Monday, October 16, 2017

Scratch Made Marshmallows & S'mores | DIY Marshmallow & Graham Crackers | Smores From Scratch

Marshmallows & Graham Crackers From Scratch | DIY Smore's

scratch made graham crackers
scratch made graham crackers

Years ago I made my own marshmallows, chocolate, & graham crackers so I could truly understand what would normally be a simplistic s'more sandwich. The graham crackers were simple, the marshmallows took a little work & some special ingredients  I normally wouldn't have on me, & the chocolate, the chocolate was just too much frustration & I ended up burning out the motor on my coffee grinder making chocolate from cacao beans. So if you are going to ever make s'mores, truly from scratch, I would recommend skipping the chocolate process!

So start with a quality mixer! I love my KitchenAid mixer & I use the sh*t out of it! You can get a good deal around Black Friday, but if you can't wait you can get this one on Amazon at a good deal.You can also use a quality hand mixer for the marshmallows & a food processor for the graham cracker dough. You can tell I'm a KitchenAid fan.

scratch made s'more
scratch made s'more

Here's my recipe for the graham crackers:

• 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
• 3 Tbl cane sugar
• 1 1/2 Tbl molasses
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 4 1/2 Tbl whole milk
• 4 1/2 Tbl butter
• 1/2 tea aluminum free baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In a mixing bowl add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, sea salt, sugar, cold cubed butter. Beat on low until mix comes together like coarse corn meal. Add molasses, milk, & vanilla & beat on low until you form a dough.

Roll dough out in between two pieces of wax paper until about the size of your cookie sheet. Peel off the top layer of wax paper & flip your bottom layer onto the a greased cookie sheet. Flatten & spread your dough evenly across your cookie sheet. Cut your dough into about 2” x 4” rectangles. Poke each cracker with a fork about 8 times.

Bake your graham crackers at 350 degrees about 12 minutes or until the edges turn brown &
crisp & pull away from the sides.

If you haven't yet invested in quality baking sheets, I suggest these.

For the marshmallows you will need:

• Pinch of sea salt
• 3/4 cup powdered sugar
• 3 1/2 packets unflavored gelatin
• 1 tea vanilla extract (not vanillin)
• 1/2 cup honey
• 1/2 cup hot water
• 1/2 cup water

Mix together the hot water & gelatin & set aside for 5 minutes. In a medium saucepan add your remaining ingredients & bring up to 240 degrees, be careful not to get the mix on your skin! Hot sugar is not easy to get off of your skin & WILL burn you badly.

Add your sugar mix to your hot water & gelatin & beat together with a whisk attachment on a mixer. After 5-6 minutes (when your marshmallows start to turn white) turn your whisk up to medium speed. Continue to whip your marshmallows until they about double in size. Your marshmallow mix should be whipped to stiff peaks, but not translucent! If your marshmallows are shiny/translucent
looking, you have whipped them too much!

Grease a 9” x 9” cake tin & coat in powdered sugar. Press or pour your marshmallow mix into tin to cool & stiffen. When your marshmallows have stiffened, cut them up.

Make your sandwich with graham cracker, toasted marshmallow, chocolate, then another graham cracker!

I have used many variations on s'mores, but my favorites are:

A: Graham Cracker, Caramel Sauce, Sliced & Cinnamon Sauteed Apple, Toasted Marshmallow, Crushed Toasted Pecans, & Another Graham Cracker.

B: Graham Cracker, Chocolate Sauce, Toasted Coconut, Toasted Marshmallow, Toasted Coconut, Walnuts, Chocolate Sauce, Graham Cracker.

C: Graham Cracker, Melted Chocolate Chips, Toasted Pecans, Toasted Marshmallows, Almond Butter, Graham Cracker.

Enjoy this old school video of me making some of my first scratch made s'mores!

- Johnny

Scratch Made Rosette Cookies | Christmas Cookies | Scandinavian Cookies | Fried Cookies

Scandinavian Fried Rosette Cookies | A Chicago Johnny's Tradition

I'm not entirely sure on how these Scandinavian cookies became popular in the Chicago Italian culture, but I'm guessing it's something as simple as small Italian grocers carrying the irons to make these cookies, thus inspiring people to make them. In our family we make them every Christmas Eve. These delicious, crispy, fried cookies are easy as easy can be to make! You just need a special iron for making these Rosettes.

