Dreamy's Delights

It's all about the food!

Pork Loin

Behold the Pile O’Pork!

 

We made a trip to Costco this past weekend. Needless to say, there’s no such thing as “small” quantities when you shop there. Jene had been wanting some thick-cut smoked pork loin chops. We bought an entire pork loin lol. So this picture is a stack of 1″ thick chops and 2″ thick chops that have been stuffed with mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese, fresh basil, garlic and sun dried tomatoes. Not picture is about 7 thin sliced chops as well. All of that porky goodness is currently in the smoker getting all tasty.

Something that I should talk about is the difference between a wet smoke and a dry smoke. A wet smoke has a water/liquid source in the smoker to create steam and help keep the meat extra moist. A dry smoke is just what it says, it’s dry, no steam or moisture added. My smoker does a wet smoke. I have a large bowl that I fill with liquid, usually beer or wine. However, I can also use water. Tonight we’re out of beer and wine that I’m willing to use in the smoker (instead of drinking it lol). So to add a bit of extra pop, we added some onions, garlic, lemon and lime to the water bowl. There’s no need to clean or peel anything, just chop it all up and toss it in the bowl. These ingredients simmer in the water lending their subtle flavors to the steam rising through the smoker.

I wish I could share the joy of using the smoker with you. I’m sitting on my couch with the AC running yet I get hints of wood smoke coming in anyway. I can look out the patio door and see the smoke billowing out of the smoker. It’s not a quick cooking process (probably 1 1/2-2 hours for these chops) but it is a satisfying process. There’s something almost primal about this method of cooking that speaks to the soul.

And here’s a picture of the finished, smoked, stuffed chops.

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Restaurant Review: Indian Chili (Fremont, CA)

Is anyone surprised to see another restaurant review already? πŸ˜‰ Between a long week at work and a busy weekend I really didn’t have the time or energy to cook dinner tonight. (I’ll make up for it tomorrow.)

Jene called me when I was driving home from doing a Reiki session for a good friend of mine. His suggestion was to try an Indian place that had left a flyer on our car yesterday. I was totally ok with that!

So this place is in the Fremont Hub Shopping Center, next to Safeway. It used to be called Desi Dahbi. I never ate there under the old name but there’s something to be said for pretty advertising fliers.

Tonight we tried a few things. We started with Paneer Pakora. This is cheese (Paneer) layered with spices, breaded and deep fried. It was GOOD. My entree was the Lamb Biryani. I LOVE lamb biryani but can’t always eat it due to the amount of heat. This was one of those times when I couldn’t eat it lol. But I suffered through it for as long as I could because the flavor was just that good. Jene was laughing at me because my face was bright red, my nose was running and I was gulping water faster than a fish. Even slathered in a really yummy yogurt sauce, I couldn’t eat more than about a 1/4 of the serving, which was HUGE. Jene ordered the chicken curry, spicy and said it was quite good too. He offered me a bite but I was already in too much pain from my biryani.

The owner (or a manager) came by and brought us the garlic naan we forgot to order, on the house. It was super good too. Lots of yummy garlic. Although, next time I’ll have to make sure I ask for no cilantro. Indian food and Mexican food both use lots of cilantro and I can’t stand it. Tastes like eating a bar of Ivory soap, yuck!

Anyway, the prices were good with the total coming to just under $25 for both of us. It’s not a sit down and be waited on sort of place but it’s a good, quick fix for Indian food.

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Taking a Dump… Cake!

Anyone who’s ever been associated with the Girl Scouts probably knows what a “Dump Cake” is. Everyone else is probably confused lol.

A Dump Cake is a wonderful way to make a quick, easy, sickeningly sweet dessert. I love to take them to parties because it’s usually a total surprise and actually surprisingly good for something that only took about 5 minutes to put together.

The name “dump cake” comes from the fact that you dump the ingredients in the pan and bake it. No stirring, no mixing and no work! You can make this in just about any flavor you can imagine. So here’s the basic idea behind a dump cake.

Recipe

1 Box Cake Mix (any flavor you want. Today I used French Vanilla)

2 Cans pie filling (flavor is up to you. I used Strawberry.)

12 oz soda (use whatever works best with your cake mix. today i used 7-up) OR 1 stick butter

9×13 cake pan

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour the cans of pie filling into the pan and kinda spread it around evenly. Pour the DRY cake mix over the pie filling, gently spreading it evenly. DO NOT MIX it into the pie filling! Next, gently pour the soda over the top of the cake mix. It’ll fizz up and look kind of funky. This is NORMAL. You can very gently use a fork to sort of mix the soda into the cake mix but be careful not to mix in the pie filling. The other option for this part is to slice very thin pieces of butter and put them all over the top of the cake mix instead of using the soda. I actually like to use both, I just use less butter (about a half a stick today).

