Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pulled Pork and Black Bean and Tomato Salad, Homemade BBQ Sauce and Caprese Pasta Salad

I love Independence Day.  We always have family here from out of town, and Lander is quite possibly the best place in America to celebrate.  We have a parade, a buffalo barbecue, the oldest paid rodeo in the world, and a local dentist puts on a patriotic fireworks display that is amazing. 
They broadcast the fireworks program over the radio, and the fireworks are choreographed to the music and the story.  We always drive up on the hill by the rodeo grounds, and sit in lawn chairs with the radio cranked and enjoy the show. Dr. Bills pasture where he shoots off the display is directly across the valley from it.. 
The computer equipment that he uses for the show is so complex only Disney and another company in Japan have it.  It is a world class fireworks display.  I always get so choked up over the story that goes with it.  It definitely makes you think how lucky we are that people sacrificed and stuck to their ideals to create our nation.
My son Ryan was born on the second of July, so I am planning a family party.  I have been busy the last couple days making Cowboy Beans to serve at the party.  It is a recipe that uses dried pinto beans, so it takes two days to make:  one to soak the beans, and one whole day to cook it in the crockpot.
Today, I am making pickled vegetables, and some jelly to go along with the meal.  I had some plums that got a little soft, so I cooked them down and strained the juice through a cheesecloth.  This beautiful pink juice will get enough apple cider added to it to make 5 cups of juice necessary for the recipe for jelly.  I'll be making some giardinera, or pickled mixed vegetables, and some pickled beans for the party.  They only need twenty four hours to be ready.
I'll be partially putting together my Crunchy Asian Coleslaw today, too. I'll not put in the ramen noodles until right before the party so they will still have a little crunch to them.  
On Saturday, I'll be roasting a whole pork loin to serve along with the beans, and we'll have some southwest corn bread to round out the meal.  It will be delicious with butter and a little of the plum jelly I'm making today. 
Ryan is partial to German chocolate cake, so I'll be baking that as well. If I can find my recipe for Aunt Grace's chocolate cake, I'll use that.  Otherwise, it will be a box mix.  I use applesauce in the box mix to replace the oil, and make homemade frosting. 
I always make up big batches of deli style salads to have during the holiday weekend, and that will happen tomorrow.  I have a spare fridge in our garage we use for soda and overflow, so I can pack it full, and then when family is here, I can actually enjoy the company instead of living in the kitchen the whole time.
I have a meat slicer, and I'll cook some beef and slice it thin, along with some cheese to have for sandwiches.  I can thinly slice tomato and onion to keep in a tupperware for salads, too.  I love my meat slicer!
Yesterday, while the beans were cooking, I put a whole pork shoulder roast in my second crockpot.  I don't season my pulled pork until I add the barbecue sauce, as I think the salt draws out too much moisture from the meat, and is a much moister meat if it slow cooks without any seasoning.  Once it gets to the stage where it will fall apart, I pull it out onto a baking sheet and with two forks, I shred the meat.  I then add the hot homemade barbecue sauce.  We will be able to heat this up for sandwiches, or will serve it over hot rice.
Even though I don't add liquid to the roast as it slow cooks, there is always almost a quart of pork juice left after cooking.  I don't throw this away, but keep it and freeze it if neccesary to add to beans or collard greens, or to use to make pork gravy.  After it cools, I'll skim all the congealed pork fat off and throw it away. 

Homemade Barbecue Sauce
1/3 C tomato sauce, or ketchup
2 T yellow mustard
1 T minced garlic
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1/3 C cider vinegar
1 T splenda brown sugar
1 T dark agave nectar
1/2 tsp tajin seasoning
In a small saucepan, heat the above ingredients until they are bubbly hot.  Combine with pulled pork, and serve on a bun or over rice. Extra sauce keeps well in the refrigerator. 

