Poppers that Pop

If you are just in the mood for a bite sized treat or making something for the big game jalapeno poppers are sure to please. These little spicy bites of heaven have been passed around parties for as long as I can remember and since there never seem to be any leftover the next day I will go out on a limb and say that people must really like them. I know I do. I have tried many different varieties over the years and everyone seems to have their own special way of doing them. Some swear by the type of bacon you need or the size of the jalapeno and even the brand of cream cheese for the perfect flavor. For some its a science and for others its just something you throw together to please the party goers. Either way they always seem to turn out great. For this recipe I have taken a couple of elements from several different poppers that I have tried and come up with what I will now call my “go to popper”.

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What you need. (This is for a small batch to serve 3 to 4 people)

12 large raw jalapenos (whole)

1 8oz container of Philadelphia fat free cream cheese

1 lb hickory smoked bacon

1 lb maple breakfast sausage

at least 24 toothpicks

Prep and cooking.

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First get the sausage started cooking in a pan on the stove over medium heat. You want to get it nice and brown and crunchy for texture.

Now while the sausage is cooking, cut the stem end off of the peppers and then cut them in half long ways so it looks like you have a fleet of little green boats. Be sure to remove all of the seeds and white membrane inside.

The sausage should now be done and ready to drain any fat off of. Just line a bowl with paper towels and poor the sausage in. The paper towels will absorb most of the fat. Now gently pull the paper towels out from under the sausage and out of the bowl. You will leave a little fat in there but it will be fine because you have gotten most of it out. Now mix in the cream cheese with the sausage until you get a nicely mixed paste.

Now for the fun part.

With a spoon go ahead and start filling each jalapeno half to the top. You don’t want it to overflow that much but make sure it is full.

Once you have all of the halves full open the bacon and cut the entire slab in half. Half a slice of bacon is perfect to wrap around the center of the jalapeno. You will hold the bacon in place by sliding a toothpick through from one side to the other.

Now it is time to cook them. You can do this a couple of different ways. My preferred method is on the grill. Turn it on medium high heat and let the grill heat up. If you have a top rack I like to sit them up there for a few minutes with the grill closed but it is not needed. Place the poppers on the grill and cook until the bacon looks done. You don’t want to get it too crisp but you do want it to be thoroughly cooked. You will most likely get a few black ends but don’t worry, they taste better that way.

You may want to keep a spray bottle of water on hand while cooking these. The bacon is going to drip and it will cause flare ups when the grease catches on fire.

That is how you make poppers that pop. They turned out great and that is why these will now be my “go to poppers”. If you are feeling a little adventurous try sprinkling just a little garlic powder on top before sticking them on the grill.

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I hope that you all enjoy these.

Thanks for reading,

JMW

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Seafood “Quartet” Chowder

When it comes to seafood you usually get two kinds of people, those who love it or those who hate it. I fall into the category of those how love it. I will eat anything that comes out of the water and have never understood people that cant stand seafood. It’s so good and there are so many ways to cook it, as well as so many different dishes that can be made. Seafood has so many different flavors and tastes and things you can do with it. I just don’t get when someone condemns it all. But to each their own I guess. This past weekend I got a craving for clam chowder but while there are a few seafood places in San Antonio to get seafood there aren’t many to get a really good homemade chowder. So I set out to come up with my own recipe and in the process I just went crazy and decided it needed more seafood. This chowder has shrimp, clams, crab and crawfish and is so good that it sings in your mouth when you take a bite (get it Seafood Quartet)…

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Anyway. Here is how I did it. (Yes I did have to use some canned ingredients just because finding fresh ingredients like clams is hard to do in the land locked city of San Antonio).

Ingredients:

1/2 lb Shrimp (peeled/devained and cut in to small pieces)

1/2 lb crawfish tail meat chopped into small pieces

1 can whole clams (drained but keep the juice for cooking)

1/4 lb crab meat (not imitation)

3 medium sized white potatoes (cut into small cubes)

3 celery stalks sliced into small pieces

1 yellow onion diced into small pieces

1 bottle of clam juice (can usually be found on the canned meat aisle in your grocery store)

3 table spoons ground black pepper

2 table spoons course sea salt

2 bay leaves

4 slices thick sliced bacon (applewood smoked is preferred)

2 tablespoons of butter

1 pint of heavy cream

all purpose flour (2 or 3 tablespoons)

Cooking

In a large pot you will want to cook the bacon crisp and then remove it to a paper towel covered plate to drain off excess grease. Drain as much grease as you can from the pot without removing the little bits that come off during frying (leaving some grease is fine).

