Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cheese Ball a la Margaret 2/5/11

The day ended up quite nice! I finished and published my latest travel blog "Travelin' with John". The best thing of the day was that most, but not all of the snow and ice has melted. You can't see me, but I am doing a Happy Dance! The melted slush is like walking on an Icee. I would much rather be drinking one than walking on one. I think the dogs liked the snow better than the wet slush! They walk like they are walking on fire! Oh well at least we are thawing out a bit before the next winter weirdness hits. Since we just finished up our Wacky Fire Crackers recipe I thought I would share a cheese ball recipe that my mother-n-law has made as long as I can remember, so that must be a long time. All I know is whenever she makes it that it is always a battle to take home any of leftover cheese ball. The majority of the time this famous cheese ball is devoured once it hits the table. In honor of my mother-n-law I have named this signature recipe "Cheese Ball a la Margaret" I am not sure how something with a few ingredients can taste like heaven on a cracker, but it does! Let's get started! You need 2 - 8oz packages of cream cheese at room temperature, Worcestershire sauce, Accent, 5 - 6 green onions with the tops and 2 packs of Budding Beef. I told you there were only a few ingredients. You will need a medium size bowl. Go ahead and chop your green onions and the 2 packs of Buddings Beef. Make sure and reserve 1/2 of your chopped beef. Add your 2 - 8oz packages of room temperature cream cheese to your bowl. Then add 3 TBS of Worcestershire sauce, 1 TSP of Accent and the chopped green onions. Mix this very well and then add 1/2 of the chopped beef. At this point I put the cheese ball mixture in the refrigerator to firm up just a little bit. Once the cheese ball mixture has firmed up go ahead and form it into 1 ball or 2 balls depending on how big you want your cheese ball to be. Roll out a sheet of wax paper and put your cheese ball on the wax paper. Then take your remaining chopped beef and completely cover the cheese ball. You should have a work of art in front of you. It's ok, you can admire it before you wrap in the wax paper. You should have an amazing aroma in your kitchen right now! I would put it in your refrigerator and let it setup before you serve it. There are a couple of other items that you can add to your cheese ball like chopped jalapeños or several dashes of your favorite hot sauce. I have made many different variations of this recipe, but I always fall back to the original recipe. Also if you want a firmer cheese ball then cut your Worcestershire sauce down to TBS. When you’re ready to serve grab your favorite cracker and enjoy. I bet you fall in love with this recipe as our family has. Just make sure if you take it to a party that you claim dibs on the leftovers if there are any. I want to thank my mother-n-law for sharing this recipe with me. She is an amazing cook and I hope to share many more of her recipes. Thanks Meggie! Love You! After you make this recipe shoot me a note or post a comment and let me know how you liked it. If you make any modifications please share. I love to experiment with food and recipes. If you have a favorite recipe you want to share please send it to me. I would love to make it and then write about it! Happy Super Bowl Sunday and may your favorite yellow team win! Thanks for following “Cookin’ with John”. Find something you enjoy and just do it! Life is way too short! Have fun and smile! You never know what tomorrow will bring! Until next time, “Cookin’ with John” will be playing with some more food ideas to share with you!

Wacky Fire Crackers 2/5/11

This has been a very crazy week! We were blessed with a great weekend last weekend! The Super Bowl teams fly in on Monday and Tuesday morning we are kicked in the butt by this wicked ice storm. It was like Wham Bam Thank You Mam! They said we had ice thunder. I am not sure what ice thunder is but Mother Nature said she was closing the city down! After several days of frozen tundra she threw several inches of snow at us Friday morning. Schools would end up closed for the remainder of the week and I made an accidental snow angel when I busted my butt on some hidden ice underneath the fresh powder Friday Morning. My dogs thought it was extremely funny! I love where we live, but this winter has been pretty crazy! The travel business was a little busier this week and my search for full time employment continues. With the Super Bowl in town this weekend I thought I would share a very strange recipe called Wacky Fire Crackers! It is not really strange, but I never would of thought all of these ingredients would make something so yummy! This very addicting cracker was first introduced to me at one of our tailgate parties before one of Matt's football games at Louisiana Tech! Tom & Sherry Toups from Southlake, TX shared this recipe with us and we have been making them ever since. You have to hang with me on this one! These crackers are like Lay's Potato Chips and you cannot just have one! Are you ready? Here we go! You start off with a box of your favorite saltine crackers and a gallon zip lock bag. Go ahead and empty your 4 sleeves of saltines into the zip lock bag. Here comes the bizarre part. Take 1 3/4 cup of canola oil (That is correct 1 3/4 cup of canola oil) and mix it with 1 package of Hidden Valley Dry Ranch Dressing. Then you add anywhere from 3 - 4 TBS of dried crushed red peppers. You can add more if you like it hotter. Then you add 3 - TBS of dried dill. Mix all of this up until it is well incorporated. Here comes the fun part. You take this mixture and pour it all into the zip lock bag full of saltines. Don't be afraid! It works! You just have to trust me. Go ahead and seal the zip lock bag and move the crackers back and forth in the bag until everything looks coated. Find a nice corner on your counter and toss every 15 minutes and set the bag on a new side of the zip lock bag. After an hour you should have had the crackers sit on each of the 4 sides of the zip lock bag. Another twist is to substitute the dill with dried oregano. You will now have a cracker that taste a little like a pizza. After an hour or so I get a sheet pan and line with some paper towels and pour the crackers onto the sheet pan. Throw away your zip lock bag and get a new one. After about an hour put the crackers in your new zip lock bag. While your filling the bag go ahead and sample some of these crackers from heaven. I bet you will be a fan of these Wacky Fire Crackers. They taste even better after 24 hours. Serve them with your favorite dip, soup or whatever you want to load you new found love up with. We like them with guacamole or any type of cheese. No matter what you top your cracker off with I hope you like these as much as we do. The Super Bowl is here and the weather looks like it is going to be nice for game day. No matter whom you are cheering for I hope you have a great Super Bowl Sunday. Family, Friends, Great Food, Great Commercials and Competitive Football make for a Great Day! I hope you try this recipe. If you do, leave me a comment. I would love to know how it turned out. If you make any modifications with the herbs or peppers please share. I love experimentation with food! A special thanks to Tom & Sherry Toups for introducing this amazing recipe to us! Find something you enjoy and just do it! Life is way too short! Have fun and smile! You never know what tomorrow will bring! Until next time, “Cookin’ with John” will be playing with some more food ideas to share with you!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Focaccia Caramelized & Blue 1/24/11

