Campfire Food

Katy and I got out of Austin for a night over the weekend to do some camping just south of San Antonio. We found an awesome campground that was run by a super nice family who were friendly and helpful and recommended their best site for us. We set up camp right next to the Medina River which had an enchanted feel to it as the afternoon light slipped through the trees.

our peaceful fishing spot down by the river

After a few hours of unsuccessful fishing, more than a few beers, and a couple card games we  sparked up a fire and began cooking dinner. It’s amazing what hot coals and a good cast iron skillet can do. Katy’s handmade burgers(beef, salt, pepper, worcestershire) were on the menu, but the bacon had to be cooked first.  The bacon cooked down and left a nice puddle of grease that our burgers were more than happy to cook in. They sizzled in the pan and  and got a nice hard crust on the outside, but maintained a perfect medium rare inside.  The buns were spread with garlic butter and toasted inside aluminum foil while cheddar melted atop the burgers. I’m serious when I say this was a top 5 burger in my life. Juicy burger, crispy bacon, and melted cheese topped with mayo, lettuce, tomato, and onion. And I think the real kicker was the garlic butter. OH MAN I want another. It was dark but I still tried my best to get a good pic.

After a good night sleep with an early morning to check out a meteor shower, the fire was back up and running to start breakfast. We had fingerling potatoes that Katy halved and put in foil with onions and more garlic butter. They sat right in the hot coals and cooked and caramelized while we made more bacon, of course. After crisping up the rest of the bacon, I friend and egg in the skillet while toasting an everything bagel with more garlic butter. I promise, garlic butter makes everything better. Piled high on the toasty bagel with a slice of cheddar, this bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich could have been ordered at a restaurant.


Turkey Meatball Hoagie with Homemade Red Sauce

For us, summer has been packed with family outings, traveling to see friends, and entertaining guests here in Austin.  That means we’ve been partying like animals and eating like pigs (the tastiest animal).  So it’s time to get back on track and start eating healthy again, which means lean meats and whole grains. If you are doing the same, or just like to always eat healthy, try out this recipe that tastes delicious but doesn’t leave you feeling like a whale at the beach.

Ground Turkey Meatballs 

  • 1.25 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small carrot, minced
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon italian seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Prep your area first by getting out a sheet of parchment paper and an oven safe dish or walled cookie sheet. Grease will pour off into your oven if you use a flat cookie sheet! In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients except the olive oil and mozzarella. Pack the mixture into golf ball sized balls, or about the size of your middle finger touching your thumb, and set them on the parchment paper. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate while you make the sauce. If using canned sauce go straight to cooking. Put the olive oil in a skillet and bring it to high heat to get a good sear. Put three meatballs in the pan, rolling over after about 45 seconds. Remove and put directly into oven dish.

Once all the meatballs are seared and in the dish, move it into the oven and bake it for 18 minutes. Keep the oven on. Prepare a wheat hoagie roll with meatballs cut in half (so they don’t roll), sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Place it in the oven open-faced for 1 minute then take it out and enjoy! Sprinkle oregano on top for even more flavor.
Homemade Red Sauce
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 32oz crushed tomato can
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

In a saucepan, cook down the onion and garlic until soft, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients into the saucepan and let it simmer very low for at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, remove the bay leaf and put about half of the mixture into a food processor. Blend until smooth and put in a new bowl. Repeat with 2nd half of mixture.

Mexican Street Corn

This might be one of the best effort-to-flavor ratio snacks ever. Take 5 minutes to whip up a few cups and you have a savory sweet snack with a little spice and a citrus tang. You can make it out of the can, but if you have the time either boil the corn on the cob or better yet, roast it on the barbecue. I used corn that was roasted the night before that we didn’t eat and simply warmed it up for the recipe.

Mexican street corn:

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 2 limes
  • 4 ounces of Cojita cheese
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper

Roast, boil, or microwave the corn to get it nice and toasty. Split it equally into 4 cups (one cob makes about one cup). Put one tablespoon of mayo on each cup of corn, salt and pepper to taste, sprinke on some cayenne pepper, then crumble tone ounce of cojita cheese on top of each cup. Put a wedge of two of lime on each rim and serve hot. Mix it all up and you have a great blend of flavors without breaking a sweat, or the bank.

Enjoy! 🙂

Cheese & Bacon Stuffed Jalapeños

Superbowl Sunday is 2 days away!  GO PATS!  I’m going to make this post quick, but this recipe is one that I truly consider to be tested-and-true.  I’ve made these a bunch of times with minor adjustments all along the way, and I think I finally nailed it.

Really hope you guys like ’em.  Perfect for those of us who love fried jalapeño poppers.

Halved jalapeños.

Start with about 14-16 extra large jalapeños (about 3 – 4″ in length).  Wash them, dry them, and slice them in half length-wise.  I leave the stem on as an “eating handle,” but if it pops off or was without one in the first place, no trouble at all.  Or remove them if you want.

Jalapeños, seeds and ribs removed.

