Four Cherry Cordials, A Welcome Treat

I’ve had these all my life.

At least as long as I can remember.

These are the G Rated version of a treat that I discovered probably before I could walk well.  Always having a sweet tooth, I would gravitate toward them and anything else that tasted well.

I’d pop one in my mouth, and if I was patient, allow the chocolate shell to melt until the cherry sugar syrup would run out onto my tongue.  Then I’d have a third treat as the cherry waited behind for my molar to pop it open like a sweet balloon.

My sister discovered that I liked those things and when we realized that tradition said we should be giving gifts on holidays and birthdays, a box of these would show up.

A welcome treat.

Once, and only once, I found the Real Version of these.   They’d have an alcoholic brandy in them, most likely Kirschwasser, a German Cherry Cordial.  I remember those being “amazing” but decidedly hard to come by.  New Jersey, where my sister and I grew up, most likely had regulated them to being frightfully scarce and in “all my years” I’ve only ever seen them twice.

It has been a while since the Mastodons roamed free in the North Eastern United States, and I suspect that they ate most of the Alcoholic Cherry Cordials to keep them out of my own hands.  I guess they like Kirschwasser as well.

It’s an open secret between my sister and I that I will receive these in a “Care Package From Home”.

I see them here at the supermarket and it Isn’t Quite The Same.  Of course we could just toss one in the cart, but it just hasn’t felt right to do so.  While I truly enjoy these overly sugary treats, it wouldn’t have quite the same feeling since my dear sister didn’t toss them in a box, cart them to the Cherry Hill, New Jersey Post Office, stand in line, and post them to me here in South Florida.

Luckily those events are in the cooler parts of the year.  Shipping chocolate to Florida via the US Postal Service guarantees that they will arrive partially melted and most likely “deformed”.

But, Hey!  They Eat Well, Right?

I had gotten a welcome Care Package back around the holidays and set a few of these aside in a very cool part of the refrigerator.  Not so much to hide them from anyone else in the house, I did it to hide them from myself.  I wanted a small treat to remember a well thought and welcome present from someone dear to me, far away.

Plus they taste damn good.

POP! All gone!

Oh and frozen?  They’re amazing too!

Welcome to Tot-Henge

In Manhattan, and many other large cities laid out on a grid, there are two very special days.  This was pointed out by noted “Science Dude” Neil deGrasse Tyson.  This is called “Manhattanhenge“.

What happens on those days is that the sun positions itself so that you can see it on the east-west streets.  It happens in Philadelphia, Toronto, and many other cities, whether it is noticed or not.

The important thing is that your city be laid out in a grid roughly with the compass alignment.

In my case, it has to do with food.

Doesn’t everything?  I mean food is easy to talk about.  We all food.  Yum.

Besides, bloggers like to write about recipes.  I’ll let you in on a secret, it’s so easy that it’s almost lazy.

And you get to talk about Neil deGrasse Tyson.  Because.  Just because.

Anyway, I got hungry.  I have been doing silly things with food for quite a while.  Mixing weird concoctions, putting picture to virtual paper, and writing about that.

Hungry is normal when you have a fast metabolism and are 193 CM tall and just under 100 KG.

That’s 6’4″ and 223 pounds dripping wet in Freedom Units as they say on various forums.

Lets face it, the economy here is big and we’re stubborn.  I cook in Metric but measure calories in Ounces because the math(s) is (are) easier.

There.  Should keep my friends in Her Brittanic Majesty‘s Realm happy.  We all love a happy Queen Elizabeth, long may she reign.

But I got creative.  Frozen food, fast.  I can put together a frozen food meal and toss it in a hot oven for 22 minutes, jump in the shower, shave, dress, and the timer on the thing is just starting to make noise for me to pull it out.

Now, here’s the trick.  This is why ChipHenge or TotHenge is important.

Are you ready?

Really?

I’m stubborn.  I hate soggy bottoms.  Especially on my food.

If you just toss frozen food on a cookie sheet (That’s where you cook your biscuits, Mate!) sometimes it crisps, other times it just gets soggy.

Hate that.  What fun is a soggy french fry?  Crisps should be Crisp.  Chips should be chippy.  Baked Fish should not be a puddle of mess.

So I stand the stuff up on its side.

As time went on the frozen food stacking got more and more elaborate.  I finally realized that this was turning into an obsession.  Say it with me…

“Hi!  I’m Bill, and I’m A Frozen Food Stacker!  A Chiphenge Afficionado!”

“Hi, Bill!”

It also helps that my name is “Bill W”.  No really, not for affect.

