Thursday, February 24, 2011

Western Rice and Beans, Soup and Sammich, and Using A Raft to Roast

Rice was my Waterloo as a new bride learning to cook for a family.  I usually scorched it, and it came out starchy and clumped together.  Then my wonderful friend and neighbor Grace told me the secret of cooking rice.  It happily has nothing to do with measuring! 
No matter how big the container you are cooking in, nor how much rice you are going to cook, you just need to fill the pot with cold water to cover the rice by 1 inch.  Luckily, we have a handy one inch measuring device close at hand.  That is to say, our thumb from the tip of the thumb to the first joint is one inch.  So, once you pour the water in with the rice, gently shake the pot to level the rice, and measure until you get one inch of water above the rice. 
The next tip she gave me was to really wash the rice in cold running water before cooking.  With the tap running, you fill the pot with water, and carefully pour off the starchy water until the water is mostly clear.  This will ensure your rice cooks up fluffy and not clumpy. 
Once you've rinsed and measured the water, put the pot on the stove on high heat until the water comes to a rolling boil.  Then add a bit of butter and whatever herbs and seasoning you want at this time.  Stir the rice, and cover it with a lid, reducing the heat to a simmer.  Now you need to leave it alone.  Peek after about ten or fifteen minutes, and start testing for doneness.  Once the rice tests done, take it off the heat, and let it sit covered until you are ready to serve.  Then fluff with a fork at the last minute.  If you stir during the simmering process, you will break the rice, and have a clumpy starchy mess.

Managing My Meat Freezer 
We just butchered, so I have put the older meat at the top, and am using it up first.  I have to pay attention to my inventory of meat, and do this rotation, or we will end up throwing out freezer burnt items. I had some bulk turkey sausage packages, so I came up with this Wyoming style version of New Orleans Red Beans and Rice.  All of the ingredients came from either the pantry or freezer, so I will be looking to use this often in my menu planning.

Western Beans and Rice
1 pkg bulk turkey sausage (you could certainly use pork sausage)
1/2 onion
1/2 C finely chopped celery
1 can Pinto Beans with Jalapenos, or you could use pork & beans and a couple pickled jalapenos
2 C V-8 or tomato juice
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chicken and tomato soup base
Cooked Rice (see above for directions)  I started the rice at the same time as the sausage bean mixture, and they were done about the same time.  I added in 2 T chicken and tomato soup base to the rice, and it came out a rosy color, with really good flavor.
In a large skillet, brown onion and celery in 2 T oil.  Add turkey sausage, and break it up.  When turkey is browned, add tomato juice and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook uncovered until rice tests done, and liquid has been reduced by 1/3.  To serve ladle hot rice into bowls, and top with meat and bean mixture.  Serve with corn muffins and honey buttah!

Today is soup and sammich day.  I usually have fresh vine ripe tomatoes in a bowl on my counter, and I make this Tomato Bisque when the fresh tomatoes start to get a little soft.  I cut them in half and place them on a baking sheet cut side up, and season with dried basil and salt and pepper.  I drizzle them with olive oil, or spray them with pam, and bake them at 400 F for about fifteen minutes.  They are delicious and once chopped, and added to the tomato juice,  make an awesome deep flavored tomato soup. 
The fresh tomatoes have been crap lately, so I will have to use canned diced tomatoes in their place.

Tomato Soup
4 T olive oil
2 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp basil
5 whole cloves

1 jug of v-8 or tomato juice
1 large can/quart of diced tomatoes
1/4 C sugar or splenda
salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan on medium heat, bring the olive oil and minced garlic up to temperature until the garlic just starts to get golden.  add other spices, and juice and tomatoes.  Add sugar or splenda, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, and cook for fifteen minutes.
The Best Ever Tuna Sammich Filling
2 cans tuna in water drained
1/3 onion grated into the tuna
1 pickle grated, or 2 T pickle relish
1 whole tart apple grated
1/3 C mayonnaise
2 heaping T mustard
handful of caper berries drained
1/2 tsp white pepper
Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container.  This is better if made ahead.  Today, I will make the sandwiches with spinach wraps, and add thinly sliced red onions, fresh spinach leaves, and some havarti cheese to the filling.  It is really good on dark rye bread with slices of apple, and cream cheese on the bread.

