Saturday, July 16, 2016

Red Turkey Chili

Its July and I'm making chili. Yes, chili.  Chili is one of my favorite year-round dishes.  My love of chili runs deep.  I have more chili recipes than any other single type of recipe.  I live for turkey chili, ground beef chili, venison chili, white chicken chili, jerk chili, and refrigerator chili.  It doesn't matter.  I think it's because I like hot, spicy foods and chili is the perfect delivery system for hot and spicy.

Because I've been trying to eat a little more healthfully, I've taken to making my regular ground beef and pork chili with leaner turkey meat.  So, I'll post this here for any who share my love of the hot stuff. Because I love chili and eat it often, I make large batches.  This will feed a fire house full of men.

Ingredients

2 lbs. ground turkey, browned
1 large onion, diced
2 large green bell peppers, diced
2 large jalapenos, diced
3-5 cloves garlic, diced 
2 28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 28 oz. can of tomato sauce
16 oz. water
4 15 oz. cans of hot chili beans (I prefer Bush's)
2 Tbls cumin
3 Tbls + 2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp black pepper
1-2 tsp salt

Toppings

shredded cheddar cheese
oyster crackers
sour cream

Brown turkey, onion and bell peppers.  Add cumin, chili powder, black peppers and salt and stir into meat mixture.  Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, jalapenos, garlic and water to desired consistency.  Add chili beans.  Bring to a low boil and reduce heat.  Cook on low for 45-60 minutes.  Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, oyster crackers, and a nice dollop of sour cream.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Summertime Mango Salsa

I love summer. Fresh tomatoes. Fresh fruits. Fresh vegetables.  It's what we wait for all year. And then there are the BBQs and swim parties and holidays and weekend get-togethers. Everyone is always looking for a nice dish to take to a gathering of friends. This is one of my favorites. Quick and easy. Just chop, chop, chop. No cooking required. This is a big hit with the kids due to the slightly sweet taste provided by the mango.


Ingredients

2 mangoes, diced
10 plum tomatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
A generous handful of cilantro leaves (stems removed), minced
2 jalapeno peppers, diced small
juice of 2 limes 


Combine in a bowl and chill if desired.  Good with tortilla chips or other dipping chips.  Feeds an army of guests.  Delicious.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Baked Falafel Salad

This recipe is adapted from Flourishing Foodie's Falafel Salad.  
Makes 16 patties
Serves 4
Soak dried chickpeas for 24 hours. Do NOT use canned chickpeas. 

INGREDIENTS
1 3/4 cups dry chickpeas, soaked at least 8 hours
2 cloves garlic, peeled and pulverized
1 yellow onion, small dice
1/3 c fresh parsley, stems removed then chopped
1 t cumin
1 t coriander seeds, ground
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 T lemon juice, or 1 small lemon
1/4 - 1/2 cup water
2 T all-purpose flour (enough to slightly hold the mixture together)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup sesame seeds
cooking spray 
tahini

DRESSING INGREDIENTS (makes a little more than 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup oil (canola, olive, safflower, or grapeseed)
2 tbsp lemon juice or 1 small lemon
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
dash of salt

SALAD INGREDIENTS or use Tabbouleh Salad
8 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced

1.  In a food processor, pulse half of the chickpeas until just broken. Place into a large bowl and set aside.
2.  Pulse the remainder of the chickpeas in the food processor with the garlic, onion, parsley, cumin, coriander, cayenne, baking soda, salt, lemon juice and water. Pulse until it resemble a paste. Add to the large bowl with the chickpea pieces and combine. Stir in the flour, beaten egg, and sesame seeds.
3.  Scoop a rough 1/4 cup of the falafel mixture and roll into a ball. Place onto the parchment paper. Continue in this manner until you have rolled all of the falafel balls. Place the baking sheet into the fridge and let sit for 1 hour. Some of the water will seep out onto the tray, this is normal.
4.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees F.  Check after 20 minutes.  You want a nice crust on the outside while the inside remains tender, but cooked through.
4.  In a mason jar or any jar with a lid, add all of the dressing ingredients. Shake until combined.
5.  To assemble the salad, add the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, and onion to a bowl, drizzle with the dressing. Place a few falafels on top and drizzle with tahini.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Weight Watchers Super Creamy Mac and Cheese


I didn't have any idea how this was going to go.  I mean, seriously, cauliflower instead of cheese?

Folks, as diet meals go, this isn't bad.  I was getting sort of tired of eating vegetable soup.  Yes, I like vegetable soup. Yes, it is good for me.  Yes, vegetable soup is low cal.  But, after about 8 meals of vegetable soup, I wanted something that didn't scream, "You're on a Diet!"

Enter Super Creamy Mac and Cheese, or cauliflower and cheese as I like to think of it.  This took a leap of faith on my part to make.  Why?  Because I have never.  In my entire adult life.  Purchased.  A head of cauliflower.

There, I said it.

I didn't want to buy something that most people smother in cheese to make it taste better.  But I was desperate for some comfort food. I found myself in the produce department mulling over white heads of broccoli wannabes.

Say what you will, I will make this again.