Now, use a regular teaspoon to remove seeds and ribs…just scrape down the inside of the pepper, but do be careful enough to keep the pepper intact.  This is a bit labor intensive, but I have to admit I find it fun.  Plus, as you get the hang of it, you’ll become faster and more efficient.

Fry up some bacon…about 7 or 8 slices.  Cook it ’til it’s at your preferred done-ness (mine is very crispy) and let it cool.  Once you can touch it without burning yourself, chop it into crumble-sized bits.

Next, throw the following in the food processor: one block of cream cheese, one block of orange cheddar cheese that has been shredded (most food processors have a grating attachment — makes it almost effortless!), 2 scallions (chopped roughly), one clove of garlic (chopped roughly), salt, and pepper.  That’s the basic filling right there, but usually I take it a few steps further with some paprika, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and a little red onion.  Throw in some hot sauce too, or whatever else you like.  Many different spices/herbs would be delicious in here.  I also thought about adding some blue cheese crumbles…mmmm.

Cheesy filling!

Pulse it until it’s all combined.  You want to make sure the garlic/scallion/onion is all blended through the mixture.  It’ll be about 30 seconds of spinning.

Cheesy filling, all blended up!

Spoon the cheesy mixture into the jalapeños.  Sprinkle with the bacon crumbles and bake for about 10 minutes at 400°.

Filled jalapeños.  You can also add a little more filling so that it's slightly mounded on top; it won't spill over.

YUM!  I like to make a dipping sauce too, and at this point, assuming you have a little cheese filling left, you’re halfway there.  Take the remaining cheese filling, a good heaping scoop or two of sour cream, and the same amount of salsa, and throw all back in the food processor.  Blend it up and add a little more salt and pepper.  Done!

Sauce with a bit of chopped cilantro on top.

These, to me, are the ultimate football food.  Believe it or not, even if you’re not a spice person, you’ll be able to handle them.  I’m not sure if bigger jalapeños are less spicy, if the heat bakes it out, or if the cheese filling mutes it, but really, the only thing that will burn are your hands from touching the raw peppers.  Probably a good idea to wear gloves.

I’ve also done these vegetarian, using crushed potato chips or corn chips in place of the bacon.  Delicious, but of course, not quite the same.

Vegetarian version.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 14 – 16 extra large jalapeños
  • 8 oz. block of cream cheese
  • 8 oz. block of orange cheddar, shredded (mild/medium/sharp, up to you)
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tbsp. chopped red onion
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • A few heavy dashes of Worchestershire sauce
  • 8 slices thick-cut bacon (or 12 regular-cut)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup salsa, any type
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

These are best paired with good, cheap “quantity-over-quality”-type beers.  The fresh crunch of the pepper balances the creamy filling perfectly and the salty bacon is the icing on the cake, so to speak.  I love that they have that awesome, fake, processed-cheese taste and yet it’s only real cheese.  Great way to indulge without frying, too.  Of course, that’s not to say there’s a damn thing wrong with frying. 😉

Spicy Cheesy Potato Soup

Hi y’all!  (How long do you have to live in Texas before you’re allowed to say that?)  We’ve been in Austin now for nearly 4 months and love everything about it.  Especially the food – the finest the city has to offer is often served up right off of a truck, making it easy, accessible, and cheap to try a little bit of everything.  At 27 years of age and after living in and visiting some of the most fantastic food cities, I find myself a passionate foodie and love everything about learning and experimenting in the kitchen.  Kyle’s letting me post here, and hopefully my long-winded premier is worthy of an invite back.

I woke up with the beginnings of a cold yesterday morning.  I’ve seen and heard of many extreme ways to “cure” the common cold, from difficult-to-pronounce, foreign herbs to my Dad’s remedy, a long run and a shot of good vodka with cracked black pepper sprinkled on top, taken at the immediate onset of symptoms.  I imagine this would be more fun if you shot the vodka before the run, but I’m not a doctor.  Neither is Dad, but I digress.

In my opinion, the most effective and immediate relief for a head cold is spicy food served hot, particularly when you’re congested.  I’m a big fan of anything spicy and a big believer in its healing powers…I once rid myself of super itchy winter skin with a mixture of olive oil and cayenne pepper.  After suggesting this trick to my sister, she told me it did absolutely nothing, but…she’s not a doctor either.

So, I wanted some sort of soup yesterday and wasn’t able to find any for lunch.  Eating at 1:30 has it’s perks, in that you have a shorter window between finishing lunch and starting dinner, but it also means the best offerings at Royal Blue Grocery are sold out by the time you’re ready to eat.  Bummer.

Seeing that I’m leaving town for Christmas in Boston in a week, I wanted to try a pantry-cleaning spicy soup – using as much as I could of what I already had on-hand.  That didn’t turn out to be tortilla soup, as I had originally planned, much to Kyle’s dismay.  But what I came up with turned out tasty anyway, so I’d like to share, especially since it’s easy enough to pull together on a weeknight after a hellish day in the office.