I buy bologna in bulk.  It seems to have a better flavor, lasts a long time, and is so much better sliced fresh.  It is awesome sliced thick and grilled on the grill, but I also like to grind it to make sandwich filling, or for snacking with crackers as an appetizer.  I have a meat grinder attachment to my mixer, but you can certainly use a food processor to make it.
I also use this recipe to use up left over roast or chicken, or salmon.  I just grind the meat the same, and add in the remaining ingredients.  

Cowboy Caviar, or chopped Bologna Sammich Filling
2 C ground bologna
1/2 C shredded or ground cheddar cheese
1/2 onion ground
1 large dill pickle ground
1/2 C mayonaise
3 T stone ground mustard
Store in an airtight container, and use as a sandwich spread, or as a topper for crackers.

Roasting on a Raft
Tonight we are having beef loin.  I had originally thawed out lamb chops to grill, but the weather is nasty, so we will eat this beef loin instead. 
On a shopping day last month, I happened on to a buy one get one free sale of both marinated pork and beef loin wet packs.  I bought several.  With the sale price, I paid only about two dollars for each one.  Since it is wet pack, I will need to drain off the liquid, and pat it dry before browning it.  I will certainly save the liquid to add to the pan later.
To cook it, I will brown it in oil on all sides in my large cast iron skillet.  I will remove it and add in thick slices of onion and the reserved meat marinade juices to the skillet.  This will be the "raft" the meat sits on to roast in the oven. I will then add the browned loin on top, and season with grill seasoning.  This will go in the oven on 450 F for twenty minutes.  I will let it rest for ten minutes before slicing it, and serving it with salad and baked potatoes. 
I could also use other vegetables to make a raft like sliced potatoes, carrots cut in half or celery sticks.  These vegetables will get bathed in meat drippings, and be delicious, and will keep the meat elevated off the surface of the skillet, allowing for more even roasting. 
When I roast a whole chicken, I make it in the skillet on a raft of onions just like this.  I stuff the inside of the chicken with sliced lemons, and season it with thyme, poultry seasoning, and salt and pepper.  It makes a lovely Sunday dinner! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

and my husband says, "Chicken...again!"

Some people say they eat seasonally, and to some extent we do that.  We eat fruits and vegetables in season for the most part, but since we are such a global marketplace any more, we do eat fruit out of season as long as it is cheap. 
Actually, the cost of things is my great motivator.  I love to try to get by on the smallest food budget I can.  I am very competitive by nature, and am always thinking how to do it cheaper and better than I did it before. 
When there is a sale on items like meats and fish, I buy in bulk, repackage and freeze, or turbo cook many meals at once to use it up. 
I got a great sale on boneless, skinless chicken on my last shopping trip.  A huge package of ten oversized breasts.  Normally, I would have repackaged most of them for the freezer, but we just butchered, so freezer space for meat is limited.

Chicken Tenders
I took all the breasts and removed the tenderloin strips from the backside of the breasts.  These will get dipped in buttermilk, an egg and Frank's hot sauce; rolled in breadcrumbs and baked in the oven for another day's lunch of chicken tenders.

Chicken breast is not my husband's favorite, but he really liked this dish.  It is my version of Tortilla Soup, and afforded me an opportunity to use up my homemade chips!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
3 chicken breasts, diced into 1 inch pieces
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 chipotle pepper diced finely
2 quarts/boxes chicken stock
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 C uncooked rice
fresh cilantro
2 avocados diced
lime wedges
In a large stock pot, brown onion in 2 T olive oil.  Add chicken, carrots, and the chipotle pepper, and brown.  Deglaze pan with stock, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and add cumin, salt and pepper.  When the soup comes to a boil, add rice, and bring back to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for thirty minutes.(At this point, I could freeze this, or cool it and save in the refrigerator for later in the week.)  When rice is done, ladle into bowls and top with cilantro, avocado and lime juice.  Serve with tortilla chips on top.

 I love the peppery sharp taste of lemongrass and fresh ginger.  I often can't find fresh lemongrass, but I can always get a tube of prepared lemongrass in the produce section of my grocery store.  It saves a lot of pounding and chopping, too! 