Cowboy Beans
2 lbs dry pinto beans
enough water to cover
In a large bowl, soak the beans in cold water the day before cooking them.  I like to change the water once, usually at bed time.  The next morning, I rinse the beans again until the water runs clear, and they go into the crockpot with enough water to just cover them again.  To that I add:
1 quart/box chicken stock
1 cup tomato based salsa, or tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 T minced garlic
3 bay leaves
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 heaping T ham soup base
2 chipotle peppers ( I put them in whole and then remove them before serving)
2 C chopped celery
4 large carrots peeled and sliced
2 onions chopped
Because of the salty ham soup base, I don't add extra salt
Pepper to taste
Cook on high for twelve to fourteen hours.  You want the beans to be tender but not mushy.  Once it was cooled, I put it in the fridge for the party.  On Saturday, I'll pull it out an hour before the party, and put it back in the crockpot on high.

I had a big bowl of tomatoes, and a large cucumber that needed used up, so I made a big batch of this black bean salad.  We will enjoy it with burgers and sandwiches over the holiday weekend.

Southwest Black Bean Salad

5 vine ripe tomatoes chopped
2 jalapeno peppers seeded and chopped fine
1/2 red onion chopped
1 can black beans that have been drained and rinsed
1 can corn drained
1 cucumber peeled and sliced in half moons
Combine all ingredients and dress with Lime Cumin Dressing.  Refrigerate overnight in a covered container.  Serve cold or at room temperature. 

Lime Cumin Dressing

juice and zest from one lime
1/3 C red wine vinegar
2 heaping T cilantro (either fresh, or from a tube)
1 C salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
1 tsp ground cumin 
2 T olive oil
2 T splenda
1 t minced garlic

Another of my favorite salads is a cold pasta salad with tomatoes, fresh basil and boccaccini (small balls of fresh mozzarella cheese.  I love Caprese Salad, which is an arranged salad of alternating slices of ripe tomato with rounds of fresh mozzarella.  It is served with fresh torn basil, and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  It's not complete without a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  I have adapted it to add whole wheat pasta. 

Caprese Pasta Salad
3 ripe tomatoes diced
1 C fresh basil torn into little pieces
1 pkg short cut whole grain pasta cooked and drained
1 shallot diced
1 carton fresh boccaccini balls drained and cut into halves
drizzle with oil and balsamic vinegar and coarse salt and pepper to taste.  Better after it sits covered in the fridge for a while. 
It is great served with grilled chickena or fish, or as a lunch on it's own, with a crusty piece of bread.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bandito Pie, Roasted Jalapeno Peppers Stuffed with Feta

This is a quick recipe that made an awesome lunch today!  Taco like filling with smoky chipotle pepper, and topped with a cornbread crust made from a mix.   I keep Jiffy cornbread mixes on hand to use for muffins along with soup, or as a topper for this pie.
I always have chipotle in adobo in my fridge.  I keep it in an old glass refrigerator container with a glass lid.  It only takes one or maybe two chipotles for a recipe, so it takes a long time for us to use up one little can.  When I open the chipotle in adobo, I always add enough cider vinegar to the container to keep the chipotles covered in liquid.  If they start to get dried out, I'll add more vinegar.  They stay usable for a very long time this way.  As an added bonus, I get more of the tasty adobo liquid to use in cooking that way!

Bandito Pie
1 lb ground meat (I used lamb, because it was thawed out, but equally good with beef or even turkey)
1 large onion diced
2 minced cloves of garlic
2/3 quart/large can of diced tomatoes
1 chopped chipotle in adobo
1 tsp adobo liquid
2 T Mexican chili powder
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

*Preheat oven to 350*F. 
In a large cast iron skillet, brown ground meat with onions on the stovetop.  Add garlic, tomatoes, chipotle and spices.  Adjust seasoning to taste. 
In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix cornmeal muffin/cornbread mix according to directions.  Mine called for milk, but I prefer buttermilk for baking.  It might require a little more liquid than the directions to make a medium soft dough spreadable enough to top the taco filling above.  Spread over the skillet full of taco filling, and place in preheated oven.  Bake for twenty five minutes, or until cornbread is golden brown.