I was introduced to Rosettes by my grandmother's side of the family. In fact, I remember my grandmother making these when I was a young boy for our annual Christmas Eve party in Chicago. When my grandma Annette passed I was young, but certain things she had done during my childhood stuck with me to this day. These Rosette cookies are one of my childhood memories & I think about them every year around Christmas time. 

To make Rosette cookies you need very few ingredients & a specialty iron. For ingredients you will need:
rosette cookies
Rosette Cookies
• 1 cup whole wheat flour
• 1 cup whole milk (you can substitute with almond or coconut)
• 2 tea vanilla extract
• 2 eggs
• 2 Tbl powdered sugar plus more for dusting finished cookies
• Lard for frying (my preferred method, but you can use canola or vegetable or coconut)
• Optional jam for filling

In our family we make our own hot Italian sausage, so I render the fat to make lard & then use the lard to fry my Rosettes. You can use store bought lard or even oil if you have it to fry your Rosettes. 

Make sure your oil or lard is at least 3" deep to avoid burning your Rosettes. Heat up your oil to 350 degrees.

While your oil is heating up, whisk together all of your ingredients. Set out a wire rack to cool your cookies & for dusting your cookies with powdered sugar. This recipe will make about 3 dozen cookies. 

To make your Rosette cookies, heat up your iron in the hot oil for about 30 seconds for the first cookie, then it only takes about 10 seconds for the rest. Take your hot iron & dip into your cookie batter, careful not to cover the top of the iron or your cookies may not come off of the iron easily. After you dip your iron in the batter, immediately dip your iron into the frying oil for about 8 seconds or until golden brown color. Take your iron out of the oil & tap your iron with a spoon or knife to release the cookie onto your wire rack. Repeat the process until you run out of batter or there is too much oil in the batter to make more cookies (each time you dip the iron into the batter a small amount of oil will be released into the batter, eventually the batter can become too oily & will no longer work to make cookies). 

Once your cookies cool, fill with jam if you choose this option, or flip over so the solid shape is face up. Then dust with powdered sugar. If your cookies are not cooled the powdered sugar will just melt & turn into kind of an icing. 

That's it. Cookies will hold up about 2 days before they get soggy, but are edible up to two weeks later.

- Johnny

Rosette Cookie Recipe
Rosette Cookie Recipe

Emo & Pop Punk Hot Sauce | Dark Matter Hot Sauce | Andrew McMahon | Jake Miller | Mayday Parade | State Champs | Joie De Vivre

Andrew McMahon | Mayday Parade | State Champs | Jake Miller | Joie De Vivre | Emo & Pop Punk Hot Sauce!

Andrew McMahon Zac Clark Hot Sauce
Andrew McMahon | Zac Clark Signing

Have you ever thought about bottling those Emo tears & giving them to charity? Well, we've kind of done that! Dark Matter Hot Sauce is a brand that hand makes hot sauces with limited edition artists' labels for charity. So far on the market are Andrew McMahon, Mayday Parade, State Champs, Joie De Vivre, & Jake Miller with limited edition bottles of only 1,111 sold to the public. But wait, there's more! There is charity involved!
Pop Punk Hot Sauce
Pop Punk Hot Sauce

The idea started in 2014 when I put Andrew McMahon's face on a label just for kicks. I got him the bottle with his face on it & was inundated with requests from his fans that wanted to buy the Andrew McMahon hot sauce. As an old school guy, I didn't want to make a quick buck on the image of Andrew McMahon, but as time went on I learned more & more about the Dear Jack Foundation ( & I friggin' love it! An organization with incredibly low overhead & that helps those individuals that really need it. So I came up with the idea that 30% of each sale go to the foundation & the rest of the money cover costs. So that's how came about, as a fundraising effort on my part for an organization that actually does good instead of just making money.
Dark Matter Hot Sauce
Dark Matter Hot Sauce

So Andrew McMahon's "Swim" 5 oz bottle & "I Woke Up In A Car" 10 oz bottle were our initial launches. Shortly thereafter was Joie De Vivre's "Maybe People Do Change." We got Mayday Parade on board with "Without The Bitter The Sweet Isn't As Sweet" & followed up with State Champ's "Slow Burn." Jake Miller was our latest release with "I Can't Help My Sauce" & we've raised over $1,500 so far for the Dear Jack Foundation! When I mentioned 30% of the sale goes to the foundation, that's what I meant; 30% of the sale, not the profit, 30% straight off the top!

