Friday, September 30, 2011

Truck Stop Chili - Three Ways

This wins the award for the dinner that kept on giving this week. It could be easily adapted for a slow-cooker, doing the initial browning of meats and onions over the stove, then transferring to the cooker. Low for 6-8 hours would probably do the trick. I used the stove-top; prepped it at lunch time, then let it simmer all afternoon. Our often hectic evenings always go much more smoothly when I manage to cook/plan ahead like this. 

I modified the original recipe to reduce the heat a bit and to include a few more spices. Using center-cut bacon reduced the fat and sodium. Look for a 5 lb. packaged beef brisket and take it to the butcher counter. Ask to have as much of the fat trimmed off as possible and to have it cubed. Because who wants to mess around with trimming beef at home?

 6 slices center cut bacon
3.5 lbs well-trimmed beef brisket, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, Texas 1015 or Mayan Sweet), chopped
2 TB cumin
2 TB chili powder
1.5 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
grating fresh nutmeg
4 large garlic cloves, pressed or minced
32 oz. low-sodium beef broth
one 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree
1 dried chipotle chili
2 bay leaves

chopped tomatoes
chopped onions
shredded cheddar or Mexican mix
chopped cilantro
sour cream
blue corn chips

Dinner #1: Over rice, topped with cheese, sour cream, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and blue corn chips.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Remove bacon and set on paper towels to drain. Over high heat, brown the beef in the bacon drippings, then set aside to drain in colander. Over medium heat, saute chopped onion in the remaining drippings until lightly browned, 8-10 minutes.

Toast cumin in a small skillet over medium heat for just about a minute. Add cumin and other spices to onions and stir constantly for one minute. Transfer to soup pot. Crumble in bacon, add beef broth, tomatoes, chipotle chili, bay leaves and beef. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 4-5 hours, partially covered.

Set the garnish choices out and let everyone choose their own toppings.

Modified from "Truck Stop Chili" in The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh.

Dinner #2: As the sauce for cheese and onion enchiladas.
Cheese and onion enchiladas for dinner #2 were so easy, I even managed them on soccer practice night. Prep a side salad to go along with them early in the day. If you're going to eat chili three nights in a row, don't forget to include something green! Heat up 10-12 corn tortillas, fill and roll. Top with chili, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until heated through. Uncover and cook until the cheese is melted. Broil for a couple of minutes at the end, for a nice, browned top.

Dinner #3, and my personal favorite: Migas!
I'm a sucker for migas. This was the kids' favorite incarnation of the chili, too. Scrambled eggs on top of corn chips, topped with chili, cheese, chopped onions and green pepper. BTW, Xochitl Blue Corn Chips = Awesome. Thin, crispy and perfect. (And no, I'm not being paid to say that, but if anyone from Xochitl should read this, I'll totally accept a free bag or two.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pink Pancakes

I made these for dinner the other night -- "Brupper," if you will, and the kids really got a kick out of them. The batter is very, very pink. Yet another way to dish up beets for the non-beet enthusiast. A little note on Greek or strained yogurt: It has nearly twice the protein of regular yogurt; I love it; I often substitute it (plus a little milk for thinning) in recipes that call for buttermilk.

12 oz. (~3 small) beets
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
16 oz. nonfat greek yogurt
1/2. c. milk
2 eggs
1 3/4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Wrap beets in foil and roast at 350 degrees for about an hour and a half, until tender. Do this as early in the day as you can find time. Once cool, peel and chop. In a large bowl, add to the beets the oil, yogurt, milk and eggs. Blend with immersion blender until smooth.

Whisk dry ingredients in medium bowl, then stir into wet ingredients. Pour a scant 1/3 cup onto your pre-heated griddle and cook until puffed, bubbly and dry around the edges. Turn and cook the other side. Slather with butter and real (preferably Grade B) maple syrup.

OPTIONAL: Add chopped walnuts or fruit (I used pears) to the pancakes just after you pour them onto the griddle (that way you can customize each for varying tastes). EVEN MORE OPTIONAL: 3/4 tsp. allspice, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. freshly grated (organic) orange peel and 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger... This may sound a little... out there... for pancakes, but they were really quite good: a delicately spiced, wonderful-smelling, lovely tasting pancake that you can be proud to serve for dinner.

(Don't be surprised if I repost this for Valentine's Day!)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Teething and Tex-Mex

Finding time to write has all of a sudden (okay, 2.5 weeks ago, to be exact) become a real challenge. Toward the end of summer, we'd finally fallen into a flexible routine that allowed me to cook blog-worthy mealls 4-5 times a week AND sit down to write on some short stories. A couple of months ago, I set a goal to polish at least one of them off and enter it in a contest. Now... I don't know if I can have it ready in time.

