Cooking Through The Rona…

Soba Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Greetings, Mystic Meows!ย 

It sure has been a mighty long time since I’ve written anything here, and I hope that wherever you are, and whenever you read this, that you and yours are healthy, safe, and doing as well as can be. The world sure has changed quite a bit, huh? We’ve all been going through so much emotional upheaval and strife, to put it mildly. Yet in the midst of all of this madness, there is still the need to persevere, adapt, and adjust, so that we can create our own sense of stability and certainty, at least within the safety and comfort of our homes. Even in the most desperate of circumstances, there still lies the opportunities to find our inner power through being creative and finding those therapeutic and uplifting capabilities that we may have forgotten that we possess.

Caldo de Pollo/ Spanish Style Chicken Soup

For meow, as you all know, cooking and food itself is beyond therapy for me. It is my life. My passion. My happy place. The kitchen is where I am most in my element and where I (almost ๐Ÿ˜œ) always know what I’m doing without question. My chosen profession and industry has taken quite a hit throughout the course of The Rona, and I, along with my friends, family, and colleagues have had to literally redefine how we choose to identify ourselves in the culinary world. Carve a new path so to speak… (pun intended… get It? Carve??) Anymeow, this of course applies to every single one of us. Not only are Chefs like myself finding new ways to cook, but so are you, right? I mean, meows went straight to the comfort food zone and started cooking like they may never have before. And It. Is. AWESOME!!!

Spaghetti with Meatballs

Deep Dish Pizza

I’ve never seen so many meows flock to their kitchens and begin the process of attempting to try their hand at cooking and creating things they’ve never made before, in particular, baking! So much so that for a minute, like toilet paper, yeast was hard to find on store shelves, to the dismay of many of my culinary brethren… At least that’s how it was when all of this first started and we had to shelter in place. The emphasis on cooking at home and finding new, interesting, and creative ways to nourish ourselves has brought back a sense of simplicity and purity to the craft that I welcome wholeheartedly. And The Rona has forced meows to REALLY take a long hard look at their own eating habits from top to bottom because now more than ever, nourishment is key, as it always has been, to our health and well being.

Chicken and Cheese Enchiladasย 

 

As for meow, I’ve been keeping things rather simple in the kitchen, or as simple as it seems to me… and have found myself cooking and craving a lot of dishes that remind me of childhood. Is that happening to anyone else? Or are you being a fancy pants cooking up those hard to pronounce meals? ๐Ÿ˜› Or trying foods you’ve always wanted to try like the Beyond Meats or switching things up from maybe eating less meat and more vegetable based and meatless meals? Have you tried gardening and growing your own fruits, veggies, and herbs? Are you crafting more? Making your own clothes, masks, soaps, etc? I WANNA KNOW! If nothing else, I hope that you meows are at least attempting to try something new and different to keep things moving forward and interesting to help keep your minds occupied and in a positive frame.

Sweet Chili Shrimp

And keep on cooking!! Take those food pics and post them! Inspire other meows to go to the store and whip up something new and tasty! Share those precious recipes, too! Your mom’s meatloaf, your dad’s killer kick ass chili, your grandma’s pie dough or cookies, salsa, pastas, rice, soups, potatoes, jams, jellies, pickled veggies, salad dressings, fried chicken, tofu, dumplings, homemade nut milks, gluten free, vegan, plant based, meat based, home based!!! Whatever it may be, share it with the world. You never know how that one little pic or recipe might make someone’s next meal a game changer. I mean, we all still gotta eat! Until our next mystic meal… Take good care of yourselves and Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

xo Nikki ๐Ÿฅฐโœจ๐Ÿ”ฎ๐Ÿ’•

Follow meow on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tiktok @siknik13 and @mysticmeals!ย 

All photos are MINE!!!ย ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜›๐Ÿ˜‰

Easy Peasy Summer Strawberry Jam!

Greetings, Mystic Meows!!

It is prime time for all of those luscious berries right now and what better way to enjoy them, besides eating them by the handful, than making jam! Strawberry preserves and jam is one of my favorite spreadable sweet treats. Perfect on oatmeal, toast, biscuits, pancakes, waffles… Ice cream! The possibilities are endless!

My recipe is quick, simple, and of course… easy. You’ll be seeing those words a bunch with my food blogs. Making a jam is a great way to make use of the berries that are super ripe and ready to eat right away. This recipe also works with other fruits such as peaches, apricots, plums, and cherries. If using peaches, I would quickly blanch them in boiling water for no more than 1 1/2 minutes to easily remove the skin before cutting. But let’s get to the Strawberries!!! ๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ“

Now, I tend to use way less sugar than most other recipes call for, and I also don’t use pectin because the method for this particular recipe is basically a reduction. It creates a nice, thick, and concentrated strawberry flavor. The use of lemon juice is up to you, but I also usually don’t add that either. It’s pretty much the strawberries, and sugar. That’s it! It thickens as it cools and is spreadable and insanely tasty. Here we go!

Easy Peasy Strawberry Jam ๐Ÿ“

2 pounds ripe strawberries, washed and hulled

1 1/4 cups of sugar

1/8th cup of lemon juice ( optional )

1. In a large bowl, add the strawberries and sugar, and proceed to mash the berries with a fork or wire whisk.

2. In a medium sized pot, add the mashed strawberries and cook on medium low heat and to help dissolve the sugar. Taste for sweetness and adjust by adding more sugar in small batches if you need to.

