Saturday, February 26

Tried & True

With this blog I’m hoping to try many new recipes, however there are many that I make regularly for my husband and I that should be shared.  We enjoy them a lot so they’re worth trying if you’re looking to add a new rotation to your weekly menu. 

This recipe happens to be one that we made regularly a few summers ago.  Why did we stop making it?  No joke, our freezer used to be stock piled with fresh fish.  While on vacation in Munising, Michigan we decided to go charter fishing.  It was awesome.  There were no other couples on the charter boat, meaning more catches for us.  It was just us, the captain, and of course our dog Bella.  We were lucky enough to find a charter company that would allow Bella to come on board.  Even though Bella ended up not liking the waves and throwing up on the floor of the boat (did I mention the captain was totally cool), we caught some great fish!  All in all Ryan and I caught 3 fish each.  The fish were Lake Trout and by the time we divvied up the fillets we had about 20 lbs. worth of fish!  I had never cooked fish before so needless to say that summer I was online looking up a variety of fish recipes.  Many recipes were good, but there’s only one I can say we truly loved and made time and time again…. Honey Browned Trout or Candy Trout as TeleComCal from calls it.  The name says it all.  Who doesn’t love candy?  If you don’t like candy or sweets then this blog probably isn’t for you.  I love sweets so there will definitely be a mixture of desserts intermixed with my other recipe experiments.  Perhaps you had a healthier recipe in mind for fish, but it’s still fish, so I’m sure it’s healthier than a lot of other things we could be eating for dinner.

Beyond tasting good, this recipe is great because it’s simple and not very time consuming.  That’s always a bonus especially when you get home from work and don’t have a lot of time to cook.  Also don’t let the title of the recipe limit you.  You can experiment with different kinds of fish.  We like Salmon as well so that’s how we tried it last night.    And if you want to have a side dish to serve but don’t have much time, I recommend Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice.  I really don’t like to use food that’s pre-made, but if I make the main dish from scratch I’m okay with letting myself use Ready Rice.  If you haven’t tried Ready Rice yet, Uncle Ben has a lot of different flavors (we chose Vegetable Medley for this dish) and they cook in the microwave at lightning speed (90 seconds).  If you’ve made regular rice before you know that some long grain types can take up to 30 minutes to cook.  Another time saving solution I can offer is to buy pre-minced garlic in a jar.  This is a staple ingredient at our house as we use garlic in a lot of our dishes.  The garlic is chopped very fine and is enclosed in a re-sealable container.   I like it because you can easily scoop it out with a teaspoon and your hands won’t smell like garlic.  Also, the garlic will last a long time in the fridge.  If you’re interested in buying some see the Honey picture below.  You can find it near the onions, etc in the produce section of stores.

Here are a few useful tips I would offer when making this dish:

If you’re like me, you probably have light brown sugar in your cupboard but it’s hard.  It never fails, even when I seal the bag tight without any air and put it into another zip lock bag for extra protection, it still gets hard with time.  I ran into that situation when making this dinner.  Running to the store was not an option so I decided to try microwaving the bag for about 35 seconds.  Luckily my idea worked and I was able to soften the sugar and scoop it out.  So if you’re in a pinch this is something you can try.

Have you ever bought honey from a local farmers market or a health/natural food store?  If not, then I encourage you to with this recipe.   I LOVE honey.  I even eat my McDonald’s fries by dipping them in honey.  A great benefit to consuming local honey is that it can help if you suffer from allergies.  The idea behind eating honey is kind of like gradually vaccinating the body against allergens, a process called immunotherapy. Honey contains a variety of the same pollen spores that give allergy sufferers so much trouble when flowers and grasses are in bloom. Introducing these spores into the body in small amounts by eating honey should make the body accustomed to their presence [source:].   A lady at my last company used to make her own honey and sell it at our craft bizarre at work.  I bought a small jar to try at first and then over time bought the bigger jars given how much honey we use.  You can really tell a difference in the taste.  You become sort of a honey snob and the little honey bear that you used to buy at the grocery store doesn’t taste that good anymore.  Plus with a big jar like this you can easily pour the honey into measuring cups vs. trying to squeeze it out of the honey bear.  Unfortunately I can’t buy honey from that lady anymore since I’m at a new company, but I did find this local honey at a health food store in Ann Arbor.     Ann Arbor carries a great variety at their farmers market as well.

