Popp Tarts My Way

So the other day I was asked if I can make some Chocolate Fudge Pop Tarts. To be honest, this is one of the things that I have actually never attempted.  As the saying goes, “There’s a First Time For Everything!” And could there be a better item to experiment with than chocolate? I think not.

Most everyone has had a Pop Tart, at some point in their life, and those of you who have had them know how good the Chocolate Fudge Pop Tarts are. Pop-Tarts are a brand of rectangular, pre-baked toaster pastries made by the Kellogg Company. Pop-Tarts have a sweet filling sealed inside two layers of rectangular, thin pastry crust. Most varieties are also frosted. Although they are sold pre-cooked, they are designed to be warmed inside a toaster, oven, or microwave oven. They are usually sold in pairs inside foil packages, and do not require refrigeration (that’s because of all the preservatives and yucky stuff).

Seeing how pastry dough is so simple and easy to make, and chocolate fudge and chocolate icing isn’t that much harder, (I could probably teach a puking 2 year old how to make them successfully) I set out to fulfill my request.

The first thing you want to make is the fudgy filling. You need to make this first so that it has time to cool and set up. It’s very simple as well.. Combine some whipping cream, some butter, some brown sugar, a pinch of salt, unsweetened cocoa powder, and milk chocolate chips. Boil this stuff lightly for 5 minutes and let it cool. It will set up in about 45 minutes to an hour at room temperature, or 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

Combine some flour, sugar, butter, cocoa powder, and ice cold water to make chocolate pastry dough. Roll it out to 1/8 inch thickness and cut it into rectangles about 3 inches x 5 inches, roughly the size of a standard note card.

20131029-202412.jpgThen I took a generous tablespoon of the chilled and hardened fudge filling and put it on one half of the rectangle. The next step is vital so don’t forget it or mess it up. You need to brush the edges of the rectangles with a light egg wash. Fold one half of the pastry dough over to meet the other half and press the edges together. I used a fork to “crimp” the edges sealed shut. If you don’t take the proper care to do this you will lose some of that chocolaty fudgy delight that you worked so hard on making. “If you don’t seal your tart you won’t have any filling! How can you have any filling if you don’t seal your tart?”

20131029-203131.jpgBake these little pocket pals in a 350 degree oven for about 9 minutes.

While they are resting make up a simple chocolate buttercream icing from butter, cocoa, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, milk, and a touch of salt. Let them cool sufficiently and spread with icing. I like to top the icing with a smallllll amount of coarse kosher salt flakes. Let them sit to “dry”, uncovered, until they form a crust on top of the icing and the filling sets up enough to eat without a river of chocolate cascading down your chin.

20131029-203246.jpgtIf you want to enjoy them warm give them a quick zap in the microwave or a short time in an oven, just don’t put them in your toaster with the icing on them. Bad idea!

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Stay tuned for the next adventure in this “Pop Tart makeover Series”. It’s gonna be a good one!

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It’s Chili Time

Chili is one of those foods that’s familiar to everyone. And everyone thinks their Chili is the best. Chili is eaten all over the US, and most parts of the world. Chili lovers are very passionate about this highly debated food. Some say chili has no beans (Texas style), some say it has to have beans. Some people say Chili should be vegetarian with no meat. Some say Chili has no tomatoes. There’s even a place in Ohio that has their own style of Chili – – “Cincinnati Style Chili” is described as “5-Way” – – a concoction of a mound of spaghetti topped with chili, then with chopped onion, then red kidney beans, then shredded yellow cheese, and served with oyster crackers and a side order of hot dogs topped with shredded cheese. It’s delish. There’s “Chili Verde” (Green Chili) that is usually made with pork, tomatillos, and green Chile peppers, “White Chili” that’s made using white beans and ground turkey or chicken, resulting in a finished dish that appears white when ready to eat.
Chili is good for topping hot dogs and hamburgers, added to french fries with cheddar cheese to make “Chili Cheese Fries”, mixed with macaroni and topped with cheese and baked to make “Chili Mac”, poured over the top of a single serving size bag of Frito’s and finished with grated cheese and onions to make “Walking Tacos or Tacos in a Bag”, and even used as a topping for Baked Potatoes along with cheese, onions, hot sauce, jalapenos and sour cream to form a “Loaded Baked Potato”.
There are many legends and stories told that argue over where Chili originated, and I don’t care about that. But I can definitely tell you that it didn’t originate in Mexico. Down there it’s “Chile” and it’s a whole different ball game.
Without further ado, I present you one of my favorite Chili recipes that I have developed all by myself.
First you brown some Supremo Pork Chorizo and some ground turkey in a heavy soup pot over medium high heat.

20131023-193828.jpgWhen the meat is browned and the fat is rendered, you will start adding in your chopped vegetables

20131023-194008.jpgto cook in stages. This allows the flavors to develop in layers. Ha ha listen to me starting to talk like some kind of food scientist or something. Anyway, first add the chopped onions and celery and sweat these for about 8 minutes. Next add in the diced peppers, all of them

20131023-194309.jpgCook these for 5 minutes and then add the chopped fresh garlic. Cook 4 more minutes and add 1/2 bottle or can of your favorite beer

20131023-194524.jpg At the time I made this batch my favorite was and still is Boulevard Tank 7. Stir in the beer and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan to incorporate into the mess. Cook for 3 more minutes and then add your tomato products. I used Diced Tomatoes with Chiles, Whole Tomatoes in Juice, and v-8 style Vegetable Juice. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes then add your beans. I used Chili Beans and Red Kidney Beans. Stir in and return to a boil. Dump in Chili Powder, Ancho Chili Powder, Chipotle Powder, and ground black pepper.