Asian Chicken and Lemongrass Soup with Udon 
3 Chicken Breasts diced in 1 inch pieces
1/2 yellow onion
1 C diced celery
2 quarts/boxes chicken stock
1 C Napa Cabbage
1 carrot peeled and sliced thinly
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flake
2 heaping T lemongrass in a tube
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp thyme
2 T Nam Pla or fish sauce
1 pkg Udon Noodles, or you can substitute with pasta
Cilantro for garnish
Brown onion and celery in oil until translucent.  Add chicken and carrot and brown.  Deglaze with stock, and add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil and cover and simmer for one hour.  (I could freeze the soup at this point.) Bring back to a boil, and add three portions of Udon Noodles.  Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Chicken Enchiladas
4 chicken breasts poached:
In 1 quart of water, place chicken with a handful of peppercorns and two bay leaves.  Bring to a boil, and cover and simmer.  Discard bay leaves and pepper, and save broth for another use.  Shred chicken with two forks for this recipe. You could also use roasted chicken shredded.
1 pkg cream cheese softened
1 can store bought cream of chicken soup  (the exception to the rule that homemade soup is better.  The canned works best in this recipe)
1 small can of diced green chiles
1 pkg corn or flour tortillas
4 C red enchilada sauce
4 scallions chopped
Queso Blanco crumbled 
Add softened cream cheese, condensed soup and green chiles and their juice to the shredded chicken.  Salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Fill tortillas with mixture, and place seam side down in a greased jelly roll pan.  Top with enchilada sauce, green onions and queso.  Cover with foil, and bake at 375 F for forty five minutes, or until filling is hot, and cheese is melty.  Serve over rice.   


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Junk Food

Even though I plan my meals, and shop from my list, I often am left with food that didn't get used.  It is a common occurrence when you try to shop for an extended amount of time, like a week or two, or a month.  There will be more in a package than what I need for a meal, or I will have food that is starting to not be so fresh, and needs used up before I lose it.  So, I would say to live this way, you must be creative, and flexible in what you do.  Better to change your planned meal, than to lose some produce that is starting to get wilted.

Oven Roasting Vegetables

I overbought broccoli and cherry tomatoes recently.  We had a night out with family unexpectedly, so my planned meal didn't get served.  We are very fond of oven roasted vegetables, so on my last turbo cooking day (see previous post), I cut up the broccoli and roasted it with the cherry tomatoes, and an onion that was threatening to go soft.  I sprinkled them with Mrs. Dash garlic and herb seasoning, but could have just used italian herb blend, and salt and pepper, and drizzled them with 2 T olive oil.  After tossing them to coat them all, I roasted them for 15-20 minutes in a 450 F oven.  After cooling, they went in a sealed container in the fridge, for later in the week.  On the day we ate it, I heated the vegetables and oil  in a skillet, and tossed them with whole wheat pasta, and some Parmesan cheese.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

I could not find a small package of fresh white corn tortillas last time I shopped, so I was left with a substantial bunch of them, and no plan for their use.  Today while the little babies napped, Bridger and I made homemade tortilla chips.  We fried them in LARD  and seasoned them with Tajin spice blend.  If I didn't have that on hand, I could have just used salt, chili powder and some lime juice.  Bridger's contribution was to oversee the operation, and do quality control on the chips cool enough to eat.  He says they are pretty good, which is high praise from a two year old!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Eggs in Purgatory

It's official, we are lambing.  We had three of our ewes lamb this weekend.  Thankfully, it's been very warm, up in the fourties during the day. The lambing barn was so warm yesterday, I uncovered down to my t shirt, and got some sun while Don and Joel went home for a bottle for one chilled down lamb.  The new lambs were very appreciative of the warmth as well, and the comfy straw beds.
Our life is on high speed now until all the babies are on the ground.  I am so glad I made food ahead!  I even got to sneak in a nap yesterday, as I already had the chicken casserole done!
I have to use my easy, quick filling food recipes now, as we are going to be super busy for a while.  I am not a sweet breakfast person.  I like the savory breakfast items like grits and eggs, biscuits and gravy, etc...much more than pancakes and other breakfast breads.
This is my take on Eggs in Purgatory.  It is great when you are in a time pinch, as it takes only about ten minutes to make.  I served it over some biscuits leftover from yesterday's breakfast, but they would also be good with grits.