Weight Watchers Super Creamy Mac and Cheese


Ingredients:
1 t salted butter
1/3 c Panko breadcrumbs
2 T grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 head uncooked cauliflower (2 lbs)
4 medium uncooked carrots, thinly sliced
1 c reduced sodium vegetable broth
1/4 c low fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
1.5 t Dijon mustard
1/2 c low-fat shredded cheddar cheese, sharp variety recommended, divided
1.5 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded (1/4 cup)
1 t table salt
1/4 t hot pepper sauce
8 oz uncooked macaroni
2 sprays cooking spray

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil.

Melt butter in medium skillet over medium heat; add panko and cook, stirring occasionally until toasted, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to small bowl and let cool; stir in Pecorino and set aside.  (Just as a head's up here, I didn't use this butter and I didn't toast my panko.  I simply sprinkled the panko mixture on the top of the casserole once I got to that point.  I'm not washing more dishes.)

Cut 3 cups small florets from cauliflower; set aside.  I used 4.  Cauliflower is BIG.  Cut remaining cauliflower (including stem) into 2 inch pieces.  Add cauliflower pieces and carrots to boiling water; cook until very tender, 10-12 minutes.  I forgot to set the timer, so it went 20.  No biggie.

Meanwhile, combine broth, cream cheese, mustard, 1/4 c cheddar, gruyere, salt, and pepper sauce in a large blender.  With a large slotted spoon, transfer cooked vegetables to blender, puree into a creamy sauce.  Can we say thank goodness for the Ninja blender?

Add pasta to same pot of boiling water; cook half the time of package directions, adding reserveed cauliflower florets during last minute of cooking.  Drain pasta and cauliflower, return to pot and stir in pureed sauce.

Coat a 2.5 quarter shallow baking dish with cooking spray; spoon pasta mixture into prepared pan in an even layer.  Sprinkle dish with remaining 1/4 c cheddar and reserved crumb mixture; bake until golden on top, 25-30 minutes.

Here's what you get.



Serving size: 1 c.
Weight Watchers Points Plus: 6

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Gram's Chicken Casserole

This is a recipe from Gram.  My gram is one of the world's great country cooks.  Her green beans are without comparison.  Her potato salad is renowned.  And this.  This.  This chicken casserole is one of our family's leftover favorites.

Ingredients:
1 stick butter
1 bag herbed stuffing
5 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 turkey breast or half of a roasted chicken,diced
1 can Campbell's  Cream of Mushroom soup
1 can chicken broth

Stew chicken.  Don't discard chicken broth.  Remove from bone, discard skin and cut or shred into bite-sized portions.  Melt butter in a saucepan and saute diced carrots, celery and onion until soft.  Mix the soup with the chicken broth and set aside.

Grease the bottom of a 13x9 pan.  Layer 1/3rd of the dry stuffing to cover the bottom of the pan.  Top stuffing with 1/2 of the chicken.  Top chicken with 1/2 of the sauteed vegetables.  Pour 1/2 of the liquid over the dry ingredients.  Layer 1/3 of the stuffing over this.  Add the remainder of the chicken and vegetables and liquid.  Top with the final 1/3 of the stuffing.

Bake at 400 F for 1 hour.

Enjoy.

 

Spinach Fritatta

If you read this blog or know me, you know I love breakfast.  I am an egg eater.  An ovivore.  I love eggs, virtually any style.  And yes, I love quiche. But I am not a fan of the pie crust.  When served pie, I give away the rind of the crust.  It's just not my thing.  So when I discovered that one could make a crustless quiche, I was all in.

Enter the fritatta.

The thing about fritattas, about quiches, is that they are best when they are barely set.  They have the consistency of custard and they melt in your mouth.  This is just one of those kinds of recipes.

Ingredients:
3 small Yukon gold potatoes, diced and pre-cooked
1 large vidalia onion, julienned
1 pkg (10 oz.) spinach, wilted
12 eggs, beaten
4 oz. full fat sour cream
4 oz. Gruyere cheese
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
vegetable oil
1 well seasoned 10" cast iron pan

Dice and cook the potatoes in a small amount of oil.  Set aside to cool.  Julienne the onion and cook in a small amount of oil over low heat until onions are caramelized.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Wilt one package of baby spinach (stems removed) over medium heat.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Dice the Gruyere into small pieces.  Set aside.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Beat 12 large eggs with a wire whisk.  Add the sour cream and beat until homogeneous. Add the salt and pepper.  Oil the cast iron pan with a generous 2T of oil.  Use a paper towel to oil the sides of the pan. 

Add the potatoes, onion, spinach and cheese to the egg mixture and pour into the pan.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Check for doneness.  You want the center of the fritatta *just set*.  If not to desired doneness, bake on, checking every 5 minutes for donenes.  Do not overbake.  The fritatta will probably not have a browned top.  If you cook it until the top is browned, you have overcooked the interior of the thing and it will have the texture of a kitchen sponge.  Don't do that.  You are going to have to live with an unbrowned top this time.  

As soon as practically possible, run a knife around the edge of the pan removing the sides of the fritatta.  After 10 minutes, turn the fritatta out onto a plate and serve.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Venison Chili

I was gifted 3 lbs of ground venison from a student.  Turns out that we were having a chili cook off in my wing of the building, so what better way to spread the love of game meats?  Knowing that venison hasn't a lot of fat in it, I knew pork would have to be added.  Other than that, this is entirely a riff I made up on the fly.  If early tastes are any indication, this one is going to make them sweat.