3. Once the sugar is dissolved, increase the heat to medium high and bring to a nice rolling boil, stirring constantly as not to burn the berries. At this point, you’re pretty much reducing down the sauce. The amount of time this takes will depend upon the pot you use and your stove. Usually about 20 to 25 minutes from the start of the rolling boil. Be sure to stay with it and stir it constantly.

4. You’ll be able to gauge if the jam is at the right consistency by the way it feels with a spoon as you’re stirring it. It’ll feel thick and of course you’ll be able to see how it looks on the spoon itself… Check out the video to see what I mean… ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ“

 

5. Cool completely and put into a jar or container, and refrigerate until ready to eat!

Since we typically eat the daylights outta this stuff in a matter of days, I just put the jam in a container and forgo the canning process. And I like that I can make more jam whenever I feel like it because this recipe is so simple and easy. As I said before, this Strawberry love fest of yumminess is great on just about anything! Peanut butter and Strawberry jam on toast makes a great little snack for the little meows! Even makes a beautiful base for a vinaigrette! Strawberry Balsamic, anyone?

That’s what I love about ingredients and how they’re like the gateway drugs to other recipe creations! ๐Ÿ˜One thing leads to another. Use the jam for smoothies, lemonade or iced tea… Jazz up your sparkling water or add to your mimosas! I can go on and on, but you get where I’m coming from… ๐Ÿ˜‰โœจ

Please let me know what tasty creations you come up with if you decide to give this recipe a whirl, dear reader! Thanks so much for stopping by! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

Follow Mystic Meals on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! ๐Ÿ”ฎโœจ

Lip Smacking Grilled Tofu Satay with Spicy Honey Peanut Sauce!

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Satay is one of my favorite Thai style dishes because I love the combination of the char grill and all those yummy meats and spices together! I also love tofu. I know that most meows have a love/hate relationship with it, but over the years I’ve really grown to appreciate it for its versatility and how it absorbs flavor like a sponge. I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but I do enjoy many a meatless meal more often than not.

I promised myself when I started this blog, that I would incorporate some of the tofu dishes that have become a part of my repertoire to help inspire some new ideas for your next Mystic Meal and this recipe is a great place to start. This is definitely one that is a great crowd pleaser, perfect for a bbq, potluck, or picnic, and will make your vegan friends happy!

I almost always use firm or even super firm tofu because I prefer its texture and it holds up well for this kind of cooking application. It’s easier to work with than its softer counterparts and for me, has a meat like mouth feel that I enjoy. It’s hearty and surprisingly filling. And it’s another one of those awesome make ahead recipes that can be eaten hot or cold. Yay!

Spicy Peanut sauce is one of my go to sauces for so many recipes. There are countless dishes it lends itself to. This one uses lots of honey, Sriracha and soy sauce. You can also use either smooth or chunky peanut butter as well. It’s entirely up to you! Alrighty then, meows… Let’s get down to business! ๐Ÿ˜›

Grilled Tofu Satay with Spicy Honey Peanut Sauce

1 14 to 16oz. package of extra firm tofu, drained

3/4 cup of smooth or chunky peanut butter

1/4 cup of soy sauce

1/4 cup of honey

1 T. Sriracha

1/4. cup of water

Skewers for grilling

1. In a medium sized bowl, add the peanut butter, honey, soy, sriracha and water and mix together until well incorporated and smooth. Taste and adjust the flavors as needed. I actually added a bit more honey and sriracha to mine. I like my sweet heat! ๐Ÿ˜ Cover and set aside.

2. Take the tofu and cut it in half down the middle and cut each half into 4 long pieces. Skewer each piece, season with salt and pepper and lightly coat with some olive oil or pan spray.

3. Make sure your grill is nice and hot before adding the tofu so it doesn’t stick to the surface. You want to get some sexy grill marks on all sides if you can. I used my trusty cast iron grill. If you don’t have a grill to use, just sear the tofu in your favorite frying pan. They’ll still be just as delicious cause it is all about that sauce! ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ It should take about 2 minutes per side, or about 8 to 10 minutes depending on how grilled you want the tofu to be.

3. Once the tofu is marked on all sides, place them in a shallow dish and spoon about 1/2 a cup of the peanut sauce over the skewers and let them marinate for about 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped peanuts and some cilantro and enjoy!

I served mine with some jasmine rice and a fresh carrot and cilantro salad with sliced green onions. It was soooooo yummy! I got all fancy with my grill marks cause I’m a fancy pants chef and love to grill! But don’t you worry about all that unless you’re feeling wiley and want to be a show off like I was… ๐Ÿคฃ But seriously. Can we take a sec to admire my handy work? ๐Ÿคช

And there you have it, dear reader! Another tasty Mystic Meals recipe for you meows to make and enjoy for the summer! I really hope you give this one a try because it’s really easy to prepare and you can change it up by using bbq sauce, buffalo sauce, or any of your favorite marinades! Have fun with it! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, hugs, and meows!

Xo Nikki โœจ๐Ÿ’•

Follow Mystic Meals on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook! ๐Ÿ”ฎโœจ

Yummy Fried Vegetable Wontons

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Summer is here and it’s time to bust out those recipe ideas for all those spontaneous and impromptu parties and entertaining that the warm weather encourages! WHEW! That was a mouthful! ๐Ÿ˜ This recipe for Yummy Fried Veggie Wontons is kind of a twofer in the sense that you not only can make these ahead of time and freeze, but you can either boil them in a soup or fry them as an appetizer or side dish as I did here cause I love me some fried won tons! But these in a soup would be fantastic! Some broth and veggies? You’re all set!

