Saturday, 31 March 2018

When the Cabbage Roll Weds the Perogie?

The Ukrainians have a few interesting foodie-related proverbs and sayings, such as: "No cook ever died of starvation." Or, "If you chase two hares at the same time, you will catch neither of them." And then, "No matter how hard you try, the bull will never give you milk." And finally, "Only when you have eaten a cockroach do you appreciate soup."

Though I've never had the privilege to visit the Ukraine, my daughter has. And in honour of that visit, today's foodie experiment was, not only another first for me, but also a tribute to a couple awesome Ukrainian dishes. For those of you who love perogies and cabbage rolls, this might be of interest to you. I, for one, love them both.

But what would happen if one took those two wonderful Ukrainian dishes, and combined them into one? As I pondered that, it quickly occurred to me that, as with other foodie creations that I've previously embarked on, I was about to find out. Perogie cabbage rolls? Why not?!

The experiment started with a package of frozen potato, bacon and romano cheese perogies. These were dropped into boiling water and stirred occasionally to keep them from sticking to each other. When they had surfaced on top of the boiling water, they were removed from the boiling water and set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.

While this was happening, in another pot of boiling water there was a whole head of cabbage that had been pre-cored, removing the stem. As it's leaves began to fall away from the rest of the head, and became soft, they were each removed one by one and set aside on another paper towel-lined tray.

The spine of each cabbage leaf was removed and set aside. (Along with a little salt, these became a great snack throughout the preparation process). Each perogie was then wrapped in a leaf (or half a leaf, depending on size) of cabbage. A toothpick was used to temporarily hold everything together throughout the rest of the cooking process, and removed before serving.

A jar of our favourite pasta sauce was then preheated and stirred, and then poured over the perogie cabbage rolls. These dishes were then covered in foil and placed in a 300 degree F oven about an hour before being served with a dollop of sour cream.

They were wonderfully yummy. 😋😋😋

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Smoke and Whiskers

A few years ago, when I was given a new Bradley Smoker for Father's Day, I suddenly discovered a new passion and hobby … smoking meat.

Since then I've experimented with everything from beef jerky to sirloin tip to meatloaf, from pork loin to sausages, from chicken to salmon, and even a variety of veggies. Often I would wrap some of these in a bacon-weave to make them even more exotic. Most weekends, if you were over at our place, you would see and smell the smoke rising from the old smoker. And if you followed my blog, The Other Side of Will, you would see the story and some pics behind many of these foodie creations.

I've enjoyed following several websites and social media communities that share the same passion for the smoker and barbecue, such as the BBQ Pit Boys. I've learned a lot from them and their members, and also shared a few posts of my own of some of my experiments. As such, I was only too happy to support the BBQ Pit Boys by starting an official chapter of my own here in Southern Alberta.

So, I'd like to introduce you to, Smoke and Whiskers, an official BBQ Pit Boys chapter. We can be found on Facebook at: Smoke and Whiskers.

OK, as any foodie will tell you, they understand the "smoke" part, but what's what's with the "whiskers" part? Well, the "whiskers" part simply pays tribute to the fact that I've been bearded for most of my adult life; I was bearded in my wedding pictures over 36 years ago, and though a little greyer now, I remain bearded still. Ah, whiskers! As someone once said, "God only made so many perfect faces; the rest are clean shaven."

So, what keeps you up at night? What do you mediate upon?

For me it's often the next exotic foodie idea, such as my plan to smoke a whole pig this summer for an upcoming family reunion. I confess that I've never tried that before, but such is the life of a foodie. No recipe, no magic formula; just an idea to be experimented with and sometimes tweaked on subsequent attempts. But you know you're doing something right when leftovers are often scarce and even the wife goes for a second helping.

Happy smoking. Peace.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Don't Let Will Get Your Goat

Among the many childhood experiences that I fondly remember, and to this day am grateful for, is that my parents introduced my siblings and me to a plethora of exotic dishes. When introduced to one such strange new dish, one of my brothers only question was, not the often too typical, "Yuck, I don't like that," but rather, "How do I eat that?" I cannot remember exactly what the dish was, but it obviously was something unique and different enough, that my younger brother's question was quite valid.

I suppose you could say that this past weekend's foodie creation was a tribute to those wonderful childhood cuisine experiences.

The original plan was to make a hearty beef stew on the charcoal grill in my trusty cast iron pot. While in the meat department looking for some beef bones to add to my stewing beef, I discovered some bone-in New Zealand goat. I thought I had won the lottery! Plans quickly changed. Now dinner was going to be a goat stew. I texted the idea to my wife and met no resistance, so I quickly hurried to the nearest checkout with my exotic find.

I was reminded of something my daughter said many years ago on a university trip into an eastern European country. She came back and said that they tried to have all foods at least twice. When I asked why, she said, "First to get over the shock of something different, and the second time to try and learn to appreciate it." Wise words, I thought. How can we rightly say that we don't like something different, unless we first actually try it?