Here we go.

Ingredients:

6 strips of bacon, fat rendered, bacon removed
2 lbs. ground venison
0.5 lbs. ground pork sausage
1 large yellow onion, diced
3+ tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 bottle Schalfly's coffee stout
2 cans (small) Rotel tomatoes and peppers (Original) 10 oz?
1 large can Brook's chili beans (mild) 29 oz.?
16 oz. Hunt's tomato sauce

Directions:

In a large cast iron skillet, cook the bacon over low heat until crisp.  Retain fat, remove bacon and set aside.  Saute onion in bacon fat until translucent, about 3 mins.  Brown venison and pork with onion until brown.  Do not drain.  Add chili powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, and mix well.  Move mixture to slow cooker.  Add 1/2 bottle of beer, Rotel, chili beans, and tomato sauce.  Cook over low for 8-10 hours.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

West Virginia Style Hot Dog Sauce

West Virginia, for those who've never been, is just as the song advertises. Entering West Virginia from Kentucky will see you moving from rolling hills into sharper inclines until finally, you can drive into hills so steep that the road cut might not see daylight until the sun is directly overhead.

My parents grew up in West Virginia.  My grandparents were lifelong residents.  I spent countless summer days visiting family in West Virginia.  I even lived there for a very short while before graduating from Marshall University (We are Marshall!).  It is, more so than Kentucky, the place I think of as "home".

But West Virginia is more than rolling hills and hillbilly accents.  It actually has a unique culinary tradition.  And among the things that West Virginia is famous for are her hot dogs.  West Virginia style hot dogs are always all-beef dogs.  They differ from hot dogs further south and to the northeast.  West Virginia lies above the "slaw line".   That is that hot dogs, and more often than not, pork bbq sandwiches are topped with a generous helping of mayonnaise-based cole slaw.

In my opinion, the only way to truly enjoy a hot dog is to prepare it boiled, in a steamed bun, with mustard, finely diced onions, a heaping helping of hot dog sauce and topped with a creamy slathering of cole slaw.

The hot dog sauce I remember from my youth can't be purchased at the grocery.  It is not chili sauce (even though it does have chili powder in it).  It does not have beans.  There are canned varieties--which are NOT the same--but after the Castleberry botulism debacle of 2007, I don't know of anyone who will try them.  West Virignia-style sauce is a mild, tomato based meat sauce, and you can find numerous awesome classic examples from Fairmont to Huntington.  I admit that some of my favorites are Stewart's Original Hot Dogs in Huntington, WV, and Sam's Hot Dogs in many locations throughout the Tri-State region.  This hot dog tradition even trickles into eastern Kentucky where you can find numerous worthwhile examples such as Crisp's Dairy Treat and the now out-of-business Dairy Cheer (Home of the Smashburger).

No one should die without trying a West Virignia hot dog.  So if you can't travel there, make your own at home.

Ingredients:

1 T olive oil
1 small onion, fine dice
2.5 lbs ground beef
0.25 lbs ground pork
1 box of beef broth
1.5 t black pepper
1.5 t salt
1.5 t chili powder
2 T crushed red chili pepper (medium hot)
16 oz. tomato sauce
7 oz. tomato ketchup
1/2 small can tomato paste
1/4 t cumin
Tabasco sauce to taste (I use about 12 shakes)

Directions:

In a dutch oven, saute the onion in the olive oil until tender but not browned.  Crumble the ground beef and pork and add to the pot.   Cover with beef broth and cook for 1 hour, uncovered, adding water if necessary.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook, covered, over low heat, just simmering, for two more hours.  If you wish a thinner sauce, add more water half way through the final two hours.  For thick sauce, cook down, uncovered for a while longer.

This recipe makes an entire dutch oven full of sauce.  It can be scaled down, but keep in mind, it freezes well and you are going to want this again.



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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Jerk Chicken Chili

Can we just agree that nothing beats chili on a cold day?  Nothing warms the soul like a smooth chili with bite.  Over the past decade, I've fallen in love with chicken and pork based stews.  This is one of my favorites.  This is definitely a winner.  Without further ado, I present my Jerk Chicken Chili.


Ingredients:

1 t olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 T chili powder
1.5 t thyme
1 t cinnamon
0.5 t ground allspice
1 large roasted chicken, meat removed and shredded (about 6 cups)
4 c chicken stock
14 oz. diced tomatoes
15 ox. black beans, undrained or only partially drained
15 oz. Cannelli (or other white) beans, undrained or only partially drained
1 roasted jalapeno
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 oz semisweet chocolate
2 T cornmeal or masa 

Directions:

Heat oil in dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add chili powder, thyme, cinnamon, and allspice.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.  Add shredded chicen and stir to coat with spices.  Add stock, tomatoes, beans, and jalapenos.  Bring to a boil.  Cover partially and reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer 20 minutes.
Add garlic, cilantro, chocolate, and cornmeal or masa.   Turn off the heat and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir well.  Serve.

