Monday, September 29, 2014

Bacon, Onion, Beef Meatballs and Poutine

Sep 28 2014

I am always a little excited about cooking when I find something new to try. A few years ago Traeger started a forum for Traeger owners to post recipes. I had a few posted there but they stopped the forum and just post their own recipes. I just went back to check it out ran across this goodie, “Onion Bombs”.  It is a meatball inside a whole onion ring, wrapped in bacon and smoked. I call mine “Bacon Onion Beef Balls” I don’t like the word bomb and when I relate it to food sounds like a failure to me!

I made up the meat for the meatballs yesterday and set in the fridge overnight. I have wanted to do some poutine again; and I had some cheese curds in the freezer to use. I have never been to Canada to eat poutine so I don’t know what the real deal tastes like. I read where you need fresh cheese curds to get the little crunch they have. I had yellow curds too instead of the usual white.

I found a recipe that is supposed to be authentic. It was basically 6 Tbs. butter and a ¼ cup of flour, 20 oz. beef broth, 10 oz. chicken broth, 2 Tbs corn starch in water slurry. Melt the butter and flour together and when thick pour in the broth slowly and stir. Add some salt and pepper and bring to a boil then add in the corn starch slurry to thicken. Keep on simmer until serving. I added in a little Worcestershire sauce too but I still thought it was rather bland.

I made up the beef balls and wrapped in bacon a few hours before smoking and in the fridge. I made 4 of the bacon onion balls and had meat left for 6 meatballs. I used Ore Ida frozen fast food fries for the poutine. I would rather have had some crispy deep fried but too much trouble for me and the Ore Ida’s are pretty good. I had some baby carrots to use so I nuked them for 2 minutes then in a Weber foil drip tray, sprinkled with a little cumin, chili powder, salt and 3 pats of butter. Covered them with foil and they went on the smoker right after getting the meatballs on.

My onions were a little on the flat side; nice round ones would be better but I had them to use. I followed the recipe and did the meatballs an hour on smoke then eased up to 350 deg. for a half hour to get to 165 deg. IT and bacon browned up. The carrots went on right after the meatballs and the fries went in after a half hour. While all was finishing up I made the gravy for the poutine.

My wife went to the grandson’s soccer game this afternoon. I didn’t go since my leg was acting up. They won the game. Our son had to work so the daughter in law and grandson ate with us. The wife and I loved the bacon onion beef balls. I will be doing these again; maybe different flavored meatballs and some BBQ sauce over top. The daughter in law had the poutine and some leftover baked cheesy spaghetti form our supper last night. The grandson ate some of the plain meatballs, he didn’t care for the poutine and he asked why did you season the carrots Grampa? He is not crazy about seasoning other than a little salt; he did eat them though!

Not the best photos since my leg was hurting; but I think you can see how to make these. I am done with two weeks of meds and the leg is not much better, back to the Doctor tomorrow. I modified the Traeger recipe and note the changes in the recipe.
For the meatballs

Onions cut

One slice over

One around the side

Ready to chill

After one hour on smoke

Cheese curds

Ready to serve



My plate

Tasted great!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fermented Whole Head Cabbage

Sep 27 2014

I have been fermenting my own cabbage for sauerkraut since last year. I have a 5 liter fermenting crock and have made two batches in it with great results.

I enjoy reading food history; especially ethnic foods that were brought to the US by our immigrant ancestors. Searching for some cabbage roll recipes from the different European countries I found that some used fermented whole cabbages and used the leaves to wrap the meat mix. Some use sauerkraut mixed in with ground meat. I have made them that way and with sauerkraut over top and it is good.

I just used par boiled cabbage leaves to wrap them with. Fermenting whole cabbages and using the leaves was something new to me and I had to try it. Out for my almost daily trip to the grocery I stopped at our Saturday farmers market. I found two nice heads from a local gardener and he said he uses no pesticides. It looked like the two heads would fit in my fermenting crock.

