Tuesday, February 22, 2011

bacon waffles with peanut butter maple sauce

This year marks 15 years that I've been with my company. For this milestone they gave me a catalogue of prizes to choose from. I chose to get a gift card. With that gift card I got a WAFFLE MAKER! I love waffles. Whenever I stay in hotels, the first thing I as is "Does your breakfast include waffles?" Hotel waffles are one of my favorite foods. So I've been wanting a waffle iron forever, I just needed a good excuse to splurge on one. I bought a cheapy one a few years ago, but got my money's worth and I threw it out after 3 uses. So disappointing. This new one should make me much more happy.

I initiated my waffle make into Iron Stef kitchen by making bacon waffles. Since it was a late night and I am new at making waffles, I opted to use a waffle mix, and just replaced some of the oil with bacon grease and added crumbled bacon. I topped them with a syrup/sauce made with a combo of peanut butter (2 parts), maple syrup (1 part) and water (at least 3 parts.) Basically you just microwave the 3 together for about 30 seconds, stir until combined, and add more water if necessary to make it pourable.

So yeah... no recipe required.

Speaking of recipes, I'd love to hear your favorite waffle ones!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

taco sensei?

I work for a grocery store chained based in St. Louis called Schnucks (out-of-towners seem to think this is a funny name...). I am a graphic designer, but the company has been really good the past few years encouraging ALL of it's employees to become "food experts." One way they help is by offering free classes to us, usually taught by co-workers or vendors. I've been to many of these classes, and I think it's such a great perk.

People at work are aware of my blog... in fact they gave me a special award for my enthusiasm towards food knowledge/learning. So, whenever I am in one of these classes, people suggest that I teach a class. Yikes. Well, I finally decided to try it out. I picked tacos as my subject matter. Because, well, tacos rule... they are easy, flavorful, ethnic, versatile... I figured I could talk about tacos enough to occupy people for a while.

This was my helper, Walter the Geico caveman. I brought him from my cube to show the class that tacos are so easy... you know. :)

I made 4 tacos... Carnitas, shrimp, veggie and beef/bean fried tacos. The recipes all follow. The class went okay. I enjoyed the cooking and prepping more than the public speaking part, but I spazzed, mumbled and rambled my way through for an hour and a half. It was nerve-racking, but I am glad I did it. I think people at least learned some tidbits. Plus? They got to eat 4 of my favorite tacos.

Carnitas Tacos

-1 4-Lb. pork shoulder roast
-1 medium onion, roughly chopped
-6 cloves garlic, peeled
-2 pieces smoked pork neck
-1 Tablespoon Cumin
-1 Tablespoon garlic powder
-2 teaspoons onion powder
-1 Tablespoon oregano
-2 teaspoon cinnamon
-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
-2 teaspoons coriander
-salt & pepper

Heat up a couple Tablespoons of oil in a skillet. When skillet is hot, sear the pork
on all sides. Let cool a bit. Combine all the spices and rub them all over pork.
Place pork, onion, garlic and pork necks in a crock pot with about ½ cup of water.
Cook on low for about 10 hours. Remove from crock pot and let cool enough so
that you can handle it. Using 2 forks, shred the pork into bite-size strips. Lay pork
pieces out on a sheet pan or a glass baking dish, and cook in a pre-heated 450ºF
oven until the edges get crispy, about 10 minutes. Serve on 2 warmed corn tortillas
with chopped white onion, cilantro and a squirt of fresh lime.

Jicama-Mango Slaw for the shrimp tacos.

Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Jicama-Mango Slaw... Recipe here.

Vegetable tacos with Hominy.... mmmmm... these were a surprise hit!
Zucchini Mushroom Hominy Tacos

-1 tablespoon vegetable oil
-1 white onion, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 cup fresh mushrooms, roughly chopped
-15 ounce can diced tomatoes
-1 chipotle pepper from a can plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of its sauce, finely minced
-3/4 pound zucchini, trimmed and chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
[feel most free to add/substitute other vegetables]
-15 ounce can hominy, drained and rinsed
-Salt to taste
-8 tortillas, warmed if desired
-4 ounces crumbled Mexican queso fresco (or feta or goat cheese or sour cream)
-Fresh cilantro, chopped

In a skillet, heat the oil til shimmery. Add the onion and sauté until softening
and beginning to brown, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often until
beginning to soften.

