Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chasing My Tail Feathers or Why I always wait till the last minute

I was looking at my food challenge and realized I had yet to post anything for 2 of the challenges I gave myself, and started looking quickly for both a vegetarian entree and a crock pot item. Yikes! I needed 2 meal items for the same day. So it just made sense to begin at the beginning.

Vegetarian is pretty easy to do in the morning for me since I do not like breakfast foods. Well that is not the honest truth, I don't like food in my mouth in the morning. It takes at least 2 cups of strong black coffee for me to even think about eating anything and then who wants to eat eggs mid day? Certainly not me, or at least not traditional eggs and bacon with a side of toast. Today was no exception and I hunted for some savory vegetarian meal that would accommodate my need for flavor but would be something anyone could do easily and would not be limited to breakfast. I settled on a chile relleno casserole. I love peppers and keep canned chiles on hand all the time. If you love this dish featured in nearly every Mexican restaurant and think this will be a replica of it you might want to rethink making this. Though the ingredients are the same it is put together so differently that one is the yin to the others yang. A traditional relleno is a cheese stuffed chile that is deep fried and then baked with cheese on top of it. This version is a chile with an egg white batter over it that bakes light and fluffy, similar to a souffle. This recipe assumes the vegetarian is lacto/ovo ( uses dairy and eggs)

Chile Relleno Casserole

1 cup evaporated skim milk
4 egg whites
3 tbsp cornstarch
3 cans whole green chilies (4oz cans)
1/2 cup shredded jalepeno jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4oz spicy tomato sauce
4oz regular tomato sauce


Preheat oven to 350.
Spray a deep 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray
Beat evaporated milk and cornstarch until smooth.
With an electric mixer beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
Split open chilies, rinse to remove seeds, then drain on a paper towel.
Fold the egg whites into the milk mixture
Mix cheeses together and reserve half the mixture for topping.
Alternate layers of chilies, cheese and egg mixture in casserole dish.
Bake for about 30 minutes
Mix both tomato sauces together and pour over the top r, then sprinkle the reserve cheese over the top.
Bake for 1/2 hour more or until done in the center (the egg white mixture should not be runny)

What I did differently. Since it was just me for a late breakfast, I used 1/4 cup milk and 1 1/4 teaspoon of cornstarch and 1 egg white. I love peppers so I used the entire can of chiles and I used just 1 tablespoon of cheddar jack shredded cheese. Also since it was just me I punted on the tomato sauce and added a couple of tablespoons of salsa that was living in the fridge. I really did not want to have leftover tomato sauces. I have a very small pyrex bowl that I baked it in and it was slightly larger than the ingredients. Everything puffed and rose well, staying within the confines of the bowl

The verdict: this is a very delicious unusual breakfast food. I loved it but as I said earlier, I am just not a big fan of "normal" breakfast food. This would be outstanding as a brunch menu item but would also be a very good lunch or dinner entree. Served with a large salad and some tortilla chips and salsa it would be a complete meal.

Of course since I am the queen of procrastination I still had a crock pot meal to make. I had actually taken a slab of baby back ribs out of the freezer yesterday afternoon and they had thawed in the refrigerator overnight. ( Whew! Saved me from having to run to The Pig to get something to throw in the crockpot this morning) It made the decision of what kind of crock pot recipe to look for easy enough. The only problem was most were "just put ribs in and toss on some barbecue sauce" I am not sure about you but that is not a recipe. It is just a way to cook the ribs and sauce. I wanted an honest to goodness recipe. Instead I wound up using some of one recipe and a little of another. Good grief this stuff was going to cook all day long. The least I could do was make the sauce from scratch and let it simmer all day too!

Cabin Fever Slow Cooker Ribs

1 rack of baby back ribs
1 large onion, sliced into slivers
4 carrots cleaned and cut into bite-size pieces
2 medium potatoes, peeled, quartered, and cut into bite-size pieces
1 crunchy apple, peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup Kansas City style tomato based barbecue sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Remove the silver skin from the back side of the ribs and slice into sections of 2-3 ribs
If desired brown the ribs on a broiler ( a couple of minutes on each side)
Mix the liquid smoke with the barbecue sauce.
Line the bottom of the crockpot with the onion slices, carrots, apples, and potatoes.
Place a layer of ribs on top, meaty side up. Pour some of the sauce over the ribs and coat the surface with a brush or spoon Place another layer of ribs on top of the first layer, pour on more sauce, and spread.
Repeat until all the ribs are in the crock pot.
Pour the remaining sauce on top.
Resist the temptation to put the meat on the bottom of the crock pot. It will only overcook and turn to much
Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

I did not want red barbecue sauce in the ribs so I made a mustard bbq sauce instead. I also left out the liquid smoke because the flavor of the mustard did not require a smoky base

Mustard bbq sauce

1 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cupcider vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cayenne

Mix all ingredients together and simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes.