Now add the butter to the pot and let melt on medium heat. Add the Onion and celery to the pot and cook until the start to turn clear.

Now add the potatoes and pour in the clam clam juice (enough to come to the top of the potatoes). Stir in the two bay leaves and increase the heat to high and boil until the potatoes start to soften up.

Now add in all of the seafood (shrimp, clams, crawfish and crab) and reduce heat to medium. Now chop up the bacon into small pieces and stir into the pot. When the shrimp all turn pink go ahead and reduce heat to low and let it cool for a few minutes before moving to the next step.

You are now ready to add the heavy cream. Start stirring it in a little at a time until the whole pot is a nice thick milky color. Now add the salt and pepper and stir in really good and let simmer on low for a few minutes. to thicken it up a bit you will want to add a little bit of flour in at a time. Start with a couple of tablespoons and stir it in until it is completely mixed in to the chowder. Do this a couple more times until you get the desired consistency. Some people may like it thicker or thinner than others, I personally like a thick chowder. Keep in mind that it will thicken up a little as it cools too so you may not want to add a lot of flour or it could come out to thick.

Now you are ready to serve it up and enjoy. It would be great with a nice Cesar salad or garlic bread. I served mine with a crispy garlic, basil gnocchi and it was great.

Thanks for read

JMW

Mellow Mushroom

Great ***

Pretty Good

OK

No Thanks

 

If there is one constant in this ever changing world it is that pretty much everyone likes pizza in some form or fashion. This is evident by the giant frozen pizza section in your local grocery store or by the fact that you cant hardly drive down a commercial street without seeing at least one pizza place. While I enjoy making my own pizza at home I also enjoy going out to a restaurant and getting a really great pizza from time to time. I discovered a great little place that makes excellent pizza a while back on a trip up to Austin TX and then found it again while on a trip to Fl. I was happy to see that it was a small franchise and doing well but was disappointed that they did not have a location in San Antonio. Well I found out recently that is no longer the case and a new location has in fact opened up here in SA. This of course made me very happy and got me out to the north side of the city near Stone Oak just off of 1604 to check out the latest location of the Mellow Mushroom.

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Walking in the door I saw that this newest location was a little bit nicer than the two I had been in before, not that those were bad by any means but you could definitely tell that this was a brand new restaraunt. It still has the same quirkiness of the older locations and even has a statue of the Mellow Mushroom mascot out front (a giant mushroom holding a slice of pizza). The inside is set up nicely with booths along the outer walls and plenty of tables in the middle that are nicely spaced and not crammed together. They also have an outside patio area for those that like to eat outside during the warmer months of the year and for those of you that love beer, you will not be disappointed with the selections at the bar. Throughout the restaurant are flat screen TV’s showing the latest games going on and they have music playing in the background to keep the mood upbeat.

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Now when it comes down to the food they have a nice selection of “munchies”, calzones, hoagies and even salads but the real draw for me is the pizza. They have a number of playfully named pizzas such as the Kosmic Karma, Mighty Meaty, Magical Mystery Tour, or Bayou Bleu to name a few.  You can also choose to build your own if you have kids that don’t like a lot of toppings with you.

This trip I opted to start out with the bruschetta which is pretty amazing. They take a great garlic toast and top it with fresh tomatoes and basil and the drizzle it with olive oil and a balsamic glaze. The combination of these ingredients comes together wonderfully and will hold you over until your pizza gets to the table.

I only mention this because it does take a little time to get your pizza. It is called “Mellow” Mushroom after all. So don’t expect to run in for a quick bite. Sit back and relax and enjoy yourself. The pizza is well worth the wait.

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This brings me to the pizza. I ordered the Mighty Meaty. As you can guess this is a pizza loaded with meat and not just any meat but the best of the best. It has Pepperoni, Sausage, Beef, Ham and Applewood smoked bacon. Mmmm… Bacon… The crust on this pizza is one of my favorites and is one of the few crusts I actually eat at the end of a slice. Usually crust is too doughy and flavorless and ends up pushed to the side when the cheese and toppings are all gone but this one is nice and crunchy and is coated with a little Parmesan cheese sprinkle. The sauce is very flavorful but not overpowering and does not taste liked a generic canned sauce like a lot of pizza places tend to taste. All in all it is one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten and without a doubt plan to eat again.

