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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Homemade green sauce

I like most mexican food; however, the red sauce comes with enchiladas really is not my favorite. I prefer the green, which is a bit spicier, but also very expensive to buy for homemade enchiladas. So, I made my own.

I experimented with a couple of different preparations, but so far the favorite has to be tomatillo. I roasted the tomatillos in the oven, with just a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. I used my cool immersion blender to puree one small onion, 2 jalapenos, a handful of cilantro and about a quarter cup of green Tabasco sauce. Then, added the roasted tomatillos, and blended it all together.

It is a really pretty color, you can see flecks of the cilantro in it. Then I just did the usual enchilada prep, poured my sauce over, added cheese and baked. So much better, and I made enough for 2 pans of enchiladas, for a cost of less than $5.00. How cool is that ?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Morning Dinner Prep

That sounds strange, doesn't it ? But, I had some time before church, and decided to get some of my dinner preparations started. And, unbelievably, I am done in just over an hour !

We had some rhubarb in the freezer from last years "harvest" (I picked a bunch in my parents garden, which we chopped and froze). I let that thaw overnight, and put together a rhubarb crisp this morning. Crisp is a very quick, easy dessert that is very much a comfort food. I got some big, nice blackberries yesterday, so I added those as well. It bakes for about 45 minutes, and it is ready to go !

I wanted to make a couple of appetizers for my guests to have while I grill. I had soaked and cooked some garbanzo beans yesterday, so I made homemade hummus in the food processor today. Of course you can used canned and save the cooking, but these dried beans have a brighter, fresher flavor than the canned. Garlic, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil, it tastes great !

I also made a tapenade, with some olives we got at the Farmers Market yesterday. Again, very simple with the food processor, capers, anchovy paste, garlic, parsley, lemon and olive oil. I also added a bit of rosemary and thyme for a bit of a twist. **One lesson about the food processer**. DO NOT attempt to put the blade in after putting ingredients into the bowl. Needless to say, had to take an emergency break for a Winnie the Pooh bandaid, and then back to the cooking.

While I was doing this, I cooked bacon in the microwave, and softened the cream cheese for poppers. I was trying desperately not to muck up the newly cleaned stove, so other than a few dishes (OK, a lot of dishes), the kitchen is relatively unscathed.

Now, for dinner, I have a salad to make, baked potatoes to prep, and everything else is ready ! Pork chops have been marinating in a Greek vinaigrette, and it should be a wonderful meal. Oops...better put the wine in to chill !

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Improvising baked chicken

I wanted to grill some gigantic chicken breasts we had in the freezer. Unfortunately, we had a dreadful, rainy week here in Minnesota, so grilling was not an option.

So, what is in the refrigerator ? Hmmm...cream cheese, pancetta that REALLY needs to be used up. How about a take on chicken cordon bleu ? I butterflied the chicken breasts (I really should have pounded them out flat, but I was tired and hungry, so I didn't take that extra step). I mixed some garlic, salt and pepper into the cream cheese and spread it on the chicken, and laid the pancetta slices on top. Then I rolled them up, pinned them with a toothpick. But, they needed some breading or something.

I always have breadcrumbs on hand, but what else ? I have some ground pecans that I used to crust baked brie, so I put some of them in a bowl with breadcrumbs, dried thyme and cracked black pepper. I melted butter, then dipped the chicken breast rolls in the butter, rolled in the pecan/crumb mixture, and put in the pan. Baking took about an hour and halfway through I started some rice. You can certainly have a salad or appetizer here to satiate that crazy hunger you have when you get home, or we like to have a glass of wine or cocktail to unwind before dinner.

Prep time all together took about 10 minutes. Tell me you can't do that after work !

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Two wrongs make it right !

We usually do a soup and sandwich night on Tuesday, when I have bell choir. But, we are running low on our stock of homemade soups that we freeze over the winter...

Not all inventions are successful. For example, when Ray made homemade marinara, he cooked a multitude of veggies in his sauce for an entire day, removed the veg and froze the sauce. The frugal side of me said I could make a creamy tomato/veggie soup from the remainder. The results were mixed, at best.

And then, shortly after Christmas, Ray decided to try the cabbage soup diet. So, I faithfully made a "vat" of cabbage soup (Ray likes to make vats of various things, as you will find as we go). He ate the dreaded "Hate Soup" as we now call it, for five days, and we had a bunch left. I froze it, thinking I could use it for something later.