I make this sauce all the time and never have put the butter in it. I have no die what it adds because we love it as is. When I am in a hurry i omit the lemon juice and cayenne and just add a squirt of Sriracha. This is not a great sauce for chicken but it is the bomb with any kind of pork. The recipe makes 2 cups of sauce and any leftover keeps well covered in the refrigerator.

The ribs were tender and the sauce flavor permeated the meat. I cooked them on low for 8 hours and the meat literally fell off the bone when you stuck a fork in them. I am not sure what I was supposed to do with the bed of vegetables on the bottom of the crackpot. They fairly disintegrated when the spoon touched them. The sauce had thinned substantially while cooking and I did not have time to heat it and reduce it. If I had an immersion blender I would have blended the vegetables to thicken the cooking sauce and I just did not want to get the blender out to puree them. Instead I spooned a couple of teaspoons of the leftover sauce on the ribs when I served them. I served them with green beans, mashed potatoes and a shaved fennel and apple salad. The entire meal was very tasty and everything complimented each other, yet I am not sure I will do it again. I like ribs much better when the slow cook on the grill and you get that tiny bit of char on the edges with smoked tender meat. it has nothing to do with this recipe, just a partiality about how ribs should be cooked and eaten. I might try this again using a chop or some other cut of pork.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

It's a bird, it's a plane..No! It's a Plain Chicken recipe!

Late this morning following Sunday School we decided to go to O.R.E. for a little jazz and a lot of food. They have a wonderful brunch where the music is hot and happening and the plates are full and fabulous. We never go and just eat and run. It is the kind of place you go where the staff remembers your name and at least seem honestly glad to see you. The same goes for the combo, Cleve Eaton and the Alabama All Stars. We got there in time to hear most of the big band set and sat through part of the funk music. It is always fun and we leave with happy ears and over fed stomachs.

Today was no exception and when we started to think about supper all we wanted was a bowl of soup and crackers or a roll. That would have been perfect if not for my Pinterest addiction. I was looking through the foods and adding recipes to my ever expanding food board when I caught sight of a recipe I had pinned a while back. Since I needed to do some baked good for my challenge anyway I thought tonight would be a fine time to try it. The recipe is from the food blog Plain Chicken and is a biscuit recipe named 7 Up Biscuits. It consists of 4 ingredients and about 4 steps.

7 Up Biscuits

2 cups Bisquick
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup 7-up
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 450.
Cut sour cream into biscuit mix, add 7-Up. Makes a very soft dough.
Sprinkle additional biscuit mix on board or table and pat dough out. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a 9 inch square pan. Place cut biscuits in pan and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown


As we all know, I am not very good at following directions and even worse at having what is really called for on hand, so substitutions happen with regularity. Today I used low fat sour cream because that was what was in the fridge and Diet 7 Up because that is what was in the pantry. Since I have never had them before I can't tell you if it affected the quality one way or the other, but can tell you The Hub and I managed to eat nearly the entire pan and I have already been asked to always keep the ingredients for these on hand. They were delicious, light and airy and were a cross between a biscuit and a roll. I forgot to read the directions about baking them before I patted them out and made them a little thinner than they should have been. I had enough biscuits to fill about 1 3/4 pans. Instead of cutting them with a biscuit cutter I just patted them into a rectangle and cut them into squares. When I make them again I am sure I will do the same but will pat them to an 8x8 square. It will give enough space for rising in the 9x9 pan and will make them a bit thicker. But trust me, no one here complained at all.