I started by peeling and rinsing 4 medium-sized potatoes.  These were just plain Idaho potatoes, which, if I remember that episode of “Good Eats” correctly, is one of the starchier varieties.  I imagine any sort of potato would work here, though.  Sweet potatoes or some sort of squash would probably be delicious, too.  I chopped the potatoes into small, very rough chunks.

Veggies, pre-roast

Next, I cut maybe a third of a large red onion into half-inch slices, then each onion “coin” in half.  Then one jalapeño, sliced roughly.  If you prefer less heat, go ahead and de-seed and remove the ribs of the jalapeño.  But actually don’t.  The creaminess of the soup will help balance out the heat, really!  Now, the potatoes, onion, jalapeño, along with 4 unpeeled garlic cloves (might want to add that only 2 ended up going into the soup, as I snacked on the others.  2 was plenty, though) go into a foil-lined baking pan.  Drizzle some olive oil over everything, add salt and pepper liberally, and toss with your hands.  Note that I wasn’t being too careful about chopping everything uniform size, as in other recipes is helpful in that everything cooks and therefore finishes cooking at the same time.  Here, as long as the least-cooked piece is cooked through, I like that some of the onions are practically caramelized, and others were just barely translucent; and some potatoes were crispy while others were just soft.  Makes for a greater spectrum of flavor and texture in the finished soup.  This is one of many reasons why you can’t really F this up.  Throw everything into a 400° oven for anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on your taste.

Veggies, post-roast, pre-process

When they’re out of the oven (I left mine in about 35 minutes) and have cooled for 10 minutes or so, throw them into the food processor (after peeling the skins off of the garlic cloves).  I speak from experience when I say do this in two batches.  Just…yeah.  For each batch, add maybe half a cup of skim milk and a teaspoon (give or take) of chicken bouillon paste.  I’m not sure if that’s what it’s really called, but it’s basically a bouillon cube in liquid-y form.  Comes in a jar in the stock/broth aisle – keeps longer than those boxes of stock, which I never can use up before they expire.  You could also use one bouillon cube per batch of potatoes (two total), or just chicken stock (eliminating the milk), but I like the idea of a richer soup (i.e., the milk instead of what would be water in the stock).  I had planned on using milk with a heavier fat content, but in the end the skim was just right.  And that’s saying a lot, coming from someone who used to pour half-and-half over her cereal as a kid.

Once you’ve whizzed up the veggies, milk, and bouillon paste, you’ll have what look like sticky mashed potatoes with other colors twirled in.  Keep those to the side for now and melt one tablespoon of butter on medium heat in a stock pot, or anything you have that looks like it could hold a batch of soup.

Butter, flour, and milk; whisked

Once the butter’s melted, add one tablespoon of flour and whisk until combined.  After 2 minutes or so, the mixture should be bubbly and hot.  At this point, pour in cold skim milk – I guess I added about a cup and a half.  Whisk rapidly to avoid lumps forming and in a few minutes, you should have a simmering, smooth mixture.

To this, add about a cup of freshly grated cheese, your choice as to what variety.  I used sharp cheddar at Kyle’s suggestion and it was perfect (the orange color made for a prettier final product, too).  I find pre-grated cheese to not work well under these circumstances, because it’s always coated in some type of powder (flour or cornstarch or something, to keep it from sticking together in the bag).  As a result, it never melts down as well.  However, if this is your only option, I’d recommend not skipping the cheese.  Again, whisk rapidly to combine and the cheese should slowly melt down to make the mixture shiny and thick.  Mmmm.

Now, dump in the potato mixture and stir to combine.  Once it’s simmering, you can easily adjust the thickness of the soup.  I added maybe a cup of water at this point (and a little more bouillon paste, essentially adding stock), and it still turned out plenty thick.  Or add more milk.

Soup with garnishes

Once it’s bubbling, serve immediately.  All kinds of things would make a great garnish for this.  We used more grated cheese, Mexican sour cream (one of the many perks of living in a Mexican neighborhood – having things like this available in the grocery store.  It’s slightly thicker and a little less tangy), crispy bacon, and sliced fresh Serrano peppers.  Chives or scallions would have been perfect too.  Or the cute little Texas-shaped cheese crackers we just bought, I’m kicking myself for not adding those, at least for the sake of the picture.

Here’s the ingredient list:

  • 4 medium-sized potatoes
  • 1/3 of a large red onion
  • 1 (or more!) fresh jalapeño(s)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 2 tsp. bouillon paste (or 2 cubes)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Hope you enjoy.  This can be done with pretty much any veggie you can roast.  The roasting is the key – really adds a different depth of flavor and sweetness than if you were to boil the potatoes.  My Mom does a lower-calorie version with just broccoli, jalapeño, onions, garlic, and then blending that, after roasting, into chicken stock with an immersion blender.  I would have added my leftover Brussels sprouts to my soup, but I think Kyle’s afraid of them.  Don’t tell him I said that. 😉