Eggs in Purgatory
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
3 pickled jalapenos diced
In a skillet, bring the tomatoes and jalapenos to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and break in eggs.  This will make enough sauce for four people, so you can top with up to eight eggs.  Salt and pepper eggs, and cover with a lid.  Simmer until eggs are set, and serve over biscuits or grits, or toasted bread.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spend Time to Make Time

Life is a little more hectic at our house than usual.  I have a new three month old baby, which has totally changed the dynamic of life with the almost three year old, and the ten month old that I am day nanny for.  They are having a hard time with the sharing of attention with the new little one.  She is a little blessing, and such a mellow, easy going baby, so that has helped me.
Also, I am backlogged on my bookkeeping, and housekeeping after being punky before and after surgery in November.  I am glad to report, I feel SO much better, and am getting stronger every day.  It's been a long hard haul, though.
We are just on the cusp of our lambing, so we've started checking ewes.  That is logistically challenging, as they are in the sheep pasture five miles from our home.  As things start to heat up in the lambing corrals, my life will be "foot feeder to the floor" so to speak.  I have to plan a little to make it manageable.  Turbo cooking can really save me at this time of the year.
I am a huge fan of rotisserie chicken at the grocery store.  I discovered at a local grocery store, that once the chickens are pulled from the heated case, they are drastically discounted, and in the cold case.  For less than the price per pound for raw chicken, I can get tender and moist roasted chicken already cooled and ready for meal preparation.  Now, I am not big on already prepared foods, but I love this one.
So, on Thursday, my son Joel and I turbo cooked several meals from the two roast chickens we bought on our last shopping day.  We produced food for three lunches and a dinner, and put away two more meals in the freezer.

Chicken Stock
is freezer and refrigerator star.  It can easily be made from the carcass left from harvesting the chicken meat.  Bones that have been roasted with the meat on are the best for stock, so don't throw that chicken carcass away!  I cover the carcasses with water an inch above them, and add a half an onion, some celery chopped, and a couple chunked up carrots.  The only seasoning for me at this point is a hand full of peppercorns, three bay leaves, and a tsp of thyme or poultry seasoning.  I cover the pot, and bring it to a boil.  It then goes covered on the simmer burner on low for several hours, until the carcass falls apart and gives up the last of it's meaty bits.  I then pour the contents into another large pot that has a colander in it.  After it cools a bit, I sift through the contents of the colander, removing the last of the meat, and throw the rest away.  The vegetables used to flavor the stock have given their all, and are too soft to use.  I now have several quarts of stock to store in my fridge or put in the freezer.

Cream of _?__ Soup
I am not a big fan of canned soup.  I know most people use it for casseroles, but I don't like the flavor, the salt content, or the price of it.  I can make a cream soup in about ten minutes on my stove, so I choose to do that instead.  If you can make gravy, you can make cream soup.  The only difference in the two is that you don't add as much liquid to gravy.
For instance, I made cream of chicken soup from chicken stock (see above) and milk- no cream for the chicken pot pie.  It is silky and lovely, and if I wished could be lunch on it's own.  I start with a half a stick of butter melted in my skillet cooked with a couple heaping tablespoons of flour, and cooked until it is foamy, turns golden brown and smells nutty.  With a wire whisk, I start adding chicken stock, adding small additions, and smoothing out the gravy/soup before adding more.  After a quart has been added, I'll add in 2 cups of milk, and stir on the heat until it bubbles.  I will season to taste with salt and pepper and a sprinkle of poultry seasoning, and adjust the consistency at this point by adding more stock as necessary.  For pot pie I stop at a medium bodied gravy.  I have potatoes in this dish, and they will tighten up the liquid during cooking.  If you wish to use canned soups for my recipes, just substitute one can of soup, and a half a can of water or milk.  

