The Ghost’s Cereal Cookies

If you read my recent post about going to Milk Bar, you may be interested in my cereal cookies. Well, inquire no further because you are about to get a sugar rush my friends. Keep in mind you can use whatever cereal you find handy, though I have used Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops with Marshmallows and even Cheerios. Experiment with what works best for you but I’ll give you some tips on what worked for me.

What you will need:

16 Tbs Butter (I like to use European butter) – I like the fatty butter
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Egg
Splash Vanilla
Whiskey or Vodka (I use Glazed Donut Vodka – don’t ask)
1 1/3 Cup All-Purpose Flour (King Arthur please)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 Cups Cornflakes
2 Cups Lucky Charms or other cereal

  • Start by mixing up your butter and sugar – I mix it in a KitchenAid mixer on low until you have the crumb-like texture.
  • Crack your egg into the mixture with the splash of vanilla and a shot of whatever alcohol you are using. Mix until the egg has worked in.
  • Next take your flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and work that into a dough. You should see a ball of dough start to form. This is going to be a sticky ball of dough.
  • Finally, your cereals. Make sure you mix one at a time and slowly so as not to get cereal all over.

After you have a cereal dough, place it in the refrigerator for at least an hour to firm. I try to make bread dough or something else while waiting for this task to complete since I’ll be in the kitchen for a while.

You will want to pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and make sure that you use a piece of parchment paper on your cookie sheet or a Silpat. You don’t want your cookie dough to stick – because it will.

These cookies take roughly 10 minutes depending on your oven. They flatten out like chocolate chip cookies or any other cookies, you just want to make sure you don’t burn them. Once you start to see them flatten out, pull the tray out of the oven and let them rest for a moment on top of the oven.

Once they’ve firmed up, let them cool on a cooling rack and be warned – they are sweet but they are worth the wait.

Enjoy!

The Ghost and Ms. Tosi

I’ve made it no secret that I admire Christina Tosi and she is one of my “Mount Rushmore” of culinary artists. That landmark designation includes Alton Brown, the man who ushered in my love of the kitchen, Anthony Bourdain, long will he inspire, Gordon Ramsay, never a dull moment, Chef Kevin, the man I learned under for a few months, and Tosi herself.

These people have influenced the way that I handle a knife, throw around dough, wash dishes, bake a loaf of bread, swear at my food and even how my cookies are made. There just isn’t another way to look at my food without seeing some influence of one of these people. For the remainder of my life, they will be a part of whatever I put on a plate or a cookie tray.

The Milk Bar of Queens, Ms. Tosi’s establishment on Hope Street, gave me the opportunity to experience what it would be like to thrive under the roof of my hero’s abode – if just for a few hours.

I know I’m not a Culinary Institute of America trained chef, though I learned from one, but in the world of Ms. Tosi that doesn’t matter. I am free to explore baking with fun, not formality.

I have been making my own kind of cookies based upon Ms. Tosi’s “cereal cookies,” a mashup of Cornflakes and whatever else I can find in the pantry. One day it may be Lucky Charms or another it may be Fruit Loops, but whatever it is I experiment with other flavors and vibes. This is the essence of what I’ve learned from Ms. Tosi – explore the world around you and come up with something that tastes good.

Whatever it is that you want to do with your flavors and however you want to make them, don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to burn them. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid.

It’s a message that was repeated in the class I took with her staff while learning how to make her Birthday Cake and Truffles. Don’t be afraid to jump into the cake, don’t be afraid if it falls apart and certainly don’t be afraid to eat it. What’s a cake if you can’t eat it?

It’s these things that make Ms. Tosi one of my culinary idols, and one of the people that I’m not ashamed to say I admire for the work that she does to inspire people. People like me that throw cake in a pan and hope it sticks together.

If Deadpool Made Vegetarian Enchiladas These Would Be IT

Before I share the recipe for a vegetarian red sauce and enchilada dish that was out of this world let me start by saying: being without power for an extended period of time is a nightmare.

I was one of the unfortunate many who live in the Northeast part of the United States that lost power thanks to Winter Storm Riley.  Though I’m definitely not thankful for the storm I am thankful for the men and women who came to the aid of the hundreds of thousands of folks like myself who were without power for up to five days – though some are still without it to this day.