The neat thing is that if you have a frozen food that is soggy and it is cooked in the air like that you get nice crispy chips, crunchy fish, and something else that sort of rhymes.

Up on end my food goes into nice neat rows just like Center City Philadelphia.  The Liberty One and Two towers modeled in Cod.  The rows of row houses in South Philly in Tater Tots.

All this so I don’t have to heat up a fryer.

Or so I tell myself.

That sound?  Yeah, that’s my lunch.  If you’ll excuse me, I have to tear down my model of Manhattan for the noon meal.  I’m hungry, but you had to expect that.

Want some?

Basic Lime Cilantro Salsa in Five Minutes

 

The hardest part of making fresh salsa is getting the ingredients.

I mean, you have to schlep to the store.  You have to get out of the house and actually go out into Public!

(gasp!)

Then you have to get the stuff!  (Yikes)

I was buying salsa in a jar when I went to the market and I thought to myself, I’m an excellent cook, I know what I am doing, I have amazingly sharp and deadly knives to chop and mince my vegetables, I can make cakes from scratch and wash them down with my coffee that I roast in my own kitchen…

So why not make some basic salsa?

Yeah I know, I’ll get off the soap box and stop patting myself on the back.

Thing is that I needed a chunky salsa.  I have been making these big dinner servings of Bean and Cheese Quesadillas lately.  Very high quality food, no “junk” added.  It could be made vegan if I wanted, although I’m fine with it not being vegan.  It could be made Non-Vegetarian if I tossed some meat in it, but I like the way this tastes without adding beef or anything else.

That plus more food than a “regular person” can eat ends up being only 500 calories so I can justify washing it down with a beer.

5.6 ounces of rice fried with salsa, cumin, and chili powder is only 200 calories, plus an ounce of cheese, one corn tortilla, and 100 calories worth of canned refried beans.

 

(ok, so the salsa isn’t zero calories, and I do add about 4 ounces of salsa to it)

But it’s the salsa that I’m going on about.  This is basic.  This is something you can throw together when you need some because you ran out.  It’s also fresh and without any weird chemicals, so if you’re into eating healthy and light, you end up with a lot of the stuff and can justify it.

Oh and since I’m not adding any oil or anything heavy, it’s calorie count is very low.

The process is simple:

 

  • Chop all your vegetables up to a rough chop.  (see picture above)
  • Mash the Tomatoes with a fork so that they are partially broken up.
  • Add lime juice for flavor and preservative.
  • Store in the fridge and use promptly.
  • When I make this I tend to keep it in a large plastic bag and smash the Salsa up to make sure it is tenderized
  • It kept a week for me and was still fine in the refrigerator

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 to 3/4 sweet or white onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped and to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Lime Juice, or to taste
  • Optional: 1 or 2 Finely Chopped or Minced Jalapeno Peppers
  • Optional: 1 Bell Pepper, Roughly Chopped

For the ingredients:

 

I hate “heat” so I leave the Jalapeno out.  I know, it’s Salsa, and it adds flavor, but I can’t bring myself to do that.

Also some people can’t abide Cilantro.  It’s a genetic thing, I get it.  Some folks think it tastes like soap.  Personally I don’t.  I have that “mutation” that makes Cilantro taste wonderful.  So leave it out if you like.

Bottom line, this is a BASIC Salsa recipe.  You can toss in any amount of ingredients and have fun with it.

After all, if YOU like it, then it’s a wonderful thing, right?

Snowy and Rainy Days and Full Freezers

I wanted pizza.  Instead, some people get more than a foot of snow.

When that big front comes into the Northeastern US, it trails a long tail.  The classic shape of it on Radar is a comma.  It starts as a storm in the middle of the country, then works its way across basically driving I-10 to the ocean.  Then it gains strength as it hits the warmer waters of the Atlantic and comes up North to visit you people.

But as it’s doing that, that front works its way down to visit me.

It was a wet weekend.  Oh sure, an inch of rain plus can be dealt with in South Florida, we are used to it.  The grounds are basically a Swiss Cheese of Limestone from “The I-4 Line” of Daytona to Orlando to Tampa.  In reality North of that as well, but everyone down here talks about the bad weather being up above the I-Four-Line and ignores it until it gets closer.

That Swiss Cheese flavored Limestone soaks up all the ground water and eventually it’s a memory.  But it did keep us indoors.

After all, it’s January, the pool has cooled down to 59, and it isn’t a good beach day.  It also got a good 20 degrees colder than the high the day before and the house isn’t designed for a high below 70.  We get miserable when it is colder than 70, and if it is raining, you’ll be giving me some fine cheese to go with that fine Port Wine.

So what do you do.

