Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Make it Homemade: Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce

We happen to live in a state where the weather is nice almost year round, which is perfect since we are big on back yard grilling. One item that is a must have for a good barbecue is a tasty BBQ sauce. The shear amount of sauces for sale at the grocery store can be overwhelming and even within each brand you can find smoky, sweet, spicy, mild, home-style and the list goes on and on. Store bought sauces are great in a pinch, but we wanted a condiment that had all of the above components combined into one tasty sauce. 

To achieve what we were looking for in a great sauce, we started to make our own saucy condiments from scratch. After a bit of experimenting, we have found a couple of fantastic recipes that we have added our own touches to that have replaced any grocery store sauce you can find on the shelf. Is it more time consuming to make your own barbecue sauce then opening a store bought bottle? You bet, but you can't beat the rich and complex flavor profile of a homemade sauce along with being able to control the ingredients that go into it.

Today I'm sharing our Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce that we have been making over and over the past few years. We love serving it with pulled pork or using it as a  glaze on smoked ribs, but it is also tasty served with chicken or on a good burger. This flavorful topping has everything in it that we were looking for in a great BBQ sauce: sweetness, a hint of spiciness, a little smoke, a bit of tartness and most of all, lots of flavor.  Give it a try for yourself and see how easy and tasty this sauce can be on all of your grilled favorites and kick your grocery store sauces to the curb.

Dr. Pepper BBQ Sauce 
~makes 2 (16oz.) jars~

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup ketchup

3 tablespoons tomato paste
One 12-ounce can Dr. Pepper
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons ancho or New Mexican chili powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Sauté the onion and jalapeno pepper in the butter until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute, making sure not to burn the garlic. Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the flavors have blended. Continue cooking until the sauce begins to thicken, 20 to 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper if desired.

Let the sauce cool for about 10 minutes or until it is warm but no longer “boiling” hot. Puree with an immersion or traditional blender—this will make the sauce thicker. Let cool. Fill into cleaned jars. Store in the refrigerator.

Notes: The BBQ sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Slightly adapted from: Saveur 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

German Cucumber Salad (Gurkensalat)

When I was little, I wasn't a big fan of any salad that contained green lettuce leaves. I thought it tasted like grass and was better used as food for rabbits. I ate it, but many times it was very begrudgingly and only the smallest amount my mom would let me get away with. However, there was always one salad I didn't need convincing for and that was my mom's Gurkensalat (cucumber salad). I could happily eat a big bowl in one sitting without complaint.

Gurkensalat is as quintessential in Germany as Bratwurst, Sauerkraut or Schnitzel. Most families have a recipe that has been handed down from generation to generation with a few slight variations depending on the region in Germany. My love for this salad has only grown stronger over the years and I'm happy that my family loves it equally as well. In fact, this is one of my most requested recipes from friends who have tried it at our home. I've always told them "it's a little of this and a little of that", so I guess many of them will be happy that I've finally added it to my blog with a "real" recipe.

Cucumbers are mild and pretty neutral tasting, plus they are very refreshing, especially on a warm day. Making this salad doesn't require a lot of time, but there are a few key points to remember. I peel my cucumber and use a mandolin to get thin, even slices. Salting the cucumbers prior to adding the salad dressing helps remove some of the moisture and prevents the salad from being to watery. Fresh dill will really bring out the freshness in this salad, but in a pinch I've used dried dill before and it will work just fine, but in this case fresh is best. Last, but not least, while I use extra virgin olive oil for every other salad dressing or vinaigrette I make, for this salad I prefer a very neutral tasting oil like grapeseed oil which is a great healthy alternative.

This salad tastes best if it can "hang out" for about an hour before serving. It helps all the flavors meld together and makes it even more tasty. Gurkensalat is a great side dish for any grilled meat, but one of my favorite ways to eat it is the way my mom and grandma served it quite frequently, alongside some freshly made Käsespätzle (Cheese Spaetzle). I really hope you will give this recipe a try and that it becomes a family favorite of yours as well.

