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Monday, March 17, 2014

First Place Beer and Third Place Chili

I have to say, I am not entirely sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I am the reigning champion (two years running) for the Freshwater Theatre Homebrew competition. That being said, there really wasn't much of a competition in homebrew this year. Not that I didn't think I could win anyway, because my bourbon barrel porter rocked, but...

Chili is a different matter. I take pride in my chili, I make some really good chili. And, I compromised to try to win the contest by guessed it, the dreaded white chicken chili. Now, this was one stellar pot of soup (note, I hesitate to call it chili, because, I don't think it is). I was going after what I shall heretofore after call Chicken Tamale Soup, because that was the flavor I was going for. It was complex. It was flavorful, didn't win. I am still disappointed in myself that I didn't just make the chili we like to eat (which is super spicy, heavy on the meat, and really tasty), and serve that. Next's going to be "F**K you Minnesota, this is what real chili tastes like ! "

In the meantime, here is my second third place chili, or, for the ages, Chicken Tamale Soup.

Chicken Tamale Soup 
For the chicken:
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
Mix spices together and rub chicken breasts liberally with spice blend. Grill 4-5 minutes on each side until chicken is cooked through. Remove from grill, let cool and dice into small pieces.

For the chili:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock
2 cans Great Northern beans
2 cans white hominy
2 small cans diced mild green chilis
1 can cream of chicken soup (optional)
1/4 cup cumin
2 tablespoons granulated garlic
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup masa
Salt and pepper to taste 
1 cup sour cream
Corn chips and cheese for garnish
In a large stock pot, heat olive oil. Add onions, garlic and jalapenos, and saute until tender. Stir in stock, and canned items. Bring to a boil, then add spices and chicken. Simmer for 60 minutes, then stir in lemon juice and masa . Simmer for approximately 20 minutes more, then taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Just before serving, stir in sour cream. Scoop soup into bowls, and serve with chips and cheese. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sopa de Fideo

The lovely Susan Berkson from the Minneapolis Farmers Market put out a call for recipes for inexpensive, family style meals on the Minnesota Fortify food community page. Initially, my instinct was to pull a recipe from my blog, and just hand it over to her. After all, I don't usually use extremely exotic ingredients, and I am definitely not a fancy cook.

But then I started thinking about a food drive we had at work recently, and how sometimes when you have limited income, you rely more on canned goods, dried pastas, and things that can be easily stored. Then, I set about creating a dish that could rely more on those items, and less on fresh. This one combines both, and is super affordable ! After I did the calculations, this will make eight really healthy sized portions for roughly $0.85 each! Even I was shocked ! And, you could replace the meat with canned beans and save even more money.

So, this is loosely based on a recipe from an old church cookbook I have in my collection, and it is also one contributed to the book by a dear family friend. I hope you like it, I know when I made it for my husband, he ate three bowls of it !

Sopa de Fideo

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound vermicelli noodles, broken into one inch pieces
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups celery, finely sliced
2 cups onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup green pepper
1 small jalapeno, minced (optional, but adds nice heat)
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/2  cups water
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
In a large dutch oven, melt butter. Saute vermicelli until golden brown. Add ground beef, and cook over medium heat until meat is completely browned. Add all remaining ingredients except for cheese, and gently stir. Cover, reduce heat to simmer and simmer for 25-35 minutes until vegetables are tender. Serve topped with cheese.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Crockpot Mac and Cheese Bar

I have been in charge of my workplace employee gathering events for the past eight years. I love planning these, because they almost always revolve around food. I am about to hand off the baton to someone else, who will coordinate the events for the company.  In order to do this, I am organizing a potluck for people who volunteered to help this year.

My contribution to the potluck is going to be this very decadent crockpot macaroni and cheese. I was sceptical that a cheese sauce in the crockpot would be creamy, and smooth, but you won't believe how good this is.

 There is a little "cheese science" in my combination of ingredients here. Normally,  I am opposed to the "processed cheese spread" needed here. But, the oil content is needed to keep this smooth in the crockpot. Don't worry, you won't really taste it. This is amazing...and the topping choices are endless. Feel free to post suggestions !

Crockpot Mac and Cheese Bar
3 cups uncooked macaroni
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 3/4 cup milk
3 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1 pound processed cheese spread, cut into cubes
2 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded
2 cup shredded shsrp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Toppings, such as bacon, salsa, chili, green onions, pickles
Cook macaroni according to package directions,  leaving slightly undercooked.  In a large bowl, mix together butter, eggs, and milks. Pour mixture into the crockpot,  then gently stir in macaroni and cheeses.  Cook on low for 2 to 3 hours, stirring at least once. Serve with your favorite toppings.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Farro Risotto with Chorizo and Corn

This dish was inspired by a favorite lunch dish at a restaurant near where I work.  They have a rotating, lunch risotto,  but this chorizo version is, in my opinion,  the best thing on the menu. I was inspired to try to recreate it at home, when the weather was bad, and I wanted to make dinner out of what I had on hand.