20131023-194808.jpgtir in and cook for 10 minutes at medium boil, stirring often to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Finish with chopped fresh cilantro,

20131023-194950.jpgagave nectar,

20131023-195051.jpgand kosher salt. Boom! Ding!

20131023-195239.jpgDone! Enjoy!

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Fab Five ?

5 Things I can’t live Without:

1. Hot Sauce. It’s my favorite ingredient and my favorite condiment. I put it on or in everything. I have hot sauces in my pantry from all over the world in varying degrees of spiciness and flavors. I have more hot sauces in my kitchen than I do anything else. Perhaps it’s an addiction. It’s good in sauces, dressings, soups, drinks, breakfast, lunch, dinner……I could go on and on…..

2. Ice Cold Water. All day long I drink lots of cold water. The colder the better. Not to mention all of the health benefits that go along with drinking water, It seems to give me an added “pep in my step” or boost of energy when I drink a nice big glass of cold water. Quite refreshing!

3. Fresh Chopped Herbs. Nothing gives that added punch to foods better than fresh chopped herbs. I’ve always been a fanatic about using fresh chopped herbs to give that final elevation to foods. Toss some fresh chopped basil in pasta and sauce, throw some chopped fresh cilantro in all kinds of foods; chili, tacos, salsas, eggs, salads, yadda, yadda, yadda…..My favorites are Cilantro, Oregano, Chives, and Mint. Think about the possibilities, they are endless.

4. Chocolate. In any shape or form. I am a self-admitted “ChocoHolic” !

5. Olive Oil. A good Extra Virgin Olive Oil goes a long way. “Extra Virgin” means that the oil was produced by the use of physical means and no chemical treatment was used. It has a very low acidity and a very superior taste. I like to use it not only in cooking, but also at the table. It is great in salads, pastas soups, stews, and as a dip for breads or rolls. For something really different and tasty try topping your baked potato with some good olive oil, fresh ground black pepper, and kosher salt instead of butter and sour cream. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I’d like to hear some of my fans responses to 5 Things You Can’t Live Without so please leave some comments…..

American Royal BBQ Weekend

So this year I finally got to do something that I’ve wanted to do ever since I moved to Kansas City back in 1998. I competed in the American Royal World Series of BBQ Competition. It is THE largest BBQ Competition in the United States, with over 500 teams competing. To be exact, this year there were 535 teams, from all over the world, in competition to make their best smoked meats, sauces, and sides. Even though it’s called the “World Series” of BBQ it’s more like the Super Bowl of BBQ.
My team was the 12th St. Pit Bosses.

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20131014-190635.jpgThe team consisted of Steve-O (myself), My friend and co Chef, Vince, our Project Manager Elizabeth, my IT/ Talent Manager/ Design Artist Libby, and support agents Deanna and Brittany.

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20131014-191131.jpgNow, it isn’t only about the competition. If you are lucky enough to get invited to a private party Friday night, you’ll be entertained by live bands, DJ’s, and have an open bar on top of sampling the amazing food. It’ll beat your favorite BBQ restaurants by far. We went with an Octoberfest In KC BBQ Theme for our entry in the “Friday Night Party of The Year Contest” and we served Smoked Bacon Stuffed with Bacon Sausage and topped with a Roasted Onion Bacon Jam alongside some Beer Brined Kimchi Style Kraut Salad. We had Smoked Sweetbread Schnitzels with Gouda Mashed Potatoes, Burnt End Chopped Salads, and for Dessert we served Vanilla Bourbon Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Icing and Candied Bacon. I need not say any more. We had great food, great times, and tons of people swearing that I was Guy Fieri and wanting their picture taken with me. I guess he looks like me or something.

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20131014-191918.jpgEnd result — We won 3rd Place for Party of The Year. Not surprised. We are pretty BA !
I saw lots of USA pride.

20131014-192140.jpgSome pretty cool smokers.

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20131014-192412.jpgA cool Old GMC Pickup Truck.

20131014-192530.jpgOne team even built a water tower on site.

20131014-192626.jpgThe next day we turned in our entries for the Beans,

20131014-192819.jpgDessert,

20131014-193002.jpgand Potato Categories. Then we had a Saturday Night Party with friends that included a pretty challenging drinking game,

20131014-193134.jpgand we started up the smoker. Some of the entries needed a good 12 -13 hours smoke on them to get good.
Sunday was the big finale. Starting at 12 noon we were pulling meats off of the smoker and slicing them for presentation and judging. We had 5 entries that day; Chicken,

20131014-193311.jpgBrisket,

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20131014-193458.jpgPork,

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20131014-193621.jpgRibs,

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20131014-193901.jpgand Sausage.

20131014-194103.jpgOne entry every 30 minutes.

20131014-194201.jpgYou have to present all of your meats in these styrofoam (eww, blech) containers lined with parsley leaves. You have a 5 minute grace period around the scheduled turn in time to get your products to the turn in tables. We timed our walk and it was 3 minutes 34 seconds. Being the athletic type that I am, I did the proper thing and stretched before the run. . .errr. . . walk.

20131014-194732.jpgOnce you get to the building where you turn in foods, there are lots of lines waiting to drop off food to be given to the judges.

20131014-194835.jpgIt was quite an amazing site. Once you turn in your entry it’s time to go back and get your next one ready. Then later that day at the awards ceremony you find out how you did in each category and overall. We placed 4th for Beans,

20131014-195336.jpg82nd for potatoes, 105th for sausage, and 121st for dessert. Not bad for some 1st timers. Anyway, after a long and smoky weekend, we had a great time. And learned a lot.