Easy Bechamel Sauce

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, stir in the flour until smooth. Continue stirring as the flour cooks to a light, golden color, about 7 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high and slowly whisk in milk until thickened by the roux (cooked flour mixture). Bring to a gentle simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue simmering until smooth and thickens, about 10 to 20 minutes. Once the sauce no longer tastes gritty, season with salt and nutmeg.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dry dill (or a teaspoon chopped fresh)

In a medium bowl, stir together the buttermilk and mayonnaise until fully mixed. Add in the other ingredients, adjusting for taste.

Store covered in the fridge for up to a week.

Spice Blends

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

Spread some on salmon or ribs before grilling or add into a brown sugar marinade for chicken.

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients; store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.


Baharat Seasoning

Baharat, a Middle Eastern spice combines cardamom, coriander seeds, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir some into your next vegetable dish, or mix some with lime juice and oil for a savory marinade.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried mint
    • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
    • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper**

Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, mash the ingredients together for 2 to 3 minutes.

**You can substitute white pepper if you want a less spicy blend.


Cajun Seasoning

Makes about 2 cups

  • 4 tablespoons paprika
    • 3 tablespoons dried granulated onion
    • 3 tablespoons dried granulated garlic
    • 1/4 cup cayenne pepper
    • 2 tablespoons white pepper
    • 3 tablespoons finely ground black pepper
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground thyme
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground oregano
    • 2 tablespoons ground New Mexican chile
    • 1 tablespoon ground chipotle chile

Combine the paprika, onion, garlic, cayenne, white pepper, black pepper, thyme, oregano, New Mexican chile, and chipotle chile in a bowl. Store in a covered container up to 6 months.

Substitutions: You can use hot or smoked paprika instead of regular to change the flavor. This recipe doesn’t call for any salt, do remember to salt your ingredients in addition to using the spice in a recipe.


Everything Bagel Spice

  • 2 ½ teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 ½ teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder

Combine ingredients together and store in an airtight jar.


Garam Malsala Powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg in a bowl. Place mix in an airtight container, and store in a cool, dry place.


Five-Spice Powder

3 tablespoons cinnamon
6 star anise or 2 teaspoons anise seeds
1 1⁄2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 1⁄2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns or 1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
3⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine all ingredients in blender or coffee grinder. Blend until finely ground. Store in airtight container. It will keep up to 2 months.

Note: For a more intense flavor, toast the whole spices in a dry pan for a few minutes.

Curries

Any leftover curry powder would be delicious mixed into deviled eggs, sprinkled over quartered new potatoes before roasting, or stirred into yogurt and served with pita chips or warm naan. Perfect for use in soups, stews, curries. Try sprinkling on fried potatoes or scrambled eggs.

Curry Powder 1

Makes about 3 tablespoons

  • 2 dried red chiles, stemmed
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Combine chiles, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, and cumin seeds in small bowl. Add cold water to cover, then drain. Place drained mixture in heavy small skillet. Dry-roast over medium-low heat until seeds are dry, slightly darker in color, and beginning to pop, stirring occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from pan from heat, and let cool in skillet.

Place nutmeg, white pepper, and turmeric in spice mill or grinder. Add the cooled spice mixture, then grind to powder. Store in a cool place in an airtight container.


Curry Powder 2

Makes about 1/2 cup

  • 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons whole cardamom seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne

Add ingredients to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind up. Place in a small jar with airtight lid and shake to combine. Store in a cool dry place for up to 6 months. When ready to use, add to dishes according to taste.


Curry Powder 3

  • 2 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or ground chilies

Add all spices to a small jar and shake. Store in airtight jar for up to 3 months.


Sweet and Mild Curry Blend

Makes 1/4 cup

2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed
1⁄2 teaspoon clove
1⁄2 teaspoon ground mustard
1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Combine all ingredients, and store in a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.

Summer days are here/cookbook library update

We are at the start of at least a one week heatwave of 100+ temperatures, which means that anything needing done outside has to be accomplished before I start work at 7am or after dark (which is NOT happening). Once I’m off of the clock at 3:30pm, I pick a project to work on before starting dinner. Sometimes the project is dinner; it depends on the day.

The Covid-19 isn’t fun for anyone, and staying home all of the time other than for the needful things gets old (even for this homebody). I have been putting off cataloging and organizing my cookbook collection for a long time. My hubby has been a very good sport about it overall. Not having a current list has caused me to accidentally buy duplicates of a few books. I’ve also been promising to post my cookbook list for awhile too. Yesterday I had had enough of the many, many boxes and decided the time had come to dig them out and get organized.