After heating up my charcoal grill, and since I already had beef stewing meat thawed, I decided that my goat stew would also contain beef. Why not?! The goat and the beef were seasoned with some favourite spices and seared a bit on the hot grill before finding their way into the pot. I added some water, potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, Crimini mushrooms, garlic powder, black pepper, salt and beef broth. Later I added a little flour in order to thicken up the stew. After pre-soaking it in some water, I then added a couple chunks of rum oak barrel wood directly on top of the hot charcoal to give me the smoke I wanted to enhance my stew with.

One certainly could have made something like it in the kitchen on the stove top, but there's something about slow cooking outdoors over charcoal and smoke that gives food a unique flavour that I defy any indoor kitchen to even come close to.

After a few hours, it came time for the moment of truth; dinner was served. It looked and smelled good enough, but how about taste? We weren't disappointed. Goat certainly has a unique taste all its own that is not easily compared to most of the more common North American fares.

Someone once said in jest something to the effect of, "Everything tastes like chicken that doesn't have a taste of its own." Well, goat definitely doesn't taste like chicken. Perhaps the closest thing I can compare it to is lamb, but even that's not really a fair comparison. Goat tastes like, well, goat.

And if I still have not yet convinced you of this amazing meat, let me just close with this. Often times the best testimony of a meal is someone going for a second helping, as my dear wife did. Maybe the way to a woman's heart really is through a man who likes to cook. Hmm.

Postscript: It is interesting to note that the reheated leftovers on the second day were almost better than the first day. Hmm.

For Further Reading: 28 Health Benefits of Goat Meat
First Goat Picture Credit: Nick Bianco, Flickr Creative Commons
Final Goat Meme Source: Unknown

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Onion Rings: Breakfast's Other Perfect Food?

Onion rings for breakfast?

Sure, why not?!

I discovered a bag of frozen onion rings in our freezer recently, which gave me an "aha" moment. What if I took my love for onion rings and combined it with my love for bacon? As the old adage says, in that way I can "kill two birds with one stone."

And so yet another foodie experiment was born. Breakfast will never be the same again.

Opening the bag of onion rings, I selected some of the larger ones. Taking a slice of low-sodium bacon, I wound the bacon around each frozen onion ring and placed them on a rack on top of a parchment paper lined baking tray. The idea behind the rack, as opposed to simply laying them directly on the baking tray, was to create a barrier between between the onion rings and the bacon grease. In retrospect, I'm glad I did that. They then went into a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until they started to crisp up nicely.

I wasn't surprised to see some shrinkage in the finished product, and some ended up a little more twisted than they started out as. Didn't matter; the taste of onion rings and bacon woven together was awesome. Besides, from personal experience, I've long since learned that all food twists and breaks up more as you eat it (ha, ha).

Finally, for all you nay-sayers who think this all too unhealthy, the way I figure it, I was only being half-bad. I did, after all, serve it with poached eggs on lightly buttered Canadian rye bread. Self justification is a wonderful thing.

"Bacon is just another word for meat candy"

Friday, 23 February 2018

Comfort Food Extraordinaire: The Meatloaf

"Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort." (Norman Kolpas)

My latest foodie experiment focused on comfort food, or at least what I think is comfort food: the meatloaf. However, if you have followed any of my past foodie experiments on this blog, you will likely have noticed that "ordinary" is far from my vocabulary when it comes to my culinary creations.

Like all good meatloaf, I started with a bunch of lean hamburger. To this I added some familiar meatloaf ingredients, and some not so familiar. Eggs, oatmeal, chopped onions, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, a little salt, chopped mushrooms, and … chopped jalapeño peppers. Jalapeños are simply one of natures more wonderful foods. It really is a shame that they don't find their way into more foods.

After mixing the ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl, it was set aside while I made the stuffing. Yes, you heard that right, my meatloaf was going to be stuffed. "With what?" you ask. I'm glad you asked. I happen to make an awesome mashed potatoes, and since we're talking comfort food, and since my comfort food includes mashed potatoes, it only seemed logical to combine the two.

My mashed potatoes start with washed red potatoes, cut, but not peeled. I prefer the skins on, as that's where much of the nutrients lie. Once boiled, they are mashed with butter, milk and … a tub of Philadelphia jalapeño cream cheese. Is your mouth watering yet?

Now it's time to begin the finicky process of building the masterpiece.

My meat mixture was rolled out using a rolling pin. Mashed potatoes were added to one half, and then the other half of the meat was gently rolled over the potatoes and the edges crimped. If I would have stopped here, the foodie experiment would already have been a success.

But, like I often desire to do when cooking, I needed to go the extra mile. How about some bacon? Bacon; the other perfect food! Oh yeah!

I created four bacon weaves on a sheet of wax paper, one for each meatloaf. The stuffed meatloaf was then laid into one end of the bacon weave, and gently rolled in the bacon weave, tucking the end pieces of bacon into the roll, and thus making a perfect bacon-wrapped meatloaf.

Finally it was time to cook the masterpieces. But here too, an oven was just too ordinary for my purposes. I decided to put them into the old Bradley Smoker and cook them over apple wood. Is your mouth watering yet?

