Pages

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Spanish Rice Casserole

Although this is no gourmet dish, it's fast and it makes for a nice weeknight meal. The casserole can be served with a vegetable on the side to round out your plate; it's also nice with warmed tortillas. Michael likes to use the casserole itself as a burrito or taco filling (as did my brothers).

This recipe was given to my mom decades ago by a friend from K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base. It was a family favorite from the first time she cooked it. The speedy preparation made it a frequent dinner during the years when teens were in the house. I like it for the same reasons--and also, it's a crowd pleaser. I will often turn to this recipe when I'm taking a meal to another family.

Note from Colette:

I've just finished reading a book titled A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression.
A paragraph in the book made me wonder if this recipe has its roots in Depression-era Michigan. I think it certainly possible: "A dish called 'Spanish Rice' (many dishes were identified as Spanish simply because they contained tomatoes) was a popular casserole made with fried ham, bacon or salt pork, chopped onion, tomato, diced bell pepper, and boiled rice, all combined and baked or warmed on the stove top." Although this recipe contains ground beef I imagine the ingredient was added when it became convenient and affordable. 


print

Spanish Rice Casserole


Source: Debbie Wade, an old friend my mom knew in Michigan

1 lb ground beef
1/2 c onion, chopped
1 c uncooked white rice
2/3 c green pepper, chopped
1 14/5-oz can diced tomatoes (original recipe used stewed)
2 c water
1 teas chili powder
1/2 teas oregano leaves
1 teas salt
1/8 teas pepper
1/3 c cooked ham or 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

If you're using bacon, cook it in a skillet and then spoon off all but 1 T bacon fat. Cook ground beef and onion together, in the bacon fat. (If you're using ham, just cook the beef and onion together using a vegetable oil spray to coat the pan.) Drain fat, if necessary, and stir in other ingredients. Heat to boiling; reduce heat, cover and simmer. Stir occasionally. Cook about 30 minutes until water is absorbed.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Turkey or Chicken Noodle Soup

my 18-month-old enjoying the final product!
When I was expecting my first child over 8 years ago (!), I enrolled in a hypnobirthing class. One of the relaxation exercises our instructor walked us through was imagining a kitchen in full detail, complete with our favorite meal cooking on the stove or in the oven. The meal I imagined was chicken noodle soup on the stove, with bread cooking in the oven.

I was a little sickly as a child and teenager, suffering from asthma and recurrent sinus and respiratory infections. My mom would make this soup often when I was ill, and in addition to helping heal my body, it was a great comfort to my soul.

Though homemade chicken noodle soup is amazing, turkey noodle soup is out of this world. When we travel for Thanksgiving, we make sure to grill a turkey some other time in the winter, just for the carcass to use for stock. I swear, it's liquid gold.

simmering the stock
Homemade stock may sound intimidating. But I know you can do it! The more time you have, the more flavorful your stock will be, but a delicious chicken stock can be made in as little time as an hour, and it's mostly hands-off time. According to Alton Brown here, stock is made only with bones and broth is made from meat, so really this is a hybrid of both stock and broth. On years when I do cook a turkey on Thanksgiving, I almost anticipate the day after Thanksgiving more, when I simmer a huge pot of turkey stock for hours. The smell in my house is divine!






Print

Turkey or Chicken Noodle Soup (With Homemade Stock)


A chicken yields a dutch oven pot full of soup. A turkey will yield 2-3 times that amount of stock.

For the stock:


I usually use a carcass to make the stock--from a rotisserie chicken, or a grilled turkey--and then use meat I saved from the bird for the soup. With a chicken in particular you can use the entire raw bird to make the stock, and then shred some of the meat for the soup. Alternatively, you can use a collection of bone-in chicken pieces to make the stock. Mom often cooks everything but the breast meat for the broth and cooks the breast meat after the broth is completed and strained. That way the meat isn't overcooked or tasteless because all the flavor has cooked out (once the breast is cooked, pull it out and shred it before returning it to the soup for serving).

