How to Make a Great Dinner with no Recipe

The hub-dubs and I went trout fishing in the Bighorn Mountains today. 

The deal is this: if I go help him get a load of firewood, we get to spend the rest of the day fishing.  I’d say that’s a solid deal. 

Last time we went, we had very little luck–between the two of us fishing for three hours, we caught 5 and kept two fish.  Not a stellar batting average.  Today, though, we met our limit of rainbow trout in 2 hours.  And by we, I mean the Cod-man.  I caught two all day and kept one fish.  I’m pretty sure it was a pity fish.  I was a bit jealous until I realized we would have enough trout for four meals. 

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Trout are awesome.  They’re easy to clean, have very few scales, and taste delicious.  I got to work frying some up when the Hub-dubs suggested I write a blog post.  I told him I didn’t measure anything let alone write it down, when it hit me: you don’t really need a recipe to make a great dinner–you just need the Internet and a vague (and I mean vague) idea of what you’re doing.  This post is more of a guideline post. 

We decided to pan-fry our trout tonight so we got out the trusty old cast iron pan and filled it with less than an inch of oil.  While the oil is heating, mix up a batter.  A simple egg wash and flour batter is perfect for these fish because it’s a nice light batter that adds flavor.  In one bowl, lightly whisk one egg and a little bit of water or milk.  In a separate, shallow container (think sandwich-size Ziploc containers), combine flour and your desired spices.  I used a little over 1/2 c. of flour and had a lot left over.  Anywho, add whatever spices you’d like and get your flour mixture to the taste you want.  The spices I used this time were:

  • Dill Weed
  • Black pepper
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Old Bay
  • Dry mustard

The amount of spice and what I use varies every time, so it’s like a surprise dinner every time we eat!

When your oil is almost ready, go ahead and batter the fish.  If you have a lot of fish to fry, only batter what will be used in the next batch.  Otherwise the batter will get soggy and it won’t fry nicely.  When the oil is ready, put the fish in and fry for 2-3 minutes per side. 

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Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. 

Here’s my biggest dilemma though: I had no tartar sauce.  I really enjoy my sauces (especially ketchup), and not having any tartar sauce seemed a bit like a sin to me.  So I did some searching on the handy-dandy Internet (thank you, technology), and found recipes for homemade tartar sauce here, here, and here.  Then I winged it.  It looked to me like there was about a 3:1 or 4:1 mayo to sour cream ratio (or you could add the tangy zip of Miracle Whip, a personal fav), pickles or relish, onion, hot sauce, pepper, lemon juice, and whatever else tickled your fancy.  So I made up my own:

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  • 3 big spoonfuls of Miracle Whip
  • 1 regular-sized spoonful sour cream
  • Couple dill pickle slices, chopped fine
  • Onion powder
  • Black pepper
  • Old Bay
  • Squirt of lemon juice
  • Couple drops hot sauce

I just kept adding things until it tasted like what I wanted, or in the Hub-dub’s words, something I “wouldn’t be ashamed to serve to company.”  Seriously. 

I just had a vague idea of what all I needed and then winged it. 

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Then I decided to have a beer with dinner just to make sure everything would taste fine =) Enjoy!

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Labor a Little Bit Donuts

Ahh, Labor Day Weekend.  A really good excuse to lounge around and enjoy (for many of us) an extended weekend and for my husband and me, enjoy some time with his folks who are visiting from WI. 

It all started yesterday when we decided it would be a good day for a donut.  The Hub-dubs and Dad-in-Law went to the bakery to find…it was closed! For Labor Day weekend!  Garrr.  Then I had an idea that was partially inspired from Pinterest (namely, this recipe here). 

First, let me tell you a little bit about donuts.  I worked in a bakery when I was in college.  Eventually I got promoted to donut-froster extraordinaire.  It was a cool job–I was always busy and usually had a full day in by noon, but I HATED donuts.  Hardcore.  Three years after working there, I enjoy a donut every now and then, but don’t like them on a regular basis.  Be forewarned though: when I want a donut, I want it NOW and there’s nothing in the ‘verse that can stop me from having a good donut.     