Andrew McMahon Hot Sauce
Andrew McMahon Hot Sauce

Each limited edition hot sauce bottle comes wonderfully packaged & wrapped with a numbered & signed certificate of authenticity. Each label is numbered sequentially in order of the sale. We even have signed labels from most artists that are randomly sent with orders! Andrew McMahon & Zac Clark signed some rubber ducks for special orders too. 

Keep up to date with new artist labels & an upcoming extremely limited edition "Konstantine" label coming out soon! Follow us on Twitter @DMHotSauce & Instagram @DarkMatterHotSauce & Facebook

Friday, October 13, 2017

Kitchenaid Mixer Versus Sunbeam | Kitchen Aid Mixer Vs Other Mixer

So I recently started using a light weight mixer to shoot cooking videos in the studio. Only being used to a traditional Kitchen Aid mixer I was curious what the pros & cons were of this Sunbeam brand mixer. Without getting too lengthy in words, this is what I've found.

Using the Sunbeam mixer is most certainly not as high intensity as the KitchenAid. By far the KitchenAid has a superior whipping & dough kneading capacity. By far. For projects like make pizza dough, bread dough, or heavy yeast doughs, the KitchenAid wins, hands down.

When it comes to whipping (i.e. making marshmallows, whipped cream, egg whites, et cetera) the KitchenAid is superior in the sense that it will whip much smaller amounts. With the Sunbeam mixer I've found I need at least 2.5 cups of liquid to whip something where the KitchenAid will whip anything even as small as .5 a cup. The same goes for a hand mixer, whipping even the smallest amount is best with a hand mixer or a KitchenAid mixer.

Which brings me to my next thought, how often do you use a mixer? I am so used to making food in copious amounts for me, my friends, my family, & for catering. I forgot what it was like to make something in a small batch, & when I switched over to the Sunbeam my timing was off. I started shooting cooking videos making small batches of food, while the KitchenAid would have been best for these projects, I brought the Sunbeam because it was lightweight. The KitchenAid is very heavy in comparison. While at home the KitchenAid is great because it sits on the counter & I can use it about 4 or 5 times a week without an issue. However, if you are not using a mixer as often as I do you will probably keep it in a cabinet or closet somewhere. Moving the KitchenAid can be a b*&$h. The Sunbeam is incredibly easy to move, lift, travel with, et cetera. I do not recommend using a KitchenAid if you can not keep it on the counter.

Attachments were my last thought. The Sunbeam comes with two dough hooks & two traditional whip attachments (the same kind you would see on a hand mixer). The dough hooks of the Sunbeam are not nearly as heavy duty as the dough hook of the KitchenAid & the Sunbeam does not knead nearly as well as the KitchenAid. The whip attachment of the KitchenAid works much quicker than the Sunbeam, by far. The whisk attachment of the KitchenAid was my favorite new tool in the kitchen, this whisk attachment kicks some major butt. The 'Paddle' attachment of the KitchenAid does not come with the Sunbeam, & it was another favorite of mine. When making cookies, the KitchenAid 'Paddle' attachment is superior to the hooks of the Sunbeam. The 'Paddle' gets so close to the edges of the mixing bowl that when I cream the sugar & butter it comes out so light & fluffy; the Sunbeam does not even come close to the texture when creaming.

Does the Sunbeam work fine for the person only making pies for Thanksgiving every year, sure! It's lightweight, can be stored away without dreading having to pull it out of the cabinet or closet a couple of times each year. It will get most jobs done in a similar fashion to the KitchenAid. However, the KitchenAid whips, makes doughs, creams, gives beautiful texture to your baked goods in a way that the Sunbeam just can't.