Instead of a light supper we got up and waddled from the table. I feel a Tums night coming on, but it was so worth it. These are delicious and easy. I only wish I had thought to put the Texas Roadhouse Cinnamon Butter on the table. On second thought maybe it was best I didn't. We would probably still be eating!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Failing eyesight and memory

The good thing about a personal food challenge is getting to try a few/many new recipes and getting the reactions of those who eat them. Some are keepers and some are coasters and will never been thought of again in my kitchen. We have enjoyed trying things I might never have thought of before and it gives me something to do that I really enjoy. ( Except for that stinkin' clean up part) the down side of a food challenge is to REMEMBER what the actual challenge is. I remember that this year I would try specific types of recipes but when I am looking for something new and delicious I forget which category to try. Maybe I need to write the categories on an index card and look at it each day before I start trolling through recipes and food sites.

A couple of nights ago The Hub asked for spaghetti and normally I would accommodate him, but decided to just do something that would accommodate a food challenge category. I started looking for casseroles, and decided a main dish casseroles would be just the thing. It was also national pie day and being the good American that I am wanted to be patriotic and I found a food item that worked for both. Spaghetti Pie! It's a casserole with pie in its name. It was perfect! I got my category satisfied, The Hub got his beloved spaghetti and we got to celebrate National Pie Day. Another food trifecta!

Spaghetti Pie

6 oz. spaghetti
2 tbsp. butter
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups spaghetti sauce
1 lb. cooked ground beef, Italian sausage or mixture of both
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350
Cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain.
Dump the cooked spaghetti into a large bowl and
stir butter into hot spaghetti.
Stir in Parmesan cheese and eggs.
Spray 10-inch pie pan with cooking spray.
Put spaghetti mixture in the pan and manipulate the noodles to form a "crust" all around the edge of the pan.
Spread ricotta cheese over bottom of spaghetti crust.
Warm the spaghetti sauce with the ground meat
Top with 2 cups of spaghetti /meat mixture.
Bake, uncovered for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top.
Bake 5 minutes longer.

I personally doubled the spaghetti and both of the cheeses. I added about 1/2 cup more sauce and a half a pound of Italian sausage to the pound of ground beef ( Note to self: wear glasses when shopping for sausage and you won't get stuck with a pound of Jimmy Deans Italian sausage rather than regular breakfast sausage). I also did not use a 10 inch pie pan as requested, because I had 1 aluminum pie pan and 1 oval pyrex dish. It made enough for 2 complete spaghetti pies. One for supper and one frozen in the pie pan for another day when I know I will have little time to cook.

This was pretty good. Next time I will spice it a little more. The sauce needs to be very intense, because the noodles with the parm and ricotta are fairly bland tastes and can stand the additional flavor from a heavy hand with herbs. I served it with broccoli and a tossed salad. it was flavorful and filling.

I am posting the picture here this time. I forgot to wear the glasses while I was taking the pic and it looked perfectly fine to me. When I opened the file and looked at the enlarged photo, I found what I saw and what "was" are 2 entirely different things. Sadly by the time I realized what happened the spaghetti pie was a distant memory. Will try to remember to wear glasses next time.

Unfortunately I also looked at my first post of this year AFTER I made the spaghetti pie. I was going to be smug knowing I had knocked off at least four categories of food already and would just have to do a few next week. Wrong!!!!!!!!!!! In addition to some mild eyesight issues, it seems I am as dumb as dirt. The "starts with a c" category food that I thought was a casserole was a crock pot recipe.

Hi! My name is Anne. Can anyone point me in the direction of the nearest meeting of Idiots Anonymous?

Sunday, January 22, 2012


If you are in a food court of a mall, and it doesn't matter what mall or what city, you are apt to be chased by a dude or dudette following you waving a small piece of chick on a toothpick yelling "Try this sample?" It is usually called bourbon chicken but I have seen it across the country with varied names. Since it is a favorite of Son3 we have bought it in multi locations and it is always the same, a piece of cubed chicken thigh with a sweet spicy sauce.

Late this afternoon as the ballgame was getting close to ending, The Hub suggested we eat supper in between games. That was fine but it would have been nice to know with a little more than 7 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. There is this notion shared by those whose cooking skills are limited to oatmeal, grits, and cheese toast, that supper mysteriously can be prepped and finished in about ten minutes. As the rest of us know this is just not necessarily so. I can slap a meal on the table quickly, but it is always something I have planned to do well in advance. Tonight I had boneless chicken breasts in the fridge that really needed to be cooked tonight so now I had about a 10-15 minute window to plan and execute a meal.