Chicken Pot Pie
1 1/2 C pulled chicken
3 Carrots diced in one inch chunks
2 Potatoes diced in one inch chunks
1/2 yellow onion diced
1/2 bag frozen green beans
1 C diced celery
salt and pepper to taste, or I use Mrs. Dash regular
Homemade cream of chicken soup (see above)
In a greased 9x13 pan, put all the ingredients above, and pour over the chicken soup.  Cover with foil, and bake at 350 F for one hour.  At this point, you can cool the pan, and freeze it for later use.  On the day you use it, place it in the oven until it is hot and bubbly at 350 F, and then top with your favorite biscuits.  Return to the oven and cook until biscuits are golden brown, about ten minutes. 
We ate ours the same day, so I just took off the foil and added buttermilk biscuits  to the top after the one hour cooking time.  This made awesome lunch for two more days, and was even better reheated.

Chicken Noodle Soup
2 quarts/boxes chicken stock
1 quart water
2 T chicken soup base, or two bullion cubes
2 carrots diced
1/2 yellow onion
2 T oil
2 stalks of celery diced
1 bay leaf
1 C pulled chicken meat
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 bag whole wheat egg noodles
In a large pot, brown onions in oil.  Add in remaining ingredients except noodles.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer until vegetables are tender.  Bring back to a boil, and add noodles.
This made a great lunch, and also put two quarts of soup in the freezer.
Cream Soup Cont...
For meal number three, I made cream of mushroom soup.  I browned two packages of sliced button mushrooms in 2 T butter.  I removed them from the pan, started my rue of butter and flour, and then added mushroom stock.  (This was made from soaking dried mushrooms in boiling water.  I reserved the mushrooms for another meal, and carefully poured off the broth, leaving the gritty bits in the bowl.) I add two cups of milk, and adjust with more broth or water to get the desired medium bodied gravy thickness, and season with salt and pepper.  You can certainly substitute with canned soup and a half a can of water for this recipe.  

Chicken Casserole with Mushrooms, Artichokes and Asparagus
1 pkg whole wheat pasta shells, cooked and drained
1 pkg frozen artichoke hearts
2 bunches of asparagus, with bottom ends removed (DON'T throw these away, I boiled them in 1 1/2 quarts water and blended them with my hand blender to make broth for cream of asparagus soup we'll eat later in the week)
2 pkgs sliced button mushrooms
2 C pulled cooked chicken
homemade mushroom soup (see above)
Cook pasta and drain into a colander in which you have placed the frozen artichokes to defrost them quickly.  Fill the same pot with water again, and bring to a boil.  Salt water and blanch asparagus until it turns bright green.  Drain into the colander with pasta and artichokes.
In a greased roaster pan, add chicken, pasta and vegetables, and pour over mushroom gravy.  At this point, I cooled it, and it went into the refrigerator for Sunday dinner.  I could also freeze it.  On the day I serve it, I'll top it with 1 C seasoned breadcrumbs mixed with 1/3 C Parmesan cheese and cook it uncovered in a 350F oven until it is bubbly, about twenty minutes.  The vegetables are all cooked, so it is just a matter of heating it through and browning the top.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Japanese Style Noodle Bowl - Reprint for a friend

My sure fire feel good food for the cold and flu season is Japanese style noodle bowl. Very easy and fast to make, and there's nothing like the vapor powers of ginger and garlic steaming you as you slurp the noodles. Yes, it is a cultural requirement to slurp (I love that part best!!!) 

Here is my version. It contains Miso paste, which I find at my local health food store. To use miso, mix it with a small amount of hot liquid, and mash it with the back of a spoon to get it to dissolve.  

If I have time, I will steep some Kombu in the broth and remove it before making the soup. This is a fragrant edible sea kelp that has a lovely flavor and taste, but you can make it without.  Kombu is found at my local health food store. 