Grab a KitchenAid during Black Friday deals if you can. They are usually about 30% off regular price. Mine has lasted 5 years so far & given me no issues, & I use it 4 or 5 times each week. With that thought, I don't ever want to move it around because it's so heavy in comparison.

That's my two cents on the Sunbeam vs the KitchenAid. Hope it helps!

Chicago Johnny

Smoked Italian Beef Sandwich Recipe | Chicago Johnnys Italian Beef

Make Smoked Italian Beef At Home!

For those of you outside the Chicago area, or without ties to the Chicago area, Italian beef is a round roast sliced thin & seasoned with oregano, garlic, salt, & whatever other spices depending on where you get it. I use Chicago Johnny's Italian Beef Gravy Seasoning & Chicago Johnny's Italian Beef Rub when I make my beef sandwiches. 

But today, today we smoke an Italian beef!

Chicago Johnnys Smoked Italian Beef
Chicago Johnny's Smoked Italian Beef

What you will need:

• Smoker
• Applewood (I use fresh cut)
• Water (for the smoker)
• Charcoal
• Water (for the gravy)
• Round Roast (I use eye of round because I can find                 them in smaller sizes than top or bottom round)
• Chicago Johnny's Italian Beef Gravy Seasoning
• French Roll
• Chicago Johnny's Hot Giardiniera
• Smoked Provolone or Mozzarella (optional)

So I grew up using torpedo smokers (as shown from Amazon below) so that is what I decided to use as an adult. Set up your smoker with hot charcoal at the base & add in your smoking wood (you can use your preferred wood, mine is applewood!). For a torpedo smoker add your water pan & then your racks. 

To prep your roast is so friggin' easy! Just rub your roast with Chicago Johnny's Italian Beef Gravy Seasoning & let it sit to absorb some of the flavor for about 8-10 minutes. Then rub with another heavily layered rub of the beef gravy seasoning. You can now add it to the smoker!

On the top rack (there are 2 in my style of smoker) is where I put the roasts. I put the roasts on top because I feel like the smoke is more rich up there. You can put the roasts on the rack directly above the water pan if it is something you want tender & that won't dry out (so i use that mostly for jerky).

smoked beef roast
Smoking My Italian Beef Roast

Your roast will take about 3 hours to smoke if it's about 3 lbs. I bought a 5.5 lb eye of round roast & cut it in half leaving the thin layer of fat on the roast, face up. Keep a steady amount of smoke by adding more wood, or chips, when you see the smoke thin out (you will see the smoke billow out of the lid at first, then it will slow down as the wood burns down). 

When your roasts reach about 15-160 degrees, it's ready to pull out. Wrap it in foil & let it rest about 15 minutes (or chill overnight if you are using it later). Slice incredibly thin.

To reheat your sliced meat if you aren't using it right away, simply make gravy stovetop by adding 2 tbls of Chicago Johnny's Italian Beef Gravy Seasoning to 1 cup of water. Get your gravy to a low simmer & reheat your thinly sliced, smoked Italian beef!

Make a sandwich on a toasted French roll, thin sliced beef, Chicago Johnny's Hot Giardiniera, & smoked provolone or mozzarella if you choose! Enjoy wit' some friends over a nice chilled Old Style.

Thank you to my smoking friends over at Old Style.

Order products at or from Amazon below.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Best Chicago Food Promo - Funny Chicago Marketing

In a city where "Eagleman" & the "Victory Auto Wreckers" commercials I thought it would be fun to play with the Windy City's sense of humor. We live in the center of a special accent, the Chicago accent. Where the words "Front Room" (in typical Chicago homes there is a room in the front of the house, often with a bay window looking over the street) we have combined the words into "Frunchroom". Where we turned the commonly used, "Garage Key" & turned it into a Polish sounding last name, "Grachki." I thought I'd have some fun with our regional foods, Giardiniera (pronounced Jar-Din-Air) & Italian beef sandwiches (often referred to as a "Beef Sangwich").

what is italian beef
Funny Chicago Ad

Monday, May 29, 2017

Chicago Gift Package - The Best Gift For Him or Her From Chicago - Chicago Food Gift

Did you marry or recently start dating someone from Chicago & you just don't know what to gift them?