German Cucumber Salad (Gurkensalat)
~makes 4 servings~
(Print this recipe)

1 English Cucumber, peeled and finely sliced
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

For the dressing:
2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
2 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. spicy brown mustard
1 Tbsp. honey
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh chives, finely chopped

Peel and slice cucumber and place in a strainer over a bowl. Add 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, mix with the cucumbers and let sit for about 20 minutes to drain.

Meanwhile to make the dressing whisk oil, white vinegar, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, mustard and honey in a small bowl until emulsified. Whisk in sour cream, onions, dill and chives.

In a bowl add your drained cucumber and your prepared dressing. Combine and let sit for about 1 hour in the refrigerator before serving.

Notes: My mom taught me to peel the cucumber from the "flower to the stem" (top to bottom), this way if you have a bitter cucumber end you don't drag the bitterness across the entire cucumber.

Always taste both ends of your cucumber before using, there is nothing worse than a bitter cucumber ruining your salad.

I use a mix of white vinegar and apple cider vinegar for this salad. Over the years I have found that this mix comes pretty closely to the unique taste German vinegar has.

A Susi's Kochen und Backen Family Recipe

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Irish" Hot Pockets

When I was trying to come up with a fitting name for this post I had to think twice about including the words "hot pockets". After recent unflattering news about the frozen convenience food was everywhere I looked, I wasn't too sure if this was going to attract my readers attention or turn them away. Good news though, my hot pockets have nothing in common with their grocery store namesake and you can safely cook and enjoy them for your own family. ;-)

St. Patrick's Day has been one of those holiday's that my kids, no matter how old they get, always look forward to because of the delicious food. My youngest started asking a couple of weeks ago if I was going to fix my Glazed Corned Beef and Colcannon, while my sixteen year old is all about the Irish Soda Bread. While all of these favorites, along with my St. Patrick's Day Chia Seed Pudding will be making an appearance on St. Patrick's Day, I'm always thinking of some new and interesting recipes to add to my collection for the holiday.

The idea for these Hot Pockets came to me the other day while in the kitchen and I thought they would be a tasty addition to our St. Patrick's Day menu. The filling is a fairly simple combination of fried cabbage and corned beef. The meat can either be bought from the deli counter at your local supermarket or you can use leftover cooked corned beef. The cabbage mixture gets topped with a sprinkle of Dubliner Cheese and then everything gets encased in a flaky puff pastry crust. A quick bake in the oven and you are all set with the tastiest hot pockets you've ever had. 

A homemade thousand island dipping sauce for the baked pastries adds the final touch, but if you prefer, mustard is also wonderful served alongside. The finished pockets are a great addition to any St. Patrick's Day celebration. Make them as appetizers for a party or simply add a salad on the side for a filling meal. If it's any indication, my boys inhaled them in 5 minutes flat and proclaimed they had a new St. Patrick's Day favorite.

"Irish" Hot Pockets
~makes 12 pockets~
(Print this recipe)

For the filling:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 oz. corned beef, finely cubed (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1/2 head green cabbage, chopped (about 4 cups)
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 pinch white sugar
Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

For the pockets:
3 sheets puff pastry, thawed (1 1/2 boxes)
Prepared cabbage filling (see above)
3 oz. Dubliner cheese, finely grated
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. water for egg-wash
Flour for work surface
Thousand Island Dipping Sauce (Recipe to follow)

For the filling: In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the cubed corned beef and saute until slightly crispy and golden brown. 

Add the onions. Cook for 1 minute, then add the cabbage along with water, vinegar, and sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until cabbage wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and set mixture aside to cool.

For the pockets: Pre-heat oven to 375 ° F. Line three baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper. 

Flour your work surface. Carefully unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Roll into a 10x12-inch rectangle. Using a ruler, cut the rectangle in half (you should now have two 5x12-inch rectangles), then cut each of those rectangles into 4 equal pieces, leaving you with eight 3x5-inch rectangles.

Place 4 rectangles on one of your prepared baking sheets. Add 2 scant tablespoons of the prepared cabbage filling right down the middle of your rectangles leaving about 1/4 inch all the way around, making sure not to over fill. Top the filling with a pinch of the grated cheese.

