Angie’s Kitchen – Potato Croquettes Round 2

Last week Ray and I tried our hands on another Angie’s Kitchen recipe from his grandmother’s 100 year old handwritten recipe book. This week we got to try our hand at adjusting the recipe to suit our modern palates. I’m not sure what Ray did with his, but for me, the changes I made were small, and I’m nearly there, but alas additional tweaking will be necessary before it is perfected.

If you read last week’s post, you’ll remember that this recipe was pretty decent right out of the gate. My biggest issue was that it lacked salt. This week I was very cognizant of that, and decided to make sure my water was very well salted when I boiled the potatoes, and that actually did the trick. I made sure to taste the potatoes before adding the egg, and to my surprise, the original amount of salt was enough. So, what did I change? A few things. Last week, my favorite part of the croquette was the underlying spiciness, so I upped the amount of pepper to 1/4 tsp and instead of a few grains of cayenne, I used a couple of healthy dashes! I also decided that as with most things, the croquettes would be better with cheese, so I diced some Smoked Gouda into 1 inch cubes, and placed it in the center of the potatoes. I refrigerated my potatoes for about 15 minutes before forming them into croquettes, which I think helped make them easier to shape. Oh, and I forgot to use the baking powder. I remembered that right as I was putting the first one in the frying pan. Oh, well.

Results? Well, the croquettes themselves were bigger this week to accommodate the cube of Smoked Gouda, which isn’t really a problem except for the fact that you need to eat quite a lot of potato before reaching the yummy smoked cheese. The cheese? Well, it was a delicious addition, but I would have liked a bigger cheese to potato ratio, and I want my cheese a little more melted.

It’s not perfect yet, but it does show potential. I know that I want more cheese in my next batch, and I am considering either finishing in the oven, only baking in the oven, or air frying. I’m close, but not there yet. Let’s here how things went for Ray.

Funny that Karen ended her round 2 adventure with the thought of using the air fryer in the future, because that’s where my round 2 adventure began. Or at least where I intended it to begin. My plan was to change up the flavor of the round 1 recipe by adding sour cream and chives, along with changing the cooking method from pan frying to air frying. Sometimes these experiments take on a life of their own and there is nothing you can do but go along for (or jump off of) the ride!

As you may recall, I ended round 1 by saying that I thought there wasn’t enough salt in the recipe – simply adding more to the mix for round 2 successfully took care of that. I also thought that the round 1 croquettes were a bit too dry, and I set out to remedy that issue as well. I was once again successful – so successful in fact that what I created was entirely too wet to roll into a croquette!

Just like that, the idea of using the air fryer flew out the window, as did preparing them the traditional way. If I couldn’t roll them for the air fryer, I certainly couldn’t roll them for pan frying either. Faced with this unexpected dilemma, I needed to decide what to do next.

Should I simply walk away and write up the experience as a failure, or should I try to fix what I had created? I decided to try and fix it – what did I have to lose at that point? If my attempt to fix it didn’t turn out well, I could still write about the failure, but what if my new idea worked in some way? Then I could share that experience instead.

After some quick thinking, I decided to try and add some flour to the mix. I added 3 tablespoons and found that it did help to remove a bit of the moisture, but it was still nowhere near enough for them to be rolled and air fried. I didn’t want to add more flour than that, because I didn’t want it to turn into potato dough or have nothing but the taste of flour.

I paused to think once again, and that’s when the idea for a giant oven baked croquette was born. Once again, what did I have to lose? If it turned into a big pile of mashed potatoes when I removed it from the pan, then at least I’d still have a nice side dish for dinner! I’m happy, and perhaps still a little bit surprised, to say that it actually worked!

After grabbing a slice of giant croquette, we all gave it a try. I was happy with the flavor of the sour cream and chives, and it definitely wasn’t dry! We served it with a little extra sour cream on the side, which was a nice, although certainly optional, addition. We enjoyed it very much with our dinner that evening.

Giant Oven Baked Sour Cream and Chive Potato Croquette

  • 2 cups warm mashed potatoes
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon oil – divided
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs – divided

Add the milk, sour cream, salt, pepper, paprika, and baking powder to a large mixing bowl and whisk together until smooth.

Add the mashed potatoes and mix together until well combined, and then add the egg and chives and mix together again until well combined.

Stir in the flour until well incorporated.

Pour 1/2 of the tablespoon of olive oil into the bottom of a 9 inch round baking pan and brush it evenly across the bottom. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs evenly over the oil and then gently drop potato mixture, one tablespoon at time, on top of the breadcrumbs. Gently smooth the potatoes evenly over the breadcrumbs and then dab the top of the potatoes with the remaining half tablespoon of oil, follow by an even coating of the remaining 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs.

Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes. After removing from the oven, immediately use a knife to carefully loosen the croquette from the side of the pan and then gently shake the pan back and forth to make sure it is loose on the bottom. Once loose, turn out onto a plate, slice, and serve.

As they say, when life throws you lemons, make lemonade – or at least try to! Sometimes as hard as we try, an initial failure in the kitchen can’t be saved, but sometimes that failure can be turned into a successful happy accident! Thanks for joining us for another Angie’s Kitchen adventure. Have a great weekend!

From Angie’s Kitchen – Potato Croquettes

Welcome to our 7th edition of Angie’s Kitchen! For those of you that have been following along, you already know the deal. For those of you joining in for the first time, welcome! You can read more about what we do in Angie’s Kitchen here.

It was my turn to pick the recipe, so I reached for my grandma’s book to make my choice. Often I flip through the whole book and look at the recipes to decide which one we should make. This time, I just looked at the little table of contents that my grandma had conveniently included. The recipe for potato croquettes instantly caught my eye. There are very few savory recipes in the book, so we have been using them sparingly, but I decided it was time for one.

I did pause for a moment before making the final decision to go with it. What made me hesitate? My mind flashed back to our adventures with grandma’s rice croquettes. If you read that entry, you may recall the shock we both had during our individual attempts at making them. A seemingly very simple recipe resulted in both of our kitchens looking like some sort of cyclone or freight train had passed through them! Despite the memory of that day, I decided to go forward and hoped that the potato croquettes wouldn’t result in a similar disaster.

Surprises in Angie’s Kitchen can come in many forms. You might find ingredients without exact measurements or very vaguely written procedures that fail to include small details such as what temperature to use, or how long you should bake an item. This time around, I was surprised to find that none of the above was true. Most of the ingredients (cayenne being the one exception) had proper measurements and the procedure, although a bit short, was more than clear.

My one and only surprise this time came in the form of an ingredient. As I mentioned before, I chose the recipe from the table of contents where it was listed as “potato croquettes.” When I turned to the page with the recipe a few days later to see what ingredients were needed, I was surprised to see the slightly different title “nut and potato croquettes.” This certainly wasn’t a big deal or showstopper, I just found it to be an interesting, and perhaps a bit odd, ingredient for potato croquettes!

I went to work on making the recipe, and it was certainly easy enough to follow which was a nice change of pace. While the preparation did require several dishes and cooking utensils, when I was done, I was thankful that my kitchen did not look like the rice croquette disaster!

Potato croquettes

Overall, the flavor was pretty good, and they weren’t bad to eat, but during the taste test I quickly identified a few things that I would like to address in round 2. I felt that they could use a bit more salt than the recipe called for, and also, I found them to be a bit dry.

I will also stand by my first impression that the addition of pecans was an odd choice. They certainly didn’t result in an offensive taste or texture; it was quite the opposite. For us, they didn’t really result in any extra noticeable flavor at all! While I am not 100% certain of the direction I will go in round 2, I do know that I will be eliminating the pecans. I like pecans, but why waste them if you can’t taste them? On that note, I’ll turn this over to Karen to share her experience. Have a great weekend!

Angie’s original recipe

It’s funny, as I was cleaning up my kitchen, a thought occurred to me…. “I wonder if Ray’s kitchen looks as messy as the usual Angie’s Kitchen war zone?” Without any prompting from me, I see that he addressed the subject. My kitchen? It was absolutely destroyed, despite my efforts at mise en place (everything in place) beforehand. I always start with putting some thought into the process, and try to get organized, but I find that about halfway through, something happens and I’m in the weeds. It’s not that anything specific happens. I think it’s just me losing my composure and organization.

For this round, I agree that Angie did give a little more “intel”, but there was one part that made me stop and think. In the list of ingredients she includes the yolk of one egg. She also instructs us to roll the croquette in bread crumbs, dip them in an egg water mixture, then roll them in breadcrumbs once more. That made me wonder. The crumbs aren’t listed in the ingredients, so what about the egg? Was there only one egg yolk involved, or was there another covert egg in play? In the end, I decided there was indeed going to be a second egg in my interpretation as there probably should be some sort of binding ingredient in the croquette, and one egg yolk with a little water likely would not be enough to coat all the croquettes.

I was a little surprised to see the pecans in the croquettes, and did do a double check to ensure that I was on the correct page, but it sounds like I wasn’t as thrown off as Ray!