Looking for the BEST CHICAGO GIFTS? Are you in love wit' someone from the Windy City & you just don't know what to get him or her? Maybe you just miss your family or home in Chicago & you want to taste some comfort food! Here are some of the top Chicago Foods on Amazon that will make you or your loved one feel at home! Regional foods out here truly are "Chicago Friggin' Delicious!"

chicago style italian beef
Chicago Johnny's Italian Beef Wit' Hot Giardiniera

Chicago Style Italian Beef "Sangwiches"! Absolutely da best ting' to come outta Chicago, because, well, it's the vessel that most commonly holds "Giardiniera!" So you married someone from Chicago & they are always talking about this mysterious meet sandwich wit' hot peppers & oil all over it, so juicy that you have to eat it wit' your elbows far out to your sides & your pinky fingers hanging out so the juices don't roll down your arms; the crunchy, spicy, acidic hot peppers balancing the flavors of the thinly sliced beef piled high on a luscious soft French roll dipped in the very gravy that the beef was cooked in. City workers rubbing elbows with CEO's & stock market traders in a standing room only "Beef Joint" while looking out the window watching traffic & people walk the streets. That's Chicago!

How do you compile this Italian beef 'sangwich' (you know, sandwich, but wit' a heavy Chicago accent)? First you start wit' da bread! In Chicago we use a high gluten French roll (typically Gonnella or Turano, but there are others). The bread needs to be chewy & dense wit' a tough & crusty exterior so that you can dip the whole sandwich to make it 'wet' (gross, right? Wrong!). Then you pile up some thinly sliced Italian beef that's been cooked, sliced, then heated 'tru' in the very juices that it was cooked in. An average 6" French roll will hold about 4-6 ounces of Italian beef when you make your 'sangwiches'. Then comes the greatest Chicago culinary creation, the Giardiniera (jarred-in-air). This pickled pepper, celery, cauliflower, carrot mix is a great blend of hot, crunchy, acidity, deep flavor that goes on top of the Italian beef sandwich (unless, of course, your want sweet peppers - a fried sliced bell pepper with oregano & salt, but trust me, you want some hot giardiniera if you can handle the heat). Cheese is optional at most Beef Joints across Chicago & is usually mozzarella or a mozzarella/provolone mix. Take this whole sandwich & dip it in the gravy to make a 'wet' sandwich or enjoy it as is for a 'dry' sandwich!

Get what you need for an Italian beef at home from Amazon!

chicago deep dish pizza
Chicago Johnny's Deep Dish Pizza

The Famous Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza! Is it really that deep? 

Well, yes it is! This Chicago classic style of pizza is not all about a ton more carbs, its about creating a 'wall' to hold in a lot more cheese, sauce, & toppings. When you make a deep dish pizza you 'pull up' the dough around the side walls of an aluminum pan to create a kind of pie crust. These high walls of dough are able to hold in everything, I guess similar to a pie! There is not much more dough than a traditional Chicago thin crust on the bottom of a deep dish (though there is a common misconception from outsiders that there is). Typically there is a lot of olive oil or butter (sometimes even corn oil) in the crust. This creates a flaky, rich, friggin delicious crust!

So once we've created this 'pie' dough we add cheese, usually a mozzarella, provolone, & Romano mix. Then we top the cheese with toppings (or fillings if you want to call them that). Some of the most common fillings are bell peppers, onions, Italian sausage (in a patty form or a crumbled form), spinach, & often pepperoni. Then, & this is the most confusing part if you are unfamiliar with deep dish pizza, comes the sauce! The sauce is generally a crushed tomato & spices mix to create a thick, rich sauce that won't slide off when you cut the pie. The reason sauce is on top of this amazing creation is because of the extended cooking time, you don't want the cheese to burn or the toppings to dry out! Then comes a heavy dose of Peccorino Romano or Parmesan cheese. This is typically not a "pick it up by the slice & eat it" kind of pizza, we use fork & knife to eat Chicago deep dish pizzas! Top it off wit' some hot giardiniera if you want to add a true Chicago spice to your meal!

