I know it’s not the most efficient way of going about things, but, it seems to work. Most times.

Once you get over the shock from the not so subtle mood lightning inside that appliance, some decisions need to be made. Are there leftovers? If there are, are they even close to still being consumable without a potential ER visit? You probably have some staples. The milk might have a chance of escaping on it’s own once the door is open, but, the other stuff like butter, jellies, bottled sauces, in all likelihood are less problematic. So the hunt begins…

At this point you could continue combing through the wreckage that is most peoples fridge or maybe switch on your phone for some much needed assistance. That’s right, phone.

I discovered this app a few days ago. What’s For Dinner aims to help make that agonizing decision a touch easier. It’s a great little app, with some handy features. First, how about an online recipe search feature? Just type in any possible ingredient and it will be searched for.  I mean any. I tried a whole host of different possibilities and I was unable to stump the thing.

Imagine this, you’re at work wondering what you could possibly prepare for your starving family after you’ve put in a hard day at the plant. Sounds great already, right? You somehow remember that you have a package of chicken thighs in the fridge. Type it into the app and you’re well on your way to planning your families next culinary expedition.

After you pull down your recipe choice you can make a shopping list out of it. That’s especially nice if you’re going to the store to shop just dinner and not trying to cram in your weekly shopping on top of it. Here’s what I decided on.

Garlic Cumin Chicken

Garlic Cumin Chicken

Here how to do it:

Ingredients
2lb. Chicken Thighs, boneless/skinless
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 Tbsp. butter
16 cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
1 Tbsp. cumin, ground
1/3 cup parsley, chopped for garnish
4 lemon wedges

Method
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a heavy bottomed skillet that is large enough to hold the chicken. Add chicken and brown on one side (about 5 minutes). Turn chicken and add garlic cloves. Cover and cook over medium low heat. Turn a couple of times until chicken is nicely browned and cooked through. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with cumin. Turn heat to medium high. Cook uncovered 3 to 5 minutes. Turn once.

Remove chicken from skillet to serving plate. Spoon garlic and crispy brown bits from pan over top chicken. Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon wedge.

Garlic Cumin Chicken

Oh, I served mine with some rice pilaf topped with feta and a little of the leftover parsley.

What's For Dinner

Make no mistake about it. This little smartphone app isn’t going to cook your dinner for you (If they added that feature it would be killer). But, it sure can take the pain out of guessing what to make. And, as a bonus, it’s fun to use.

They have two versions. There’s a free version that lets you store a minimum amount of recipes and search several sights. For $2.99 you can have the premium version which allows you to add recipe labels, add your own ingredients to the shopping list function and even add photos.

The Bottom Line:

Cooking dinner for your family should be fun. Treasure hunts are great, but, maybe we should reserve those for a kids party rather than your daily encounter with the refrigerator. What’s For Dinner makes deciding what’s for dinner less of a challenge.

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Sriracha, It’s What’s For Breakfast?


I know lots of people that use hot sauce as part of the morning ritual. I used to think it was weird.

A few weeks back I get a package in the mail. I get packages all the time. I had a pretty good idea what was inside. My guess, cookbook. When I opened up the package, surprise! I was right! But, the real surprise was the subject matter if this particular cookbook. Sriracha. I like Sriracha. And, I know that lots of you do too. I knew that this was one book that would be a fun to read and cook through.

Author Randy Clemens has put together a great little collection of recipes for a condiment that seems to be everywhere theses days. Yes, I’m talking “Rooster Sauce”. A little history and a lot of imagination went in to Randy’s book. 114 pages of spicy, flavorful recipes and uses of Thai inspired sauce.

Like a lot of cookbooks it’s broken down into some basic component parts. Sauces and seasonings (think Sriracha mayo, Tzatziki and salt). Starters and snacks, salads and sides. Soups and stews. Breakfast of champions, main courses and lastly drinks and desserts. It was hard to finding something to make. Everything looked great. Nothing extremely complicated either. That suit me just fine.

How about some, Maple-Sriracha Sausage Patties? That one sounded like a sure fire winner. A little spice to start the day. I’m not one of those guys who dumps hot sauce on eggs. Don’t get me wrong, I like the spice as much as the next guy, but, more for lunch or dinner. Even better at 2am!

These sausages sounded intriguing, plus I get to make sausage. What’s better than that! Let’s do it.

Sriracha Recipes Ingredients

There aren’t tons of ingredients in this recipe. Some fresh herbs, ground pork, maple syrup and of course the star of our show, Sriracha. I had this small bottle of pure Vermont maple syrup that a friend had given to me for the holidays. This was the perfect use for it.

The printed recipe yields twelve patties. That’s twelve BIG patties. If you wanted to make normal sized patties, maybe 2 ounces or so, you could probably get 15-20 out of this recipes. I went for the big boys of course.

All of the ingredients went together easily. No surprises here.

Sriracha Maple Sausage Mixed

I wasn’t really sure how the green onions would fare in all of this. I guess we’ll see at the end. There’s a short holding time after you shape your patties to let the flavors combine a little. Thirty minutes or more is recommended.

Sausage Patties Ready To Cook

I have a great old cast iron skillet that I’m always looking for an excuse to use. This recipe actually calls that out. Nice! The patties grilled up really well. It doesn’t call for it, but, after the initial flip, I covered the pan to hold in some of the heat and to make sure that the sausages cooked through. I did use an instant read to make sure that they got to a full 160. It took about 20 minutes or so.

