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Wellness

Learning to Care for Chickens!

Housesitting has been a blast, and it’s also forced us to go outside our comfort zones on a few things. We had to learn to care for chickens on our second assignment this year, and although I was confident we would be able to–hence why we accepted in the first place– I was a little nervous about how it would go.

Ever since seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s famous The Birds, I’ve been wary of any sizable gatherings of feathered beasts… even poultry.

Thankfully, I’m not as nervous around birds as my sister is (did we have a bird encounter as children?) so we decided that learning to care for chickens was outweighed by a snuggly dog and a 200 year old cottage in the English countryside. #priorities

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The “Great” Bacon Cook-Off

While we were visiting Linda’s parents in South Carolina, my dad texted me a picture of a poster they saw near the condo they were renting in the Florida Keys. My eyes caught all sorts of things as they skimmed down the poster: bacon, beer, beer tasting, bacon eating contest (what?!), and then finally….”50/50 Amateur Bacon Cook-Off”. After he texted the photo, my dad simply asked, “Are you up for it?” I was. I was SO up for it.

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After receiving more contest details, I got to work brainstorming my ideas for my “bacon inspired” dish as well as what I would do with all my prize money. I had grand visions of what it would be like when I won this seemingly professionally organized contest. The judges were 5 local chefs who owned restaurants on the Florida Keys. I imagined them coming up to me and offering jobs with bonuses to work at their restaurants instead of flying back to Alaska. I imagined the Food Network calling the next day offering me my own bacon-themed show. I imagined the proud [fighting-back-tears] look on Linda’s face as she saw her husband crowned “Amateur Bacon Cook-Off Winner”. Like I said, grand visions. I couldn’t wait.

And what was going to win me my own Food Network show and the accolades of my family and an entire chain of islands? I had the answer. My own creation: The Cheddar Bacon Waffle BLT.

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Looks pretty good, right? Well, it was! But I should be more specific. It was good, the night before. You see, as any good contest participant would do, I practiced my recipe before serving it up to a panel of judges. And it was good. Not mind-blowingly good, but good none the less. “Good enough to win a cook-off”, I thought. Well, I thought wrong.

Let me cut to the chase: the whole “Beef, Beer, and Bacon” event was a complete unorganized mess.  This was no professional festival. This was a fundraiser for an elementary school. And the event coordinator was the assistant principal. I was told to arrive promptly at 4:15pm (with my dish completed and ready to serve) since the judging would take place at 4:30. Well, the judging took place around 5:30pm and my BLTs were a cold and soggy mess as they made their way to the judging table.

I lost. To cupcakes. Yes, bacon cupcakes beat my cheddar bacon waffle BLT. Goodbye Food Network. Goodbye chef contract. Goodbye fame.

I was humbled and upset by losing. Especially losing in a contest that didn’t really let me show what I can really do. But at least I tried. And you know what? I still got that proud look from Linda. And that felt pretty good.

Oh, by the way! You may remember one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to come up with an original recipe. Well, I did it:

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Cheddar Bacon Waffle BLT (w/ Chipotle Mayo)

Waffle Recipe
adapted from here
-2 cups all-purpose flour (about 10 ounces)
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
-2 tablespoons sugar
-3 whole eggs
-2 cups buttermilk
-2 tablespoons melted butter
-1 pound of bacon, cooked until crisp, crumbled, plus 1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat
-6 ounces freshly grated cheddar cheese
-Non-stick cooking spray

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until completely blended. Whisk together eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, and bacon fat in a medium bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix until just combined and no pockets of dry flour remain. Fold in bacon and cheese.

Preheat a waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions. Spray waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray and cook waffle batter using about 1 cup of batter per waffle. You can then transfer the waffle to a 200°F oven to remain warm while you prepare the rest of the waffles.

BLT with Chipotle Mayo Recipe
-1 Pound Bacon
-1 Head of Lettuce
-4 Large Tomatoes
-1 Cup of Mayonnaise
-1 1/2 Tablespoons of adobo sauce (from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce)

Mix the adobo sauce with the mayonnaise and set aside.

Cook the bacon using your favorite method, but make sure that they are CRISPY! Don’t tell me about the whole “crispy bacon carbonizes it too much and loses the flavor of the pork belly blah blah blah”. We are going for crunch here people.

Slice the tomatoes to your desired thickness and get leaves of lettuce off of that head.

Spread your chipotle mayo on that bread/waffle and then assemble your BLT with your B(acon), L(ettuce), and T(omato).

SERVE IT HOT AND DON’T LET A STUPID ELEMENTARY SCHOOL FUNDRAISER RUIN THIS SANDWICH FOR YOU. 😉

The Sous Vide Era

Beginning tomorrow, sometime after 3:30pm (or whenever FedEx decides to deliver my package), I will enter a new era in my cooking life: The Sous Vide Era. How does one move from the “Non-Sous Vide Era” to the “Sous Vide Era”? One must order and then receive a sous vide machine. My weapon of choice? The Anova Precision Cooker.

I was one of the first backers (out of 10,508) to help fund Anova’s Kickstarter back in June. There were a few perks to “buying in” at my level, but all I needed to know what that I got my sous vide at the end. (In case you’re unfamiliar, you can learn about Kickstarter here).