1 onion
1 carrot
1 celery rib
2 bay leaves
1 chicken carcass or 1 turkey carcass

Because a turkey carcass is usually much bigger, double the other ingredients.

Place carcass in a large pot. For chicken a dutch oven size is sufficient; for a turkey I use a large stock pot. Fill with water to cover the carcass by at least an inch--and more will result in more stock.

Quarter the onion, scrub the carrot, and wash the celery rib. Then add vegetables and bay leaf to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat until the stock simmers. Simmer for at least an hour, preferably several hours.

Remove and discard all of the solids from the stock (a spider makes this easy). On fat: sometimes a layer of fat is evident on the top of the stock. Often when I use a chicken carcass there's not much and I'm too lazy to remove it, but if you see a lot and would prefer to do without the fat, here's a few options. The easiest (and probably most time-effective) method is to use a fat separator. The fat rises to the top and you can pour off the liquid underneath. Another option is to use a ziploc bag. Place the stock into the bag and hold it still for a minute so the fat rises to the top. Then snip off a corner of the bag to release the stock, then pull the bag away once everything is out but the fat. And a third option: refrigerate the stock to solidify the fat. You can then spoon it off, being careful not to remove too much stock.

On storage: Stock freezes beautifully. I have used both mason jars and ziploc freezer bags. The gelatin in stock will turn it semi-solid in the fridge. Don't worry, it loosens right up as soon as you heat it.

For the soup:


These measurements are flexible; tailor them to your tastes.

~2 quarts stock
3-4 carrots
3 celery stalks
a few celery leaves, optional
4 handfuls egg noodles
1 1/2 -2 c cooked chicken, cubed or shredded into bite-sized pieces
3/4 teas thyme
3/4 teas rosemary, crushed

Bring stock to a boil. Peel and slice carrots; wash and slice the celery. Add 1 teas salt and vegetables and cook until crisp-tender, about 12 minutes at my altitude. I usually add the chicken at this point, but it doesn't really matter when you add it, just that you do!

Then add egg noodles and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the noodles are tender. Add thyme and rosemary. If you're sick, make sure you stand over the simmering soup and breathe in the fragrant steam. Place in bowls and serve with crusty bread or grilled cheese sandwiches.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Grilled Chocolate Sandwich

During a visit to Germany in 1986 I tasted Nutella for the first time. Like a number of foods I discovered during my years of Air Force assignments and related travel, Nutella was not well-known in USA at the time. It almost goes without saying; I liked it, especially on sourdough bread. Some acquaintances found my fondness for bread and chocolate strange, even when I reminded them that Americans ate plenty of chocolate covered donuts (maybe multi-colored sprinkles won them over). During my eight years living overseas I continued to indulge in Nutella but the best chocolate and bread combo I ever ate was found at a Belgian patisserie near my home; the baker slathered chocolate between croissant halves. I admit to indulging myself often during my three years there.

A few years after returning to the states, I read about Grilled Chocolate Sandwiches in a cookbook by one of my favorite contributors to The Washington Post Food section, food scientist, Robert Wolke (unfortunately he no longer writes for them). He introduced me to a short, easy recipe which combines the flavors, if not the texture, of those chocolate croissants I still miss.




Print

Grilled Chocolate Sandwich


Adapted from What Einstein Told His Cook 2:  The Sequel Further Adventures in Kitchen Science by Robert Wolke
Serves 1, but can be multiplied

salted butter
two slices good bread
a handful of chocolate chips or 1-2 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate or milk chocolate, if you prefer

Heat a nonstick or cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat. Melt a pat of butter and place one slice of bread in the pan, moving the bread around to absorb the butter. Arrange the chocolate chips on the bread covering the slice well. Top the chocolate with the second slice of bread; let cook until the chocolate is beginning to melt and the bottom slice starts to brown. Be careful with the heat--you know your own stove top and may need to lower the heat so you don't burn the bread before the chocolate melts. When the bottom slice is golden brown, carefully flip the sandwich using a spatula. This is easiest if you use both hands; flip the uncooked side on to your non-dominant hand moving rather slowly in case there is still unmelted chocolate which might fall out. Once the flip is completed, melt another pat of butter and place the sandwich back in the pan, uncooked slice down. Tuck in any chocolate chips that may have fallen. Continue cooking until the second piece of bread is browned as well and the chocolate is melted.

