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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Michigan Dogs

This is adapted from Rachael Ray's recipe.  I don't know why she calls them Michigan Dogs...they're chili cheese hot dogs to me, and I suppose some people call this combination of toppings a Coney Dog?  The folks I know from Michigan certainly don't know what Michigan Dogs are.

I like that the cheese sauce and chili sauce can be made ahead (and even frozen), and the kiddos can opt out of toppings and just have plain dogs if they want.  Leftover chili and cheese sauce make excellent breakfast burritos by the way.

There's a lot of liquid that goes into the chili sauce and it needs to boil down to make a nice, thick, rich chili sauce.  Your choice of pot will significantly affect how long it takes for this to happen.  A tall, narrow pot will take longer whereas a shallow, wide pot will allow water to boil off much more quickly.

I used dehydrated (i.e. sun-dried) tomatoes instead of the tomato paste the OR calls for.  I finely minced them and used the same amount called for in Rachael Ray's recipe.

When it comes to the cheese sauce, I recommend using cornstarch instead of flour.  It makes a smoother sauce, it's gluten-free and thickens more strongly than flour.  I also add the mustard after the milk but before the cheese...once the cheese is in there, it's really difficult to mix in the mustard evenly.  Use whatever cheese you want here...I had a chunk of white cheddar and some parmesan leftover from another recipe that used up here.  Sharp cheddar, colby, even American cheese makes delicious cheese sauce.  I do not recommend using Dijon mustard...did that once and it was just too, too much.  If you really want to use Dijon, I'd use 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup.  I just stick to plain ol' French's.

One of my favorite tips from Rachael's recipe is to split the hot dogs down the middle before grilling/frying them.  They lay better in your bun (I prefer hot dog-sized lengths of French bread) and make a better "bed" for all the toppings.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Advanced Prep-ahead: Beef Burgundy and a Cookbook Shout-out

Pressure canning/dehydrating is probably a step beyond what most people are willing to do to prepare and store meals in advance, so I'm going to keep this pretty short.  But I do highly recommend this book, as there are many complete prep-ahead meal recipes that do not involve pressure canning.

I tried a recipe out of a cookbook called Meals in a Jar by Julie Languille for Beef Burgundy.  I dehydrated my own mushrooms (although you can buy dried mushrooms at the store and skip this part) and did a scaled back version of the recipe (hers called for 16 lbs of stew meat and made 16 6-serving portions of finished beef burgundy), leaving out a meal's worth to have for dinner that night.  It was delicious and I'm awfully glad I've put up the 6 quarts I have along with pre-portioned cornmeal and rice for side dishes of polenta and pilaf.

There are LOADS of recipes in this book that are made entirely out of store-bought dry ingredients and can be assembled and stored in jars without canning at all, but there are also a lot of recipes for canning things that I don't think freeze very well (pulled pork and mushrooms being two of them).

I'm definitely going to hang onto a few recipes for things that would make great new baby/home from the hospital/get well type casserole gifts but that wouldn't require the recipient to make room in their freezer.

Also I gotta say, if I still lived in Florida (where our big natural disaster threat was hurricanes which will knock out power for days or weeks at a time and you'd lose a big freeze stash if one hit), I'd do more prepping ahead like this.

Some pictures...
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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cheddar Jelly Thumbprints

I've made several variations on this recipe, swapping in and out different cheeses and different jellies, over several years.  My personal favorites are the sharp-cheese/spicy-jelly combinations but a milder, sweeter colby-apple jam version won me a 2nd place ribbon (and 3 lbs of butter) at the State Fair last year.  Feel free to play with flavors here!

I've served these as appetizers and desserts, and they prep ahead (and even freeze) fabulously.  Roll the cookie balls, roll them in nuts and freeze them.  Thaw before baking so that you can make the little indentations for the jelly.  

I also <3 that you make the dough in the food processor...so fast, so easy.

A neato-torpedo trick I picked up from Cooks Illustrated is to use a wine cork to make the "thumbprints"...very tidy, very precise.
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