Monday, July 7, 2014

Funky Fondue for Frugal Foodies

An oldie but a goodie, how about a recipe for a foodie paradise that you not only won't have to be a culinary guru to compose, but it also won't take too much of a dent out of your pocketbook.

Originally published in Volume 46, Issue 7 of The Clackamas Print
"Eat, Print, Love: Funky Fondue for Frugal Foodies"
Written by Anna Axelson, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012

Black light posters, beaded curtains, art deco furniture and sitar music isn’t the only way to enjoy a retro classic meal of molten cheese, dippable delights and diners armed with long, tiny pronged forks. Nor is it required to trek out to Gustav’s or the Melting Pot, unless you truly feel like spending your hard earned financial aid dollars on a gourmet take and ambiance.
Funky Fondue
2-3 cans cheddar cheese soup
1-2 small blocks of cheese*
3-5 cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp mustard powder
salt and pepper (to taste)
milk (as needed)
Believe it or not, there’s an easy and affordable way to have your friends clamor around a warmed carafe of oozing goodness for an interactive entrĂ©e; luckily Eat, Print, Love is to the rescue with an amazingly easy recipe for you to give a taste.
*While any of the usual suspects will do swimmingly with this recipe (cheddar, Swiss, Monterey jack, mozzarella, pepper jack), it’s also a chance to pay a visit to somewhere like Grocery Outlet that occasionally features several less traditional cheeses at a cost considerably less than most local super markets such as havarti and feta.
Funky Fondue

French, rye and wheat bread,
pretzels, soft pretzels
crackers, chips, croutons
Lil’ Smokies, kielbasa, salami
carrots, cauliflower, celery
black olives
**“Dippables” refers to pretty much anything and everything you could possibly want to drown within your creamy, cheesy concoction.
In a midsize sauce pan or even a small slow cooker, free the cheddar cheese soup from its tin confines and slowly stir in roughly half a can of milk, garlic and mustard powder. Warm over medium heat – do not let it boil and stir frequently. Once the soup has warmed through, add roughly half the cheese (shredded or small cubes make the melting process easier) and continue stirring until cheese has reached creamy goodness.
Using the additional shredded or cubed cheese and balancing it with a tablespoon at a time of milk, stir until reaching a slight elasticity, adding more milk if it begins to resemble something more suiting to a pizza topping, and adding more cheese if it’s too thin to coat a spoon when dipped.
Using a small chunk of bread (best if left open for a few hours to get a little crispy and better able to withstand the drenching power of the dip), sample your brew, adding salt and pepper to taste.
At this point, it’s all about keeping it warm while people are chowing down. It’s time to transfer your molten mix into a classic fondue pot, traditionally either electric or perched above a candle or Sterno can. If using a slow cooker, the crock pot can easily just be transferred to the dining room table as a centerpiece and you’re good to go.
Break out the fondue forks and pile all your dippables into bowls, platters or straight from the package and let your friends loose.
Part of the fun of fondue is the convention, the rules. First, don’t double dip. Next, be mindful of dripping. Last and most important, don’t drop your dippable into the cheese (consequences may vary based on your social circle).

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Independence Day Traditions

Every morning my grandma used to get up, apply a fresh coat of lipstick, and while still in her pajamas and socks, step out onto the balcony to put out the American flag.

Throughout the day, the sea breeze coming in off the ocean would whip across the flag, casting dramatic shadows through the window until it succumbed to the wind's will and wrapped around the pole.  My grandma would then step back out onto the balcony to unwind it to let it flow free.

By dusk and back in her low cut white socks, she'd shuffle out onto the balcony and take down the flag, ever careful not to let it touch the ground as she wrapped it up and set it just inside the door, ready for the next day.

Homemade burgers with bacon and cheese,
served with tater tots baked in
the same tray as the bacon.  
The Fourth of July is a holiday you celebrate when you come from a patriotic family.  

It turns little things that could be an every day occurrence, into something nostalgic, special.

My grandma loved a good burger.  Piled high with all of the traditional burger toppings, her resulting creations always needed to be cut in half, simply to make it edible.  

She loved all things American, from the traditions, to the food, to the ideals.  She took pride in being an American, so this 4th, I couldn't help but show off a little of that pride that she instilled in me.

After beginning the day by putting out the American flag, our household celebrated the holiday with homemade burgers of my own creation.

Marie Calendar's Apple Pie
with Dryer's Slow Churned
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.
Accented with three forms of garlic (fresh, paste and powder), Jack Daniels barbecue sauce, and bound by Panko bread crumbs, these burgers (after earning a healthy char on the grill) were topped with slow oven baked bacon and mozzarella, jack and American cheeses, served with crispy tater tots lightly dusted with seasoned salt.

While I didn't pile my burger anywhere near as high as my grandma would have, I still think she would have been proud.

Beneath the window-shaking, dog-whimpering booms that come with the holiday, the meal ended with a classic apple pie, and slow churned vanilla bean ice cream (a common staple of my grandma's freezer).

It's hard to celebrate a holiday - especially one of her holidays - when she isn't just a phone call away, but I'm thankful for the traditions and the patriotic pride she instilled in me.

Happy 4th everyone, long live your traditions.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Pork Back Ribs With a Brown Sugar & Garlic Rub

The rub was a combination of vague knowledge and wild experimentation - but somehow it worked.  Not a thing was measured or recorded, so forgive the lack of a specifics or a recipe that I'd be able to share.  It began with a hefty helping of brown sugar, several cloves of garlic (minced and pressed with a pinch of freshly ground sea salt), dried parsley, oregano and chili flakes,  garlic powder, cumin, chili pepper, salt and pepper.  Stirred the whole lot into a paste with a drizzle of olive oil and slathered it over the ribs.
Into a preheated broiler those ribs went and after a few minutes on each side and a suitable char had caramelized the rub, we have the tasty meal you see before you.  The supporting characters in this show were home made garlic bread and a whiskey and coke.  Mmm, dig in!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Grilled Pastrami and Cheese

Grilled cheese at its finest.  Begin with a loaf of garlic sourdough bread (truly yummy, I suggest you look for it at your local grocery store).  Add thin deli sliced pastrami, mozzarella and mild cheddar cheese.  Cook like you would any grilled cheese, then let your friends drool over your culinary creation.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bacon Wrapped Pork Shoulder Steak

Proof that bacon in does in fact make everything better, I took an already tasty pork shoulder steaks and wrapped it in par cooked bacon and slow baked it in the oven.  Admittedly, the veggie pasta and curly fries originated from the freezer, but they were still a suitable accompaniment to a truly satisfying meal.