Finally, I cooked up an egg, plated some fantastic looking Sriracha sausages and was ready for the tasting.

BIG Stack of Sriracha Maple Sausages

The verdict, EXCELLENT! The taste of the Sriracha really comes through nicely. I was afraid that it would over power any of the maple flavor, but, it didn’t. Even, the green onions ended up being a nice addition. Great for a little texture. I cooked six, so I vacuum sealed and froze six for another time.

Here’s how to do it!

Ingredients
2 lb. ground pork
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
3 Tbsp. Sriracha
3 green onions, white and green parts sliced on the diagonal
1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. fresh sage, chopped
1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp. ground all spice
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Method
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Divide the sausage mixture in to twelve equal portions. Shape each into a patty. Don’t overwork the mixture. Place the shaped patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 200. Cook the patties in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Should take about 15 minutes. Keep the cooked patties on a wire rack in the oven to keep them warm.

Yields: 12 sausages

Recipe: Maple-Sriracha Sausage Patties, Randy Clemens, The Sriracha Cookbook

The Bottom Line:

Randy has written himself a cool little cookbook. Easy to make recipes and interesting uses of Sriracha make for fun reading and equally fun cooking. This single subject cookbook is sure to bring up the spice level of any cookbook collection.

 

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Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Author: Randy Clemens
Pages: 128
ISBN:
1607740036

Boiled Water: There’s An App For That

 

I’m not sure which is the most basic of recipes, boiled water or making ice cubes. It might very well be a tie.

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There used to be a time in the not so distant past when the mechanics of making a meal was VERY different.  You either opened up an oil stained cookbook or just cooked from memory and taste. All of that is changing at a pretty rapid pace.

This past weekend I not only cooked with my Mac laptop sitting on the counter, BUT, I cooked using my iPhone! AND, I enjoyed it!

New York Times columnist, author and food journalist, Mark Bittman is at the forefront of making that change happen. His How To Cook Everything app for the iPhone is just another example of how our everyday kitchen “tools” are evolving.

I decided to check out how cooking off your phone would be. I know it’s really a miniature computer, but, it’s still a phone. But, what to try first? The Bittman app is loaded with thousands of recipes, tips and helpful kitchen hints. I figured I would let the wisdom of the crowds guide my decision. It turned out to be a good choice.

One of the features of the application lets users give a “thumbs up” to recipes they have tried and liked. I start my journey with the most popular one. Boiled Water.

How could a recipe for boiled water be the favorite of so many people (1928 votes as of this writing)? I think I should get to the bottom of this.

The recipe is described as “a Mediterranean classic” that is almost as simple as boiling water. As it turns out that isn’t too far from the truth. Here’s what you’ll need to make this quick and easy recipe.

Ingredients
6-10 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 Bay Leaf
4 cups water
1/4 cup, Olive Oil
4 Slices French Bread
1/2 cup, freshly grated Parmesan, Pecorino or Romano cheese
Chopped parsley for garnish

Method
In a large saucepan or small stockpot add water, bay leaf, garlic and some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover partially and reduce heat to very low. Low enough for the cooking liquid to boil gently. Boil for 15 minutes.

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In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. When heated add the bread slices. Brown on both sides, turning once for a total of about 5 minutes.

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When bread has browned, place in bowls and top with grated cheese. Strain solids from the soup and pour into the bowls. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Serve.

Serves 4

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This really could not have been much easier to make. I poured my broth over the cheese topped bread. I figured this would melt the cheese a little.

There were a couple of issues that came up. First when you add the bread to the skillet, side one soaks up 90 percent of the oil in the pan. This leaves no oil for toasting the second side. The recipe suggests using slightly stale bread. That may help a little with that problem.

The second is more of an observation than a problem with the recipe. When you add the broth to the bowl, the bread turns soft and broth soaked rather quickly. I liked the texture of the mushy bread. It gave the soup a little more body. If you don’t expect a crunchy crouton kind of experience, then you won’t be disappointed.

I was surprised at how much flavor this recipe actually had given the few ingredients that it contains. It really has a lot of depth to it. A pleasant surprise.

When we finished slurping, all of my tasters agreed that this would make an excellent first course for a roast chicken dinner. Nice and light, but, more than enough taste to carry the dish.

We know that the recipe turns out fine. Now, what about the app itself. Here’s how it all breaks down.

groceryscreenJPGThe app runs great. The search feature usually turns up a good amount of recipe options. Each of the recipes is broken down nicely into sections. An overview, ingredients list and the steps themselves. If there is a timing element (which of course there is in most recipes), then a handy link lets you use the timer in the app without setting another external one. That’s nice.

You can save your favorite recipes. I love the grocery list function. You can add in all of the ingredients for your recipe with the touch of a button. You can then sort that list by store aisle or alphabetically. I have to say that it’s surprisingly useful. I’m pretty much of a pencil and paper guy when it comes to my shopping list, but, who knows, this might change me.

The Bottom Line

How To Cook Everything, the iPhone/iPad version isn’t a substitute for Mark’s fantastic in print book. But, if you just want to whip out your phone, do a quick search and make a great meal, then this app will do that and even a little more. The app runs $4.99 which is on the high side for iPhone apps. Now, I’m not saying it’s not worth five bucks, but, a lot of folks are used to 99 cents or free. My advice to you, pony up the fin and get cooking.

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