Sunday, May 29, 2011

No power- day 4!

Yes all we still have no power...I am going insane! It is hot and muggy and even though we are blessed to have a generator so we can flush our toilets, and keep our fridge cold, I am developing a permanent headache from the noise the thing makes! I had to pop on and tell you how dinner went last night. So two of the eight boys headed home before dinner so I still had six boys plus my husband and I to feed...oh, and we invited the neighbors to join us (the more the merrier and two of the boys were theirs so it all worked out!)  So this is what we did for dinner:
I peeled and sliced up apples and put them in a cake pan with cinnamon, agave nectar, butter, and a few chocolate chips and sealed it in foil and put that on the grill. In another pan I put diced red onion and diced bacon...also sealed with foil. Then I tried to figure out what meats to make...this wolf pack had been playing hard and needed their meat!  I still had ground I patted out some more hamburgers, I also had 1 pack of all beef hot dogs...that was a no brainer, and I also had a peppercorn marinated pork loin. Okay this will work! I head back out to the grill to stir my apples and see how the bacon was coming along.... bacon was crisping and onions were soft so I added a bag of frozen corn,a can of rinsed and drained black beans and a few tablespoons of fresh salsa stirred it all up and put the foil back on. Next I checked the apples which were nice and soft so I took  a couple of refrigerator biscuits  and rolled them out and laid them on top sprinkled with cinnamon, brown sugar, and chopped pecans.  sealed it up again and popped it back on the grill.  So I had my side dish going and a dessert for the kids...but I needed an adult I halved some fresh pears and in a pan I put fruit juice, brown sugar and cinnamon...laid the pears cut side down and set them on the grill to poach. When the neighbors arrived they brought seasoned thin sliced potatoes wrapped in foil(with an ice cube or two for steam) and some fruit salad to add to our buffet. By now the apple dessert was done, the corn and beans were done and I finished that with the juice from 1 whole lime. The meat was cooking away with the potatoes and the pears were still poaching(I did have to add juice several times to the pears so they would poach and not burn) Soon dinner was served and it was all delicious.  When it was time for the pears I simmered some heavy cream and dark chocolate and made a sauce for the pears.  All in all it was a terrific impromptu dinner buffet...Now lets see what happens four....sigh.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

So we have no power

There has been much talk and many prayers said the past month or two due to the ferocious weather that our Great Nation has been having. Floods and Tornados seem to be dominating the weather reports from one end of the country to the other, with a few scattered spots of severe drought thrown in for good measure. The deadly storms have wrecked havoc, ruined lives and livelihoods and our prayers flow out to all those who find themselves in need.

 Our own area has been hit the last several nights with severe thunderstorms(resulting in flooding) with hail and even a few tornados.   We are currently on day 3 of no power and there is no set time for it to come back on since our nightly storms undo the daily repairs. Cooking is quite the challenge...but it prompted me to get the grill out and get that going...which seriously it was about time anyway.  I will admit that I am not a proficient griller. I do OK...especially with veggies and such but I don't excel at it and this makes me grumpy. I am better over a campfire with a dutch oven then a gas grill.  We all have our faults I guess. :-)

So all of the "hill boys"(my sons, nephews, and several neighbor boys ages 13-19) are at the house is a regular testosterone field day over here. They are prowling around like a pack of young wolves, eating, wrestling, boxing, sword fighting, playing ball, target shooting...and with all of the heavy rain,s they are doing all of this covered in mud and grass stains. It is wonderful. I had planned on baking up a storm for all of these boys, but instead we scarfed up watermelon, apples, hamburgers, hot dogs and gallons of lemonade. They are having a blast.  I am currently pondering dinner...I am thinking a pork loin on the grill with a salad. Trying to think up a "grill friendly" dessert. I will let you know what happens with that!!  Well all the small charge left on the laptop is almost used I will sign off until our power is back on....someday soon I hope!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Real Hawaiian Punch

This easy, tropical drink is so yummy and so good for you....your body just won't know what hit it! Chock full of vitamins it is a refreshing, healthy summertime treat. 
Real Hawaiian Punch
2 medium bananas, cut into chunks
1 ripe mango, cut into chunks
1 ripe papaya, cut into chunks
4 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
4 cups seltzer
crushed ice (optional)

In a blender add bananas, mango, papaya, and pineapple juice. Puree until smooth, and pour into glasses.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pomegranate….have you tried it?