You can of course use meat or seafood in the filling for this recipe as well. I would stick with ground pork, chicken, or shrimp. You could also use beef, but make sure that it’s got a fair amount of fat otherwise it’ll be a bit too dry on the inside. Rather than be all fancy pants about the shaping of these lil puppies, I went with a simple agnolotti inspired fold, which is basically a filled rectangle shape.

I tend to favor this particular application because it’s requires less oil for frying, cooks fairly quick, and also looks really cool once arranged on a plate or serving dish. As far as a dipping sauce for these crunchy little morsels of yumminess, that’s entirely up to you. I love a good duck sauce or my favorite Thai chili sauce from a brand called Mae Ploy. It has the perfect balance of sweet/heat with a hint of vinegar that isn’t too overpowering. So here we go Meows!

Yummy Fried Vegetable Wontons- Makes 24 to 30 pieces

1 pkg small Wonton wrappers, square shaped

3 cups cole slaw mix

1/2 cup finely chopped broccoli

1/2 cup mushrooms, small dice

1/2 cup green onion, thinly sliced

1 large clove of garlic, minced

1/4 cup soy sauce

Oil for frying

Your favorite dipping sauce such as sweet and sour, duck sauce, or sweet chili sauce

1. In a medium sautรฉ pan, add a drizzle of oil and briefly cook the vegetables on high heat for about 5 minutes. Just before removing from the heat, add the soy sauce and stir together well. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely.

2. Once the filling is cooled, grab your won ton wrappers and begin to fill them at the center, using no more than a teaspoon of the vegetable mix. Wet the edges with a bit of water and fold over to seal them, making sure to pinch the edges shut. You want to make rectangle shapes. You can also make triangles as well. Whatever floats your boat! ๐Ÿ˜›

3. Once your little wonton pockets of love are filled and sealed, it’s time to fry those bad boys up! In your favorite frying or sautรฉ pan, add a fair amount of oil so that the won tons are able to move around a bit when fried. Start with 1/2 cup and add more if you need to. Make sure the oil is nice and hot, but not smoking otherwise they’ll burn! ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ

4. Add about 5 to 6 won tons at a time and fry until golden brown on one side, then flip them over and repeat. The first batch will probably take the longest to brown, and after that the process will go quickly, so be sure to keep an eye on them! They only take a couple of minutes to cook once the pan is up to temperature. Once they’re nice and sexy, place them on paper towels to absorb the oil and serve with your dipping sauce of choice!

Quick, easy, and super fun to make. Definitely a crowd pleaser and a great way to use up those random leftovers. I also like to make pizza wontons by adding tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese! So good. I mean, you can pretty much add anything you can think of to take won tons to the next level! Ever try filling them with leftover mac and cheese? I’m telling ya… Wontons are a great addition to your Mystic Meals! I hope you meows give these a try and let me know what other filling ideas you come up with! How about something sweet? HA!

Thanks for stopping by, dear reader! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!!!

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

Follow Mystic Meals on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter! โœจ๐Ÿ”ฎ

 

5 Ingredient Beer Bread! Half Baked Harvest Recipe

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I don’t know about you meowsers, but I enjoy baking quite a bit. I suppose as far as bread is concerned, most meows feel either intimidated by it and think it’s too hard or takes too much time. Thankfully there’s a world full of easy bread recipes that don’t require a high level of cooking skills and only use a handful of ingredients to pull it together. And I’m here to encourage you to try your hand at it with a recipe that was created by one of my favorite cooking blogs, Half Baked Harvest by Teighan Gerard.

This recipe that I used is I believe the original posting from 2013, and it’s exactly what it says. Five ingredients. That’s all you need. Ready? Flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt, and 12oz of your favorite beer. That’s it. 1,2,3,4,5. Sounds easy enough, right? Next all you need is a large bowl for mixing, a wooden spoon or spatula, and a loaf pan to bake it in.

Here’s where it got interesting for me. To start, I don’t own a bread pan or loaf pan, but I do own a set of mini loaf pans from Chicago Metallic that I adore! So that’s what I used. So if you’re in the same boat as I was as far as the actual cooking equipment is concerned, you’ll have to make the necessary adjustments and consider if it will add or subtract in the amount of baking time. I also own a ton of round cake pans, which I could have used instead of the mini’s, but I wanted to stick as close to the recipe as possible. My little loaves took about 45 minutes to bake with 15 minutes of rest time before slicing.

Next was the actual consistency of the dough or “batter” as it’s referred to in the original recipe. I feel that the wording of a recipe is vital when there’s a lack of visual references. Thankfully HBH has several video tutorials out there so you can see what I mean. When I was mixing everything together after being sure I measured everything to the tee, my end result was in between a dough and a batter. I felt compelled to add a bit more water to it a little at a time being mindful not to over-mix the base to get it looking closer to what I had seen in the videos.

And this is why often times, what we see at first isn’t always what we get when trying out certain recipes because there are so many variances that contribute to those subtle differences. The size of measuring cups for example really do vary from brand to brand and not all are created equal. So although my spidey senses told me that my bread base was a tad on the thicker side, I forged ahead and baked away.

