Archive for the ‘Our Home Cooking with Alex Collins’ Category

“come mr. tallyman, tally me bananas…”

October 12, 2011
Another great recipe from Alex. This time a dessert!
Sautéed Bananas and Carmel Coated Pecans
2 bananas peeled, split down middle, and cut into thirds
handful of raw pecans, broken into pieces (as small or large as you’d like)
1 T maple syrup (more or less depending on your taste)
2-3 T butter
t Vanilla extract (more or less depending on your taste)
1/4 t ground cinnamon (more or less depending on your taste)
Melt butter in a saute pan over medium heat stirring frequently. Once butter has melted and browned slightly, add pecans. Cook until fragrant (3 minutes or so). Add the maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon. Cook 2-3 more minutes. At this point assess the caramel consistency. If it’s too thick, add a touch of water to thin out slightly. Once it’s a consistency you like, add the bananas to the pan and cook for 2 minutes or so (just until slightly softened.
Be careful not to over cook or it will become mushy.
Serve with ice cream, other fruit, whipped cream, or your favorite side…

I “heart” tomatoes…

October 6, 2011

If you still have tomatoes in your garden, 
you won't want to forget to use this recipe.
Doesn't Alex's dish look delish! 
(did I tell you he is a great photographer?)

Heirloom Tomatoes and Feta Cheese Salad - by Alex Collins
I referenced a food network chef's recipe, Ina Garten, for this but made a tweak or two... 

Here's what I used:

1 pound of cherry heirloom tomatoes
Low Fat Feta Cheese (you can use as much or little as you want)
1/4 red onion minced 
(deflamed, meaning you place the cut onion in cold water to soak with a splash of cider vinegar)
1/8 C Fresh Basil
1/8 C Fresh Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Didn't do any measuring but...
About 1/2 C Olive oil
About 1/3 C of Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar 
(any good champagne vinegar would work)
1 clove roasted garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

To start, throw the garlic (in its papery skin) on a skillet over medium heat. 
Let it cook on all sides until it's soft and the paper has burned. Remove from heat and let cool. 
While it's cooking, mince the red onion. Once minced, place in a bowl and cover with water. 
Add a splash or two of vinegar 
(I usually use Apple Cider Vinegar, but tonight I used the same vinegar that's in the dressing). 
Place in refrigerator to soak and let the onion lose it's bite.
Meanwhile, water and slice all tomatoes in half, or quarters (depending on size). 
Place in large bowl. Add feta cheese, basil, parsley and salt and pepper to mixture. Toss well. 

Combine Olive Oil and Vinegar and mix well. Remove garlic from burned papery wrapped. 
Rough chop it and add to the dressing mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
The longer you leave it marinating the more the garlic flavor infuses. Set aside...

Drain red onion and rinse under cold water. Add to tomato salad mixture. 
Toss salad with as much or little dressing as you like. 
It was really good without any dressing, making this a great salad that's guilt free!

This is one side dish that's easy to make, goes with everything, and is visually stunning!

best ribs ever

September 7, 2011
It’s hot and we are still barbecuing, so Alex sent me this mouth-watering rib dish. I kind of always thought you boiled your ribs, tossed them on the barbecue and slathered them with whatever bbq sauce you had in the house.
Not so.
Alex loves to cook and prepare his food. I’ve tried some of his recipes and I have to admit, preparation makes a difference.
You might want to write this one down for your weekend pleasure cooking.
Have you ever eaten something so good that you can’t believe your taste buds? Your mind can’t seem to comprehend that the marriage of flavors swirling around in your mouth work so harmoniously together. I have experienced this and it’s an incredible feeling. That feeling is exponentially greater when you made the food yourself from scratch!
This experience has been happening to me lately, but never more so than when I followed a recipe from’s Steven Raichlen and his Jalapeno Jerk Baby Back Ribs. These ribs are INCREDIBLE!!! Seriously, they were the best ribs I’ve ever tasted because they weren’t “normal” ribs. They were so much more with an amazing combination of spices and seasoning… It’s quite the event making these things, but it’s WELL worth the trouble. TRUST ME!!
Here’s what you need:
4 racks of baby back ribs, peeled (peeled refers to removing the outer membrane off the back of the rib)
For the marinade:
1 quart pineapple juice
1 bunch cilantro, washed and rough chopped4 to 8 jalapeno chilies, thinly sliced
For the Glaze:2 cups pineapple juice
1/2 cup rice or cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the Dry Rub:

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
1-1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1-1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1-1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 to 1 teaspoon scotch bonnet chili powder or cayenne pepper

Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix with your fingers.

