Monday, September 29, 2008

Country Bob's Sauce

So a couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a gentleman named Al Malekovic
who, it turns out, is part owner of a company called Country Bob's whose products are All Purpose Sauce for Steak and Hamburgers, etc. as well as Seasoning Salt and Barbeque Sauce.

He wrote and asked if I would consider using the sauce and reviewing it on my site. Naturally, I said yes and was happy to do so. And honestly, since my site is a fairly new one, I was pleased that someone has visited it and chosen to make me the offer. (See their link at the bottom of the page)

A few days later in came the package with two bottles:

So I promptly opened up a bottle, and took a whiff, and thought.... "Hmmph, steak sauce, smelled just like A-1" so no great shakes there.

But true to my word, a few days later I grilled a nice piece of NY Strip, just used the sauce as an accompaniment.

Now let me tell you straight up. I cannot be bought, I'm not swayed easily, I speak my mind and say what I think.

This sauce is GOOD! Very good. It does smell like A-1 at first, but it in no way tastes like it. A-1, in my opinion has always had a slightly bitter aftertaste that stays on your tongue. I feel the same about Heinz 57 sauce.

Country Bob's sauce is tangy, a bit sweet, and very savory, without any after taste. I REALLY liked it on my steak.

Now I know, that's a "busy" photo, but man what a great meal, baked potato, sour cream, shredded cheddar, some spinach souffle, medium rare NY strip, dipped liberally throughout the meal in Country Bob's all purpose sauce. I was a satisfied consumer, believe me.

BUT, we're not done! Oh No.....we got more.....!

I love baked beans. I usually buy New England Baked Beans, and touch them up myself with mustard, ketchup, brown sugar and Worchestershire sauce, and then cook them slowly for a couple of hours. Been doin' that for years.

Yesterday, just took some beans and slathered some Country Bob's on them, mixed them up, and baked on low for two hours..... Delicious!!!!

Here's what it looked like before I stirred the sauce in and baked them in an ovenproof dish....

I then decided to make meatloaf. I don't eat meatloaf often, although I do like it, but once I've had meatloaf, it seems like I have tons of meatloaf left over and don't want it anymore. (It's a lot like Easter Peeps, I love Easter Peeps, but once I have them a time or two, I, uh, don't need to see them for another year)

So I made meatloaf with Country Bob's sauce. Here's the recipe:

1 1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onion (I used a cup of Walla Walla sweets)
12 saltine crackers, crushed
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce
1/4 cup milk
1 T. Country Bob's Season Salt (of which I had none, so I used regular seasoning salt)
Salt and Pepper to taste.

Combine the ground beef, onion, cracker crumbs, eggs, Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce, Country Bob's Season Salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Shape into a loaf and place in a baking pan. Spread the desired amount of additional Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce on top of the loaf. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until the loaf is cooked through. Remove the loaf and let stand for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Now let's face it, there is a basic problem with photographing meat loaf. The problem is: It's MEATLOAF! Not a very attractive subject. Nonetheless, I did my best:

Actually, this looks pretty good. The meatloaf was gone a week ago, I think I'm ready for some more.

Now, I thought, I got one bottle left, let's try it on a burger..... A Grilled burger from the barbeque..... Here it is, and it was delicious!

By the way, that is Provolone on my burger. Yeah, I'm a cheddar guy, but Provolone is great on a burger, try it if you haven't.

So now, lastly, if you look at the bottle and read it carefully, it says:

See how it's called All Purpose Sauce? And then it says under that Steak, Hamburger....

And one line lower it says Chicken? I thought, no way. I see the sauce with beef and pork, but not chicken, couldn't possibly be good. But, being the test subject that I am, I decided to barbeque a huge chicken breast, with a little skin left on, and the ribs intact, and do nothing but baste it with Bob (as I now call him) while it grilled.

Here ya go:

I cannot tell you how good this was. Perfectly done chicken, juicy, with a tangy delicious crusty outside. Bob is my friend, I shall cook with him from now on. For all I know, this stuff is great on pancakes too!

Thanks Al!

So here's how you get Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce....

1. You could start a food blog and beg Al Malekovic to give you a free sample to try. Al's Email
2. You could always buy some....that might be the better way to go.... Country Bob's Website

All I can say is, seriously, I am buying this sauce from now on. I wonder if they sell it in my area? Hmm..... Al, you market in Seattle?

My thanks to them for letting me participate.

Ron Merlin

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Deep Dish Chicago Skillet Pizza

So...... a little background regarding Chicago style deep-dish pizza.....

Back when I was (I actually still am somebody but I don't travel like I used to)

I used to travel to Chicago like 4 or 5 times a year.

And always, always, during the trip, we would go have Chicago Style deep dish pizza.....

Couple of things about Chicago pizza....It's unusual....

