Nik Snacks

Bite it and write it. That's what I do.

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On 10:50 PM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , ,    7 comments

 This post is sponsored by Idaho Potato Commission I received compensation but, all words, opinions and photos are mine.

Spicy Potato Picadillo Tacos are the perfect weeknight meal. Ready in less than 30 minutes, super smoky, spicy and savory ground sausage is mixed with a piquant picadillo studded with sliced olives, plump raisins and spicy baked potatoes folded into soft, warmed tortillas.

Q: What is Picadillo?
A: A dish based in Latin American cuisine that is made with ground meat, tomatoes, raisins, olives and other ingredients that all vary by region.

Tacos are my favorite things to make right after biscuits and this recipe is going to make a regular appearance on my weekly menu plan.

This year mearks 6 years since I was invited to Idaho to participate in the annual Idaho Potato Harvest Tour by the Idaho Potato Commission.  Every year the Idaho Potato Commission hosts bloggers, influencers and other food professionals during the potato harvest. Because of travel restrictions and COVID-19, the tour couldn't take place in 2020 so former guests were asked to share a different part of the Idaho potato story, tour memories and make new ones online.

THIRTY POUNDS of fresh Idaho potatoes were delivered to my house to prepare for a week of potatoes in every meal. You can see those meal ideas HERE.
 

DID YOU KNOW THAT Idaho is perfect for growing potatoes because the climate actually mimics the South American Andes, where potatoes are indigenous? Idaho is covered with vacant lava flows and the soil is rich with minerals and it drains well.

DID YOU KNOW THAT the potato harvest takes place late September through early October for the ENTIRE YEAR? Every single potato. The potatoes have to be harvested before the frost sets in.

Agriculture is so important and without farmers, the men and women who are committed to sowing, growing and distributing the ROOTS of their labor, we would not have great varieties of potatoes to eat! The most coveted and widely used variety of potato is the Russet. There are 1,000s of varieties, but Russet is by far the most popular and widely available. 


The neutral flavor of the potato is a perfect canvas for all of the flavor that the picadillo gives you. Don't be afraid of raisins and olives mixed together. The little bit of sweetness from the raisins is tempered by the sharp flavor of the tiny, yet mighty, olive. The potatoes are spicy as in heavily spiced and not hot on the scoville scale, unless you want them to be in an extra addition of hot pepper sauce. A bit of dry white wine (or whatever you have on-hand) deglazes the pan and brings all of the flavors together.


Spicy Potato Picadillo Tacos
Yield: 8 ½-cup servings, 2-3 tortillas each


SPICY POTATOES
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large russet potato cut into small cubes

1 T smoked paprika

1 tsp chili flakes

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried thyme

1 T hot pepper sauce

1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper 


PICADILLO

1 jalapeño, cored, seeded, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 lb ground hot sausage

½ cup dry white wine

¼ cup  raisins

¼ cup pimento-stuffed green olives, drained, cut in half

1-2 T chives, finely chopped for garnish



INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss the potatoes in olive oil and season them with paprika, chili, cumin, oregano, thyme and hot pepper sauce. Bake until they’re golden and cooked through. This will take about 20 minutes. Stir them at least once halfway through cooking to make sure they are brown on both sides.

2. Heat a large, deep skillet (preferably non-stick) over medium-high heat. Add the ground sausage to the skillet. Stir, while breaking up any large pieces using a wooden spoon or a spatula.

3. Cook the sausags for 3 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally.

4. Add the white wine to the skillet. Stir and gently scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes until most of the liquid cooks out. Add the raisins and olives to the picadillo and stir well to combine. Cover the skillet, turn off the heat and let the picadillo sit approximately 10 minutes. Add the spicy baked potatoes to the picadillo and garnish with chopped chives. Serve with warmed tortillas.