For the BBQ Sauce:

2 cups pineapple juice
1 to 2 jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
salt (just a little) and freshly ground black pepper

Once you’ve removed the membrane from the back of the ribs, place the ribs in a large roasting pan. Place 4 C of pineapple juice over the ribs. Add 1 bunch of cilantro and 4-8 jalapenos that were thinly sliced. Let the meat marinade for a few hours. I let them marinade for about 5 hours turning 3 times…

While they are marinading, make the dry rub. Combine all these ingredients by hand and make sure to break up any clumps in the rub. Set aside…

Once that’s complete move on to making the glaze, which will be used to baste the ribs while on the grill. To make the glaze, combine ingredients in saucepan and cook on high until syrupy, 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally. It should reduce to about 1 C of glaze. Once finished, set aside.

Finally, you can work on the BBQ sauce. In saucepan, combine pineapple juice, jalapenos, ginger, and cilantro. Boil until mixture is reduced by half. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the saucy is slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste…

Ok, now that ALL the hard work is done, and your kitchen is back to looking clean again, it’s time to grill up some ribs!! When you’re getting ready to grill, remove the ribs from the marinade and discard the marinade. Let the ribs sit at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes. While warming up, rub the dry rub into all sides of the meat. Press the rub into the meat so it forms a crust.

Set up your grill for indirect grilling – meaning your outer burners are on and the center are off. There should be no fire on directly below the ribs… Get your grill to 325 degrees. Place the ribs on the grill with the rib side down. The ribs should create an arc while on the grill.

Close the lid and let the ribs cook for an hour. After an hour, take the glaze and baste the ribs generously with the glaze. Close the lid and continue to cook. Baste 3-5 times in the next 15-30 minutes. Total cooking time should be a half hour  15 minutes to an hour thirty minutes. They’re done once the meat pulls away from the tip of the bone and you can tear the meat off the bone with your hand. And/or when the internal temperature reaches about 170 degrees.

Let the meat rest for about 5-10 minutes. Then serve with the BBQ sauce.

I’m telling you, the exotic flavors you taste with the dry rub and the sauces and marinade make this an AMAZING dish. It’s so delicious!!!

perfect Labor Day bbq chicken

August 24, 2011
Alex, our teacher/chef, has come up with a perfect marinade for your Labor Day barbecue. Give it a try and impress your family and friends with a lip-smacking “end of summer” meal.
For weeks now I’ve tried finding a good way to make Bone-in-BBQ-Chicken. For some reason, however, the dish always goes awry. Usually, I have two problems… Bland and unevenly cooked chicken.
It’s not the flavors I put into the dish, but rather the amount of flavor I get back on my investment. I don’t get it! Recipes say, “Coat in marinade and let sit for 4-6 hours.” That’s never enough… My chicken tastes like, well, chicken! And we all know chicken without seasoning or sauce is flavorless.
Recently, however, I’ve realized the trick to fix this problem. MARINADE OVERNIGHT!!!
It’s SOOOOO worth the trouble to spend 20 minutes before hitting the sack to prepare a marinade and smother my chicken in it over night and into the next day. Trust me on this! Marinating for a few hours doesn’t work as well as overnight.
The other problem? Unevenly cooked chicken. It’s usually cooked outside and raw inside or cooked inside but burnt on the outside! I don’t get it. Well, that is, until now! I’ve realized the secret. Patience and utilizing a variety of heat levels on your grill. I’ll fill you in…
Here’s my very new recipe for Sweet ‘n Spicy BBQ Chicken
For the marinade:
1/2 C Ketchup
1/4 C Balsamic Vinegar
6 T Brown Sugar
2 T Sriracha
2 T Apple Cider Vinegar
4 t Garlic Powder
4 t Worcestershire Sauce
3 t hot sauce of your choice (I used a Louisiana Hot Sauce because I like the vinegary quality of it)
1 t Honey Mustard
1 t Dijon Mustard
2 t Paprika
10-12 Chicken Drumsticks
Combine all marinade ingredients in medium bowl… Whisk together and be sure to break up any clumps in brown sugar and Paprika (You can do this with your hands before adding wet ingredients if you like). Once all ingredients are well mixed set aside.
Under cold running water, rinse chicken. Pat dry with paper towel. Place chicken in Ziplock bag. Pour marinade into bag. Let all air out and seal. Mix marinade around to cover chicken well. Place the bag on a dish and refrigerate overnight. Like I said earlier, doing this the night before really flavors the chicken so beautifully.
When you’re ready to grill up your chicken, remove the chicken for the Ziplock bag. Don’t throw away that marinade!! Instead, pour it into a sauce pan and turn it to high. While stirring, bring the sauce to a boil and cook for a few minutes (1-2 should be fine, but if you’re nervous let it go for a little longer). You’re just killing any bacteria that came from the chicken. This makes a great basting sauce or additional BBQ sauce for dipping…
Set your grill up with a classic Indirect Grilling Setup. (For example, if you’re grill has three burners, like mine, turn the outer burners to medium and the middle burner off. If you have a charcoal grill, heat the coals and evenly distribute them on two sides of the grill with a drip pan in the center.)
Now, take the chicken and brush a little olive oil on them (or on the grill grates where you’re going to be placing them.).
To start, place the chicken directly over the fire on one side of the grill. This will let the chicken sear and carmelize the sugars in the sauce. After a few minutes, once the outside looks nice and seared, turn to do the same on the other side. Make sure to keep the lid of the grill closed during the cooking. It helps cook the food more quickly and evenly.
Once the second side is nicely seared, move the chicken to the center of the grill (over no direct heat). Continue cooking the chicken here. This method allows you to get those beautiful and tasty sear markings on the chicken but prevents the outside of the chicken from burning. When the chicken is nearly cooked (it took me about 10 minutes for the searing [5 minutes per side] and another 10-15 minutes or so in the center of the grill), I take the sauce that was boiled for a few minutes and baste the chicken to get more of that sweet ‘n spicy flavor in there.
Once finished, take the chicken off the grill and let it sit for a few minutes. All the best chefs will tell you not to eat meat directly off the grill. Give it time to rest and let the juices move back into place.
It’s SOOO worth it to wait. I was never patient and ate it right away. But now that I’m forcing myself to photograph my food directly off the fire, it’s allowed the meat to rest and the result has been amazing!
I always serve my BBQ Chicken with grilled corn-on-the-cob… Secrets for that recipe will have to wait for another week!