So, kitchen mess aside, how did the potato croquettes turn out? I would say they were rather successful! The only critique I had was the lack of salt, which squares precisely with Ray’s experience. I did kick myself a little for not tasting as I was preparing the croquettes, but it is a lesson for this recipe that I won’t forget in the future. As for the pecans? I quite liked them. I liked the added texture they provided. My husband Tom had no negative feedback concerning the pecans. My son Ryan? He didn’t notice them at all. He had no idea that there was any nut involved until I mentioned that Ray didn’t care for the pecans. My croquettes were not dry at all, which makes me wonder how Ray used the egg listed in the ingredients and if that made a difference.

The next round? I have all sorts of ideas floating around in my head, but have not settled on any one in particular. I just hope I manage to keep the kitchen fallout to a minimum.

Potato croquettes

One last note. I’m amused at how similarly we styled this dish. There was absolutely no consulting ahead of time, and yet me managed to produce eerily similar photos!

Tina’s Potato Salad

Two weeks ago, I shared my attempt at improving a family favorite potato salad. I also shared with you my utter failure. You see, this particular potato salad, which was created by my late mother-in law, contains fresh cucumbers. It is a delightfully different take on a classic dish, but because of the cucumbers, it doesn’t hold for very long. I attempted to remedy that situation by salting the cucumbers to release the excess water, but in the end completely lost the balance of flavors. So, I’m back to share how to make the original version, and this time, I have decided that the potato salad is perfect just as it is meant to be.

When making potato salad, I frequently boil my potatoes whole and unpeeled, but for today’s version, I decided that dicing and peeling the potatoes before boiling would be the better route. It is best to use a waxy potato. I usually use a red or white potato, but I think a Yukon gold would also work. As for the cucumber, I did remove the seeds, which is a great source of the excess moisture that I was trying to avoid in my last post. You can use an English cucumber, but my husband Tom insists that a plain cucumber is best to use when replicating his mother’s recipe.

Tina’s Potato Salad

  • 2 pounds of white or red potatoes
  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • salt and pepper to taste

Peel and dice potatoes into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a pot covered with an inch of salted water. Bring water to a boil, then gently boil the potatoes until fork tender (about 15 minutes). Drain potatoes.

Peel and seed cucumber. Cut into 1 inch dice. Peel and small dice hard boiled eggs.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate and serve on the same day.

Tina’s Potato Salad

So, there it is. With the fresh cucumber and celery seed, it is quite a unique and refreshing version of a perpetual favorite. In this case, I’ve learned not to fix what wasn’t broken. Have a happy 4th!

First Harvest of the Season – Swiss Chard!

As I have written recently, I have been very enthusiastic about my gardening this spring, and this week I was able to make my first big harvest of the season. As Ray has mentioned in the past, I do all of my vegetable and herb gardening on my patio, and thanks to the sheer size of my Vegtrug, I am able to grow some very nice veggies. I planted Swiss chard seeds directly into the planter mid April, and here we are not very many weeks later, harvesting this delicious vegetable.

To be honest, until I met my husband Tom, I had never heard of much less eaten Swiss chard. He has always found that astounding. Swiss chard is a leafy green and member of the beet family that originates from Sicily. I think that would explain why his Italian American family grew up with a garden full of Swiss chard, and my English/Southern American upbringing was devoid of this green. I am certainly glad he set me straight!

When harvesting Swiss chard, remove a few of the largest outside leaves from each plant. New leaves will form and continue to grow. My sister-in-law Marie tells me she gets the entire summer from her plants in New Jersey. In my blazing hot climate, I do not, but until then, I will be able to harvest once or twice a week until the plants become overwhelmed by the heat.

Freshly Cut Swiss Chard

There are many ways to prepare Swiss chard, but today I will share the simple method that Tom enjoys the most. First things first. Don’t throw away the stems! This is something that we have often seen on TV cooking shows and have to turn our heads away in horror! The stems are perfectly edible and delicious. Tom thinks the stems are the best part. They just take a few minutes longer to cook than the leaves.

Swiss Chard Stems

Tom’s Simple Swiss Chard

1 Bunch of Swiss Chard

1/4 cup Italian Bread Crumbs

1 TBSP Olive Oil

1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

Salt and Pepper

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. While water is coming to temperature, thouroughly wash Swiss chard. Separate the stems from the leaves. Chop the stems into two inch pieces. If the stems are very wide, cut them length-ways down the center. Roughly chop the leaves into 2-3 inch pieces. Place the stems only into the boiling water for about 5 minutes or until the stems are tender. Add the leaves to the boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain the water. Toss the Swiss chard with Italian bread crumbs, olive oil and red pepper flakes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Tom’s Simple Swiss Chard

This recipe is meant to serve as a guideline. As bunches of chard can vary in size, so can to amount of these ingredients. If you only have plain breadcrumbs add about a teaspoon of Italian seasoning and sprinkle in some garlic powder. Just don’t miss out on this wonderful vegetable and don’t throw out those stems!

