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Monday, May 20, 2013

Easy As Cake? Yeah, Right

Where did the phrase "easy as cake" come from? Is it a sarcastic remark? Are they referring to the baking or the eating? Have you ever tried to bake a cake from scratch? Its a hard thing to do. I have to tip my hat to all the bakers out there because its not easy, AT ALL!!

On two occasions I have tried this. The second time happened because I forgot how much work went into doing it. It was my wife's birthday, so I didn't mind too much. But, the process is still daunting. Planning the size needed, the flavors, what type of icing, the decoration. Oh, what a process. 

The plan was for a sheet cake and 25 cupcakes. Since my wife is a volunteer at our son's school, the teachers all put in for a nice celebration for my wife's birthday. Which was very nice of them all. It was a wonderful celebration and the cake was well received. But, back to the cake.

A two layer sheet cake and 25 cupcakes is difficult when you only have one oven and a galley kitchen. I start with the layer cake. Bake one layer, while the first layer is baking, I am mixing up the batter for the second. When the first is done, set it aside to cool and pop the second in the oven. Start mixing the batter for the cupcakes and get them ready for their turn in the hot box. Once those go in, I start mixing up the buttercream frosting. 

After everything was cooled, I begin to ice the cakes. Six hours, eight cups of flour, and 4 boxes of powdered sugar later I have my cakes. Though not the best looking cake, it was indeed delicious.

All in all, it was a good experience and placed my culinary focus away from baking. Small cakes I can do, but this, will never happen again. Don't get me wrong, I love to eat cake, but baking them is not for me. I think my local bakery will serve quite well for my baking needs. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A People Place... Sort Of

Frankwithoutabun.com was started because I wanted to track my culinary development and share what I know with whoever would read it. So far, it has been a pretty good decision.


Honestly, I didn't expect anyone to read this blog. "This is just going to be a glorified journal and no one will pay any attention to you", was my thinking. I would ask myself questions like "do you really know food?", "can your really cook?", or I would think "you might sound like an idiot to an actual chef", or "you haven't wrote anything since high school, your no writer". Sometimes these thoughts still creep in, but I feel more at ease about them. 

I do not know how many people actually read my post. (Those of you that do, I thank you for doing so, you're awesome!). But, I do know that my blog has brought me closer to some people that I probably would have never had a connection with otherwise. It is great to be able to meet new people, even if it is only virtually, I am happy to know each of them. I thank you for all the support. Frankwithoutabun.com is my connection with new people and I do not regret a moment of it.

With all the doubts I had in the beginning, I started this blog anyway. Seven months have gone by since and though I do not have all the answers to my concerns, I did receive some. The most important one is that people are paying attention. There are Frankwithoutabun readers out there and it makes me happy to know that is a fact. Do I know food? Can I cook? Maybe. I know what I like. I know what my family likes and what my friends tell me. I know cooking techniques and some flavor parings. What I do not know, I will learn, eventually. Would I sound like an idiot to a chef? I don't think so. Though I may not know it all, I think I know enough to speak with a chef and not sound like an idiot. I would hope that chef would be willing to correct and teach and not just dismiss. Last but not least, am I a writer? I don't know. In high school, my teachers would say my writing was pretty good. Then again, they would say that while handing me my paper back covered in red notes. "Blood On the Page" is what Mr. Merolla would say to me. So, my guess, is that my writing is pretty good, but there is always room for improvement.

This post is just to thank you guys for reading. My appreciation cannot be expressed in words. I hope you all  have gotten to know a bit more about me also. Those who I do not know, say hi or add a comment. Hey, I don't know it all, maybe you can help me learn something. Well, thanks again everyone. I will see you all again really soon!!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Summer is Coming!!