Remove to a cutting board and slice; wait a minute or two and enjoy.

Note:

This sandwich is best when you combine quality ingredients. I like the flavors of sourdough bread but it isn't necessary. Just try for something with some heft and good flavor. I've seen photos of these using baguettes, but I think the chocolate would melt out of any holes. I use Callebaut chocolate chips with a higher percentage of chocolate. These chips are not American so they have less wax in them (they don't hold together well in a cookie) and they melt beautifully. If you can't find this brand, you might try those at Trader Joe's since that store imports some chocolate items from Belgium. I've not tried the chocolate chips so I can't vouch for them. The chocolate bars they sell (Pound Plus) are good, though.







Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Slow-cooker Butternut Soup

Even though you may have a great stove-top recipe for butternut soup, this version may come in handy when you have to be away from the kitchen.



Print

Slow-cooker Butternut Soup


Source:  The French Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone
Serves:  6

1 large (2-pds) butternut squash, or equivalent, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-in chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large sweet apple, such as Fuji or Golden Delicious, peeled cored, and chopped
6 c chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
1 teas. salt
1/2 c heavy cream, plus more for garnish
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Combine the squash, onion, apple and broth in a large slow cooker and add 1 teas salt.

Cook on low for 6 hours. Check that the vegetables and apples are very soft. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. In batches, blend the ingredients until smooth. Return to the slow cooker and add cream and nutmeg. Reheat on the low setting, if necessary.

Serve soup drizzled with cream.

Notes:

Almost any winter squash (excepting spaghetti or the small Delicata) would work here. See this page for examples. I am partial to banana squash.

Slivers of red-skinned apple are also a great garnish for this soup. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

End-of-Summer Spaghetti Sauce

For some, the end of summer came several weeks ago, but in Albuquerque summer lingered this year, so here's one last "summer" recipe. This can be cooked anytime you find a good eggplant, however.

Gardening in the desert was a disappointment this summer but it has taught me just how hard plants try to do their life's work, in spite of strong hot winds, drought, insect attacks, and disease. Although we experienced all these traumas this summer, I got several eggplants, some tomatoes, onions, lots of garlic, and the herbs needed for this recipe. I'm glad since this mostly veggie sauce is great for pasta or polenta and I like to cook it at least once each summer. Skip the anchovies for a vegan dish.



Print

End-of-Summer Spaghetti Sauce


Source: Local Flavors:  Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets  by Deborah Madison
Yields sauce enough for 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of spaghetti

1 1/2 to 2 pds eggplant, peeled and sliced a scant 1/2-in thick
2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, quartered lengthwise
1/4 c oil, plus extra for the eggplant
1 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
3 anchovies (optional)
1/3 c chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
2 pds ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or canned equivalent (28-oz can)
1/4 c Kalamata or Gaeta olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 c green Sicilain olives, pitted and chopped
3 T capers, rinsed
1 T dried oregano
1/4 c water or juice from the tomatoes
salt and ground pepper
1 pd spaghetti
1 c Pecorino Romano cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Preheat the broiler and place peppers on a baking sheet under the broiler, skin side up and cook until blistered. Stack the pepper quarters on top of each other and cover; allow to steam for 15 minutes and peel. Lightly brush a sheet pan with oil and place the eggplant slices on it. Brush the tops of the slices with oil and broil both sides until browned. Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, dice the broiled eggplant slices and the peeled peppers. 

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, anchovies, and the parsley. Saute until the onions are softened. Add the peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, olives, capers, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for 30 minutes. 