Happy New Year! Where is time gone? It is already 2011 and as I stumble out of my hibernation, I need to get back to cooking! I am not sure why I blacked out! Maybe I am part bear. I guess all of the food I have consumed had put me in a food coma and now that 2011 is here I need to get back on the stove. Since we have last crossed paths we have sold the house and now reside in the northern suburbs of Dallas. My youngest son completed his 2nd season playing football for Louisiana Tech and my oldest son skied for the first time ever. The travel business is making a slow crawl up the start your own business mountain and now that I have been reunited with my wife, the dogs and I are getting back to normal. I am currently looking for full time work, so if you know anyone hiring let me know. I will have the travel business and continue to grow it as well. I finally figured out it just takes time. I am going to follow the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson ~ “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” What an inspiration! I think that wraps up my hibernation in a nut shell. Hey big fella, this is supposed to be about food so let's get on topic! During my food coma I cooked several recipes that were outside of my box. I will introduce those to you very soon. I decided to start 2011 experimenting with Focaccia. I guess I need to explain. Focaccia -(foˈkattʃa) is a flat oven-baked Italian bread, which may be topped with herbs or other ingredients. Focaccia is related to pizza, but not considered to be the same. My inspiration came from reading Food & Wine magazine and I ran across a Focaccia with Caramelized Onions, Bosc Pear's and Blue Cheese recipe. These are all things that I like so why not make them into one. This should be very interesting. To make the Focaccia recipe you start out with 1 cup of warm water, 1 package of active dry yeast, 1/2 TSP of honey, 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil and a TSP of kosher salt. Sounds simple enough! In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast and honey and let it stand for 5 minutes. Then stir in 1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of EVOO; let stand for 5 minutes. Then stir in the remaining flour and the kosher salt and knead until smooth. Transfer the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let stand for an hour or more. This gives me time to take the dogs out. I know I am in need for a walk. This food coma as added a few extra pounds to my waist line. After a nice walk around the lake it is time to start working on the rest of the ingredients for the Caramelized & Blue Focaccia. Take a large onion and slice thin. In a skillet, heat 1 TBS of oil. Add the onion, cover and cook over moderate heat for about 10 minutes. Then add a TBS of brown sugar, cover and cook another 10 minutes or until caramelized. Now that your onions are caramelized take 2 Bosc pears and core them. Then slice them anywhere from 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch thick. I squeezed a little lemon juice on them so they would not turn brown. I must of had a bad lemon as my sliced pear's did turn a little brown while they were waiting to be added to the building process. Go ahead and preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Oil a 9 X 13 inch sheet pan. Then transfer the dough to the sheet pan and press it into all corners of the pan. Then dimple the dough all over with your fingers and drizzle 2 TBS of EVOO on the dough. Let the dough rise until puffed, about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes it is now time to scatter the caramelized onions on the dough. Then arrange the pears over the caramelized onions and sprinkle with 3/4 cup of your favorite Blue Cheese or Gorgonzola. I used Gorgonzola for my version of the recipe. Now we drizzle 2 TBS of EVOO over the Focaccia and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. The aroma is amazing! Once she is done, transfer her to a rack to cool. I am not waiting very long. My red wine is in my hand and I am grabbing me a slice or two. Yum! Yum! I think my culinary nose is now awake! I am pleasantly surprised with how all of these flavors go so well together. Another glass of red wine and one more slice please. Oh my! That was incredible! My mind sure is wandering with these flavors. I can see other creations. I hope you try this recipe. I just wanted to thank Jill Giacomini Bash for providing the recipe and for the inspiration to create my version. I want to apologize for the length of my hibernation. I am on new medication and I promise many more recipes will be coming your way! When you have time send me your favorite recipe and I will make it and then write about my experience with it. When you try this recipe send me a note and let me know how it came out. Find something you enjoy and just do it! Life is way too short! Have fun and smile! You never know what tomorrow will bring! Until next time, Cookin' with John will be playing with some more food ideas to share with you!