Roasted Jalapenos Stuffed with Feta Cheese
We had some leftover fresh jalapenos that needed used up, so I split them down the middle, cut out the seeds and ribs,  and filled them with feta cheese.  These went on a baking sheet and roasted while the pie baked.  Mild jalapenos pair well with the salty feta, and they were a great accompaniment to the Bandito pie.   

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cheddar Bratwurst, Kraut and Potatoes

I love anything cabbage.  Especially sauerkraut.  I love to make a big old crock of it and put it up in jars.  When cabbage is cheapest I'll be buying it up to can.  I've given up trying to raise it because of the ghetto deer that reek destruction on my garden.  Right now, I am out, so I have to buy it in the store.  Still, it is a family favorite. 
Nothing goes better with kraut than pork;  either a pork roast, some boneless ribs, or fresh sausage.  Today we are having cheddarwurst cooked slow with kraut and vegetables.  The long cooking of the kraut with the pork and vegetables really mellows the flavor.  It is not at all the same as it tastes right out of the jar. Mustard seed needs to be paired with an acid to bring out the flavor, so it is really good in this dish.  Caraway and celery seed just take it to the next level of flavor.  I like the flavor of apple with pork, so I always add some cider.  We drink a lot of it, so I always have it on hand.  If I had some good tart apples, I'd peel them and cut them in wedges to top the brats.  Baked apples taste great with pork sausage.
You can substitute beer for the cider. 
I don't use salt at all, and only add pepper when I plate it, as the long cooking can really make it spicy if you add in the pepper before cooking.

Bratwurst  Hot Dish

2 pkg fresh bratwurst
1 whole onion cut in wedges
3 peeled carrots cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks
8 red skin potatoes scrubbed and quartered
2 quarts/jars of sauerkraut
1 tsp whole mustard seed
1 1/2 tsp caraway seed
pinch celery seed
2 fresh bay leaves
1 C apple cider
In a large crock pot, layer potatoes, carrots, onion wedges,  and both jars of kraut.  Top with browned bratwurst, the spices and pour the apple cider over all of it.  Cook on low temperature for at least 6 hours.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Marinated Polish Sausage, Fridge Pickles

My husband's Dad and Uncle have played in a band for the past fifty years.  Don used to play with them, and when we first met, I used to go to Sheridan often for the dances.  They played at little community dance halls around Sheridan and Buffalo, plus the Eagles, and Elks, etc...We always had a blast. 
Several years ago, they started having an annual party, inviting their friends and family.  Everybody brings a covered dish, and donates for the meat and the renting of the hall.  There are five or six long tables groaning with food.  Every homemade wonder you could think of!  It was at the first party  that I tasted the marinated Polish Sausage for the first time.  Being pregnant at the time, I was crazy for anything pickled anyway, but when I tasted this, I thought I'd died and went to heaven! I'm sure that the quality of the sausage has something to do with it, but it is just a great flavor combination. 
The polish sausage you can buy in Sheridan is the best ever.  We stock up whenever we are there.  The man who makes it butchers the animals, blends the sausage and smokes it himself, so it is a premium product.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen people open the sack, and drive off from the parking lot with a polish in their mouth!  It's so good, you can't wait to have one.

Marinated Polish Sausage
1 pound of polish sausage cut into diagonal slices
1 large white onion cut in thin slices
1 T garlic
1/3 C chopped fresh parsley
1/3 C red wine vinegar
3 T olive oil
2 fresh *bay leaves
1/2 tsp whole mustard seed
Place all ingredients in an airtight container, and keep for at least twenty four hours before serving.  This is a great appetizer for summer, or makes a wonderful light supper with some crusty bread and a salad.
It smells amazing when you open the container!

I remember being at one annual party when it was a good cucumber year.  There were fifteen bowls of fridge pickles!  It is a favorite of mine, and I learned to make it when I was a kid because my Dad loved them, too. I just put a big tupperware full of them in the fridge tonight, so we will be enjoying them in a couple days.