I found an article on the net that the guy and an exchange student from Yugoslavia did an experiment over 3 years to find the best method. They used weak brine for one and strong brine 3.5% for another and the third was a dry brine of salt and shredded cabbage among the whole cabbages. They said the best was the ones done with 3.5% salt brine. They used 10 TBS of coarse salt for 5 quarts, 2 TBS. per quart.

I cleaned some of the outer leaves from the heads and in some salted water to soak for a couple of hours. This should chase out any vermin in them. I figured 4 quarts of water would cover the cabbage so mixed up my brine. I didn’t see in the article how long they let theirs ferment; but they had checked it often. For my kraut I let it ferment for 28 days, it takes that long at about 72 deg. F to produce the 3 lactic acids that are good for you. I plan to check mine after 5 days; then every few days and when I think it is done I will put in jars in the fridge to stop or slow the fermentation.

When I was ready to put the cabbage in my crock there was one small problem; they were too large to fit the opening! The only solution was to make them smaller or cut them in half; I cut them in half. I still should be able to get some nice leaves from them.  I got them in and poured the brine over to cover and added my weights.

Now all I have to do is wait; so I’ll see you in 1 to 4 weeks. I hope they turn out so I can have some good old fashioned cabbage rolls.
The cabbage

Packed in the crock

Fermenting Crock

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Kraut Brat Cabbage Roll Sandwiches

Sep 25 2014

It has been such good weather I have wanted to get out and cook on my smoker. I have been taking meds for a bad hip & leg so I have been cooking indoors. I decided today I would do a cook I have had the idea to do.

We love cabbage rolls but they are a pain to make. I have a recipe for unstuffed cabbage rolls I usually make when I get a taste for some. Most of our immigrant ancestors from Europe brought cabbage roll recipes with them. Most are filled with ground meat, rice and seasoning; wrapped in cabbage leaves then baked with a tomato sauce over them.

My idea was to make some and serve them in a bun for a sandwich, much like a brat. For my first try I decided to use brats instead of making the filling. My butcher makes some great fresh sauerkraut brats I thought would be good to use.

I always hated to get the cabbage blanched so I could get the leaves off in one piece to use as wraps. I found a great new way; clean the cabbage leaving whole. Use a two pronged fork and pierce the heart.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a colander next to the stove on a tray. Dip the cabbage in the boiling water with the fork and after 2 to 3 minutes remove to the colander and cut 2 to 3 leaves off. Put the cabbage back in the boiling water for another 2 to 3 minutes then repeat. Do until you have as many leaves as you want or you’re done with the whole head.

This works slick; by cutting the rib near the core a leaf slides off easily in one piece. I cut off 5 leaves for my 4 brats; an extra in case I tore one. I would use the rest of the cabbage over some onions and lay the brat cabbage rolls on top to bake. My sauce was the usual one I make for cabbage rolls.

1 28 oz. can of a good brand crushed tomatoes
1 TBS brown sugar
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
1 tsp of salt or to taste
1 tsp dried garlic flakes
Salt and pepper for the table

Mix all the above and let set a while before pouring over the cabbage rolls. This is pretty mild with the sugar and vinegar giving a slight sweet sour taste. If you want more add more or you can use your own recipe.

I smoked the brats at 18o to 195deg. grill level for an hour 50 minutes. I sprayed a casserole bowl with a little olive oil; added 4 slices sweet onion sliced in half in the bottom. I had put what was left of the cabbage back in the pot and simmered a half hour. I cut up about ¾ of that in ¾ inch chop and added that over the onions, and poured about half the sauce over it. I rolled the brats in the cabbage leaves, used 2 toothpicks to secure each and laid them on top of the cabbage. I poured the rest of the sauce on; covered and in a preheated 255 deg. oven to slow cook until supper at 6:00. It would be in for 3 hours. I checked at 1 ½ hours and didn’t look bubbly enough so I went to 275 deg. for the second 1 ½ hours.

Serve these with your favorite brat buns; mine are just slightly larger than a hot dog bun and not too crusty. For a little added touch I sliced the tops off to square up; sprayed on some olive oil and toasted in a hot skillet.

