Sweet and Sour Meatballs with Ultra Gel

In the last few days I’ve been going back through some of my Ultra Gel recipes looking for things I haven’t done in a while and I happened upon this sweet and sour meatballs recipe. I love this recipe. It’s a combination of Asian flavors with a bright burst of pineapple all wrapped around a meatball, with crunchy vegetables for contrast.

My mother and I first developed this recipe when I was competing in the 4-H Beef Ambassador contest (about a million years ago). We wanted a meatball which would hold together well, but have a simple flavor and texture. Ultra Gel provides this as well as keeping the meatball moist even after baking (and it freezes really well too). Then we wanted a simple sauce which wouldn’t have to be cooked twice. Again Ultra Gel solved our problem as we can create a stir together sauce at the desired thickness before baking it with the meatballs for full flavor.

You can get creative with this recipe and add other tropical fruit such as mangoes, or vegetables like baby corn or bamboo shoots. Get creative, and be sure to let us know what you try!

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Sweet and Sour Meatballs with Ultra Gel

Meatballs:

1 pound ground beef – a combination of ground beef and ground turkey is really good too

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

2 Tablespoons dried chopped onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Sauce:

1 (20 oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained (reserve juice)

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 Tablespoons vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 small can water chestnuts

4-6 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1-2 green peppers, cut into chunks

Combine ingredients for meatballs gently.  DO NOT OVERMIX.  Shape into 1″ meatballs and bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes until centers are no longer pink.  Remove meatballs to baking pan.

Meanwhile drain pineapple and set aside, reserving juice.  Combine reserved pineapple juice, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and water in mixing bowl.  Add Ultra Gel gradually, stirring with a wire whisk.  Add green peppers, pineapple and water chestnuts.  Pour sauce over meatballs and bake for 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees until peppers are crisp-tender.

Serve over hot cooked rice.

Beef Gravy with Ultra Gel

I know what you’re thinking.

Okay…I can make a guess at what you’re thinking. Beef gravy. In July?

Yep. In July.

Because July in Utah is hot, and this year it’s particularly hot, so we’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with our slow cooker to keep the temperature in the house at least somewhat reasonable. Ultra Gel is an amazing helper when it comes to the slow cooker. Because Ultra Gel doesn’t have to boil in order to thicken it makes it easy to add to slow cooker dishes, and makes the world’s easiest gravy. Don’t believe me? Here it is.

Beef Gravy with Ultra Gel

Slow cook a large hunk of meat along with onions, garlic, a splash of red wine, salt, pepper and anything else you like. Remove the meat from the slow cooker and carve. Remove any large hunks of vegetables or herbage that you don’t want in your gravy (Often I just grab my stick blender and blend everything in for more flavor.) Add water or additional broth if necessary, sometimes the drippings will be a bit strong for a gravy. Whisk in Ultra Gel until the mixture is just slightly thinner than you want it to end up. Yes, right in the slow cooker! No need to dirty up another pot. Use a silicone whisk if your slow cooker is non-stick. Let the gravy sit for 2 minutes to achieve full thickness. Thicken further if desired. Serve. Yum. That’s it. Easy, yummy, gluten-free beef gravy. And hey, the house is still cool!

Danishes with Ultra Gel and Cornaby’s Raspberry Jam

When it comes to baking I have a lot of simple favorites, but sometimes I like to challenge my baking skills and laminated doughs are always an interesting challenge.

A laminated dough is a dough where butter is ‘booked’ into the dough in order to create many flaky layers. Croissants and puff pastries are some of the most well known laminated doughs. Making these doughs isn’t necessarily hard, but it does take a lot of time because once you make the base dough you add butter to it, then refrigerate the booked dough. Then more butter and more fridge time. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Raspberry Danishes are another kind of laminated dough and are made in much the same fashion. Create dough. Book in butter. Shape and bake. These are fantastic danishes. They are light and flaky and rich and so very very yummy. We use Ultra Gel in the dough to help maintain a tender quality and increase shelf life, and there’s nothing like Cornaby’s Raspberry jam to top a delicious danish.

