Monthly Archives: April 2013

Chocolate Pudding

I was in the grocery store last week and saw boxes of pudding mix on the shelf.  I confess, I was actually enticed to choose one (chocolate) and put it in the cart.  15 seconds later it hit me.  I had just put a box mix in my cart.  Just before putting it back on the shelf I read the ingredients:  Cane sugar, corn starch, cocoa, salt.  The only thing it needed was…. milk.  All things I have right now, at home.  Instead of paying $2 for the box mix I think it cost me $1 to make at home (90% of that is just the eggs).

I did some searching online and settled on this Tyler Florence recipe from Food Network.  It used 2 additional ingredients, egg yolks and vanilla.  I just realized I’m missing sugar from the picture below.  I blame my photographer.  But don’t worry, I did indeed use sugar in my pudding.


The first step is to basically make hot chocolate: milk + sugar + cocoa.  Bring that to a simmer (not boiling).

Hot chocolate

The corn starch, egg yolks, vanilla, more milk, salt are then combined to make the thickening agent.
Egg mixture

You slowly combine the hot chocolate with the egg mixture.  Pouring the mixture slowly and whisking the entire time to bring the egg mixture up to temperature to avoid scrambling the eggs.

Then the mixture is put back onto the stove for ~10 minutes (simmering) until it thickens.  Then pour into serving dishes and refrigerate for a few hours.  You can leave them uncovered for 1.5 hours but then you want to cover in plastic wrap to avoid the top layer “skin” effect.

After 4 hours (or more) for chilling it’s ready to eat.  You can eat it as is or add a little whip cream on top.

Finished Product

For those of you who just thought of Cool Whip when I said whip cream, you’d be horribly, horribly wrong.  Whip cream = Heavy Whipping Cream + Air (and maybe some sugar).    To learn just how horrible Cool Whip is watch this video or read this article.

My assessment of the final product is that 1) it was really sweet, and 2) heavy on the chocolate.   Next time I’ll cut down on the amount of sugar and cocoa.  The whip cream turned out great, it’s hard to go wrong with 3 ingredients where one of them is air.

In closing, make everything you can from scratch and avoid the trap of box mixes. Whatever you can buy you can make yourself.


Pig Tacos

Our recent excursion to The Green Pig Bistro not only peaked my interest in Northern style cornbread but also amazed us with their wonderful “Pig Tacos” appetizer.  The taste and presentation had our table ringing with conversation.  As usual, I started to inspect, dissect, and save to memory the details so I could replicate them at home.   It’s just a regular ol’ soft taco with great tasting pork. It had the usual corn tortilla, lettuce, cheese, avocado, cilantro, and meat.  One extra was that they served it with lime wedges to squeeze on top, which topped it off rather nicely.

From here, it’s all about the meat.  We needed a good pork shoulder that we could spice and slow cook all day long.   I picked up a 2lb pork shoulder (aka pork butt) and went searching for the seasoning.

Lesson #234: Buy your pork shoulder with the bone IN.  It costs less and cooking the bone will make things taste better.

Pork shoulder

I settled on a carnitas spice/rub that turned out great.  It’s a simple mixture of spices rubbed on the meat.

Rubbed pork

Right into the center of the slow cooker it goes.

Crockpot Meat

The chicken stock you see the pork being bathed in is my own creation as well.  A dismantled whole chicken (bones) boiled with celery, carrots, onions, and salt to taste. I always have the Mrs. salt my foods because I tend to hate salt. It’s a long story…maybe one day I’ll post about that.

Pork and Broth

The pork slowly cooks for 8-10 hours on low.

Ready to cook

The Mrs. was in charge of the toppings while I moved on to making the corn tortillas.

Taco Toppings

At this point you could stop and use corn or flour tortillas depending on your mood and this would be a pretty quick meal to whip together (minus the 8 hour cook time).  Or… you could go that extra mile and make your own tortillas.  That’s what I did.

Corn tortillas are probably the simplest things to make.  It’s maseca flour + water + salt.

Maseca flour

You mix the 3 ingredients together and create a slightly moist ball of dough.

Corn Flour Dough

Then divide the dough into evenly sized smaller balls of dough that will ultimately become your tortillas.

Dough balls

The part I left out here is how I flattened each ball into a 5-6″ circle. It involved covering the dough in plastic wrap, placing on a cutting board and then squashing them with a 9″ square glass baking dish.  It’s a little unorthodox but I’m not going to buy a tortillas press just for this, although I did ask the Mrs. if I could.  I also left out a picture of cooking them up, which is just a hot cast iron skillet, ~40 seconds on each side. Nothing real exciting.


The Mrs. is big on presentation, which I actually think makes the whole meal taste better.