I know!  Lets cook!  In other words, I filled the freezer.  To the point where next week’s plans are shot.  Can’t even make a pizza here because there is so much food stuffed in every nook and cranny.

I remember when the older generation had these fridges with a suitcase sized freezer and they were always crammed.   We’ve got a side by side fridge and I’m complaining that I want a chest freezer.  I’d just fill that too.

But it started with Saturday raining and our deciding that it was a perfect time to make a Roast Chicken.  I will say it turned out great, but that also meant a run to the stores.  Why?

 

Soup Kit.

Prepacked and wrapped in plastic, this had all the vegetables for you to make a proper Chicken Soup.  I’d suspect that with a few more ingredients you could make a proper Vegetable Soup, or stew.  Turnips, Rutabaga, Carrots, Dill Weed, Onion.  Something that looked like a carrot but white.  It all went into the “Lobster Pot”.  By the time we were done, there was two gallons plus of Stock bubbling happily on the stove.

Two gallons.  That would be about 8 litres of soup stock.

The chicken roasting in the oven, we would have a good meal.  Stuffing was made and put in the little bird, and a baking dish, and this all wasn’t going to get dealt with until dinner.  Lunch had to be made.

All of that eventually hit the table, and the extra chicken got pulled from the bone.  Bones into the stock pot to boil another two hours.  Made up a wonderful stew with the addition of another half pound of carrots and two potatoes.

The next morning getting up I realized I needed to make English Muffins.  I got out all the gear, made up some beer bread batter from 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, a bottle of room temp Presidente beer, and a tablespoon of sugar.

When that finished I realized I had to stop.  There was just enough room for the extra English Muffins to fit in the door.

But … wait, there’s more!  Or rather, there can’t be more.  I can’t make the Cream Biscuits I wanted to have with some sausage gravy because there simply is no more room in the freezer.  Every square inch was crammed with covered dishes, cooling, and waiting to be eaten.  The Gallon Jug that I keep in there to freeze in case of emergencies had to come out.  The blue blocks of ice were out.  Still no more room.

Damn, no biscuits and gravy, I’ll have to have cereal.
How about Pizza again?   Nope?   No room for the extra rolls.  I’m toast.

Oh and it’s Sunday and cold.  We’re baking again.  You see, it’s Fruitcake season.  None of that rubbish that you get from the shops.  Claxton fruitcake?  No, that’s too cloyingly sweet.  Ours is home made from a Welsh recipe from the 1800s.   Each cake is a heavy block that is soaked in Spiced Rum to allow it to absorb the flavor, and is usually best after sitting in the freezer for 1 to 3 months.  We eat fruitcake in the summer because the candied fruits we need to make it are only available from Halloween to mid January – if you are lucky.

So we got enough for 8 fruitcakes.  Each cake being the size and weight of a Belgian Block from a street in an older city, and you know we are going to have a lot of baking to do.

“Hey, our plans got changed, no fruitcake next week!”

There won’t be enough room in the freezer for us to make more since there are the better part of two gallons of soup in there.

Still no pizza.  Did I tell you I make the second best pizza on the island, in my own little kitchen?  It’s just that that makes 3 large hoagie rolls as well.  You guessed it, no room in the freezer.

So while you are still digging out from your 12 to 36 inches of snow in the Northeastern US, I’m digging my freezer out of homemade food.  If you stop by, I may even give you a slice of fruitcake.

Don’t laugh, this stuff is good!  If they sold this in the stores, people wouldn’t turn their noses up at it.

But it is, still, fruitcake.

Cooler Weather, Exploding Breakfasts. Yeah, that’s my life.

I guess it started the day before the front came through.

We went shopping and I picked up some capicola.  If you have no idea what that is, or have never seen it, it’s also called Spiced Ham.  I remember stopping off at a small town supermarket once looking for some cold cuts to make a sandwich and saw it called that.

I like the stuff on a Hoagie.  A proper Italian Hoagie.  Capicola, Prosciutto, Sopressatta, Sharp Provolone, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, all on a proper Italian Roll.

Maybe a little oregano and basil on top.

Now you know what I’m thinking for for lunch.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.com

But I think the capicola was a little “off”.  I had an upset stomach that evening and gave it little thought.

The next morning I remembered that though and decided to use the stuff one last time.  I microwaved the daylights out of it and turned it into a basically spicy bacon like substance.

Bacon.  I don’t get it.  Why eat a slab of fat when you can have a proper piece of ham that has been seasoned to perfection, then cooked up … oh never mind, go eat your nitrites!

I put the Capicola on a Flour Tortilla.  Add a quarter ounce of cheese.  I had leftover cheese from the weekend’s cooking.

