Dinners With Johnny: Balsamic and Onion Pot Roast with Beer Bread

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Welcome to this week’s edition of “Dinners With Johnny”.

I’m excited to announce that, in addition to the weekly “Dinners With Johnny”, there will be a follow-up type of post called “Dinners With Johnny: The Comment Card”.  This is where Johnny will post his blatant, sarcastic, wry, dry-witted and humorous review of my cooking.  

I’m always on the look-out to try something new when I have time to really play in the kitchen.  A friend shared this amazing Balsamic and Onion Pot Roast recipe with me and I was sold at everything about it.  The one thing that I changed about this recipe: I added mushrooms.  I had a partial container of them in the fridge and they just seemed to want to play.

I have to say, I browned that ro

ast like a pro (not that I didn’t doubt my abilities one bit).




I tripped and spilled mushrooms into my crocpot! Oh no!

Pot roast, ready to go

Next, I threw together some beer bread, because that seemed appropriate.  Someone very smart told me that it was important to have something to soak up the pot roast juices.  I can’t disagree with that piece of advice.  My sister recommended this whole wheat recipe (1/2 wheat/white) and said that my kids love it when they’re at her house.  I used Guinness Black Lager instead of something domestic (blech).  Because the Guinness comes in 14.9 ounce cans and I only needed 12 ounces, I had to do something with the rest–I poured a Smithwicks, sipped some off the top to make room, and poured the remainder of the Guinness on top.


Of course, what is a pot roast without a side of mashed potatoes and steamed carrots?  My son would answer: “too many carrots”.  I make him eat three of them, just to say that he had some.

The recipe tells you to reduce down the broth that the roast was cooked in.  Don’t skimp on this.  Do it like your life depends on it.  I had mine at a rolling boil for over twenty minutes before it reduced down enough.  It turns into a sweet, balsamic glaze that is nearly orgasmic.

Johnny has been informed that he needs to turn in his “Comment Card” soon, so that I may update with his review.



Dinners with Johnny: Give Me Those Baby Back Ribs

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Seven years ago, I went back to work and it was in a little, small-town Rib joint.  We had the best ribs I’d ever had in my life.  Sadly, the place burnt down (leading me to my present place of employment).  I have missed those, fall-of-the-bone ribs and have been very picky about ordering ribs in a restaurant.  

Recently, a friend picked up, and slow roasted, four racks of ribs; they blew the rib joint’s right out of the water.  I’d only ever purchased those precooked ribs and they were only ever “so-so”.   I decided that I had to try my hand at real ones.

I rubbed down two racks with brown sugar, salt, pepper, paprika and a bit of cayenne.  I then put the on a greased, foil lined sheet pan and tented the top.  I let them roast for about two hours, then pulled the foil off and basted them with bbq sauce.  They glazed over just right.

And what goes perfectly with ribs?

Homemade Dijon cheddar mac and cheese, of course.

Many napkins and contented sighs accompanied this meal.

Slow Roasting to perfection
Slow Roasting to perfection
Slather on the bbq sauce!
Slather on the bbq sauce!
The ultimate comfort food meal: Baby Back Ribs and Dijon Cheddar Mac N Cheese
The ultimate comfort food meal: Baby Back Ribs and Dijon Cheddar Mac N Cheese

Dinners with Johnny: A Weekly Series

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I’ve been really lazy in updating my actual food blog and for that I apologize.  I’m going to do my best to remedy that.

I’ve decided that I’m going to start a new category, called: Dinners with Johnny.

Johnny is my brother and lived with me for over seven years.  He moved in when my ex and I were still together and stayed with for seven years after my ex and I divorced.  We had our moments of struggle and frustrations, just like any siblings (especially adult siblings, living together) but he became a major source of companionship and support to myself and my kids.

This fall, I sold my home and we had to part as roommates–him moving just across the lake and myself, down the road.  It was important that I not lose the time with him after we moved into separate households.