pancakes and cheese? try a McDufs…. a new recipe by Alex

August 17, 2011
Alex has been sending me some pretty interesting recipes. This one looks fun, quick and easy. A great finger-licking snack when you just can’t eat an entire meal. Give it a try. I’m going to…
This next recipe is an Alex original. It was created one day when I needed a quick meal and made due with what I had in the house. It’s simple, quick, unique, and oh so delicious.
I call them, “McDufs.”
Why McDufs? Well, years ago my brother and cousin affectionately (or maybe not so affectionately) gave me the nickname Dufresne, after the character Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption. The name stuck and has been shortened to Duf (phonetically Doof).
Anyway, as I was finishing the dish, I happened to think of the McDonalds items and how they are all called Mc … Now, don’t the wrong idea about me. I’m in no way a McDonalds fan. In fact, I HATE McDonalds! I really don’t like any fastfood, other than In-N-Out. But the name of the dish stuck and so I’ve kept it that way.
Here’s what you need:
One package of Potato Pancake Mix (found in Kosher section of Market… Don’t worry, this is by no means Kosher)
1 C of water (as instructed on the Potato Pancake Box)
1 Large Egg (as instructed on the Potato Pancake Box)
Rotisserie Chicken
Strawberry Preserves
Cheddar Cheese
Sriracha (Optional)
Prepare Potato Pancake Mix as directed on package … (Beat one egg in mixing bowl with fork. Add in 1 C cold water. Add Potato Pancake Mix and combine well. Let stand for 5-10 minutes to allow mixture to thicken).
Tear Chicken into smaller bite sized pieces or thin strips.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a thin layer of oil to fry potato pancakes (I use olive oil).
Once the oil is hot, place a spoonful of potato pancake mix into the oil and spread out slightly to make a pancake about 2 inches in diameter. Let cook under golden brown on bottom. Once browned, flip and cook until this side is golden browned too. Remove from pan and place on paper towel and pat dry to remove excess oil.
Take one pancake and place a slice of cheddar cheese on the pancake. Top with a few pieces of chicken (it’s up to your appetite to decide how much). Spoon on some strawberry preserves. And, if you like it a little spicy like me, squirt a little bit of Sriracha to add another layer of flavor and some heat.
Eat with your hands!! Fold it up like a little taco if things get a little out of hand and you can’t balance the toppings.
These sound a little strange, but I’m telling you they are GREAT!! And, they can be made in as little as 10 minutes or so. Great for a quick bite or a night when you don’t have the energy to make a full meal. Just a few of these (maybe 3 or 4, depending on size) and you’ll be set!

Who doesn’t love Teriyaki Chicken?

