Thursday Recipe Exchange: Chipotle Macaroni Salad

(Photo by JeffreyW)
From our Food Goddess, TaMara (who added a postscript to her email this afternoon: “At the moment it’s actually raining, don’t know yet if it’s enough to help the fire fight – but couldn’t hurt.”)

What a week. The Colorado wildfires became personal again, as my office was smack in the middle of an evacuation zone. The authorities never had to make it mandatory and as I write this, that fire is well contained. Add to that, one of the guys I work with was in a horrible motorcycle accident at the beginning of the week and that shook us all up. I was ready for the week to be over sometime around Tuesday night, so I’m grateful it’s Thursday and the weekend is within sprinting distance. Even happier that Independence Day is around the corner

Since I love July 4th, I have quite a few recipes that celebrate it with great picnic foods. All 21 of them can be found at this link. There is quite a variety: fancy appetizers; cold salads; grilling ideas; fun desserts; and even cold drinks. There is also an entire post of potato salad recipes from Balloon-Juicers.

I really like tonight’s featured recipe. It was a huge hit last year at the July 4th picnic. I’m actually making it right now for a going away party, that’s how it became tonight’s recipe.

All right, now it’s your turn, what are your favorite foods on July 4th? Are you all-American with burgers and dogs or something more sophisticated? Share your favorites in the comments and we can all argue about it, good-naturedly of course.

Tonight’s featured recipe:

Chipotle Macaroni Salad

Chipotle Mayonnaise:
1 cup mayonnaise
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1 tbsp limejuice

Mix together ingredients and set aside while macaroni cooks.

Macaroni Salad:
1 lb elbow macaroni
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 stalk celery, minced
4 green onions, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp minced parsley
8 oz cubed sharp cheddar cheese
4 thick cut bacon strips, cooked and crumbled (optional)
1 cup chipotle mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring water to a boil, add 1 tsp salt and macaroni. Cook until al dente (firm to tooth). Immediately drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Do not drain well, allow macaroni to stay wet, remove to bowl. Immediately add garlic, celery, onion, parsley and lemon juice and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in cheddar cheese, bacon and chipotle mayonnaise. Salt and pepper to taste. Allow to chill 15 – 30 minutes. Serves 8-10.

Just a note: There will be no recipe exchange next Thursday, we’ll pick up again on July 12th.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Blueberry Pie

Not bad for my first pastry crust pie. My fluting could use some work.
From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

In a previous post I wrote about making my first pie crust. To recap, I’d never made one before and never wanted to. Years of hearing friends and relatives lament their tough, tasteless crust, instilled an unreasonable fear that I was unable to overcome. Then two (!) years ago, my friend Alton (not that one) wrote on his blog about a book he was reading called Ratios. In it the author broke down recipes by their ratios, saying this provided for foolproof cooking. Al posted the perfect pastry crust ratio (found here) and I thought, “I can do that”. Then two years passed and still no pies.

When I finally took the plunge, it was so successful (I made turnovers) I decided it was time to jump off the high board and make my first pastry crust pie. I chose my favorite fruit pie, blueberry. I have never been so nervous making a recipe, ever. In the end I think it turned out ok. My fluting needs some finesse, but I was so intimidated, I’m just lucky it wasn’t big lumps on the side of the pie plate.

The only change I would make would be to up my ingredients to 2 cups of flour and work my ratios from that point. My pie plate seemed a bit too big for the crust I had – it’s a 9 inch pie plate, technically, but the fluted edge is very wide. The filling turned out just right, which with blueberries can be a challenge, sometimes runny, but I think I found a good balance between the berries I cooked and the fresh berries I added. I think in all, it wasn’t a bad first attempt and I have gotten past my pastry fear and will do it again.

What’s your favorite type of pie? Do you struggle with crusts or do you have a favorite, foolproof recipe? Anyone try Alton Brown’s vodka crust?
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Thursday Recipe Exchange – Cold Soups

From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

Things are still quite smokey here. The fire is about 40 miles north of here and depending on the wind we can get a heavy covering of thick smoke. Between the heat and the smoke, I have not felt like cooking. So I was glad cold soups were on the menu this week. I can get behind that.

I have quite few cold soups on the blog. If you click here on Cold Soups, you’ll find all of them. Tonight I’ll feature a Creamy Gazpacho and Cucumber Tomato Soup.

Creamy Gazpacho
6 medium, ripe tomatoes, cored
1 large cucumber, peeled, halved, and seeded (I used an English cucumber)
1 medium green bell pepper , halved, cored and seeded
6 green onions, roots removed
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 small serrano chile , stemmed and halved lengthwise
1 small jalapeno, stemmed and halved lenghthwise
1/4 green chili, stemmed and halved
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
1 slice thick white bread, crusted removed, broken in pieces
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Dash of limejuice
2 cups water or salt-free vegetable broth
2 tbsp finely minced chives or cilantro (I did a little mix of the two)
Ground black pepper

Chop 5 of the tomatoes, half of cucumber, half of bell pepper, and all but two of the onions into large pieces (you’ll be blending, so no need to go all crazy here) and place in large bowl. Add garlic, chilies, and 1 teaspoon salt; toss until well combined. Set aside for at least 1 hour.