I did some thinking during that time about what the people of Puerto Rico must be going through – and not to make a political statement but when you feel like your government abandons you who do you turn to?  I understand that feeling.  I lost my power on a Friday afternoon and according to my power company I was supposed to get it back on Sunday.  By Saturday night, my family was cold and eating whatever quick easy thing we could find in our cabinets.  Sunday came and went without a single hint of juice flowing through the lines outside my home.  The power company told us Monday and on we pressed with the single thought of staying positive even though we could see the writing on the wall – there were still tens of thousands of people without it in our county.

By Monday night the power company told us that the following night we would have it, and my hopes had all but faded.  At this point I was all but certain that we would not be getting it back anytime soon with another winter storm on the horizon.  Tuesday was the eve of a storm that promised at least 6-12 inches and the electric company again changed their tune by telling us they were not sure when we would get power.  At this point we lost all hope.

When the storm started on Wednesday we were certain the power would not come on. But the power company re-assured us they were working on it.  I reached out to our local state assemblywoman to plead for some sort of answer.  How long will we sit in the cold? By the middle of the afternoon the sounds of appliances clicked on throughout the house.  The refrigerator, full of spoiled frozen and warm food, suddenly sprang to life.  The mounds of laundry could suddenly be washed.  A life could return to normal.

But it wasn’t without a cost.  A realization that there are still people in the world struggling with the same issue.  I stopped a lineman who had come in from out of the county and told him I appreciated everything he did to get the power back on.  It was the least I could do.  If I knew where he would be next I would bake him bread or cook him a meal – but alas they were moving on.  There’s not much I can do thank them other than to speak the words.  What can we do to thank those that have helped us so much?  What can we do to help those who are in dire need without power like I was?  Those are the questions I ponder on a snowy March day.

On I press and I give you:

Red’s Enchilada Sauce

What you’ll need:

Olive Oil

3 Tbs. All-purpose Flour

2 Tbs. ground Chili powder (this is going to be a dark red sauce)

1 tsp. Cumin

1/2 tsp. garlic powder or a clove of garlic

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Tbs. cinnamon

2 Tbs. tomato paste

2 cups of vegetable broth

2 Tbs. of Fajita seasoning

Dash of rice vinegar

Dash of Lemon

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Start with heating a sauce pan to medium heat.
  2. Take enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Once the oil is hot and begins to give off a scent pour in the chili powder, flour, cumin, garlic, oregano, cinnamon and tomato paste.
  3. Continuously stir the ingredients around as the flavors all begin to get to know one another.
  4. After 2 minutes of stirring add the vegetable broth and turn the heat up to medium high.
  5. Once the broth begins to show signs of boiling and the tomato paste has begun to break down, drop the heat down to low adding the fajita seasoning, vinegar and lemon.
  6. Let the sauce simmer and thicken for at least 5 minutes or until you get the consistency that you are looking for.
  7. Taste – add salt and pepper.
  8. Drop the heat down and keep the sauce just warm enough to add to you enchiladas or you can turn it off and store for later.

Red’s Vegetarian Enchiladas

What you’ll need:

1 Red Onion (diced)

6 Cloves

2 Tbs. Olive oil

3 Tbs. of butter (optional if you are looking to reduce fat)

Dash of Cayenne pepper

2 Cups of Vegetable Broth

2 Cans of Black Beans (washed and drained)

1 Can of Medium Tomatoes and Chilies (such as Ro-Tel)

tsp. Cinnamon

tsp. Basil

Tbs. Cilantro

Bag of frozen corn

2 tsp. fajita seasoning

At least 6 Fajita wrappers for stuffing

9 x 13 Baking Dish

2 Bags of Mexican cheese (or whatever you cheese you prefer)

  1. Heat a skillet up on medium with the olive oil and butter (if using) until the butter is melted and oil is warm.  Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes then add the garlic be careful not to burn the garlic.  If it gets too close to burning drop the temperature.
  2. After the onion is translucent and the garlic is cooked add the dash of pepper, vegetable broth, black beans and tomatoes with chilies.
  3. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Turn up the heat until the broth begins to bubble then drop the heat down so it can simmer.
  5. While simmering, take out your fajita wrappers and line your 9 x 13 baking dish with fajitas.  You can overlap them and shove them in like sardines but keep in mind that hot veggies are coming in soon so be prepared.
  6. Once the broth is almost gone add the cinnamon, basil, cilantro, corn and fajita seasoning.
  7. Stir the mixture and simmer until the corn has warmed up, be careful not to burn your vegetables.
  8. Now you are going to stuff the fajitas with veggies.  Go down the line filling each one until you have put an equal amount in each.  Add cheese to each if you like, otherwise top them with your sauce but be liberal we will add more sauce again.
  9. Next throw some cheese on top, you can use one bag if you didn’t put them in the enchiladas already.
  10. Sauce!
  11. Cheese on top and put in the oven for 30 minutes.
  12. Depending on your oven you may want to adjust – you are looking for the cheese to melt but not burn.