Here’s the link to the recipe : 5 Ingredient Beer Bread

The end result? Happiness. I was pleasantly surprised by how these little kitties turned out. The outer crust was crisp and chewy, and the inside of the bread was dense, but soft and almost cake like. A hearty bread for sure. I yielded 3 mini loaves out of the recipe. The beer I used was the 805 brand which has a nice flavor that isn’t too malty or hoppy, if you know what I mean. I served the first loaf with honey, butter, and my homemade strawberry preserves which was super yummy! The bread itself is very satisfying on its own and is pretty filling after a couple of slices. I’ll definitely be making this recipe again. Mystic Meals approved! ๐ŸฅฐโœจI also made little sandwiches with butter, honey, turkey, and cheese and it was EPIC! Sorry, no pics! They were gone in a flash! ๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ

Half Baked Harvest has a few variations of this bread recipe. In the most recent one I’ve seen, Tieghan is using a darker beer and honey in place of brown sugar, so be sure to check out the site and try the recipe that speaks to you the most. This one seemed to be pretty neutral and again, EASY, which is awesome! This bread goes with both sweet and savory toppings, which is also a huge plus. I bet it’ll be great sliced and toasted with a soup or for breakfast with eggies! I hope you meows give it a try! There you have it, dear reader. Quick, easy, simple, and delicious. Just how we like it around here. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!

xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

Follow Mystic Meals on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Plant Based Nutrition and Skincare With Arbonne

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

I’m always fascinated and intrigued by all of the food related products out there on the market that promote wellness and self care. Let’s be honest… Some of these brands aren’t very tasty, but are really good at convincing us consumers that we “need” their products in our lives and have to incorporate them into our daily routines because they’re better for us and easier to use, or just as good and comparable to what we ingest and put into and on our bodies, and use thought provoking catch phrases and words like “Environmentally Friendly”, “Non GMO”, “Vegan” or the new high key deal maker… “Plant Based”. So I decided to start doing a bit more investigative research on this particular subject since food is how I make my living, and as a chef it’s part of my job to be as educated on the subject as possible, and found some incentive from a former co-worker who started using, selling, and promoting a wellness brand that has been around since the 60’s, long before “Going Green” was even a popular thing to say, do, and live by. Hence my introduction to the brand, Arbonne.

I first met Roslyn Aguiar several years ago while we both worked at a restaurant in Visalia, Ca. She’s such a vivacious woman with a great and bubbly personality, and we got along really well. We’ve kept in touch over the years and follow each other on social media. She first started using Arbonne not long after she got married. She and her husband being in newlywed marital bliss put on what Roslyn refers to as “happy weight” and was seeking a way to get her health and weight back on track.

A friend of hers was the regional Vice President for Arbonne and at first Roslyn thought that the products weren’t for her and honestly felt too good for it. You know… “I don’t need that stuff”. 3 1/2 years later, Roslyn had gained 30 pounds and was seeking a way to start losing weight and becoming healthier, so she decided to take the plunge and try one of their Healthy Living Kits, which is a 30 day supply of various protein powders, shakes, and detox teas to help kick start your body into better overall gut health and improve your metabolism. Roslyn was pleasantly surprised by how much she actually enjoyed the taste of the powders, drinks, and teas, and how after the first couple of weeks, she as well as her family noticed the difference in her overall appearance, and well being, as she was beginning to suffer silently from depression due to her weight gain and food intake, which led her to give Arbonne a try and see if it could help to improve things from the inside out. And for her it really did. It made a marked difference in not just her physical health, but more importantly, her mental health as well. She felt invigorated, her mood was elevated and had more incentive to partake in and enjoy the simple pleasures in every day life. A walk outside, the sunshine, engaging more fully with other people. She had gained her confidence back and she credits Arbonne for helping her get her life back to a better place than she had been living before. It was her personal journey with it and her experience that prompted her to become a consultant for the company, and share her story and belief in Arbonne and their products with as many people as possible.

It’s very easy to take for granted how much the foods we consume and the things we put on our bodies can have profound affects on our state of minds and physical fitness. Our skin is the largest organ we all have and things are very easily absorbed through it. It only takes 26 seconds to be exact. All the preservatives, sugars and other chemicals in the foods we eat truly does have influence over our health. So now more than ever, the better educated we are about what fuels our bodies and keeps our skin hydrated and healthy, the better our quality of life should end up being. Arbonne is trying to set the example and lead the way to an alternative with all natural ingredients that helps to achieve a better state of body and mind by providing products that claim to help us try to become better versions of ourselves by offering a line of wholesome goods that simply promotes the idea of wellness. Thus making us more aware of the natural ingredients and make our own comparisons as consumers. It’s crazy how many chemicals, preservatives, and by-products are in most of the every day items we use and put on our skin! We can achieve similar results without all the fillers and additives and research Arbonne’s range of supplements and skin care that are… Vegan, Plant Based, Non GMO, Not Tested On Animals, and Kosher.

