Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Holiday Hiatus!

Seasons Greetings

We are taking some time off over the holidays to enjoy our friends and family. We'll be back Tuesday, January 7, 2014 to share new recipes, tips and information with you. Stay tuned - we'll announce the first 2014 post on Facebook. If you're not a Facebook fanatic, you can join us again right here in January.  The Winter 2014 class brochure is full of great classes for seasoned chefs and culinary hopefuls. If you are looking for a last minute gift idea, please consider a Cooking School gift certificateThanks for your support of The Cooking School at Jungle Jim's! Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Meat-Full Meal!

For the Meatloaf Connoisseur

Fans of meatloaf will enjoy this iconic American comfort food - with a twist! Since we specialize in the extraordinary at Jungle Jim's International Market, how could we not add a flavor kick to this classic dish?! The dark, rich glaze topping this meatloaf is a bottled balsamic glaze made by Gia Russo. The heady aroma of balsamic vinegar will draw your family and friends to the table to enjoy this easy-to-prepare dinner entree. The perfect combination of lean ground sirloin and ground pork creates a moist meatloaf with a big punch of meaty flavor.

The ingredients for this meatloaf are easy to find on the shelf:  ground beef and pork, pesto, bread crumbs, eggs and sun-dried tomatoes. The prepared pesto is from Stonewall Kitchens. The Cooking School just completed "The Distinctive Flavors of Stonewall Kitchens" class and enjoyed the pesto in the mashed potatoes dish. The bread crumbs are freshly made. If you don't have fresh bread crumbs, you could substitute panko. Oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes are a good choice here - they will be moist and can be easily blended into the meat mixture without being chewy.

Gently mix the ingredients by hand - don't overmix! Form the ingredients into a 9x5-inch loaf on a foil-lined sheet pan. You may notice that we cover most of our baking sheets with foil - it makes for a quick and easy clean up!

The grease around the pan is a yellowish hue because of the red color of the sun-dried tomatoes. You can drain the excess grease before adding the glaze.

Once the meatloaf is glazed and completely cooked, allow it to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving. A side of mashed potatoes and some steamed broccoli would complete this meal and make a healthy, colorful presentation.

Italian Meat Loaf with Balsamic Glaze

Meat Loaf:
3/4 pound ground beef chuck
3/4 pound ground pork
1/2 cup prepared pesto
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2/3 cup chopped drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt

2-3 tablespoon prepared balsamic glaze, optional

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 11x7-inch shallow baking dish with foil.

Combine all ingredients, except balsamic glaze, in a large bowl and mix gently, but thoroughly with your hands. Form the mixture into a 9x5-inch loaf in the prepared baking dish.

Bake 55 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160° when inserted into the center of the loaf. Remove from oven and spread top with balsamic glaze, if using. Return meat loaf to oven for 3-5 minutes to set glaze. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Serves 4-6

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Let's Have Cake

"Baking" in the Microwave

Sometimes it's fun to just play in the kitchen. Today in The Cooking School at Jungle Jim's International Market, we decided to test a cake recipe "baked" in the microwave. To be honest, it felt a little like being 10 years old and baking with an Easy Bake Oven! We eagerly stood around the microwave waiting to see how our cake would turn out. Unlike the spongy texture of remembered childhood "cakes", this Espresso-Walnut Cake was moist with a nice crumb. Disclaimer - This is not an oven-baked cake, but for a spur-of-the-moment, no-muss-no-fuss cake, it was good. The coffee flavor and walnuts elevate it to an adult-level and the espresso butter cream icing is yummy. The only childhood behavior left to indulge in is licking the spoon!

You will need a microwave-safe pan for the cake. We had a Pyrex 6x8x2 inch glass pan that worked really well. Lightly spray it with non-stick cooking spray.

The ingredient list is short and you may have most of them in your pantry with the possible exception of the instant espresso powder. You may substitute instant coffee granules for the espresso. If you are making a trip to Jungle Jim's, you'll find the espresso powder in the Italian section of the International Department.

Leigh mixed the batter with a handheld electric mixer, but you can use a stand mixer, too. It comes together quickly and the aroma of the espresso is nice. The purple spatula is a hands-down favorite utensil in the Cooking School. The Gourmet Galeria carries Switch It by Chef'n in many bright colors. It can withstand high temperatures - we use these spatulas in every class!

As you can see, there is not a copious amount of batter. It came up about a fourth of the way up the side of the pan.

We microwaved the batter just as the recipe stated. After the cake has cooked for the  2 minutes at 50% power, you will notice that the batter along the edge looks slightly wet. Ignore that and just look for a toothpick to come out cleanly from the center.

When the cake is finished it will come up about halfway up the pan. Wait until the cake cools completely before you ice it. This may be overkill, put have a piece with a cup of coffee!

Espresso-Walnut Cake
For the microwave

3 ounces very soft butter
3 ounces sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 ounces self-rising flour
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
¼ cup chopped toasted walnuts

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon milk
2 ounces very soft butter
4 ounces confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts

Grease an 8x6x2-inch baking dish* with nonstick spray.

Make the cake: Beat the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs in 2 additions. Add flour and espresso powder and mix well. Stir in ¼ cup walnuts by hand. Scrape batter into prepared baking dish, spreading evenly.

Place in microwave and cook at full power for 2 minutes. Reduce power to 50% and microwave again for 2 minutes. After the 4 minutes, check to see if cake is cooked – it should have risen, will spring back when touched and a toothpick should test clean when inserted in the center of the cake. If it needs a bit longer, microwave at 50% power for 1 minute more at a time, checking for doneness after each minute. Do not overcook or cake will be dry. Allow cake to cool completely on a rack.

Make the espresso buttercream: Dissolve the espresso powder in the milk in a medium bowl; add the butter and confectioners’ sugar and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Spread the buttercream over the cool cake and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts.

Serves 4-6

* Jungle Jim's carries the 8x6x2-inch glass baking dish in the American Grocery Dept.