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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Classic Cuban Sandwich

This is one of those sandwiches that I always order when I see it on a menu. And I really don't like ham, so it must be really good, right ? There is something about the combination of ingredients that really intrigues me. Whoever thought to put ham and pork together on the same sandwich, with mustard and pickles, and then smash in down and grill it ? 

This started off by wanting to cook a pork roast in  the crock pot, but not just make a normal roast. I started thinking about this mojo marinade I used to buy all the time. Since I no longer buy prepackaged stuff like that, I knew I could figure this out. It came together pretty easily from there.

Classic Cuban Sandwich
For the Cuban roast pork:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
One four to five pound pork loin roast
Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Use a fork to tenderize the pork roast all over, and place in the marinade. Let soak overnight, or up to 2 days if you like.

Place the roast in a crockpot, along with the marinade, and cook over low heat 8-10 hours until the meat is falling apart. Pull it apart with a fork.

To assemble the sandwiches, you will need:
1 loaf of french bread
Pickle slices
Good deli ham, thinly sliced
Swiss cheese, sliced
Shredded Cuban pork
Cut a sandwich size section of french bread, and slice in half. Spread mustard on both sides of bread, and line with Swiss cheese. On one half, spread several pieces of ham, and layer shredded pork. Cover with pickle slices and top with the other half of the bread. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat and melt a tablespoon of butter in the pan. Place your sandwich in the pan, and butter the top of the bread. Top with another heavy skillet and press down. You can place a large can or brick on top to create your own "panini" press if you like. Cook for 3-5 minutes until brown, turn the sandwich, and press down again. Brown and an additional 3-5 minutes. Slice and serve. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Southwestern Corn Chowder

On Sunday, we like to throw something in the crockpot, relax and watch football, so we have a low maintenance dinner. This Sunday was Cuban pork roast, and I wanted a soup to pair with the sandwiches I was making. The soup had to be simple, I didn't wanted to spend more time on the soup than I was on the sandwiches. And the flavor needed to complement the pork. 

Somehow corn chowder came to mind, because it seemed like it would be fairly easy. It was SO simple, and really delicious. Truly a perfect pairing with our Cuban sandwiches, and a great way to finish off a fall weekend. 

Southwestern Corn Chowder 
6 tablespoons butter 
2 cups yellow onion, diced finely 
4 cloves garlic, minced 
3 tablespoons flour 
4 cups chicken stock (you could use vegetable stock if you wanted this to be vegetarian)
4 cups whole kernel corn (frozen is fine) 
1 cup roasted red peppers, diced 
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup green salsa or enchilada sauce

1 cup milk 
1 eight ounce package cream cheese, softened and cut into cubes. 

In a dutch oven or stock pot, melt butter. Saute onions and garlic until soft. Stir in flour and continue to stir for 2-3 minutes until flour starts to brown. Add chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, add corn, roasted red peppers, salt, pepper and salsa. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, then add milk and cream cheese. Continue to simmer until cheese is mostly melted. Serve. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

My original idea was to make potato leek soup, a favorite at our house, but I forgot to purchase leeks. Key ingredient, so I was kind of stuck, and I had potatoes I needed to use up. What to use instead, why, bacon, of course ! We still have some of the amazing bacon from the pig we butchered earlier in the year, and it seems a potato bacon soup would be really good, but what could I do to make it even better ? 

Then I thought about when I go out to eat, and they make that offer to "load" your baked potato. I always take it, don't you ? Who doesn't love that combination of bacon, sour cream, and onions ? To get that to translate to my soup, I first pre-baked my potatoes, then scooped out the insides, and put the skins back in the oven, so they would be nice and crispy. I wanted these as a garnish for my finished soup, to give it that real "baked potato" flavor.

Don't they look awesome? It was all I could do to stop myself from snacking on these all day ! The next step was to fry up some crispy bacon, which I saved for toppings, and used the fat to saute the onions and garlic.

Mmm...crispy bacon
Well, you get the idea. I wanted the soup to be rich, and creamy, and then you could load it up with as much and as many toppings as you wanted, just like a baked potato. This was definitely a success !

Loaded Baked Potato Soup
3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes 
1/4 cup olive oil 
1 tablespoon kosher salt 
1/2 pound bacon, cut into bite sized pieces 
1 large yellow onion, diced finely 
4 cloves garlic, diced 
3 tablespoons flour
1 quart pork or chicken stock 
3 cups water 
2 teaspoons salt 
2 teaspoons black pepper 
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (save 1/2 cup for garnish) 
Chopped green onion, for garnish 
Sour cream, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly coat potatoes with oil and salt, and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour until tender, then cut in half and let cool. Scoop out insides, leave skins in tact as much as possible. Return skins to the baking sheet, increase oven temperature to 400 and bake an addditional 20-25 minutes until skins are brown and crispy. Remove from oven. 