We love pomegranate at our house. It is a little intimidating sometimes to try a new fruit or vegetable, but you really should.  The pomegranate does not look too imposing until you cut it open…then if panic sets in at the odd looking insides to this fruit…step back, relax, breathe….its not that bad.
A few things to know about pomegranates…when shopping look at the skin. It should be thin, tough, and unbroken, indicating the flavor is well developed. Blemishes do not matter. It should also be heavy for its size.  They are generally available from September through January.  Inside are hundreds of ruby-red, sweet, tart, gem-like juice sacs with a crunchy seed inside, bursting with pure flavor. When you split the hard fruit open, a mass of red seeds in a spongy white membrane is revealed. Only the seeds, with their sweet-tart juicy covering are edible.  Enjoy these as is (you eat them seeds and all), toss them into savory or sweet dishes, or use them as a brightly colored garnish.  Juicy and crunchy, they add a little punch to many dishes and beverages.  Of course we generally just put a bowl of these on the table and eat them up. We don’t mess with perfection when it comes to the pomegranate!
To get the juicy little seeds out of the tough membrane …follow these easy steps.
Pomegranates will last six to seven days unrefrigerated or up to three months in the fridge.  You can even freeze the juicy sacs.   To make juice…just press seeds through a sieve or cheesecloth.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Easy Cinco De Mayo Salsa

Here is a quick and simple salsa that you can scoop with chips, pour over chicken, pile on top of tacos, mix into sour cream to spread on sandwiches, or turn into a Mexican twist on brushetta. Salsa (meaning "sauce" in Spanish) comes in many different ways, the most common being chopped tomatoes, onions and chiles.

Of course the fresher your ingredients the better the salsa.
Note: I have you chopping most of the ingredients...when I say this please try to do a small dice and keep everything around the same size just makes it easier to get a nice variety of the ingredients in each bite.

Super Easy Fresh Salsa

  • 4 ripe tomatoes seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno (minced smaller than everything else..also remove seeds if you do not like super hot salsa..if you do leave them in) you can use a serrano pepper if you prefer.
  • 8 cilantro sprigs, chopped
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced small (to taste)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • zest of 1/2 lime
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Taste as you go and adjust to what you like!  Mix everything in a bowl..let sit so flavors blend about 20 min
You could add roasted corn kernels, or  diced yellow pepper..or whatever you think sounds tasty!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Crepes….oh yummy

Okay, so I really, really like crepes…you know those super thin delicate pancakes? They are so incredibly versatile!  You can wrap ANYTHING in them…from breakfast through dessert. They are delicious and beautiful. Now, making crepes from scratch is not too terribly difficult once you get the knack of getting the batter swirled around your pan just so. Honestly…I only did this once.
I learned a little something about myself too.
I am not all that patient. I am also not a very gentle hand.  It is good to learn things about yourself isn’t it? Think about it…I mean really folks, my boys can eat…they can really, really eat.  Especially something light and wonderful like a crepe, and I won’t even begin to talk about the rest of the family. I could get a head full of gray hair standing there making 1 crepe at a time. 

So I cheat. 

 Yes America, I take a short cut. I won’t deny it and I refuse to be ashamed! They sell these terrific crepes (paper thin too) by the bag in the GROCERY store.  I am serious..I was walking through the store and BAM, there they were. I think I did a little dance right there in the aisle. I grabbed them then ran(seriously ran) back to grab marscapone cheese and strawberries (my fave filling) and we had a YUMMY dessert that night.  The brand was called Frieda's French Style Crepes.  So, you ask, what do I put in my crepe?  Well, literally anything!  Kids like fruit with whipped cream or cream cheese, pie filling and crème fraiche, pb and banana, chicken salad, scrambled eggs and cheese, ground sausage and maple syrup…adults like these and grilled veggies, spinach and ricotta, any leftovers,  whatever you can dream up you can do here.
If you want to give it a go making your own crepes, here is a basic plain jane recipe for you to try (feel free to add a little sugar or vanilla or cinnamon to a dessert crepe batter, or chopped herbs to a savory crepe batter)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
In a blender combine eggs, milk, flour, salt and oil. Process until the batter is very smooth…you do not want lumps! This batter is much thinner than regular pancake batter.  Cover and refrigerate 1 hour. Heat an 8 to 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat and brush with oil. Pour 1/4 cup of crepe batter into pan, tilting to completely coat the surface of the pan. Cook 2 to 5 minutes, turning once, until golden. Repeat with remaining batter.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Mozzarella Salad....or Caprese Salad

Insalata Caprese (salad in the style of Capri) is a simple Italian salad made of tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil...traditionally served as an antipasto. I however prefer it all tossed together as a side dish or is so summery and fresh! The fact that there are so few ingrediants means that the fresher and tastier they are the better your salad will be.  I serve this at parties and people tend to stand around the bowl and pick at it...all day. It is so funny to get rave reviews over something literally anyone on the planet could make.  If you can cut things up and throw them in a bowl you can do this...and make a great impression too. 

