Sunday, November 9, 2008

Joe knows...Sloppy

When Kendra and I got married we had several showers, none of which were driven by greed, from friends and family who wanted to host a shower in honor of our upcoming nuptials. We had a shower in my hometown, at the church where I was currently working, and then one in West Texas where Kendra grew up. It was the shower in West Texas the yielded probably the single most precious gift, a cookbook. Though the cookbook pictured here is not the way my cookbook is bound, it most certainly THE cookbook. I've read this cookbook no less that 100 times over the past 12 years. What makes this cookbook so special is in the stories that the author writes about each recipe. If I ever met Thelma I'd know all about her life because this cookbook has served as an autobiography of sorts. I can't really begins to count how many recipes I have cooked out of here, hundreds to say the least. Amazon has this cookbook listed, out of print as of now, I'd highly recommend this cookbook to the beginner cook--well any cook for that matter.

As with any recipe I can't just make it like it is, I have to change it because I think my way would be better. I'll add more of this or that, change up some of this or that and tweak it here and there until I get the right about of what I'm looking for. This is true with Sloppy Joes. My entire life I have eaten sloppy joes that were made by frying ground beef and dumping a can of "mix" into the skillet and calling it a day. Since it was all I knew I loved it...then one day I made the recipe for Sloppy Joes out of this cookbook and have never picked up the can of mix since. If your family loves Sloppy Joes then give this a try, even if they don't try it you might be surprised. This is a perfect recipe for a beginning cook because the success is guaranteed and the confidence of this cook will be increased tenfold.

The cast of characters is missing because I realized I didn't have one of the ingredients, crucial to the recipe, so I had to run up to the store to get it. So, with your apologies I'll press on with quite a few photos. My wife was helping me cook and had agreed to take over the babysitting of the cooking while I went to the store and she said, "why are you taking pictures of this?" "For the blog, it's my next post." "OHHH's a good thing I love you." By this time in our marriage my sweet wife is just used to me, nuff said.

Sloppy Joes

2 lb. Lean Ground Beef
1 cup Onion, diced
1/2 cup Celery, diced
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon Cavendar's Greek Seasoning
1 Tablespoon Cracked Pepper
1 teaspoon Salt
1 can condensed Tomato Soup
3/4 cup ketchup
3 Tablespoons Prepared Mustard
1 cup water

I usually dice one onion, the size of a baseball, and call it good. I like to keep the dice small just because the flavor is what I'm shooting for not the texture of a hunk of onion. The same is true with celery. Don't get a measuring cup dirty for the celery, you will need 3-4 ribs of celery. Did you know that each piece of celery you break off is called a rib? That's free--not charge. Get your skilled (at least a 3 quart) hot and add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil to it and let it get hot. Add the celery and onion to the skillet and let it cook for about three to five minutes to sweat out the onions. You want the onions to turn from white to clear.

Add your ground beef to the skillet and begin to break that up. I use a potato masher to get my ground beef nicely broken. It's kind of a pet peeve. This step was taken care of by my sweet wife while I was at the store, and she used a masher because she knew I would and that is why I love her xoxo honey!. You'll cook the ground beef for about 3-5 minutes or until most of the beef is no longer pink. Season the mixture with the salt, pepper, and cavendar's. Add your brown sugar (this picture shows the two tablespoons, but add all of the amount listed in the recipe above) and stir to combine. Next Add the ketchup, mustard, tomato soup, and water. Stir carefully so the whole mixture gets incorporated.

One of the most important pieces of advice I can give to a beginning cook is to never cook on high heat. I rarely ever get my stove above medium to medium high. This will help you control the temperature and not lead to those disasters you get in the kitchen with the higher heat.

This will seem very dull and dim, and very runny but don't loose heart because it needs to reduce for about 10 minutes. Let the mixture come to a simmer and stir every two or three minutes, it will begin to develop the thickness that Sloppy Joes are known for. Also, don't taste at this point you'll be disappointed and want to dump the spice cabinet into it. Taste right before serving because the reduction intensifies the flavors and really helps this come into it's own. I've included several photos of the process that this sloppy joe went through to become it's wonderful self.

This is the mixture right after everything has been added.

Here is the mixture at about five minutes. Looks like an active volcano, huh?

This is a blurry close up of the mixture after 10 minutes. Remember I use a camera phone, so don't be hatin my photography. This thickens up remarkably well and the flavor blows the can out of the water.
I serve this on buttered toasted buns with a slice of processed cheese. Kendra made some great sweet potato fries (recipe later) and we loved it. Levi was unsure of this but I know he'll be a lover not a hater once his three-year old pickiness passes. It's fast, inexpensive, easy and really delicious. This will make enough meat for 10-12 buns. I would say I give a good 1/2 cup of the mixture, maybe less.

I use a silicone spatula that is shaped like a spoon. Some call it a spoonula but I think that sounds just ridiculous and refuse to say it or use it. These are great because I can cook the entire dish start to finish and serve with it. This took is really a great addition to your kitchen. I grab this more than any other spatula I have, as a matter of fact I have three of these in varying colors (I think red, white, and blue). The only thing that could make this better would be if this were a solid piece of coated steel. I have a couple of those and love, love, love them. I use this tool for spaghetti sauce, mac-n-cheese, when I make muffins this is great for filling the cups. If you don't have one, the very next time you are around the kitchen gadget wall, look for them and pick one up. Oh and they are heat safe to 450 degrees--how cool is that.

Love the Sloppy Joes, do try the cheese on there.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Kick "box"ing: Chocolate Cake

I am not opposed to using convenience items in the least. But one convenience item that I do not use is boxed chocolate cake mix. I've not found one moist enough for my taste or chocolate enough for my taste. I didn't like chocolate cake for years because they were always dry and not flavorful, which is why I like Texas Sheet cake because it's moist and tender. This all changed when I came across this recipe for Chocolate cake. It's moist, tender, great chocolate flavor and most importantly super easy to make.

I made this cake for a Trick-or-Treating party we had with my Mom and some good friends of ours on Friday. I made chili, which we used to make Frito Pie, and this chocolate cake. The trick-or-treating was a lot more fun after this good dinner.

Chocolate Cake:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Cocoa
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used regular milk this time)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9" cake pans. I use baking spray which has flour built in and get great results every time.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water, batter will be thin. Pour batter into prepared pans. While mixing the cake batter up, I put a glass measuring cup full of water, in the microwave and had the boiling water ready for me, didn't have to turn on the stove.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with Chocolate butter cream frosting, recipe following.

Variations (if you don't want to mess with two cake pans and all that stuff.)

ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

Chocolate Butter cream:

1 cup butter, room temperature (2 sticks)
8 oz. Cream Cheese, room temperature
4 cups Powdered Sugar (2lb bag is all you need)
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons Cocoa Powder

Add butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and cocoa into a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on low until blended, increase speed to medium and slowly add powdered sugar, mixing until spreading consistency. In the event it's too thick, add 1 teaspoon of milk, or coffee.