Saturday, August 29, 2009

Darn it all.......

Friday passed me by, again. Sorry, I picked up chicks for the homestead yesterday, and then dealt with a migraine last night. But here's your recipe for this week.

It's quick, it's easy, and it's very adaptable to your own likes.

1 1/2 pounds imitation seafood
8 ounces cheese
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 cup mayonaise
salt to taste
1 loaf french bread

1. In a mixing bowl, put the mayo, curry powder and salt. Mix well.
2. Break up the seafood, or chop it into smallish bits.
3. Mix the seafood into the mayo mix. Set aside.
4. Slice the french bread down the middle longways, so you have a top and bottom half. Butter the bread.
5. Put the bread in a 250 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
6. Grate the cheese.
7. Pull the bread out of the oven, top with seafood mix and then cheese. Put it back in the oven for about 10 minutes or so, until cheese is melted and starting to turn golden.

I told you this is adaptable. Switch out meats, change your cheeses around. Vary the spice flavor you use in the mayo. Here's what WE had last night: imitation seafood, curry mayo, Monteray Jack cheese on Wal-Mart's everything wheat sub rolls. Those things are the BOMB!

I made this up one day standing in WM, trying to figure out something quick and easy for dinner. It was late, and I wasn't feeling very enthused about getting dinner on the table. 1 French bread loaf feeds our family of four dinner. No, it's not all the food groups. And no, we don't eat this very often. You can add a salad, if it makes you feel better! We do sometimes. But this is my go-to if we aren't getting home until 9:30 pm on a Friday and I don't have anything premade in the house.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Where Does The Time Go? It's Friday Already!

Well, hello again, and welcome back for another weekly installment of my recipe blog. I wish I could say that I thought long and hard about what I was going to put out here for you guys, but.....yeah, right. My life is crazy busy with the farm, and 2 kids that are homeschooled. My grading folder is WAY fatter than it should be. So, before I set myself to grading papers, here's a recipe for today.

Pulled Pork

1 pork shoulder roast (I get about 6 or 7 pounds)(bone in is fine, boneless is easier. Butt roast is good too)
1 package of McCormick BBQ Pulled Pork Seasoning
about 1 cup ketchup
about 1 cup brown sugar
about 1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 package of your favorite mexican seasoning mix OR 1 TBSP Chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp garlic powder and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Place the pork in a slow cooker that is large enough to hold it. Mine is a 6 quart Rival. Note: if your pork roast is netted, remove the netting before you put it in the cooker.

2. Mix the seasonings, ketchup, brown sugar, and vinegar until blended and pour over the pork. Put the lid on.

3. Cook for 8 hours on LOW or 4 hours on HIGH. This will make your roast nice and tender. I recommend the low setting rather than the high setting. Take the meat out of the crockpot, and put it on a large plate or platter.

4.Shred the pork, using 2 forks. It is very tender, and should pull apart fairly easily. You can control the size of your shreds, too. Put the pork back in the slow cooker and mix with all the nice juice. Make sure it's all nice and hot and serve. Makes great sandwiches! Take your leftovers, freeze them in dinner sized portions (making sure there is juice in your package), and you have dinner all ready for another night.

Variations: Change up your seasonings. The vinegar and the sugar to make the pork all tender, but you can reduce the amount of sugar used. The McCormick website has several seasoning packages that would be wonderful. I've used 2 packages of Wal-Mart's house brand Fajita seasoning instead of the all the rest of the seasonings, and it comes out just fine. My family loves this recipe.

Bon Appetit!

Friday, August 14, 2009

OOOOPS......Is It Friday Already?

Oh, geez, Friday snuck up on me. I've given you some pretty hearty options over the last two weeks, so let's get a bit naughty! Ok, dessert time!