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Chili Verde (Chicken or Pork)

I'm in love with New Mexico inspired food.  I'm always searching for new and exciting recipes that will allow me to make use of these gems of the Southwest.  This, is a delicious meal.

Ingredients:

1 T olive oil
1.5 pounds cubed pork stew meat or chicken
salt and pepper to taste
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped, roasted New Mexico chiles
1.4 oz fire roasted tomatoes, with juice
1.5 c tomatillo salsa
2 c chicken broth
0.5 t dried oregano
pinch ground cloves

Tomatillo salsa:
8 large tomatillos, husk removed, sliced
4 garlic cloves
2 c water
2 roasted jalapenos, skins removed

Place in blender and puree.


Directions:

In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Season the pork or chicken with salt and pepper to taste, then place into the hot oil.  Cook until golden brown on all sides, about 7 minutes.  Once browned, remove the meat and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium, and add the onions.  Cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Return the meat to the pot, add the garlic and green chiles, diced tomatoes and juice, tomatillo salsa, and chicken broth.  Season with oregano and clove.  Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, then reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

With a hand-held blender, blend a small amount of the soup until smooth.  You don't want to blend all of the vegetables; just enough until the soup is somewhat thickened.  To further thicken the soup, add up to one tablespoon cornmeal or masa .  Continue to simmer at least 35 minutes more.

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Easy Bolognese Sauce

I love me some red meat sauce.  My ex's aunt used to make the best marinara I've ever tasted. Claimed she only used pork bones, tomatoes, tomato sauce and garlic salt.  I don't believe her.  But if I ever figure out what she did, I'm sharing it.  In any event, I combined a couple of recipes from Allrecipes.com into my own version of Bolognese (pronounced BOLO-NAZY) sauce.  It is rich, with depth of flavor, and some serious comfort food.

Ingredients:

4 slices bacon, chopped
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 onion, small dice
3 carrots, small dice
1 stalk celery, small dice
1 lb. lean ground beef
0.5 lb. ground pork
1.5 t salt
1 t dried basil, or 3-5 whole fresh basil leaves
1 t oregano
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1.5 C milk (2%)
2 C white wine
28 oz. peeled plum tomatoes (I use San Marzano)
8 oz tomato sauce (optional)

Directions:

Put chopped bacon and olive oil in a dutch oven over medium low heat.  Cook until bacon is crisp.  Melt butter.  Add onion, carrot, and celery until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add ground beef and pork and spices.  When meat is browned completely, drain most of the fat off.  Return to pan and add milk.  Simmer milk until it is almost completely reduced.  Please don't allow that milk to burn!  When milk is reduced, add white wine.  Allow it to nearly completely reduce as well.  While you are waiting on the wine to reduce, put the San Marzano tomatoes in a bowl and break them apart with your hands.  When the wine has reduced, add the crushed plum tomatoes and tomato sauce (optional) to the pan.  Bring to a very low simmer and allow to remain that way for 4-6 hours. Make sure you don't have the heat up too high.   It should barely be bubbling.  Even then, keep an eye on it.  If your pan gets too dry, add water.  The longer you cook this, the better.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Kid President's 5 Things That Make Summer Awesome

 When you like or share this video between now and July 31, 2015, Con Agra donates money to local food banks. Feel free to share widely! Share from the You Tube page!

 
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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Chinese Pork Dumplings

I don't know how I found this recipe, but I can assure you it was all Bin Xu's fault for causing me to fall in love with these dumplings.  He used to invite us all over for dumpling making parties.  We would eat ourselves silly.

This recipe makes 50 dumplings, but I usually double it and freeze about half.  They freeze exceptionally well.  So one night, when you don't feel like making dinner at all, you can thaw these out and have the most spectacular dinner ever.

Here we go.....

Ingredients:

2 T finely chopped chives
1 T sesame seeds
1 T chili-garlic sauce
1 lb. ground pork
3 minced garlic cloves
1 beaten egg
2 T soy sauce
1.5 T sesame oil
1 T minced fresh ginger
50 dumpling wrappers
1 cup veg oil for frying
1 quart water, or as needed

Directions:

Mix pork, garlic, egg, chives, soy sauce, sesame oil and ginger in a large bowl.  Prepare your dumpling wrappers.  I find lightly flowering your work surface works well.  Make sure to keep the unused wrappers covered with a damp towel while you work.  Place a wrapper on the floured counter surface.  Put about 1 T of the filling in the wrapper.  Don't overfill or your dumpling will come apart during cooking.  With a wet finger, draw a half moon around the outside of the dumpling wrapper.  Fold the wrapper in half and crimp the edges together.  Repeat until you run out of wrappers or filling.

You can freeze the dumplings by placing them individually (not touching) on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Once they have frozen, you can put them in gallon-size freezer bags.  I have kept them like this for up to 6 months.

To cook the dumplings.  Add about 1.5 teaspoons of oil to a large frying pan.  Put 8-10 dumplings into the pan and cook until browned about 2-3 minutes per side.  Pour in about 3/4 cup of water, and cover and cook until the dumplings are tender and the pork is cooked through.  Usually, I find this takes about 5 minutes (about the same amount of time it takes the water to evaporate.  Do not overcook.

Serve with a dipping sauce (usually available at your nearest international market).