HBO's series "Game of Thrones" is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine. The motto of the Starks of Winterfell is "Winter is coming", so my motto for food is that summer is coming. So lets get ready to fire up those barbecues, break out the patio furniture, and lets take dinner outside!
One of my favorite bbq foods is the burger. I am probably one of about 100 million who love burgers in the summer and can't wait for the New York cold to be replaced with bbq smoke. The typical burger is topped with lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and pickles. There is no problem with that, but why not jazz them up a bit? I have the perfect way to add heat, sweet, and overall deliciousness to your burgers.

I am pretty awful at portioning my ingredients, so I tend to always make too much. However, I think this recipe will definitely be able to top at least 8-10 burgers nicely. I am calling this a spicy cucumber & tomato pico de gallo. I think this accurately describes this dish. 
This is probably the easiest condiment to put together since all of the ingredients are raw and require no cooking. All your going to need is:

-1/2 of a cucumber
-small red onion
-1 tomato or a handful of grape tomatoes
-1 green bell pepper (you can replace this with a pepper of your choosing)
-olive oil
-vinegar (preferably cider)
-fresh flat leaf parsley
-salt
-black pepper
-Red Devil hot sauce

Now, all there is to do is dice all the veggies, place them in a bowl. Add a splash each of olive oil and vinegar, a couple of dashes of hot sauce, add parsley, salt and pepper to taste. 
There it is. Spicy Cucumber and Tomato Pico De Gallo. It is absolutely delicious. The heat of the hot sauce along with the sweet of the cucumber and the sharp acid from the vinegar make this a perfect addition to any bbq. Its great on burgers, it might be just as good on hot-dogs. Give it a try, you won't regret it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I'm Back with Safety First


     Hey everyone! I know it has been a while since my last post. With family life and a project that took longer than expected, time with my kitchen has been very minimal. That all has been settled and I finally have some time to enjoy my kitchen.

   Before I go into food and recipes, I have to apologize to all my readers. I feel as though I have not delivered on my promise of teaching and learning with you. My blog has become more of a digital photo gallery rather than an aid for others. Now, I know some you might not agree with me, but I also know I can share a lot more knowledge. With my new found dedication to provide education, I will be tackling the most important topic in food, safety.
Photo by International Association for Food Protection
     Even though we may just cook for our immediate family, food and kitchen safety should be our top priority. Though we may not be professionals, I believe we should still use those professional guidelines for cleanliness and avoid cross contamination in our home kitchens. After all, who would like someone to be sick from the meal made? Not me, and I am sure not you. So lets begin with the most obvious.
      Hand washing is the number one defense against food contamination. You would be surprised how many germs can be spread just by our hands. 30 seconds in hot water with soap can provide tons of protection.
A clean kitchen is the next line of defense against any type of food contamination. The littlest things are the most important when cleaning. I have seen some pretty horrible kitchens and did not want to eat or drink a thing out of them, so you might want to avoid that. Clean surfaces and utensils would save who ever you plan on serving from any type of contaminants. I have also seen some really bad practices when preparing food, so here are some things you should and shouldn't do. 
Photo by International Association for Food Protection
     When preparing our foods, we have to cut up vegetables and prep our meats. These actions are significant to cooking and we need to know how to do them safely. The best way to prevent cross contamination is to have separate cutting boards for each action. In addition to this, you must clean your knife after each use or have two of those also. This is very important because we don't want raw meat touching our fresh veggies (especially chicken). 
      Speaking of chicken, it might be the most dangerous (but delicious) protein in our kitchens. Salmonella is found in chickens and can spread if not properly handled. Just so you are aware, properly cooked through chicken doesn't contain salmonella. Maybe its just me, but I do not condone the washing of chicken or any meat for that matter. "Washing" the chicken doesn't really clean it. The only way to rid chicken, pork, beef, or any meat from any type of natural bacteria is to cook it. When it is brought to proper cooking temperature, that is when it will be free of contaminants. Washing also adds moisture to your proteins and doesn't allow them to get the crust you are looking for when searing. With chicken, washing only allows salmonella to spread even further than it would if you just took it from the pack. Every drip of water that falls off your chicken is now full of salmonella and is hitting every surface in your kitchen. This situation requires a full scrubbing of your kitchen. 
      It may sound like a lot to remember, especially if these practices are not already in your kitchen prep routine. However, they are necessary practices if you wish to create delicious dishes that won't cause any type of sickness. So cook safely my friends and enjoy the meals!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Better Than Take Out

