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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Game Day Jambalaya

I am the football lover in our house. So, on Sunday morning, I usually get something started in the crockpot for dinner, then get started watching the games ! This jambalaya is really easy. It's a little spendy with the three meats, but it is sooooo yummy and good.

By the way, I am noticing I have quite a few crock pot recipes of late. Don't you love fall ? And it just occurred to me that as much as I love the Food Network, they never use crockpots....wonder why?

Game Day Jambalaya

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in small pieces
1 pound andouille sausage, or smoked polish sausage, sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
1 cup celery, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons Cajun seasonsing (I like Zatarains)
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco to taste
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Put chicken in the bottom of the crockpot, and season with salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon of the cajun seasoning. Add the rest of the ingredients in the order listed except for shrimp, and cook on low 8-10 hours. Add shrimp during the last 1/2 hour of cooking. Serve over rice.

This makes an enormous batch, so invite friends over ! Anyone want to watch football at our house ?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Penne for Your Thoughts"=Bacon Mac N Cheese

Ray wanted to name a dish "Penne for Your Thoughts" because he loves cheesy puns like that. And, since this dish was very cheesy, I told him I would include it in the blog, even though I think it's a "groaner" in terms of names for dishes.

Saturday we spent the morning at the Autumn Brew Review, which was great, but sampling craft brew from 86 different brewers, starting at 10am, can make for a long day. So we napped for a significant portion of the afternoon, and I was looking for a dinner I could throw together. To be honest, I forgot to plan anything for dinner, and didn't plan to go to the store until Sunday morning, but I had been dreaming about something we refer to as "Crack and Cheese", which is a version of macaroni and cheese that originates from a Martha Stewart recipe. It has 5 different kinds of cheese, and almost requires you to float a loan from the bank to make it. It was very yummy, but I didn't have what was needed to make it.

So, I pulled all the bits of cheese I had in the refrigerator, and set to making this. I realize, I am probably the only person on earth who has an entire container of ricotta cheese just sitting there, waiting for something like this, but there it was (sorry Ray, no ricotta stuffed squash blossoms after the garden froze this week).Here it is:

Bacon Mac and Cheese

1/2 pound of bacon, fried crisp
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 ounces grated provolone
4 ounces grated cheddar
16 ounces ricotta cheese
3/4 pound penne or macaroni
1/2 cup each panko bread crumbs and shredded parmesan cheese

Start a pot of salted water boiling for your macaroni. Melt butter in large sauce pan, and add flour. Combine and stir until it just starts to brown. Add milk, garlic, salt and pepper. Reduce to a simmer and simmer just until it starts to thicken,then add all of the cheeses. When all of the cheese is melted and combined, stir in bacon and turn heat as low as it will go. Keep the sauce just warming until your pasta is done.

Cook the pasta until just underdone. Drain, and add cheese sauce. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. top with panko and parmesan, and bake at 350 for half an hour until browned and bubbly.

This is even good the next day, it sucks up all the yummy cheese sauce, and Ray even likes it cold !

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Green Chili Enchiladas with Smoked Pork

As promised, the recipe for enchiladas with green sauce. Of course, you can purchase green enchilada sauce at the store, but as you know, I try not to use store bought sauces of any kind. It's why we spent so much time canning!

We still have left over smoked pork from the wedding. You can substitute any kind of meat you like in here, or even do cheese, if that's what you like. Oh, and technically these probably aren't "enchiladas" the way I make them, because I prefer the small flour tortillas to the corn, but as always, it's whatever you like !

Greeen Chili Enchiladas with Smoked Pork

2 cups cooked, shredded smoked pork
1/4 cup spicy salsa
6 small tortillas (flour or corn)
1 pint green enchilada sauce
8 ounces shredded cheese (I use a blend of cheddar and monterey jack)
Sour cream, salsa, lettuce and black olives for garnish

Preheat oven to 375. If you are using corn tortillas, they are easier to work with if you warm them a bit in the microwave, or in a pan with a little oil. Combine salsa and pork in a small bowl. Divide pork into 6 equal portions. Spread pork along one end of each tortilla, and then roll. Place, seam side down, in a greased 9 by 9 baking dish. You will most likely end up with one sideways to the others. Pour the jar of sauce over the top of the enchiladas, and top with the cheese. Bake for 30-45 minutes until bubbly and cheese is melted. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve with sour cream, salsa, lettuce and black olives.

We love these because they are so quick and easy, and now that we have a years supply of sauce, we will be eating them often. Perhaps we will invite you over for dinner ?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Canning, and more...Canning !

I wonder why we choose to do most of our canning in one weekend every year. But we have done it this way three years in a row ! This year we had to supplement with a trip to the farmers market, so we could stock up for the winter.

This is one of my favorite cooking weekends of the year, however. It reminds me how much I value the flavor of homemade, home-cooked foods, fresh from the garden. And, living in Minnesota, the only way I can enjoy those year round is by canning them. It is really a lost art, so few people really do this anymore, much less really enjoy the process !