Optional additional garnish:

•Lime sour cream (add fresh lime zest and lime juice to sour cream)

•Shaved parmesan or Asiago cheese

•Sliced scallions





On 9:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , ,    No comments
2020 is the year of the crab for me. I had crab legs for my birthday,  intermittently during the summer (they were on sale! Like, BOGO sale; I couldn't resist) and that leg love has extended to the crabmeat family and now I'm making crab cakes every weekend. 

Marylanders are SUPER SERIOUS about their crab cakes. When they tell you how it should be done, you should do it. The only filler is crushed saltines and Old Bay seasoning is not a suggestion, it's a must that is just as important as the crabmeat itself.


Jumbo Lump: Jumbo lump crab meat is queen of the crabmeat family. It comes from the crab’s swimmer fin muscles and crabs only have 2 of these. You need a A LOT OF CRABS to make one serving of jumbo lump crab meat. This is why it’s the most expensive type. Don't be surprised to see it range from $30 to $50/lb.

Lump: Lump crab meat is a bit smaller than jumbo lump. It comes from the body of a crab and is the standard for crab cakes. It too, is expensive, but it's the preferred choice of meat for this recipe.

Backfin: Backfin crab meat comes from the body of the crab too. The term “backfin” can also include the broken pieces of lump crab meat. It’s flakier than lump crab meat.

Claw: Claw meat is darker than the other types of crab meat. It’s not as sweet, but it has very strong flavor. Claw meat is the least expensive and is ideal for soups, dips, and stews. It may not be pretty, but it still tastes good. The price range on this is more accessible ($12-20/lb) and is usually what I go for in the store. 


Some cooks prefer to sautée or sear their crab cakes on the stove in butter. If I'm being honest, that's how I prefer them. BUT... I heavily recommend the baking method. When cooked on the stove, that leads to a lot of user error, burnt butter, flattened patties and disastrous flipping techniques. For juicy crab cakes that don't fall apart, I recommend baking so they cook quickly, evenly and retain their texture. Don't worry: You can still have the butter too.

Maryland-style Crab Cakes

2 eggs, large
1 cup crushed saltine crackers
3 T mayonnaise
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T horseradish
1 T Old Bay
1 T Old Bay hot sauce
2 t Worcestershire sauce
2 T chopped dill
2 T chopped parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 lb crab meat
½ cup panko breadcrumbs (optional)
¼ cup melted butter

1. If necessary, pick through crab meat for shells ( jumbo lump crab will not have shells). Put the crab in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

2. Combine with the crab meat, mayonnaise, Worcestershire, horseradish, parsley, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, crushed saltines, egg, lemon zest, dill and Old Bay seasoning. Stir the mixture lightly just until mixed together uniformly. 



3. Scoop the crab mixture using a 1/3-cup measure and form cakes. Place each one on a prepared sheet pan.

  • 4. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the cakes. Cover the with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes up to 1 hour.
5. Drizzle each cake with a little melted butter. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes. Serve with remoulade.


Remoulade is simply fancy mayonnaise used as a vehicle for some tasty things to accompany seafood dishes. Every recipe is a course in trial and error. Ecru time I make it, it tastes similar yet different and that's how I like it. No recipe or ratio here. Just add a bit of this or that and make your own too serve with your crabcakes.

Mayo
Mustard
Ketchup
Garlic clove
Horseradish
Lemon
Paprika
Hot sauce
Pickle relish or chopped gherkins


On 6:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , ,    17 comments

I love football season. I come from a football-watching, TV-yelling, ticket-buying, smack-talking football family. We usually watch college football on Saturdays and Philadelphia Eagles and/or Carolina Panthers on Sundays. In general, we as a family are not tailgaters. But I'm a tailgater. 

Tailgating is code word for eating and drinking. Back in 2009, I was practicing both code words to the best of my ability at a Carolina Panthers game and I broke my arm

This time around, I'm just going to stick to what I know best and make the food. I'm going to start the season off right with Cheerwine BBQ Pulled Pork.