Mozzeralla (Caprese) Salad
8 oz fresh or buffalo mozzarella cut into bite sized pieces
3 tbs olive oil
12 oz grape or cherry tomatoes halved
1 cup chopped fresh basil
cracked black pepper
sea salt

Toss first 4 ingrediants in a bowl..season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill.

yes.....that is it.... seriously...I kid you not. So NOW what is your excuse?  This cooking thing is so easy.
Experiment if you want with a little garlic powder or oregano- whatever sounds good to what if it is not super traditional? It will be super good and that is what counts isn't it?

If you want to change it up and go a little UNtraditional then why not make a Grilled Caprese?
to do this, take the mozzarella in 1/4 slices and freeze 15 min. then brush with oil and grill frozen cheeze briefly - 1 or 2 minutes until warm then dice. Take whole tomatoes toss in 1 tbl oil and grill until skins start to burst...halve. then make salad as before. serve while warm

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Risotto....don't be afraid!

For the longest time I considered Risotto to be a "restaurant" dish. It was one that seemed difficult and time consuming dish to tackle.  Then I decided to get over myself and just make it already. I will be honest, I made a lot of rookie mistakes but the end result was pretty good...good enough that I wanted to try again and get it right. I did some more research , figured out how to fix my mistakes and tried it I rarely use regular white rice...we all like the rich creamy risotto so much better!
Risotto is a dish but also describes the technique...and once you get the technique down you will have a blank canvas  to create an endless array of dishes from a first course through dessert!
Today I will give you the basics...but feel free to experiment! Now go get some Arborio rice and a heavy wide shallow saute pan and get started. Terms to know: Soffrito = aromatics, Brodo = hot liquid used to cook and flavor the rice, Condimenti = stir in additions like veggies or cheese or meats that you add toward the end of cooking.
To make Risotto requires 3 steps: sweating your soffrito, deglazing the pan and simmering. Step one, sweating the soffrito. This simply means to lightly saute your soffrito (like onion, garlic, celery, shallots, and/or spices, ect) in a fat of some kind (such as olive oil, butter, pan drippings, ect). This releases the flavors and softens the soffrito to make a base for the risotto.  You then add your aborio rice and stir to coat the rice with the fat in your sweated soffrito. The 2nd step is deglazing your pan. To do this you add 1 cup of your hot brodo(or a totally different liquid to add depth) (brodo ideas...stock,wine, seasoned water, ect) and stirring continually to release the starch...the 3rd step, simmering is simply adding brodo cup by cup as it is absorbed by the rice (it usually is approx. 1 cup rice to 4-6 cups brodo) Your rice may need more or less brodo than the recipe calls for (if you need to you can always add a little hot water if you run out) You really do need to stir the rice alot. The rice is done and no more brodo is needed when the grains are a little al dente...or they have a little bite but are not hard. Toward the end you can stir in your condimenti.

Here is a basic Risotto for a first or main course:
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
For Brodo: simmer and keep hot 6 cups chicken stock
For Condimenti: bacon cooked until crisped and crumbled
                   1 lb of asparagus sauteed until tender            
                    1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
For Soffrito: 2 tbl minced shallot
                   2 tsp minced garlic
                   2 cups fresh spinach
                    1 tbl olive oil
For Deglaze: 1 cup white wine

Sweat the soffrito (do NOT brown) in olive oil until translucent. Stir in rice. Cook a few minutes then add the deglazing wine. stir until completely absorbed. Add brodo to the pan 1/2 to 1 cup increments...simmer and stir until liquid is absorbed...repeat with brodo letting liquid absorb between. This may take up to 40 minutes..test rice. Stir in Condimenti. season with salt and pepper.  serve ( sprinkle with some bacon and chives if you like.

Remember: you must use Arborio rice, you must stir almost constantly to release the starch that makes risotto's creamy texture, keep your brodo hot so as to not 'shock' the rice.
I will share other risotto recipes recipes (including dessert) in the future, Let me know when you get the nerve up to give this a try...I would love to hear about your experience.

         Brodo: Beef, veggie, and chicken stock.  Red or white wine. Coconut milk or water, milk  
         Deglaze: wines, beer, juices, rum, stock
          Soffrito: spices, veggies
          Condimenti: cooked meats, shrip, seafood, varies cheeses, dried fruit, veggies