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Overall I really enjoyed the Mellow Mushroom and will be going back in the near future. It is a quirky little pizza joint with a great atmosphere and great food. So the next time you are in the mood for pizza and want to get out for a nice dining experience go and check them out. You wont be disappointed. They are starting to pop up more and more with quite a few locations in the south east.

Thanks for reading,

JMW

Let’s Talk Burgers

Let’s face it, everyone loves burgers and have come up with many many ways to make them and even make them with a lot of different types of meat including Buffalo, Elk, Turkey, Chicken, Bison and of course good ole beef.  Even if you are a vegetarian you still try and find a way to make something like tofu into a burger. Why do you think that is? Well it’s because burgers are great, plain and simple. For most of us you have a big patty of meat tucked neatly (or not so neatly) between to halves of a bun and piled high with all of your favorite toppings and condiments. You can add just about anything to a burger to change it up and give it a different taste. I have been known to add many different things to mine over the years such as bacon, avocado, and yes even a fried egg. Burgers are versatile and delicious. If people didn’t love burgers they wouldn’t be sold in mass quantities just about everywhere you go.

That brings me to this past weekend. I wanted to make burgers at home and also wanted to come up with something for you fine folks to try out that is a little different than your normal burger. So I started searching the fridge and wracking my brain to come up with something that turned out to be one of the best burgers I have ever made.

I now give you the salsa burger.

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Ingredients

2 lbs lean ground beef

1/2 cup salsa fresca (finely chopped)

Tip: I used salsa fresca in this because it has a unique mix of ingredients and is usually more finely chopped than regular salsa. Ingredients usually include tomato, cilantro, lime, onion, garlic, red wine vinegar and chile pepper. This mix of flavors gives the meat a great taste.

chili powder

black pepper

salt

Sliced Colby jack cheese

Onion Rolls (cut in half to make a bun)

And whatever your favorite toppings may be. I used Lettuce, tomato, dill pickle slices, onion and Mayo

Prep

Put the ground beef into a mixing bowl and then add the salsa. Using both hands get in there and really mix it all together until everything is nicely blended. Now pat out your patties. I like to do nice thin patties with about 4 or 5 ounces of meat each.  Make sure to flatten them out good because they will shrink a little when cooking. Once you have the patties all made and laid out on a plate you want to salt and pepper them and also sprinkle a little chili powder across the top. Let those sit so they get close to room temp. Meat always cooks better and more evenly throughout if it is room temp and not cold straight out of the fridge.

Cooking

You can cook the burgers a couple of different ways. I usually go for the grill but I ran out of propane so this go round I went old school with the frying pan. Heat a large frying pan to medium high heat. You want it to be hot when they go in but not super hot or they will burn on the outside and be raw in the middle.

Drop your patties in a nice even layer in the pan and let them cook for about 3 to 4 minutes on one side. Then turn them over let them cook for another 3 to 4 minutes on the other side depending on how rare or done you like your burgers. I prefer mine to be medium to medium well.

If you like cheese on your burger like I do you will want to place a slice on top of the burger with about 30 seconds left to cook. This will get it started  melting evenly across the top.

With the burgers now done and the pan still hot place your cut onion rolls (cut side down) in the pan for about 30 seconds to get a nice lite crunch on them. (or use regular buns if you aren’t feeling adventurous).

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Assembly

Now its time to assemble the burger. Place a patty on your bun and add whatever condiments you prefer and then pile it high with your favorite toppings. To recreate the one I made you will want to add mayo to both halves of the bun, place the patty on the bottom and add thin sliced white onion, fresh Romain lettuce, sliced dill pickle, and thin sliced Roma tomato. I highly recommend trying it this way first.  You are now ready to embark on a truly unique burger experience.

