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How exactly did 2013 end so quickly?

The annual “year in review” by WordPress was inspiration enough to reflect back over the past year and all of the blog posts I didn’t do. Kind of an easy reflection when you consider all the times I thought of posting, but something else was always more important. So goes life.

Image2013 was a year like many, filled with both good and bad. The highlight of the good was most certainly my wedding – tying the knot (twice) – both legally in Washington State – and locally here at home for family and friends. After 15 happy years of cooking together, making a lifetime of it seemed like a safe conclusion to make. The bad (which no one ever wants to highlight) would be cancer diagnosis of a dear friend, a number of injuries to this aging body, and far too many meals of frozen dinners and packaged mixes.

While shopping for groceries just the other day I went to my blog to look up one of my favorite recipes for chicken chili. You see the local wedding of 70, catered by one of our favorite restaurants Smoke Shack, produced enough smoked chicken leftovers (now portioned out in our freezer) that we either needed to have another big party or I needed to do some serious cooking. Alas, said recipe was no where to be found. This is a quick recipe when it comes to chicken leftovers, and perfect for a very cold Wisconsin winter’s NY eve.

So here it is, my one blog posting to bid farewell to 2013 and usher in a year that I hope will mean more meals together at home with my spouse, a lot of great friends, and our most loved families. Happy New Year!

Kickin’ (smoked) Chicken Chili

2# cooked chicken (leftovers) or 2 grilled chicken breasts

5 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade stock)

16 oz. Tomatillo salsa (again, homemade if seasonal)

1 or 2 cans great northern or any white beans (for me – not from scratch)

1 cup chopped onion

6 cloves garlic, minced

3 peppers of your choice (jalapeño, poblano, dried chili, etc.)

1 green or red pepper (again, your preference)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon white pepper

Remove meat from chicken carcass and shred into small pieces.

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot and add all chopped peppers and onion. Cook for 10 minutes until soft. Add chopped garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, chopped chicken, tomatillo salsa, spices and sugar. Bring to a boil and then turn town to a medium simmer without a cover. Simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

Add one can of beans. If the chili seems to thin, add two. If too thick after two, add a bit more water. Simmer another 10 minutes or so until beans heat up.

Add cilantro to the entire pot, and serve. Image

Chipotle Meatloaf

It’s springtime in Wisconsin, which in a good year means the tulips are poking their heads through a light blanket of snow. But this year has been absolutely amazing. Eighty-degree weather in March brought out the most beautiful and long-lasting blooms that just keep on giving through April.  Fortunately the days and nights are still quite cool because I am apparently not yet ready to trade in my comfort food cravings for grilled meat and cool summer salads.

I came across a recipe in a recent Bon Appetit magazine that stirred up my craving for both comfort and spice. Or perhaps it was my recent trip to New Mexico that left me longing for some good southwest flavors, something I didn’t get from the hotel food I had while subjected to daily meetings. At any rate I adapted this chipotle meatloaf somewhat for the ingredients I had on hand, along with my own personal flavor preferences. Fortunately for me I am no longer living by the former ingredient restrictions I placed upon my life a year ago, so I was able to use store-bought panko breadcrumbs, which I think held the loaf together much better than homemade breadcrumbs would have.

With flavors so amazingly blended to spicy perfection in the meatloaf, it leaves me to wonder if the secret is really in the sauce as the original recipe suggested? I guess I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Chipotle Meatloaf

2 strips smoked bacon, chopped finely (I prefer Neuske’s)

1 pound ground chuck

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

1 tablespoon minced garlic

¼ cup half and half

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

1 large egg

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced

1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

3 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Cooking spray to coat the loaf pan

 

For the sauce:

¼ cup ketchup

1 tablespoon finely minced or pureed chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (including the sauce)

 

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet and add the onion and celery. Sauté for about 8 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for one minute longer. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine the meats (bacon and chuck) in a large bowl along with the panko breadcrumbs, adding the fresh cilantro and parsley to the meat/breadcrumb mixture. In a smaller bowl, combine the rest of the spices (thyme, rosemary, salt, ancho chili powder, and smoked paprika. Add the sautéed vegetables when cooled.

Now is a good time to coat your baking pan with cooking oil.

Beat together the egg and half and half, and add it to the meat mixture. Blend well with your fingers until the mixture can be formed into a loaf. Press meat mixture into loaf pan.

This is when I decided to cover the mixture and let it rest in my refrigerator for 30-45 minutes to let the flavors blend together. I believe that made a significant difference in the end product. Kick your feet up, have a beer, read a magazine. It’s worth the wait.

Preheat your oven to 400°. Combine the ketchup and pureed chipotle pepper so that it too can meld in flavor.