With Tuesdays being my day off, we have fallen into a weekly dinner night so that we can keep that connection strong.  This gives us time to visit, watch stupid tv together and for me to feed my culinary passions.  I love the planning stage, just as much as I love the preparing.

So, that said…Welcome to “Dinners with Johnny: A Weekly Series”

Here we are, so many years ago.
Here we are, so young…so many years ago.
We showed up to Christmas dinner with our family, dressed like this.
We showed up to Christmas dinner with our family, dressed like this.


Yeah...we've still not grown up
Yeah…we’ve still not grown up


Cheddar and Garlic Cream Cheese-Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped Chicken

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Have I mentioned that I love Bacon?  I love Bacon.  I love, love, LOVE Bacon.

This week my Facebook page reached 100 likes and I decided I was going to celebrate with a really fun meal.  Something with Bacon.  The recipe over at Artsy-Fartsy Mama struck my fancy (and her blog name made me giggle).

I made a few changes to this recipe, to make it my own.

I’ve always wanted to try  my hand at a Bacon weave and really liked how well it worked.  I used eight slices of Bacon in order to make the weave cover my chicken breasts ( I think that it also kept the cheese from seeping out and melting into the pan while they cooked).

I used a generous sprinkle of garlic powder on top of the cream cheese, topped it with cheddar and then wove the Bacon over the entire piece of meat.  I secured the ends with a couple of longer toothpicks.

The recipe said to cook for 45 minutes, turning half way through.  I ended up moving the pieces to a grate, set over a pan.  It seemed to keep the chicken from getting soggy in all those Bacon drippings.  I threw it under the broiler for about 15 minutes after the 45 minutes were up and man, did they ever look amazing.

Crisp Perfection

A side of Au Gratin (in our family, we jokingly call them “Old Rotten” potatoes), some Lincoln Peak Marquette and my meal was complete.  I usually do a nice big veggie on side of most meals but I was tired after an entire day at work, and knew that I had dessert preparations coming up.

Even after cooking them for an hour, the chicken was so moist and tender.  The Bacon seemed to keep everything wrapped in tightly.  As time consuming as they seemed, I will definitely be making these again.

Cheddar and Garlic Cream Cheese-Stuffed, Bacon-Wrapped Chicken with Lincoln Peak Marquette

Time to make the doughnuts…..

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Maple Glazed Goodness

I loved Fred the Baker and I still giggle when I hear that phrase.  I remember growing up and watching the Dunkin Donuts commercials.  “Time to make the doughnuts.  I made the doughnuts……”

In my younger days, I worked at a grocery store that had an in-house bakery.  The biggest part of my job was making the doughnuts.  Having to start work at 3:30 am often found me muttering, “It’s time to make the doughnuts…..”  Even though they were early hours, making doughnuts was a fun job.  After I got the hang of it, turning doughnuts with sticks was a blast.  It was not unlike playing drums with food–at least that’s how my imagination played out for me.

My baking adventure this weekend was actually deep fried but who’s keeping track?  It’s still a pastry, and you can bake them, but where’s the fun in that?

I’ve never understood the fascination with Krispy Kremes.  Sure, I tried them once, fresh off the conveyor, but I just don’t think they’re “all that”.  With that as my disclaimer, I found this recipe on Instructables and decided to use it for the actual doughnut dough.

This recipe was really simple to follow and everything went according to plan until I pulled the formed doughnuts out to fry them.  I should have dusted the pans more liberally than I did because they stuck and flattened when I tried to pick them up.  Oh well.  Live and learn, right?