It's the crust, and it's DEEP, then the cheese, then the toppings, and THEN the sauce is all over the top..... This is NOT Papa John's or Pizza Hut....!

But I always LOVED it...... One of the places we always went to was...Uno's

So, here's the deal.....(I say that a lot, I know) So here's the deal....the other night, I was watching TV and something I was watching featured a deep dish authentic Chicago Style Pizza.....

And I thought, as I watched it, Damn, that looks good, wish I could make and blog that....and then I thought, if I only had a deep-dish pizza pan, I bet I could...... And then....and then....

I thought, hold on! I got a 12 inch cast iron pan I cook and bake in ALL the time, why can't I use that?

So............... here ya go..... My homemade Deep Dish Chicago Style Pizza.... (seriously, do try this, I think you'll like it)


The dough:

3/4 cup warm water, almost hot
2 tbl olive oil
2 pkg yeast
1 tbl honey or sugar
1/4 c cornmeal
1 c flour

At this point "proof the yeast" mix the above ingredients together, and let sit for 15 -20 minutes.....If the mixture becomes foamy, you're good to go, If not, dump it out and start over.

Then into the yeast/honey mixture blend in 2 tsp salt, 1/4 c cornmeal, and 1 c flour.....

To be honest, it will probably take like almost another cup of flour, but the secret is to add flour in 1/4 cups increments, and totally incorporate. When the batter is totally sticking to the spoon, or paddle..... (Please see, and please get..... The Bad Boy)

Then it is ready to spoon out onto a floured board, then sprinkle flour over the top, and knead it 3 or 4 times....

Then you have an option, you can let it rise then in a covered oiled bowl for an hour, or place it into an oiled bowl, covered, overnight or up to 24 hours.....

When I made this one, I left the dough covered overnight in the refrigerator, and then the next evening, took it out, let it warm to room temperature, and it rose again, and then I pounded it down, (to take the air out of the risen dough)....kneaded a couple of times only, and then rolled it out to fit the size of the pan....(12 inches)

Prepare whatever meat or additions you want on the pizza.... I chose bacon, but you can do sausage, pepperoni, or obviously whatever you want.....

For the sauce..... place the contents of a 28 oz. can of tomatoes in a strainer and let it drain all the liquid out....

Now, grease the skillet with olive oil and sprinkle some cornmeal into it and swish them around to distribute and dump the excess out.... (The cornmeal acts like little BB's to keep the dough from sticking)

Take the rolled out dough, lay half over the other half, and lower into the skillet and unroll and press the dough into the pan.... building up the sides.... No need to be even, just roll it up the sides....

Take whole mozzarella and slice into thin slices and cover the bottom of the dough....

I then take processed sliced mozzarella and place that over the cheese I've already covered it with....

Now layer whatever meat you've chosen to use....

Lastly.....pour the tomato sauce over the top........ and spread evenly....

Then, sprinkle the top of the sauce liberally with Italian seasonings.....

Lastly, sprinkle the entire pie with Parmesan cheese....

Bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes or until all is golden brown, including the crust....


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cookie in a Cookie

So when I started this little blog of mine, I naturally began to regularly read other blogs, both for inspiration and for ideas as to what to cook and display. Usually my surfing reminds me of a recipe from the past so I make that.

But this day, I came across a recipe I had NEVER heard of and it instantly intrigued me. Full credit of course goes to And a Cookie for Dessert by way of Big Fat Cookies. I made only slight modifications to the original recipe.

So here's the premise.... Have you ever had a crunchy chocolate chip cookie? NO, none of us has, unless the lil sucker was burnt.....In which case one would say to the baker, Dude, 10 - 13 minutes, not so tough.

Here's the deal, in this recipe you make a chocolate chip cookie dough, bake 10 cookies, and let them cool. You then crumble those cookies INTO the remaining cookie dough and bake out the dough from that point.

They are amazing! Still chewy and chocolaty, but cookie crunchy at the same time! I made them and took them to work and they lasted, ummm, about 10 minutes. You have to give them a try, they really are that good.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp espresso coffee powder (my addition because I love coffee and chocolate. I, ahem, DO work for

2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Sift the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until blended, about 1 minute. Add the eggs and vanilla and coffee and mix until blended, about 1 minute. On low speed, add the flour mixture, mixing just until it is incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Drop 10 heaping tablespoons of dough 3 inches apart onto a cookie sheet. (I chill the dough for 10 minutes before making the first batch of cookies) Set aside the remaining dough.

Bake until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned but the centers are golden, about 13 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Break the cooked cookies into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. Add the pieces to the reserved dough and mix on low speed to distribute them evenly, about 10 seconds.

Refrigerate the dough for about 15 minutes between batches to make it easier to work with and to keep the cookies from spreading too much. (Wiping down the cookie sheet between batches helps with this also.)