How to book butter into a dough

There are a lot of methods for booking butter. The easiest I have found is to prepare the butter ahead of time by taking chilled butter and pounding it out on a piece of waxed paper until it is a thin square of butter then refrigerating it. So you end up with 3-4 sheets of butter.

With your sheets prepared you roll out your dough, place the butter in the middle third and fold over the two outer thirds to cover the butter. Roll it flat. Turn 90 degrees and fold in thirds again. Wrap and into the fridge for 30 minutes. That’s one book. This process can be repeated anywhere from 1-15 times depending on how many layers you want in your finished dough. (And how patient you are). You can also choose to work herbs or other flavors into the butter before you start booking and these flavors will be carried through the dough.

(When I made my batch I made both raspberry filled and plain to see what the difference was. The difference was that the raspberry ones all got DEVOURED before I could get one in a picture. So these are the pretty plain ones, but really…fill them with Cornaby’s Raspberry Jam, you won’t regret it.)

Raspberry Danishes with Ultra Gel and Cornaby’s Raspberry Jam

Butter combination:

3 stick chilled unsalted butter

1/4 cup flour

Cut butter into small pieces and sprinkle with flour. Work butter and flour together until it is a smooth mixture you can form into three thin 4×2 inch rectangles. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill.

Dough:

2 1/2 Tablespoons dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup sugar

3 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1 egg

1 cup lukewarm milk

3 1/2-4 cups flour

Combine yeast, warm water and a pinch of sugar together in a large mixing bowl or bowl of an electric stand mixer. Let stand for 3-5 minutes until foamy. Add the salt, sugar, Ultra Gel, egg and milk and beat until well combined. Add 2 cups of the flour and beat until smooth. Add 1 1/2 cups additional flour and mix well. The dough will be very soft at this point. Turn out onto a well floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes. The dough will still be quite soft and a bit sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Bringing the butter and dough together

You will book the dough three times as described above. The butter shouldn’t be rock hard, but will be firm. Always book the dough on a lightly floured surface. If it ever gets too soft or sticky to roll without making a mess cover and chill it until the butter firms up and you can return to rolling.

The first few times you practice booking butter will be messy. That’s okay. If there are fewer books or they aren’t quite even it will just mean fewer layers in the end product. It will still taste fantastic.

Forming and baking

After the last time you work butter into the dough the dough needs to chill again for at least 45 minutes or as long as over night. Don’t go more than 12 hours or the dough won’t hold up as well.

Danishes can be formed in several ways. My two favorites are pretty simple.

In the first type roll the dough out and cut into rectangles. Lightly fill one half of the rectangle with Cornaby’s Raspberry Jam, fold the other half of the rectangle over the jam and seal the edges. Brush with a little egg wash and a sprinkle of sugar and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes until well browned. Cool and top with a little powdered sugar glaze or cream cheese icing.

The second shape is a spiral. Roll the dough into a rectangle and then cut it into long strips. spiral the strips around themselves on a baking pan. Press your thumb into the center to form a well and fill with Cornaby’s Raspberry Jam, or a combination of jam and cream cheese. Brush the edges of the dough with an egg wash and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes until done through and golden brown. Cool and top with a little powdered sugar glaze or cream cheese icing.

Mango Chicken with Ultra Gel

This is a great time of year for getting really nice mangoes. I like working with mangoes as they add a nice sweet and tart combination to dishes and have a beautiful chew to them. When cooked they tend to stay in nice chunks versus going too mushy. I like them in Asian recipes from sushi rolls to this mango chicken recipe.

A note about mangoes. Mangoes have a big old seed right in the center of them. It’s not impossible to cut them in half, but it’s really hard. The flesh is also kinda slimy and slick. Soo…there are two really good ways to get mango chunks. In method one you cut the cheeks of the mangoes, the biggest curved sections, away from the seed. Then cut a cross hatch pattern down to the skin, but not through it. Push on the skin and push the chunks out. In method two you cut off the top and the bottom of the mango and then tilt it up on the flat end and skin it. Then remove the big chunks of mango and slice into chunks or spears. It takes a little practice, but you’ll get good at it.