All was well, this concoction with one egg is a rather nice sandwich that clocks in around 200 calories each.

See I forgot to mention something.  Winter.  Oh sure, you folks Up North are used to storms where the temperatures drop to ranges where soap bubbles freeze solid when they hit the air, then shatter on the ground.

Go ahead, try it, I’ll wait.

Fun wasn’t it?  Great trick to amuse the kids with.  Just make sure the temperatures are well below freezing or else the bubble will shrivel up into a raisin which has its own charm.

If it gets to “raisin” temperatures here, South Florida is in shock.

 

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.com

 

 

It didn’t get quite that cold, but it was 49F/9C.  Enough of a change so that we’re complaining and cranky.   We’re also hiding inside the houses and using electricity to heat them.  The heating unit for the house is never quite enough because we only use it for a week or three and then it’s forgotten like the comforters we have hiding in the back of the closet.  They all get washed in November or December for the year, and put away before March hits.

Coming back into the house, I noticed that it was colder than normal.  Trying not to convert too many old dead dinosaurs into Carbon Dioxide, we keep the place warm in the summer, cool in the winter by our standards.  I keep turning it cooler, and someone else magically turns it back up when they get home.  That particular morning, it was sitting at 69F.  20C plus a wee bit.

Laughable in Europe to keep a place “That Warm” but this is Florida.

What I missed was that it changed my recipes.  I made some bread later that day and had to give it extra time to rise.  The yeast was shocked by what we call “cold” here, even in the “warmest” room in the house.

But breakfast was looming, I still needed to add an egg to that Tortilla, Capicola, and Cheese.

We’ve got a lot of glassware here.   When I moved in to the house, I noticed a lot of it laying in the shrubs here.  Apparently they liked to have parties, and didn’t care that the drink glasses were disappearing.  Nice sturdy glassware, it went into the dishwasher and was a bonus.  You may find old lights or books tucked in nooks in your attic or a discarded doll under the shrubs, with me it was glasses.

Picture from Wikipedia.com

Oh and a rather nice “resin” white rabbit.  I’m still trying to get that back to white, having been discolored by the ground water in our irrigation system to a rusty tan.

I grabbed a drink glass.  A perfect size for a gin and tonic, I knew that two eggs cracked in the glass would cook perfectly in the microwave.  40 seconds at first, wait, then 30 seconds.

Nope.  The glass was too cold when I put the eggs in it.  The second time in the microwave I looked down at what looked like a yellow eye covered in tears – it wasn’t completely cooked yet.

Fine.  Back in the microwave.  Ten seconds.

I turned my back and BANG!

The glass had been lifted off its place on the glass plate on the turntable and slammed back down onto it, knocking it off its moorings.

*BEEP!* *BEEP!* *BEEP!* it sounded as I opened the door.

You folks Up North have snow, I had something that looked like it.  Two eggs had exploded in the glass and shot egg white all over the inside of the microwave to a depth of about “A Coating To An Inch” as the weathermen say.

DAMNIT! I sweared.

Breakfast would be late I said as I looked between the egg and the microwave and my Tortillas.

I mopped up the mess and gave the portion that was leftover to my dog, Rack, who came in to see what the excitement was.

Now mind you, you would think I’d know better, right?

Nope.

You know the saying “Don’t go back to the well when you know it’s dry!”?

I went back to the well.

I cracked two more eggs into the cup, put them inside the newly clean and shiny microwave.

40 seconds.  Safe!  Great!  Lets try that again…  as I shook the glass and replacing it for the final 30 seconds.

I reached the door handle when the timer changed from two to one.  Opening that door I sighed a relief…

All too soon.  Built up pressure had to go somewhere.

I watched a beautiful sight.  A Yellow Fountain of Egg Yolk lifted out of the glass, still semi-liquid and perked like something out of a hot spring.  It reached just shy of the top of the microwave.  Just missed going back into the cup completely and a tablespoon of yolk landed right next to it.

“I guess the microwave is slightly tilted toward the back.”  I said as I reached in to the machine.

I did finally have my breakfast, but that’s it for eggs for a while.  I’ll switch to cereal.  Pollo Pyrotechnics in the morning may be tasty but I truly would prefer to have my eggs on the plate, not on the roof of the microwave.

Does anyone have a scraper?

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.com

Three Ingredient Beer Batter English Muffins

I had to update this before I posted it.  It really is not a three ingredient recipe.

It is a TWO Ingredient Recipe.  The Sugar is completely optional.  I made this for breakfast since I originally wrote this, and found that I didn’t need the extra sweet to it.