A few days ago I had been browsing recipes and had bookmarked one for bourbon chicken on one of the copy cat recipe sites. I knew I had some brown Minute Rice in the pantry and I had a bag of mixed vegetables in the veggie drawer and a head of clean iceberg. ( Now I know why I washed it before I put it in the crisper. ) I put the rice and water on to boil, got a pan with olive oil heating, and got the chopping board out to do a quick hatchet job on the breasts. About 1 minute later I had odd shaped "cubes" ready to toss in the skillet. It took about 5 minutes to get the chicken pieces cooked, with Son 3 reading the sauce recipe to me so I could quickly add ingredients without having to stop what I was doing. I very quickly put the veggies in a pan in the microwave with a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of Teriyaki sauce and pushed 4 minutes to nuke them. The sauce for the chicken was cooking so I threw the chicken back in the pan to coat it and also for the sauce to thicken a little. It was a whirlwind but I managed to get it all on the table in about 11 minutes, so they could scarf it down in another 15 minutes and be ready for important things like football.

Bourbon Chicken

2 lbs boneless chicken breasts , cut into bite-size pieces
1 -2 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove , crushed
1/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce

Heat oil in a large skillet.
Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned.
Remove chicken.
Add remaining ingredients, heating over medium Heat until well mixed and dissolved.
Add chicken and bring to a hard boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Serve over hot rice

I mainly cooked this as it said with one exception.
If you look at the picture you will notice this looks lighter and reddish instead of the deep reddish brown the mall guys serve. It seems whoever was telling me what the ingredients were forgot to mention the soy sauce, so that was not in ours. I imagine that is why it tasted close but not exactly like the chicken the guy chases you with. I noticed after about 10 minutes the sauce was very thick . I understand since there was 1/3 cup less liquid than the recipe called for! It was still tasty and I will do it again. In fact, the next time The Pig has boneless breasts on sale I am going to get several packs and cube enough for 2 recipes and package them in 2 containers for freezing. I always have all of these ingredients on hand and I always have brown Minute Rice in the pantry, so this might become my go to emergency quick meal.

Have fun and go whichever team is currently playing! ( I have no idea)

Happy eating!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This Little Piggy had Sauerkraut?

At the start of the week I asked both The Hub and Son3 for a little help planning the menus for the week. I really don't mind the actual cooking but I don't like the planning phase. This week the hub is recovering from 2 different bouts of illness and wanted something that had a strong taste but was not too spicy. He requested "something" and kraut. As usual, a google search " something and kraut recipes" gave me quite a few options, but the one I went with tonight was pork chops and sauerkraut. I have browned chops and baked them on a bed of kraut before but this time was looking for something a little more complex. The following recipe found at sounded like it would be perfect.

Pork Chops and Sauerkraut

4 (3/4 inch thick) center cut pork chops
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 can chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 (16 ounce) can sauerkraut, drained
1 red apple, cored and chopped
4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled


In a skillet, brown pork chops in oil; drain. Stir in onion, pepper, broth, caraway seed and celery seed. Cover and cook over medium heat for 45-50 minutes. Add sauerkraut and apple. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes or until heated through. Before serving, sprinkle with bacon if desired.

This is the recipe as it was written but as usual it was not followed exactly. This afternoon The Pig had bone in pork sirloin steaks for $1.99 per pound vs. $4.99 for the center cut chops, so the sirloin won. They were a tad under 1/2 inch thick which shortened the total cooking time about 10 minutes. I had no red apples but did have a Granny Smith which I used. The red would've been much prettier. I also did not use the bacon, the tiny bit of bacon flavor was not worth the additional calories.

This will definitely become a staple in our fall/winter food rotation. ( Maybe it's just me but it felt like a cool weather food) Next time I will use the bagged kraut instead of canned (and use the entire bag). I will add a little more onion because of the additional kraut and will cut the apple into fourths and fish it out before serving. The apple gave the sauerkraut a tiny bit of sweetness, which was delicious but I did not like the chunks of apple mixed in it. Not surprising since I do not like cooked fruit at all. I also thought there was a little too much chicken broth. I would have preferred the kraut and onion mixture to be a little drier. And oh my, the flavor the onions, chicken broth and kraut were spectacular. Next time I will julienne the onions just for the mouth and eye appeal. The caraway and celery seeds were the bonus that tipped this from being just good to being really good.