Friday, June 26, 2015

King Arthur's No-Knead Crusty White Bread



Ok.  So life has kept me very busy for a while. So busy that in order to make this bread, I had to get my students involved.The class was on fermentation.  Yeasts ferment.  So what better way to illustrate the process of fermentation than to employ our little yeast friends in the process of bread-making?

This recipe for a simple, no-knead bread comes way of King Arthur Flours.

The recipe is fairly simple and the results are simply delicious.

Ingredients:

32 oz. King Arthur All-Purpose flour
3 cups warm water
1 T salt
1.5 T instant yeast


Directions:

Mix all together in a bowl and beat until combined.   I find it easier to work with if I sprinkle the finished dough with olive oil and coat the outside of the dough and the rising dish.  All to rise (double in size).  This takes as long as it takes, but probably at least 2 hours.   After two hours you can refrigerate the dough for up to 7 days.

This recipe makes 3 small loaves.  To bake, pinch off 1/3 of the dough and place on a piece of floured parchment.  Allow to come to room temperature and rise for 45-60 mins. (It might not rise much this time.)  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F while dough is rising.  Beneath your stone in the oven, place a cast iron pan.  Leave the pan in the oven while the oven preheats.  

When your stone is to temperature, you should make two slashes in the bread to a depth of 1/2".  Get an 8 oz. glass of hot water ready to go.  Place the bread on the stone and immediately pour the water into the cast iron pan to create steam.  Watch out for the steam....steam burns!  Watch your fingers.  Don't get your face in the oven.  Close that door as quickly as possible.  You don't want to lose the steam.  Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the bread has developed a deep golden crust.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cook's Illustrated Best Banana Bread



Update:  I made this recipe for a 4th of July outing today.  I knew there would be a lot of kids there.  I like to take reliable recipes for kids.  They don't like adult food.  Banana bread is something, I think, that every kid seems to like.  

Before I left the party, one of the kids who I'd just met today and who didn't really spend a lot of time talking to me turned to me and said "Thanks for bringing that banana bread.  It was really good."

Wow!  A kid thanking an adult, unprompted, for bringing a dish.  I'm just going to file that in the Things That Tilt the Universe file.  

But back to reality.

This is a can't-believe-it-takes-so-long recipe, but, once again, so worth it.  Cook's Illustrated usually never steers me wrong and this is no exception.  The banana liqueur that is made by reducing banana juice makes this recipe exceptional.  Highly recommend.  Seriously.

Takes almost an hour to get ready to go in the oven.  Takes over an hour in the oven.  What can I say?  It's sleeting outside.  Warm banana bread is just the sort of comfort food I could go for right now.  And guess what folks, I left the butter out entirely and it is still moist and delicious!
So let's make some.


Ingredients:

1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
5 large very ripe bananas (about 1¾ to 2 pounds), peeled
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 eggs
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray an 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with Baker's Joy and set aside.  
2. Peel bananas and place in bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap (cut steam vents, please!) and microwave on high until the bananas release liquid about 5 minutes, but keep an eye on it.  Put the bananas in a fine-mesh strainer and place over a medium bowl and allow to drain.
Transfer the liquid to a small saucepan and reduce over medium-high heat to about 1/4 cup.  Stir liquid into the bananas and mash until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Fold in walnuts.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle granulated sugar on top.
Bake for 55-75 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temp. 
Will store up to 2 months (double-wrapped) in the freezer.
Follow Me on Pinterest(Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Chocolate Snowballs

This cookie recipe came from Dan Savage.  Yes.  THAT Dan Savage.  Well, from his mother, really.  But Dan passed the recipe along and I decided to take a chance and I'm glad I did.

This is the second new recipe I've gotten from a radio podcast.  (The other being the Sweet Potato Pie recipe below.)  Both of them are egg-sell-ent.

I'm going to have to take up NPR all over again.
These are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.  A chocolate, butter-based cookie with pecans and tossed in sugar. What's not to love?
Without further ado....

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup cocoa
2 c pecans
confectioners sugar

Directions:

Sift flour, salt, and cocoa together.  Cream butter & sugar until fluffy.  Add vanilla.  Mix together dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Gradually beat dry ingredients into butter mixture.  Blend in pecans. Form a log, wrap in saran and then foil, and put in fridge overnight.

Cut loaf into inch-thick slices, then into quartered cubes.  Roll cubes into balls about 1 inch in diameter.  Bake on a non-greased cookie sheet for 20 minutes at 350.  Transfer cookies as soon as they come out of the oven to a cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely before tossing in confectioner's sugar.  Much easier than they look when you finish them.  A great beginner's cookie.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nana's Sweet Potato Pie

I'm not going to lie to you.  This pie is so good, you'll stick a fork in your grandmother's hand if she tries to steal a bite.

Thanksgiving is coming up.  At my house, pumpkin pie reigns supreme. Every year I watch my relatives dive into a national favorite.  I watch, but I never partake.  I'm no fan of pumpkin pie.  I am a fan of sweet potatoes.  This year, I decided to take the bull by the horns and make my own pie.  In advance.  Just for me.  Let them have their pumpkin. I gots me some sweet taters.

This is a delicious pie.  I kid you not.  Easily made it into my top five pies.  Try it. You won't be disappointed.  Got it from a NPR podcast.  You just never know.