What is Cheerwine you ask? It's a cherry soda that is manufactured in the Carolinas. It's been enjoyed by Carolinians since 1917 and in recent times, it's been distributed in other states in the South and New York. It's like the a wishniack or a cherry-flavored Dr. Pepper, but with much more juiciness and flavor.

Also very Carolinian, is BBQ pork. BBQ, barbeque, barbecue--however you spell it, it's NOUN down here. Not a verb. We use the pork shoulder here in the Piedmont (Western part of the state), as opposed to the whole hog in the Eastern part of the state. The pork shoulder is also called a Boston Butt. Or--a pork butt.



I like to take my slow cooker to the football field (hello, car adapter plug). Everyone loves a good slow cooker recipe! 

The Cheerwine helps break the pork down and keeps it juicy and sweet; a few chipotles to make it spicy and ketchup gives the BBQ a little tang.

Put a little South in your mouth with this recipe!

Cheerwine BBQ Pork
Yield: 8-10 3 oz servings 

4 lb Boston pork butt (also known as a pork shoulder)
2 cabbage leaves, torn
2 cups tomato ketchup
6 chipotle peppers with 2 Tablespoons adobo sauce
32 oz. (4 cups) Cheerwine
Rolls or buns of choice

Place the cabbage leaves in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Place the pork butt on top of the cabbage (fat cap side up) and add the ketchup, the chipotle peppers, pour the Cheerwine on top and cook on high for 4-5 hours (or on low for 8 hours).

Halfway through the cooking time, flip the pork butt over.

After the initial cooking time is over, very carefully remove the meat and the cabbage leaves from the slow cooker and place on a large cutting board or platter. Discard cabbage leaves (or eat them as a snack) and shred the pork by using two forks, pulling the meat and the forks away from each other. The meat should be very tender at this point.  Place the shredded pork back into the slow cooker and continue to cook for an additional hour. Top onto your roll or bun of choice and serve.


To get more ideas for tailgating recipes and visit other bloggers, look below:

Warm Ups (Appetizers):
Game Time (Main Dishes and Sides):
Overtime (Drinks and Desserts):
On 11:54 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , ,    22 comments
One of the first things I ever learned how to make was a biscuit (well, I'm sure there were at least eight of them, but you know what I mean). My grandmother let me peer over the counter as she sifted flour, cut up butter, and rolled her way across the counter.



I got to pat dough.

I got to play with yeast (cake and granulated).

I got to use real butter, margarine, and trans fat-free buttery spreads.

One time and one time only did we use Crisco. It was butter flavored and it could have been sawdust-flavored for all we cared. It was gross. Yuck.

I have a hard time referring to cookies as digestive biscuits because I've only known biscuits to be ethereal bundles of flaky, fluffy, luxurious joy.


Every night Grandma made dinner with a meat, two vegetables, and a bread. 90% of the time it was biscuits. It was a special treat to get Jiffy cornbread, topped with butter, studded with corn and diced jalapenos, or swirled with fresh herbs. But the biscuit ... Oh! The biscuit. High upon its pedestal, to this day it stands high above the rest.


When it comes to baking, it's an exact science. That's why many cooks say they don't or can't bake. Honestly, it takes skill, dedication, and pure concentration to measure, weigh, and calculate ingredients. When you cook, you can literally throw anything in a pan, turn on the heat, stir it, and it's done. It's easy to master the science of coagulating and denaturing of proteins or the breaking down of cellulose.



The Chop Shop of Biscuit Making

Flour: Unbleached all-purpose flour is the trademark of American baked goods.


Whole-wheat flour will make us all heart healthy, but it will also make your biscuits heavy and dense. I'd rather be light and fluffy. Sorry. LOL. The bran in the whole wheat flour cuts the gluten strands and makes it short (the premise behind shortbreads and shortcakes), causing the bread to be dense.