Bake for about 30 minutes until the top is starting to brown and the cake mix has a cobbler like look to it. It might appear dry and crumbly in places… This is NORMAL!

Take it out, let it cool and eat it.

So some other variations that have been very popular are yellow cake mix with 1 can cherry pie filling and 1 can of crushed pineapple (undrained), Chocolate cake mix with cherry pie filling, and french vanilla with blackberry. I have plans to give spice cake and apple a try at some point in the future.

Today’s strawberry was sort of a random thing. I was at Raley’s (a grocery store) and saw the strawberry pie filling. It sort of grabbed me and so I bought it lol. Today’s birthday party gives me a good excuse to make it. πŸ˜€ I was actually surprised at how good it tasted when I opened the can. I’m excited to try the cake when it’s done.

I’ll add another picture later to show you what it looks like served πŸ™‚

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Too tired to cook!

So today is the end of my first full week as a gainfully employed human being. Oy! I am beyond tired at this point. It’s been over 2 years since I worked a full time job and it’s taking some time to adjust to it. My 70-year old father was telling me earlier today how he went to bed at 130am and was up again at 630. Dude, I’m 38 and can’t even come close to doing that!

For those who don’t know me personally and may not have read my intro, I have Multiple Sclerosis. It’s an auto-immune disease that attacks the central nervous system and causes permanent nerve damage. One of the problems with this is that it’s my body’s immune system that is attacking me so it’s like having a permanent case of the flu… well, at least the complete exhaustion that goes with having the flu. I wake up most mornings (after 10-12 hours of sleep) feeling like I’m wearing lead clothing. So for me to return to a full time job has been quite an undertaking. My husband, Jene, has been amazing. He’s supportive, loving, and rubs my back at the end of the day πŸ˜€

When I started work the two most popular questions were 1. Do you think you can handle full time? and 2. How’s it going to effect your blog? Well, to answer those questions… I’m handling it ok. I seem to be good at it and have gotten really positive feedback so far. My blog.. well, that’s been a challenge lol. I’ve found something to write about every night this week but tonight, I’m just too tired to cook and too tired to come up something to do with cooking so I’m writing about being too tired to write!

All in all, I think I’m going toΒ  be ok juggling job, home, and blog. I just might have some nights where my post consists of talking about some of my personal experiences outside of cooking. You might learn a bit more about my goofy cats, Sasha, Hugh and Mew… You might hear about how I enjoy crocheting and a mention of what I’m currently working on. If anyone has any (reasonable) questions about me that you want to ask, post a comment and I’ll answer them in a post sometime. This is a family blog so be nice!

The Princess MewMew Wigglebottom in all her furry glory!

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Roasted Peppers

If you read my post a couple of days ago you will remember that I had some anaheim chili peppers to use. So today, after work, I fired up the grill and started roasting them.

When I first started getting serious about cooking, I had recipes that called for roasted peppers and I always wondered why. Turns out that the roasting process allows the cook to peel the skin off the pepper making it more tender and it also partially cooks the pepper making it a smoother chew. Then I worried about “How hard is it to roast a pepper?” Turns out, it’s not hard at all, you just need a HOT flame or broiler.

First step is to rinse off your peppers to remove any residues. Then heat your grill/broiler to HIGH. If you’re using a grill, once it’s hot just lay the peppers on the grill with the burners on high. If you’re using a broiler, place them on the top rack, directly under the broiler. Now the watching, waiting and turning begins.

You want the skins of the peppers to turn a very dark brown/black. You will hear some popping and crackling and notice the peppers rocking a bit as they roast. This is from the steam being created inside the pepper. Turn the peppers and cook each side. You will see patches of un-browned/blackened skin, this is OK! As each pepper is cooked you will remove it from the grill/broiler and place it in a plastic zippy bag. I usually use a gallon sized bag because it allows plenty of room for large peppers. The point of the bag is to finish the skin separation process by steaming the peppers.

As each pepper goes into the bag it adds more heat and steam to the bag. The steam then finished loosening the skin from the pepper.

Once all the peppers are roasted and steaming in their bag, have a seat and relax for a few minutes. The peppers need to cool down enough that they can be handled without burning your little fingers πŸ™‚

 

Once I had the peppers cleaned I decided to stuff them with Baramundi (a type of fish) and a mixture of cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, garlic powder and lemon juice. Once the peppers were stuffed and in a baking dish I covered them with a home-made pesto sauce.