I had purchased some farro, but had never cooked with it. It is rumored to be the world's oldest grain, in the package it looks a bit like small pieces of puffed wheat. I had heard it would work in risotto,  so that was a twist on the original restaurant recipe I had in mind. I didn't have the right kind of rice for risotto anyway, so I had to go with it.

One tip, we don't normally use chorizo,  because it is super greasy. For this recipe, I browned it, rinsed it under warmed water, then stirred it in. That's an old dieter's trick to remove fat from a recipe, but for this application, I wanted the flavor, but not the grease.

Farro Risotto with Chorizo and Corn
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic,  minced
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups farro
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 pound chorizo, browned,  drained and rinsed
3/4 cup roasted corn
1/2 cup white cheddar cheese
Lime zest and cilantro for garnish
Start stock simmering in a small pot on the stove. Using a Dutch oven, melt butter and olive oil together.  Add onion and garlic,  and saute until soft. Stir in farro, and continue to stir until farro starts to brown.  Add wine, reduce to simmer,  and stir until wine is almost completely absorbed.  Start adding stock one half cup at a time,  stirring between each addition until liquid is almost completely absorbed.  When all of the stock had been added, gently stir in chorizo and corn. Warm through,  then stir in cheese. Remove from heat, let rest 5 minutes, then serve, garnished with lime zest and cilantro.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Caprese Style Baked Quinoa

  1. I won an amazing prize at our Christmas party this year. It was two full bags of groceries from Trader Joe's, all organic stuff, courtesy of our "Green Team" at work. And, it's a good thing too, because we were down with the flu over the holidays, and didn't get out of the house to buy anything. I was able to create this dish out of what we had on hand in the refrigerator, and the pickings out of my Christmas haul !
It was the perfect thing for us after a week of eating soup and feeling like not doing much. It was simple to put together, warm and comforting.
Caprese Style Baked Quinoa
3 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups prepared spaghetti sauce
2 tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup shredded mozzarella
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh basil, cut into ribbons
Preheat oven to 375. In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients except cheese, balsamic vinegar and fresh basil. Simmer over low until thickened, and then place half of the mixture in an 11 by 7 pan sprayed with non-stock. Top with the shredded mozzarella, then spread the remaining quinoa mixture over the top. Top with the slices of fresh mozzarella. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and cheese is golden brown. Let rest 10 minutes before serving, and top with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and fresh basil.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dark Chocolate Mini Jam Tarts

We have all of these delicious jams given to us as a gift. The holidays are the perfect time to make a cookie that highlights their flavors.

I have a shortbread recipe I have made before with jam, but I wanted something different this year. Since one of the flavors of jam we had on hand was a sweet cherry, chocolate seemed like it should pair well.

The part I wasn't prepared for was how much jam I would need. I used up a considerable amount of my stash making these. The tarts are very intensely chocolate, with a nice bite of jam in the middle. Experiment with different combinations ! I chose the cherry, strawberry and blueberry for this batch. All were tasty, but the cherry was definitely the star.

Dark Chocolate Mini Jam Tarts
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dark chocolate powder
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups cherry jam (or any flavor you prefer)
Preheat oven to 350. Spray mini muffin tins with non-stick spray and set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter, sugars and vanilla. Sift together dry ingredients,  then slowly mix into creamed ingredients. Form into one inch balls and press into mini muffin tins. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon jam into each of the cups. Bake 10-12 minutes until cookies are firm. Let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan. Top with additional jam, if desired.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Crockpot Chicken Stew

I know I go on and on about never using things that are pre-packaged, and I am breaking one of my rules here. But trust me on this one, you will love this dish! 

I have been making this for years, and it is one of my all-time favorite crockpot dishes because it is so easy. It reminds me of the filling for a pot pie. Ray doesn't like pot pie (honestly, sometimes I don't know what't wrong with that man), because he doesn't like the crust. This is a perfect compromise. I made biscuits to serve with it, and it was just what we needed to keep us warm on a sub-zero day. 

Crockpot Chicken Stew 
1 large onion, diced 
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, diced into 1/4 inch pieces 
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces 
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon pepper 
1 small bag frozen mixed vegetables 
2 cans cream of chicken soup 
In a medium crockpot, start by layering onions, then potatoes. Toss chicken in poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, and place on top of potatoes. Put frozen vegetables on top of chicken, then pour soup over the top of the vegetables. Add one can full of water. Heat over low 8-10 hours. Stir together, and serve over hot biscuits.