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What’s your favorite fried food?

I’ve got fried food on the brain today. Maybe it’s because I haven’t eaten much today, or maybe it’s because I just love anything fried to a golden brown and crispy. I mean, what’s not to like? Of course, cardiologists and personal trainers dissuade eating this stuff, but we all do at some point. So rather than go into my favorite fried foods (I’ll do that soon), I wanted to pose this to you readers–give me your favorite fried food item, either something that you make yourself or order in a restaurant. E-mail me at mikeyskitchen@gmail.com and I’ll publish them next week…..stop it, you guys are making me hungry!

Product review: Planter’s Five Alarm Chili Peanuts

Chef JimMy wife will tell you I’m a sucker for snack foods, particularly new snack foods. The marketing folks have me at “new” when it comes to anything salty and/or crunchy and/or crispy. Throw in spicy, and, well, they may as well have a my bank account number.

Such was the case last week when I saw the new Planter’s “Five Alarm Chili” dry roasted peanuts. I’m just now getting over a bad cold and haven’t been able to properly taste food since buying these, but now I can taste them, and man, are they good. I’ve always loved dry roasted nuts, but Planter’s does them especially well for some reason. Maybe it’s because nuts is what they do.

But I was especially impressed with the fact that these nuts boast a spicy flavor when called “Five Alarm” and, well, they aren’t messing around. On a scale of 1 to 10 as it relates to standard packaged spicy food, I’d say these nuts are about a 7.5 or 8. You novices will need a big glass of water. You pros won’t be able to stop eating them. Not only are they addictive based on taste, but the tingling in your mouth from the spice will also have you reaching for the jar several times.

So if you’re looking for a satisfying snack while watching college basketball this weekend, go for these spicy nuts….would Mikey steer you wrong?

Cajun Chicken Fettucine

This is one of those dishes that, when I think about it, makes my mouth start to water. Anything spicy and creamy at the same time that has a mound of pasta is good dude food in my book. This was originally published on Grub for Guys this past summer, but it might be more of a cold-weather dish. Anyway, give this a try and let me know what you think:

Fettuccine Alfredo is one of those dishes you can only eat once in a while, because it has enough butter and cream and cheese to clog your arteries on the spot. But man, does it ever taste good. But for as good as the standard Alfredo is, the Cajun version is even better if you like spicy food. Actually, it borders on being the food equivalent of crack. I’ve experimented with my own Alfredo sauces, and I just recently attempted a Cajun version….it passed the test of both my wife and I, so I hope you’ll give it a shot. You might try washing it down with an amber colored beer or even a light red wine like a Chianti.

Ingredients
1/2-pound fettuccine pasta (or one 9oz. fresh kind like Buitoni)
1/2 stick butter (I don’t mess around, there is nothing like the real thing)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 raw jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced (with seeds)
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup whole milk
1 wedge Laughing Cow cheese
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 cup cooked grilled chicken, cut into small chunks (pre-packaged grilled strips are fine)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt & ground black pepper to taste

Directions:
Cook pasta according to package directions and set aside. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt butter and then add olive oil. Add jalapeno and sauté for a minute or so. Add flour and stir for 30 seconds, then whisk in cream, milk, Laughing Cow cheese, and chipotle peppers. Stir until sauce begins to thicken, about 2-3 minutes. If it thickens too fast, add a bit more milk until it reaches your desired consistency, which should be creamy but not runny. Add chicken, Parmesan, salt and pepper, then stir in cooked pasta and warm until heated through. Serves 2-4, depending on size of who you’re feeding and how hungry they are, and the recipe is easy to double.

Bullz-Eye blog ranks most addictive breakfast cereals

Chef JimYou know that feeling when you eat a cereal, usually a sugar-laden one, when you get to the bottom of the bowl and want to fill it up again? That’s what this awesome list of the most addictive breakfast cereals on the Bullz-Eye.com blog talks about.

It’s a great list, but I bet you could all think of at least 5-10 more off the top of your head that you like better. One of the readers mentions Lucky Charms, which happens to be the only cereal our 3-year son old will eat. Lucky for me (no pun intended), I bought him a box of the Chocolate Lucky Charms recently and he won’t touch them. Hmmm….of course, I needed an afternoon snack so I’ve just polished off two bowls as I wrote this. Yum.

White bread MIA

First of all, what I’m going to discuss here is going to sound somewhat hypocritical. And that’s because as of January 1, I’ve been trying to *mostly* eat clean–which means a very healthy diet that is low in sugar, refined carbs and fat. Kind of like South Beach or the new Weight Watchers but without sugar substitutes or counting, respectively. One of the things this diet entails is eating whole grains, including bread that is all natural with whole wheat or rye or other grains front and center. Trader Joe’s has excellent bread like this that has little or no preservatives either.

