Monday, January 31, 2011

Chipotle-Lime Pork Chops, Bacon Wrapped Asparagus, and Mashed Blue Cheese Potatoes

Please don't be put off by the fancy title.  There was no other way to describe dinner tonight, but it is really an easy quick fix dinner with a fancy name.  Jim's favorite meat is Pork Chops.  He might argue this point, but after 24 years of marriage, I KNOW what he likes best and it is pork chops and potatoes.

The secret to cooking any meat is not overcooking....but with pork chops there is a fine line that you must observe for health reasons. 

Chipotle Lime Pork Chops (increase the recipe as you need to):

2 large pork chops

Make a marinade of:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 TBSP chipotle powder
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Mix marinate ingredients, massage pork chops and allow to rest for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus:  (Makes two)
clean and snap tough ends of asparagus
2 slices of fresh mozzarella cheese
2 slices peppered bacon
olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

Remove tough ends of asparagus, clean, dry and set aside.  I use a peeler to remove additional tough spots.  Toss asparagus in olive oil, salt and pepper.  Lay 4-5 spears in a row, place a slice of cheese on top and wrap securely in peppered bacon.  Secure bacon ends with a toothpick(s).

Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes:
 2 -4 large red potatoes
3 TBSP blue cheese
butter, salt and pepper to taste

Scrub, skin and boil potatoes to tender.  Mash with blue cheese and seasoning.

While boiling the potatoes, heat the grill.  Grill the bacon wrapped asparagus until bacon is crispy, while at the same time grilling the pork chops.

Mash the potatoes as usual, just add the blue cheese.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I don't typically like cake.  Sorry, it's just not my cup-of tea.  Given a choice between cake and pie, I take pie....given a choice between pie and cheese, I will choose cheese....I just don't have a sweet tooth. 

But this cake is an exception. 

This cake looks and feels similar to a pound cake, and is not overly sweet or covered in a nasty over--powering frosting.  I like this.  Thank you Lois Henderson, our school nurse, for providing this recipe.

Margarita Cake

1 box orange or yellow cake mix
1 (3.4 oz. pkg instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water or (OJ concentrate half and half with water)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup tequila (or premixed individual margarita mix)
2 TBSP triple sec liqueur

1 cup confections' sugar
1 TBSP tequila
2 TBSP triple sec liqueur
2 TBSP lime juice

*Note:  You do not have to use the tequila to make this cake.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease and flour a Bundt pan.  In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding, eggs, oil, water, lemon juice 1/4 cup tequila and 2 TBSP triple sec.  Beat for 2 minutes.
Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes.  Remove to rack and pour glaze over the top while still warm.

To make the glaze:

In a small bowl, combine confectioners' sugar, 1TBSP tequila, 2 TBSP triple sec and 2 TBSP lime juice.  Mix until smooth.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Beans, Beans and then there are Beans

One food I can't get enough of is home cooked beans.  I can eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner and still want more.  There is almost nothing I enjoy more than a bowl of beans.  Aside from being really healthy for you (they are high in fiber and protein, have been known to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attacks) they are also low in calories and fat (unless you throw in that ham hock or bacon).    Whether or not you have access to fresh beans vs. bagged beans, they are really good for you and worth exploring in a variety of recipes.

Coming from a family of bean farmers in the beautiful southwest, I must inform readers that there IS a difference between "REAL beans" and the bagged version people typically purchase from the store.  I am never in need of real food as long as Mom continues sending me beans from our relatives in Dove Creek, Colorado--which by the way is known as The Pinto Bean Capitol of the World (no kidding).  I can't get used to old seconds that are bagged and sold in stores after years and years of enjoying new beans.  My Alaskan friends....liken this to reds vs. pinks.....there IS a difference.  If you have an opportunity to order new beans, I highly recommend it, however, fresh or bagged---they are not only delicious, but also good for you!

When my Grandma Sadie passed away, I inherited her cookbooks.  I love this one, given to her by my cousin Judy when she was a teenager in Cortez, Colorado.   For grins and giggles, here is a recipe to try from this book.  It won the Blue Ribbon in 1959.

Mock Pecan Pie
Mrs. Virgil Bane, Cortez, Colorado

1 cup mashed pinto beans
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
pinch of salt
unbaked pie crust
    Preheat oven to 425.  Beat sugar, salt and eggs together.  Add beans.  Mix well.  Let ingredients stand for 1/2 hour.  Pour into pie shell, bake until crust begins to brown.  Reduce heat to 375 and bake 30 minutes more until center of pie is set.  Serve warm topped with ice cream or whipped cream.

Loving Hints from Me:
A few of my friends did not understand the need to "clean" the beans before cooking---even with the packaged beans you get in the store they are covered with dirt, dirt clods and small rocks. 
Dump out all beans on the table and pick through them.  Discard anything that looks "suspicious".

Wash beans really good and then cook them.

Many people think you must soak beans overnight but I've never found this necessary and don't think it makes a difference one way or another.

If you are boiling them on the stove, check often and add water as needed.  I don't know how many pots of beans I burned as a child before I finally learned this lesson.