Tortellini Salad

Another Mother’s Day has come to pass – I hope it was a great one for everyone! Last year I wrote about the new Mother’s Day tradition in our home. For the first few years after my son was born, we would take my wife out to brunch for Mother’s Day. When the pandemic hit and everything was shut down, we worked to recreate the brunch in our own home. Even though things are open again, we grew to love the new tradition of brunch at home.

We let my wife sleep in and have the morning to herself while my son and I go to work preparing everything. We usually start the brunch between 10:30 and 11:00. For the first two years we really focused more on the “br” and less on the “unch” side of the event – with that being the first meal of the day, we all tend to go more for the breakfast foods first.

This year I decided I would make something that would also touch on the lunch side a bit and I put together the idea for the tortellini salad with orange vinaigrette dressing that I am sharing today. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Tortellini Salad

  • 1 12 ounce package of dried cheese or cheese and spinach tortellini
  • 1 stick of pepperoni, about 6 ounces, cut into quarter inch pieces
  • 1 8 ounce jar of roasted red peppers, drained and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 8 ounces pearl sized fresh mozzarella
  • 15 to 20 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Prepare the tortellini according to the directions on the package. Drain and return to the pan and toss them with the olive oil – this will keep the tortellini from sticking together. Chill the tortellini for at least 30 minutes.

Orange Vinaigrette Dressing

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until thoroughly combined. You could also place all of the ingredients in a shaker bottle and shake vigorously to combine.

Pour the cooked tortellini onto a platter. Evenly distribute the pepperoni, roasted red peppers, mozzarella pearls and basil on top of the tortellini. You can drizzle half of the dressing over the salad and serve the rest on the side, but I prefer to leave the dressing off altogether and allow each person to pour as much or little as they like on their portion.

The layers of ingredients made a nice presentation on the platter and the combination of classic flavors came together to make a delicious salad.

As is our usual habit, I wasn’t surprised that we all went for the breakfast foods first during the brunch. Even though it wasn’t eaten that morning, the beauty of having a more lunch like item on the menu this year was that it translated into a nice dinner. We put a lot of time and effort into cooking the brunch early in the day and having a quick and ready to eat dinner that evening was a welcome addition.

Mother’s Day brunch year 3 was a success – my wife enjoyed the day and her brunch, and we loved making it for her. It’s a bit early to think about it, but I’m already wondering what changes we’ll make next year. We like to mix some new things in with some of the old favorites, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it!

Until next time, I hope you all have a great weekend.

“C” Is For Chickpea

A few weeks ago I made a salad for lunch. One ingredient I love to throw on a salad is chickpeas. As soon as I sat down to eat it, my mind went into what I call one of its “stream of consciousness creative sessions” about chickpeas. I’m not sure what causes these moments to activate in my mind, but I have learned not to question it and just go along for the ride.

My thoughts went from the chickpeas on the salad to a quick and simple hummus we make from time to time. Sometimes we simply have that for lunch as a dip to go with fresh vegetables. Then the stream of consciousness ride took another turn as I began to wonder what it would be like to mix hummus with flour and some other ingredients to create some sort of bread or appetizer.

When my little journey came to an end, I wasn’t sure where the thought would go. Over the weeks that followed, my mind kept going back to the idea and playing with recipe concepts. At that point, I knew I had to give it a try because the thought wasn’t going away! So today I would like to share two recipes with you – the quick hummus I mentioned above and my new creation that utilizes a portion of that hummus as one of the ingredients.

Quick & Easy Hummus

  • 1 15 to 16 ounce can of chickpeas – drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Place the chickpeas, lemon juice and salt in a chopper or blender and pulse a few times until the chickpeas are coarsely chopped. Add in the olive oil and blend until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. You may need to pause periodically to scrape the sides of the chopper before continuing.

This recipe makes a hummus that is a bit on the thicker side. If you prefer it to be a little thinner you can add additional olive oil, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. Serve with fresh vegetables, crackers, chips or anything else you like to dip in hummus.

Cheddar Hummus Bites

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup prepared quick & easy hummus
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cumin and garlic powder together into a mixing bowl. Add the hummus, milk and egg to the dry ingredients and mix together until the dry ingredients are moistened and a soft dough begins to form. Gently fold in the shredded cheddar cheese until it is fully incorporated into the dough.

Roll the dough into balls approximately 1 inch in size and place on a lightly greased baking sheet or one lined with parchment or a silpat. The dough will be a bit sticky, but manageable enough to form, If you are having trouble, dust your hands with a bit of flour.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 9 to 11 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with the remaining hummus from the quick & easy hummus recipe for dipping.

