Sunday, August 19, 2018

Easy Homemade Taco Seasoning and Daktari's American Tacos

You know the drill.  Taco Tuesdays and you're half way through browning the meat when you realize you don't have any taco seasoning.  If there is anything I've learned since turning 50 it is that I am absolutely certain I have the ingredients in my spice cabinet to make any seasoning mix that can be bought in the store.

Have you SEEN my spice shelf?  5 tiers of awesome Penzey's goodness.

So with a little internet investigation, I pieced together a recipe that I think is just right for my homemade tacos.  A couple of notes before we begin.  This recipe calls for sea salt.  Sea salt does not equal granulated table salt.  So if you intend to use granulated salt, I'd use about half the listed amount.  The dominant flavor profile here is going to be chili powder.  If you prefer your tacos to taste a little more like cumin, you might tweak those amounts.  The crushed red pepper gives it a bite, but I usually use VERY HOT crushed red pepper from Penzeys.  Again, try it and if you want more of a kick, toss in a few more flakes.

I hope you like this.  I found it quick, easy, and a lot cheaper and easier than a special trip to the store for taco seasoning mix.

Very Easy Homemade Taco Seasoning

1 tablespoon chili powder
1 beef bullion cube (or 1 teaspoon beef bullion crystals)
1.5 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon sea salt (or 0.5 teaspoon granulated salt)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
0.5 teaspoon paprika
0.25 teaspoon oregano
0.25 teaspoon garlic powder
0.25 teaspoon onion powder
0.25 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons masa

Mix thoroughly. This can be made up ahead of time. When I do it, I leave out the bullion cube and the masa and add those in as I cook.

Liz's American Tacos

1.5 lb ground beef
1 onion (small dice)
1/2 can of your favorite refried beans
Taco Seasoning mix (all of the portion made above)
1/2 cup water
Your favorite salsa (or this restaurant-style salsa)
diced onions
diced tomatoes
sliced pickled jalapenos
cheddar or pepper jack cheese
sour cream
cilantro (for garnish)

To make tacos using this seasoning mix, add 1/2 teaspoon olive oil to a skillet with 1 finely diced onion.

Crumble ground beef over onions and heat until browned.  Drain fat.  Return meat and onion mixture to pan.  Add seasoning and 1/2 cup of water.  Mix thoroughly.  Stir constantly until liquid has turned thick.

Purists can stop here and plate up your tacos.  But for a little something something, add 1/2 can of refried beans to the meat mixture.

You can add a small amount of water here to facilitate mixing, but it is not necessary.  Simmer over very low heat until beans have incorporated.

Heat your favorite taco shells.  (I prefer El Milagro corn tortillas.)

Place one scoop of taco filling into a heated corn tortilla.  Top with your favorite taco toppings.  I prefer a salad mix that is primarily cabbage and homemade salsa, tomatoes, fresh onion, pickled jalapenos, and garnished with cilantro. The lactose tolerant might also enjoy cheese and sour cream.

Let me know what you think!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Bolt Snap Tie Backs

These are my hardware store tie backs.

You'll need:

bolt snaps - 1 per tie back
key rings - 1 per tie back
7/64" cord

Cut a piece of cord about 30" long.  Double it over and loop it onto the bolt snap.  Tie a double snake knot with the 2 loose ends through the key ring.  I made the distance between the metal ends about 9.5"

Clip loose ends and singe.

Wrap around curtains and go.

Once you learn to make these knots, making one of these tie backs takes about 2 minutes.

Happy curtains!


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Chef John's Lamb and Rice Stuffed Cabbage Rolls (Lambage Rolls)

If you haven't been introduced to Chef John,'s own pun master, let me be the first to introduce you.  Pinterest has led me astray many times with recipes, but Chef John never has.  I love his videos and I swear by his techniques.  Enter a chilly day in Missouri and I was ready for comfort food.  Chef John suggested cabbage rolls. Turns out I happened to have had a pound of lamb in the freezer.

Game on.

I highly recommend you check out his video for Lamb and Rice Stuffed Cabbage Rolls.  I added some cubed granny Smith apples to the casserole dish.  Winner, winner, lamb and rice dinner.

Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread

An favorite.  Over 7000 reviews and still maintains 5 stars.  What else can I add to this except....I modified it.  Don't worry, the modifications are minor.  This is an excellent pumpkin bread recipe.  I urge you to try it sooner rather than later.