Pesto Sauce Recipe (sort of, the measurements are all guesses, I just stuck things in the food processor)

1 bunch of sweet basil leaves

1 0z fresh chives

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup of parmesan cheese

juice of one lemon

olive oil

Place all the ingredients except the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Run the processor until the ingredients start to form a paste. Slowly drizzle olive oil into the food processor while the motor is running. You want it to act to both thin the sauce and bind it into a smooth consistency. You don’t want it runny, this should be a thick sauce. It’s ready to use once it comes together.

Once you have the pesto made you can smooth some over the top of the stuffed peppers. Sprinkle with a bit more cheese and bake until the fish is done, about 10-15 minutes.

 

 

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Restaurant Review: Spin A Yarn (Fremont, CA)

There are days when you are just too freakin tired to cook… This was one of those days. I was sitting on the couch, utterly exhausted when Jene looked at me and said the magic words “You wanna go out to eat?” If I’d had the energy I’d have danced around the house singing “YES!” However, I just said “Yes please.”

In search of something newΒ  I used the Open Table app on my iPhone. I’d heard of Spin A Yarn before and I could get reservations on short notice. So we decided to give it a try. It was worth it!

My day was insane. I started a new job last week and have had trouble keeping my VPN connected this week. I’ve spent hours on the phone with the tech guys and Jene even bought a new (expensive) router. The new router arrived this morning. Stupid VPN was still dropping. I MUST have that stupid thing connected because it’s how I access the company’s files. I even went to Best Buy and bought yet ANOTHER router, different brand, different everything, still no good. On the phone with the tech guy, we finally changed on more setting in the VPN PROGAM and had nothing to do with the bloody router!!! I finally seem to have a stable connection and was able to work for a couple of hours at the end of the day.

That story out of the way, I started the meal with a shot of tequila lol. Once I could feel my shoulders relaxΒ  we ordered. We started out with the steak carpaccio. Jene ordered the prime rib with mashed potatoes and swiss chard. I ordered the lamb chops with mashed potatoes and mac & cheese.

For those not familiar with it, carpaccio is raw beef that is sliced and pounded paper thin. It is served on a chilled plate with capers, mustard, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, some arugula, and shaves of parmesan cheese.

Before being afraid because the beef is raw, it is SO thin you really can’t tell it’s not cooked. The flavor blends with the tartness of the capers, vinegar, and mustard so nicely. I highly recommend you step outside your comfort zone and try it if you ever get the chance.

Jene’s prime rib was beautiful. They roll out the prime rib and cut it table side. It was a beautiful, pink medium-rare. It was good, not House of Prime Rib amazing, but good for not having to drive into the City lol. His swiss chard was really good too and I’m not a fan. πŸ™‚

Finally, I ordered the lamb chops. Holy cow, er sheep! Those were the BEST lamb chops I have ever had in my whole life. Lamb always has this slightly gamey taste to it that you either love or hate. Or so I thought! Tonight’s lamb did NOT have that gamey taste. Even Jene, the professed lamb hater enjoyed it.

I forgot the take the picture before I started eating lol. The chops were amazing. Perfectly medium-rare, tender, and not the least bit gamey. The mashed potatoes were ok. Nothing amazing but the roasted garlic on the plate made it easy to jazz them up. The mac & cheese was again, not amazing but not horrible. Kinda meh.

However, dessert (which I ate too fast to take a picture) was coconut cream pie. I have to say first.. I absolutely, positively, completely and totally disgusted by cream pies. I do NOT eat cream pie… until tonight anyway. I thought, what the heck (or maybe it was the shot of tequila) and split a slice with Jene. It was unbelievably good! The reason I don’t normally like cream pie is because the pie is more like pudding shoved in a pie crust. In this case, the “cream” portion of the pie was more like a tender cheesecake. On top of this was a slightly lemon flavored meringue. All covered with wonderful toasted coconut.

Now that I’m fed, bathed, and somewhat rejuvenated, I’m going to bed!

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Rumination

Today’s post is going to be sadly lacking in any recipes. Since I made the ginormous pan of lasagna I really don’t have to cook until tomorrow. So instead I’m contemplating what I’m going to do with a big pile of Anaheim chili peppers. I found them at the farmer’s market and they are GORGEOUS.

Each pepper is about 12 inches long and and 1 1/2-2 inches in diameter. These are perfect for stuffing. Most people use poblano or bell peppers for stuffing. However, anaheims are milder than poblano (important for a sissy like me) and yet have a bit more bite than a bell pepper. I usually roast the peppers and peel them then stuff with a filling of cheese, veggies, and/or meat and bake them. I am not a fan of the battered and deep fried chili relleno style of stuffed peppers.