Using a tablespoon drop the dough onto the cookie sheets and bake about 15 minutes, just until the edges start to brown.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

C'mon, you see the crunchy cookie bits inside? Great recipe.....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cheese Grits n' Eggs....

If you truly need me to post a recipe on how to make Cheese Grits and how to fry an egg, I will, just let me know.

But in the meantime, what a simple, good breakfast with a cold glass of milk.

(You know you're hooked on blogging if you photograph your Breakfast, and then post it for cryin' out loud)

Nonetheless.... Cheese grits n'eggs.... Perfection at it's simplest....

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Intense Chocolate Shock Cookies

So I was surfing blogs in my Newsgator account (you, of course, have a Newsgator
account, right?) and came across a recipe that caught my eye.

What I liked first of all was it was a chocolate cookie that used melted chocolate instead of cocoa. I've always found that to be a much richer tasting cookie.

Secondly, the blogger mentioned that she found this recipe on a piece of paper taped in the back of an old cookbook she had bought at a yard sale.

Third, you GOTTA love the name of the cookie.

Then I was hooked and HAD to try the recipe.

It immediately flashed me back to being like 10 years old and cooking out of Mom's Betty Crocker cookbook and I remember it seemed most pages had stains or bits of food from all the times it had been used.

Anyway, full credit goes to Baking Blonde who graciously gave me permission to blog her recipe. I made a couple of minor changes, but it is mostly intact. Enjoy!

source unknown

4oz. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 tbl butter, cut into chunks
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp espresso coffee powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper.In a microwave save bowl combine the chopped chocolate and butter. Heat in microwave stirring every 20 seconds. Heat until almost melted, stirring until smooth and melted. Do NOT overheat chocolate mixture.In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, espresso powder and vanilla on high speed until light and fluffy (about 2-4 minutes).Reduce speed to low and slowly add the melted chocolate mixture. Beat to combine. Add the flour mixture until and mix until just combined.Gently fold in chocolate chips.Place dough in refrigerator for 15 minutes.Drop dough by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet. Bake 10-13 minutes or until tops are shiny, center is soft but edges are set.
Do NOT overbake. Allow to cool on sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to rack to cool completely.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Twice Baked Potatoes

Simple, quick, and delicious. My kid's favorite. What I really like about twice baked potatoes is you can change and mix the ingredients however you like. I make them with varying combinations of different types of cheeses (swiss, parmesan, gorgonzola, etc), cottage cheese, yogurt, broccoli, horseradish, cheese whiz, cream cheese, etc.

Here's the basic recipe though:


Two large russet potatoes
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 stick butter
1/3 c chopped green onions
4 strips bacon, cooked and broken into pieces
3/4 c sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste


Pierce potatoes with a fork a few times and pre-bake in the microwave on high for 12 minutes. (Microwaving before baking makes the skins crunchier when done)

Remove and place in a 350 degree oven and bake for 40 minutes.

Add all remaining ingredients into a small bowl.

Remove potatoes and carefully slice potatoes in half and spoon out the insides onto the ingredients in the bowl.

Let sit for 10 minutes to let the potatoes melt the ingredients.

You may use a mixer to blend ingredients but I prefer a hand masher so that a good deal of texture remains in the potato. No need to mix completely, I like a roughly distributed mixture of ingredients if you know what I mean.

Spoon the potatoes back into the skins and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ron's Buttermilk Biscuits

You like buttermilk biscuits? I LOVE buttermilk biscuits.

I have eaten them with breakfast, with dinner, for a snack, with butter, jelly, honey, sausage milk gravy, and even as the basis for shortcake.

And I have made and eaten a ton of them over the years.

Have you read recipes that warn you about not over-handling the dough or the biscuits will be tough? Well, actually, I believe that is true. And who want's a tough buttermilk biscuit?

So, it's MY opinion that if you follow this recipe, they will yield the lightest and fluffiest biscuits that you have probably had.

The reason you ask? Because you do NOT over handle the dough. Here's how.


2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup of chilled butter cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups cold sweet buttermilk

Preheat oven to 500 degrees

Add all dry ingredients to a food processor.

Add chilled butter pieces and process on and off until butter is incorporated. (Do not over process or the butter will begin to soften)

Pour mixture into a medium bowl and add buttermilk. Stir buttermilk in briefly. Yes BRIEFLY! I stir around NO MORE than 3 times until just combined.

The dough will be wet, sticky, and look a mess! THAT is what you want. (Trust me on this)

Take a small bowl and add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of flour.

Grease and flour a nine inch pie pan.

Take a large spoon, scoop one big scoop of the dough, and drop it into the flour in the bowl. Sprinkle flour over the top of the dough. The dough "ball" is now covered with enough flour that you can gently pick it up and toss from hand to hand gently to remove excess flour. Then place in pie pan.