So, what have I been up to these past few weeks, besides posting once or twice? School started. And if you'll recall, I predicted this excuse back in August. Now, just like last year, I'm truly shocked by how busy the activities and social calendars of a 4 and 6 year old can keep us. Homework, violin, soccer, play dates, birthday parties. Add to that a furiously independent 16 month old with swollen, aching gums and s-l-o-w-l-y emerging incisors... a 15 month old well check-up (3 shots), 4 year old check-up (4 shots) and flu-shots all around. Oh and a silly, infected splinter in my foot that sent me to the emergency room this past Sunday night for antibiotics. My blood pressure was (understandably, I'd like to think) elevated enough at the ER to elicit a lecture from the nurse. Now all week I've been looking for just 20 minutes to donate to the treadmill. Why doesn't hauling a 25 pound baby around all day count as exercise?

Who, me?

This morning, I would have loved to relax and align some chakras with my favorite Yoga Zone video, but faced with a 25 lb lovely who is completely uninterested in morning naps (*sniff*), I opted for a therapy of the retail variety. Bea and I spent an hour or so wandering the book store before we picked Mal up from preschool. I realize the library would have been much more budget-friendly, but I talked myself into a trip to the store, saying we needed to find our new neighbor friend a birthday present before his party on Saturday. We found one. I also came home with an entire cookbook for quinoa (which is great, considering I bought a ginormous bag of it at Costco the other day):

Find it on Amazon.

And a Tex-Mex cookbook I absolutely cannot wait to try:

Find it on Amazon.

I'll let you know how they turn out. And I'll share some adaptations. Meanwhile, I promise to post more than once this week!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Scallops and Kielbasa with pan sauce

Paired well with a not-too-sweet Riesling.

Watching Josh sear the scallops, I had a sudden urge to yell at him in a British accent, "RAW!!" (So, I did.) I love watching Gordon Ramsey terrorize young chefs on Hell's Kitchen.

However, Josh was not fazed by my antics, and his scallops would have definitely stood up to Chef Ramsey. He always does our green beans, by the way. They are so simple: blanched for a couple of minutes, then warmed in butter. But, somehow I almost always manage to over or under cook them. Maybe they just taste better when somebody else makes them. I'd sure hate to think I can't cook green beans. 

Moving on... This was a random Thursday treat for us last week, and it surprised me in more ways than one. First, after several days of rain, several nights of a teething one year old, for whom the only way to end her 2 AM screaming fit was to allow her to flop endlessly about between her (exhausted) mother and father, plus a necessarily hectic first week back to school... it made me really, Really happy. Less tired, more... Happy. It's wonderful what a plate of good food can do. 

Second, the kielbasa! Who knew? Maybe it's been done... Yeah, it probably has, but I've never seen it: Scallops and Kielbasa. Awesome. The contrasting textures, sweet pan sauce, slightly spicy sausage. (Is this contrast thing becoming a theme in my recipes?) I totally wanted to bottle this pan sauce and eat it on everything for the next week, but it was especially tasty on the green beans. 

12 fresh sea scallops
1/2 lb. cooked kielbasa
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 Tbsp. shallots
3-4 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
kosher salt

In a large, medium-high pan, heat one Tbsp. olive oil and one Tbsp. butter. Just as fat begins to smoke, add scallops and dust with a pinch of kosher salt and pepper. Don't move the scallops around in the pan! Cook 3-4 minutes or until about 1/4'' browned up the side. Flip and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Remove pan from heat, and set scallops aside. Add one Tbsp. butter to pan and return to medium heat. Add shallots and cook until translucent, 4-6 minutes. Add wine and remaining 1-2 Tbsp. butter in generous chunks. Stir occasionally until sauce is desired thickness.

Serve each scallop on top of thin slice of kielbasa, drizzle with sauce. Serves 4.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Want to Knit

Image from designer Cat Wong. Found here.
I feel a knitted jewelry kick coming on... I still have the kit to knit the Butin necklace... and I want to do some of these bracelets, too.

I bought some really gorgeous hand-dyed sock yarn recently, with which I fully intended to knit socks... but to be honest, the Turkish Cast On threw me for a loop. I tried so many times to get it just right, that the delicate cashmere/merino yarn started to get fuzzy. Boo.

I will knit socks. Someday. But, for now I want to use my super fancy yarn for something a little easier and a lot more visible!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cucumber Margarita time!

I believe it was quite some time ago that I promised this recipe... No, I didn't forget. And yes... oh yes, we have been testing a good number of them. In fact, I'm drinking one right now. I have come to understand that simple syrup is the secret to a really great margarita. Mix up a couple of these this weekend and toast the end to a great summer. Makes one big drink:

5 oz. cucumber juice (from 1 med. cucumber)
2 oz. lime flavored simple syrup
2-3 oz. tequila
3 oz. limeade (I like Simply Limeade)

For lime simple syrup, heat one part sugar to one part lime juice (the refrigerated stuff is easiest!) until sugar is dissolved, cool.

Peel, seed and chop cucumber. Blend and strain through mesh sieve. Or use the juice leftover from making the Baja Cream Sauce you'll serve with Fish Tacos?

Mix it all together in a cocktail shaker with ice, pour and ENJOY.

You can also substitute all or part pureed melon for cucumber.