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Mango Chicken with Ultra Gel

2 medium mangoes, cut into chunks

1 cup chicken stock

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 teaspoon powdered garlic

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1 pound chicken breasts, chunked

2 Tablespoons olive oil

onion, diced

celery, sliced

mushrooms, sliced

peas

carrots, sliced

Combine mango chunks, broth, brown sugar, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and spices in a medium pan. Cook until warmed through. In a large skillet heat olive oil and brown chicken through. Add vegetables and stir fry until just soft. Add mango sauce and toss gently with chicken and vegetables. Add Ultra Gel to thicken. Serve over warm rice.

Picnic Baked Beans with Ultra Gel

Here in Utah it’s picnic season. It also is just days away from US Independence Day. Combine those two and it’s gonna be an epic weekend for great food and family time!

When it comes to picnics around our neck of the woods the food varies, but almost always includes a lot of seasonal fruits and vegetables and a large crock of amazing baked beans. Now, these are not just your pop open the can and toss in a spoon baked beans. Oh noooo… These are amazing baked beans with chunks of bacon and sometimes even peppers and pineapple depending on who’s doing the making. We add a little Ultra Gel to help keep the mix nice and thick, especially if we’re adding any of the fruit or veg which can increase the liquid level even as they add to the flavor.

There is a level of…taste and adjust to this recipe because things like how much barbecue flavor you want or what kind of mustard tickles your tastebuds can vary, but these baked beans will give you a solid base to build on.

Serve these up as a side to go along any picnic favorite. They’re always welcome at the party! Personally I like these baked beans on a hot dog much better than chili!

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Picnic Baked Beans with Ultra Gel

3-4 pieces of bacon, diced

1/2 medium white onion, diced

2 cans pork and beans

1 can black beans, drained

1 can Great Northern white beans, drained

1/2 cup favorite bbq sauce (I have a homemade recipe I use or I really love Sweet Baby Rays Original sauce)

1 Tablespoon mustard

2 Tablespoons ketchup

2 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce

2-3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar

2-3 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

Optional: sliced bell peppers, chunk pineapple (drained), smoked or pulled pork

pepper to taste – the beans and bacon generally have enough salt to them you don’t need more. For a vegetarian version leave out the bacon and double up on the onion and peppers.

In a large, heavy pan, cook bacon and onions until bacon is crisp and onions are translucent. (I always start with the bacon and add the onions when it’s about half done so they get done at the same time without anything burning). Drain off most of the grease. Add beans and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Add other ingredients and stir well to combine. Let cook for 10 minutes over low heat. Taste (with a clean spoon please!) and adjust condiments and spices until you reach your desired flavor. More or less Ultra Gel may be required based on how much additional liquid is added to the mix. A bean with a lot of pineapple, for example, will need 2 to 3 times as much Ultra Gel to compensate for the juice which will cook out of the pineapple chunks. (But the pineapple flavor is REALLY good).

This dish is great warm or cold and stores well so can be made ahead of time.

My husband is fond of making up a double batch of these beans and instead of cooking them on the stove he’ll smoke them with a chunk of cherry or apple wood for about two hours. Delicious!

Creme Brulee with Ultra Gel

When it comes to decadent even slightly naughty favorite desserts most people’s lists are topped by chocolate. I can’t blame them really, chocolate is a wonderful thing, but for me there is nothing quite as sinfully satisfying as the combination of caramelized sugar crunch and creamy filling that is a good creme brulee.

Creme brulee has a reputation for being very hard to make. This isn’t actually the case. The issue is that you are adding hot cream to egg yolks and if you aren’t patient you can make a very nice bowl of sweet scrambled eggs instead of beautiful custard. Adding Ultra Gel to the mix helps to keep the egg from scrambling, but you’ve still got to go slowly and be patient.