My wife and I both thought this made a great sandwich; we had the cabbage and onions on the side. I thought about having it over rice to get it in there but was delicious the way it was. My cabbage was just a bit crunchy but we like it that way; if you like it softer you may want to bake at 300deg.

I would like to make some hand formed sausages with ground meat, seasoning and rice and smoke to try too. You can play with this a lot of different ways. The concept of a cabbage roll in a bun is delicious to eat for a little different.


Removing leaves

Came off nice


For the sauce

Onions are in

Cabbage in

Smoked brats

Wrapping the brats

All in ready to bake

Ready to serve

My Supper

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bacon, eggs and fried mush for lunch

Sep 24 2014

I had some grits with green onions from last night’s supper and I had some good bacon. I knew my lunch today would be bacon eggs and a fried grit cake. I don’t do it often but love the egg fried and basted in the bacon grease, the grit cake would be good in it too. I had a piece of cheese garlic bread with it. I tried to flip the grit cake too soon and it broke apart but I got the second side browned well The egg was just like Mom used to fix, some crisp brown around the side and basted with the bacon grease until the yolk is nice and white on top.

I have never been able to make and fry grit cakes; we called them fried mush, like Mom did. She made her own mush, cooked the cornmeal down just right, and cooled in a loaf pan in the fridge. When she fried the mush she sliced it about ¼ inches thick and got it nice and crispy. She didn’t always use bacon grease to fry it sometimes she did it in butter. I liked it with a little butter and salt and pepper on top. A lot of people like maple syrup on their much; it’s good that way but I prefer the butte, salt and pepper.

I think Mom’s secret was she cooked it slow and long enough to get a lot of the water out. It is tricky to fry since it will pop a lot if there is too much water in it. I find if you coat it with a little flour it will fry better and it needs 5 to 6 minutes at med low on each side . Over the years I made a lot of mush but anymore I buy it in round tubes at the grocery. The Yoder’s brand I get here is pretty good and fries up nice.

My lunch

Corn n Crab Chowder w/crispy grit cakes n toasted cheese sliders

Sep 23 2014

Last evening somehow I lost my internet connection. I have two PC’s and could not get on with either one. I tried all I know with no luck. Between my service providers tech support and myself I was finally able to get the connection working again.

I have had a lot of different sandwiches over the summer. With the cooler weather now I am feeling like doing some good comfort food. I decided on some good chowder for supper tonight.I followed a recipe by Pat on Food52, Creamy corn and clam chowder with crispy polenta croutons. I changed enough I can post but wanted to give her credit and if you want her recipe it is on

She used fresh corn off the cob and boiled the cobs for her liquid. It probably adds to the corn flavor. She made polenta cakes and I made grit cakes. I think there is a lot of confusion of the difference between the two. Some say polenta is coarser than grits but the polenta I buy in the grocery here is finer than the mush, grit cake I buy. I read that in Italy the polenta can be either fine or coarse ground cornmeal. The only good answers I have found is Southern grits are made from variety of corn called dent corn and in Italy it is made from flint corn. But it said nothing about a different taste; only that the flint corn holds its texture better.

I think they are whatever you want to call it; I made grit cakes. I made mine from coarse ground yellow cornmeal. After they set up in the fridge I cut rounds out with a cutter then back in the fridge until I was ready to bake them. I would have liked to fry them in some butter or bacon grease but baked was healthier and easier baked. I sprayed them with a little olive oil before baking and they came out crispy.

I made some toasted gruyere sliders to have with the chowder. Normally I spread a light coat of butter on the outside of the bread or spray a little olive oil in a skillet to toast. I saw where someone used mayonnaise so I tried that. I used a small baguette for the sliders. I toasted them in my Lodge steel skillet. They were great; the mayo gives a little tang that goes well with the cheese.

My wife and I both loved the chowder and sliders. For me it’s a keeper recipe and I think it would be good with clams instead of crab meat too.