I had already decided that I was going to maple glaze these babies and this is the recipe that I came up with:

Maple Glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/8 cup maple cream
  • 1/4-1/2 cup maple syrup
  • pinch of salt
Mix sugar, corn syrup, maple cream, 1/4 cup maple syrup and salt into mixer. Mix well, 15 to 20 minutes. Add more maple syrup as needed to get desired consistency.  It works well to be able to spread this frosting on the doughnut, rather than dip into.
I did cook off a pound of Bacon but didn’t think fast enough to put the crumbs on immediately upon frosting the doughnuts.  The glaze dried quick and the Bacon wouldn’t stick.
Solution: Doughnuts with a Bacon chaser.  Everybody wins!
The Rising of the Dough
The Rising of the Dough
Turned out and ready to roll.
Turned out and ready to roll.
Nesting Cutters
Nesting Cutters
They are Risen!
They are Risen!
Gone for a swim in the bubbly oil.
Gone for a swim in the bubbly oil.
Maple Glazed Goodness

Maple Glazed Goodness

Maple Glazed Goodness

PSA: Jaeger doesn’t always mean alcohol

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When I hear Jaeger, I automatically think of Red-Headed Sluts and Jaeger Bombs.  I’ve never had the latter, and probably won’t ever, thanks to the former.  I have a love-hate relationship with the Sluts.  Word to the Wise: A fifth of Jaeger in one evening will do that to a person.  Hey, You’re only young once, right?  Even if that was when you were thirty-two years old, right?  I’m so glad that I didn’t have to work on renewing my JaegerMeister relationship this weekend.

I happen to have a generous co-worker that supplied me with my first opportunity to experience venison sometime in the fall.  I used up the first round that he shared with me, a couple months ago, and mentioned to him that I wouldn’t be opposed to more.  He was more than happy to share with me again.  Even my kids were excited with the news (I have to say that I’m thankful for kids that trying new things, more than the average).

I researched some new recipes and found an amazing site that catered to wild game recipes.  Thanks to Hank Shaw, I found an amazing recipe: Classic Jaeger Schnitzel.

As a child, I remember hating mushrooms and onions and I’m really glad that I grew up (well, only grew up partially).  This recipe called for 1-1 1/2 pounds of mushrooms.  I used a pound of white mushrooms because that’s what I have the most of, on hand.  I was a bit skeptical about throwing them in a hot pan without any sort of grease but the recipe told me to and who’s to argue with a recipe?  I won’t argue that the smell was so amazingly, intoxicating–even more so when I added the Bacon grease and a whole, chopped onion.

As soon as those were browned, I transferred them to a bowl and added more Bacon grease to the pan (no…..this isn’t a heart attack waiting to happen….at all!). I then dredged a pound of backstrap strip cutlets  in flour and seared them for about ninety seconds on each side.

The best part: The part where I make a gravy with stock, heavy cream and more Bacon grease.  I threw the mushrooms and onions back into this amazing, creamy concoction and served it aside some light garlic mashed potatoes.  The first time I made venison strip cutlets, I literally gagged.  I don’t like the “gamey” taste as much as my partner does but this recipe left me in absolute culinary bliss.

And in complete opposition to the author’s description of this mean being “a manly meal, and the only green thing allowed is, occasionally, parsley”, I made a green salad to go along with it.  I received no complaints.

Bacon Maple Walnut Pie

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I celebrated my thirty seventh birthday yesterday.  Instead of a cake, I decided to make a birthday pie.  While at the dinner table, this is the conversation that went down:

Me: Tomorrow, I’m going to make a pie. A Bacon, maple walnut pie to be exact.

Hannah: Ethan, did you hear mom? She’s going to combine two of your most favorite things in the world: Bacon and pie.

Bud: Birthday Bacon Pie?? Awesome!

I have always loved my mom’s Maple Walnut pie.  She used to make it when we had our bakery years ago and because I believe everything is better with Bacon*, I decided to kick my favorite up a notch.

While the whole walnuts were toasting in the oven, I chopped and fried up six slices of bacon.

I realized that I didn’t have any maple extract in the house.  That may have been a complete failure, if I didn’t have a whole bottle of Sapling Maple Liqueur ready to take its place.

After everything was mixed up and poured into the pan, I sprinkled chopped Bacon over the top of my pie.

The pie browned up so beautifully and the Bacon didn’t burn at all.  I did a final brush with some more maple syrup once the pie came out.