Finely dice remaining tomato, cucumber, and pepper, place vegetables in medium bowl. Mince remaining onion and add to diced vegetables. Toss with 1/4 tsp salt and transfer to a strainer set over medium bowl. Set aside 1 hour.

Transfer drained finely diced vegetables back to medium bowl, cover tightly and set aside. Add bread pieces to exuded liquid (there should be about ¼ cup) and soak 1 minute. Add soaked bread and any remaining liquid to roughly chopped vegetables and toss thoroughly to combine.

Transfer roughly chopped vegetables and water to a blender and blend until smooth, you may have to do this in two batches. Slowly drizzle in oil while blending, blend until smooth. You can run the entire thing through a strainer (use the back of spoon to press through) if you want it to be completely smooth. Full disclosure, I neither peel or seed my tomatoes and as you can imagine, I didn’t strain my soup.

Stir vinegar, minced herb, limejuice, and half of diced vegetables into soup and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate (you can do this overnight) to chill completely and develop flavors. Serve with remaining diced vegetables as garnish.

For the Cucumber Tomato Cold Soup, click here. It’s a very pretty soup that makes a great first course at your next BBQ.

Thursday Recipe Exchange – Grilled Chicken

From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

I had a request to do some grilling and picnic recipes for the next few weeks (thanks Yutsano). We’ll traverse the table: meats, vegetables, side dishes and desserts. By July 4th we should be covered.

Tonight we’ll start with grilling chicken. I have a stockpile of marinade and grilling recipes for chicken breasts. I may be in the minority, but when it comes to many chicken dishes, including bbq and fried chicken, I prefer thighs. They have more flavor and are moister. The introduction of boneless thighs was like a culinary miracle as far as I was concerned.

When I am using marinades, though, I actually prefer boneless breasts. Similar to pork loin, they take on whatever flavors are introduced and cook up quickly. When using a marinade, I think their blandness proves more of an asset than a deficit; they are kind of like a blank canvas for introducing flavors.

And for busy weeknights, nothing is quicker and easier than pulling marinated chicken breasts out of the refrigerator, doing a quick stir-fry or grilling them and serving with rice and a salad. I have three recipes to get us started:

Cranberry Grilled Chicken (recipe here) is one of my favorites and anyone who has read this blog, knows I LOVE cranberries.

And Sunrise Chicken (recipe here) is a great citrus based marinade.

Tonight’s feature recipe is a marinade that is meant for grilling. Grilling gives the marinated breasts a nice crust. It can also be used on pork loin or boneless pork chops, though I prefer apple cider or cranberry juice to the grape juice in that case.

So what do you look forward to the most at a picnic? What’s your favorite thing to grill?

Fruit Juice Marinated Chicken Breasts
4 chicken boneless breasts
½ cup grape or cranberry juice
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup wine
2 tsp crushed garlic
zip lock bag or sealed container

Add all ingredients into zip lock bag and thoroughly coat & let marinate overnight. Grill 15 minutes each side, 165 degrees internal temp.

When grilling, to avoid drying chicken out, sear on each side (about 5 minutes each side), cook 5 additional minutes for each side, baste with marinade if desired, then move away from high heat for rest of the cooking time. The thickness of the chicken breasts makes a difference here, so adjust accordingly.

You’ re on your own tonight. I’ve been asked to film a drumming on Sunday and tonight is going to be a trial run. Should be fun.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Strawberries

(Photo by JeffreyW)

From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

Strawberries won out as our ingredient this week. They looked too good to pass up when I was shopping. And just when did cream get so expensive? I practically had to take out a loan to get a quart. I do love this time of year as the farmer’s market and grocery stores fill up with local fresh vegetables and fruits. With fresh fruit, my first choice it to just eat them. I mean why spoil a perfect fruit? But then it’s time to have some fun with them – cakes, ice cream, cobblers. Tonight’s recipes are all about the strawberries.

Strawberry Bread (recipe found here) became a recipe when I did what I always seem to do during fresh strawberry season, buy too many strawberries. Before I can finish them, they are overripe. The bread is much like banana bread, it does best with very overripe fruit and wow, does it pack a powerful strawberry flavor. And it’s not too sweet because I don’t like to overwhelm the tart goodness of the strawberries.

Tonight’s other treat is a variation on the recipe JeffreyW used in the picture above. I made it yesterday and thought it was the best shortcake I’ve ever made – really light and fluffy.

I’ll be honest, I prefer pre-made sour cream angel food cake with my strawberries. My local grocery bakery has them on sale this time of year, and I can’t make it better. Oh, let’s face it, I’ve never made a successful angel food cake, ever. Sigh. But for a homemade dessert, this shortcake would be my choice. Couldn’t be easier to make and tastes wonderful.

The cake is not terribly sweet which I prefer and I cut down the sugar on the strawberries by 1 tablespoon, because I prefer them tart. I can’t omit the sugar completely because you need sugar to bring the juices out of the berries, essential for strawberry shortcake. So you may want to adjust the sugar up or down according to your preference. Additional sugar in the cake will not affect how it bakes up.