I can say that although I haven’t tried it yet, I have seen how Roslyn’s appearance has changed since she started using Arbonne, and how much happier with herself she seems. Her hair is longer and more luscious than it was before, her skin is glowing, and she just looks better than she ever has! I’m waiting on my 7 day sample pack to arrive in the mail so I can see for myself what these protein powders and energy fizz drinks taste like and if there’s any difference in how I feel. Will I have more energy? Will the shakes be satisfying enough to get me through the day? We shall soon find out, dear reader… I am extremely curious. So I’ll have to update you meows in another follow up blog about my results from living a week on Arbonne. As with anything, everyone has different experiences and results when using any kind of supplement, and what works for you might not work for me and vice versa. I’m not looking for a miracle here, but I am looking for better alternatives to things such as pill vitamins and vitality boosters that I can incorporate into my already existing routine. It’s worth a shot.

If you want to learn more about Arbonne and the products they offer contact Roslyn Aguiar and follow her on Instagram so you can see for yourselves the changes the products have made for her and others. If you contact her via text or DM using the code MEOW619 (not an affiliate link, btw…) she’ll wave the $29.00 sign up fee. So check it out and see what you think! They also have make up, too! I was surprised by how many products they offer, and was also impressed. Perhaps you might find something that speaks to you and compels you to give them a go! Thank you meows for stopping by! And I’ll keep you posted about my results for sure! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking! Hey, it’s my catch phrase… Reading is brain food! ๐Ÿ˜›

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!

xo Nikki โœจ๐Ÿ’•

Follow Mystic Meals on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Photos courtesy of renewed.roslyn and Google images

The Perfect Classic Cheeseburger

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Now that the Summer season is rapidly approaching, it’s time to get our menus ready for all that outdoor picnicking and grill friendly cuisine! But what if I told you that in terms of burgers, that the best way to cook them isn’t on a grill? Would you think that I was cuckoo for cocoa puffs? Well, I am, but that’s beside the point. ๐ŸคชI’m a chef after all, and most chefs are slightly bonkers in the head to draw it mild! ๐Ÿ˜œ Most of the classic All American style burgers that I grew up eating from some of the best diners in the world (NYC, of course… ) were cooked on griddles, or flat tops, which is a solid sheet of metal heated by burners underneath them, and not on an actual grill. Don’t get me wrong… I love me the taste of a char grilled burger, however when cooking burgers at home, a well seasoned frying pan, or even better, a cast iron skillet is your best friend. The heat is evenly distributed and helps you get that delicious crust on both sides. But let’s start with the essential building blocks for the perfect classic cheeseburger.

The Meat

Let me start out by saying that when it comes to ground beef for burgers that fat is your friend. You don’t want to use meat like ground sirloin for burgers because it’s very lean with little fat content. You NEED the fat to give you that juicy, flavorful burger. Because the components of a burger are so simple and straightforward to begin with, it’s important that above all, you start with the highest quality of everything from the outset. For the best burger results you want a fat to meat ratio of 80/20. That’s 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat. If you can find it, 75/25 is even better. But let’s stick with 80/20 for now. 100% ground chuck is great, but if you have a local butcher in your area, or good butcher counter at your local supermarket,  see if they can grind up a chuck/brisket combo. It’s slightly more expensive per pound, but hot damn is it worth it!

Another important step in making burgers is the freshness of the meat itself. Don’t use frozen and thawed ground beef as it will be a lot tougher and a bit dryer. Save that for meatballs, meat sauces, chili or meatloaf  if you can ๐Ÿ˜‰ When shaping your burger patties, the less you man paw the meat, the better. Try to be quick about the actual shaping process. This will yield a softer, juicier, and tender burger. If weighing the patties, I’d stick with the traditional size of between 5oz to 8oz per patty. Also, when you’re shaping the patties, try not to pack the meat and make it too dense. This will also result in a tougher cooked burger. Again, the less you handle it, the better. Season well with salt and pepper on both sides before cooking.

The Cooking Method

Now it’s time to get our trusty cast iron skillet ready! Add a drizzle of your favorite cooking oil to your skillet and get it nice and hot. Once the oil starts to shimmer and move like little waves on a lake, carefully add your burger patties, and leave it alone until you’re ready to flip it. Don’t press it with the spatula, or move it around at all. This is how you create that flavorful crust on both sides. It’s the same as if you were making a steak. Depending on how you like your burgers cooked, for a true medium burger, cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side depending on the weight and thickness of the patties themselves. This searing of the burger patties will give you a light and juicy burger because the meat isn’t over worked or over cooked. You’ll have some rendered fat from the burgers in the skillet, so be sure to spoon most of that out so as not to steam cook the patties.

** Side Note~ Grilling. Most of us do associate a good burger with the grilling method but allow me to explain the difference.  A burger usually cooks faster than a steak, and what you’re looking for is the actual browning of the protein in the meat, which creates depth of flavor. This is called The Maillard Reaction. A steak can benefit from being cooked on a grill because of its high fat content and longer length of cooking time. The meat won’t become tough or dry out as a burger would, because a burger takes a shorter amount of time to cook, therefore it benefits more from an even surfaced cooking vessel, like the cast iron skillet to cook the burger quickly and evenly across the total surface of the burger** Meow ๐Ÿ˜ป

The Yummy Melty Cheese

So now it’s Queso ‘o clock for those boigahs! For the Classic All American Cheeseburger you definitely want to use American cheese. It’s melty, ooey gooey, and delicious! And don’t skimp on the amount of cheese you use! At least 2 slices for each burger so it melts all over it and adds to the awesomeness of every bite! A little trick to getting the cheese to melt is by adding a Tablespoon of water and covering the burgers for no longer than 10 seconds. This will help melt the cheese without altering the temperature or texture of the burger. It’s not a necessary step at all, but it does add a nice touch to the burgers themselves.