If there is one thing about New York I'd miss if I left it would be pizza. I love that thin crust layered with sauce and melted cheese. It is probably the best take out you can get. It is cost effective and delicious. Who could ask for more?
Well, there is a limit to what can be put onto a pizza when you order in. We all are limited to what toppings that particular pizzeria has to offer. At home, the only limits you have is your imagination. There are countless toppings which are not offered at a traditional pizzeria. From fruit to herbs, no combination of ingredients is
of limits.
So , my attempt at making a pizza was a good one. I think making pizza is pretty moderate in the difficulty level if you purchase pre-made dough. If you make the dough yourself, it's not difficult, but it does take more time. For this, I went the easy way. Since I live in Brooklyn, I wanted to get that official Brooklyn style dough. There is only one supermarket in my neighborhood that sells that Brooklyn style dough. So, in the supermarket I grab my dough, onion, olives, roasted red peppers, some fresh parsley, ground beef, and spicy Italian sausages. My cost for these ingredients was about ten bucks. Not too bad for two pizza pies made at home with five toppings.
I get home and start to defrost the dough.  while that is defrosting, I start cooking my meat. I want to make sure that I have all the items I'm going to use already prepped. So, I caught up my onion, roasted red peppers, olives, and my parsley. Have everything in a separate bowls, waiting to be used. Then, I start on my sauce. It's a no cook tomato sauce, so it doesn't take that long. Once the dough is defrosted , I start to stretch it try to make it as round as possible because as you all know I am NOT a pizza maker, but, I try.
Then I just put it all together. Sauce, cheese, then all the toppings. I know this sounds good already doesn't it? But wait... It's coming.
Okay it's all put together, now we have to bake it. I do not own a pizza stone.  An easy way to get the crispiest crust possible, is to heat your oven to 500 degrees with a baking sheet inside the oven. Once the oven is hot, pull out the baking sheet and put some olive oil on to it. Just a little to coat the baking sheet. Then place the pizza on the baking sheet and put it into the oven. Cook until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is brown. Then slice it up and serve it to everybody. Just like to take out, but better, way better.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year everybody! 2013 has begun. I hope everyone has had a wonderful 2012 and has an even better 2013. I also hope that your meals are even better and more delicious this year!
My first meal of 2013 was an absolutely delicious pulled pork sandwich. A nice and tender pork loin soaked in a delicious bbq sauce on a toasted bun. I have wanted to make this since I started my blog, but my wife always talked me out of it. But it is a new year and I am trying everything.

If you have a slow cooker, this is the perfect set it and forget it recipe. Load it up, put it on high and let it cook for 5-6 hours. Give it a shot, add some coleslaw and devour. Its all the instructions you need!

It is definitely going to be a good year when you are able to start off with a meal like this. All best to everyone. Enjoy!

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Ingredients:

1 4-5 lbs pork loin
1 cup bbq sauce
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tbls chili powder
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tbls dried thyme
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 tbls olive oil
Burger buns

Directions:

Put all ingredients into the slow cooker.
Place the slow cooker on high.
Cook for 5-6 hours.
Pull out the loin. Place it on a cutting board. Pull it to shreds with two forks. Place back into sauce. Toasts buns then place pork on buns and serve.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays!!!

This year I will be cooking at my brother in law's house and I do indeed have a wonderful spread planned. However, I will have to withhold the details until after the holiday. I just wanted to post a well wishing to all those who read this. I hope your holidays are filled with joy and happiness. I also wanted to say thank you to those who read my blog on a regular basis. I appreciate you guys so much. I will be back after the new year with some new entries, so stay tuned. So on that note, happy holidays and Happy New Year!