Along the way:

Finished! :

Honey Browned Trout (Candy Trout )
Adapted from Recipe #259937 by TeleComCal,
Prep Time:  5 mins
Total Time: 35 mins

  • 2 fish fillets 
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 pinch black pepper

1.  Heat oven to 350°F.
2.  In a food processor or blender combine honey, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. Not the brown sugar though! I’ve made that mistake and gotten ahead of myself a few times.  Puree/process until well mixed. Will look like slightly melted whipped butter (see photo above).   If you don’t have a food processor that’s okay, I’ve never used one to make this recipe, just whip/mix everything together using a fork.
3.  Spray a shallow baking dish with non-stick cooking spray OR lightly butter (you decide). Place fillets in dish.
4.  Brush on the honey mixture, using it all.
5.  Sprinkle with brown sugar, covering the fillets (see photo above).
6.  Bake fillets until golden brown (about 30 minutes) and the sugar has caramelized.
7.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 21

New Ingredients Can Be Scary

I love trying new recipes and this is a new one I tried today called Beef, Barley, and Dried Mushroom Stew. I was browsing through my favorite food recipe site,, and it caught my eye because:

1. It sounds like a something my husband would love (I don’t make a lot of beef meals, especially chunky ones as I’m more of a chicken fan) 

2. It seems like a soup you might very well find at Panera

3. It has chipotle chiles in adobo sauce which I’ve recently come to love 

Most of the time I select what I make based on reading others reviews.  I guess it’s the same as when I buy products on Amazon.  Reading someone else’s experiences can be very useful in making your decision.  For recipes it’s particularly helpful as sometimes the reviewers list what didn’t come out quite so right or how they altered the recipe to suit their needs.   

There couldn’t have been a better time to try this recipe than today as Michigan had one of their largest snowfalls this winter (about 10 inches).  My husband went snowboarding so I knew he’d definitely have a good appetite worked up by the time he got home.   He’ll be the perfect judge on whether this soup makes it into our regulars cookbook.  

I have to admit I’ve never used dried mushrooms, beef base, or barley. I’ve heard of all these ingredients except beef base.  I thought maybe it’s a beef bouillon cube, but when I looked it up online I found out that it’s not the same. Beef base is actually beef stock that’s been turned into a powder or paste.  This is located down the same aisle as the bouillon cubes and stocks at the grocery store.  There weren’t many brands to choose from so I decided to try this Amish brand. 

The recipe itself didn’t seem that hard but as I was prepping I had to think about how the instructions were worded.  For instance… ‘and rough cut reserve the strained liquid’.  I had no idea what this meant so I looked up ‘rough cut reserve’ online only to find nothing.  Then I re-read it a few more times and laughed.  I was dissecting the steps too much.  Rough cut the mushrooms AND reserve the strained liquid, got it!  I've since modified the original recipe instructions so that they're easier to follow (listed below). 

I have to say in making this recipe all was going smoothly until I opened the beef base.  Wow, this ingredient was not what I was expecting at all.  I let out a little gasp as I opened the jar.  I don’t know why but I thought the brand I bought was a powder.  No sirree, it was a paste.  The color was a very dark brown, in paste form, and literally looked like babies poop.  Here’s a picture so you can see for yourself.  Don’t let this stop you from buying it though.  At least now you’re prepared for what you’ll see when you open it!  From what I read, the base is supposed to have a richer flavor than bouillon cubes.  Don’t worry, the base will last for a while as it can be refrigerated for months after it’s opened.

In the end the stew came out like it was supposed to however there’s one change I would make and that’s to buy better quality beef.  I bought pre-cut beef stew meat and I think it was a little fattier than if I were to buy the beef and cut it myself.  My husband thought the meal was good, but felt the same about the beef.  I asked him to rate it out of 5 stars and he gave it a 3.  Before he knew he would have to rate it, as he was eating he laughed and said “It’s fucking hot (spicy)!” I kinda laughed because I didn’t think it was that spicy, but I did add a little more chipotle than what was called for since I like love chipotle peppers.  He thought maybe it felt extra spicy since his lips were wind burnt from snowboarding.

Beef, Barley, and Dried Mushroom Stew
Prep Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 1 3/4 hrs

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dried funghi porcini, stems discarded
  • 1/4 cup dried shiitake mushroom, stems discarded
  • 1 lb beef, cubed
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, diced (more can be added for extra spiciness)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon beef base
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup barley
    1. Put mushrooms in bowl and cover with hot water.  Set aside.
    2. In a large pot heat oil and saute onions, garlic, celery and carrots until slightly wilted.
    3. Season beef cubes generously with salt and pepper.  Add to onion mixture and cook until just browned.
    4. Reserve some of the water while straining the mushrooms.   You can use as much as you'd like for the 6 cups of water requested above.  I reserved about 1 cup mushroom water and used it in addition to 5 cups of regular water (6 total cups).  After mushrooms are strained, roughly chop the mushrooms. 
    5. Add ground meat, chipotle pepper, and chopped mushrooms to the pot and brown.
    6. In a large bowl combine 6 cups of water (use as much mushroom water as you'd like along with regular water; total 6 cups), Worcestershire sauce, beef base, and tomato paste.   Stir ingredients.  After ingredients are well mixed add to the pot along with the oregano and bay leaves.
    7. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
    8. Add barley and simmer an hour.
    9. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

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