Buns, Buns, Buns! 

Okay… this is where it becomes a matter of preference because we all have different tastes when it comes to the style of bread for burgers. A sesame seed bun, brioche, potato, whole wheat? It’s entirely up to you. The one thing I will suggest is that no matter what type of bun you’re using is to toast the buns on both sides with a bit of butter. It just adds a richness and texture to the end result of your classic burger extravaganza!

To Sauce or Not to Sauce?

Again… pure preference here. I like my burgers pretty simple. Ketchup. That’s all I need. And that’s how I like it, so there! BBQ sauce is a close second, though… However, there’s a world of options as far as what kind of sauce to put on a burger. Most meows enjoy the ketchup, mustard, mayo combo, while other meows enjoy that secret sauce, or thousand island type of crazy sauce. All of these options add depth and flavor to the burgers without taking away from the flavor of the meat. They should enhance the flavor, not cover it. And that’s all I have to say about that… ๐Ÿ˜›

Sides, Sides, Everywhere There’s Sides!! 

Give me some lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and I am good to go! A happy meow indeed! French fries? Onion Rings? Sweet Potato Fries? Tater Tots? Cole Slaw? BACON???? Baby it is ALL GOOD!!

And now we’re ready to feast on these succulent burgers of love! I hope this helps you create the ultimate classic cheeseburger and perhaps see them and taste them a whole new way. By changing little things here and there, it makes something as simple as a burger become one hell of a mystic meal and transforms itself into another kitchen staple to be enjoyed all year round. Thanks for stopping by, dear reader! Until we eat again… Happy Cooking!

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!

Xo Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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Images courtesy of Google ๐Ÿ˜‰

Make Crunchy Onion Rings Like A Boss!

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Do you ever just crave something fried, like french fries, fried chicken, or onion rings? I’ve had some wicked fried food cravings these days and I decided to bite the culinary bullet and go for it! I have to admit… It took me a long time to warm up to homemade onion rings because I grew up eating and still love eating what I refer to as the “cheapie” onion rings. You know the ones… chopped up pieces of onions mixed with whatever fillers or batter they use to make them so perfectly round and tasty? The kind you get at Burger King, an old school greasy spoon Diner, or from the frozen section at the grocery store? Hey… We all have those guilty pleasure snacks, right? It might not be the best stuff to eat, but then again, I’m not eating this stuff every day, either so… Meow!

Onion rings are incredibly easy to make and most of us have the ingredients for preparing them right in our cupboards. Flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, a bit of paprika paired with some milk and eggs, along with those trusty onions are all you need, with oil, of course… although I go an extra step and coat them with breadcrumbs for that added crunch factor that I love. I suppose the next question would be, what kind of onions work best? In theory basically any type of onion will work, but I find that some kinds yield better taste and results than others. I typically use yellow or white onions, and like to use ones that are in between medium and large in size. While you can of course use the whole onion for rings, I find that saving the smaller inner rings to be chopped up and used in other recipes works best for me. The larger outer rings make for easier frying, anyways.

You’d be surprised by how many onion rings you can get out of just one bulb. At least a dozen if not a little more. Depending on how many meows you’re feeding, if cooking just for yourself, I’d stick with one. If feeding a crowd, I would use 2 to 4 onions. That all depends on how wiley you’re feeling in the kitchen! This recipe yields a fair amount of batter for using just one onion, and can be easily doubled and tripled if using more. I hope you give these a try and have some fun frying away!

** Food for Thought : The other bit of advice I have while you’re frying is to not let the oil become too hot otherwise the rings will cook too quickly and become too dark. Some adjusting of the heat and fry time will be mastered once you start to cook them. And I would fry in small batches, doing 4 to 5 rings at a time to have more control over how they fry and getting that golden brown color so you’ll have better end results. **

Crunchy Onion Rings

One medium to large sized yellow or white onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick and separated into rings ( peeled of course…)

3/4 cup of All Purpose Flour

1 Tbls baking powder

1 heaping teas. of paprika

2 Tbls. of cornstarch

1 teas. ground pepper

1 teas. salt

1 Whole Egg

3/4 cup of milk

Breadcrumbs for coating

Vegetable, Canola, or your favorite oil for frying

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, egg, baking powder, cornstarch, paprika, milk, salt and pepper. Mix together until you have a smooth and slightly thick batter. If too thick, add a splash more milk. If too thin, add a bit more flour one teaspoon at a time until desired thickness.

2. Add about 4 onion rings at a time to the batter. Meanwhile in a medium sized pot or preferred frying pan, heat up the oil over medium heat adding just enough oil so that the rings will float.

3. Thoroughly coat the rings in the batter, allow some excess to drip off and coat the battered onion rings with the breadcrumbs and fry immediately for about 2 minutes per side until nice and golden brown. Adjust the heat of the pan so the rings won’t burn. Once browned, remove and set on a plate with paper towels. Serve these bad boys with your favorite ketchup or bbq sauce and munch your heart out!

I love to eat these on their own, but also serve them with burgers and sandwiches, and these also reheat really well in the oven, too! So no worries if you have some left over, but I doubt you will!! And there you have it, dear reader! Another delicious recipe to help bring your next mystic meal to a new level of awesomeness! Until we eat again… Thanks for stopping by and Happy Cooking!