August 10, 2011
another great recipe from Alex’s kitchen 
Yakitori Chicken (Homemade teriyaki chicken)
3-4 Boneless Chicken Breast
1-2 Bell Peppers (Depending on how much you like)
1 Onion (I used yellow and thought it worked, you can always use Pearl Onions too, as that’s what the original recipe called for…)
For Marinade:
3/4 C Soy Sauce (I ALWAYS use less sodium version)
1/2 C Mirin (Sweet Rice Wine found in Asian section of market)
1/4 C Sugar
2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
2 teaspoons Minced Garlic (1-2 Cloves)
1 teaspoon asian sesame oil (hot or plain, depending on how you like it)
1/2 of minced shallot
1 teaspoon of Sriracha (hot garlic chili sauce. It’s my FAVORITE and I use it in everything!! You can always add more or less depending on your taste.)
To make marinade combine all ingredients in bowl and whisk together.
Rinse chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towel. Cut into bite sized pieces (1 inch pieces).
Remove stem and seeds from pepper. Cut into bite-sized pieces
Cut onion into bite sized pieces
Place chicken, bell pepper, and onion in resealable bag (or in large bowl) and cover with marinade. If in bag, let are out and seal.
Let marinade 4 hours or more. The longer you marinade the better it tastes!
When ready to prepare, remove chicken, onion, and pepper. Pour marinade into saucepan. Heat until boiling and boil marinade for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Take 1-2 Tablespoons of corn starch and dissolve in a little water. Mix this into the cooked marinade to thicken… If it doesn’t thick enough, add a little more…
Take chicken, peppers, and onion and grill over direct medium heat. Cook for 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked and veggies are done. Turn once during cook time and baste the trio with marinade half way through.
Serve with rice or Soba Noodles and enjoy!!

introducing Alex ….

August 4, 2011
I’d like to introduce Alex Collins. Alex and I worked together in the dying newspaper biz. He’s a great photographer and now it turns out he’s a pretty good cook too! I’ve been watching Alex post his fabulous dinner concoctions on Facebook and after several emails, Alex has agreed to post some of these great meals on this site for all to enjoy.
He was on vacation for a while. Now he’s back; rested, relaxed and ready to cook. Here’s his first submission:
Our Home Cooking
by Alex Collins
I’m back from Alaska. Of course, I still wish I were there. Despite the cold and rainy weather all week, I had an AMAZING time!! I absolutely LOVED everything about Alaska. The rugged terrain, wildlife, solitude while out in the forest, and so much more.
Sadly, I had to return home… But, to pick myself up and enjoy my day off today, I thought I’d prepare one of my favorite dishes and put a little “Alex” spin on it.

 Orange-Mango Chilled Soba Noodles.

It’s SO GOOD!!! Or, at least I think so. It’s a recipe VERY heavily based on a Susan Feniger recipe. This dish is perfect for these hot summer nights.
Here’s what you need..

1 Package of Soba Noodles (available in Asian section of market)
1/2 Cup Orange Juice
1/2 Cup Mango Nectar
1/4 C Soy Sauce
1/4 C Sugar
2 T Rice Wine Vinegar (seasoned or unseasoned)
2 T Hot Sesame Oil
1/2 C Chopped Scallions divided into 2 1/4 C piles
(Optional) 1 Block of Extra Firm Tofu

Start by cooking noodles according to package directions (boil in water for a few minutes… until tender when you bite into it). Then, once cooked, drain and rinse under cold water until noodles are cold. Remember this is a cold dish. Drain noodles again and place in bowl for storage (I use a large Pyrex dish). Set aside.

In saucepan cook orange juice and mango juice together on medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce to simmer and let cook until it thickens a little (about 15 minutes). You’re really trying to remove the acidic flavor from the juices.

Once slightly thickened, pour combined juices in blender. Add soy sauce, sugar, rice wine vinegar, hot sesame oil, and 1/4 C of the chopped scallions all to the blender. Blend on medium to combine. Then quickly blend on high to break down the scallions further. This doesn’t take more than a few seconds.

Once everything is blended, pour the mixture over the noodles.

Top with remaining scallions for garnish and added flavor.

Chill for as long as you like. The longer you let cool in refrigerator the more the flavors marry.

You can also add tofu that has been drained and chopped at the end. Make sure the tofu is fully drained because if not the water in the tofu will make this dish very bland. Trust me, I learned that the hard way!!

Well, that’s the first dish that I LOVE. My “spin” is by using orange and mango juice. It normally calls for only orange but I like the addition of mango.

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