Bake the loaf for 30 minutes or until it temps to about 150°. Remove the loaf from the oven and cover it with the chipotle sauce. My loaf pulled away from the sides of the pan, so make sure the sauce drips down the sides too. Return the loaf to the oven for another 10 minutes to allow the chipotle sauce to caramelize a bit.

Remove from the oven and allow the meatloaf to sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

Serve with roasted sweet potatoes and cornbread. And just try to stop yourself from going back for seconds. Lunch tomorrow… meatloaf sandwiches with a little guacamole and more of the chipotle sauce!

52+ Weeks of Recipes

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Breads, Pastry, Pasta

Bagels

Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin Bread

Cornmeal Crackers

Corn Tortillas

Croutons

Egg Noodles

Eggless Pasta

Flax Crackers

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Pie Crust (Curried Chicken Pot Pie)

Pizza Crust

Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread

Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas

Sweets & Breakfast Treats

Christmas Stollen

Chocolate Graham Crackers

Cinnamon Rolls Quick & Easy

Granola Number Five

Granola Bars

Whole Grain Pancakes

Beef

Bison Chili

Bison Stroganoff

chipotle meatloaf

Corned Beef & Cabbage

Lasagna

Pork

Frijoles Borrachos

Pork Carnitas

Posole

Tomatillo Pork Stew

Chicken or Turkey

Curried Chicken Pot Pie

Curried Turkey (or lamb) With Autumn Vegetables

Mediterranean Chicken with Potatoes

Tomatillo Chicken Dia de los Muertos

Vegetarian & Vegetables

Anasazi Bean Burgers

Corn Salsa

Rainbow Chard With White Beans

Refrigerator Kimchi

Roasted Tomatoes (oven dried)

Spring Asparagus Salad

Sushi

Super Lentil Dal

Sauces, Dressings & Condiments

Bechamel Sauce

Balsamic Salad Dressing

Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing

Coffee Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Marinara Sauce

Mustard

Pizza Sauce

Tomato Sauce

Tomatillo Salsa

Vita’s Pasta Sauce

Make It With Milk

Crock Pot Yogurt

Meyer Lemon Cheese

Week 45 – Hamburger Help Her (Recipe)

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Looking for an easy meal to make? Time to reach for your Hamburger Helper. Wrong answer – that’s a convenience food, and quite honestly I have never in my entire adult life used that product. So what’s a girl to do?

When you’re cooking everything from scratch the only “easy” meal to make when you get home late from work usually consists of a protein, vegetable and starch. I’ve been getting pretty tired of that kind of “easy” meal now 45 weeks into my challenge, as well as reverting to the same old frozen leftovers. So this week I was determined to look my arch nemesis straight in the… uhm… I was determined to overcome my fear of failure for the third time, making pasta from scratch. I decided on an easier topping for my pasta, one that could be made in about 20-30 minutes or so from start to finish. I don’t think I’ve had beef stroganoff for a couple of years now, ever since I began working on shedding a few pounds, so I wanted to make something that was lower in fat and calories.

Intimidating, me?

Bison, for those of you really afraid of the notion of using this meat, is very, very, need I say VERY similar to ground beef. The flavor is almost indistinguishable so get over that fear right now. The American Heart Association (and Outpost’s nutritionist Judy Mayer) recommends bison as a healthy alternative to beef, as it’s lower in fat and cholesterol. A three-ounce serving of bison is only 143 calories, compared with ground beef at 211, and has only 2.42 grams of fat, compared to 9.3 grams in ground beef. There, have I convinced you yet?

The other product I substituted in the original recipe (from Cooking Light) was non-fat strained yogurt in place of the sour cream. Straining it through cheesecloth for about 45 minutes (or overnight if you plan this meal ahead) gives you the thick consistency of sour cream without the calories (120 calories in a cup of nonfat yogurt compared to 280 calories in a cup of low-fat sour cream).

Now if you’re committed to make everything from scratch in this recipe, you’ll need to have some beef broth made ahead of time (frozen) and you really need to mix your pasta dough first before you do anything else. I finally found a dough recipe that works (thank you Gourmet) and the key I believe is to let the dough rest after kneading – which this recipe calls for resting for one hour. So that doesn’t make this a really quick meal now does it? Well it does if you make the pasta ahead of time since you can refrigerate it fresh for a few days or freeze it for later. Or if you’re like me, you plan on 1 ½ hours total, starting with the pasta dough, and while it’s resting you make the stroganoff. I let my dough rest for 45 minutes and it worked just fine.