Ingredients:

3 large sweet potatoes (about 1.5 lbs)
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted sweet butter, room temp
1 can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 9-inch pie crust

Directions:

Boil sweet potatoes in their skin until fork tender.  Drain water and allow potatoes to cool.  Peel and discard the skin. In a medium bowl, add the sweet potatoes, eggs, butter cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar, and whip until incorporated.  Add evaporated milk a little at a time until the filling becomes loose.  Pour the filling into the pie crust.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Take the remaining evaporated milk, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 cup sugar and heat just until sugar is dissolved. Brush the mixture on top of the filling.

Place pie in oven and bake for 50 minutes or until the pie is firm to the touch.  Remove pie from oven and allow to cool slightly before eating.


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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pork Carnitas

You have to try this recipe.  It was so good, I didn't even have time to take a picture of it before it was gone.  The most amazing thing is it is made of pork.  I usually hate pork.  But this is melt in your mouth magic.  I'm not kidding.  You can also double this recipe.

Ingredients:

5 lb pork shoulder
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup orange juice
12 ounces beer

Garnish

purple onion, small dice
avocado
fresh cilantro leaves
lime juice

Rub

1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Directions:

Put the pork shoulder in your slow cooker.  Rub the garlic all over the meat.  Pour the rub over the meat and rub it in.  Add the lime and orange juice, beer, and adobo sauce. Cover and cook for 6 hours.  Shred the meat with forks and return to slow cooker.  Preheat broiler.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Place the meat on the cookie sheet and broil a few minutes until the edges sort of carmelize on the pork.

Serve on corn or flour tortillas with fresh cilantro, diced onions and a drizzle of lime juice.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Homemade Apple Butter

Ahh, the apple tree did it again.  Not a mast year like the last one, but I got some nice eating apples and enough to make an apple cake and something new this year:  apple butter.

This recipe came from Allrecipes.com, and it's a good one.  I scaled it for 15 half pints with enough left over to put in the fridge and have some this week.

Ingredients: 

2 cans frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
3 cups apple cider
8 lbs of apples, cored and chopped
1.5 cups dark brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Directions:

Bring apple juice, apple cider and apples to a boil.  When soft, mash through a sieve, a chinois, or use a food processor or hand blender.   Return to heat and add sugar and spices.  Simmer on low for up to 2 hours. (I actually had to cook mine longer.)  You want to cook it until when you put a heaping teaspoon of the butter on a plate, no water separates from the pulp.  Another test is if you have a heaping teaspoon and let it cool for 2 minutes, it is still mounded on the spoon.

Put in sterilized half-pint jars with 1/4" head space and process for 10 minutes.

Allow to cool for several hours until you hear that magical "pop".

Great on everything from ice cream to cornbread.

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Cowboy Kick in the Spurs



I don't know about your garden, but the weather has been awfully kind to my peppers this year.  I've got a bumper crop of banana peppers and jalapenos, which is to be expected, but I also have for the first time ever...plentiful bell peppers, pasillas, cayennes, Peter peppers, seranos and Thai red chilis.  The only peppers that aren't doing tremendously are the pepperocinis and I think that's because they get shaded for about 4 hours during the day.  Otherwise, it's been a super year for peppers. 

Just what do you do with all of them?  I put up 4 pints of pickled banana peppers, and I'm trading some, but I am still overrun with jalapenos.  So I decided to amke some of that delicious hot jalapeno jam that warms things up during the cold winter months ahead.  This jame will not set to a jelly-like consistency, but is meant to be pourable and served as a condiment.  If you want your mam more firmly set, add more pectin.  This is delicious over a brick of cream cheese and served with crackers or crudites.

Ingredients:

1 lb green or red bell peppers, washed and seeded
3/4 lb jalapenos, washed, stems removed
6 cups sugar
1 1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c lemon juice
1 t kosher salt
3 oz. liquid pectin

Directions:

Wash and remove seeds from bell peppers.  Wash and remove stems from jalapenos.  Put both in a food processor and pulse into a fine dice.  Place in a large, non-reactive pot and combine with sugar, vinegar, lemon juice and salt.   Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.  Return to a boil and add the liquid pectin.  Bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute.  Ladle into sterilized pint jars.  Wipe down the rims with a clean cloth dipped in boiling water.  Place prepared lids and bands on the jars and process in a boiling water bath 10 minutes.  Remove from water bath and allow to cool on the counter for 24 hours.  Turn jars periodically to ensure that peppers are distributed throughout the jam as it cools.  If, after 24 hours, any lids have not sealed, put them in the refrigerator and use them promptly.  

Amount of jam will depend on the water content of your peppers.  This recipe should make about 8 pints of jam.  Mine made 9.  I just put the ninth in a clean jar and straight into the fridge for immediate use.  Looking forward to this.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies


Just like you remember from the school lunchroom!  These were among my favorite treats in grade school.  No one I knew ever made these at home even though my family was friends with one of the lunch ladies.  I figured the recipe was a trade secret.  Then I found this online. I enjoy these at least three times a year now.