The best combination of flour for biscuits is one part all-purpose and one part cake flour. Cake flour is soft and has a lower gluten protein percentage. It clumps in your hand when you squeeze it. Swans Down is my favorite. To make your own: Add 2 Tbsp cornstarch to 1 cup all-purpose flour. It's a reasonable facsimile, but only do it if you must must must.



Self-rising flour is one of the most wonderful inventions ever. In any self-respecting Southern woman's cabinet, there are two bags of flour: regular all-purpose and self-rising all-purpose. You never know when you'll need one or the other. Preferred brands include: Gold Medal, Martha White, and White Lily.

I'm going to be honest, my grandma really didn't like having huge bags of flour with little white girls on it, so we usually had Gold Medal.

Self-rising flour sometimes tastes salty, so that's when adding your own baking powder and baking soda comes into play.

Leavening: This is what separates the women from the girls. It's what makes the biscuits rise and get fluffy. Whichever leavening agent you use, it works like this: it reacts with the moisture, heat and acidity in the dough to produce carbon dioxide--which then becomes trapped as bubbles within the dough. Yeast, buttermilk, sour cream, baking soda, and baking powder all all acceptable agents. Using them correctly is key.
If using self-rising flour, skip this step. The baking soda and powder are already included.
Yeast is a beast. It's living, real, and unkind in foreign lands. Sugar feeds it. Salt kills it. Potato starch nourishes it. Heat inhibits it. One wrong move, and it's over. Yeast is why I don't bake bread. It makes me want to cry. I like kids, but I don't want to babysit any yeast.
Buttermilk is simply soured milk full of cultured bacteria. It gives biscuits a slight tang in taste. To make your own, add 2 Tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup milk. Let sit for 10 minutes e voila, you have soured milk. It is NOT the same as buttermilk, but it will do in a pinch.

For baking powder, I prefer Clabber Girl. There is a lip on the inside that you can scrape your measuring spoon against to level your powder. Ingenious!

Fat: Cutting the fat means something entirely different when it comes to biscuits. As we all know, fat equals flavor. My preferred fat is ice cold cubes of salted butter. Shortening (Crisco), bacon fat, margarine all can be used. Cooks will swear by shortening, but I don't like to use it because it changes the mouthfeel of the biscuits to something more akin to plastic than biscuit. I've used oil in a pinch, but butter makes it better. For sure.

The less the dough is worked, the more tender the biscuits will be. Knead the dough just until it comes together in a ball. Gently rework the scraps and use those, too. It's hard times right now--waste not, want not.

Placing the biscuits close together helps them rise and stay fluffy. Placing them apart makes them crustier.

To cut biscuits, a biscuit cutter isn't needed. If you have one, that's great, but the floured rim of a drinking glass, shot glass, or the top of a Mason jar will do. Use a knife if you want square or diamond shaped biscuits.

Stacked, crusty biscuits waiting to be buttered.

Buttermilk Biscuits Yield 12 to 16 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp butter
1 cup buttermilk

Basic Biscuits Yield 12 to 16 biscuits

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp butter
1 cup milk

(Follow instructions for either recipe)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Sift dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut butter with your fingers, fork, or pastry cutter until the mixture looks like course crumbs. Pour in the milk and stir it with a fork until the ingredients are moistened. Lightly flour the counter or another work surface and turn out the dough. Pat into a circle between 1/2 and 3/4 inches thick. Cut biscuits into desired shapes. Rework scraps and cut them into shapes as well. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.




THIS is why I'm glad to be Southern. 
Thank you, Jesus, for small miracles.

*NOTE: This post was updated and refreshed in 2020. But biscuit-making has been the same since forever, so there's that...
On 9:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , ,    No comments

I wrote a thing about pimiento cheese this week and it got me thinking about what goes into GOOD pimiento cheese and it starts out with: 
"There used to be a time when the only debate about pimiento cheese was whether to spell it with an “i” before the “e.”