Cook the pasta. Stir in the sauce and top with more parsley. Pass the grated cheese among diners.

Note: I've frozen this sauce successfully.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Honey Lavender Posset

I'm not sure why it has taken so long for this British dessert to show up in USA. Maybe I just wasn't paying attention. Consider making it a part of your repertoire because there are few easier or more impressive ways to end to a meal.

If lavender isn't your favorite flavor, visit this recipe:  Lemon Posset.




Print

Honey Lavender Posset


Source: theadventurebite.com
Serves 8-10


4 c heavy cream
1/2 c 100% honey (the better your honey, the better the dessert will taste)
1/2 c lemon juice
1 T lime juice
4-5 culinary lavender sprigs or 1 teas lavender buds
more honey to drizzle on top

Place the cream and honey in a large, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. When the honey is incorporated continue to boil, stirring constantly, for three minutes. Lower heat if the mixture threatens to boil over. Remove from heat. Stir in the lemon and lime juices. Drop the lavender into the mixture so it is fully submerged and allow to steep 10-20 minutes until you like the level of lavender flavor.

Strain mixture and pour into ramekins. Allow to cool on counter. Cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator to cool at least 2 hours. (Apparently, if you are in rush, these can be placed in the freezer for 40 minutes to set, but you'll get a better blend of flavors if they take longer to cool down.

Remove from fridge 5-10 minutes before serving and pass flavorful honey to drizzle on top.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sweet and Spicy Green Tomato Bread

Some years we end up with tomatoes that ripen so late in the season that I have a bumper crop of green tomatoes. I've tried all sorts of recipes to use them up and found this one last year published in a Salt Lake City newspaper. I thought the altitude would be close enough to my own (the city is about 650 feet lower) but I had to tweak this recipe some to achieve correct rising results. I baked about 10 loaves of this bread and finally got one batch that had a bit of a rounded top. I'm not sure how this recipe will work at any altitude other than mine. If you are interested in trying the bread and you live at an altitude of 4300-4500 ft. go to the link below and follow the original recipe.

I think I like this bread better than zucchini bread.


Print

Sweet and Spicy Green Tomato Bread


Adapted from Deseret News
Makes 2 loaves (8x4)

2 c finely chopped green tomatoes complete with skins and seeds (I processed these in a food processor and let them drain until they measured about 1 2/3-1 3/4 c of solids)
1 1/8 c granulated sugar (2 T equals 1/8 c)
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c plain yogurt, any kind but non-fat
1/2 c oil
3 eggs
1 teas salt
2 2/3 c wheat flour
2/3 c unbleached flour
1/2 teas baking soda
1/4 teas baking powder
1 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas ground cloves
1/4 teas nutmeg
1 c chopped walnuts (your preference)

Note:  I cooked this with frozen chopped tomato, already drained, and it worked just fine.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour the loaf pans.

Making the batter can be done by hand. Mix the tomatoes, sugar, yogurt, oil, eggs, vanilla, and salt together in a large bowl, stirring until well blended. Mix dry ingredients (remaining ingredients except for walnuts) in a small bowl. Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet until just moistened. Add the walnuts.

Divide the batter into the prepared loaf pans and bake for 60-65 minutes. Test with a toothpick and when it comes out with just a few crumbs, the loaves are done. Let sit on cooling rack for 10 minutes before removing from loaves and allow to cool completely before slicing.

In one of my tests, I divided the batter and cooked 12 muffins and one loaf . The muffins turned out wonderfully and had a shorter baking time, 25-30 minutes. I think I'll try them with a streusel topping next time.

I haven't tested this, but here's a suggested streusel recipe (or you can search the Internet for others):

1/3 c sugar (either white or brown)
1/2 teas cinnamon
1 T butter
1/2 c finely chopped walnuts

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together. Work the butter in with a fork, smashing it until the butter is mostly incorporated. Stir in the walnuts and sprinkle over the batter in muffin tins.