Popcorn!

So, the other day I was at the store and spied Fisher’s Popcorn. Saw that they had Old Bay popcorn and thought, “Ooh, that could be good!” and grabbed a bag and a bag of the White Cheddar to boot.

Devoured the White Cheddar in short order – really good, and finally succumbed to the suggestion on the back of the M&M bags to mix them with popcorn – where has that been all my life?!

Then I looked at the Old Bay bag again. It’s Old Bay CARAMEL popcorn.

Oh.

Well, that could be good, or interesting, or terrible… I mean, chocolate and chili powder go together, I suppose caramel and Old Bay could, too.

Finally got up the nerve to open the bag today – and I like it!

First, the caramel coating is very light – just enough to give the popcorn some extra crunch and sweetness, and not so much that it makes your teeth hurt.

And the Old Bay – works very well with it! It’s not overpowering, but you can definitely taste it and you get that whole awesome salty-sweet thing going on.

As far as beverage pairings go, I don’t think it would be good with soda – I did snack on it with a cold brew coffee which worked well, and I think it would be good with a darker beer – nut brown ales, porters, or stouts.

Honestly, if I’d seen that it was caramel popcorn right off the bat, I probably would have passed on it. Nice to have a happy accident!

Oh, speaking of seasoning

OK, it’s possible this has been on the market for eons, but I only just recently saw it at the store and picked some up – McCormick’s Perfect Pinch Italian Seasoning. It has Marjoram, Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Savory, and Sage – and all in the right proportions so you don’t have to worry about getting it right.

It’s GREAT and makes life a wee bit easier.

Love me some already figured out spice blends.

Bottle of McCormick Perfect Pinch Italian Seasoning
I have a BIG canister of it!

Quick review

Hey I cooked last night! Hashbrown casserole and chicken tenders. I would have just gone with the casserole on its own, but I figured we needed a protein. But, like so many of us, I am flattened.

Grabbed some heat & eat chicken tenders at the store – Perdue Simply Smart Organics/Gluten Free Breaded Chicken Tenders.

Ease of Prep: 10/10. Straight from the tray to the cookie sheet, 11-12 minutes in the oven. Couldn’t be easier.

Taste: 6/10. They’re not *bad* – they didn’t dry out in cooking, but the breading has zero seasoning in it, so they’re a bit on the bland side. Easily solved with some BBQ or Honey Mustard sauce, but not much on their own.

But, they got the job done. I didn’t intentionally look for gluten free, it’s what was at the store, and I genuinely don’t know if that accounts for the plainness of the seasoning or not.

They were easy, which was nice, but I think next time, time and energy allowing, I’ll do my own coating & breading. (Coating: Mayo & Country Dijon mustard, Breading: Italian Breadcrumbs w/Parmesan cheese.)

ETA: Just reheated one with a bit of garlic salt on top – very good! Trick may be to put some of your favorite shake-on seasoning before cooking, flip at the halfway point and hit the other side.

ETAA: Just had another one, this time with some Italian Seasoning – also, very good. Definitely recommend putting your fav seasoning on before cooking.

Screenshot of Perdue Organic Gluten Free Chicken Tenders package

Chili!

With nice, soft, edible kidney beans! Yes, we are a chili over rice household.

This is the recipe I use – scaled and tweaked from one I found on Allrecipes.com that makes 6 gallons… (I thought I had posted it before, but maybe not.)

1 pound lean ground beef
~ 1/2 cup chopped onions
2 decent sized cloves garlic, minced – 3 if they’re smaller
1 small can tomato sauce (1 8oz can)
1 small can tomato paste (I like the garlic infused when I can find it.)
1-2 cans kidney beans (don’t start with me)
1 tablespoon and 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Brown beef, garlic, onions, drain off excess fat.  Add the rest, simmer 1 hour.  Eat!

For the kidney beans, it really depends on how much you like them in your chili. I like them a lot and usually go with 2 cans. I drain off most of the liquid.

If it seems too thick, I’ll put a glug of beer or red wine in. You could also use a bit of chicken stock, or more tomato sauce.

If you are using dried beans, please learn from my mistakes and cook them separately ahead of time.

Lessons learned

So, earlier this week, my brother mentioned that it was chili weather and he was right, so last night I tried to make chili.

I’ve made it hundreds of times. The only difference this time was dried kidney beans. But, I soaked them overnight and wasn’t really worried about it.

Well, as it turns out, my chili recipe does not have enough liquid in it to really cook the beans, and somewhere between an hour and a half and two hours, I had burnt chili and crunchy beans. (Hence, the cheesy sour cream & onion mashed potatoes for dinner.)

We’re giving it another whirl today with my beloved Hanover canned kidney beans.

And it’s not that I won’t ever make chili again with the dried beans, I just know now that I need to just cook them up separately ahead of time. (And today I don’t have the patience for it, so, canned it is.)

Long time no post…

You’d think with the pandemic, I’d have a ton of food posts cause of all the cooking. What I discovered is that I have a very narrow repetoire and I’ve been very exhausted.

After a culinary disaster last night (more on that later) I “saved” dinner with cheesy sour cream & onion mashed potatoes.