Once it’s cool, I will be enjoying some with a bit of ice cream, more chopped Bacon and Sapling drizzled over everything.

*I believe in it so much that even my phone automatically capitalizes the word. 

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Lions and Tigers and Bear Claws, Oh My!

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Oh my, indeed.

Thanks to Dorie Greenspan’s, Baking With Julia, I embarked on an a Bear Claw adventure this past weekend.

I picked the brain of one of my co-workers and he recommended that I use Danish dough for this project.  This proved to be a much easier dough to make than the croissants I made two weeks prior.

This recipe only called for two sticks of butter-half of what the croissants called for.

Day one:

I mixed up whole milk, water, yeast, sugar, salt, and egg and let it sit for a bit.

Meanwhile, I put the flour and butter into the bowl of the food processor.  This was a new technique that I am now in love with.

I mixed the liquid with the dry, just enough to moisten the dough.  I covered it and it went into the fridge, overnight.

Day Two:

I turned the dough out onto the floured counter and proceeded to roll it into a sixteen inch square.  I folded it into thirds and turned it.  Rolling it out again, this time into a rectangle, ten inches wide by twenty four inches long.  Again, it got folded into thirds.

It next gets rolled out to a twenty inch square and folded again.  I repeated these two steps, twice more.

Because the dough had less butter, it didn’t need as much chilling between turns.

The recipe said to chill for thirty minutes but I decided to give it overnight.

Day Three:

I rolled out the dough and decided to do a couple different fillings: Almond, cinnamon sugar, chocolate and raspberry.

I rolled the dough into a long tube and cut pastry scraper lengths.  I then cut “fingers” into each one and formed them into a semi-circle on the baking sheets.

After an egg wash, I let them rise until they were twice in size.

After a light dusting of cinnamon and sugar, they were baked for about eighteen minutes.

Once they cooled down a bit, I drizzled a powdered sugar glaze over them.

These seemed more flaky and buttery than the croissants–if that even seems possible.

We enjoyed these with some crisp bacon and freshly ground and brewed Guatemalan coffee.

I’m sure I sighed with delight, just as much as I expected to.

The next adventure? Pecan Sticky Buns.

Flaky, buttery…

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Wait a minute…..this has nothing to do with knitting!  And you would be correct.  It has everything to do with baking, though.

Remember when I warned you that I would post about some of my baking adventures?  Here we go.

About a month ago, I made the mistake of mentioning homemade croissants to my partner.  While he got excited about this idea, I had no idea what I was about to get myself into.

I started googling recipes and in mentioning this plan to my plan to my mom, she mentioned that I would likely find a recipe in Baking With Julia, by Dorie Greenspan.  Lo and behold, there was a recipe on page fifty-two of the book!  I poured over that recipe for the next couple of weeks, formulating a plan of attack.  Yes, I call it an attack; the process was going to take three days to complete.

This past Friday, I embarked on what became an interesting adventure.

I measured out all my ingredients into my kitchen aid bowl, only to find out that I couldn’t find my dough hook anywhere.  I searched through every cupboard and drawer to no avail.  I ended up leaving my mom a very distraught voicemail asking how to proceed without.

I plodded ahead only to find out that I had incorrectly measured too much flour leaving it too dry.  I had to throw the entire batch out.  This is when I realized that I didn’t have enough whole milk or yeast to start a new batch.  I called my ex husband, as he was due to pick up the kids for the weekend.  I caught him just in time to have him stop into the grocery store, walk him through a yeast purchase and then appreciatively thanked him for my replacement ingredients.

Take two:

Day One: Mom returns my phone call and instructs me to start with the paddle and then move to doing the rest by hand–I had a feeling that was going to happen.  I precisely measure out my ingredients and proceed with the utmost trepidation.  So far, so good.  Kneading the dough is a lesson in how easy kitchen machinery makes my life.

After allowing the gluten to a chance to relax, it gets wrapped, loosely, and placed in the fridge overnight.

I head to the city to have dinner with friends and spend the night.

Day Two: The next afternoon, I get back home and start the tedious rolling and “turning” process.