I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome of this recipe, enough so to feel good about sharing it with you today. You never know how trying something new will turn out – I have certainly had my share of flops, as chronicled right here on the blog!

They were soft and flavorful and we found it interesting that along with the cumin and garlic, the flavor of the hummus itself came through as well. While I stuck with my original name, they could have just as easily been called “Cheddar Hummus Biscuit Bites” because the texture and feel was very much like a biscuit.

As I bring my latest adventure to a close, I can already feel the wheels of the stream of consciousness ride beginning to roll down the alternate track it likes to take – the one where I begin to make changes and variations to the recipe! Where will it go? How will it end? I never really know until the ride eventually pulls into the station again!

Until next time, I hope you all have a great weekend!

A New Gift, A New Year & Some New Cooking Adventures!

Once again the holidays have come and gone, leaving in their wake a wave of happy memories, fun, a lot of leftovers and of course, a new toy or two! I was given many thoughtful gifts by my family and one of my favorites came from my wife Lori. What a fun surprise to unwrap the Fast Slow GO, a multicooker pot by Breville, on Christmas morning!

Many years ago before there was such a thing as an instant pot, I used to use a regular old stovetop pressure cooker. I learned how they worked from my grandma who used them frequently. I enjoyed the wild sound of the steam bursting out as the regulator on top of the pot rocked wildly back and forth. Of course there was also the thought of the slight element of risk in the old style stovetop cookers that the lid would blow right off under the pressure, but that only happened on TV shows or in movies right? Luckily it never happened to me!

Several years later the first of the electric pressure cookers started to come out and while I was reluctant to give up my old stovetop model, my wife (we weren’t yet married) decided she wanted to get one. We started using it, time passed, and one day I realized that my old stovetop pot had not been used since. I guess I had retired it in a rather unceremonious way!

Two years ago that first electric pressure cooker broke and had not been replaced. Recently I started talking about possibly getting a new one and that’s when the idea for Lori’s Christmas gift to me was born.

The newest models have really come a long way from the original one we had for so long. Along with the manual set options, this one also features a dozen preset cooking options including soup, sous vide, rice, risotto and yogurt to name a few. I also like that it has a sauté function for browning meat or softening vegetables before using one of the other modes. Lori debated if this would be a good gift, or another one of those things that sits and collects dust. After the first week she knew it was a good idea – I used it nine times!

My first experiment was a soup featuring the rest of the meatballs we enjoyed on Christmas Eve. I also made two other soups that week – split pea, which was a great way to use the rest of our Christmas ham and finally a simple chicken soup. The soup mode took about 25 to 30 minutes which included the 15 minute cooking cycle and approximately 10 to 15 minutes for the pot to come to full pressure.

Next, I tried the rice function twice. Once to make steamed rice (Jasmine) as a side for dinner and the other to make a simple main dish we often enjoy for dinner of ground beef (or turkey) and rice (this time I used Basmati) and Parmesan cheese. The sauté function was perfect for browning the beef before cooking it along with the rice.

I also tried recipes for macaroni and cheese and chocolate cake. Finally, I gave breakfast a test drive with steel cut oats and hard boiled eggs – at last I was able to try my fellow blogger’s method for making those eggs! If you are interested in trying it out, Karen did a great job of outlining the process in her post Easy Peel Eggs.

Overall I have found the pot to be very easy to use and often a time saver. The soup and rice functions were simple to work with and have produced great results. Some things do have a bit of a learning curve however. For example, my experiment with steel cuts oats needs a bit of tweaking to get the amount of water right. I used too much, so they came out a bit too wet. It was easily remedied by using the sauté mode to finish them off, but with the correct amount of water, that step would not be needed.

I also need to work a bit more with the chocolate cake recipe and cook time. The flavor of the cake was good – very rich and deep, much like a brownie. Unfortunately, the cake was a bit heavy and surprisingly a little dry considering it had been cooked in a steam filled environment! I don’t mind the occasional mishap though – that’s how we learn.

I hope that your holiday season brought you lots of joy and a fun gift or two! I am looking forward to a new year of blogging and sharing our cooking adventures. I have a feeling that a few of them will include creating a new recipe or two in my new pot! Until next time, I hope you all have a great weekend.

A Milestone and a Cornbread Recipe

Karen and I officially opened our blog in March of this year, but we started working out the details on how we wanted to proceed and what we wanted to say, as well as choosing a style for the blog and starting to build the site several months earlier in October.