The last time I made stuffed chili peppers I used a chunk of tilapia in each one, monterey jack cheese and verde sauce. The time before that it was chicken and cheese, covered in sour cream and baked. You can fill them with just about anything to be honest. So that’s what I’m ruminating about… what should I put in them this time?

I’m hoping that some of my readers will be kind enough to post some comments with various ideas. The problem with doing as much cooking as I do is that I actually run out of ideas sometimes or I’ve got so many ideas that sound good that it’s hard to pick one. So please, give me some feedback and ideas!! πŸ˜€

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The joy and the sorrow of leftovers :) (edited)

After writing this yesterday I realized I left out some bits of information, like why I hated one dehydrator and loved another one. All I can do is plead exhaustion and brain fog lol. Work was nothing but tech issues all day and my brain was fried. So I’ve gone back and added some information that you might find useful. πŸ™‚

So the obvious joy of leftovers is that there is food ready and waiting to go when you get hungry. The sorrow is that I really don’t have anything to write about today lol. So I thought I’d write about food dehydrators since I mentioned them yesterday.

The basic idea of a food dehydrator is to dry food for preservation purposes. Some models are vertical and have a fan either on the top or the bottom of the unit with the trays stacked over or under the fan. The horizontal models feature a fan at the back of the unit that blows fan over the trays.

I grew up with my mom using a dehydrator to make everything from beef jerky and dried fruit to fruit leather (think home-made fruit rollups.) Her dehydrator was the horizontal model with two separate units stacked on top of each other and a wood butcher block top. On wheels, it was perfectly sized to fit at the end of the kitchen counter or double as an extra piece of counter top. I have no idea where she got it or the brand name. She’s had it for over 30 years and it still runs like a dream. I want it when she dies lol.

So to go back to discussing what I use for dehydration… Once upon a time I used a little round food dehydrator that I can’t even remember the brand of. What I will say is that I used it once, hated it, never used it again. There were a couple of reasons I hated it… 1. the round trays were SMALL and not designed to hold large pieces. So if I wanted to dry strips of something, it wasn’t going to happen. 2. while the fan moved the air, it did NOT heat the air. By using unheated air, the drying process was incredibly slow which is bad when working with something like jerky which can spoil quickly. So when I decided to get serious about dehydration about four years ago, I bought a MUCH better dehydrator.

I own an Excalibur 3900 horizontal dehydrator. I LOVE this machine. It’s got 9 trays that pull out and total about 15 square feet of drying space. This model does not have a timer (available on newer models) but it has a nice thermostat and does a good job of providing even heating. I’ve included a picture although mine is solid black. The reasons I love this machine are basically the reasons I hated the other machine. The large horizontal racks allow plenty of space for large items, such as zucchini or beef jerky slices. The thermostat heats the air and improves both drying time and drying quality. You also don’t have to worry about food poisoning from jerky that took too long to dry. (This isn’t such a problem in dry climates but is difficult in humid ones.)

You might be wondering what I’ve made using this nifty kitchen gadget… The most popular is beef jerky. I don’t know anyone (other than those poor vegetarian/vegan people out there) who doesn’t like beef jerky. It makes great gifts too. Stick a batch in a plastic bag, stick a bow on it and people are happy for hours (even days if they can manage not to eat the jerky all at once.) I’ve also dried fruit and made tomato leather.

I suspect you just blinked at the idea of “tomato leather.” If you take your tomatoes, puree them, add some seasoning and spread the mix on (the solid sheets you can get) racks in the machine, you can create a dried tomato paste. It’s a fabulous way to add tomato flavor to soups, stews, rice pilaf, etc without adding any extra liquid. The flavor becomes very concentrated and gives a gorgeous tomato flavor to food. This is also a good way to preserve the flavor of your summer home-grown tomatoes. I love tomatoes and always plant a ton of the each year. This year I have something like 9 plants producing and expect to have an insane number of tomatoes to process shortly. πŸ™‚

So now that you know a little (very little lol) about dehydration, I’m going to go eat some of that leftover lasagna πŸ˜€

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Low-Carb Lasagna

When my husband and I went on Atkin’s last year I had to start coming up with meals that were filling and tasty yet didn’t involve pasta, bread, potatoes and other high carb foods. I was seriously missing lasagna!

After thinking about it for awhile I had the idea to use slices of zucchini in place of the pasta. It’s filling, it tastes like lasagna, it has the texture of lasagna, and it doesn’t have any pasta in it! I will mention that like any good home made lasagna, this takes awhile to assemble.