A bit of flour and four and a half sticks of butter go into the mixing bowl and are beaten until they scream (a running joke that my parents have always used when describing a recipe step).

As this is mixing, I start searching for my tape measure.  “Measurements are important when making croissants” is what I’ve been told–No kidding!

The butter gets turned out onto some plastic wrap, beaten again and then formed into an oval before it gets put into the freezer to chill a bit.

I’d been needing a new rolling pin and figured with my birthday coming up in a few weeks, this was the perfect excuse.  I found a beautiful inlaid, bamboo, tapered rolling pin that insisted it come home with me.  How could I resist?

After incorporating the butter and wrapping the dough, we sat down to watch The Gamers: Dorkness Rising on youtube.  This was a campy comedy about an RPG campaign and I finally got to understand a bit more how a campaign is played through.

The new rolling pin made it easier to roll out the dough to a measurement of fourteen by twenty six inches.

After cleaning up the mess all over the floor, counter and myself, we decide that dinner’s not such a bad idea.  It’s not like we’re going to munch on croissants yet……..

Boneless sirloin tip steak, garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed snow peas and some red wine.

After cleaning up and pouring more wine (Come on, I’m going traditional Julia Child-style here….), it’s off to the second turn!

After the third turn, I clean up the kitchen and collapse on the couch to more mindless tv.  After being awakened, we head to bed.  I don’t want to, but I set my alarm for four am.  Those croissants aren’t going to make themselves, lazy good-for-nothings…..

I’m not too happy when the alarm goes off in the morning.  I groan, try to turn over and fall back to sleep but instead hear this sleepy, pleading from beside me: “Please……?  Please will you make me croissants?  Pleeeeeease…..?”  How the hell can I say no to that?

After rolling them out, one last, freaking time, I form them into the traditional croissant shape.  They’re now egg washed and put into the oven to rise.  The one redeeming moment of stumbling into bed after being up in the cold kitchen: having a warm body to snuggle my cold body against.  I didn’t feel one bit guilty.

Ready to bake.

Upon getting out of bed, I find that the croissants aren’t risen as much as they should be.  As much as I love brisk, cool mornings, I start freaking the eff out.  I fiddle with the oven, turning it on and off, to get them to rise properly.

Coffee brews, I prep hashbrown potatoes and get some bacon going.

Finally the croissants are ready to bake.  Twelve minutes are all they take, but we have to be patient and wait to try them until breakfast is completely finished (that, and you have to let them settle a bit before biting into them–the cookbook says so).

I’m sure that I sighed and got lost in the moment I took that first bite.

These croissants were everything that all my hard work went into.



Melt in my mouth.

The cookbook tells you they’re best eaten the day they are made.  I wrapped the leftovers and refrigerated them until the next day.  When I popped them onto a pie plate and warmed them in a 350 degree oven for about five minutes, they tasted just as good as the morning I made them.

Keep tuned for my next pastry adventure: Bear Claws

I’m still around

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And I’m still knitting. I’ve been knitting a lot, actually. I’ve finished a couple of custom pieces for commissions and am, now, working on some personal items.

I’m currently in love with a particular hat pattern, which uses Encore Chunky yarn and size 10 needles. That hat, literally, whips up in less than three days time.

I knew I was obsessed with knitting, but right now that obsession is in overdrive. I don’t let more than twenty four hours go by between finishing a project and casting on a new one.

At the moment, I’m working on a hat for my girl-spawn in a beautiful lime green, wool/acrylic blend.

The hat pattern takes just under a skein of yarn, leaving a little bit left over. I plan on making a pair of striped mittens out of all the remnants. I’m sure girl-spawn will be quite pleased.

On a non-knitting, related note, my mother twisted my arm and convinced me to join the Tuesdays With Dorie, baking group. I was supposed to post yesterday but, with all the sickness in my house (son and myself), I just didn’t get around to it. Be on the lookout for such a post next week, as I plan on getting that accomplished soon.