As Alton Brown would say, “Your patience will be rewarded.”

Creme Brulee with Ultra Gel

3 cups heavy cream

3/4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon high quality vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

5 egg yolks

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the egg yolks into a large bowl and whip well. In a heavy saucepan combine cream, sugar, vanilla, salt and Ultra Gel whisking very well to combine. Cook over medium heat until cream just begins to bubble around the edges. You don’t actually want it to boil.

Set hot cream aside for 2 minutes. Slowly add cream mixture to the egg yolks a little at t time, whisking after each addition, until mixtures are fully combined. Pour the mixture through a tight sieve to remove any lumps.

Divide custard into small ramekins filling them almost to the top. Set the ramekins into a large roasting pan and fill the pan with boiling water until the ramekins are about half submerged. You do not want water IN the custard, just around the outside to create a water bath.

Bake for 40-50 minutes until custard begins to set. The very center will still be wobbly. If you wait until it’s completely set it will be dried out. You don’t want any cracks in the surface. Allow to cool completely, 2 hours is good, over night in the fridge is better.

When ready to serve sprinkle white sugar over the top of the creme brulee and use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar. (You can also place the ramekins under the oven broiler, but watch them VERY carefully or you’ll get smoke). Don’t over cook that sugar, the line between caramel perfection and burnt to a crisp is narrow and you want your sugar on the caramel size. Serve with whipped cream and/or berries as desired.

Yum.

 

Peanut Butter Bars with Ultra Gel

I love peanut butter bars.  There, I said it. I really and truly love peanut butter bars.

It’s true.

Just think about it for a minute. These peanut butter bars are everything that’s good all wrapped into one bundle. You have peanut butter, oats and brown sugar mixed with butter to make a great bar, topped with chocolate and then topped again with chunky peanut butter frosting. It’s a little bit of heaven. I can only make them when I have an event where I am forced to share them because otherwise I will eat them ALL by myself and those calories add up in a hurry.

I use Ultra Gel in the bar itself to help hold the moisture and keep everything tender. Then it goes into the peanut butter icing where it provides excellent stability so the frosting isn’t too sweet. Yum.

So…for when you’re ready to share, or not, I won’t judge. Here we go.

Peanut Butter Bars with Ultra Gel

1 cup butter, soft

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups oats (old fashioned)

2 cups flour

Combine butter and sugars and mix until fluffy and light. Add eggs, Ultra Gel and vanilla and mix until smooth. Mix in peanut butter. Combine all dry ingredients and add slowly to creamed mixture until completely incorporated. Spread into a greased 11×15 inch jelly roll pan (one with sides). Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees until light golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Top cooled bars with 6-8 ounces of melted chocolate. Allow to harden.

Top chocolate layer with peanut butter frosting (recipe below).

Peanut Butter Frosting with Ultra Gel

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1-2 pounds powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)

Combine all ingredients in order listed and whip until light, fluffy and slightly thick. Top peanut butter bars. (Also excellent on graham crackers as a snack.)

 

 

Orange Chocolate Brownies with Ultra Gel

Here in Utah summer seems to have shown up with a vengeance. We had a pretty cool spring, but as May has drawn to a close it’s come with hot temperatures and kids anxious for the end of school. This also means we’ve started with park days and my kids have informed me that a good park day is made much better with a snack. These orange chocolate brownies are quick to make, easy to pack up and carry with us, and are perfect as the before mentioned snack.

As we’ve talked about before Ultra Gel is used in brownies and other baked goods to help keep them tender and moist. We want these orange brownies to last…well…at least for as long as they kids don’t get to them. They freeze wonderfully if you want to make a batch ahead of time and eating frozen orange brownies is kinda fun too. If you want to get even more decadent freeze these brownies, chunk them up and add to some homemade ice cream.

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Not the best lighting on this one. I was sitting on the couch eating and realized I had the last piece!