After supper I sat and watched some Pawn Stars and me and the dog had our usual nutter butters! I then decided to try to work on my PC again. I tried to do the auto fix and didn’t help. I had tried the Windows restore feature twice last night but it said it could not complete the restore. This time it worked and I had my network and internet connection back! Now I have both PC’s back working.
The grits cooling

Fixing the bacon

Cutting the grit cakes

For the chowder

Onions and corn in the pot

All in to thicken

Ready to serve

My grit cakes

My sliders

My supper

Monday, September 22, 2014

Latest Info on Cast Iron Cookware

Sep 21 2014

About 35 years ago when I started doing most of the cooking for the family my Mother in law gave me her old cast iron skillet, a #9 and probably an older Lodge. The inside was nice and smooth; I used it for years. I tried re-seasoning it without luck. If I had been more informed and knew how to re-season it I would probably still be using it. I either gave it away or threw it out.

I started using the new Teflon coated non-stick cook ware. It worked well but after a year or so no matter how well I treated it using only plastic utensils it would have scratches and eventually look like it was peeling. After the Teflon scare I would throw them out and get new; they were fairly cheap.

I bought a 10 inch scan pan skillet. They claimed it was some kind of hard ceramic and was guaranteed for life. It did work well for a little over a year and then it started sticking bad. I threw it out not wanting to go through the hassle to get my money back; even though I paid $90 for it.

I bought a good set of stainless and you had to know how to cook with it or things would stick easily. I still use all the pots and pans but not the skillets. I bought a 12 inch cast iron skillet with a lid to cook chicken outdoors on my gas burner. I remembered how good my Mother in law’s chicken was done in a cast iron skillet. I think I used it once then gave it to my neighbor for his son in law to use camping out. Years later when my neighbor died his wife gave the skillet back to me, but it was a mess. I put it in my shed to store.

After I retired 11 years ago I was cooking outdoors more in the summer using my gas grill and a gas burner. I got the old 12 inch skillet out and read up on cleaning and re-seasoning old cast iron. I had cleaned some clay bake ware for a friend in my self-cleaning oven and it came out looking like new so I got the idea to try to clean the cast iron skillet the same way. I ran it through a cycle and it looked nice.

I had found a 6 step method for re-seasoning cast iron with flax seed oil.

1.       Wipe a thin coat of oil on the skillet and then wipe it all off. There will still be a thin coat of oil there.
2.       Place it in the oven at 500 deg. As soon as it reaches 500 deg. let set for a half hour and then turn off the oven. Let cool down completely before removing.

3.       Repeat this 6 times waiting at least 12 hours in between.

I could not find flax seed oil; it has a short shelf life so not many places carry it and it is expensive. I did some more research on oils and decided to use grape seed oil, it has a high smoke point, no taste, is easy to find and reasonably priced. Using it and the above procedure gave my 12 inch skillet and lid a nice black color.

Last fall I bought an old Wapak skillet. The Wapak cast iron ware was hollow ware with a smoother finish and lighter weight than the new stuff being made. I researched it and know it is at least 80 years old. It was so dirty you would not want to just wash with soap and water and use.

I ran it through my self- cleaning oven and re-seasoned it with the 6 step method. It came out looking almost new! I used the 12 inch Lodge a couple of times but it is too large for my normal cooking. I use the Wapak skillet. I would use it more but it has a slight bulge in the bottom and does not set flat on my glass top range. I use it mainly in the oven, especially to bake cornbread.

Over the last 12 years I have collected some new Lodge Cast Iron Ware; a 9 inch skillet, a 10 ½ inch chicken friar with lid, a 5 quart Dutch oven with lid, and a small bean pot with lid. A lot of members here have said they don’t like Lodge’s seasoning so they remove and re-season. For me that’s too much work so I do a one- step seasoning in the oven and use it. I have found it gets better with use.