Ice Cream Cake

3 cups Vanilla Ice Cream, soft enough to spread
3 cups Chocolate Ice Cream, soft enough to spread
1 box 'Nilla Wafers (or graham crackers)
Hershey's Chocolate syrup
6 Skor or Heath Bars

1. Crush wafers so you have about 1 1/2 cups of crumbs total.
2. In a 8 or 9 inch spring form pan, put 1/2 of the crumbs in the bottom to cover.
3. Put chocolate ice cream in the pan. Spread evenly to cover crumbs. Should be about 1 inch thick.
4. Drizzle with 1 TBSP Kahlua, 2 - 4 TBSP chocolate syrup, and 3 crushed candy bars.
5. Top this with remaining wafer crumbs.
6. Spread the vanilla ice cream over this crumb layer. Repeat the Kahlua, syrup and candy bar treatment.
7. Place in freezer for a couple of hours to harden up.
8. To serve, remove the springform ring, cut and serve!

Kahlua is optional, but it adds a great layer to this wonderful dessert! The type of crumbs you use is up to you as well. For a change up, crush chocolate wafers, or whatever floats your boat.

Play with it, change the ice creams and the extra nummys you put in there. I really love it like this, but I'm gonna use mint-chocolate chip one day. Really!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cooking Ahead

Our schedule during the "school year" is crazy. We leave home at 6:30am and arrive home between 8:30pm and 9pm. Then the kids have to eat, shower and get ready for bed...and do their chores. Not much time, huh? I could come home and spend an hour or more cooking something from scratch, which puts them in bed at about midnight, or I could do the bulk of my cooking on the weekend, still eat well during the week, and let the kids hit the sack at a more reasonable time. Guess whick I pick?

This week's menu consists of Shepherd's Pie, Chili Baked Potatoes, and Meat filling over rice or pasta.

Here's what I did. And by the way, this took about 2 hours start to finish, and I have five meals in my fridge and freezer.

Ingredients, in no particular order

5 pounds ground meat
3 Vidalia onions
2 cans kernel corn
10 pounds potatoes
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 packet fajita seasoning
1 15 ounce can Ranch-style beans
8 ounces cheddar cheese
2 sticks butter
5 cloves garlic
1/2 cup milk

1. Chop the onions finely, grate cheese. Peel 5 pounds of potatoes, cut in cubes and start cooking them in salted water.

2. While potatoes are cooking, brown the ground beef in a large skillet. Season it up with some salt. Be careful, as too much salt now can make things problematical later.

3. In another skillet, melt 1/2 stick of butter, toss in your onions, and press the garlic thru a garlic press into the pan. Saute until translucent. This just brings out the sweetness in the onions and garlic. Set aside, it will cool on it's own.

4. When beef is free of pink, pull about a pound and put it in a small bowl or pan. To this add fajita seasoning and can of ranch beans. Mix completely. Put in quart sized freezer bag. Label and freeze. One down.

5. When potatoes are fork tender, drain them. Put them back in the pan and dry cook them to make sure all the water cooked off. About 30 seconds or so. Add 1 1/2 sticks of butter. Stir to melt butter into potatoes. What I did was stir it a little, then put the lid back on, and walked away for 7 minutes (set the oven timer). By the time I had recovered a bit, and the timer went off, the butter was all melted. Stir in the butter. Add milk, and grated cheese. Stir until a nice consistency is reached. No mashing required! Cool, huh? I had nice creamy, cheesy potatoes and all I did was stir in all my goodies.

6. To the rest of the ground beef, add the corn, tomato sauce, some salt and stir it all up. I used a slotted spoon out the beef into another deep pan (5 qt or more) and then poured about half the ground beef juices into the now fairly dry beef. Test your seasonings now, as we are putting 3 of these together.

7. In 3 8x8x2 square pans (or whatever you have) put a layer (1/2 way up) of ground beef mixture. Then top with mashed potatoes. Done. 3 more dinners out of the way. Make sure every thing is cool before you put it in the freezer. Cover the casseroles with plastic wrap, label and freeze. (Ok, I put 2 in the fridge. One for tonight, and 1 for tomorrow). WOWEE, now we have 4 dinners done.

8. Put the remaining ground beef in a gallon sized freezer bag, squeeze out the air, label and freeze. Mine was cool enough at this point to freeze.

Eating Day

1. Shepherd's Pie. Thaw in fridge overnight. Put in a 350 degree oven (I never preheat) until potatoes are golden brown on top, and meat part is bubbly. It's a complete meal in one pot.