Two and a half hours later, I had five cataloged and sorted boxes plus another eight feet of books to go through. If you think that is a lot of books, I am barely getting started. There are three bookcases that are racked and packed as well. It will take at least a week to get them all checked, sorted, and put back, but the end result will be worth it. I am keeping track of the signed copies, and will be selling any duplicates. I also decided to group all of the Food Network chefs together, then the ones that I wind up using the most (Jet Tila, I’m looking at your cookbooks!). The rest will mostly be shelved by rough topic (e.g. brewing, Asian cooking, baking, etc.).

I hope you find my little cookbook library amusing. There is a wide range of topics and authors to choose from.

Pickle Me This

Making quick refrigerator pickles only take a few minutes, and you can eat them in as little as 30-40 minutes. I like the idea of making small batches, and changing the herbs or seasoning level between jars. Have fun and experiment with flavor!

Quick Pickles

Ingredients
3/4 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp kosher or pickling salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup water
1-1 1/2 lbs cucumbers
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved (or 1 tsp minced garlic)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
8 dried cloves
1 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
4 pint jars with lids, washed and sterilized

Combine the salt, sugar, and vinegar in a small non-reactive saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved, then removed from heat. Add in the water and let cool.

Slice the cucumbers into thin rounds or spears and put into cleaned and sterilized pint jars. Mix coriander, red pepper flakes, mustard seeds, dill, and garlic. Split evenly between the jars, and add the cloves. Add the cooled brine to the jars, dividing evenly. You can add a little cold water if needed until the liquid covers the cucumbers. Place the lids on the jar and tighten and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but they will have a better flavor if you can wait 24 hours. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.

I like waiting 48 hours to 2 weeks before opening my quick pickles, but you can certainly eat them sooner than that. The nice thing about doing small batches is that you can experiment with different vegetables or spices without committing to a large amount.

Variations: asparagus, carrots, green beans, cabbage, brussels sprouts, radishes, cherries

Pickled Onions

Ingredients
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp honey or granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 pint canning jar (I always have an extra jar on hand, just in case I make too much for one jar)

Clean and sterilize the canning jar(s) and lid(s) and set aside. Pack the onions into the jar, and set in the sink or on a kitchen towel in case the vinegar splashes later.

In a non-reactive saucepan mix the vinegar, water, honey (or sugar), salt, and pepper flakes. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, then pour over the onions in the jar.

Use the back of a spoon to make sure the onions are submerged in the vinegar mixture. Carefully tighten the lids on the jar(s) and let cool to room temperature. It should take about 30-40 minutes.

You can eat the pickled onions after they’ve cooled off, or you can store them for up to three weeks. They are best eaten within a week of pickling, and make sure to store them in the refrigerator.

Worst Cooks season finale and live discussion!

The season 19 Worst Cooks in America on Food Network has been a wild ride. Chefs Anne Burrell and Tyler Florence have had their hands full trying to wrangle seven celebrity boot camp recruits – Wells Adams, Johnny Bananas, Dave Coulier, Robin Givens, Bridget Everett, Sonja Morgan, and Brian Posehn. It is certainly not dull when you have so many comedians and actors in the mix.

Allison Wolfe and I have had a lot of fun creating the weekly bingo cards, and will continue to make more for the upcoming season with Alex Guarnaschelli replacing Tyler. I know that I will have as difficult time choosing between red or blue teams, because Alex ranks up with Alton and Anne on my favorite chef list. I haven’t been able to meet Alex, Anne, or Tyler yet, but I keep hoping that I will get to at some point.

To wrap up the season, Allison and I are going to have an Instagram live chat around 5:30pm PDT/8:30pm EDT. You can find us on Instagram at @allison_vic and @forktravel. We will talk about our favorite moment of the season (there were quite a few!) and what we hope will be in the finale. Who will show they have what it takes and win? Go over to the WC bingo page (get your cards here) and pick a card. Play along and have fun.

By the way, what are you planning to fix to nosh along with the show? Time to go through my cookbook library and start prepping.

It’s Bingo Time – Food Network style!

At the beginning of the year, I thought it would be fun to create bingo cards to play along with Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America. My husband and I watch the show every season, and DVR it to watch again later. I like Anne Burrell, and the rotating chef-instructor each season makes it fun. I am definitely a Rockin’ Red fan, even though I was really torn between the two teams last season because Alton Brown was running the blue team. (Long story short, I almost tossed him into his Megabake Oven when he was in Fresno in 2015, and made a vile frozen cocktail of fernet branca, whiskey, and dill pickle juice in 2017. Oh, and was accused of being a witch during the 2017 show because no one had ever been picked twice.)