We had both just decided to make the leap into early retirement from our 25+ year careers. This was accomplished in no small part thanks to the support our spouses gave us in making the decision. They could see that we had both grown weary of the jobs we had once enjoyed, and we would not have been able to make the leap without them standing behind us 110%!

As the words “early retirement” might suggest, we were by no means ready to go and sit in a rocking chair! My 6 year old certainly would never have allowed that to happen, and I didn’t want it to happen either. The career I had grown tired of was officially behind me and I was ready to get on with new things – many of which I had dreamed about doing for years. One of those things was this blog.

Karen and I had actually talked about the idea for almost a decade, but with full time careers we really didn’t have the extra time. She made the early retirement choice first and when I followed a little over two months later, I immediately asked her if she was ready to finally start that food blog. We had the time at last to start making some of those postponed dreams a reality, and she jumped right in with me.

So, what is the milestone that I referred to in the title? Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the very first blog entry that I had ever written. Even though we weren’t officially open yet, I wanted to start building my confidence as a new blogger by getting some entries under my belt. As I mentioned above, we wouldn’t be here today without the support of our spouses, and I felt it was appropriate for me to write my first entry with my wife Lori in mind.

I had decided to take a shot at creating a copycat recipe of her favorite soup from Panera – Autumn Squash Soup. At that time we were still in the earlier days of the pandemic when dining out options were either limited, unavailable or still didn’t feel like a comfortable option to us. As such, I wanted to do something that would give life during that fall season a bit of a more normal feel by making a restaurant like option at home.

When Lori tasted it she gave me quite a compliment by saying that I had come pretty close to the original. She enjoyed the soup, I enjoyed the experiment, and I felt a sense of accomplishment from having written my first blog entry ever. The soup is more on the sweet side and I had always thought that it should be paired with some sort of savory side – that is where the second half of the title for this entry comes into play.

After keeping the idea on the back burner for the past year, it was time bring it out and work on it. After some thought, I decided that some type of cornbread would pair well with it and even better, a cornbread with a bit of a smoky flavor. So, I worked with a basic cornbread recipe and turned it into the recipe below.

Bacon Cheddar Cornbread

  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 eggs slightly beaten
  • 3 slices crisp thick cut bacon crumbled (use 4 slices if you don’t have thick cut)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix by hand until they are well combined and the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened. The batter will be on the thin side, but will thicken a bit after a few minutes.

Let the batter stand for about 5 minutes while you grease a 9 inch round pan. Stir the batter once more, pour into your prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Bacon Cheddar Cornbread served fresh from the oven.

We really enjoyed the smokiness that the bacon gave to the cornbread along with the flavor that the cheddar brought to it. Also noticeable, but not overwhelming, was the hint of parsley flavor. As I had hoped, the savory flavor of the cornbread paired well with the sweeter flavor of the soup.

We had a fair amount left over, so I refrigerated the rest and contemplated what to do with it. The next morning I came up with a quick and easy idea – why not try to make French toast with it? It had everything you might serve for breakfast all rolled into one – bread, cheese and bacon! So I dipped some slices in beaten egg and grilled it in a pan and it turned out to be delicious – I think we liked it even better that way!

Bacon cheddar cornbread French toast

There you have it, the food pairing that was a year in the making – I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the anniversary of my first blog entry. I look forward to writing many more and celebrating the official one year anniversary of our blog in March!

Until next time, I hope you all have a great weekend!

Risotto! Or is it RisOATo?

If you’ve read some of my other posts, I’m sure you’ve seen that from time to time I like to try swapping out ingredients for some of the more healthy suggestions you see floating around out there. Sometimes they work out well and other times, not so much. I’m not one that immediately buys into the hype that goes along with these recipe swap ideas. Karen isn’t either as you can tell from a recent Q&A post where I asked her “does mashed cauliflower really taste just like mashed potatoes?” Her answer was a very clear “no!” I have to agree with her. That doesn’t mean that mashed cauliflower can’t be enjoyable, it simply means that it’s not mashed potatoes!

Recently I made some steel cut oats for breakfast – if you like oatmeal and haven’t had them yet, you should give them a try. They taste just like rolled oats, but are less processed so they have a more firm texture that is similar to rice. I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, but I like to learn more about the ingredients I work with and I have long known about the many benefits of oats – the less processed the oat, the better! I won’t go into a long list, but if you google steel cut oats, dozens of results will be returned to you extolling their many virtues.

Recently on one site I saw a simple statement that said “steel cut oats make a great risotto.” The statement appealed to me because it was just that – a statement. It didn’t promise me anything like telling me it would taste just like rice or that once I tried it, I would never want rice again or that not only does it taste great, but it can also be used to clean my countertops! There wasn’t some magical recipe offered either – again, just a simple statement for you to take or leave if you wish. I have made risotto many times and decided that I wanted to give this idea a try, so I simply swapped the Arborio rice for steel cut oats and prepared it the way I always do.