Cheers, Hugs, and Meows!!

Xo, Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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Three Sauces To Step Up Your Food Game

 

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Cooking a meal can be a bit daunting at times, huh? It’s tough to find inspiration and the motivation to be creative in the kitchen, and come up with something new or different to eat, especially when we’ve had a busy day or have a ton going on and just don’t want to think about it! As a Chef, there have been many occasions when making family meal (food for the kitchen staff) where you often times don’t have much on hand to work with and are forced to think outside the box and literally make something out of nothing. Kitchen Sink cookery, if you will. Out of those food challenges, one of the things I’ve learned is how to make various types of sauces, and their magical powers of transforming something ordinary, into something extraordinary. A good sauce can change everything.

Over the next few months I’ll be writing about lots of different sauces, marinades, and other easy ingredients that are sure fire ways to help inspire the kitchen gods to be ever on your side in those times of wanting a delicious meal without having to spend hours cooking like a maniac. Unless you want to, that is… These 3 sauce recipes are my go to’s for those times when I want something that I know is tried and true, can be easily made ahead of time, are versatile, and can be used as bases for other creations. A sauce can go from being an accompaniment such as a dipping sauce, to taking center stage and binding all the elements together. So lets get to the sauces and see what yumminess we can come up with!

Spicy Peanut Sauce

3 T. creamy Peanut Butter

2 T. Soy Sauce

2 T. Brown Sugar

1 t. Sambal Oelek

1 t. Sriracha

1/4 cup water

Lime, Lemon juice, Cider vinegar or rice vinegar to taste.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk all of the ingredients together until smooth. At first it’ll seem like it doesn’t want to combine, but keep whisking. It’ll come together. Everything can be adjusted, from the thickness by adding more water or peanut butter, the sweetness of the brown sugar, to the spiciness and acidity. Personally, I prefer more of a sweet heat and not too much acid. But that’s just me. I use this sauce :

As a dipping sauce for spring rolls and raw veggies

As a salad dressing with lettuces, chicken or shrimp

As a sauce for various kinds of noodles, like rice noodles, soba noodles, vermicelli, Lo mein, and even spaghetti works just fine if you don’t have the others.

As a sauce for chicken or beef

Next up is Pesto. Most meows think of a pesto sauce being primarily made from basil, but these days there are so many different “greens” you can use to create interesting and delicious variations of it. One of my favorite ways to make it is by using broccoli, in particularly the broccoli greens or leaves, which most meows throw away. I love eating them and incorporating them into my dishes. As with most recipes, certain things can be adjusted to suit your tastes. If you have a nut allergy, just omit it. If you’re vegan, don’t use cheese, or use a vegan friendly substitute. Here we go!

Broccoli Pesto 

10 oz. of blanched and chopped broccoli (leaves too!)

4oz fresh romano cheese, roughly chopped

2 large garlic cloves

1/2 cup of pine nuts, walnuts, almonds or your favorite type of nuts (optional)

1/2 olive oil

1 t. chili flakes

salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, blender or nutri bullet, pulse all the ingredients together in batches if need be, adjusting and stirring until you have sort of a chunky paste, with no large pieces of cheese, garlic or nuts if using them. I use this sauce :

As a pasta sauce and sometimes add cream to it for a creamy pesto

As a base or add in for soups

A dipping sauce for vegetables

As a spread for sliced crostini with goat cheese, toasted bagels, sandwiches, and of course as a base sauce for pizza and flatbreads!

As a topper or stuffing for baked chicken breast, pork, or fish

Last, but certainly not least… Tomato sauce. I cannot stress enough how important I feel it is for everyone on this crazy planet to know how to make some type of tomato sauce. It is one of the five Mother Sauces of cooking for a reason, and is way less complicated to make than you might think. All it consists of at its core is onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Then you just cook this down by reducing it to concentrate the flavors and create thickness. That’s it. Anything else you add to it is up to you in terms of herbs and spices. I keep mine fairly neutral since I almost always use it as a base for something else. Here are 2 variations of it, The first is a quick and easy pan tomato sauce using fresh, ripe tomatoes, and the second is using canned tomatoes with a longer cooking time. Both of these are terrific make ahead recipes that keep well in the freezer and thaw out pretty fast. Boom!

Quick Pan Tomato Sauce

1 pound of red RIPE roma, cherry, grape, or any variety of tomato. If using cherry or grape, keep them whole, otherwise cut larger tomatoes into pieces.

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 large cloves of garlic, sliced thin if you want the flavor but don’t want to actually eat it or minced if you wanna get your garlic on

1/4 cup of olive oil

salt, pepper, and herbs of choice to taste

In a sautรฉ pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions and cook all together until the cherry/grape tomatoes start to burst or your regular tomatoes start to break down.  About 10 to 15 minutes. Crush them down with a fork or spoon to start to create the pan sauce. If making pasta, add a touch of pasta water or plain water, season lightly and begin to reduce. The whole process takes about 20 to 30 minutes. **Remember to season as you go since you’re reducing and concentrating flavors. If you add too much salt right away, it will just become saltier as it cooks down, so do your final seasoning at the end**

 Tomato Sauce

1 35 ounce can of tomatoes (San Marzano tomatoes are the best,  but use whatever you find or like)

6 large cloves of garlic, sliced or minced

1/4 cup of olive oil

1/2 cup of small diced yellow onion

A sprinkle of chili flake

8 fresh basil leaves (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, add the olive oil, onions and garlic and sautรฉ for about 2 minutes. Add the contents of the canned tomatoes, juice and all, reduce the heat to a simmer, lightly season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes, and continue to stir and break up the tomatoes, cooking for 30 to 45 minutes. You should have a thick and chunky sauce. Cook longer the sauce is still too thin, but keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Right before it’s done, adjust the seasoning and if using fresh basil, add it in and turn off the heat. Stir, serve or cool and freeze in portions. I use this sauce :

As a base for pasta dishes like spaghetti with meat sauce, ziti, farfalle, and basically any pasta shape your little heart desires… and you can add cream and vodka to it to make a yummy vodka sauce.