Brush all 4 edges of each rectangle with your prepared egg-wash. Place the remaining puff pastry rectangles on top and using a fork seal all the edges by crimping all the way around.

Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator while you work on the second and third sheet of puff pastry in the same manner. Place all the finished  pockets in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before proceeding.

Remove baking sheets one at a time from fridge and brush tops of the pockets with remaining egg wash. With a sharp knife, carefully cut 3 small vents in each pocket. Bake in your pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes (rotating once) or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving them with the Thousand Island Dipping Sauce.

Notes: I asked for a couple of slices of 1/4-inch corned beef at my deli, but leftover cooked corned beef would be equally wonderful.

The filling can be made a day ahead of time. Keep it in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the hot pockets.

I used Dubliner Cheese from Kerrygold. The flavor is reminiscent of cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan. If you can't find it, Swiss, Gruyere or a sharp white cheddar will also work.

The baked pockets are best eaten the same day and taste best right out of the oven (after a quick cooling time so you don't scorch the skin in your mouth. Trust me, I've been there).

The thousand island dipping sauce can also be made a day ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.

 A Susi's Kochen und Backen Original Recipe 

Homemade Thousand Island Dipping Sauce
~makes about 3/4 cup~
(Print this Recipe)

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain (2%) Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. Ketchup
2 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
1 Tbsp. red onion, finely diced
1 tsp. white vinegar
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
2-3 dashes Hot sauce (optional)

Add all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Taste and add additional salt if desired. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld.

Sauce slightly adapted from: Kitchen Treaty

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Chia Seed Pudding

I feel like I'm always a day late and a dollar short when it comes to food fads. What's in today, is out tomorrow. There has been a cupcake craze, the bacon craze, kale and green smoothies everywhere and the list goes on and on. Chia seeds have been around for quite a while, but I'm a novice when it comes to this ingredient.

I've known of chia seeds since I was little and chia pets made regular appearances in commercials. I did own a couple of them over the years and let me tell you, they never worked for me like they did on TV (#majorfail). So yes, I knew about chia, but it never crossed my mind to eat them. 

For the last year or so, I've seen more and more recipes including these little seeds pop up all over the internet and they began to peak my interest. I started to do some research on them and to my surprise they are a super food. Who knew that these little buggers are chock full of Omega 3, can balance your blood sugar, keep you full longer, add age-defying anti oxidants as well as many other health benefits.  Color me impressed!

So I figured I'll "ease" into it by starting with a fairly basic recipe for Chia Seed Pudding. There are a lot of recipes for this, but the gist is pretty much the same. Almond milk, yogurt, some kind of natural sweetener and of course chia seeds. Mix it up and let it sit overnight. The seeds do their magic thing after a few hours and you have this amazing concoction that is incredibly tasty on top of being healthy.

With St. Patrick's Day only a couple of weeks away I decided to add a little whimsy by matching my fruit topping to the colors of the Irish Flag. Kiwis, bananas and mandarin oranges along with a few toasted almonds for added crunch completed the pudding. The verdict: So freaking good! I think I have a new breakfast favorite and I can't wait to make this again. What a great way to wake up your family on St. Patrick's Day with this healthy breakfast.

St. Patrick's Day Chia Seed Pudding
~makes 4 servings~
(Print this Recipe)

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup plain (2 percent) Greek Yogurt 
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 cup chia seeds
3 small kiwis, peeled and chopped
1 large banana, peeled and cut into slices
1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges (no sugar added), drained
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 tsp. pure maple syrup

In a medium bowl, gently whisk the almond milk, yogurt, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, the vanilla extract and the 1/8 teaspoon of salt until just blended. Whisk in the chia seeds; let stand 30 minutes. Stir to distribute the seeds if they have settled. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, in a small bowl, toss the toasted almonds with 2  teaspoons maple syrup. Set aside. Spoon the pudding into 4 glasses or bowls. Top with kiwis, bananas, and mandarin oranges.  Mound the almonds on top and serve.

Slightly adapted from: Giada De Laurentiis


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