A temperature probe was inserted into the meat and it was left alone for several hours. Had I not been trying to do this in the midst of a southern Alberta snow storm, it likely would have cooked a little quicker. But being a true Canadian, a little winter doesn't scare me away from outdoor cooking.

Admit it, they're pretty, aren't they? 😋

"Patience is a virtue," someone once said. Our patience once again paid off with an amazing dinner. A lot or work? Yes, but for me being a foodie is much more an enjoyable hobby than a chore.

Look at those beautiful meatloafs . As an aside, when I showed this picture to a friend recently, he thought it looked like one of the "Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles." LOL. I guess it does.

After making a few freezer packs there was still a few left overs the next morning. Hmm. Suddenly another foodie idea came to mind for breakfast. Baked eggs and smoked jalapeño meatloaf? Why not? One never knows unless they try.

Four eggs were whisked and poured into two small glass oven-safe dishes that had been pre-sprayed with cooking spray. The left over meatloaf, including its potato stuffing and bacon wrap, was finely chopped and dunked and fully submersed into the eggs. This concoction was baked in a 300-degree oven until the eggs were fully cooked.

Ah, breakfast will never be the same; nor will dinner the night before.

The life of a Foodie. 😊

Saturday, 17 February 2018

A Stool for Better Stools?

Do you suck at pooping?

Well my wife and I learned something when we visited Walmart this morning. It appears that we've been using the toilet the wrong way.

Who knew?!


Ever since I was a potty-trained youngster, I always thought that pooping was simply a case of finding the nearest toilet, dropping your shorts, and letting it rip. Add a good bathroom reader and some decent toilet paper, preferably a brand that doesn't easily allow your fingers to poke through causing one to self-administer his own prostate exam, and you're good to go. Add a few good farts for good measure, and it's even better. None of it seemed like rocket science.

Who knew that there was more to it than that?!

Apparently the position of your feet  also has a role in creating better poops. We've since learned that the correct way to use a toilet is to have your feet elevated and thus creating more of a natural squat. The answer to all our pooping problems is the Squatty Potty; a stool for better stools. So now you know. You're welcome.


But all joking aside, and as hilarious as all this sounds, maybe there's something to this. Maybe a little more research into helping out the health of the old sphincter is warranted. Maybe a return trip to Walmart to get my own Squatty Potty is justified so that I too can learn to poop right. The old adage of "old dogs and new tricks" comes to mind. Hmm ...

Monday, 12 February 2018

Jalapeño Pork Stuffing to Die For

I love being a Foodie! It's quite possibly one of the best parts of my weekend; whether it's cooking on the charcoal grill, in the old Bradly smoker, or simply inside on stove top or oven. I find foodie creations an excellent stress-relief valve and a pleasure to do. I simply do not view cooking as a chore; rather it's a blessing in which for a short while, I can lose myself in culinary experiments that give me much joy. Some turn out; others not so much. But it doesn't matter because I'm enjoying what I'm doing, I'm learning, and most important, I get much satisfaction from it.

A couple days ago I took my culinary passion in a new direction, in that I experimented with a stuffing mix for a pork loin. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but such is the nature of the Foodie; forget the recipes, and play with your ideas. Once again, I would not be disappointed.

The experiment began with a pork loin roast of about three pounds in weight. It was seasoned on all sides with Keg brand chicken and rib seasoning. The loin was cut through the long side to a depth of about 2/3. The inside was then seasoned as well.

Next it was time to make the soon-to-be-famous, "Will's Stuffing."

For this concoction I took one large jalapeño pepper, finely chopped, seeds and all. About 1/4 of a medium onion was also finely chopped and added to the same bowl. Next came approximately 3 heaping tablespoons of Philadelphia brand jalapeño cream cheese, followed by approximately a 1/4 cup of Cracker Barrel Habanero Monterey Jack shredded cheese. Finally, a liberal sprinkling of about an 1/8 of a cup of processed bacon bits. These were all blended together into a paste using a hand blender.

Next on the docket it was time to spread the paste generously into the opening of the pork loin. The loin was then tied together with string.

Apple juice was then injected into the pork loin in several spots. Oh, I could almost taste it now!

Finally, the loin found its way into a roasting pan with some chicken broth to help maintain the moisture. It was covered in foil and placed into an oven preheated to about 300F. The original plan for this pork loin was to cook it outside on the charcoal grill, but high winds and an uncomfortably cold snowy winter day, forced a chickening out on my part, and a resignation to inside cooking.

Still, when all was said and done, Mama raved about the dinner her favourite husband created, so all was good. Some might no doubt think the stuffing too spicy, but the apple juice injections seemed to offset that rather nicely, without completely removing that much-loved spicy flavour. Also, when topped with some of my wife's awesome homemade applesauce, well, the word "ecstasy" just got redefined.

In the words of Virginia Woolf,

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."

Well there you have it, my fellow foodies; dine well.

We will definitely be trying this one again. Happy eating.