Anyway, let’s face it. If you grew up eating white bread like most of us baby boomers did, you sometimes just have to have white bread. In addition, our 3-year-old son is not keen on whole wheat bread and we like to make sure he eats some bread. I know this is the wrong message to send him at a young impressionable age, but still. Anyway, recently I went out in search of Wonder bread to buy our son for his sandwiches, and what I found were rows and rows of all whole wheat, fiber-added, whole grain white, or otherwise brownish-tinted white bread. Sorry, that ain’t white bread.

The one I wound up getting was Wonder “Smart White,” which is made with regular wheat flour and has wheat gluten and cottonseed fiber added to give it an obscene 5 grams of fiber per two slices. At this point, why wouldn’t you just go for the real thing? But I digress.

I wasn’t compelled to write about this until my wife brought home Thomas’ English muffins over the weekend. These, by the way, are also not available in classic white versions anymore. Oh, they’re white, but the ones she bought were called “Triple Health,” meaning they are 100 calories, high in fiber and low in sodium. Blech. These have farina and wheat gluten and oat cellulose added. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? Well, I tried one of these yesterday and it toasted up unusually crispy with little flavor and almost no real substance. It was like eating a large, aerated cracker. Triple Health to me is not this English muffin. Blech.

I should add, however, that she also bought a loaf of Village Hearth Italian bread, and voila–this is real white bread as I remember it!

The moral of this story? If you have a hankering for real white bread and you have to spend an hour in the bread aisle trying to find what you need, just look for the I-word–Italian. My brother-in-law, who likens whole wheat bread to sawdust, and I, have this conversation regularly about white bread and why it just tastes good. Many whole wheat breads do as well, but sometimes white bread makes more sense to the sandwich you are making, or to your own nostalgic palate at any given time.

The last few days, I’ve been under the weather with a nasty cold, and when I am, I typically have a hard time sticking to a healthy eating plan (contrary to what I should be doing to get better!). So today I had a peanut butter sandwich with that Italian bread and it was awesome. And now, I can go back to my whole wheat ways for a while, until that white bread hankering hits me again. How about you?

Cheeseburger Wellington

Here is another recipe I posted a couple years back on Grub for Guys, and along with the cheeseburger recipe, I included one on my own home fries. Enjoy!

If you’re familiar with Beef Wellington, you know it’s the kind of menu item typically reserved for fine dining. Most are made with filet mignon, pate and mushroom duxelle. Right. I don’t know what that last thing is either, but it’s in a lot of the recipes I’ve seen. Well, if you’re a novice cook, the news is good. One of the best parts about Wellington is the flaky crust. So here, I combined the puff pastry with something a bit more mainstream—a cheeseburger. Admittedly, I came up with this in my head and had to refine it a few times, but the result was pretty tasty. Here we go…..

Cheeseburger Wellington
Ingredients
1 pound lean ground beef (use fattier cuts at your own risk…too much juice can mess this up)
1 portion puff pastry (9 oz.), thawed to room temperature
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 dill pickle, sliced thin
¼ cup homemade Thousand Island dressing (mix equal parts mayo and chili sauce or ketchup with a Tbsp. chopped pickle)
Salt and pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put some flour on a clean work surface (your kitchen counter) and on a rolling pin. Divide the pastry dough into 4 equal parts and roll out six-inch circles. Put 1 Tbsp. cheese, a few pickles slices, and 1 Tbsp. dressing in center of each circle. Set aside. Divide the beef into four patties, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sear in a hot skillet for 2 minutes per side to seal juices in. Lay each patty on top of condiments on pastry, and fold up ends to the top, sealing with your fingers. Turn over, and place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Pierce a few slits in each pastry (now you look like a pro), and bake for 20 minutes, or until each Wellington is golden on top and the pastry is cooked through. Let sit for a few minutes, then dig in. Serves 4 (or 3, if you divide meat and pastry accordingly).

And here’s a great side, but not one to make if you’re getting your cholesterol checked soon…

Mike’s Home Fries
Ingredients
1 pound red or Yukon Gold potatoes
Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Kosher salt

Directions
Cut potatoes into small chunks (about ½ inch pieces). Place in a medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water, then set aside for a bit until cool. Heat about 2 inches of oil in a large saucepan (if you have a deep fryer, you’re a step ahead of me). When you can feel the heat if placing your hand an inch above the hot oil, it’s hot enough (375 degrees if you’re keeping score). Carefully lower the potatoes into the hot oil, and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until potatoes start to turn golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with kosher salt and serve.