In a large stock pot, brown bacon until crispy. Remove bacon to a paper towel to drain, saving for a garnish for later. Keep bacon fat on medium low heat, and add onions and garlic. Saute until tender. Add flour and stir until combined, about 2-3 minutes. Add stock and water, and stir until boiling. Reduce to a simmer. Cube potatoes, and add to stock and water mixture. Simmer 30 minutes, until potatoes are very soft, then puree using an immersion blender. Stir in milk and shredded cheese, and remove from heat. 
Dish up the soup in bowls, and garnish as you like ! 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Black Pepper Walleye and Beluga Lentils

Finally, a dish that isn't beige ! I wanted to serve some of this walleye we had in the freezer, a gift from my parents. And let's face it, walleye is a staple food in Minnesota. But, I was stumped as to what to serve with it, and even though I have quite a collection of recipes in the Beige Food Hall of Fame, it isn't quite time for a new addition. Then, I remembered the beluga lentils I picked up at the Farmers Market. We really love fish and lentils, but I had never cooked these before. 

I was intrigued by the color, and the small size. I had tasted them before at a seafood throwdown we attended several months ago. I decided to braise them, and add some carrots for color. They were delicious, and the fish was perfect. 

Black Pepper Walleye and Beluga Lentils 
For the lentils:
1 pound beluga lentils, rinsed
4 cups water
2 carrots. diced finely
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic. minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sriracha
Cover lentils in water, and simmer 45 minutes until tender but not mushy. Drain all but 1/2 cup of liquid from pan and set aside. Return lentils to the pan. In a separate saute pan, heat olive oil and butter together. Saute carrots first, then add onions and garlic, until all are tender. Stir into the lentils, and add sriracha to taste. Simmer while you prepare the fish.

For the fish
4 walleye filets
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
White balsamic vinegar with honey and serrano
Generously season fish with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil and butter together in a non-stick saute pan (I re-used the pan from the carrot/onion garlic saute to save on cleanup). Cook fish 4-5 minutes per side until golden. Serve on top of lentils, sprinkle with the white balsamic vinegar. **You can use lemon juice here as well, we just really like this white balsamic vinegar with fish !

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Farmers Market Harvest Soup

Here was the challenge: My "Green Team" at work was going to the Farmers Market in the morning to pick out fresh veggies, and I was going to craft soups for the entire office based on what they selected. Piece of cake, I think (or pot of soup, more accurately)! I brag about what great soup I make...I can do this ! Then, as the date gets closer, reality starts to set in. We have no stove at work. I have 4 hours to make soup for 60 people using microwaves, crockpots and a roaster from 1950. 

I start to stress, I lie awake at night thinking about all odd manner of vegetables they could come back with (note to self: try not to anger anyone at work prior to the day of the event). I recruit some "sous chefs" to help chop vegetables in the morning. I buy herbs and stocks that can multi-purpose for just about any combination of ingredients. And then the day comes...and they don't buy anything all that unusual !, how to get all of this cooked with no stove ? We chopped the vegetables fairly small, then microwaved them a bit before throwing them in the antique roaster, and cooking at 500 degrees for 3 hours. Miraculously, everything was blazing hot by the time the hungry workers came to feast, and everything came off without a hitch. This was the largest soup I made, and it could easily be served with no meat, but most of my coworkers are meat eaters, so I had pre-cooked some beef the night before for a more hearty soup. 

I think everyone should try this. I want to do it again, now that I have the strategy down ! This is the recipe, scaled down for home use, and you could just throw all of this in the crockpot and let it go for the day, and have an awesome harvest soup waiting for you for dinner ! 

Farmers Market Harvest Soup
2 pounds hamburger
1 large bottle tomato-vegetable juice
8 cups water
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup corn kernels, cut from the cob
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Tabasco sauce (to taste)

Brown hamburger in a large pot, season generously with salt and pepper. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until all vegetables are tender. Adjust spices according to your tastes. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup

I had this one massive butternut squash from my garden this year, it was really too big for the two of us. It weighed over 7 pounds ! I had a brew date scheduled with my Bitches Brew Crew, and since it was October, I thought putting a nice pot of soup on probably wasn't a bad idea, as we brew outside at my house. 

I have made lentil sweet potato soup before, so I didn't think it would be a big stretch to make something similar with butternut squash. This squash was so big, I was worried about how to cut it up, so I actually precooked it a bit in the microwave, to make it easier to cut into chunks. The soup was velvety, creamy and spicy, perfect for a fall day. 

Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup 
1 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed 
1 large yellow onion, diced 
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups water, divided 
1 tablespoon coriander 
1 tablespoon cumin 
1 tablespoon salt 
1 tablespoon pepper 
1 large or 2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 1 inch cubes 
In a large sauce pan, combine lentils,4 cups water, garlic and onions. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until lentils are tender, 30-40 minutes. Place lentils, spices and squash in a crockpot, cover with 2 cups water. Set crock put to low and cook 6-8 hours, until squash is tender (add more water if necessary). Use immersion blender to blend until smooth. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Apple Dip

We had a really fun event at work this week, it was an apple festival, and I had purchased a bushel of apples from the folks at Rabideaux Farms in Bayfield. You can find them at the Minneapolis Farmers Market on Nicollet Mall on Thursdays, which worked perfectly for our office downtown. They were amazing apples, and we had some left over, so I brought a few home. 

