Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Italian-Style Grilled Cheese Sandwich


There is a big trend in the food world right now of taking comfort classics and reinventing them for more grown up palates. It is for this reason that I decided to take a crack at grilled cheese.

Grilled cheese is one of the ultimate comfort foods. Two slices of crispy buttery bread oozing cheese that’s quick and effortless. The problem with this sandwich is the cheese itself.

Unless it’s on a burger, I’m not a fan of processed cheese. I’m not crazy about the taste, find the day-glo orange colour repulsive, and I know it’s been so pumped full of chemicals that it no longer resembles real cheese. I also know that this has been done to make the “cheese” more melty.

My version of this classic sandwich draws its inspiration from Italian cuisine. It takes a little more work but it’s tastier and a little better for you.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Makes 1 Sandwich

Ingredients

2 Slices of Whole Wheat Bread

4 Slices of Mozzarella – Of all the real cheeses, mozzarella seems to melt the best. You can get slices of the real thing by the gram at the deli counter of grocery stores and at Italian grocers.

2 Tablespoons of Chopped Roasted Vegetables – You can get these at the prepared foods counter of a lot of grocery stores OR make them yourself on a day you have time to kill

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 Slice of Prosciutto (Optional) – It adds a little meaty saltiness to the sandwich but it’s not necessary

2 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese

Equipment

1 Frying Pan + Something that can be used as a lid

Measuring Spoons

Cooking Spray

1 Spatula

1 Pastry Brush – They look sorta like paintbrushes and can be found in the dollar store for a buck or three

1 Plate

1 Small Bowl

ASSEMBLE YOUR SANDWICH

Place 2 slices of Mozzarella on one slice of bread and spread the roasted veggies over the top.

Add one slice of Prosciutto on top, if using.

Top with 2 more slices of Mozzarella add the other slice of bread.

Press everything firmly together and brush both sides of the sandwich with Olive Oil.

Put the Parmesan cheese on a plate and press each side of the sandwich into it. The olive oil will act as glue.

GRILL YOUR SANDWICH

Spray your frying pan with cooking spray and put it on the stove on medium heat.

Put your sandwich in the frying pan and press it down with the spatula.

Cover the pan and leave the sandwich for 5 minutes. Real cheese doesn’t melt the same way as the orange stuff so you need to give it a bit more love to soften it.

Take the cover off the pan and using your spatula, lift the sandwich a little. If the bread is brown enough for you, flip it over.

Cook it on the other side until desired level of doneness on the bread.

Put the sandwich on a plate and enjoy!


-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Melty Cinnamon Chocolate Brownies

A Pro Valentine's Day Dessert


When it comes to Valentine’s Day desserts, chocolate is universal. Not only is it widely given as a gift on this holiday, but it’s considered an aphrodisiac.

For those of you who don’t bake much but still want to impress your sweethearts with something homemade, I came up with this brownie recipe.

This brownie combines three complimentary aphrodisiacs: chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon, into a mushy melty dessert that is sure to please and with a few extra touches, can look as fancy as anything you’d get in an overcrowded restaurant.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Medium - Easy
Prep time: 20 Minutes
Baking time: 23 Minutes

Makes 12 brownies – feel free to cover and keep what’s left in the fridge for a snack, they’ll be good for at least 2 weeks.

Ingredients

1 Cup Butter – Half Salted or Unsalted is ideal

2 Oz Chopped Unsweetened Chocolate – Boxes of unsweetened baking chocolate typically have guides on them to tell you many squares = 1 ounce. Use it.

1 Cup Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

2 Cups Granulated Sugar

1 Tablespoon Instant Coffee Granules

1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

1 Teaspoon Salt

¼ Cup Whole Wheat Flour + ¾ Cup All Purpose Flour
-OR-
1 Cup All Purpose Flour – I prefer using a bit of whole wheat as it makes the brownie even denser, but it’s up to you.

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla or Toffee Extract

4 Eggs

Cooking Spray

Equipment

1 Medium Sized Pot

1 Whisk

1 Wooden Spoon

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Muffin Pan

Paper Muffin Cups

1 Timer

If ya wanna get fancy

1 Sieve + 1 Cup of Icing/Powdered Sugar

Caramel Sauce or Dulce de Leche – the latter is available at specialty grocers, the former is usually kept with the chocolate syrup or near the ice cream.

Strawberry slices

Put the butter and chocolates in the pot and turn the heat on medium-low.

Melt them all together, stirring with a wooden spoon every once in a while to make sure they’re well combined.

Once everything is melted together, put the pot on a trivet or cutting board on the counter.

Set a time for 11 minutes and walk away until it goes off.

When the time is up, preheat your oven to 350 oF and line your muffin pan with paper muffin cups. I use a muffin pan not only because it allows for portion control, but it also gives you that wonderfully crunchy crust in every brownie.

Spray the paper muffin cups with a little cooking spray.

Whisk the vanilla, instant coffee granules, salt, and cinnamon into the pot with the butter and chocolate mixture.

Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition.

Put the whisk away and switch back to your wooden spoon – this will keep the brownies from being too cakey.

With a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the mix JUST until you can’t see the flour anymore.

Fill the paper cups ¾ of the way with the brownie batter.

Bake for 23 minutes or until the tops have solidified and they no longer jiggle when you gently shake the pan.

Cool on the counter for 10 minutes and serve!

If ya wanna get fancy, put a brownie on a small plate, top with some caramel sauce, dump some powdered sugar into a sieve and shake it over top. A strawberry slice makes for the extra sweetheart touch ;).

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY EVERYBODY!

-Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Sour Heart

An Anti-Valentine’s Day Cocktail


Valentine’s Day is this Tuesday and many of us agree it’s a holiday for suckers. Every year chocolate companies will charge you extra for the same product in heart-shaped packaging, flower vendors will jack up the price of plants that will die in a week, and restaurants, lingerie, jewelry and perfume vendors will offer items that will supposedly please your partner enough to get you laid that night.

For all of us who see through the bullshit, with or without a partner, I’ve come up with this cocktail recipe.

Valentine’s Day Lovers will probably accuse us of being sour, so I made this cocktail with Raspberry Sourpuss, a sour bright red liquor. Blue Curacao and pineapple juice keep this fun and festive, proving that we don’t need artificial hearts and flowers to enjoy the day.

Here’s How You Do It
Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep: About 5 minutes

Makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon of Blue Curacao – A citrus flavor liqueur with a fun blue colour

2 Tablespoons of Raspberry Sourpuss

¼ Cup Pineapple Juice

Club Soda

3 Ice Cubes

1 Strawberry, Cut into quarters

Equipment

1 Tall Glass

Measuring Spoons

Measuring Cup

1 Spoon to stir with

Put the juice, liquors, and ice in a glass and stir to combine.

Top up the glass with club soda.

Add some strawberry pieces for the finishing touch.

Now sit back, relax and enjoy your Valentine’s Day.

For those of you who love the holiday, stay tuned for the next entry when I’ll show you how to make a dessert to impress your sweetheart!


-Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.





Wednesday, February 8, 2017

DIY All-Purpose Cleanser


With climate change a reality and employment prospects in decline, it’s time we all did our part to reduce our carbon footprint and save what’s left of our environment.

Some people do this by eating sustainably and/or organically, others do it by protesting, but for most of us the easiest and cheapest way to do it is to start with ourselves.

Cooking can be a lot of fun, but the cleanup is always a pain in the butt, despite what Mary Poppins would have you believe.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re singing, dancing, or listening to music, you’re still using nasty pricey cleansers to get the vermin attracting food residue and harmful bacteria off your sinks, counters, stove, and in the bathroom.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a few ingredients you probably already have at home, you can make your own all-purpose cleanser that will do the job just fine and cost a fraction of the price of a ready-made cleaning product.

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep time: 5 Minutes
Will yield at least 2 cups of cleaning product

Ingredients

½ Cup of White Vinegar – a great, food safe disinfectant

1 Teaspoon of Liquid Dish Soap

1 or 2 Tablespoons of Bleach (OPTIONAL) – The vinegar in this recipe disinfects just fine, but for those who want extra germ killing power, add the bleach. Bleach isn’t the most enviro-friendly thing out there and its fumes are toxic, but a little goes a long way and this recipe probably contains less than a store-bought cleaning product.

At least 1 ½ Cups of Water – If you want a milder cleaning product, simply add more water

Equipment

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Empty Spray Bottle or Bucket – Both available at the dollar store or hardware store

Combine all the ingredients and you’re good to go!

This cleanser will work on tile floors, counter tops, sinks, some appliances, and in the bathroom. For wood surfaces you’re better off mixing a tiny bit of wood-friendly cleaner with water.

Now scrub, scrub away!


-Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Savory Corn and Cheddar Muffins


Muffins are a great way to start the day. 

Unlike their sugar and fat heavy cousins the cupcakes, muffins – when done right – are made with more wholesome ingredients and less sugar. The problem is that muffins are typically sweet, coming in flavors ranging from bran to chocolate chip to banana to blueberry and not everyone wants something sweet in the morning.

Sometimes you need a little salt in your life, but unfortunately most salty breakfast items like cheese omelets, bacon, heavily buttered toast and hash browns are salty cholesterol bombs that aren’t good for anyone.

It is with this in mind that I came up with this recipe.

These muffins combine the salty pleasure of cheese, eggs, and breakfast meat into a more wholesome portion-controlled muffin. With just a touch of honey for sweetness and a fiber boost from whole wheat flour, these muffins are a healthier alternative to the classic bacon and egg breakfast. They also take less time as you can make these at the beginning of the week, stick em in a baggy in the fridge and warm one up as needed.

They work great as a side dish or savory-dinner roll too!

Here’s How You Do It

Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes

Makes 12 Muffins

Ingredients

1 Cup of Fine Yellow Cornmeal – You can usually find this with the dried beans and rice in the grocery store

1 ½ Cups Hot Water

1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour

½ Cup White All Purpose Flour

1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder

1 Teaspoon of Salt

1 Teaspoon of Chili Powder

1 Cup of Vegetable or Canola Oil

2 Eggs

2 Tablespoons of Honey

½ Cup of Chopped Green Onions + More for topping

1 Cup Grated Cheddar Cheese – I prefer old cheddar as it has a sharper taste, but if you’re not a fan, use mild or medium cheddar

1/2 Cup of your favorite Chopped Cooked Breakfast Meat, cooled and drained of excess fat (Optional) – I used bacon and little ham, but you could also use cooked crumbled sausage as well. Are you Vegetarian or Kosher or Halal? No problem! Leave out the meat.

Equipment

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Cheese Grater

1 Large Mixing Bowl

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Muffin Pan

12 Paper Muffin Cups

In a large bowl, add the cornmeal and hot water and mix well.

Walk away for 15 minutes to give the cornmeal a chance to absorb some of the water. It won’t completely absorb but it will give the cornmeal a head start, making it softer and less grainy when the muffins bake.

Preheat the oven to 350 oF and line your muffin pan with the paper liners.

Add the canola oil, eggs, honey, and chili powder and mix with a wooden spoon until everything is well combined.

Add the salt, white flour, whole wheat flour, and baking powder and give it a mix to evenly combine it.

Stir in the onions, cheese, and meat (if using).

Put even amounts of the batter in each muffin cup and top with a little chopped green onion.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the largest one comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes and enjoy!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.