Chopped All-Stars: must-see TV

In July of 2009, I posted something on Premium Hollywood, berating the producers and judges of “Chopped” on Food Network for the latter being too harsh. That was then, only a few months after the show premiered on the network, and this is now, 205 comments to the post later from passionate fans of the show, one of the most popular on the network. Quite honestly, the judges have become much more lenient and complimentary, even as the contestants have had to work with even crazier ingredients.

Often, as you can see in those comments of my original post, viewers have suggested that the judges try and compete and see how well they could fare. And now those people and all of us who watch “Chopped” have something to look forward to–”Chopped All-Stars,” which premieres Sunday, March 6. The four rounds will draw contestants from Food Network personalities, former contestants of other shows such as “Next Food Network Star, renowned celebrity chefs, and of course, some of the “Chopped” judges. The winners of each round will then go head to head in the finale, with the winner taking home $50K for the charity of their choice.

Are you kidding me? This is sheer genius, and the one round I can’t wait to see is the one that includes three regular “Chopped” judges–Aaron Sanchez, Amanda Freitag and Geoffrey Zakarian. Here is the schedule we received from Food Network:

Part 1 (premieres Sunday, March 6th at 9pm) – Brad Sorenson, Debbie Lee, Lisa Garza, Michael Proietti

Part 2 (premieres Sunday, March 13th at 9pm) – Anne Burrell, Claire Robinson, Duff Goldman, Robert Irvine

Part 3 (premieres Sunday, March 20th at 9pm) – Anita Lo, Beau MacMillan, Jacques Torres, Nate Appleman

Part 4 (premieres Sunday, March 27th at 9pm) – Aaron Sanchez, Amanda Freitag, Geoffrey Zakarian, Maneet Chauhan

Part 5 (premieres Sunday, April 3rd at 9pm) – Final showdown featuring one winner from each round

They also sent me a screener of Part 1 featuring former contestants of “The Next Food Network Star” and it was positively awesome, despite some nasty ingredients. So be sure to check out the show and most of all, let’s see if the judges make those same scowling looks to Geoffrey Zakarian that he gives to contestants regularly.

Valentine’s Day dinner–staying home is classy, not cheap

Seriously…..everyone goes out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, potentially making for a miserable experience. But if you stay at home, and cook a super-romantic meal like the one I posted on Grub for Guys a couple years back, you just have to have earned some brownie points. And brownie points on V-Day are worth a bit more. If you can only try one, make the pasta….hopefully then, you can make the quiche in the morning. So give it a shot, and let me know what you think…..and good luck!

So this one is for you guys who have a female companion sleep over for one (or two) nights, or for you guys who are married and want to do something special for Mother’s Day or your anniversary. Let’s face it – women love men who cook, and these two recipes will impress her. Trust me, I tested them both recently to rave reviews in my house. But first , if you’re like me, the thought of making quiche makes you feel like less of a man. But if you stay away from things like shallots and rosemary, and focus on bacon and cheese, I say your manhood is intact. Here we go….

Real Man Quiche

Ingredients
1 frozen 9-inch pie crust
4 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup chopped Canadian bacon (you can substitute cooked and crumbled bacon or sausage)
1 Tbsp. Olive oil or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp. Italian seasoning
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and take the pie crust out of the freezer. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and then sautee the onion and garlic for about 4 minutes; stir in the Italian seasoning and remove from heat. Let cool for a few minutes, then combine the onion mixture, eggs, the cheeses, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour this into the crust and bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until browned on top. Serves 4, or two extremely hungry people.

Bistro Pasta With Tomato and Basil

Ingredients
8 oz. cooked linguine (preferably the fresh kind like Buitoni)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large tomato, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup minced basil leaves
1/3 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese (if you’ve come this far, you’re not really going to serve her that stuff in the green jar, are you?)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
After cooking the pasta, set it aside to drain. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the garlic and tomato, and fry for 3-4 minutes. (Yes, it’s a lot of oil, but it will be absorbed by the pasta and cheese, and olive oil is supposedly good for your arteries.) Add the basil leaves, then the pasta, then the cheese. Heat for a minute or two or until warmed through, add the salt and pepper to taste, and serve. A good idea would be to have a decent bottle of red wine on hand and a Sinatra CD. Serves 2.

Quesadilla recipes

Hey guys….it’s another freezing cold weekend in most parts of the country, so you’re probably indoors and looking for something satisfying to eat. Well, here are some quesadilla recipes I posted on Grub For Guys a few months ago. These are all super easy and really good…I mean, I don’t mean to toot my own horn but you’ll see what I mean if you try any of them. Thanks for reading!