Look at me, all proud of my pasta. This from the girl who has been resenting it since the last failed batch a few meals ago. In fact just this past week I made a “pasta salad” from some frozen rigatoni I had made a month or so ago using my pasta play dough maker. The pasta was rather gummy so the salad did not look at all appetizing, so I was embarrassed to eat it in front of my co-workers at the lunch table. How I got the courage to try again, I don’t know. But I’m really glad I did try again. In fact I was so proud of myself I had to take a small bowl of cooked pasta into work to show my co-workers that I wasn’t as lame as I looked last week eating my sad, sad pasta salad.

Okay, now it’s time for you to try. This is really delicious, so get out there and make yourself a truly rewarding dinner. Believe me, you’ll impress the heck out of your dinner companion (do make sure you have one for this meal as they will think you are a culinary celebrity).

Fresh Egg Noodles

Do not even think you can deviate from this recipe. The eggs give it the silky noodle texture you need.

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 00 pasta flour)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons water

½ teaspoon salt

Place the flour on the surface of your table, preferably a wooden surface. Make a well in the center of the flour.

In the center of the well, add the salt and the eggs along with 1 tablespoon of the water. If you’re lucky, the eggs won’t break the wall of the well and start running towards the edge of the table like mine did. You’re lucky? Great, now gradually stir in enough flour into the eggs to begin to form a paste, pulling in flour closest to the egg mixture and being ever so careful not to make an opening in the outer wall of the well.

Knead the remaining flour into the mixture with your hands until it forms a ball, adding a few more drops of the remaining tablespoon of water at a time, until the dough softens. The dough should be firm but not sticky.

Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover it with an inverted bowl and let it stand for about one hour. This is an important step because it will allow the dough to relax and be easier to work with.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and keep whatever dough you are not rolling out covered by the bowl. Roll the dough with a wooden rolling pin, or through a pasta roller until very thin. The dough will tend to stretch and then spring back a little, so I held onto one end of the dough with the palm of my hand while using the rolling pin to stretch it. Flip the dough over as you roll. I didn’t need any flour during this process but if your dough is a little sticky you will need a small amount of flour. Use as little flour on the counter as possible.

Cut thin egg noodle size strips and set them to the side while you finish rolling out all of your dough. Cook in boiling water for about 5 minutes. They cook very quickly so keep your eye on them.

Bison Stroganoff (My Hamburger Help Her)

1 pound ground bison (or extra-lean ground beef)

1 cup chopped onion

8 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms

4 small cloves garlic (2 teaspoons), minced

1 cup beef broth, fat-free and low sodium

¾ cup strained non-fat yogurt

OR ¾ cup low-fat sour cream

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt or less if you’re using canned stock

¼ teaspoon fresh thyme

2 tablespoons dry sherry

Pepper to taste

Chopped parsley to garnish

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the bison or ground beef, breaking up the meat into smaller pieces while it browns.

When the meat is brown, add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms and continue to cook for about 4 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates. Stir this mixture frequently. Add the salt.

Next, sprinkle the flour over the meat and cook for about one minute, stirring constantly. Your mixture should thicken up nicely with the flour.

Stir in the beef broth and sherry and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat and let it simmer for a few more minutes. The broth will thicken up nicely at this point. Add pepper to taste.

Remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt or sour cream until combined.

Serve over homemade pasta, which you are incredible pleased that you made yourself and it turned out so perfectly!

Enjoy with your stroganoff because you made everything from scratch!

I had our nutritionist provide the nutritional breakdown on the stroganoff (per serving, recipe serves 6): 165 calories, 4 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 9 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, 607 mg. sodium, 1 gram fiber, 83 mg calcium. (Without noodles)

Week 41 – I’m Whey Ahead Of The Game

A lot happened during week 41 that I’m just not at liberty to talk about – seriously. Let’s just say that I had a lot of food prep to take care of this week in advance of “someone” coming over to our house to photograph said food. Naturally it wasn’t just the food prep that took some time but also the cleaning up of the house – kitchen and pantry (I cleaned and reorganized it all from floor to ceiling) – noticing dust and crumb collection I somehow had blissfully ignored until then. Now if you think you know what is going on, you obviously read my previous post when I felt I was at liberty to talk about all this activity.

The food preparation included setting up a meal of slow cooked pork carnitas served on homemade corn tortillas and topped with fresh made pico de gallo, Queso Blanco cheese I also made from scratch, and sour cream which I chose instead to use strained yogurt (yes, I made that too). Other food also in line for a snapshot or two was flaxseed crackers, chocolate graham crackers, granola, and cinnamon raisin English muffin bread. Besides the still photos, there were also two videos involved where I needed to demonstrate how easy and fun it is to make the Queso Blanco cheese and tortillas. Other than the cat walking though the room and meowing during the cheese demo and me messing up the first tortilla I pressed, things went okay.