What’s your favorite way to serve strawberries? Has anyone made a real Parisian strawberry tart? And more importantly, what are you weekend food plans?

Strawberry Shortcake
2 pints of strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
5 to 7 tbsp sugar
2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups heavy cream (you can substitute 3/4 cup milk and 1/3 cup butter)
Whipped Cream (recipe below)
2 Mixing bowls
8×8 glass baking dish or baking sheet

Mix strawberries with 3 tablespoons sugar (I only used 2 tbsp, see note above) and set aside for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
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Thursday Recipe Exchange – Potatoes

From our Food Goodess, TaMara:

I’m ready for this week to be done. Time for some weekend. It is supposed to rain which may impact my cycling, but we need the rain, as several areas are on fire. So I won’t whine and will find other ways to enjoy the days off. I’m seeing The Avengers tomorrow and no big plans otherwise.

I may finish Wiley Cash’s book, A Land More Kind than Home. I’m about halfway through. I love this book and the only reason I didn’t finish it in one sitting is I want to savor every chapter. Thanks for the recommendation John Cole.

Nothing exciting on the cooking front this week, but I did go out to dinner earlier this week and had an Indian Bread Taco that was amazing. I doubt I could recreate it, but if anyone has a good recipe, I’d love it if you’d share it.

Glad to hear frequent recipe contributor, Joshua D. (aka:Yutsano) had successful surgery today. Maybe he’ll have time to cook some good stuff while he recuperates.

Okay, on to tonight’s ingredients: potatoes. I have three recipes for you, Grilled Sweet Peppers and Potatoes, Roasted Smashed Potatoes, and a fool-proof Baked Potato with Roasted Garlic Butter below. If none of those are what you’re looking for, I just checked and we have over 20 potato recipes, you’ll probably find at least one.

This method results in excellent baked potatoes that have a crisp, flavorful skin and tender, fluffy potato. Top with roasted garlic butter for a perfect side. If you’re wondering about the skewers, they transfer heat throughout, so they cook quicker and don’t seem to dry out. Always fluffy. Skewering works really well with sweet potatoes, too.

Baked Potatoes with Roasted Garlic Butter
4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed and driedolive oil
2 to 4 metal skewers

1 or 2 large head of garlic
olive oil
1 to 2 sprigs of rosemary, minced
4 to 8 tbsp of butter

Skewer each potato (depending on the size of the skewer you can sometimes get 2 on it, leaving room between potatoes). Rub oil liberally on potatoes and then coat with a light layer of salt. Bake at 450 degrees for 30-45 minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, peel white paper skin from garlic and slice off 1/4 inch off the top. Coat well in olive oil, place in a small baking dish (I saw a great recommendation making several and using a 6-cup muffin tin). Cover with foil and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cloves are soft when pierced. (Of course you can use a garlic roaster if you have one)

Once garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze cloves out of their skins. Using a fork, mash garlic, butter, pinch of salt and minced rosemary to smooth paste. Serve with potatoes.

What’s on your weekend menu? And if you have recipe requests, let me know. I’m thinking strawberries or ziti next week, I haven’t decided yet.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Steak with Coffee Rub

JeffreyW’s Loaded Baked Potato would be great with Coffee Rubbed Steak

From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

It’s another one of those Colorado weeks where it’s impossible not to want to be outside all day. Beautiful, warm spring weather, the flowering locusts are in full splendor making my evening bike rides fragrant and still cool enough at night to need a blanket…or a cat…or several. I’m halfway through my horseback riding lessons, I’m finally comfortable with my posting trot, but feel like my major accomplishment is being able to adjust my stirrups from the saddle. I also managed to get my deck flower pots planted, though I always want more than I have space for, I’m satisfied with what I’ve done for this season. It is definitely outdoor season here. What’s on your weekend agenda? Planning on grilling for Mother’s Day? What is your favorite food item to grill?

In honor of the great weather, I thought tonight should be about grilling. Steak to be specific. This rub is a favorite of a couple of readers, so I thought it was a good time to repeat it. This can be used with any cut of steak, though I originally had it on rib eye. It’s too heavy to use on poultry or white fish, but I would be tempted to try on swordfish or maybe salmon. Easy to do and adds a real dramatic flavor.

Steak with Coffee Rub

3 tbsp chili powder (talking the good stuff here, pure ancho or a blend)
3 tbsp finely ground coffee (espresso works best)
1 ½ tbsp paprika (again, you want a good one)
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1 to 1-1/2 lb of steak (rib-eye, sirloin, NY strip, etc) in 4 thick pieces

Mix together all spices. Lightly rub each steak with oil and then coat liberally on both sides with coffee rub. Now you can cook in a pre-heated skillet on medium-high heat, 5 to 7 minutes each side for medium rare. You can broil in the oven, using the second slot down from broiler, for 5 minutes each side, again for rare to medium rare, longer for medium. You can grill them outside. Cooking times will vary depending on which steak cut you choose, so watch carefully and you’ll probably have to use a meat thermometer to really judge, because the rub makes it a little harder to eyeball it. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.