I think this needs to be served with a bright side dish. The colors were very bland and uniform, and since we eat with our eyes first it needed a punch of color on the plate. I served cucumber rounds and half cherry tomatoes. I should have had a couple of broccoli stems also for some deep green color.

Live and learn!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Souped Up Sweet Superfood

First let me tell you...I do not like sweet potatoes. I can and will eat them but they are never at the top of my food choice list, which is pretty bad since they are in the super food category. Recently I was eating at I Cantina and tried the sweet potato soup. I was surprised at how good it tasted, and decided to try and find a recipe I could make at home. The only thing I really wanted to change was to have the soup a little more savory and a bit less sweet. Searching through various websites led me to this version. Rather than the cinnamon and nutmeg flavors found in the I Cantina soup this one has a cumin base.

Since it was really cold yesterday and The Hub was a little under the weather it was the prefect time to try it. From start to finish it took a total of 30 minutes until we had steaming soup in our bowls.

Sweet Potato Chipotle Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
coarse salt & ground pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 medium sweet potatoes (2lbs total) peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 whole chipotle chili in adobo, chopped ( I used a couple of whole chilis. It was a tad too hot.)
7 cups of low sodium chicken broth

sour cream, for serving (I had none so we skipped it, but it might have lessened the heat of the extra chili)

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until beginning to brown around the edges, about 7 mins. Add cumin & garlic and cook, stirring continually about 1 min. Stir in sweet potatoes, chile, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until sweet potatoes can be mashed easily with a spoon, 20 to 25 mins.

Let soup cool slightly. Puree the soup. I don't have an immersion blender, so it had to be pureed in the blender in 2 batches. It would have been much easier to just use and immersion blender and puree it right in the cooking pot ( Adding immersion blender to the shopping list) Season with salt & pepper and serve. Top with sour cream or serve with tortilla chips . I had no tortilla chips so I used pita chips instead. They were perfectly fine.

This soup was so good. In fact the only changes next time will be 1 chipotle rather than 2 and about a cup more broth to thin it down a little more. I froze the leftover soup in individual serving sizes and am looking forward to several delicious lunches. This will become a staple in my homemade soup rotation.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year/ New Challenges

Well just for the record if my math is not totally rusty I did not try 100 new and different recipes this year. "Why", you might ask and the answer would be a resounding and hearty " Dunno".

2011 was an odd year for us. We were out of town a lot more than usual, which is very good for fun and games; not so good for a cooking challenge. It is very hard to try something new and different in the kitchen while in Boston, or at a Broadway play, or standing in the snow on Mt. Hood ( in July ), or hanging out at the Marriott in Atlanta, or at the beach, or back in NYC. That is without mentioning the usual distractions of day to day living and the " I just don't feel like cooking " days. Add the dog days of summer "It's just too bloomin' hot to cook" and throw in a few " Oh no! we have to be (fill in the blank) in thirty minutes" and you have a typical life. You also can't forget that we eat out a LOT! Too much! Way too much!

So I begin the new year with new challenges. I don't feel like making resolutions this year (Though I I feel sure this is the year I could really keep the "look like a super model" one) but I just want to be a better me. Instead of resolutions I am offering myself a set of challenges. If I meet all of them wonderful and if I don't, well, at least I will be better just for trying.

First and foremost in this blog is the recipe challenge. Instead of trying to hit a specific number of recipes, maybe it would be better to try specific types of recipes monthly. This time around each month will have recipes from 5 very specific categories and a 6th recipe that is just an at large personal preference pick.
1. Vegetarian Main Dish
2. Soup
3 Baked Good
4.Crock Pot Item
5.Protein ( New and different ways to grill perhaps?)
6. Mystery Item ( Something like the Publix penny item only better)

This should be 72 new recipes and that should be easier to do, especially since they are categorized. It will make it idiot proof and I need all the idiot proofing I can get.

If I were a true professional, I would have some sort of fabulous recipe for today, but that is just not going to happen cause I am truly Southern and if one is truly Southern the meal is mandated by generations before me: Blackeyed Peas, Turnip Greens, Ham and Rice. I don't know where it started but it is supposed to bring luck and fortune and all things good. So far my life has been much better than I deserve, so I see no reason to tempt Fate. Besides, we really like the meal!

So have a very happy 2012 and I will try my best to have something new and hopefully delicious.

After all this holiday over indulging I have a sneaking suspicion i will start with something meatless!