Continue doing the same with the balance of the dough. Now melt 1/4 cup of butter and brush it over the top. It will look ugly. Just like this:

Place into 500 degree oven for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 400 degrees. Bake approximately 35 minutes until they are tall and golden brown.

Your "mess" will have been transformed:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Vanilla Bean Corn Toasties

I was cruising through recipes at Recipezaar the other day and came across Corn Toasties.

OMG, I haven't eaten a corn toasty in a hundred years.

When I was a kid, we were always popping these in the toaster for breakfast.

I believe they were made by Howard Johnson's at the time.

Anyway, I just HAD to make them, and they were good. Give it a try.

1 stick butter, melted
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs
1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 c cornmeal
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt
1 c milk

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a medium-sized bowl mix together the melted butter & sugar. Stir in the eggs and the seeds from one vanilla bean. Add the baking soda, cornmeal, flour & salt. Mix until everything is moistened. Stir in milk and mix thoroughly.

Lightly grease a 13 x 9 baking dish. Pour the batter into the dish and spread evenly to all the corners.

Bake for 30 minutes and/or until beginning to brown along the edges.

Cut into rectangles or squares that will fit in your toaster. Store in a freezer bag.

To serve, toast in a toaster & top with butter, syrup, honey or jam.

Adapted from Recipe #66449 on Recipezaar by Charles Bisceglia

You know you're a food blogger when

You refuse to purchase white bowls or measuring utensils because they don’t photograph well with sugar and flour.

Before you had a food blog, you filled up the camera’s memory card maybe twice a year with pics of your kids. Now, you fill it up once a week and there isn't a single pic of your kids on the roll.

You want to buy a half gallon of milk in the yellow carton so you can rinse it out and use it as a prop for ingredient pics.

You save your old sugar bag and stuff it, taping it shut so it appears full – again for pics.

Your entire house is a disaster but the place where you photograph food is immaculate!

You cook entire meals just to do tutorials, giving no thought to the fact that your children will not eat a single thing that you’ve made.

You feel guilty if you cook something and don’t take photographs.

You make stew in August 100 plus heat so you can get a jump start on fall blog posts.

You no longer determine your best recipes by how much you love them, but by how many hits they got when you posted them.

You only want to cook on sunny days (food photographs better in natural light.)

No one can eat until all of the pictures have been taken.

Reprinted with permission from Christy at Southern Plate.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Vanilla Buttermilk Currant Scones

I love scones. And since I have an "over-abundance" of vanilla beans.....(click here) I'm adjusting recipes that even REMOTELY could use real vanilla beans. And actually, this
one came out very well. Please give it a try if you like scones. Adapted from

2 cups unbleached flour
1/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 vanilla beans
2/3 cup currants (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Cut the butter into small cubes and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles small pebbles.

In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk, egg, and then carefully cut vanilla beans and scrape seeds into the mixture. You may toss the husk in also, and let sit for about 20 minutes to absorb additional vanilla flavor. (Discard husk)

Add to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the currants.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead no more than once to three times. Shape dough into a circle about 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick, and cut into triangles.

Place onto an ungreased baking sheet. Melt 2 tbl of butter and brush each scone with butter and then sprinkle a light coating of sugar over each.

Bake for 18 to 25 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Insert a toothpick to center of scone; if it comes out clean, remove sheet from oven.

Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet. Remove scones to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Delicious with jam, jelly, honey, or my favorite, a plain small pat of butter. (With Starbucks coffee of course)

p.s. Ya know those little Starbucks vanilla scones? Take out the currants, add some vanilla frosting to this recipe, and there ya go.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

CVN 69 USS Eisenhower

Upon arrival here's how I was greeted at the airport:

Well I'm back from Norfolk, Virginia. Was so nice to see my boy and spend a few days with him.

We spent a day on the USS Eisenhower out to sea, watched an airshow, ate some meals aboard ship. Then we spent some time at Virginia Beach, flew kites, drank a few cold beers, shot some pool, did some body surfing. Not a bad weekend at all.

Here's some shots:

There she is looming over the sky in the early morning hours. And when I say early morning, I came from the West Coast so it's 2:00 am my time. (yawn) Only 16 hours to go.

Geez, it doesn't look like he TRULY likes Ike.

Gives you and idea of the size of the flight deck..... 4 1/2 acres!

The 'Island'.......My son climbed the radar tower one night....apparently radar cooks you....

Airshow 22 miles out to sea, landings, retrievals, bombs, 30 Cal machine guns, two fly by sonic-booms, in addition to dogfighting and other maneuvers....

Kinda looks like we like one another huh?

Abandon Ship!!!!

Virginia Beach Boardwalk:

He thinks he's cool..... (well, he's not too bad actually, but don't tell him I said so)

I'll miss the old boat, but after SIXTEEN freaking hours on it, I'd had enough! I have no idea
how these kids spend months on this thing. I have new found respect for every Navy man.