Monday, November 25, 2013

Beer Can Chicken {ThermoWorks review}

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Being a food blogger, I get a lot of emails with offers to sample products for review.  Like multiple emails a day.  Most of them I turn down, as in case you haven’t noticed, I pretty much strictly post recipes.  Very rarely do I agree to review products, as I just typically don’t have time, nor the passion for it.  Plus, I don’t like it when I read a blog and all they seem to talk about are the free stuff they got, free trips, etc.  But every once in a while an opportunity comes my way to review a product I’ve always been curious about.  So please know that I won’t be turning my blog into a big ol’ commercial site, I’m just going to take a rare moment and tell you about this awesome product!

I was offered the chance to review a ThermoWorks Chef Alarm Thermometer and the Pro Series Needle Probe.  Before getting the chance to use this I only had the standard meat thermometer, and a standard candy thermometer.  When cooking meat, I would pull it out of the oven, shove in the huge prong (and let so much juice ooze out) then wait and wait as the temperature needle slowly slowly climbed.  Often the temperature would indicate that it needed to cook longer, so back in it went, and I would check again in 10 minutes.  Same thing, it would read too low, back in.  Next time I checked it I might check a different area, and this would read well over the desired temp, which meant I overcooked it!  It was always so frustrating.  We have two different standard meat thermometers and I would try both and get different readings.  It always drove me nuts!

I read a lot of reviews on the ThermoWorks brand before I even accepted the offer.  I found one group of people who fanatically endorse the brand, and that is Big Green Egg users.  My friend’s dad has a Big Green Egg, and I know that’s almost like joining a cult.  They become obsessed with their Big Green Egg, and the forum I read had everyone raving over their ThermoWorks thermometer, saying if you’re going to cook with the best, you ought to use the best thermometer.  We don’t have a Big Green Egg, but we do grill with charcoal only.  Nathan is opposed to gas grilling.  We have also transitioned from standard charcoal briquettes to the natural lump charcoal.  The taste difference is noticeable, and SO MUCH better.  But there has been a little learning curve for Nathan (the grill master of the house) as far as experience with the heat retention and temperature.  It seems lump charcoal burns a little faster.  This is where the ThermoWorks thermometer has really come in handy!  Sometimes the coals aren’t hot as long as Nathan expected, so things will need to cook a little longer.  We love having instant accuracy with our ThermoWorks!  My dad, who smokes brisket and pulled pork in his smoker was even a little jealous of my ThermoWorks.  He said he has an instant read thermometer, but it’s not as good a brand as mine.  Looks like I know what to get him for Christmas now!

With my very first use of the ThermoWorks Chef Alarm I was truly amazed at how fast & accurate it was!  I used it when I was poaching a chicken breast, and I loved seeing the temperature instantly.  Another time it came in super handy is when I was cooking meatloaf.  I varied from my standard recipe as I was using ground beef (when I normally use turkey), and I misread the instructions and added an entire 8oz can of tomato sauce that was supposed to go on top as a glaze halfway through baking.  My meatloaf was extra moist, and I knew it would need to cook longer than the instructions, but I didn’t know how much longer.  The ThermoWorks thermometer was awesome because I could quickly take the temperature to determine whether or not it was safe to eat!  It took an extra 20 minutes, and I’m so glad I was able to accurately know the meatloaf was finished.

The most awesome thing though about the ThermoWorks Chef Alarm thermometer is that it can be used for more than just cooking with meat!  As the holiday season approaches, I forsee lots of use of it to replace my clunky candy thermometer.  This is where the Pro Series Needle Probe comes in handy, as it works in instances other (thicker) probes cannot.  You can use it for making:

  • candy
  • marshmallows
  • fudge
  • yogurt
  • bread

This Thanksgiving if it’s your job to cook the turkey this year and you’re a bit nervous about it, I suggest picking up one of these.  On the ThermoWorks website, the Chef Alarm is only $59 and comes with the Pro Series High Temp Cooking Probe.  The thinner Pro Series Needle Probe is an additional accessory for only $15.  And their Superfast Thermapen is $96, but they are running a promotion right now where you can get 2 for $85 each.  I was recently reading some tips in preparation of Thanksgiving on Top 10 Thanksgiving Tips Solved on About.com and even that article recommends ThermoWorks!  Most recently we used it for Beer Can Chicken, one of Nathan’s favorite simply & easy things to put on the grill.  Click below for the recipe!