I posted the bingo cards on several social media sites and tagged the stars, network, and show. I am not affiliated with Food Network, but I am a huge food groupie. Watching food competition shows is my idea of a sporting event. The cards went over well, and each week we made new cards. The new season is starting on May 10th with a celebrity edition. I am joining forces with Allison Victoria-Wolfe on the bingo cards to make sure more people can play along. Allison was the Season 15 winner of Worst Cooks, and has a great story of why she wanted to be on the show.

Want to play along? Click here to pick a bingo card: Worst Cooks Bingo

I hope you have fun playing bingo along with us. I don’t get to see the show ahead of time, so I am just as surprised at the shenanigans that go on. You can print up an individual card or play a few, the choice is up to you.

Bingo card archive

Quick Sandwich Bread

One of my biggest regrets is not learning how to make bread at an earlier point in life. Not only is it easy, relatively quick (with a little planning), and delicious, but it is rewarding and fun as well. If you have children, you can get them to help measure ingredients and knead the bread. It is a great way to help them connect to what they are eating.

Ingredients

3-3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package dry active yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter

Pour 1/2 cup of the warm water into a small bowl or cup and stir in the yeast and sugar. Stir gently, and let sit for 5 minutes. If the yeast is not foamy after 5 minutes, discard and purchase fresh yeast.

Place 1 cup of the flour into a bowl and add the rest of the water. Stir until well blended (it will be fairly runny and gloppy). Add the rest of the flour a cup at a time, salt, butter or oil, and stir well. The dough will be shaggy and sticky at this point. If you have a stand mixer, combine in the same steps using a dough hook. Knead the dough on a lightly floured board (or let the stand mixer work it with the dough hook) for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth. It should feel soft and a little springy to the touch at this point.

Shape the dough into a ball and put it into an oiled bowl, then flip the dough over so that the ball has a light coat of oil. This will help keep the surface elastic while rising. Cover the bowl with a clean damp towel and let it rest on the in a warm area for 1-1 1/2 hours until it is doubled in size.

Lightly butter or oil a loaf pan and set aside. The dough should be puffy and rounded. Punch the dough down, then place back on a lightly floured board. Knead the dough for 3-5 minutes. It will feel tighter than the first kneading due to the development of gluten.

Stretch the dough into as much of a rectangle that you can, then fold up in thirds. Place the dough into the loaf pan with the seam (edge of loaf) on the bottom. Brush the top of the loaf lightly with oil or melted butter, cover with the damp towel again, and leave in a warm area for an hour. The dough should almost double in size again.

Once the dough has doubled it should be at or near the top of the bread pan. Preheat the oven to 375°F and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown. Remove the loaf from the pan and set on a rack to cool.

Let the loaf cool for 2-3 hours before cutting. If you slice it too soon, the inside will be gummy instead of nice and fluffy.

Wasn’t that easy? Enjoy!

Always striving to be better

One thing about life is that you can always work at being better. That is true with cooking and baking too. I am always trying to learn something new, master a new technique, try a new ingredient (I wish I had a larger pantry!), read more, and find new things to put on the website. Before Covid-19, we had planned to be in Las Vegas this week to go to Robert Irvine’s event to benefit Three Square Food Bank. We attended it last year and had a lot of fun, especially when I won the chef coat Robert was wearing in an auction. As of today, Las Vegas is slowly reopening, but I prefer to wait just a bit longer to make sure it is safe to travel. By the way, Robert is the real deal. He is just like he presents himself on Restaurant Impossible. The man works non-stop, and gives a lot for the military and their families.

Working with Allison Wolfe on the Worst Cooks bingo this season has been fun, and I look forward to more of the zaniness when Alex Guarnaschelli joins Anne and a new cast of bootcamp recruits. This is one show that makes me laugh and yell at the television at the same time. I often wonder how all the contestants made it to this stage in life without learning how to cook. Two shows left, with the final round next week. I have no idea who might be in the final two, but it will definitely be interesting.

Over the last few weeks I filmed a few short clips for the local library to post for their summer session. Given that it was something completely new, both my husband and I learned a little about lighting and filming. One thing for sure, trying to film in the house at night or when it is over 100 degrees outside create challenges that we learned from. Each one was a little better than the one before, and it was easier to “talk to the camera” when I demonstrated a recipe. It’s a work in progress to be sure, but I did have fun doing it. Time to write up and post the recipes I used; I’ll post the links for the library once they are up.

The next project will be tackling my 400+ cookbook library. That will be quite a task to sort, catalog, then organize on the shelves. I am not sure how I want to group them, other than put the celebrity chefs on the top shelves followed by my favorites. Therein lies the challenge. Watch for the list and photos over the next week or so.

If you have a moment, please take the poll below to give me an idea of what you’d like to see on Have Fork, Will Travel.

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