Kickstarter

Since June, I have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of my new cooking gadget. But before I continue my swooning over this crowd-funded kitchen appliance, let me try to explain what sous vide cooking is and why I’m so excited about diving into this new culinary era.

What is sous vide?

I once tried to answer this question with what I believed to be an extremely helpful illustration, but it quickly resulted in ridicule and laughter. Nevertheless, despite the risk of further ridicule, I will attempt to use the illustration once more.

Cooking sous vide is like cooking your food in a hot tub.

You place your beef, pork, veggies, fish, etc in a plastic bag and drop it in a temperature controlled water bath and wait for your food to come up to the desired temp. This insures that you get the perfect “doneness” on every piece of meat or vegetable that you place in the water bath. It also makes it literally impossible to overcook your food. Once the food reaches the optimal temperature, it simply stays at that temperature until you are ready to eat.

Why cook sous vide?

You are only asking this question because you have never had a steak or a chicken breast cooked using the sous vide method. About 6 or 7 years ago, my dad and I celebrated our birthdays (which are only 4 days apart) by eating at this fancy schmancy restaurant in Peoria. I ate two things that were cooked sous vide: a poached egg and a steak. It was the best steak I’ve ever had in my life and the egg was poached inside of it’s shell. I’m talking solid whites and perfectly runny yolk. I was hooked. And until Anova’s Kickstarter, the cheapest way to make sous vide at home was by purchasing a $300-400 machine. That steak was almost worth that amount. But I’m glad I waited.

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What are you cooking first?

T-Bone Steak. One of our friends up here in Anchorage is the son of a rancher and he gifted us a large amount of beef. I’ve been hanging onto those steaks way longer than my self control would typically allow. Fear not, pictures will be taken and shared. The steak… will not be shared.

Stay tuned for sous vide recipes and experiments! The new era has begun!

Homemade Chicken Gyros

Linda’s favorite kind of food is Mediterranean, but unfortunately it’s hard to find an authentic Mediterranean restaurant in the average American city. We haven’t ventured out yet to try and find a good spot here in Anchorage, but Linda will be letting you all know when we do. In the meantime, I’ve been following some good advice– happy wife, happy life (shout out to Joel!)– and making some Mediterranean-inspired dishes at home. This meal in particular was a good substitute for one of our favorite gyro joints from back in Indiana. (Which wasn’t so authentic… but it was definitely delicious. And cheap.) This is our chicken version, and it was both easy and fresh tasting. I highly recommend giving it a try. As usual, you’ll find a picture tutorial at the end, followed by the recipe.

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Quinoa Chili with Avocado and Gouda

Healthy? Check. Easy? Check. Delicious? Check. Sounds like a recipe fit for the Murphmans! This quinoa chili really fit all three requirements for the perfect midweek meal, and we think you should whip up a batch for yourself this autumn– the ultimate chili season!

We didn’t originally intend to post this recipe, so I didn’t take as many photos as usual. (You mean you all don’t take the obligatory five photos of meal-making every night? No? Ok, just me.) However, after getting a couple comments on Instagram asking for the recipe, I thought this would be the easiest way to share with everyone. Hope you enjoy!

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Ingredients

– 1 cup quinoa
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 onion, diced
– 2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
– 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
– 1 (4.5-ounce) can diced poblano peppers
– 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, or more, to taste
– 2 teaspoons cumin
– 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
– 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
– Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
– 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 1/2 cups corn kernels
– 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
– Juice of 1 lime
– 1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and diced
– Block of gouda cheese, shredded, to taste
– 1 green pepper, chopped

Directions

– In a large saucepan of 2 cups water, cook quinoa according and set aside
– Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium high heat
– Add garlic and onion and cook (stirring frequently) until onions have become translucent, about 2-3 minutes
– Stir in quinoa, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, poblano peppers, chili powder, cumin, paprika, sugar, coriander
– Immediately add 1-2 cups water, making sure to cover most of the ingredients
– Season with salt and pepper, to taste
– Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer until thickened, about 30 minutes
– Stir in beans, corn, cilantro and lime juice until heated through, about 2 minutes
– Serve immediately with avocado, shredded gouda, and chopped green peppers on top

recipe adapted slightly from here

Grilled Sausage Pizza w/ Honey Basil Vinaigrette

While we were preparing to leave Marion, we had a list of people that we still “owed” a meal at our house. I’m someone who likes to return favors or gifts using my own gifts. My gift is cooking, so people usually get fed. I haven’t heard any complaints yet.

This returned favor was a long time coming. I made this meal for a coworker and his wife in order to thank them for the unbelievable graciousness they extended to our family during our wedding weekend in May 2013. I made this meal in June 2014. Better late than never, right? Well, sort of. I kind of feel terrible it took us this long, but we made it happen!

Hopefully the deliciousness of this meal helped to forgive the tardiness of our thanks. Did someone help you out recently and you want to thank them? Then peruse the photos below, check out the recipe, bookmark this page, and load it up a year from now! 🙂 Just kidding. Make this tonight.

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