In The Kitchen: Rub-a-dub-dub, Let’s Smoke Some Ribs

icy covered BBQ grill

  Nothing better than a rack of pork ribs slow-smoked to perfection. Or at least, good enough to chow down on, with good beer and good company. So, let's smoke some ribs. Here at Casa USA Financial Service we don't (yet) have a true smoker with a separate fire-box for the fancy hardwood. No fancy electric convection smoker, no "outdoor kichen" built-ins. Just a regular ol' grill, made the old-fashioned way by Chinese prison and/or child labor. Even though the grill was out of commission for a couple days during December's "polar vortex" cold snap, as long as we're a few degrees above zero and the wind chill is manageable, it's smoking/BBQ/grilling time! First up, the rub: just equal parts freshly ground black pepper, kosher … [Read more...]

Rosemary, rosemary, not quite so contrary

flowering rosemary

  What do to with a double armful of fresh rosemary?  Why, make erbe toscane, that's what.  Just add some sage, salt and minced garlic, and we're good to go. My mother and grandmother refereed to these herb mixes simply as odori, or odors (could also be literally interpreted as "nice aromas".  Chop you up a pile and see what I mean, the smell alone will you make you hungry for roast pork tenderloin).  Erbe toscane, or Tuscan herbs, is merely a trend-sucking name for a simple mix used to season roasts and chicken, potatoes and other oven-roasted vegetables.  These days, just about anything gets the Tuscan (air quotes!) appellation, even cat food. If you've got sage (or thyme, or oregano), throw in a handful, or a … [Read more...]

Gardening Interlude: Growing and Cooking Winter Greens

This might be spinach, not swiss chard or kale.  But the look of bacon is undeniable.

  Conventional wisdom says that winter greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard and mustard greens are best planted for a fall crop.  And conventional wisdom can bite me.  Never mind about fall, they're good year round, especially certain varieties of kale. The thing to watch out for is that during the hot summer months, the leaves of these greens become a bit bitter.  A touch of frost, on the other hand, makes them pump up the sugars and while not sweet, they're certainly more edible. Take a mixed kale and collards salad with hot bacon dressing, it's sensational (as anything would be, really, with hot bacon). Cooking winter greens couldn't be simpler.  A couple fistfuls of greens, several strips of … [Read more...]

Bacon is Way Better than New Year’s Resolutions

Everything goes better with bacon!  A "Luther Burger":  beef, beef bacon, swiss cheese and a grilled Krispy Kreme doughnut

As mentioned in an earlier post, we don't do resolutions in the USA Financial Service household.  We have plans and projects that spill over from year to year, so it's not too terribly practical to start at the magical stroke of midnight on New Year's day. For example, that Holy Grail of New Year resolutions, weight loss, was something I started back in July and kept on through today. Goal met, over and done with, now in maintenance mode. Although I got through the over-indulgences of the season with only a minor weight loss (1/2 lb on average), other years I've not fared as well --- as haven't millions of others. Party on, eat, drink and be merry, and wake up from the over-consumption coma in January resolving to never eat, drink or spend … [Read more...]

Hot Sauce Success, Hot Sauce FAIL!

Santa Fe Grande Peppers - all credit to mschmidt62 on Flikr

Frost finally hit the backyard garden early last week, prompting the harvest of the season's last explosion of peppers both hot and sweet. Moderately hot Santa Fe Grade peppers, smokin' hot Thai peppers, Cubanelle, Big Early Bells, Bonnie Greens, Sweet Bananas, what do to? Never mind that according to the good Dr. Gupta on CNN, ... Researchers are finding that capsaicin, the compound that gives chili and cayenne their zing, has a lot of health benefits. For centuries, folk medicine practitioners used capsaicin to aid digestion, fight infection and stimulate the kidneys, lungs and heart. Capsaicin has even been put into topical creams that soothe sore muscles and joints.... The fresh peppers taking up room in the veg crispers in … [Read more...]

Monday Morning Fish Wrap: Sunday Dinner Edition

Perfect Roasted Potatoes...   (photo credit below)

  The title says it all. This random roundup was scheduled to come out yesterday, but Sunday dinner got priority, and as well it should. Sunday is a time to relax, plan a fine table set with delicious comestibles, and execute.  Around the USA Financial Service household, Sunday dinner is likely as not to feature rosemary-crusted roasted potatoes. Easy-peasy to make, but a few little details are key to success. First, the rosemary has got to be fresh.  Sure, you can go ahead use pre-packaged rosemary, and while you're at it, you could also take the Lord's name in vain or ask for ketchup at a French restaurant ... in Paris.  It just ain't done.  Non si fa. Second, toss the cut-up wedges in a bowl with olive oil, kosher salt and … [Read more...]

Eating Out or Staying In, Which Is Better?

Prosciutto Crudo (Parma Ham) - courtesy of Wikimedia

A recent post by Buck Inspire, “Eating Out Is Cheaper Than Cooking”, prompted this train of thought on economical evening entertaining at home. Let’s say that you have guests coming over for a Friday or Saturday get-together, and you had plans to make whatever elaborate recipe that’s been percolating in the creative cooking nook of your brain for months now. Well, regular life intrudes, and after a long day ferrying kiddos to and from activities, or catching up on work, or a Saturday morning filled with home improvement projects (or all three), you’re beat, you’re bushed, you’re tired and needing a shower. But come 5 o-clock people will be knocking on your door. The prospect of cooking an elaborate meal for guests is … [Read more...]

Be a Sprout Head


This article was originally posted on Mom's Plans in March.  Since I'm now having some mild writer's block coupled with (or because of) a hectic schedule, I'm reposting it with permission. A sprout head in the most benign sense of the word, that is.  Just crunchy green goodness, on sandwiches and salads, full of as many nutrients and phytochemicals as you can stand. And not just alfalfa sprouts.  Broccoli, mung bean, lentil, peas and beans are all seeds that will readily germinate in your kitchen and provide you with cheap, nutritious greens through a cold winter. Something wonderful happens to a seed when it germinates. All the nutrients and  minerals it needs to burst forth with life are magnified. The content of … [Read more...]

BBQ Chicken In The Springtime

Not the way

Looking back on the last 10 or 15 posts, there has been a definite lack of anything food-related.  With spring coming on, it's only right that we talk a little about barbecueing. I learned to properly grill chicken from my good friend Jim, a native Floridian, while working overseas in Saudi Arabia.  It was a good environment for a BBQ apprenticeship, since there wasn't much to do in the way of entertainment except cook, drink and eat.   As a good friend should, Jim roundly ridiculed and insulted my half-assed practice of throwing naked undressed chicken over the fire, turning it until it was scorched enough to eat.  No sauce, no prep, no style.  Through patient tutorials and many a chicken wing, I eventually learned the Zen secrets … [Read more...]

Random Tips and Notes

Gnats fly up to the lights, die, and fall into the seed beds. The circle of life.

Time to clean out the blog idea notebook.  Lots of little snippets and thought clouds. In the Garden The germinating station is going great guns. As you can see from the picture, I’ve got three flats of seedlings going, tomatoes, ground cherries, peppers, basil and swiss chard. I gave to temptation and set a few tomato plants out just to see how they’d do, and promptly got them whacked by a couple of hard freezes.  Curses! Good Eats: Baked Oatmeal Sound good? It is, it’s screaming good.  3 cups regular oatmeal, ½ cup of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon each of baking powder and cinnamon, 1 cup of whole milk, half a cup of applesauce (or veg oil for a richer taste), and two eggs, beaten.   Mix it all together in a bowl, put into an 8 … [Read more...]