With any new cast iron or re-seasoned the first thing I cook in it is a batch of bacon. Then I try to not use any acid based ingredients like tomatoes until I have used it a while. I don’t use the cast iron to store the food after cooking but try to clean it as soon as I can.  I clean it all with hot water and a brush. I just found that the new scotch blue pads work well; it is non-scratching and will not take any of the seasoning off; but it will clean any stubborn food better than the brush will. If there is a lot of food sticking in the pan I use the brush first and then the blue scotch pad. They clean up well with very little effort. After washing I wipe a very thin coat of the grape seed oil on with a paper towel and then store it.

When I get one back out to cook I always use a little oil. I use mostly all extra light olive oil from a bottle or a spray can. On occasion I do like to use some bacon grease and butter too.

If you are one that does not like the slightly rough texture of the Lodge skillets just think about it lets more oil is in contact with what you are cooking so it should work better than a completely smooth surface. I like it and have good luck with it.

After Lodge came out with their new carbon steel skillets I bought a 10 inch to try. I like it and also bought a 12 inch. I think they cook and clean up as easy as the cast iron and are a lot lighter to use.
I had first bought a cheap import carbon steel to try and after a short time it warped a little. The Lodges are a little thicker and after using at least a year they still set flat.

So now the Lodge carbon steel skillets I use on a regular basis for most all of my cooking in skillets.

I am no expert on cast iron; this is just what I have learned and what works for me; if you have a way that works for you use it.

I just thought this may be of help to some of you. Cast iron does not need a guarantee, if you don’t drop it and break it; it will outlast you! I have kept my cast iron pretty clean and it still looks in new condition.

If you get to where there is too much guck in one don’t fret. Simply use some elbow grease and clean it with steel wool or sandpaper then do a 1 or 2 step seasoning and it should be like new. An easy way is to run it through your self-cleaning oven. Then I would go through the 6 step seasoning again.

Over the years I have probably thrown out at least 6 of the cheaper non-stick skillets. If this is true for most families just think of the energy and land fill space that would have been saved. We have had the perfect non-stick cook ware for at least 100 years and forgot about it!

I know this is long and a lot of the info I have posted before but it is updated and think there is some good info here all in one post. I hope some will find it useful.

In older posts under Cast Iron Cookware you can see the cleaning and re-seasoning results.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

RouxBDoos Creole Red Beans over Rice

Sep 20 1014

I always like using my cast iron 5 quart Dutch oven for cooking. I borrowed this recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, RouxBDoo, who I have been following for years. He does 3 blogs about New Orleans Cajun and Creole cooking, RouxBDoos Cajun and Creole Food Blog, Nola Cuisine and New Orleans Cuisine. I chose his Creole Red Bean Stew for tonight’s supper. He used canned red beans in his recipe and I used dry red beans soaked overnight, and instead of Andouille I had some of my butchers smoked sausage and some of my Tasso from the freezer to use. I used Rotel’s mild tomatoes and chilies; along with the Cajun seasoning and hot sauce it was the right amount of heat for me.

By 2:00 I had all in the pot bubbling good and put the lid on to simmer for a while. I had time to sit and have a few beers and enjoy the almost 80 deg. breezy day. At 4:00 I took the lid off the pot to let it reduce and thicken the sauce. I mixed up a boxed corn bread mix and baked it in my Wapak cast iron 9 inch skillet. The Wapak skillet is hollow ware; at least 80 years old and one I cleaned and re-seasoned.

At 5:00 the stew was getting thickened so I put the lid back on and got my rice cooking. At 20 till 6:00 I added a few good shakes of smoked paprika and stirred good then served it all at 6:00. What you see on the plate edges is some Savor’s WOW seasoning I sprinkled over the stew. My usual seasoning is some fresh ground 4 peppercorn blend.

That was a plate full of goodness, the smoke from the Tasso, smoked sausage and smoked paprika blended well with the heat level for a great taste.


Heating the butter and bacon grease

Veggies sauteing

Sliced meat

Meat and dry seasoning added

Tomatoes, water and wet seasoning added

Beans added

Uncovered after two hours

For the cornbread

A pat of butter heating in the skillet

Batter poured in

Done baking

Came out clean and a nice color

Ready to serve


The rice

Serving the stew

My supper