I hope you like them as much as I do.  They really are a blast from the past.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cocoa
1 stick oleo or butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups old fashion oats

Put the sugar, milk, cocoa, and butter in a pan and bring to a hard boil.  Boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Add peanut butter and stir until incorporated.  Add vanilla and stir again.  Then add the oats.  Mix well.  Drop from spoon onto a greased or oiled baking sheet.  Refrigerate until hardened. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

I keep these in the fridge until they are all gone.  

Don't tell the lunch lady, but these are everything I remember.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fish tacos!




I first had fish tacos at a little joint at Huntington Beach, California.  They were rock-my-socks-off delicious.  Ever since then, I've been determined to re-create that first experience.  This recipe is not exactly like the tacos I had that day, but they are every bit as authentic a California eating experience, and they are rock-star fish tacos.  I kid you not.  Try these and you may find them in your regular rotation for a while.  Or at least as long as your arteries hold out.

Beer-Battered Fish Tacos

Batter
1 cup AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup beer (plus more to make a thin batter)


Sauce
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons of capers, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper

1 lb cod fillets, sliced into 2 oz. chunks
package corn tortillas
shredded cabbage
chopped tomato
vegetable oil (for frying)

Mix the batter and set aside.  Mix the sauce ingredients together and refrigerate.  In a deep, heavy bottomed pot, put one quart of oil and set on medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, dredge the cod in some flour and then dunk in the batter.  Add no more than 5 pieces at a time.  Do not let them get too dark. Dry cod on paper towels.  Heat a non-stick skillet on high.  Heat a corn tortilla (not too stiff) on both sides.  Load with fish, sauce, cabbage, tomatoes and top off with a little lime juice.

The fish is amazing by itself.  The sauce by itself is amazing.   And, if you use El Milagro corn tortilla shells (out of Chicago), the tortillas by themselves are amazing.  But this dish put together is electric!

The sauce has many more applications beyond this dish.  I can see it as dipping sauce for french fries (even though I'm not a french fry fan), on beef sandwiches, etc.

I'm not a big fan of fried food and I don't make it very often.  (What do you do with all that oil when you are done?)  From a health perspective, I suppose that's a good thing.   But like homemade fried chicken, there is nothing quite like home cooked fried fish.  So I only do this once every two years or so.  I think my arteries will forgive me on those rare occasions.  And this, my friends, was worth it.

On the other hand, the original fish tacos I had in Huntington Beach were grilled.  I'm pretty sure they used tilapia or some other white fish.  I think that you could use any "substantial" white fish (tilapia, cod, perch, etc.) and it would still be fine. I think if you sprinkled that fish with a little cumin and cayenne before baking it, it would also complement the flavors.  So this doesn't have to be only an every-once-in-a-while dish.  I also think it would be more visually appealing with purple cabbage and a nice fresh slice of avocado.  Maybe even a few pinches of shredded carrot.

Delicious.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Restaurant-style Salsa


Sometimes you just want it like they have at the Mexican place.  You know the stuff.  They bring it out sometimes in a mini-carafe with a basket of warm tortilla chips.

My mouth waters just thinking about it.

I was thinking about that and then I found this recipe.  OK, it is a Pioneer Woman recipe, but it was pretty good nonetheless.  Say what you will, that woman can cook.


Restaurant-style Salsa

1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes with juice (I used Contadina brand)
2 10 oz. cans of Rotel with juice
1 clove garlic
1 small onion
1 jalapeno, seeds removed
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon sugar
juice of 1 whole lime

Put in your blender or food processor and have at it.

Makes a lot, but that's okay.  You may find yourself pouring a glass and drinking this.

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Gregg's Birthday Peanut Butter Cookies - Shhhh. It's a Surprise!

So today, I made some peanut butter cookies.  I don't like peanut butter cookies.  Never have.  Amazing thing, if you think about it.  Peanut butter is my favorite food.  Followed closely by popcorn.  Nothing else comes in a close third.  Then how is it possible that I don't like peanut butter cookies?

I know this might be heresy, but I also don't like peanut butter cake.  I think it's because the only peanut butter cake I've ever had was prepared as though it was Texas sheet cake and I don't like that style of cake.  I digress.

Monday is Gregg's birthday.  Gregg is a good guy.  He's one of my best friends.  Peanut butter cookies are his favorite.  How could I deny a face like that?

Gregg's Birthday Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temp
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
1 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2.5 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat overn to 375F.  Cream together butter, shortening, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until well combined.  Sift together flour, soda, and salt.  Add in thirds to the sugar mixture. Roll into 1" balls and place on a baking sheet.  (I use a silicone mat.)  Squash cookies slightly with the back of a fork and make the cross marks.  Bake 8-10 minutes. Don't overcook.  Allow to cool on the baking sheets for at least 2 minutes to set.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

CopyCat Recipe: Olive Garden's Pasta e Fagioli

Like you, I've seen a lot of copycat recipes on various recipe sites, Pinterest (follow me, by the way!) and so on.  I've never bothered to try many of them.  For one, you can often go directly to your favorite restaurant's website and get the recipe straight from them!

There are probably lots of others, but those were three I was curious enough about their recipes to locate.