The reason I love lasagna so much is because it allows you to build layers of flavor that create a whole that is more than the sum of its parts. The mushrooms are cooked and create their own flavor. The ground beef is a layer of flavor, the sauce adds more depth and the cheese mixture is even more flavor. I also like how versatile a lasagna can be. You can use white sauce, red sauce, beef, veal, lamb, or pork. Give me some time and I can come up with half a dozen completely different lasagna recipes πŸ˜€

As an experiment today I dried drying out the zucchini in the food dehydrator (yes, I have every kitchen gadget known to man, except a potato ricer for some reason.) This was not a success. I think I over dried the zucchini. It wasn’t well balanced by the amount of cheese and sauce. So for the time being, I will continue roasting the zucchini in the oven and just deal with it being a little watery. (Jene says it’s just fine and he loves it lol. Maybe I’ll play more in the future.)

Recipe

2 lbs ground beef
1 onion- chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 jars favorite spaghetti sauce
2 lbs slices mushrooms (I’ve used chanterelle and crimini mushrooms when I can get them. Today it was baby portabello mushrooms.)
Large zucchini, peeled and sliced lengthwise, about 1/4 inch thick. (A mandolin is a huge help)
32 oz ricotta cheese
32 oz cottage cheese
Roughly 2 lbs of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup julienned sun dried tomatoes
favorite italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 500F. In a large pot brown the beef, onions and garlic. Add the spaghetti sauce and simmer over low while you cook the mushrooms.

In a large skillet melt about 3 TB of butter, add the sliced mushrooms and sautee until the water releases and cooks off. This can take up to 30 minutes and should be done over medium low heat to avoid scorching. Add the mushrooms to the sauce. (This is a chance to add another layer of flavor. I added some freeze dried shallots and a splash of white wine to the mushrooms as they cooked.)

While making the sauce, place the zucchini slices on a foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with PAM. (If you have a wire rack that fits your pan, this will help too.) Roast in the oven until the water starts to release and the bottoms of the slices start to brown. You’ll have to do this in batches which is why you use the foil. That way you can peel it off and have a fresh surface for the next batch. I can’t say exactly how many zucchini I used, about six that were 3-4 inches in diameter and 12 inches long. When I was slicing them I discarded the first and last cuts because they were too narrow. When the zucchini is done, reduce the oven to 350F.

Once you have the sauce and the zucchini done, mix together the ricotta, cottage cheese and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl. I added a bit of my favorite garlic seasoning but you can do just salt and pepper. You can also toss in a couple of handfuls of the mozzarella.

Finally, assemble the lasagna by putting a layer of sauce in the bottom of the pan then a layer of zucchini, a layer of cheese mixture, a layer of sauce.. repeat until you run out of sauce. The last layer on top of the zucchini should be the last of the sauce and a whole bunch of shredded mozzarella. You can also use the cheese mixture under the shredded cheese if you have some left over.

Bake at 350 for about 45-60 minutes or until the top of the cheese is melty and brown and the edges are bubbly.

The lasagna can be made a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator, just remember that the baking time will be much longer because it’s cold all the way through.

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Greek-Style Chicken

Last night Jene and I were watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. We hate that show because it always makes us hungry. Yet I love that show because I get some great food ideas.

There was a diner in Philadelphia (I think) called The Dining Car. They did a greek-style baked half chicken that sounded fantastic. I have unabashedly stolen the recipe for dinner tonight.

Recipe

3 chicken leg/thigh quarter pieces

4 bone in chicken breasts

Shallot salt (available from Penzeys Spices. The restaurant used onion salt.)

Garlic powder

ground pepper (the restaurant uses white pepper, I used a blend of white and black.)

dried oregano

dried marjoram (my own addition. marjoram adds an extra depth to the oregano. they’re related but distinct herbs)

olive oil

lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place the chicken, skin side up in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet. (I didn’t have a big enough roasting pan so I used a baking sheet. I’ll have to watch to make sure the juices aren’t bubbling over as it bakes.)

I cut three lemons in half and squeezed the juice over the chicken. I tossed the squeezed halves into the pan around the chicken pieces.

Sprinkle with the seasonings. I don’t have measurements but it’s really kind of to your particular taste.

Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. This just adds a little extra flavor and helps the skin brown up. It’s only a little bit. Don’t drown the chicken, it’s dead already πŸ˜‰

Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 1.5 hours.

While at the farmer’s market this morning I also found some beautiful purple and orange cauliflowers. So as the side for tonight’s chicken I’m roasting the cauliflower. I posted the recipe earlier in this blog but you can find it again here. I just could not resist the beautiful colors. πŸ™‚ One of the biggest benefits of roasting the cauliflower is that the deep colors don’t fade. They come out just as bright as when they went in the oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The finished product was fabulous!

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