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Enter biscuit donuts.  They are easy, delicious, and will have your skeptical spouse giving you high-fives while he/she is drooling over your incredibly awesome donut. 

You only need a few ingredients, really:

  • 1 package Pillsbury Grands! biscuits

  • Oil for frying

for bavarian cream donuts:

  • 1 small package french vanilla pudding

  • 1.5 c. milk

  • about 4 oz. chocolate chips or chocolate candy bar

  • 4 T. Milk

  • 1 T. butter

  • 1.5 c. powdered sugar

For fruit-filled donuts:

  • jam, jelly, or pie filling of your choice

  • equal amounts of cream cheese and powdered sugar, for cream cheese frosting

  • Sugar for coating

  • Splash of vanilla

Special tools:

  • Pastry bag with metal tip (the donuts will fill, just not as well, with a plain ziploc bag)

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Those few ingredients can make all this–yum!

I would recommend using the homestyle/original/plain-jane type biscuits–they worked really well.  But here’s the dilemma I found myself in: There are a lot of types of biscuits and I mean A LOT.  The decision about which biscuit to get can be pretty overwhelming–so make a right where I made a wrong: drink your first cup of coffee before going to the store to pick them out.  I think the decision will be much clearer then. 

So gettin’ back to the gettin’: this is all I had to get at the store:

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Fill up a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed frying pan with oil and turn the burner to medium heat.  While that’s heating, mix the pudding with 1.5 cups of milk.  Add a splash of vanilla.  Put the pudding in the fridge to firm up until you’re ready to fill the donuts. 

While your oil is heating, grab a small saucepan and add 4 T. milk, 1 T. butter, and whisk until butter is melted. Add chocolate chips and whisk again until melted.  Remove from heat and add the powdered sugar. Again, whiskwhiskwhisk! There might be a few granules left in the mix, but that’s ok.  Set aside to cool. 

Once the oil is heated, put the biscuits in the oil–I did four at a time.  (Here’s a nifty little aside: I tried the whole “put a popcorn kernel in your oil and when your oil is ready the popcorn will pop” trick but it lagged by about 10 minutes–it’s best just to throw a drop of water on the oil and stand back–when it sizzles put  your stuff in).

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You can already tell these are going to be good, huh? Fry those puppies for about 2 minutes on either side until they’re a nice, golden brown.  The best method to turn the biscuits are to use two wooden skewers normally reserved for kabobs. 

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Once you’ve cooked the donuts on both sides, lay them on paper towels to dry/cool while you make the next batch. 

When you flip your last batch to the second side, go ahead and turn the burner off.  Your oil will stay hot enough to finish the final side of the donut. 

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See how they puff up like a real yeast donut? That is grade-A awesomeness right there…but you haven’t gotten to the fun part yet. 

It’s filling time! Use jam, jelly, pie filling, pudding–whatever you have on hand to fill these. 

Have you ever filled a cream puff? The concept is the same.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a metal tip with the filling of your choice, insert the tip into the side of the donut (midway between the top and the bottom), and fill ‘er up until it looks/feels full. 

Want to know another advantage of using a bamboo skewer? When you lift it out of the oil, the pointy side will poke a hole in the donut, allowing steam to escape and giving you a perfect place to start filling. 

Once everything is filled, then  you can frost–with the chocolate frosting we’ve made, with cream cheese frosting, or by simply dunking them in granulated or powdered sugar. 

To make cream cheese frosting, combine about equal parts powdered sugar and cream cheese. Add a splash of vanilla and mix well.  Then frost.  It takes up to 1 T. frosting for one donut. 

Viola! You’re all ready to enjoy your delicious donuts.  Be sure to save the oil so you can make them again!

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