Enjoy and thanks for reading

JMW

Grumpy’s Mexican Cafe

Great ***

Pretty Good

OK

No Thanks

Every now and then I get a taste for good ole home cooked food like I grew up on. I remember standing in my Grandma’s kitchen as she would cook breakfast and the smell of the bacon and eggs frying and the biscuits baking was almost too much to have to wait for but of course she would always slip me a piece of bacon when no one was looking. Every now and then I run across a place that brings those memories back and I am happy to say I can add another to my list. Grumpy’s Mexican Cafe is just that place. Located just outside of 1604 on Nacodoches near Garden Ridge this little place is just far enough off the radar to have almost escaped my site but not quite. I don’t know if you like more traditional San Antonio breakfast dishes like breakfast tacos and huevos rancheros or a more southern style like biscuits and gravy or chicken and waffles, but whatever your pleasure is you can be sure to find it at Grumpy’s. I have tried several different dishes over a few visits to Grumpy’s but kept forgetting to take pictures until I was about half way through the meal. Yes it is that good. But I was able to set my excitement aside on one trip and get a couple of pics of the biscuits and sausage gravy I finally decided to give a try. I only say finally because biscuits and sausage gravy are one of those dishes that I doubt I will ever find as good as Grandma used to make but do get brave enough to try every now and then just to see.

I will say that the gravy was great even though it was pretty different from Grandmas. I’m pretty sure they didn’t use a cast iron skillet to cook it in but it was tasty non the less. The biscuits on the other hand were just like she was back in the kitchen mixing them up herself. They were moist and flaky and not dry and crumbly like a lot of restaurants make them.  You can order a half order or a whole order. Half an order is one biscuit split in half and a whole order is two biscuits both split in half. I ordered a whole order and now know that next time I will get the half order. This is a lot of food.  The gravy has a nice texture and flavor that compliments the biscuits but needed a little more black pepper to get up to my standards. You can get the gravy with or without sausage, but whats the point of biscuits and gravy if you don’t have sausage in the gravy? This meal also comes with a side of hash browns that are pretty tasty with a hint of a butter flavor and two eggs however you want them cooked. I had mine over medium because I like the yellow runny but not the white.

Like I said earlier I have been back several times and tried multiple things on the menu but did not take pictures. I guess I will have to go back and try them all over again. It’s hard being me.

A couple of note worthy dishes to mention and ones I know I will be getting again is the chicken and waffles and the country fried steak. Great tasting fluffy waffle and had breaded chicken coated with powdered sugar and syrup and a large side of potato twisters which are kind of like a giant twisted potato chip that covers half the plate. This is one to try. And the country fried steak will take up most of your plate and can be cut with a fork it is so tender. Don’t forget to get a side of biscuits instead of toast. They just compliment everything.

Grumpy’s isn’t just a breakfast spot but also has a lunch menu that has quite a few great looking selections that I will have to try some day.

So you can guess that after reading this I will without a doubt be back for more. I hear they have a pretty incredible steak and eggs breakfast that is now on my list of dishes to try.

Thanks for reading

JMW

Lazy Day Recipe Help #2

I bet you get up some mornings and are getting ready for work and get stuck in that moment when you have to decide on making something at home or stopping and picking up something on the way in and in that moment you usually decide to pick something up because you don’t think there will be enough time to make something. Don’t fall for it! You are telling yourself a lie. Breakfast is a very important part of the day and is also very simple to make. The most important thing to do is plan ahead.

When I go for my weekly market trip I make sure to pick up various items to use throughout the week. This last trip I spotted some croissants in the bakery and picked up a pack of 8. I also try to keep things in the fridge like eggs and something easily microwavable like microwave bacon or sausage. You don’t always have to do everything fresh and elaborate. Most times the easy to put together stuff will taste better and leave you more satisfied than if you pick something up at a drive through.

Tip: Keep a pack of microwave bacon (or sausage)in your fridge. It lasts for a while and is quick and easy to prepare. If you are concerned about health then there are a couple of really good microwave turkey bacon’s available.

So for my lazy morning breakfast I pulled  a few items out of the fridge to get started. A few strips of microwave turkey bacon, a couple of slices of fat-free cheese, 2 microwave sausage patties and two eggs. I also set out two of the croissants I picked up earlier in the week.