Enjoy!

Cheers,

Red

Making Flavor Out of Nothing At All

Okay, so I am not the best lyricist (and I don’t sing in Air Supply), but what I do well is put together ingredients on the fly and make a simple tasty dish.

With that in mind, I came home after a brutal day at work with dreams of having a few beers and putting together a dish that would be just above edible.

What I came up with was a mixture of sweet and spicy, crunchy and soft that was better than I could have imagined.

What You’ll Need:

Linguini Noodles
1/2 of a potato
1/2 of a red onion
6 cloves of garlic
2 Tbs of butter
4 Tbs of Sesame Oil
Jar of Banana Pepper Rings
Soy Sauce
2 handful of frozen mixed vegetables (green beans/carrots/corn)
tsp of Basil
1/2 tsp of Oregano
Small handful of dry roasted peanuts
Mae Ploy for drizzling

  1. Start by cooking the linguini noodles to your desired doneness.  I prefer mine to be al dente.
  2. Next chop the potato, onion and garlic.
  3. Add the butter and 2 Tbs of oil to a pan or electric griddle(which is what I used) on medium low heat.
  4. Once the butter has melted and the wonderful scent of sesame oil fills the air, drop your potato, onion and garlic.
  5. After 5 minutes throw in some banana pepper rings (as many as you would like) and two healthy splashes of soy sauce to add that “kick.”
  6. Stir and simmer for 5 more minutes then add your frozen mixed vegetables.
  7. After 5 minutes toss in two generous handfuls of noodles and your spices (basil and oregano).
  8. Let those ingredients mingle for a few minutes before adding the peanuts just long enough to heat them up.
  9. After adding to the plate drizzle your noodles with some Mae Ploy for the sweet chili taste and salt/pepper as necessary.

Cheers

Red

Sweet Mae and Spicy Sambal

I was fortunate to learn from one of my culinary heroes, Kevin McElroy, at his two restaurants, The Local Table and Tap and Barrio Kitchen, that he co-owns with Rich Watt in White Lake, New York. Chef Kevin is CIA trained, no not the spy agency, and Chef Rich also has culinary training as well. Both men were able to give me many tips throughout my many visits to the restaurants.

One of the many things that they did teach me about was expanding my palate. As someone who walked into a professional kitchen with no experience, I learned extremely quickly how demanding the job can be. But I also learned how rewarding it can be for the chefs when they push out over a hundred covers on a slow night. Quickness was one of the key skills they preached but using that speed wisely was more important.

One of the smallest recipes I learned from the two men was a recipe for a burger/fry dipping sauce that combined the spiciness of Sambal Oelek, the sweetness of Mae Ploy and the richness of mayo. An Asian Aioli that can be modified for spiciness or sweetness depending on your palate.

What you’ll need:

Two cups of mayo

1 jar of Sambal Oelek

1 bottle of Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce

Mix all three ingredients together in a bowl. If you want a spicier sauce use more Sambal Oelek or more Mae Ploy for a sweeter sauce. You are looking for a sauce the color of French dressing. Be sure to taste the sauce as you mix and add, you don’t want it too thick but not too drippy either. Is good on sandwiches or anything else you would like to enjoy it on!

Cheers!

Red

Warm Beer And Bread

It seems fitting to start the re-design of the blog with a post about bread, a food that has been around for thousands of years.  Something that one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Jimmy Buffett, talked about in his famous song “Cheeseburger in Paradise:”

“Warm beer and bread,” they said, “could raise the dead.”

As a fellow Pascagoulian, I hear you Jimmy.  Ever since I learned how to make bread, one of my favorite pastimes is to make bread and drink beer, just not warm beer – but I will if I have to!

“So how do I make my own bread,” you may ask.

“Don’t I need a bread maker?”

All you need is the right ingredients, an oven, a KitchenAid mixer if you can get one (but a bowl will do just fine), and a baking pan.