It is kind of amazing to me that I’m actually enjoying a number of the things I now make on a regular basis, which certainly beats the heck out of me resenting it all. That said, I still don’t love cooking beans, in fact I really dislike cooking beans. Today I cursed the pots of beans that were cooking on the stove as I either had the heat up too high where they kept cooking over the top, or I turned it down too low and they stopped simmering completely. Turned out I overcooked both of them (and yes, the pots I used were too small). So Lisa in all of her brilliance suggested I turn the mess into refried beans rather than make the big pot of chili I had intended. Bless her little culinary heart – that was a great idea and saved me from total bean resentment.

I also discovered something magical this past week somewhere in between cheese making and bread baking. I happened to read something, somewhere, about a woman who was a cheese maker and didn’t like wasting any of the byproducts (such as the whey), so she used it in place of milk when she baked bread. I saved a quart of the whey from the first batch of cheese I made for the photo shoot, and gave it a shot in making my English muffin bread. The results were, well magical. The bread was lighter, the air pockets in the bread were numerous and I swear this bread tasted more and more like its English muffin counterpart than any previous attempts.

So here is my recipe for the bread, which you can make as regular English muffin (plain) or as cinnamon raisin.

 

 

 

 

English Muffin Bread

1 ¼ cups milk (or whey liquid)

½ cup whole-wheat flour

1 ½ – 2 cups unbleached white flour

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

½ tablespoon sugar for regular bread or 2 tablespoons for cinnamon raisin

2 teaspoons cinnamon (for cinnamon raisin)

¾  cup raisins (obviously for the cinnamon raisin only)

Heat the milk or whey until it reaches 125°F

Next, lightly oil an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan and sprinkle the bottom with cornmeal or corn grits

In a large bowl combine together ½ cup of whole-wheat flour and 1 cup of the white flour (reserving the other cup of white for later). Add the yeast, sugar, salt, soda (and cinnamon if making cinnamon raisin bread). Stir in the milk or whey and beat well with a whisk.

Next add the raisins if you’re making cinnamon raisin bread, and slowly add the other ½ to 1 cup of white flour. The batter should be stiff and sticky, but not something you can pour. If it seems too wet, add just a bit more flour. Depending on the conditions, I use a little more than ½ a cup and not quite the full cup left.

Place batter into prepared pan, spreading it out evenly. Cover and let rise in a warm place until the dough doubles, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400°F. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove from pan immediately ad cool on a cooling rack.

This bread is best served toasted, just like English muffins are best served toasted. Resist the temptation to eat a slice warm from the oven and instead let it cool and then toast one up with a generous slathering of butter.

Recipe Request – Super Lentil Dal

Here in Wisconsin we get a little antsy by the time February comes rolling around. We call it cabin fever and want nothing more to do than get out of the house . I’m trying to fight off the feeling this weekend by cooking up a storm and filling up my freezer for the remaining weeks ahead.

This is a recipe request from one of my Facebook fans that we’re making this weekend. Dal is the quintessential Indian comfort food, the best split pea soup you’ve ever had without the ham. The spices in this version give it a depth that simpler dal’s don’t have, and it’s ridiculously simple to make.

Simple Lentil Dal With Fresh Ginger, Green Chiles, and Cilantro

(Adapted from Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran)

2 cups yellow lentils, picked over, washed and drained

(any type of lentil will work, our favorite ones are the yellow)

1 teaspoon tumeric

2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)

8 cups water

4 whole dried red chiles

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

2 fresh hot green chiles, minced

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Tempering Oil

5 tablespoons canola oil

2 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

juice of 1 lime or lemon

1.  Put lentils into large saucepan with the tumeric, salt, and water. Bring to a boil and skim well. Reduce the heat and simmer (covered) until the lentils are soft, 20-30 minutes. Add water during cooking if necessary. Taste for salt and add more if you need to.

2.  Ladle about a cup of cooked lentils into a bowl and mash with a spoon. Return the mashed lentils to the pot and give the dal a stir. Continue cooking at a simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes to thicken. If you like a thicker dal use a whisk to break up the lentils into a puree. For a thinner dal, add water.

3. For the tempering oil, heat the oil with the cumin seeds in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring until the cumin turns a light brown color (1-2 minutes). Add the dried chiles, ginger, garlic, and green chiles and cook, stirring, until the garlic no longer smells raw and turns a golden brown color (about 30 seconds). Remove the pan from the heat and add the cayenne.

4. Stir half of the tempering oil 1/2 of the cilantro, and all of the lime or lemon juice into the dal. Simmer very gently uncovered for 5 minutes.

5. Transfer the dal to a serving bowl and pour the remaining tempering oil over the top, sprinkle with cilantro.

Makes 8 servings. Freezes well.