They’re simple and an excellent comfort food, and we all need that now.

Take your favorite instant mashed potatoes, throw a handful of chopped onions in with the water & butter at the start. Reduce the milk by roughly 1/4 to 1/3, and add in a couple dollops of sour cream. Stir well, move to casserole dish and top with cheese (I’m a fan of cheddar-jack or colby-jack for this) and pop under the broiler for a couple minutes til the cheese is bubbly and melty.

The lighting is utter shit in my kitchen, it does look better than this, LOL.

A red casserole dish with mashed potatoes covered in cheddar-jack cheese
Who doesn’t love cheese & potatoes

So, things got weird on the food front.

Friday, 3/13 will be known in my mind as Panic Friday, when everyone in my community lost their collective shit and cleared the markets.

Things are getting back to normal, but sheesh.

Seeing the bread decimated, I got some beer bread mix.

Tonight we’ll be trying out the Soberdough Italian Garlic.

It smells wonderful.

Loaf of Soberdough Italian Garlic Bread

Soberdough Italian Garlic Bread

French Bread Pizza

Or, “fun with Sunday’s leftover spaghetti sauce

A slice of French Bread Pizza on a white plate

Mmmm, easy.

Had some leftover bread from spaghetti night, toasted it a bit, added the sauce, cheese and pepperoni and popped it back into the toaster oven on broil.

Perfect for a weeknight where I really did not feel like cooking.

Cats can have little a cheese, as a snack?

So, every year, as a “Merry Christmas to ME”, I get a goodie box from Swiss Colony. It’s filled with a ton of snack sized cheeses, sausages, sweets and spreads, and they’re all very tasty. And it’s just great to have on hand when you get the munchies.

Today I broke out the Smoked Bacon Cheddar Cheese spread with some crackers to snack on while I was working.

Label of Swiss Colony Smoked Bacon Cheese Spread

Smoked Bacon Cheese Spread – NOM!

Let me say, it’s pretty delicious – smoked bacon and cheddar, what’s not to like?

Well, my cat Lily would agree, given that no sooner had I opened it, she was all over me trying to get to it.

So of course, she got a taste.

Lily, a black and orange tortoiseshell cat, licking some cheese off my finger

Yum!!

Given that her usual interest in human food is pretty much zero, it’s high praise. 🤣

Happy 2020!

And if the first few days of the year are any indication, there may be a lot of comfort eating this year.

Tonight was Cheaters Calzones.  Leftover spaghetti sauce*, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and crescent roll dough.

Just divide the dough into 4 parts, and mush up the little perforations so you have 4 rectangles.  Add a dollop of spaghetti sauce, the pepperoni, and the cheese.  Fold the dough over, seal the edges, and then put a little garlic salt on top if you want.  Pop into the oven, cooking according to the crescent roll directions.

A square piece of golden brown baked pastry dough on a while plate

Before the tasty, gooey mess when you bite in.

This is my tried & true spaghetti sauce recipe:

1 lb sweet Italian sausage (It always ends up a little less, because somehow some of it disappears between the time I cook it and it hits the pot.)
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 c. onion, minced
1-2 6 oz. cans of tomato paste
4-5 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
The sauce & paste can be plain or “Italian style”
4-8 oz liquid of your choice (chicken or veg stock, water, red wine, white wine – I find beef stock to be too heavy.)
1 tsp oregano
3/4 tsp basil
1/2 tsp thyme
1-3 cranks of cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp parsley

Cook up the sausage and get it to a “crumbly” state, drain well. (This can be done way ahead of time and popped in the fridge, there will be more than enough simmer time for it to heat all the way through.)

Saute the garlic and onions in a bit of butter or oil, until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add 4 cups of tomato sauce. When you put the first cup in, be ready to stir right away – the pan will be hot and this will prevent burning until the pan temp drops with the additional liquid in it. Then add the rest of the tomato sauce, and work in one can of the tomato paste.

Add in the sausage, heat over medium-low to medium heat until it starts to bubble. Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer 15 minutes to let the flavors start to come together before adding the additional spices. (Especially if you’re using pre-seasoned tomato sauce or paste – you may need to go lighter on the add’l spices.)

At the 15 minute point, check the consistency – if it’s too thick for your taste, work in some tomato sauce or your “other” liquid – start with 1/2 cup at a time. Too thin? Add tomato paste, starting w/a half can. If you do adjust the liquids or paste, let it go another 5-10 minutes before adding spices.

Once you have the consistency where you like it, add the spices. This is also a good time to start your pasta water – don’t have to get it to boiling just yet, but if you at least get the pot heated up, when you’re ready to cook your pasta, it should only take a few minutes to get it to boiling. (I have a large pot and it does take forever to get water to boil for me.)

Cover and simmer another 15 minutes on low. Check the taste, adjust spices as needed and simmer another 5-10 minutes w/spice adjustment. When you’ve got it where you want it, turn off the heat, fire up the boiling water for the pasta and enjoy! (It will definitely stay hot enough while the pasta is cooking.)

I also use this sauce for lasagna and baked ziti, and it freezes wonderfully.

* Jarred pizza sauce certainly works, too – I’m a fam of Rao’s sauce.

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