When people think about making risotto, they often walk away because they may have heard that it’s a difficult process. I used to think that too until I finally gave it a try. After my first attempt I learned the truth – it isn’t really difficult if you follow three simple rules:

  1. Have time – The process takes awhile.
  2. Have patience – This goes hand in hand with having time. If you try to rush it along on a high heat, the cooking liquid will evaporate too quickly instead of being absorbed by the grain you use which will result in the grain being undercooked.
  3. Keep your cooking liquid hot – This is important! Liquid is added slowly to the grain when cooking risotto. Putting in cold liquid will not only slow down the cooking process, it will also make the liquid steam up quickly upon contact with the hot pan, causing some of it to evaporate – you want the liquid to go into the grain, not the air!

Steel Cut Oat Risotto

  • 4 cups chicken broth or stock (I prefer stock for a richer flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/3 cup dry wine – red or white both work well. I used red this time.
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup cooked peas – you can leave them out if you don’t like peas, or swap them for something else. Sautéed mushrooms come to mind…

Heat the chicken broth or stock in a pot until it just begins to boil, then turn the heat all the way down to keep it simmering very gently.

In a large skillet (or saucepan if you prefer a deeper pot) melt the butter. When melted, add the oats and toss them around to coat them. Cook the oats in the butter for a minute or two to toast them a bit and then reduce the heat to medium.

Add the wine to the oats and stir well. Continue cooking for a few minutes until most of the wine has evaporated, then lower the heat again to a level high enough for simmering.

Here is where the time and patience comes in. Add one ladle full (approximately half of a cup) of your simmering broth or stock to the oats in the skillet and allow it to simmer slowly, stirring occasionally. When most of the broth has been absorbed by the oats – about 3 to 4 minutes – add another ladle of broth. Repeat the process above until you have used all of the broth. When done, the oats should be cooked, but still a bit firm and chewy.

Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste and then mix in the cooked peas and serve hot.

Risotto makes a great side dish, but it can easily hold its own as the main course!

The time had come for the taste test, so we dove in. Much to my surprise, I truly didn’t taste anything like the flavor you would get when oats are served for breakfast. The flavor was full and delicious and it really did turn out for me (my wife agreed) to be one of those instances where you really couldn’t tell much difference when using the oats instead of Arborio rice. Texture wise, it was also very similar – the biggest difference I noticed was that the oats were a touch more firm than Arborio rice.

For us, the rice for oats swap was a success. I would readily go ahead and make the oat version interchangeably with the rice version. As you can tell from my comments at the start of this post, I don’t make that statement lightly…. When I want mashed potatoes, I don’t use cauliflower!

If you give this recipe a try, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!

From Angie’s Kitchen – Rice Croquettes Revisited

As we wrapped up round one last week, I hinted that I was considering going in a very different direction when I made my round two croquettes. Before I even made the first round, my immediate thoughts on how I might change them included adding different types of cheese and herbs and perhaps even something like crumbled bacon. When round one was finished and I took a taste, the hint of sweetness that came from the sugar kept pulling me away from my original thoughts and in a new direction and so, the idea of making rice pudding croquettes was born!

I immediately came up with ideas about the changes that would be needed – increase the sugar, cut the salt and replace it with vanilla, remove the parsley and replace it with cinnamon and of course, swap out the bread crumbs for graham cracker crumbs.

With the ingredient list in place, my next thought was that I needed to find a way to speed up the whole process. It didn’t take long for me to decide that the double boiler needed to go. It is a perfectly fine kitchen tool, but for this recipe, it just made an already long process take even longer. Between ousting the double boiler and using microwave rice again, I was sure to be done more quickly in round two.

I decided that in order to use a regular pot, I would need to increase the amount of milk. The gentle cooking that comes from using a double boiler was no doubt employed to prevent the egg from cooking as you heated it with the rice until it thickened. By adding more milk in a 1 to 1 ratio, 1 cup of milk to 1 egg which is the basis for the most simple of custards, you end up with a mixture that will thicken, but not turn into scrambled eggs. The idea worked pretty well and to increase the thickness even more to make the croquettes easier to form, I also added a bit of corn starch to the recipe.

Rice Pudding Croquettes Topped With Whipped Cream and Cinnamon

So how did they taste? Pretty much like rice pudding with a graham cracker crust! They were flavorful and enjoyable both warm and cold. My wife liked them warm the best and my wonderful 6 year old son who hadn’t ever tasted rice pudding before also paid me a compliment – he told me his favorite part was the whipped cream from the can. I always tell him that it’s ok not to like all of daddy’s creations and that his honest opinions are helpful when writing my blog, but his kind little heart still always tries to say something nice anyway.