2. Chili Baked Taters. Thaw in fridge overnight. Scrub and bake enough potatoes for your crew. Warm up beef mixture in a small pan and check your seasonings. Grate a bit of cheese (only you know how much you guys want, for us, about 6 ounces is about right. We love cheese.) When potatoes are done (I use the microwave, it's quick), split them in 1/2 lengthwise and put on serving plates. Split the beef evenly between the potatoes, top with cheese, sour cream if you want and serve.

3. Leftover meat filling and rice or pasta. Thaw in fridge overnight. Kinda depends on what we have available. I actually have both this week, but we'll figure it out later. Make enough rice for your crew, while that's cooling warm up the beef mixture. Serve beef over rice.


Ok, just because I'm eating 3 Shepherd's Pies this week doesn't mean you have to. Properly covered, it will keep in the freezer for a couple of months. You can freeze the meat and potatoes separately, thaw and assemble the day of cooking. You can cook one right away if you want.

I used beef today, because guess what, that's what I have. You can use beef, buffalo (VERY low fat), lamb, pork, venison or any combination of the above. You can't beat a mix of pork, venison and beef....that is just pure yum on a plate.

I adjust my seasonings as I go. I know how my family likes things. You don't have to use salt and pepper, you can use any of the green dried herbs you want in the Shepherd's pie mixture (tarragon, basil, parsley, cilantro, oregano, sage, you get the idea). This dish NEVER tastes the same way twice, especially since I tend to make it with what I have in the house. The ingredients I gave are what I had on hand, except the beef, cheese and potatoes. I had my husband buy that yesterday. I try to maximise the different uses out of the minimum of ingredients. You can make 3 different kinds of shepherd's pies, just by seasoning up enough filing for one at a time. I didn't, but I have in the past. Frozen or fresh veggies (thaw the frozen ones first) work just as well as canned, I just had the canned available.

1. Serve the chili mix over tortillas instead.
2. Use cornbread batter to top one of the shepherd's pies.
3. Use your imagination!

So, enjoy. Sorry I'm a couple of days late, but I hope you think it's worth it! One of these days, I'll actually remember to take pictures.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Spring Rolls, Better Late Than Never

So, I did promise to put my spring roll recipe here for you guys. But I was playing in the kitchen, and gave you Tex-Mex instead.

We love Asian food in general, Thai food in particular. I was having a craving for Thai, but the places we have gone in the past were either sliding down on the quality scale, or we couldn't afford the trip to the restaurant. So, armed with a Thai/Vietnamese cookbook, I took another foray into yet another unknown frontier.

Spring Rolls w/ Dipping Sauce

6-inch rice wrappers
shredded carrots and jicama
rice vermicelli
assorted meats for filling

Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 - 6 cloves garlic
1/2" to 1" ginger, peeled
2 - 4 T sugar

1. Making dipping sauce early. You can make it the night before if you like. It does get better. Place fish sauce and vinegar in a small bowl. Mince garlic and ginger into sauce. (Or do what I did, put them thru your garlic press!) Add enough sugar to counter the saltiness of the fish sauce. Let the flavors mingle for at least 2 hours before serving

2. Prepare meat. Let me tell you, we had quite the adventure here. We had a week of spring rolls, and they weren't the same any night, just by changing up the meat. Cook and slice 1 chicken breast (yes, for 4 people) or 1 country style beef rib (yes, 4 people again!). Steam or boil shrimp. (I used about 3/4 lb of shrimp boiled in salt water for about 5 minutes. Then I chopped it up finely.) Your imagination is the limit here.

3. Boil about 2 cups of water, and add about 3 ounces of rice vermicelli. No need to be very exact here. Turn off heat. Let the noodles sit for about 10 minutes until soft. Drain. I put them back into the pan tossed with a little sesame oil to keep them from sticking to each other.

4. You need a pan with about 1/2 inch of HOT (110 degree) water. This is to soften those wrappers. Slide the wrapper in, making sure it dunks under the water. It will take 5 to 10 seconds to soften. Remove from water, and place on your working surface. I used a clean cutting board. Put a small amount of your meat, shredded veggies and rice noodle about 1 1/2 inches above the bottom curve of the wrapper. Fold the bottom over the filling, and hold tight. Fold the sides in, and then roll toward the top. Put seam side down on a plate and serve with dipping sauce.