What would a Chicago food gift package be without a Chicago hot dog!?

chicago style hot dog
Chicago Style Hot Dog "Dragged Tru Da Garden"

A Chicago hot dog is an all beef, generally natural casing, smoked hot dog topped wit' a pickle spear, mustard, raw onions, sport peppers, sliced & halved tomatoes (I prefer roma tomatoes), neon green relish (I mean NEON green), & a dash of celery salt. We call this "Dragged Tru' Da Garden" because of all the vegetables & toppings on it. Serve it on a steamed poppy seed bun, typical to Chicago.

So to make this delicious, filling Chicago Dog start with an all beef hot dog. There are two major brands in Chicago, Vienna Hot Dogs & Red Hot Chicago Dogs, both owned by Vienna. But there are plenty of delicious, all beef, smoked natural casing hot dogs (Bobak's & Daisy brand are friggin amazing). This hot dog has a 'snap' to it when you bite into it from the natural sheep intestine casing.

Place this all beef smoked hot dog on a steamed poppy seed bun, then add your mustard, neon green relish, fresh diced white onion, quartered pickle spear, tomato slices, sport peppers (traditional to Chicago, a small pickled pepper (similar to a Tabasco pepper), & of course, a dash of celery salt (salt & crushed celery seed mix). You get a great mix of acidity, salt, fresh, smoky, & tangy flavors from this great Chicago classic!

Make your own Chicago style hot dogs at home!


What would a Chicago gift pack be without a great Maxwell Street Polish Sausage?

maxwell street polish sausage chicago sandwich
Classic Maxwell Street Polish Sausage From Chicago
Often unknown by outsiders, the Maxwell Street Polish Sausage is a summer favorite in Chicago. A course ground Polish sausage, smoked, & topped wit' sauteed onions, mustard, & often sport peppers, this is one of Chicago's best street foods!

Oddly enough, this heavy, smoked sausage is often served on a poppy seed hot dog bun! This gives a soft, fluffy wrapping contradictory to a very good 'snap' that comes from the natural encased Polish sausage! Topped with sauteed white onions (cooked in the grease from the Polish sausage or in butter), classic yellow mustard, & quite frequently with sport peppers. All around a great sandwich with a nice tangy bite, smoke flavor, sweetness from the onions & the Polish itself, & great acidity & spice from the sport peppers. Definitely a must try sandwich if you are in the area.

As common as a great juicy Italian beef 'sangwich' is the classic fennel Italian sausage! 

Chicago Johnny's Italian Sausage
Chicago Style Italian Sausage
I make my own Hot Italian Sausage & I've been making it since I was about 5 years old. As a matter of fact, our recipe goes all the way back four generations to the Sout' Side of Chicago! I sell locally to regular customers but do not distribute or sell online (sorry, locals only). There are some great Italian sausages out there though!

Typically grilled (we call it charring {ch-are-ing}) & with a great crust to the sausage, there are many variations. I love a good Italian sausage with whole fennel seeds in them! A natural pork intestine casing gives a great snap to Italian sausage & also provides a cooking vessel for the pork to 'stew' it's own juices inside! You will see just as many Italian sausages on menus across Chicago as you will Italian beef sandwiches.

So start with a good, all pork, coarse ground Italian sausage with plenty of whole fennel. Grill it in a coil or in links, but make sure to give a great 'char' to the exterior! Then, use a quality, dense French roll (usually the same as the Italian beef sandwiches, Gonnella or Turano). You will find yellow mustard everywhere that serves an Italian sausage around here but seldom used. More than likely you will be topping your Italian wit' sweet peppers & onions, sweet peppers & garlic, or hot giardiniera! I prefer hot giardiniera on a hot Italian sausage because the acidity, flavored oil, & crunch from the peppers & celery mesh so well with this pork sausage! I always toast my French roll too, a nice flaky outside (& smoke flavor from the grill) with a soft & chewy inside is the perfect combination for a nice char-grilled hot Italian sausage!


However you do Chicago food you are doing it right! Just enjoy yourself & let our local comfort food take your worries away!