This morning, I am looking for soup for dinner, and enough to make it for lunch tomorrow as well. Suddenly, it occurs to me to combine these two less than perfect soups, add some good ground beef, and WOW ! It is a really good, hearty soup ! Now, I have to remember what I put in them to begin with...

Am I the only one who does this ? I made something that didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, so I started randomly tossing in spices, cheese, and whatever else I could find to make it into something. Now, it really IS something, and I can't remember what I did !

Chicken breast tomorrow, on the grill if it doesn't rain, or stuffed and baked if it does !

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Camping weekend

We are planning a big camping weekend, and my job is (of course) to arrange food for the weekend. Camping food always presents a challenge, because you want it to be good, but it has to be easy (relatively, anyway) and somewhat portable.

We tend to like a nice, homemade breakfast (i.e. not cereal), so this time, we are having eggs, bacon, and biscuits the first day, and then eggs, roast beef hash and the rest of the biscuits the next day. I make extra bacon with breakfast, so I can put some in the homemeade poppers.

It occurred to me that I have mentioned the homemade poppers several times, but never really explained them. I have a specially designed jalapeno griller ( You cut the tops off some jalapenos, and core/seed them, and you can stuff them with whatever you want. Kind of like the breaded, fried kind you get in a pub, but better for you.

I usually chopped up leftover bacon, stir it into cream cheese. You can add some scallions, garlic, whatever, but you really need something cheesy to take away from some of the jalapeno heat. We put a toothpick through each one. This prevents them from falling through the holes, and gives you something to grab to remove them from the griller. Then, just put them on the fire, and grill until the bottoms are well roasted, and the cheese is bubbling over the top. Let them cool, or they are like molten lava ! And enjoy !

The rest of camping will be venison steaks, grilled sweet potatoes, brie stuffed burgers, spinach salad...who said it has to all be weenies and beans ?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hello Spring !

We got the garden in today, and a TON of yardwork. So, to reward my sweetie, we had a GIANT T-bone, from my Dad in South Dakota (some of the best beef in the universe, in my opinion).

I bought some big sweet potatoes at the farmers market on Thursday. They were local, they had been left in the ground over the winter and unearthed in the spring. We only had half of one, grilled with a little EVOO, salt and pepper. Threw on some mushrooms, with butter, salt and pepper, wrapped in foil, and the STEAK ! Just sprinkled on some Worchestershire, and Montreal steak seasoning, really hot grill, and YUMMM!

OH, and grandma's spinach salad, kicked up a bit. We had bacon for breakfast (of course), so I saved a couple pieces and a bit of the drippings. Nice, fresh spinach, sliced fresh mushrooms and some julienned onions go into a salad bowl. Warm the bacon drippings, add about 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard (although, I have this really good sweet and hot garlic mustard from the Gilroy Garlic Festival I put in), and also about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Just warm it through, add some leftover bacon crumbles and OMG ! You can't stop eating it.

So, now we retire for a movie and the last of a bottle of Sangiovese...excellent Sunday !

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Cajun shrimp alfredo

It has been a busy week, and didn't have much time for blogging, but I promised Ray I would share this recipe.

We had planned for grilled shrimp and poppers on the grill, but rain cancelled that plan. So, having to come up with a dinner plan on the fly, this was my creation !

I started the pasta pot boiling, we always keep some dried pasta on hand for emergencies, although Ray is a bit of a pasta snob and prefers homemade. There just isn't enough time of the weeknight to do that. Anyway...

I sauteed some garlic and thyme in butter and EVOO on the stove, then added the cleaned shrimp (I bought them cleaned, which I don't always, but again, no time during the week). I sauteed them until they were just underdone, and removed them from the pan. I added about 3 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons of cajun seasoning. This is one of the many nice spice blends Ray received for his birthday, from our friend Charlene, who works at Karlsberger Foods. I made a roux out of this, then slowly added some whole milk.

Now, I am lactose intolerant, so we use lactose free milk. We like the whole milk better than the skim, as it tastes more like real milk. But any milk would do. I waited for the sauce to thicken a bit, then I used up some leftover cheese from the fridge. We had some swiss cheese that didn't have a lot of "swiss-y" flavor, but I added it and some fresh grated parmesan. When the sauce was as thick as I wanted, I turned it to simmer.

Just as the pasta was ready to drain, I stirred the shrimp back into the sauce. Drained the pasta, added it into the sauce, and dinner was served. I think Ray's description was "indescribable". I hope he meant in a good way !

Bees arrived last night ! Can't wait to update on that !