If you've ever worked in a restaurant in the south with this spread on the menu, you probably call it "pimp cheese". These days people do try to pimp out their cheese spread studded with pimentos. But not me. I KISS IT. Keep it simple, southern lady.



Mayo or May-nah

I don't care what you use. Diehards use Duke's mayo. I use Hellman's. I do not condone the use of Miracle Whip for any purpose except to leave it in the store where you found it. 

The mayo simply binds the cheese shreads together with the pimientos, making the spread creamy and palatable. I like adding cream cheese to my recipe because it gives the recipe more stability. If you're at a picnic, this version is less likely to melt and get weepy. Also, it helps spread on crackers and bread easier.



Classic Southern Pimiento Cheese 

Yield: 1 quart


4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz cream cheese, softened
¾ cup mayonnaise
2 jars (4 oz each) diced pimentos, drained or 1 cup roasted red peppers, finely diced
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce 


1. In a large mixing bowl, place the cheddar cheese in an even layer. Scatter the cream cheese, mayonnaise, pimientos, smoked paprika and hot pepper sauce over the cheddar cheese. Using a spoon or rubber spatula, mix the pimento cheese lightly until it is smooth and spreadable, without overmixing.

  1. 2. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator up to one week.



Shred your own cheese. Use a food processor (which I really dont recommend) or a box grater, but I definitely recommend shredding your own cheese instead of using store-bought shredded cheese.

I don't recommend a food processor because most of the time, it OVER-processes the cheese and it becomes a matted, mottled clump of cheddar and not only is the texture off, it throws of the balance of flavor once you mix everything together because you have to OVER-mix it all to make it taste like something.

Can I use packaged pre-shredded cheese?

Of course! You can use whatever kind of shredded cheese you want (but sharp cheddar is best). Pre-shredded cheese does have a light coating of cornstarch to keep it from clumping together, but if you're okay with that...
It also makes the cheese not cream together as well as cheese that is freshly shredded from a block of cheese. But sometimes the spread can be TOO creamy (too much mayo, too much stirring, too much trying) so pre-shredded cheese is 1 less step and a foolproof way to pimiento cheese nirvana.



Pimientos Vs Roasted Red Bell Peppers

Technically, both are mild peppers and few people can tell the difference between the two. Pimientos come pre-diced and in smaller jars than red bells. They're also a little bit sweeter and tangier than their cousins. But once you've covered them in mayo and sharp cheese, nobody knows except you and your grocery receipt. 


Additional seasonings and add-ins.
You can include other spices and seasonings if you prefer. Garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and hot sauce are common. I've even seen people swear by Worcestershire sauce and dried ground mustard (which normally I add to EVERY dish I make that has cheese, but not this). 

You can add grated onion, fresh garlic or olives, jalapeños (the most popular addition, I think) or bacon to jazz it up (or hide the fact that you're boring in real life) if you like. I won't judge. I think I’ve tasted most variations (I've even had a version with carrots that was an attempt at health) but I always go back to the basics. Honestly, one of the main tenants of pimento cheese is simplicity and ease. It takes less than 10 minutes from start to finish and that includes taking a swig of whiskey from a jelly jar after you've wiped down the counter when you got done.

Chips, dips, crudités, breads, crackers, hamburgers, cheesecakes, finger sandwiches... however you're eating your pimento or pimiento cheese, just remember to enjoy yourself.
 

On 3:36 PM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , , , ,    16 comments



I've never been to Greece (but I've seen it from a boat!) and I really don't know much about authentic Greek cuisine, aside from what my Greek friends have taught me, what I've eaten at restaurants and the annual Greek festival. Nearly every city has an Orthodox church that holds a Greek festival each year and that is where I get MY fix of gyros, spanakopita, loukoumades (ohhhh my gahhhhh), moussaka, souvlaki, and Greek dancing to burn off the millions of calories I've consumed. I can say that my favorite Greek is the gyro (YEAR-oh).

