Archived entries for tips

Quick Tip: DIY Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are just that: crumbs of bread. I refuse to buy breadcrumbs because I always have unused slices of bread laying around the house.  Making breadcrumbs is easy and quick, so why not try this quick tip!

Forakble Tip: Instead of throwing away the butts of your bread, or that loaf that is almost going bad, just throw it into your freezer.  Keep collecting until you have a bag full of bread and you can make one big batch of crumbs.

Making Breadcrumbs:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lay out the bread on the wire racks.  Toast each side for about 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove from oven and let sit for about 15 minutes.  You want the bread to be completely dried out.  Place bread in a food processor or a blender and leave on until all chunks are broken down.*  Store in a dry, air tight glass jar.  Breadcrumbs remain good for up to a year.

*You might want to do a test piece first, to make sure its dried out.  If it doesn’t want to break down nice, its probably because there is some moisture still left in the bread.  If so, put bread back in oven for 5 minutes or so, until its complete dried out.

Thanksgiving Planning

Its Thanksgiving time!  As you could expect, this is one of our favorite holidays. Its a day of eating until you’re sick and then going to sleep on the living room floor.  We’re going to Ira’s parent’s up in Wisconsin for Thanksgiving this year so I’m not going to be doing much cooking.  I don’t want to miss out with my time to slave in the kitchen, so I’m hosting a Thanksgiving for friends tomorrow (sunday). To share the method to my madness, I thought I would share my menu and schedule with you so you can see how I’ve broken up my time.

2009 Thanksgiving Menu for 10

Janice, Ira’s mom, brought us a few of her organic free range chickens a few weeks ago.  They are the most delicious wonderful hormone free birds so I wanted to serve them for a Thanksgiving dinner.  They are a bit on the small side, so I decided to make a duck as well, when I found it on sale at our local market.  I then picked my favorite of the traditional side dishes.  I’ll include pics next week!  Here’s my schedule for getting everything together.

Friday Evening:

  • shopping: Stanley’s produce markt, Jewel Supermaket and Rich’s Polish Deli
  • tidy house

Saturday:

  • Put poultry into brine
  • pumpkin soup
  • cranberry sauce
  • pecan pie
  • roast sweet potatoes for spoon bread
  • slice onions for casserole
  • set table

Sunday:

  • assemble stuffing
  • prep poultry to roast
  • assemble casseroles (bean and onion)
  • get poultry in oven
  • bake stuffing
  • assemble spoon bread
  • toward end of roasting poultry, bake bean casserole.
  • prep potatoes to cook
  • take poultry out of oven
  • boil and mash potatoes
  • bake spoon bread and onion casserole while preparing gravy
  • serve food

Ok, I just wasted all day working on random stuff and now its 5 p.m. and I still have my whole Saturday check list to hit.  Time to get cooking!

Lamb and Goat Stock With Red Wine

Making your own stock is fucking awesome! If any of you shudder at my cursing, I can only say, you must never have made stock if you don’t understand that you need the expletive to fully communicate the awesomeness. I’ve had a freezer full of stuff, including those goat bones from the leg roasts we made this summer, just waiting around for a nice fall day where I could get all cozy in the kitchen with my kettles. This past weekend answered that call. Time for some hell-broth boil and bubble.

Stock is a great way to use bones and scarps left over from meals. I always throw them into bags and then into the freezer. Beside meat items, I also save any vegetable matter which is on the verge of going bad. When getting ready to make my stock the other day, in addition to the bag of goat bones, I also had a few lamb bones, as well as countless bags of frozen parsley, fennel stems, Chinese chives, broccoli stems, among others.

Making stock is as easy as just throwing all of this stuff into a pot and putting it on the stove top to simmer. You also want to include your basic flavor vegetables of onion, carrot and celery. Whole spices are good as well as bay leaves.

To finish this all off in style, I also happen to have a few cases of wine left over from our wedding. A couple bottles of red wine can’t hurt anyone! Fill the rest of the pot with water. Mix it all up, bring it to a boil and then down to a simmer. Simmer for as long as you want. I usually leave it anywhere from 4-8 hours. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

Here’s a specific list of what I put into this stock. You don’t need to follow the recipe exactly. You can use it as a guide and add/substitute to your hearts content.