1 1/2 quart/box of chicken stock (unsalted is best as miso is salty)
1 heaping T miso paste
1 tsp minced garlic
3 T fish sauce
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 C T low sodium soy sauce
Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer the above ingredients in a saucepan. In a large pot, boil 1 pkg. of udon noodles in salted water. (If you can't find or don't have udon, you can substitute any long style pasta like linguini or spaghetti.) Drain and reserve.
The last minute of cooking the broth, I stir up three raw eggs in a small bowl, and stream in to the simmering soup.
To serve, use a deep sided bowl, and layer in noodles, fresh spinach if you like, and the hot broth. Serve with chopsticks, and slurp, slurp!!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Day Before Shopping Day Turbo Cook

They say that life is what happens when you are making other plans.  This is so true of our busy hectic life.  I don't always get to stay true to my menu plans, and often improvise and make a quicker, simpler meal than the one I planned for.
If items are on sale, I will stock up on them, and that changes my menu dynamic also.  For instance, ground chuck was on sale the last time I shopped as a buy one package, get one free.  That made it cost about a dollar and change per pound, so I bought two of the largest packages.  One whole package got divided, and placed in plastic, and wrapped for the freezer.  Half of the other package went into the making of the Beef Ancho Chili for Joel's birthday party.  (See recipe on Spaghetti Western post) That leaves me with a pound of beef that needs used up.
I overestimated amounts for fresh vegetables like celery and zucchini.  They need to be used or figured into the plan for this next week to come.  I have sweet onions that are starting to soften a bit, and they need to be used up also.  I had planned on using leftover meat from the taco bar to make a stir fry of broccoli and cauliflower, but there was none left over, so I will need to use those up also. I prep the broccoli and cauliflower for quick cooking by cutting it up and putting it into tupperware containers.  The head of red cabbage left in the crisper also gets shredded for use as either coleslaw, or cooked sweet and sour cabbage for this next week.  I have found that if I ready these things, I am more apt to use them at the end of a long busy day than if I have to prep them at meal time.  
So yesterday, we spent the day making room for fresh by using up the produce from our last shopping trip.
I often do what I call turbo cooking.  I plan one large span of time, a whole morning, or sometimes most of one day, to make ahead and use up what I have.  It seems like a big commitment when you first start doing so, but the savings in time and money more than make up for it in the long run.
Here is the products of our morning of turbo cooking:

French Onion Soup
4 large sweet onions sliced thinly
2 T butter
6 C beef stock
pinch of red pepper flake

In a large skillet or dutch oven, saute the onions and butter over medium heat until they are brown and carmelized in flavor.  Add beef stock and red pepper, and bring to a boil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
At this point, I cool this and pack it into canning jars leaving 1 inch headspace.  I use plastic lids you can buy for canning jar storage, and either store it in the refrigerator for use in the next week, or freeze it.
To serve, heat the onion soup to a boil.  Pour into large ramekins, or soup bowls and top with a crusty piece of sliced bread, and some sliced swiss cheese.  Place bowls on a cookie sheet, and put under the broiler until cheese is bubbly and melted.

Hamburg Stew - A family favorite using up my leftover hamburger, zucchini, and celery.  This can be made with any kind of vegetable, and I have made it often using up leftover spaghetti sauce in place of the hamburger and canned tomatoes.  Most of the time the vegetables consist of carrots, onions and potatoes, but we have vegetables that need used this time.

Hamburg Stew
1 pound browned burger
1/2 onion diced
4 small zucchinis diced
4 carrots peeled and diced
1 C celery
1 can low salt corn and it's liquid
1 small can fire roasted tomatoes
1 large can/quart of tomatoes
1 C red wine (party leftovers)
2 tsp Worchestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tsp italian herb seasoning
2 C v-8 or tomato juice
In a skillet, brown meat and remove to stock pot.  Add in onion, carrot and celery in the skillet, and cook until they are translucent.  Add wine and scrape up bits from the pan.  Add to stockpot along with all the other ingredients.  Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer, and cook for two hours or longer to develop a rich flavor.

I have about a cup and a half of Pico de Gallo left from Joel's birthday party, so I used it to make a spicy, creamy dressing for this cold pasta salad.  We are going out of town tomorrow, to rope in Thermopolis, so I will take this along in the cooler for our lunch.
When I use canned chipotle peppers in a recipe, I never use more than ONE pepper.  They are fiery hot, so I usually have them on hand in a glass refrigerator container.  If they start to get a little dry, I add some vinegar to keep them moist.  The liquid they are packed in is very good for seasoning things you wouldn't want pieces of pepper in, and it gives a smoky heat to the dressing for this salad.