ThermoWorks_beer_can_chicken

**This is not a sponsored post, as I was not compensated.  I was however provided the Chef Alarm, and the Pro Series Needle Probe for review.  As you can tell I was highly impressed with this product.  This post contains affiliate links, and I get a small referral compensation if you purchase.**

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sweet Soy Grilled Short Ribs

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As the weather has turned crisp, we haven’t completely abandoned the grill.  I recently found short ribs on sale, and thought I’d treat Nathan to a nice meal.  We only go out to eat about once a week, both to save money, and because Elliott’s behavior in restaurants can mean we spend more time trying to get him to behave, than we spend enjoying our meal.  I could easily see these short ribs costing $18 or more at a restaurant.  It’s nice to enjoy a restaurant quality meal from the comfort of our own home!

I marinated these overnight, then following some of the commenters suggestions, I cooked these in the slow cooker for about 4 hours.  Afterwards I reserved the remaining marinade and reduced it on the stovetop.  Nathan finished these off on the grill for that great grilled taste.  It was the perfect lazy Sunday meal, requiring little actual effort.  These had fantastic flavor, and were perfectly tender.  I loved the sweet/tangy flavor combo.  It wasn’t too strong of a flavor either.  I paired them with coconut rice (jasmine rice cooked in coconut milk), and some steamed broccoli.  I feel like I never seem to post dinner recipes these days, so it was important for me to share this!

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal

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As it turns out, my infant who happily munched broccoli, gobbled up asparagus, chowed down on Winter Squash Quinoa Chicken Stew, and would pretty much at least try anything has slowly morphed into a toddler that will eat almost nothing.  Ok, so not QUITE almost nothing.  He does have a list of approved foods, things like: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, pears, bananas, kiwi, bananas, & raisins.  Sense a theme here?  Fruit fruit fruit.  There are a handful of non-fruit things he’ll eat, such as pizza, full fat greek yogurt, muffins, crackers, granola bars, cheerios, bacon, lunchmeat & cheese (but only about 30-40% of the time I offer it), and spaghetti (sometimes).  I very much did not want to raise a picky eater, but here I am.  Because he will eat muffins, I wanted to offer him a breakfast option similar to muffins, but perhaps a bit healthier.  Also, I was curious to see if he inherited his momma’s love of pumpkin.

This baked pumpkin oatmeal recipe originally called for it to be made in muffin tins.  I ended up baking mine in a mini loaf pan and I’m glad I did.  I still had a portable breakfast (when wrapped in foil), but I could slice off exactly the portion I wanted.  I worried with muffins I might end up eating 2, when 1 1/2 would satisfy me.  I certainly loved this breakfast treat!  It was similar to a muffin, as I expected, but heartier.  This really kept me full all morning long.  And as I would heat it up in the break room each morning at work, I often got compliments of “That smells amazing!”

Now, you’re probably wondering how my little picky eater liked it.  Well… in true Elliott fashion, one day he ate about 1/2 of what I gave him (which meant he liked it), the following two days he refused to eat any of it, and the fourth day he ate 3 bites.  Sheesh.  All I know is, I’m definitely making this again in the future, whether he eats any of it or not!