Plated toppings

After the pork had been cooking for 8-10 hours it’s ready to just fall apart.  I take two forks and shred it.  I add in some of the chicken broth to keep it moist and it’s ready to eat.  You can also see the stack of cooked tortillas, which look pretty darn good if I say so myself.

Shredded pork and tortillas

The final assembled product looked like this.  Corn tortilla, pork, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, avocado, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.  It was a wonderful dinner and we had leftovers for lunch the following day.

Pork taco

I bought a skillet homeskillet

I went to TJMaxx today, which goes by the name TKMaxx if you’re in the UK funny enough.  Guess what I bought?

The Skillet

It’s 8″ cast iron skillet.  It’s a must have for making cornbread.  Not only because it cooks evenly but because it looks so cool. I mean, the restaurant brings out the cornbread in a cast iron skillet so I have to too. Duh.

We recently went out to eat at The Green Pig in Arlington, VA with a couple friends and got to experience a little bit of cornbread heaven.  This cornbread was moist, cake-like, and covered in honey butter.  Immediately I knew I had to attempt this recipe.   I’ve had this desire before, after eating the cake-like cornbread at Hard Time’s Cafe, but my cornbread just doesn’t come out the same way.

I have finally learned the secret!  There are two completely different types of cornbread, often described as Southern and Northern.   It turns out I had been making Southern cornbread which is dry, dense, gritty and just all around not that enjoyable.  The Northern style cornbread is a light, sweet, cake-like consistency I’ve come to know and love.   Armed with that bit of knowledge you look at recipes in a much different light.  You want a recipe that is NOT just cornmeal but has flour and sugar as well.  One drawback is that it’s no longer a gluten-free food.  Sorry.

After searching for various northern style recipes I settled on one from

What made The Green Pig cornbread so good was that it’s cooked in Honey Butter, which is as simple as it sounds:  Butter + Honey.

Honey Butter

You slather that honey butter all over the skillet.  The Mrs. told me I should do more and I should have listened. Just add in the whole lot of it.

Honey Buttered Skillet

My photographer was taking a break while I was mixing the batter so we don’t have any ingredient shots.  Just follow the recipe I’ve linked to.  The batter perfectly filled the 8″ skillet.

Before Cooking

The final product, with more honey butter on top, came out looking exactly how I was hoping.  I could definitely serve that in a restaurant and be praised for my skills.   However,  the taste was still not cake-like enough. It was still a little too “southern” tasting.  I’ll try again with different flour-to-cornmeal ratio and see how it goes.

Beautiful Cornbread

Fried Mozzarella Sticks

A couple weeks ago I did a Pioneer Woman week of meals and fried mozzarella sticks were an appetizer that got postponed until now.  Since I enjoy trying new things and eating fried foods it looked like a good fit.   The Mrs. likes to describe these types of food as “redneck foods.”  She thinks because I grew up in Indiana eating donuts, elephant ears, nachos, corn dogs, onion rings, pigs in a blanket, etc. that it somehow translates into “redneck foods”.  I consider these to be the little joys in life that people from all nations and backgrounds can enjoy.

The best days to cook, in order, are Saturday, Sunday, Friday.  This little ditty came on a Friday night after work.  I prefer to make things from scratch as much as possible but I didn’t feel like making my own breadcrumbs or mozzarella cheese. I’ll save that for another time.

Panko breadcrumbs were instructed for this but any kind would work fine.
Panko Breadcrumbs

The simplicity of this recipes comes from using mozzarella sticks. Since it’s just an appetizer I’m letting this slide.
Cheese Sticks

Then it’s 3 simple bowls of egg/milk, breadcrumbs + parsley/salt/pepper/whatever, and flour.


You take a piece of cheese, coat it in the flour, give it an egg bath and then let it soak up the breadcrumbs.  Once assembly is complete the next step (as The PW points out) is to plate the assembled sticks and then freeze them for 20-30 minutes.  Since you’re about to put cheese into hot oil you want to give it the best chance to survive the temperature without falling apart.


I guessed at the oil temperature here, it’s probably 350 degrees.  Like most things, when cooking, watch them until they’re the color you want and then flip or pull them out.

Frying cheese

In the end you should be left with some golden brown looking breaded cheese sticks.  You can see a couple burst open and the cheese is poking through. Don’t worry, they’ll taste like the other ones.


The Mrs. only ate 2/12 which meant I was left to finish off the other 10.  No, that was not a complaint.  However, these weren’t as flavorful as I was hoping for.  I don’t know if it was the cheese or the seasoning.  I’m sure to try this again but for now am satisfied with saying “Yeah, I’ve made those.”