When all was said and done, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would ever make them again even though the recipe was successful. Despite tasting good, because they tasted like rice pudding, why not just make rice pudding instead and skip all of the extra steps needed to form them into croquettes? Perhaps if you had a rice pudding loving crowd, this would be a fun way to serve it and maybe even be a bit of a conversation starter. Even though it may not be a recipe that I go to often in the future, I do enjoy the fun and challenge of trying to create something new. Here is the recipe if you would like to give it a try!

Rice Pudding Croquettes

  • 1 cup rice (2 cups cooked)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Graham cracker crumbs to roll formed croquettes in

Prepare the rice as you normally would and then place the cooked rice in a medium pan and allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. Whisk 1 egg and 1 cup of milk together well until it becomes a bit foamy and add it to the pot with the cooked rice along with the butter, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, dissolve the corn starch in 1 tablespoon of milk and set aside.

Bring the the mixture slowly to a boil over medium heat and then lower the heat to simmer and continue to cook until the mixture begins to thicken. approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the corn starch to the pot and continue to heat over a medium heat for another 2 to 3 minutes – the mixture will become quite thick during this step.

Allow the rice mixture to cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Beat together the remaining egg and 1 tablespoon of milk, form the rice mixture into croquettes approximately 2 inches in size, dip in egg and then graham cracker crumbs. When all the croquettes have been formed, sauté them in butter until they are golden brown on both sides and serve.

Now I’ll punt the croquette over to Karen to see how her second round went!

First let me say that Ray’s use of microwave rice in round one was totally cheating! Although I don’t suppose we made an official agreement about this, I do take into consideration what Grandma might have had or not had at her disposal when making these recipes. For round two though, there are no limitations. I know Ray won’t agree with me, but for the purposes of this blog, I am getting the last word in this week!

Reading the first sentence of Ray’s entry this week made me a little bit nervous! You see, I ended up going in the direction he first mentions. I made Loaded Rice Croquettes. He had me sweating there. I felt like he had hinted that he was going sweet, so I knew the savory lane should be wide open to me. There were many directions I could go in, but to be honest this was a busy week in our household and I didn’t know what I was going to do until last night. My youngest son graduated from high school yesterday, and the round two croquettes kept getting pushed to the back burner. We had our first meal out last night since the beginning of the pandemic and as I was sampling my husband’s truly wonderful rosemary garlic mashed potatoes, it instantly came to me what to make. There isn’t rosemary or garlic in the croquettes I made, but it solidified in my mind to use what I already had in my kitchen and that a loaded baked potato would be my starting point.

My approach was determined last week after so much work and the disaster zone that was my kitchen. I had already decided that my trusty rice cooker would get utilized and that my air fryer feature on my new range would come into play, especially after the fried food scents from last week lingered in the air much too long.

Air Fryer Loaded Rice Croquettes

  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 TBSP chopped garlic chives
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup bacon bits
  • 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 eggs
  • all purpose flour
  • breadcrumbs
  • neutral oil spray

Cook rice per your usual method. 1 cup of rice plus 2 cups of water will yield 3 cups of cooked rice. Dice butter into smaller pieces and add to rice while still warm. Stir to evenly distribute butter. Let rice cool for at least 10 to 15 minutes. At this point season rice with salt and pepper to taste. Add chives, bacon bits and shredded cheese to evenly distribute. Beat 2 eggs and mix into rice mixture. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes in order to make croquettes easier to form. Meanwhile, set up station for making croquettes. A plate of flour, a bowl with the remaining 2 eggs (beaten) and a plate of breadcrumbs. Once rice mixture is cooled, form into balls the size of a billiard ball, roll with flour, dip into beaten egg mixture then roll with breadcrumbs. Spray with oil and air fry at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes or until center reads 160 degrees.

This was served with a simple crema created by combining 1/4 cup of sour cream with salt and pepper to taste and adding 1 tsp of water and mixing to create a dipping sauce consistency.

Here are my thoughts on this dish… It was pretty good and not difficult at all! My focus group (family) liked them! I think I could easily add more cheese or even different types of cheese and I might have been just a touch shy with the oil sprayer, but overall, I’m quite pleased with this dish and will definitely be making/tweaking more in the future. This was my first time using the air fryer feature on my range, but won’t be my last. Besides being easier and tasting better than last week’s adventure, the kitchen was not a disaster when I finished which may be the best thing of all!

Loaded Rice Croquette with Sour Cream Crema