Lamb and Goat Stock

  • 5 lbs lamb and goat leg bones
  • 3 large onions, peeled and quartered
  • 3-4 large carrots, sliced in 2″ chunks
  • 4-5 fennel stalks
  • Chives
  • parsley
  • mint
  • 1 Tbs whole peppercorn
  • 1 Tbs whole coriander seed
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seed
  • 3-5 bay leaves
  • 2 bottles of red wine
  • 2-3 gallons of water, until pot is filled

When your stock is done, strain out the bones and vegetable matter and you’re left with a rich liquid which you can freeze or save refridgerated for a week or so.  Be warned though, your stock isn’t necessarily a tasty broth yet.  It doesn’t have any salt and it may be a bit watery.  Stock is used as a base for soup or sauces, which you add other things to.  If you want to make a broth out of it,  you can season with salt and any additional seasonings you want.  If its a bit watery, just simmer down until it has the concentrated flavor you want.

How To Make Soup: Any Soup

I love soup because its quickly thrown together, can be made with anything lingering in your fridge and it always warms me up.  I never follow a soup recipe, as its pretty easy to just throw together. I wanted to write a post with the basic process so hopefully after reading, you can go into your kitchens and make a quick soup with your fridge left overs!

While there are many different kinds of soup, the process can all be boiled (he he) down to a few simple steps. Once you know these steps, you can use any number of ingredients or added steps to create a variation on your theme.
Continue reading…

Inaugural Bash Sommeliering


“Eat Drink and Be Merry” from Flickr

I’ve had a few requests for wine suggestions. Be warned I am no Sommelier, but these are my picks. All of the wine suggested below can be found at Sams Wines and Spirits, my mecca.

If you like white, a Spanish Albarino would go great with the Butternut Bisque. My personal favorite is Can Feixes which goes for around $14 a bottle.

If you are a red person, (Commie!) a Cotes Du Rhone or a petite syrah would go great with the lamb. Also my favorite Sicilian budget buy: Colosi is tasty for only $11.99 a bottle.

For the dessert perhaps a Port or something, but for me, I’m not that into dessert wines.

Here are two online web pairing resources for more info:

Sam’s Wine Pairing
PourWines.com Wine Pairing Tool

If you like beer (who doesn’t) a bold amber or dark ale would be nice. Porter or stout would match the evil weather.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow! But for now, its to the kitchen! I have soo much to do.

New Years Eve: A Resolution to Eat Hor D’oeuvres

I’ve been avoiding writing this post because the thought of figuring out to spell hor d’oeuvres was too much for my post Christmas lethargy. 2009 is almost upon us, so I had to get my butt in gear and I think I’ve transcribed the proper letters in all the appropriate places. Since our traditional New Years eve snacking is filled with an endless list of tried and true finger foods here are some suggestions which I hope will help out any of you last minute party planners suffering from the same yule end sluggishness.

New Years Eve Snackies and Treats:

Click here for links to my dip recipes including:

  • 7 layer Taco Dip
  • Spinach and Artichoke Dip
  • Mushroom Walnut Pate
  • Hummus

Here are more suggestions for your menu.

HAP-PY NEW YEAR!

Cheap Night Fancy: Coq au Vin

When planning the Forkably Hip menu, I knew I wanted to serve food which would be more upscale and fitting with the jet set we wanted to attract. Originally, I aimed to price the plates around $50.00 serving fancy food like Salmon Roulade for the entree, however after Amber and I started talking over the details, we both agreed a less expensive plate price with more frugal food options would be more in fitting with our prospective blog mission statements. Charging less money, I would have to switch gears to save money on my expenses. When thinking what entree I could make easily on a tight budget, Coq au Vin instantly came to mind.

Literally meaning cock, or rooster (get your mind out of the gutter) in wine, this dish is made by braising chicken in red wine. It goes best with dark meat, which happy luck would have are the more budget cuts. My family has been making this dish for years, and although not difficult or expensive to make, presents a certain amount of high falutin feelings when served and eaten. As Amber and I both like to fake fancy on the cheap, I knew I’d found my meal ticket!


Floured chicken ready for browning in preparation for braising.

Although I grew up on the joy of cooking Coq au Vin recipe, I decided to work from the Alton Brown recipe because he requires most of the work to be done the day before, allowing me to make the most of my time.