I've made gyros on the blog before. Many moons ago, it was one of my first posts. The ones I made today are soooo much better. And there's an actual photo of the final product!

The gyro is typically a pita filled with hot, juicy thinly sliced meat sandwiched between crisp lettuce, ripe tomatoes and a cool, tangy cucumber Tzatziki sauce. The typical gyro meat you get at a restaurant is sliced off a spinning electric spit and believe it or not, it's a lamb/beef mixture because lamb is expensive and mixing the two meats is more flavorful.

My gyro is 100% lamb. It's a roasted lamb shoulder, actually. The lamb is roasted with garlic, oregano, red wine, rosemary, sea salt and then chilled to solidify and remove all of the excess fat, sliced. Then, more garlic, some oregano and a tiny bit of vinegar are added to a hot cast-iron skillet with the sliced lamb and caramelized. Assembled with fresh tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, pita and wrapped in foil to create a vessel for easy eating, this gyro is packed full of flavor without all of the extra oil and calories.


Sliced lamb shoulder. It looks a little dry, but wait---


Bam. Juicy lamb cooking up in the pan




A little drizzle of tzatziki sauce never hurt anyone

Quick Tzatziki Sauce
Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup cucumber (peeled, seeded, and diced)
2 teaspoons dill, fresh
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir until well combined.
Serve with gyros or fresh vegetables

Greek-style Gyro 
Serves 8-10

1 5–6-lb. bone-in lamb shoulder, fat trimmed
2 tablespoons sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
10 garlic cloves, chopped
3 Tablespoons oregano, chopped, divided
3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Sliced lettuce and tomatoes, for gyro assembly
Pita bread, for gyro assembly

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Place lamb in a large roasting pan and season generously with salt and pepper, coating evenly on all sides. Make 1-inch slits all over the lamb and insert the bits of garlic into each slit. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons rosemary all over lamb.

Using your hands, rub marinade into meat, making sure it’s completely coated. Arrange fat side up in pan. Cover very tightly with foil and place in the oven.

Roast lamb, 25 minutes per pound (about 3 hours), until meat is tender and pulls away from the bone.
Remove pan from the oven, lift off the foil and tent the lamb. Let it cool for about 2 hours. at the 2 hour mark, recover the lamb and place it under refrigeration for an additional 4 hours, overnight, or until the fat solidifies and is easily pulled away. Slice the chilled lamb in thin strips.

Over medium heat, in a heavy-bottomed frying pan, lay the strips down and add remaining Tablespoon of oregano, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cook, flipping occasionally for at least 1½ minutes on each side, using tongs or a small flexible spatula to flip them, or until they are crisped and browned. Transfer the strips to a plate to cool briefly, then assemble in your preferred order with the remaining gyro ingredients on a gently warmed flat-bread pita. Fold and wrap in foil to help hold it together. Serve.
On 5:00 AM by Nikki @ NikSnacks in , , , ,    No comments
NIKKI SAYS RELAX #SangriaSaturday IS HERE. Be as cool as a cucumber. As cool as a cucumber dripped in melon, gin and fresh mint can be!



You are MINT to be chilling with this Cucumber Melon Sangria recipe. Your favorite Riesling or other semi-sweet white wine pairs perfectly with the botanicals of gin, diced cantaloupe and a fresh minty garnish. It's exactly what you need to chillout for the weekend. ENJOY!


If you like the video(s), SHARE SHARE SHARE. If you REALLY like the sangria video(s), gratuities and donations are always appreciated and welcome!
Cucumber Melon Sangria 4 cups cantaloupe OR honeydew melon, cubed 1 cup sliced English cucumber 1 750ml sweet white wine 1 cup fresh mint leaves Ice 1. Combine all the ingredients except the fresh mint leaves in a pitcher; stir. 2. Allow sangria to sit and macerate at least one hour in the refrigerator. Overnight is best. Stir in mint leaves just before serving.