Fridge Pickles
3 large peeled slicing cucumbers or European cucumbers (unpeeled)
1 large white onion sliced thinly
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/3 C white vinegar
1/3 C olive oil
1 tsp dried dill weed
2 fresh *bay leaves
a handful of whole peppercorns
1 tsp whole mustard seed
a pinch of celery seed
Combine all ingredients in an airtight container, or canning jar with a lid.  Let sit in the fridge for twenty four hours before serving.  Really good on a bagel with some smoked salmon and cream cheese!

*Today's pantry star is fresh bay.  I buy them in the produce section this time of year to use in pickling, but because of their long shelf life, I can keep them for months in a baggie in my meat drawer.  They will dry out, but will still be more flavorful than the dried ones in the jar. Besides pickles, I use them in roasts and stews and homemade soups.  I've even put them in jelly with rosemary.

Monday, June 20, 2011

German Style Buttermilk Potato Salad

I use buttermilk often in my cooking.  It is very low in fat, so I use it to make salad dressings, for baking, in cream soups, and to make the creamiest mashed potatoes without using lots of butter.
My husband is a big meat and tater kind of guy.
Since it was Father's Day yesterday, we had a cookout:  burgers, a pasta salad with lots of vegetables, and this German style potato salad.  Although we love the mustard kind of potato salad, this is a new family favorite.  It's made with new red potatoes with the skins still on, and the dressing is loaded with chives and dill.  Very fresh, and different from the same old.
Of course, when I went to the store, I forgot the fresh buttermilk.  I keep buttermilk powder on hand, so I substituted regular milk and added 2 tsp of buttermilk powder to the dressing.  It doesn't mix in easily, so I blended it with the milk before adding it to the dressing.  

German Style Buttermilk Potato Salad
2 lb baby red potatoes
1/3 C low fat Miracle Whip
1/3 C red wine vinegar
1 1/2 C buttermilk
2 tsp lemon juice
3 heaping T chopped chives
1/4 C finely chopped dill
1 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, cover the washed potatoes with cold water and put them on to boil.  In a quart jar with a lid, add the dressing ingredients, and shake until well combined.  When the potatoes test done by slipping easily from a knife, drain and slightly mash with a potato masher to break the baby potatoes up in smaller pieces.  Dress with the whole jar of dressing and cover the bowl with foil, or a dinner plate to keep the salad warm until serving time.  It was even better for lunch today!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rocky Mountain Oysters and Homemade Cocktail Sauce

It was a beautiful day to brand today at the homestead.  Not too hot, and just enough breeze to get the smoke to go away from the people.  We had a wonderful time.
I was honored to be given the "spoils of war" as it were, the nut bucket from the branding.
Cooking Rocky Mountain Oysters, or bull calf testicles, is a labor intensive chore, to say the least!  It involves much cleaning, and removal of the outer membrane, and the testicle chords to reveal the tender inner meat of the testicle.  I like to butterfly mine open, soak them in a buttermilk solution, and roll them in Panko.  We deep fry them in lard and serve them hot sprinkled with a little salt and my easy cocktail sauce.

Deep Fried Rocky Mountain Oysters

2 -3 lbs beef calf testicles that have been cleaned and the outer membrane removed, and butterflied open.  Soak in the following mixture for ten minutes:
1/4 C approx buttermilk
1/4 C approx Frank's hot sauce (don't worry, they will be mild, the vinegar in the sauce tenderizes some)
2 heaping T minced garlic
Cracked pepper
While the nuts are soaking, heat enough lard in a large cast iron pan to equal 2 inches of melted fat.  Remove the nuts from the soaking liquid with a slotted spoon, and roll in Panko.  Panko is a Japanese rice bread crumb, but you can substitute regular bread crumbs instead.  Lay out on a baking dish, and season with Mrs. Dash garlic and herb.  Fry in batches for two minutes in the hot oil, or until golden brown and crispy.  Remove to a dish, and salt while hot.  Serve hot with cocktail sauce

Homemade Cocktail Sauce
3 heaping T prepared horseradish
1/3 C tomato ketchup

Monday, June 13, 2011

Braised Sweet and Sour Beef-Sirloin cooked in the oven with a delicious tangy sauce

This recipe is the blending of two into one.  A sweet and sour sauce, and a slow cooked sirloin recipe.  I served it with white rice.  Very easy recipe, and smells amazing in the oven! I happened to have sirloin, but would work equally well with chuck, or a 7 bone roast.  You might need to increase the cook time for a thicker cut of meat.  The sauce becomes sticky and mixes with the beef juices during the long cooking time, and the meat is very tender.  One of my family's new favorites.