So, we made another, larger batch (15 more half pints) of the apple butter with ginger and vanilla...soooo good ! Ray made 5 quarts of his tomato sauce, which was a bushel of roma tomatoes, chopped, processed through the food mill, and then cooked down to a thick sauce. This will be the base for several wonderful batches of pasta sauce over the winter.

While Ray canned the tomato sauce, I got started chopping all of the vegetables for some spicy salsa. I am something of a salsa snob ! I don't like any store bought salsas anymore. I do like some homemade salsa, being more partial to the pico de gallo style than any others. Because, I like it the way I make it! Spicy, with layers of flavors and a variety of textures. I hand chop all of the vegetables (no food processors here !), which include carrots, celery, onions, garlic, cilantro and a variety of sweet and hot peppers. Then, we blanched and peeled a bushel of tomatoes, and chopped about 2/3 of them for the salsa. Here again, when it comes to something like this, there really are not measurements, because it is going to depend on you individual tastes and preferences. But, the key for me is, once I put this on the stove to simmer, I also add some dried spices.

The dried spices add more flavor to the "juice" part of the salsa. I let this cook until it thickens, then we can ! We ended up with 17 pints of salsa, and canned the rest of the chopped tomatoes in quart jars to use for chili or soup for the winter. And that was all on Saturday !
Today, we are working on a green enchilada sauce. This is tomatillos, onions, garlic, jalapenos, cilantro, green chiles and just a bit of sugar. I blend this smooth, so we can use it on enchiladas, but you can eat it with chips too, or use it as a base for green chili.

It is still cooking on the stove, but this is one massive batch, so by the time it is done, we will end up with about 32 pints. One pint is just enough for us to make a small batch of enchiladas. That recipe will follow soon !

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wild Rice Camping in a Crockpot

Cooking on a campout is always fun, and challenging. But, we are not your normal weenie and beans type folk. So, we do some big, group camp outs several times a year. Which require a pot luck. I wanted to do something with wild rice, and we did have access to electricity, so I had a crockpot. And a small grill. But any significant cooking or prep time would mean I would waste my entire day prepping my dish.

So, before I left the house, I had diced 2 onions, three large cloves of garlic, 3 large celery ribs, and 3 carrots. I packed one 4 cup container of chicken broth, 2 cans of cream of chicken soup and 2 cans of chicken breast. I could have brought some raw chicken breasts also, but this was what we had on hand. And a couple cans of water chestnuts.I had some Minnesota wild rice we picked up on our trip to pick up the bees earlier this spring, and some fresh tarragon out of the garden. We had also brought along fixings for other camping meals, so if I thought I needed to supplement, I had some other options.

I decided I wanted bacon, so I browned up some bacon in a pan, removed it and then sauteed the veggies in the grease, which worked perfectly. Then, I precooked the wild rice (about 1.5 cups) in the chicken broth and 1.5 cups of water. It was on for about 20 minutes, just started to burst open, then I put it in the crockpot on low, added the chicken soup, water chestnuts and tarragon, and some salt and pepper.

Then, on a wild hare, I decided I needed something else, and I added the remaining Italian sausage left over from breakfast. Let it sit all day on low in the crockpot, and it was divine ! I was almost worried we wouldn't have any leftovers, which I very much appreciate ! It's even better the next day !

Hoping to get some extra apple butter made this week, then canning this weekend. Green Salsa, tomatoes, sauce and salsa. Who knows what else. Craft Brew week,and hopefully a trip to Travail for some inspiration !

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Crockpot Apple Butter

We have this very nasty crab apple tree in our backyard. And by nasty, I mean the apples are inedible. We attempted to make apple jelly with them a couple of years ago, but they apparently lacked pectin, so we ended up with some tasty apple syrup.

After some research online, I decided to try again and make apple butter. This experiment made something that is quite nice ! I loaded a small crockpot with apples that had been quartered and cores removed. I didn't want to peel them at this stage, because they are so small, I was sure I could deal with it after they were cooked. I layered them with brown sugar, cinnamon and thinly sliced ginger root. I was very careful not to add too much sugar, because I don't care for jams and jellies that are too sweet.

I added just a sprinkle of nutmeg and cloves, and about 2 tablespoons of vanilla. I apologize for the lack of measurements, but it will depend on the volume of apples you have, the amount of sugar in the apples, and your personal preference.

I left the mixture in overnight in the crockpot, and the smell was WONDERFUL in the morning. I turned off the heat, and let them cool enough to put through the food mill, so we could get the peels out of the mixture.
Ray was the master of the mill! I put the mixture in a saucepan, adjusted the seasoning (which was just a little extra cinnamon and sugar), and cooked it down some more. You could put it back in the crock pot at this point and let it go as well.

I canned these, so we could share our wonderful discovery. We ended up with four half-pint jars. The taste reminded me a bit of Thanksgiving !