As a part of the event, we also had an apple dessert contest, and one of the entries was an apple dip. It had brown sugar and toffee bits. I am not keen on the little toffee bits, but I do love apple dips, so I started thinking about how I could change it to make it something that would be more to my tastes. Well, cinnamon, of course ! 

We have this amazing Saigon cinnamon we received from some friends in Chicago, and it really elevates this very simple dip. This is a perfect Autumn treat. 

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Apple Dip 
1 eight ounce package cream cheese, softened 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
2 teaspoons cinnamon 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
Mix all together with an electric mixer, serve at room temperature with sliced apples. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Green Enchilada Sauce

I have used my homemade green enchilada sauce in recipes several times on the blog, so I figured it was about time I posted the recipe for it ! This actually started accidentally, when I picked up a can of tomatillos at the grocery store instead of some canned green enchilada sauce. Since I already had the rest of the dish prepared, I made my own, and liked it so much better than the store variety, it has been a staple ever since. 

It is very simple to make, and we grow our own tomatillos in the garden now. This year, they completely took over, so I had a nice big batch, more than enough to get through the next year. 

Green Enchilada Sauce 
First, roast the tomatillos: 
10 pounds tomatillos, husked and washed 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
2 heads garlic, separated into cloves 
Preheat oven to 375. Place tomatillos  and garlic in pans (I usually use the disposable hotel pans for this, as it can get messy to clean), and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt, and place in the oven. Roast for 30-45 minutes until the tomatillos are bursting their skins. Let cool slightly, and remove garlic and set aside. Using an immersion blender (or regular blender in small batches), puree tomatillos.

For the sauce: 
Pureed tomatillos 
Roasted garlic 
8-10 jalapenos (depending on how spicy you like this) 
2 large yellow onions, chopped 
1 bunch cilantro 
1/2 cup lime juice 
3 tablespoons cumin 
3 tablespoons sugar 
1/4 cup canning salt 
Using some of the tomatillo puree for liquid, place half of the garlic, jalapenos, onions, lime juice and cilantro in a blender, and blend until smooth. Add back to you your tomatillo mixture, and repeat with the remaining garlic, jalapenos, onions and cilantro. Place entire mixture in a large pot on the stove, add spices and simmer gently 30-40 minutes until heated through. In the meantime, prepare your water bath canner. Process pints for 15 minutes. You can also use this as salsa, but we like it best as enchiladas. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Baked Chops with Local Apples

I love this time of year, with all the apples we can get ! And, who doesn't love to pair them with some beautiful, organic pork, butchered at home ?

This was a really easy dinner to put together, but so wonderful and comforting as we ease into the cold weather. We had some mashed potatoes and stuffing frozen from last year's Thanksgiving, so I was looking for a way to use the last of those, before we start our next freezer run.

We took a trip to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market, and purchased some local Regent apples. I must admit my initial target was Honey Crisp, but I wanted to buy a multi-purpose apple that was tasty to eat and also good for cooking and this fit the bill.

This only took 15 minutes prep time for the main dish, side dish out of the freezer, and it was perfect for a mid-week dinner !

Baked Chops with Local Apples
2 six-eight ounce bone in pork chops
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large Regent apple, diced
Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8 by 8 pan with non-stick. Rinse chops and rub in salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme and let rest for 30 minutes. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and let sit for another 10 minutes. In the meantime, arrange onions and apples in the bottom of the baking pan. Dot with butter and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar. Lay chops across the top, and bake, covered with foil, for 45 miuntes. Remove foil and baked an additional 15-20 minutes until fat is crispy. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve with your favorite side dish, topped with the apples and onions.

Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas

Gosh, it seems like it has been forever since I have posted here ! This is a very busy time of year at my "real" job, so we tend to rely on our stash of frozen meals, soups and canned goods. We did that so much, in fact, that we are down to the point where we have almost no salsa, soups or sauces left. Good thing canning season is here ! 

This was a really quick dinner to make, because I used some of our stocked items to throw it together. We had some frozen smoked chicken still in the freezer, smoked jalapenos from the same smoker run over Labor Day weekend, and canned enchilada sauce. All I needed to do was assemble these, and bake ! The smokiness was a nice change of pace for our usual enchiladas.

Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas 
2 cups shredded smoked chicken 
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened 
2 chipotle peppers, chopped (if using dried, you will want to rehydrate them)
1 tablespoon hot sauce (optional) 
5 small flour tortillas 
12 ounces green enchilada sauce 
1 1/2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese 
Sour cream, black olives and tomato for garnish 
Preheat oven to 375. In a small bowl, combine chicken, cream cheese, peppers and hot sauce. Spray an 8 by 8 pan with non-stick spray. Spread 1/5 of the filling in each of the tortillas, and roll. Place side by side in the pan. Pour enchilada sauce over the top, and cover with cheese. Cover pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until cheese is golden and bubbly. Let rest 10-15 minutes before serving. Garnish with sour cream, olives and tomatoes.