Orange Chocolate Brownies with Ultra Gel

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon orange extract or 2-3 drops orange oil (There is a difference, make sure you know which one you’re working with)

1/2 cup flour

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease (I like cooking spray) a 8-9 inch backing pan. Combine the chocolate and the butter in a small, heavy saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring frequently until smooth. Add the vanilla, eggs, Ultra Gel, sugar, salt and orange to the chocolate and beat until thoroughly combined. Add the flour and mix well. Spread into prepared baking pan. If desired you can top with a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles, little m&ms or whatever you like your brownies. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top is dry and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, cut and serve.

To freeze: Cool completely and remove brownies from pan. Wrap in cling wrap and then in aluminum foil and freeze for upto 3 months.

Stovetop Beef Stroganoff with Ultra Gel

Beef stroganoff is one of those meals which we eat about once every six months. It’s hearty, and rich, and easy to make, and goes well with either rice or noodles. While stroganoff can be made either with ground beef or beef pieces I prefer the later, and I always prefer fresh mushrooms over canned, though either works in a pinch. I’ve experimented a bit with different kinds of cream of mushroom soup (yeah, I know some folks are anti cream soups and there are a lot of alternatives if you want to make those and they work fine), but my favorite is the Progresso cream of mushroom. It’s not as condensed and I think has more flavor, but any variety will work.

I always serve our beef stroganoff up with a big pile of vegetables.

We use Ultra Gel in this dish as a thickener and to make the mix fridge and freezer stable. It reheats easily and maintains a great flavor and consistency. So we tend to eat it for dinner, then make up lunches in tupperware containers which are there for grab and go.

Stovetop Beef Stroganoff with Ultra Gel

1 pound beef pieces or ground beef

2 Tablespoons oil (Do not add if you use ground beef)

1 medium onion, diced

6-8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream

salt and pepper to taste

2-4 Tablespoons of Ultra Gel

Brown beef in oil in a heavy medium pan. When beef is about half way done add onions and mushrooms and continue cooking until meat is fully browned and vegetables are soft. Add soup and milk and cook at medium heat for about 5 minutes. Fold in sour cream and spice to taste. Finish with Ultra Gel to desired consistency and serve over rice or noodles.

Pork Chops with Cornaby’s Peach Habanero Sauce

Despite the fact that Utah is getting a late season snow warning, grill season has begun – at least at our house. One of our favorite things to grill is a nice bone in pork chop. I like bone in pork chops because the bone adds flavor, and my boys like bone in because it gives them a handle to hold onto while they go to town. I’ve been assured it’s a caveman thing similar to eating turkey legs and chicken drumsticks, and I’ve learned to accept these things.

One of our favorite pork chops recipe is actually very simple. We marinade the chops for about two hours, then cook them over medium heat until they’re around medium in the center and then crank up the heat for a quick char. Then we douse the whole thing in Cornaby’s Peach Habanero Sauce and eat up. The light sweetness of the peach is really good with pork and the habanero pepper adds a nice zing. I also like Cornaby’s Raspberry Jalapeno with this method if you want a slightly sweeter and less hot sauce.

Bring a jar to your Memorial Day party and add a zip you won’t forget!

Pork Chops with Peach Habanero Sauce

4 medium pork chops 1/2-3/4 inch thick

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 Tablespoons Red Wine vinegar

1 teaspoon spicy mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 generous Tablespoon garlic

1 Tablespoon Ultra Gel

splash of orange juice

Cornaby’s Peach Habanero Sauce

Combine all ingredients except for the pork chops and Peach Habanero Sauce in a large zip top bag. Shake well to mix. Add chops and allow to sit for 2 hours in the fridge. Remove from fridge and discard excess marinade. Grill at medium heat until a meat thermometer reads medium to medium-well (~160 F). Turn up grill and give a quick 30 second char on both sides for flavor and color. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Top with Cornaby’s Peach Habanero Sauce.