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Vanilla Bean Sorghum Syrup

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I keep a big batch of cold brewed coffee in the fridge because we really like iced coffee, and it’s convenient in the mornings.  Nathan puts store bought caramel syrup in his, but I prefer homemade syrup.  I often make ginger syrup, vanilla bean syrup, or when the season is right a batch of gingerbread syrup.  A few years back when pumpkin spice syrup started making the rounds I made it too, but I wasn’t blown away by it.  A few weeks ago I set out to make the best pumpkin spice syrup ever and did a LOT of tweaking.  While it was pretty dang good, I felt it needed further adjusting to the spice ratios and method to truly be called “the best ever”.  When it ran out I just didn’t have the energy that night to do “recipe development”, so I decided to make a simple vanilla bean syrup.  (Side note, with as many times as I’ve made vanilla bean syrup, I can’t believe I’ve never blogged it.)

As it was simmering, I got to thinking… One of my favorite coffee shops in town, Crema, in the past has made a Bourbon Barrel Sorghum Latte.  Being a Kentucky girl, I was raised with sorghum as an alternative to honey or molasses.  I’ve used it a Pumpkin Nut Muffin recipe on the blog in the past, and mentioned putting it in steel cut oats.  The sorghum in my pantry had crystalized and needed reheating to use.  I got to thinking that I could swirl it into the vanilla bean syrup to give it another depth of flavor.  This turned out to be a spectacular idea.  I may abandon the idea of working on the pumpkin syrup recipe, because this was quicker & easier, and SO DELICIOUS!  I’ve been using it in coffee, but I oughta work on putting it to use in cocktails!  It really does just give it an extra depth of flavor, with a touch of the sweetness & flavor of sorghum.  The sorghum pairs with the vanilla bean perfectly as well.  If you can get your hands on some sorghum, I highly suggest making a batch of this!

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Chocolate Covered Pumpkin Truffles

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One of the most popular posts on Erin’s Food Files is the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles.  I originally posted these way WAY back in 2008.  The mere fact that I was blogging in 2008 is a bit mind boggling to me.  My life was incredibly different at that time.  I actually started my blog in August of that year because I was bored, and had free time on my hands.  I loved cooking and baking, and the blog was a great outlet for that, and a way to use up all my free time.  Now free time is a lovely memory.  In a perfect world I would work fewer hours, and I would have someone come and clean my house once a week.  But in reality, I get home at 6:15pm at the earliest every day, Elliott’s bedtime is 7:30, and by the time I finish with that I usually have about an hour or so to wash dishes and prep dinner for the next night.  My weekends are spent chasing after my on-the-go-all-the-time toddler, making up for lost time with him & my husband during the week, and also trying to get household chores done.  Finding time to bake is rare!

Considering autumn is my absolute favorite season, no matter how hectic my life is these days, I make room in my busy schedule to at least do a little baking!  I love seeing the renewed interest in the original Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles each year as autumn rolls in.  The original recipe uses white chocolate chips in the pumpkin mixture, and white chocolate almond bark for the coating.  These truffles are a riff on those, because I’ve gotten a handful of people asking about substitutions and such.  I knew replacing the coating would be a simple sub, but I didn’t want to sub regular chocolate chips for the white chocolate ones in the filling because you’d lose the pretty pumpkin color!  Then I realized I could substitute butterscotch chips for the white chocolate chips in the filling (and thinking of these cookies is what triggered that!).  The white chocolate in the filling of the original truffles is hardly noticeable, and a similar effect happens here.  You really can’t tell there is butterscotch in the filling.  Hence the reason this post is not titled “Butterscotch Pumpkin Truffles”.  They merely add a depth of flavor and thickness to the truffles.

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When I made these, I broke it up into steps; I made the filling one night when I was exhausted before bed.  I rolled them into balls in the morning, then stuck them in the freezer. I did the chocolate dipping in the afternoon.  As I was waiting for them to cool I was DYING to try one!  I could not wait to sink my teeth into them to see if they lived up to my expectations, to see how they compared to the original, and (most importantly) to see if I got it right on the first attempt.  Well, the wait lived up to the hype.  These were OH SO GOOD!  I might even say I like them better than the original.  But, I can’t be certain as I did not do a side by side comparison.  ;)

Click more for the recipe!

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