15 oz. pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1/2 cup veg oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 cups sugar
3.5 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1.5 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raisins


Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour one extra large loaf pan, a Bundt pan, two large loaf pans, or 3 small loaf pans.  Set aside.

Mix pumpkin, eggs, oil, applesauce and sugar in a mixer.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and spices.  Whisk to combine.

One low speed of mixer, combine the wet ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients in thirds until combined.  Then add the walnuts and raisins.

Pour mixture into loaf pan(s) and cook 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Spiced Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

Who doesn't love fall?  The beautiful colors on the trees. The crisp chill in the air as summer steps aside.  The way that we all begin to look forward to the holidays.  For me, one of the best ways to get in the fall mood is to pick up a sugar pie pumpkin and put it in absolutely everything!

Found this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis and the Food Network and knew it had to happen.

To prepare the pie pumpkin, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Using a large chef's knife, split the pumpkin in half.  Using a sturdy spoon, scrape out the fibers and seeds.  Don't throw the seeds away!  They are great toasted later.

Place the halves of the pumpkin cut side down on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 45-50 minutes until a knife inserts smoothly.  After the pumpkin has cooled, scoop out the pulp and place in a food processor.  Pulse until smooth.  Then put that stuff to good use.


1 cup flour
2/3 cup old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 raw sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 heaping tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce
1 tablespoon purple maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins


Preheat oven to 350.  Mix flour, oats, cinnamon, soda, salt, and allspice.  Whisk to combine.  In a separate bowl, mix pumpkin, sugar, oil, applesauce, maple syrup, vanilla extract and raisins.  One cup at a time, add the dry to the wet ingredients, stirring to completely combine.
Using a mini cookie scoop, scoop onto a prepared cookie sheet (either lined with parchment or using a silicon mat).  Sprinkle with a bit of sugar before baking.  Bake 20 minutes.  Allow to cool and enjoy!

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Similar to the chocolate snowballs cookies recipe (the one from Dan Savage's mom), this recipe is a traditional Mexican wedding cookie and is so easy and delicious.  The sugar is primarily on the outside, so if you are watching your sugar, you can moderate.  However, this is a butter-based cookie, so if you are watching fat, I'd try a different recipe.

These are so stinking good and remain one of my favorite cookies.


1 cup butter softened
1/2 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups flour
Confectioners sugar (for rolling)

Combine butter, sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl until well combined.  Add pecans and salt and mix well.  Add flour 1/2 cup at a time until dough comes together.

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until set but not browned.  Cool cookies completely before rolling in confectioners sugar.


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.


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


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.


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. 

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 

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

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

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.

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.



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.

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.


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


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.


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)


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.


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 


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)

Fall is upon us and it will soon be soup and stew season.  If you are like me and a fan of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine, you will really enjoy this recipe.  As for me, I'm in love with New Mexico chilis.  I'm always searching for new and exciting recipes that will allow me to make use these gems of the Southwest.  This traditional chicken stew inspires dreams of Southwest travel.  It makes generous use of lean chicken, tomatoes, tomatillos, onions and garlic.  Not spicy.  Not hot.  Just full of great flavor.  It is packed with protein, incredibly flavorful and only 2 Weight Watchers Smart Points per serving!   It can be made on the stovetop or in a crock pot.

Just a tip, I make this for all my Super Bowl parties.


1 T olive oil
1.5 pounds cubed pork stew meat or chicken (I use boneless skinless chicken breasts)
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 (you can buy store bought or make your own below)
2 c chicken broth
0.5 t dried oregano
pinch ground cloves

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

Place in blender and puree.  Use as tomatillo salsa above.  This will make more than called for.  If your pot will allow it, use it all.


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.  Remove the chicken and shred, then return to the pot.  Eat with corn tortillas.  These are amazing!

This can also be made in the crockpot.  When I do so, I omit the oil, and I don't pre-cook the onions or meat.  I throw everything else as described in the crock pot and cook it on high for 4 hours or on medium/low for 6 hours.

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 into my own version of Bolognese (pronounced BOLO-NAZY) sauce.  It is rich, with depth of flavor, and some serious comfort food.


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)


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.....


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


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.


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


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.


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


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....


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


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.


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


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.


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


purple onion, small dice
fresh cilantro leaves
lime juice


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


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, 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.


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


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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