Braised Sweet and Sour Beef
2 # sirloin steak
2 yellow onions thinly sliced
6 cracked cloves of garlic
pinch of red pepper flake
Preheat oven to 300 *F.  In a deep sided cast iron pan, sweat the onions, garlic and red pepper in oil on medium heat.  When they become soft and opaque, scrape the oil and onions mix into a medium sized mixing bowl. Place sirloin in pan you cooked the onions in.  
To the mixing bowl add :
1 12 oz can tomato paste
1/4 C brown sugar (I use splenda brown sugar instead)
1/3 C cider vinegar
2 C beef stock
Whisk together until combined and pour over steak.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 2 hours.  In the last ten minutes, top steak with thinly sliced green pepper rings.  Serve meat and sauce with white rice.
Four large servings, or six normal ones

Monday, June 6, 2011

Turkey Chili- Comfort Food Quick

I love recipes that use my pantry items and a  few fresh items, and come together quick.  This is a hearty satisfying  thick and slightly sweet chili.  It is low in fat, and the addition of canned pumpkin makes it thick and very healthy for your family.  A good way to sneak in those important vitamin a veggies, without anyone knowing it.  This is a Cincinatti style chili. 
It comes together in less than half an hour, even if the ground turkey is frozen! If you are in a bind, you can defrost in the pan by adding about a half cup of water with the frozen ground meat.  Using a spatula, scrape off the burger that is thawed until it is all separate, and cook until brown.  Then add in vegetables, etc...
Turkey Chili 
1 medium onion diced
1/2 green pepper diced
2 T olive oil
1 # ground turkey (could substitute 2 C diced cooked turkey breast)
2 cans red kidney beans
1 can/quart diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (make sure it's not pie filling)
2 C chicken stock
2 T brown sugar
3 T chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 T garlic powder
1/4 C cider vinegar
1 tsp Franks hot sauce
In a large dutch oven, brown the turkey, onion and green pepper.  Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil, stirring regularly.  If it is too thick, add more chicken stock to thin.  Cover it, and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook for 1/2 hour on low heat, stirring occasionally. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Turkey Casserole

I can't tell you how much I appreciate the deli section of our Safeway store.  They have a constant supply of perfectly roasted rotisserie chicken and turkey breast.  I try to keep one or the other on hand in the fridge; for meals, and for the bonus of making stock with the leftover carcass.
We had kind of a crap day today.  My brother in law died, and I had a sick three year old with a fever of 102.5, plus a crabby grouchy bawling baby that is teething, and the mother of all migraines.  I couldn't wait for time to go do chores and work with the colts.  When the regular work day is over, we still have livestock chores, and when we have client horses, we are training after that.
We didn't get back to the house until almost ten, and everybody was starving.  Luckily, I had a turkey breast, and I pulled this meal together in no time.  It will be great for my daycare kids' lunch tomorrow, and I can pack it in Don's lunchbox for work as well.

Turkey Casserole

1 turkey breast cooked and diced
1/2 pkg frozen mixed vegetables
2 C cooked pasta shells
4 T butter
4 T flour
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp sage
1/2 tsp Mrs. Dash seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 box chicken stock
1 C whole milk
salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta, and vegetables seperately.  Drain and reserve.
In a dutch oven, melt the butter and cook the flour stirring with a whisk until it gets golden and smells nutty.  Add in herbs.  Slowly whisk in chicken stock, and then milk.  Bring to a boil;  add in chicken, pasta and vegetables and cook until heated through.