Quesadillas are versatile, easy to make and can be filling man-food too. Here, we give you a breakfast version, a spicy chicken quesadilla and a cheeseburger version that will remind you of those trips to McDonald’s as a kid (or now, if you’re like many guys). Each recipe makes one quesadilla (one tortilla with filling, so two wedges), so multiply out as you see fit, if you’re hungry as hell, or if you are feeding a bunch of your buddies. Oh, and use a good quality tortilla, preferably one of those Mexican brands.

Basic Breakfast Quesadilla
After a night of drinking, or even if you’re craving some good protein in the morning and don’t want it with a side of grease, this egg based quesadilla is just what you need. Serve it with salsa for dipping or just pour some salsa all over the top.

Ingredients
1 large flour tortilla
Cooking spray
1 large egg
A few slices bell pepper—can be green but preferably red or yellow
2-3 Tbsp. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper
Salsa

Directions
Heat a medium, non-stick skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray, and crack the egg in a small dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and then pour into skillet. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until set and firm, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Remove to bowl and keep warm. Spray skillet again and add pepper slices. Stir fry until crisp-tender, about 2-3 minutes. Then wipe out skillet (carefully, you bonehead!), and then return to heat. Quickly assemble by placing egg, pepper slices and cheese in tortilla. Fold over and place in sprayed skillet. Spray top of quesadilla with cooking spray. Cook for about 2 minutes or until tortilla is brown, then flip over and continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes or until tortilla is brown and cheese has melted. Serve with salsa or hot sauce.

Spicy Chicken, Corn & Jalapeno Quesadilla
This is a good summer quesadilla with the abundance of corn, or even into September or October. Most guys like spice, too, so you can’t go wrong with this one.

Ingredients
1 large flour tortilla
Cooking spray
½ chicken breast half, lightly pounded into ¼ inch thickness
Salt and pepper
½ ear corn, cooked and cut from cob
1 jalapeno pepper
2-3 Tbsp. shredded Mexican blend cheese
Salsa
Sour cream

Directions
Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle chicken breast with salt and pepper and cook, turning once, until browned and cooked through (no longer pink in middle). Cut into pieces and set aside. Slice jalapeno pepper, spray skillet with cooking spray again and cook pepper slices for 3-4 minutes. Wipe out skillet, and assemble quesadillas by placing chicken pieces, jalapeno, corn and cheese in tortilla. Fold over and place in sprayed skillet. Spray top of quesadilla with cooking spray. Cook for about 2 minutes or until tortilla is brown, then flip over and continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes or until tortilla is brown and cheese has melted. Serve with salsa or salsa and sour cream.

Cheeseburger Quesadilla
Seriously, this one was a home run when we tried it. It tastes like a fast food cheeseburger, but much healthier because, well, you made it yourself.

Ingredients
1 large flour tortilla
Cooking spray
¼ lb. Ground beef
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
4 dill pickle slices
2-3 Tbsp. shredded American cheese
1-2 squirts of ketchup

Directions
Heat medium nonstick skillet over medium heat and place beef and onion in skillet. Brown beef and onion, sprinkling with salt and pepper, about 5 minutes or until no longer pink, and then remove to a bowl to keep warm. Wipe out skillet, and assemble quesadillas by placing beef and onion mixture in the tortilla. Add pickle slices, cheese and the ketchup. Fold over and place in sprayed skillet. Spray top of quesadilla with cooking spray. Cook for about 2 minutes or until tortilla is brown, then flip over and continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes or until tortilla is brown and cheese has melted. Serve with extra ketchup for dipping.

A can a week: Campbell’s Chunky Grilled Steak Chili with Beans

Chef JimToday as I was scouring the grocery store shelves, I wanted to try a chili that was a bit different. So Campbell’s Chunky Grilled Steak Chili with Beans caught my eye. Sure, Campbell’s isn’t exactly Hormel, but they do soup right, so how much could they mess up chili, right? Plus, the prospect of big chunks of steak sounded intriguing to me.

So I fired this stuff up for lunch and, well, it’s okay. The first thing I noticed was an utter lack of spice. Not only does the tomato flavor dominate the taste of chili powder, but I had to douse it with hot sauce because on a scale of 1 to 10, this chili registered a heat index of about 0.5. No, it didn’t claim to be spicy, but still…it’s freaking chili, not tomato soup with beef. Speaking of beef, the chunks of meat were definitely nice. They were small chunks but nice and meaty and tender. I also liked that there was corn in the chili, giving it a nice Southwest flair.

Assuming you have hot sauce on hand, you might give this a try, but if you’re looking for traditional chili flavor, stick with the guys like Hormel that just do chili.

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