Add the tomatoes and chipotle to skillet and let cook down a bit, until the
consistency of tomato sauce. Stir in the zucchini and any other vegetables.
Season to taste.

Divide mixture among 8 tacos, top with queso fresco and cilantro.
Serve immediately.

Toppings for fried tacos. Stole this idea from Kelly.
Fried Tacos

1 lb. ground beef
1 can refried beans
1 package taco seasoning
flour tortillas
oil for frying
toppings (cheese, lettuce, pico de gallo, tomatoes, olives, sour cream… etc.)

Cook beef and seasoning according to the directions on the taco seasoning package.
Add refried beans and combine. Put about 3 Tablespoons of the filling into each tortilla and
fold over. Fry in a skillet filled with a shallow layer of oil until golden brown on each side.
Fill with cheese and whatever toppings you like.

The "fried tacos" were cooked by a friend ahead of time, and were more grilled than fried... still a crowd pleaser this way. They are supposed to be crispier and more golden brown... we just didn't use much oil for these.


I did not make these in class, but I gave everyone the recipe. LOVE this margarita recipe... it tastes great, and will knock you on your arse if you're not careful :)

Killer Margaritas
1 can minute made limeade, 3 cans water, 1 can fresh squeezed lime juice +
key lime juice from a bottle, 1 can tequila, 1 can triple sec...this makes a nice
big pitcher and packs a good punch. Rim your glass with a mixture of kosher salt
and lime zest. Serve on the rocks!

I added this bonus recipe for fun. I didn't make them in class, but everyone wished I had. The idea came from my Bro-in-law Josh. Josh is a circus performer.... juggler, magician, clown, general feats of ridiculousness-doer. He also likes to cook. He had a video of himself making these Smacos at his delightful one-man show, "Jadoo", as a way to keep the audience entertained while he set up to do his "Chef" character (see video). Part s'more (one of my favorite foods!) part taco, these are a silly little dessert that kids would have fun helping with.


-flour tortillas
-chocolate chips
-mini marshmallows.

Place a tortilla in a hot skillet or griddle that coated with oil or non-stick spray. Sprinkle
some chocolate chips on one side of the tortilla, along with some marshmallows. Fold the
tortilla over the fillings. Cook until golden and crispy on one side then flip and cook until
both sides are golden.

So there we have it. My first teaching gig. Not a rousing success, but a fun learning experience. Mmmmm.... tacos.

Here's some more taco posts:

breakfast tacos with tamatillo-bacon salsa

pork tacos with green tomato salsa

the infamous tater tot tacos

chorizo, egg & raisin tacos

fish tacos with all the fixin's

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

coconut peanut soup

Temperatures here in St. Louis have been frigid... most mornings are in the single digits. Blech. We have not seen grass or non-salty sidewalks in weeks, it seems like. I needed a good, hearty soup to warm my tummy and my soul. This soup totally does the trick. It is warm, substantial and just spicy enough. It's even the better the next day!

Coconut Peanut Soup

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, cut into bite-size pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
2 green chiles, finely chopped
2 carrots, sliced
1 Tablespoon grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3 Tablespoons fish sauce
2 Tablespoons sriracha sauce
4 cups vegetable broth
1 can lite coconut milk
1 cup peanut butter
1 can garbonzo beans
juice from 3 limes
1 block firm tofu, pressed then cut into cubes
handful of cilantro, chopped

Cook the onions, pepper, chiles, garlic, ginger and carrots in the olive oil until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the spices, fish sauce and sriracha, and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, coconut milk, peanut butter, garbonzos and lime juice and stir to combine. bring to a slight simmer and cook, covered, for about 1 hour. 30 minutes into that hour, add the tofu. Taste for seasoning... add more fish sauce or some salt if needed. Add cilantro just before serving. Serve with more cilantro and a lime wedge.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

web award?!?! awww shucks!

Oh man, you guys. What an exciting couple of weeks this has been for little 'ol me. You see, last week I won Best Food Blog in St. Louis, according to our local news/arts/entertainment paper, The Riverfront Times. While I certainly don't do this blog for fame and fortune, it made me so very very happy and giddy to win this. It's amazing to be recognized by your peers for something you love doing and put effort into. I love food. I love this blog and what it's brought into my life... fun, adventure, discovery and, mainly, friends.