The main difference between the Joy of cooking recipe and the Alton Brown method is Joy has you cook everything together, where Alton Brown separates the onions, mushroom and bacon out and has you marinate the chicken in the wine and chicken stock sauce overnight.


On left, browned chicken with veggies and herbs, on right, adding the wine/stock/tomato paste mixture to the chicken and veggies.

He also suggests you add veggies such as onions, celery, carrots, thyme and bay leaf to the chicken and wine sauce. The choice of or amount of veggies you add here isn’t of paramount importance as they are basically being used to help flavor the liquid in the pot much like a stock or soup base. The flavors will enhance the braising liquid which you later drain the veggies out of to make into your coq au vin gravy. I had the ends of a leek as well as the stems of a fennel bulb I was using for my starter, so I threw those in to accompany the suggested vegetables. I always feel a few pepper corns can’t hurt either.

The chicken in the wine/stock with veggies is left to marinate overnight and then roasted in the oven the next day for 2-3 hours until cooked.


Cooked Coq au Vin comes out of the oven, ready to be strained.

At this point, the chicken is removed from the pot and veggies need to be strained out of the braising liquid. This liquid is boiled on the stove top to reduce the sauce until thickened to a gravy. In addition to reducing, I also added 1 part flour to 1 part butter to help it thicken faster. When the gravy is thick enough, you add the chicken as well as the onions, mushrooms and bacon. Dinner is done.

If you want to make it the same day, the Joy of cooking recipe is for you, which takes about an hour or two of cooking time although you could make the Alton Brown recipe the same day by eliminating the overnight marination.


Coq au Vin served in a pastry bowl with a side of roasted root vegetables.

Whichever recipe you choose, this dish yields a lot of bang for your buck, it doesn’t require that much skill, kitchen time or money, yet produces a luxurious dinner which will be sure to produce oohs and oohlalas from your dinner guests.

Gangway BBQ

Summer is all about fresh produce from the garden, BBQin’ in the backyard and beer! All but the last is kind of hard to come by in the city, but Ira and I always believe in reaching out to our community for help and makin do with what we got. My Aunt, who lives across the park from us, gave us some fresh basil from her container garden and our friend Wendy sent over some of her fresh organic pear tomatoes. Ok, so that took care of the fresh produce. Now the yard. Humm this was a hard one. Our building goes from sidewalk to the alley. We made do with our gangway which is luckily larger then most at about 8ft wide. Next up. Beer. No problem. Eric supplied the Oberon Mini Keg from Bells Brewery.

We quickly chopped up some vegetables, marinated some chicken breast in teriyaki, and assembled some shish kabobs. We wrapped some asparagus tossed with fresh chopped garlic and olive oil in some aluminum foil to steam on the hot coals. A salad of Romaine lettuce and fresh basil with pear, blue cheese and a lime pomegranate vinaigrette made for a nice fresh flavor. I popped some brown rice in the rice cooker with some coconut milk, onions, raisins and some crab stock I had in the freezer to give us some fiber and stretch out the meal for a couple unexpected arrivals.

A relaxing Sunday afternoon: mission accomplished. BBQ, beer, friends, fun. Done. OK, now its time to go to sleep!



Here are more pictures of produce and cookin.

A Quick Fix: Pasta with Pesto and Fresh Vegetables


At the last minute, my Tuesday night plans changed and 7 p.m. found me and with two friends hungry at my place. Growling stomachs demand quick payment. My Mom always keeps small jars of pesto in the freezer just for this sort of night. Luckily, she sent some home with me on my recent trip home. To complete dinner, all we need is

Defrost the pesto for a minute or two in the microwave, heat up some pasta, do a quick saute of some fresh veggies with a splash of lime, and boom: a quickie for your tummy.

We had to get beer anyway, so Gertie and I, with friends in tow, led the way to our local market to purchase the necessary booze and some fresh broccoli, red peppers, green onions to go along with the Garlic I had at home. Once home dinner came together in about 20 minutes. For a quick garlic bread, I just brushed some fresh dinner rolls with melted butter, roughly chopped garlic and dried basil and finished them off with a quick toast under the broiler. I topped everything with Parmesan cheese, and the only groaning our stomachs were doing was from over consumption.

And Don’t Forget About Your Neighbors!


I like to put a sign up in our foyer about the party on Wednesday or Thursday to give my neighbors advance warning!



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