The package of wrappers I got had about 50 rice wrappers in it. That's a LOT of spring rolls, hoss! We made 1 each for the kids, and 2 each for the adults. Served with jasmine rice (THIS is the absolute bomb-diggity, btw), even to Mr. Unstoppable Metabalism, this was plenty of food. These spring rolls aren't HUGE, either. Honestly, we probably ate less in calories, WAY less in fat, and were totally full.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Tortillas, How I Love Thee

I know, I know, I promised Spring Rolls. And I promised Friday...but life got in the way, and these tie in so nicely to last weeks bonus recipes, that I don't feel bad. Much.

We love Tex-Mex. I have my own quesadilla recipe, the base of which serves as the base for much of my cooking. Chili, fajitas, quesadillas, you name it. Anything Tex-Mex-y is fair game. But you know, tortillas form the base for much of what we use that recipe on, in and around. We love flour tortillas, but frankly, buying by the 8 pack is cost prohibitive. Honestly, these things are just flour and a bit of other stuff, so why do I have to pay so much for them? I decided to stop making the tortilla company rich, and make my own.

So, I did what I always do. Scoured the net for recipes to adapt to my way of thinking. Unfortunately, there are 2 camps for tortilla making. One camp uses a decent amount of lard or Crisco, the other uses almost no fat what-so-ever. Ever being the scientist, I decided to perform the experiment. I hypothesized that the low-fat tortillas would be blah, and not what we wanted, and the ones made with Crisco would be yummy.

Next step, design the experiment. Simple enough, make two sets of tortillas. Eat them. Decide which are better. This is subjective, and perhaps not quite scientific, but hey, it's about food, right? Pure science this is not.

Here are the two recipes, adapted for our use, with their notes. Don't let the "F" word scare you. Fat, in moderation, is no more a problem in one's diet than anything else.

Low-fat or Texas-style Tortillas

2 cups all-purpose flour (I routinely use unbleached, personal principle)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (I use Kosher, again personal principle)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil (cheap stuff here)
3/4 cup warm milk (whole milk, I'd use raw if I had it)

1. Mix the dry ingredients together. Add vegetable oil. Slowly add milk. Stir until a loose, sticky ball forms.
2. Knead for 2 minutes on a floured surface. The resulting ball will be firm and soft.
3. Place dough in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or damp cloth. Let rest for 20 minutes.
4. Divide dough into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball. Cover once more with plastic wrap or damp cloth, rest for 10 minutes.
5. Heat griddle. You want this thing hot, but don't burn down your house.
6. While griddle is heating, roll out first ball of dough. In my experiments (I made this recipe twice), six to seven inches is about as big as I can get it and keep it round. I have a lousy rolling pin. Flour the pin and rolling surface lightly to prevent sticking.
7. Place tortilla on hot griddle.
8. Roll out next tortilla. Flip the tortilla on the griddle as it browns on the underside and starts bubbling as the air inside expands. Cook on second side for about 30 or so seconds until desired brownness is achieved. Remove from griddle and set aside to cool on a rack.
9. Repeat steps 7 and 8 until you are finished.
10. Serve as desired.

Oh, my goodness, these were so good. Chewy, delicious. Filled with refried beans and the aforementioned Tex-Mex base, grated cheese and sour cream....Yummy!

Fat Version

2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Crisco or lard (I used Crisco. The local grocery doesn't carry lard.)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup warm water.

1. Mix flour, salt and baking powder.
2. Cut in Crisco
3. Follow the directions as above. Really, it's simple.

These roll out to 8 inches fairly easily, and 10 inches is do-able. They were not as nice a texture as the Texas version was, and needed some more salt. Adjust to your taste. I will have home-rendered lard this fall, so that may make a bit of a difference.

Rest assured, I will be conducting more experiments to determine the best ratios for our tastes. Use the base, adjust according to your tastes, really. It's not rocket science. And 99.99% of the time you can eat your mistakes! They may not be perfect, and honestly, I very, very rarely have anything come out so bad as to not be repeated. Ever. Twice in 10 years of marriage. Not a bad thing, really. There have been many things I've told my husband he is not to make again. Ever.