That's right, as it says in the RFT write-up (which is super sweet, btw... I'm so flattered by it!), the thing that drives me most about blogging and social media is the sense of community I get, and all the new people I get to interact with. Some of my very best friends are in my life because of these here internets!

FBM reprezentin' at the Web Awards party

Obviously there's my awesome Food Blog Mafia ladies. Love them! 2 of them, Kelly and Kelli, were also nominated in the RFT web awards.... Kelli for Personal Blog and Kelly was my opponent in the Food Blog category. Annie was not nominated... for shame! She is seriously one of my heroes... smart, funny and generous. Also nominated in my Category were my good buddies Andrew Veety and Mike Sweeney. Andrew is the dude who gave birth to the Church of Burger, which I was honored to be a part of. Sweeney's contribution to St. Louis craft beer scene is legendary and very significant, with his blog STL Hops. Also in the Food Blog Category was Stephanie, who's restaurant review blog, Off The Eaten Path is relatively new. I actually got to meet Steph the night after the awards when Kelly and I went to dinner with some of the areas newest food bloggers.

Missing from the Food Blog category, strangely enough was Stef, who's blog Cupcake Project is a huge inspiration for me and has been for years. Stef and her husband Jonathan hosted one of the very first food blogger meet ups at their house years ago... one of the first times I really felt that warm sense of community. Stef's blog was nominated in the personal category, which I guess makes sense also, because it is fun to read the stories of her life that come through when she's going through the cupcake creation process.

I also have to give a shout out to my friends at the best music blog winning I Went To A Show. I go to a lot of the same shows as them (usually on their recommendations), and they are some friendly, fun, talented people who have phenomenal taste in music. Congrats, Jess, Annie, Dave and Julie!! Rock on.

Another shout out to one of my favorite people in the world, Eric Ketzer, who won a web award along with his team for the work they do for Charter communications. Charter gets a lot of flack for customer service, and it's Eric's job to fix that using social media. He's doing a great job, obviosuly.

I also should thank my employer, Schnucks, for whom I design point-of-sale signs and materials. In the past few years they have really been encouraging their employees to learn all they can about food and the food community. They put out a reading list of food books, offer free evening classes on cooking, wine, beer, etc. here at the office, and give out awards to those of us who strive to get educated. It is nice to know I have their support.

Photo By Jennifer Silverberg, Riverfront Times

So yeah, that's me in my kitchen. I live at my Mom's house, the house I grew up in. The kitchen could sure use an update. über brown and 70's. But, it's where I do most of my cooking, and the Jennifer, the extra nice photographer, insisted this would be the best place for a photo shoot. They turned out better than I expected. She's magical, that Jennifer. :)

Seriously, I cannot thank my friends, family and the RFT enough for this honor. There are so many bloggers/twitterers/chefs/cooks/writers/photographers in St. Louis that are so talented and inspirational. I can't list everyone... but if you are my friend... THANK YOU. :)

While I have my head all swollen... here are some other times when I've wanted to pee myself from excitement for being mentioned on some of my favorite blogs... Hand me my horn... time for some tooting! (I mean, I have some new readers now... a little history never hurt, right?)

Not Martha linked to my Pancetta Cups. I had been reading her blog for years when this happened. One of my first blogging inspirations! So this was a big deal to me. Plus, this is one of my favorite ever photos that I have taken for Iron Stef... eggs are pretty.

Serious Eats had my Beet Gnocchi as a Photo of the Day a few years ago. And just last week, The Cooking Channel's blog included these pink pretties in a round-up of beet recipes!

I have NEVER had so many hits as when my "Zucchini Baby" made it on to the legendary blog Boing Boing. Another all-time favorite site of mine.

The infamous meatloaf cupcakes. These were my first taste of what this blog could be. They got a mention on Emeril's blog, and since that day I have been smitten with blogging harder than I ever thought I could be.

Photo from riverfronttimes.com

Again, thanks to everyone who reads Iron Stef. You are my friends, and I appreciate you visiting!!