Yep, English Muffins from a bottle of beer and some Self-Rising Flour.  If you are patient, and cook them well, they actually have a pretty good texture.   A Wee bit Soft, but that’s the nature of a Beer Bread.

So, the original write up below has been tweaked.

A while back, I got to try a Beer Bread recipe.  Beer bread is one of those things.  It doesn’t make a bread so much as a muffin that people pretend is bread.

There is normally way too much sugar added, they tend to use fruit and spices to hide the taste of the beer, and it just isn’t what I would call “Bread”.

Sure, you might, but you also will admit it just isn’t the right texture for sandwiches.

However, it is tasty and very easy to make.

I got involved hacking the recipe and came to some conclusions.

First, the sugar is DEFINITELY optional.  My original recipe was three tablespoons to the batch.  I was able to reduce that to 1 tablespoon and I will be making this again and leaving the sugar out.  I did, as I said above, and it tastes really much better as an English Muffin – which shouldn’t really be all that sweet.

Second, the leavening is “mechanical”.  It’s all from the carbonation in the beer hitting the salt that is in the self rising flour.  You can use soda if you prefer to avoid the little bit of alcohol in a beer bottle.

Sure, take all the fun away!

But the use of soda also will add flavor to the bread.  A Black Cherry soda used in a beer bread would go well with Raisins or dried Cherries.

So with all that hacking and thoughts, I decided to try this on a griddle.  Like pancakes.  The end result was

to give me a nice pile of English Muffins.  Basically they came out like a tall pancake.  I ended cooking them until they started to bubble through the batter in the rings.

The rings are optional, by the time I got to the middle of the batch I was just dumping 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot griddle and waited.  It is up to you whether you want to use the rings, I have crumpet rings and will use them.  The batter seems to be a little on the dry side for Crumpet Rings.

It all goes together very quickly since you don’t have to wait for it to rise, and you don’t want to stir this mix too quickly or too vigorously because you will deflate your batter.

Nobody wants a deflated batter.

So here is the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cup of Self Rising Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar – Optional and to taste.
  • 1 can of room temperature beer, 12 ounces.

Process

  • Preheat your griddle or skillet to 375F
  • Add the self rising flour to a large mixing bowl.
  • Sprinkle the sugar on top evenly and lightly mix the two ingredients with a fork.
  • Pour the beer on top of the mixture and gently mix the batter with a scoop or a paddle.
  • Do not mix the batter vigorously, but make sure that the flour is evenly mixed in.
  • Oil your skillet and crumpet rings (optional) with a towel and preheat the rings before cooking.  Note:  At 375F and using Sesame Oil, I had zero smoking.  Check your oil smoke-point before cooking.  Wikipedia has a great reference for this!
  • Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto the skillet and cook until golden brown or bubbles begin to show on the top side of the muffin.
  • Flip the muffin and cook the tops until golden brown.

Split and toast and serve as you would your favorite English Muffin.

No Bake Two Ingredient Lemon Pie

As is, this recipe is not a light one.  About 500 calories a slice.  If you’re wanting something lighter, and still want to enjoy an excellent lemon pie, use 1/2 the ingredients.  It will bring the calorie count down below 300 calories a 1/6 pie slice.

 

Or So.

But, there was a day I wanted pie.  Lemon Pie.  I went through my cabinets and didn’t find the ingredients I was looking for.  Then I got online and found this recipe somewhere.  Actually a couple different somewheres, so I won’t attribute it to one particular site.

 

Now, while it was a good pie, the Lemon Juice I used was quite strong, so I will cut back the lemon juice a bit.  Maybe 5 ounces instead of 6.

It’s dead easy.

Empty two cans of Sweetened Condensed Milk into a large mixing bowl.

Lick the stuff off your fingers.  After all 2 cans, 14 ounces each, always leaves some goo on your fingers.

Add 3/4 cup of fresh Lemon Juice to the mixing bowl.

Stir or whisk the two ingredients together until even and smooth.

Pour the filling into a ready made pie crust.

Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Serve with Whipped Cream, yes even the canned stuff.

Want me to write it out traditionally?

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cans (14 ounces each) Sweetened Condensed Milk.
  • 3/4 cup of fresh Lemon Juice.  I used the bottled stuff, it was a bit strong so I will cut back next time.

Process:

  • To large mixing bowl, add 2 cans Sweetened Condensed Milk.
  • Add 3/4 cup Lemon Juice to the Sweetened Condensed Milk.
  • Whisk until even and smooth.
  • Add to ready made graham cracker pie crust.
  • Chill for 2 hours at least.
  • Serve with Whipped Cream.