Now I know you are thinking that sounds like a lot of work and that you would rather just hit a drive through. Well it is actually not a lot of work at all. The entire process took me less than 10 minutes. I got out a frying pan and turned on medium heat and sprayed it with non stick oil. While it is heating up I laid out the bacon on a paper towel and stuck it in the microwave for a minute. I then cracked the eggs in the pan and sprinkled with a little salt and black pepper. While those started cooking I removed the bacon and put in the sausage for a minute and a half. Then it was time to flip the eggs. Once I turned them over I used the spatula to pop the yolk. I know some people like it to be a little runny but if you plan to eat this in the car on your way to work you don’t want something drippy and runny in your hand. While the eggs were finishing up i cut the croissants in half for sandwiches and then scooped the eggs out on to a plate. I then laid the croissants cut side down in the pan to heat them up and give them just a little bit of toastiness. They only take about 45 seconds to warm up.

Tip: While croissants are always best fresh you can heat them up in a frying pan to give them back a little bit of the toasty, crunchy flakiness for your sandwich. This will allow you to buy a few more to keep throughout the week. Or you can just use toasted bread if you like.

Now it is time to assemble the sandwich. lay down egg on the bottom half of the croissant, place a slice of cheese then put down the bacon or sausage and cover with the other half of the croissant. There you have it. A quick simple and very tasty breakfast that will rival almost anything that you can be handed out of a window of a fast food place. You don’t have to use croissants either as a couple of slices of toast will work just as well.

Tip: It’s all in the seasoning. If for some reason you have a problem with making eggs that taste like the do in a restaurant remember these two things. Salt and Pepper. a few sprinkles of salt and black pepper go a long way to transform your eggs from bland into a taste sensation.
Well I hope that this can get some of you motivated in the mornings to treat yourself to a home-made delight instead of just heading off to the drive through.
Thanks for reading

JMW

Armadillo’s

Great
Pretty Good ***
OK
No Thanks

This week I am going back to burgers. This might be because the local newspapers are running a March Madness type of burger joint playoff and it might just e because I like burgers. Or maybe, just maybe a little bit of both. Either way I decided to make my way down to McCullough Ave to a little place called Armadillo’s. This is one of those places that has been around for a while and comes recommended by the locals. It also comes highly recommended by a friend of mine that has been begging me to review it. So without further ado let’s get started.

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First things first. If you go during peak hours you may have a hard time finding a place to park. It is located in a relatively busy area and has limited parking at the restaurant but do not get discouraged because there is a public parking lot behind it but you may be in for a walk to get to and from your vehicle. This isn’t really a bad thing though because you may need to burn a few calories depending on what you have to eat.
When you walk in you feel kind of like you are walking in to your favorite old dive bar. It is dimly lit with neon signs casting a low glow everywhere and has an old juke box in the corner usually playing some sort of classic rock. The booths against the walls also have their own personal juke boxes like the diners of old used to have. I know that at least some of you reading this know what I am talking about.  The inside dining area is a little on the small side and if it is busy you may want to consider the outside dining area as it is much larger, just don’t fall into the giant cactus.
For this trip I ordered my standard bacon cheeseburger and Fries and an order of onion rings to try because I always have to try the onion rings. The burgers come in sizes from 1/3 lb up to a whopping 3 lb burger.  I decided to go with the 1/2 pounder and was not disappointed. The burger itself is juicy with the crispy edges you only get from that hot griddle. The bun is just a standard hamburger bun, so nothing special there.  While I usually don’t like my bacon cooked to death and super crispy I do like it to be pretty crisp when it is on a burger just so you can bite through it when you take a bite. If it isn’t done enough then it pulls right out and makes a mess. Unfortunately this was the case with this one, I had to fight it a little to get through. But it was still a very tasty burger, not the best I have ever had but still very good.

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The fries are your  standard cut fries that you get at most burger places. There isn’t anything mind blowing here because they taste like every other french fry out there, but they are good and go well with the burger. The onion rings were a little bit of a let down for me because there is no doubt in my mind that they were frozen only a few minutes before they hit the fryer. I guess I am a little biased after having the onion rings at Sam’s Burger Joint though. Those are pretty tough to beat.
When you go you may want to try some of the other sides they have as well. You can get Fries, Chili Cheese Fries, Bacon Cheese Fries, Onion Rings or Tator tots. They also do Hot Wings and a couple of different salads as well as grilled chicken sandwiches if you are feeling a little bit on the healthier kick. Overall it is a pretty fun place to visit and they have good food. It is somewhere I would definitely go back to for a burger fix.

Thanks for reading,
JMW