Southwestern Pasta Salad

1C pico de gallo, or jarred salsa
1 C buttermilk ranch dressing
1/2 C mayonnaise
1/2 tsp sauce from canned chipotle peppers
1 can whole corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 container of cherry tomatoes halved
1/2 C sliced black olives
1/2 red onion sliced thinly
1 C shredded mexican blend cheese (leftover from Joel's party)
1/2 tsp tajin seasoning, or a pinch of chili powder, and some lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
1 box short cut whole grain pasta cooked and drained
In the bottom of a large tupperware, mix the buttermilk ranch, pico de gallo, mayo and chipotle sauce until well blended.  Add the remaining ingredients, and keep cool until serving.

I have two quarts of enchilada sauce left from my party last weekend, so I soaked a pound of dry beans overnight and made this dish in the slow cooker.  The pork is a lean pork loin that I had in the freezer, and I will pull it out when it tests done,  to cool and slice thinly for sandwiches this weekend.  It will give pork flavor to my beans, and since it is still frozen, will be moist and flavored by the enchilada sauce also.   I could also cook the meat longer, and shred it for chalupas or a big pan of enchiladas for the coming week if I liked.  The idea is that I am getting double duty from my one use of the slow cooker.  I will have Chili Beans for a side dish for several meals, or as a base for a chili, and also get the meat cooked at the same time.  It saves on dishes, which tickles me to no end!

Pork and Beans (kind of) or Chili Beans and Braised Pork Loin
1 pound of white or pinto beans, soaked overnight in double the amount of cold water, and rinsed
2 diced carrots
3 stalks celery
1/2 diced onion
1 chipotle pepper diced
6 C red enchilada sauce
2 C tomato juice or V-8
3 stalks of fresh thyme (leftover from making pickles)  I just put these in whole, and retrieve the stems after cooking.  The little leaves fall off in the liquid.
2 bay leaves
1 pound pork loin seasoned with salt and pepper
In a large slow cooker, place all ingredients, making sure the pork loin is on top.  I didn't brown this loin, nor did I even defrost it, I just put it in frozen.  It will absorb the liquid and be moist and flavored.  Cook on high heat until the pork tests done (165 F) with probe, and then continue cooking the beans on low heat for 10-12 hours. 
These freeze well, and are good as a side dish for grilled meat, or as a meal with boiled rice.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Birthday Ole, continued...Taco Bar

I live for a bargain, so when marinated pork loins were two for one, I bought several for the freezer. 
I also happened upon a beautiful flank steak for $1.89/pound the last time I shopped.  These replaced the usual ground beef taco meat for our taco bar.  You don't have to eat cheap eats to eat cheap!
The pork loin got slow cooked in it's liquid marinade, and then shredded and seasoned with cumin and a little chili pepper.  It was a peppercorn garlic marinated loin, and came out moist and delicious.
The flank got marinated overnight in a dry rub of Goya seasoning (adobo) and a little smoked paprika.  My husband Don grilled it for about six minutes a side, and after letting it rest for ten minutes, I sliced it thinly on an angle against the grain of the meat.  It was very tender and flavorful.
Meat is good, but the condiments make the taco.  We chopped fresh lettuce, tomatoes and onions, and served guacamole and fresh pico de gallo.  We also served sour cream, and family brought chips and crackers, and some whipped cream cheese with jalapeno jelly (delicious on crackers by the way).  Here are the recipes for our taco bar condiments:


4 ripe Haas avocados diced
1 fresh jalepeno, seeded and diced
1 T grated onion
zest of one fresh lime
juice of two limes
2 tsp fruit fresh preservative
1 fresh tomato chopped
Mash avocados with a potato masher, and add all other ingredients.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Save back one avocado pit if you aren't serving this right away, and it along with the fruit fresh will keep it from turning grey from oxidation.  Store in an airtight container.

Pico de Gallo
5 vine ripe tomatoes chopped
1 onion diced
1/2 C celery diced
2 jalapenos seeded and diced
1/3 C fresh cilantro chopped
zest of one lime
juice of one lime
1 tsp Frank's Hotsauce
salt and pepper to taste
Best if made the day before.  

Oh, snap! Have to change the name

I discovered today, that there is a cookbook called Prairie Home Cooking, so I've had to change my idea for my own book, and my blog, and facebook group...
I am not totally sold on the new title, so it may change.