In any event, if you go to Olive Garden's free recipe site, you will not find a recipe for their pasta e fagioli.  Pasta e fagioli (pronounced pasta fazool) is a classic Italian soup.  It is, to my mind, minestrone with pasta.  Literally translated, it means pasta with beans.  Every cook makes it differently, uses different beans or bean blends, puts some secret ingredient in and so on.  It's a versatile recipe that you can adjust to your own tastes.

I've never been a big fan of Olive Garden.  I always felt that their food was mediocre.  It bears no resemblance whatsoever to real Italian food which can be obtained at many small, family-owned restaurants scattered in mid-sized cities throughout the country.  One of my favorites is a place called Scotty's Italian Restaurant on 9th Street and Vine (I believe) in Cincinnati, OH.  It was about the only redeeming thing I found in Cincinnati, OH.  But I digress.

Back to Olive Garden.  Never a big fan. But I went there for lunch once many, many moons ago and remember that their soup and salad was pretty darn good.  The soup I had was pasta e fagioli.  So when I saw a copycat recipe, I decided to give it a try.  I'm glad I did.

However, it is pretty pedestrian as listed.  You may prefer it this way.  I think it pretty well mirrors Olive Garden's actual recipe.  This is a recipe you need to toy with.  Tinker with.  Try a major overhaul once in a while.  But for starters, here's the bones you'll get to work with.

Olive Garden's Copycat Pasta e Fagioli

1 lb. ground chuck/turkey/beef
1 small onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 15 oz cans of Hunts Fire-Roasted Tomatoes (to me, this is vital that they be "fire roasted)
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce (any brand, plain)
1 Tablespoon vinegar (recipe calls for white, I use apple cider vinegar because white vinegar is for cleaning, people)
2 cups beef broth
1 14 oz. can of red beans (I use red kidney beans)
1 14 oz. can of white beans (I use northern or canneli beans)
1.5 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 lb. Digitali pasta (or a small rigatoni, or even elbow macaroni--whatever you've got on hand)

In a large stock pot or dutch oven, brown the ground meat together with the onion, celery and carrot. I usually use ground chuck and there is so little fat to drain that I usually don't bother.  If you are counting every calorie, go ahead and drain it.  Return it to the pan and add the diced tomatoes, beans, broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, salt, basil, oregano,  pepper and thyme.  I usually also add one bay leaf.  I'm a rebel that way.

Bring to a boil and lower the heat until it is maintained at a slow simmer.  Cook for 50 minutes, minimum.  It's always better the second day.  It's practically illegal by day three.  Keep in mind that this soup works very nice as a poaching liquid for Italian sausage links.  Just saying.

After 50 minutes, put on a pot of salted water to boil.  When it reaches a rolling boil, add the pasta to the water and allow to cook according to package directions.  Remove when al dente.

Now, you can add your pasta to the pot if you like, but we warned that it will continue to cook in the soup liquid and will begin to absorb a lot of the liquid in your pot.  Next day, you'll go to have a bowl of soup and find out you know have a pasta chowder that has to be watered down again.  I'm not a fan of losing precious liquid to pasta and then having to water down my soup that I worked so hard to develop the flavor in.  I usually keep my pasta on the side and add abut a quarter cup to a single serving of soup.  Much better.

Now, I modify this recipe.  What do I do?   

I chop up two mild Italian sausage links and brown it with the ground chuck, onion, carrot and celery mix.  Sausage adds rich fat flavor.  It gives this recipe ummph and ummph is a good thing.  A nice breakfast sausage might work just as well.  Because Italian sausage links usually come in packages of five, I throw the remaining three in to cook as the soup cooks.  You can leave them in there as long as you'd like. Take them out and feed them to your husband.  Hide them in the soup and save them for yourself.  Use them in another recipe.  Go crazy!

Italian sausage is also heavy in salt, so I completely omit the salt.

I usually skip buying prepared beef broth and just toss in two beef bullion cubes with the tomatoes and add 2 cups of water.  You don't have to use beef broth.  You can use tomato juice.  V8.  Plain water.  I've even used leftover coffee!  Use whatever is handy.  Whatever liquid you use will marry in with the flavors and turn into liquid gold.

I add any Parmesan rinds I have hidden in the back of the fridge with the tomatoes and tomato sauce.  This really add some fantastic flavor.  You've been throwing those away?  Oh dear Lord.  Don't do that anymore.

I rarely keep dried basil in the house.  I have frozen pesto left over from last year's garden in the freezer, and I usually add a tablespoon or so of the thawed pesto to the pot.  Pesto, for those who don't know is a maceration of fresh basil leaves, pine nuts, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.  Nothing there that would conflict with this recipe!

As I mentioned, I also add a bay leaf.  I fish it out before serving.

I usually add a generous 3/4 to a full cup of a good burgundy wine (Merlot, Shiraz, something along those lines).  I like wine in Italian dishes.  But be warned, this is going to change the tenor of this soup.  If you aren't a wine fan, proceed with caution.

I use whatever beans I have handy.  I usually try to stick with dark kidney beans, some white bean (Northern or Cannelli), or a bean mixture.  Pintos would fall apart. Avoid them.  Garbanzos?  No. You can use chili beans as long as they are rinsed.  You don't want Mexican overtones here. And Pasta e fagioli is not a spicy dish.

I almost always serve with a piece of chewy crusty bread.

Man, that's good eating.

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