As a sauce for pizza and flatbread

As an add in for soups and stews

As a base for chicken cacciatore, a topper for grilled or roasted fish and seafood

As a spread for sandwiches and wraps

A base for creole inspired dishes like jambalaya and gumbo

A base for cooking red beans, lentils, or pinto beans

The possibilities are endless with these three sauces and it’s up to you what you create with them. I hope these help give you some ideas for your next mystic meal, and please let me know what you come up with! I’d love to hear about the creative recipes you make using them! Until we eat again, dear reader… Happy Cooking!

Xo, Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ

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All photos courtesy of google images and all recipes by meow! ๐Ÿ˜‰โœจ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilled Mango Habanero Shrimp with Sweet Corn Succotash

Greetings, Mystic Meows!

Im living for all the new seasonal fruits and veggies that are finally making their appearances at the local markets! Cherries are here, but not for long, so my advice is to stock up on them and freeze them! ๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ’But this blog isn’t about cherries. (Soon, though…) Corn is looking beautiful right now and I took advantage of a sale and grabbed a few ears.

I already had some shrimp in the freezer, half of a perfectly ripe mango, and as always, a variety of vegetables. I just love the word Succotash! It’s like something you use to cast a spell or invoke magic like speaking the words abracadabra and then seeing what happens next! ๐Ÿ˜โœจ

Succotash consists of corn kernels, and shell beans, like Lima beans, for example. You can add peppers, onions, herbs, olive oil and something acidic like your favorite vinegar or citrus juice. Sugar Snap Peas were looking pretty sexy at the market so I bought some of those and love eating them raw as well as cooked. Since I was grilling the shrimp for this recipe, I decided to grill the corn as well.

I used that half a mango I mentioned, purรฉed it in my Nutribullet along with a quarter of a habanero pepper, a splash of sweet chili sauce, and some lime juice. I peeled, cleaned, and deveined the shrimp, marinated them in a bit of minced garlic, salt and pepper, skewered them, and grilled them off on my trusty cast iron grill, which has been my favorite new kitchen toy since buying it several months ago.

I basted the shrimp with the mango habanero sauce, which acted like a spicy, yet fruity bbq sauce. It was lovely. If the grill is hot enough, the shrimp will cook rather quickly, while still getting those glorious charred grill marks on them. The sugar from the mango sauce also helps since the natural sugars caramelize nicely with the heat from the grill.

Here’s the recipe I used for the Succotash. This made about 4 cups after adding the other vegetables. As long as you’re using corn as the base, you can add whatever the flippity flap you want to it in terms of veggies and herbs. ๐Ÿ˜› I really like this version, though. The combo of raw and cooked vegetables provides crunchiness and flavor contrasts, and is quite healthy on its own since it’s fairly simple and the flavors are clean and pure. It makes a great side dish, is picnic friendly, or you can enjoy it as a salad topper like I did here. ๐Ÿ˜‰โœจ

Sweet Corn Succotash

2 ears of corn, shucked, cleaned and washed

2 pieces of green onion, sliced thin

1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes, washed and sliced in half

1 cup of sliced sugar snap peas

1/2 cup of red bell pepper, small dice

1/4 cup of chopped parsley

1/2 cup of olive oil

The juice from half a lime

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the corn cobs in half, and grill the ears until they’re nice and marked all around. If you don’t have a cast iron grill at home, just carefully cut the kernels off of the cobs and sautรฉ in a pan with a bit of oil over high heat to quickly cook the kernels and pan toast them, making sure they get some color, but being careful not to burn them. Set aside to cool down a bit. If grilling, once they’re charred a bit and marked, cut the kernels off and again, set aside.

2. In a large bowl, add the tomatoes, green onions, sugar snap peas, red bell peppers, parsley and the corn, and mix together well. Add the olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper, stir and adjust the seasoning. Leave covered at room temp for about 10 minutes. The tomatoes will begin to macerate and create a nice vinaigrette with the olive oil and lime juice, so it’s important to taste it again before serving.

I served the shrimp and the Succotash over some baby lettuces and it was really nice, light, and satisfying. Since I left the lettuce leaves whole, I wound up making little lettuce wraps with the shrimp and corn. It just kind of morphed into a different way of eating it, and I loved every bite!

And there you have it, dear reader! Another mystic meal to be enjoyed again and again over the coming months, and as I said, you can change it up by using whatever you see on your shopping travels. Green beans, heirloom tomatoes, basil… it’s up to you! Have fun with it! Until we eat again… Happy cooking!

Xo, Nikki ๐Ÿ’•โœจ๐ŸŒฝ๐Ÿค๐ŸŒถ

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