Red’s Bread

1 and 1/2 tsp Active Dry Yeast
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbs sugar
1 Cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
3 Tbs room temperature butter
3 and 3/4 Cups + Bread Flour (preferably King Arthur Flour)
1/3 Cup Milk (can be 1%)
Nonstick spray if necessary

  1.  Put your yeast, salt and sugar into a bowl (the KitchenAid bowl if using) and then pour in the water to begin the fermentation process.
  2. Wait at least five minutes or until the yeast begins to foam.
  3. Combine the milk, butter and flour to the mixture.
  4. If using a Kitchenaid, put the bowl into the mixer with the bread hook attachment and mix into a ball for at least five minutes until smooth.  Otherwise mix in a bowl until you get the same smooth consistency or mix on a lightly floured countertop.  If dough is too moist add a little flour otherwise if it is too dry add water a tsp at a time.
  5. Dump dough ball into a lightly greased container to rise for at least an hour.
  6. After at least an hour, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Push dough into a bread pan (if not nonstick make sure to use a nonstick spray).
  8. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into and enjoying with a touch of butter a cold beer.Cheers!
    Red

It’s Who We Are

In my latest blog post I asked questions about the world around us or to be much more general – the world around me.  What is real?  Is what I see the same thing that you see?  How would we ever know if that is true until it is completely over?

Those questions resonate at the heart of a lot of fear.  For someone who likes to know the answers I struggle with the unknown. Who was D.B. Cooper?  Is there a Yeti?  What was that object I saw over Roanoke in the fall of 1997?  Yeah, yeah go ahead and tell me there are no aliens but I know what I saw that afternoon was not of this world,

As a person who demands resolution, life proves to be a bane of my existence.  Can someone please tell me what our goal is?  Furthering society?  Making ourselves better?  Proving that we can destroy the planet?  Hell we don’t even know what happens when we die.  No one has ever been able to come back and supply us with a conclusion – well maybe that’s not the best word?  Do we truly want a conclusion to life?

There are many people who wish to spend hundreds if not thousands of years on this planet alive.  At the time that their bodies cease to give their brains oxygen, a service comes in to freeze and preserve those cells until such time that we can recreate that “life” in another form.  From what I understand baseball legend and hitter extraordinaire Ted Williams had his grey matter put into a vat until such time that it could be placed into a suitable life container.

What is Williams’ life state?  Is he currently experiencing a dream state?  Based upon what I know of our bodies I would think there is no brain waves in that organ so isn’t he technically dead?  Aren’t we trying to create an Igor without understanding how the mind works?

If I’m not mistaken our bodies are full of electric currents or parts that conduct that form of energy.  When we tell our feet to move as we are walking we are sending that signal in the form of a charge to the muscles to make them move.  When we dream and our body moves, our brain is still active and sending that wave to the part in question.  If you take a battery and put it the freezer you are just storing that energy until it can be used because it is not connected to a circuit or device asking for that signal.

So Williams’ brain is frozen and in a neutral state, somewhere that none of us know what it is going through or what will happen when it comes out of.  With that in mind there’s no way to know what the brain will “see” if it ever does get connected to a body or what it will even “remember.”  After all , these things are all a matter of perception.  What I perceive to be real, you most certainly may find to be fake.  Again it comes back to the state of reality.  How you describe the world around you verses how I describe it.  Is green the same shade of a color to you as me?  It can’t be – otherwise we would not have “color blind” people.

What does it all mean?  Are there any answers?  As far as I can tell it’s the same thing that smarter men and women before me have been asking for years and years.  What I have come to realize is that for every question and every answer the most important thing is to realize that we are human.

For every good thing we do we tend to screw up something else.  We can’t take ourselves too seriously.  We can get mad at something but we have to keep from taking it out on someone else.  We have to realize that the same material that makes up the stars makes up us.   One day the star that we call the “Sun” is going to burn out – that is a day we will never see but it will happen.  When that happens the world that we know, the real to us, will cease to exist.  Everything from America to Europe to Asia will suffer if it still exists.

We are simply who we are.  We have the ability to make choices, or even the curse of making choices.  We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.  But choose we must.  We struggle to understand that this choice is ours and not something that has been granted to us our even pre-determined.  We would like to think that some higher power pushed us to a resolution or a conclusion just so we don’t wrestle with the problem of being in control of our lives.  But we are confined to this determinism.  It’s the reason that we turn to our friends and family and ask what we should choose, we sub-consciously struggle with making decisions.

One of the greatest minds of the 20th century, Jean-Paul Sartre, who ironically I didn’t understand when I took philosophy as a 19-year-old, said the following:

“Man is condemned to be; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.  It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”

Once we start to realize that we have the curse and the blessing to make the choices that control our lives, the same lives that are short, we are the only ones who are in control of the short time that is our reality.  Or better yet, your reality, not mine.