Cousin Judy say's:  "Put them in the Crockpot overnight, they are good by noon and even better by dinner."

Throw in a smoked ham-hock to boil or pressure cook with your beans, just remember to take out the fatty part and the bones.

P.S. Beans need only to be pressure cooked for 1 hour--another quick meal idea.

Quiche Me!

Let's start with first up out of the oven today and work from there.  Crab Quiche.  Funny story first.  As a senior in high school, my brother Steve was a Junior---we were both in Ms. McMullen's Foods Class.  Mom bought us aprons, mine said "Quiche and Fondue Me", his said "Bar-be-Cutie"....needless to say we were a hit.  My claim to fame -or not- is this, the only swat I got in school was from "disrespect" in her class where I was arguing with my brother and I informed the teacher that her concerns were, "none of her business"....wrong thing to say to a high school teacher at the end of the day!  The good news is that Mr. Hill, the Asst. Principal knew I was a good kid and gave me a tiny "tap" with the paddle...I was already a blubbering, sloppy mess before the wood hit the bottom.

Quiche is a lovely and easy thing to throw together and put on the table in 1 hour.  Fill the shell with ingredients you love and call it good.  Today, I am using leftovers in my fridge and ingredients that are readily available from the pantry.

9" pie shell (I make a lousy crust.....please make your own if you can)
1 C crab or any meat or veg you want
 *Hint:  Precooked sliced bacon is good here on the bottom
1 cup sliced mushrooms, sauteed to soft and drained---herbs to saute with mushrooms are:  Basil, Sweet Marjoram, Hot and Spicy Oregano (these came from my garden)
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup Red Onion, diced fine
1 cup artichoke crowns, drained and rinsed, diced
1 cup grated cheese (your choice) I used what was left over in the fridge and needed to be used up...a combination of goat cheese and Gouda.  Swiss works really well (but I've always used Baby Swiss) as does Havarti (especially Havarti dill with a fish ingredient).  Nothing wrong with Cheddar or Montery Jack either--it's up to you....depending on the ingredients, I've used gorgonzola, feta, Jarlsberg and more.

Wet Ingredients to pour over your other ingredients already sitting in the crust:
4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups half and half
sea salt and pepper to taste
Paprika to color---about 1 tsp.
1 tsp. thyme-crush between your fingers

Line your pie dish with a crust.  Next layer the ingredients that are given.  Stir together the wet ingredients and pour over the top of your quiche.  I like to gently massage the wet into the dry, just briefly before putting into the oven.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.  Turn the oven down to 300 and bake for another 40 minutes or until the center comes out clean when penetrated with a sharp knife.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting to serve, or cool completely, then cover in foil or freeze to reheat later.

P.S.  My absolute favorite is simple......Spinach and Guyerre Cheese with a tiny bit of bacon on the bottom.  Use left-over chicken and green chile, sun dried tomatoes and basil, anything goes with quiche.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tamales 101

There is no better way to spend the day when it is -30 than in kitchen cooking up dozens upon dozens of tamales.  No doubt about it, making tamales is TIME CONSUMING...plan on two days AT LEAST and a clean pair of pajamas to change into while you are making these.  In years past I always made tamales the first week I was out of school for the summer.  I've always viewed my tamale-time  as a gift to myself--to breathe again and not worry about anything except for listening to the timer on the stove singing the end of another process.

Nothing speaks to me of sunshine and happiness than taste buds that are awakened by real, authentic chile.  My Land of Enchantment roots run deep within, and I grab every opportunity to cook tasty southwestern flavor for my northwestern friends who, some, have never experienced green chile outside of a can, or know there is choice between red and green.  This year I am trying a new tamale recipe that I think everyone will enjoy.  Please go to the link to get the recipe.  I actually like his masa recipe better than any other I have found.  It spreads easy and the cumin adds a whole new dimension to the flavor.
I made 80 tamales using the website recipe I have included and another 80 with the traditional recipe I have used from the La Posta Cookbook in Las Cruces, NM.  I hate to say it, but the Las Cruces recipe that calls for lard spreads better, while the one from sonofthesouthwest seems to have more flavor...Dang...guess that means I should eliminate the oil called for in son's recipe and put in lard?  Jim would die if he knew I put lard into the last batch.

In addition, I made 50 vegetarian tamales for my vegetarian friends at school.  This is a mix of black beans, corn, rice, pinon nuts, and a red chile and garlic sauce.  The masa was made from vegetable stock and peanut oil in lieu of lard and meat stock.  They are not only healthy, but yummy, even for us died-in-the-wool traditional tamale eaters!

  The Good and the Bad

The Bad:
1)  Making tamales is time consuming (ha!  a minimum of two days-and that from sun-up to sun-down) and should be made en-mass.
2)  Forced to shop at Wal-Mart, which I boycott at every opportunity, but they have the ingredients I need.
3) Ingredients can be costly---5 lbs chicken and 8 lbs pork roast...never mind the masa and other stuff
4)  Multiple steps and multiple opportunities to taste-test.  Forget cooking dinner---it won't happen.
5)  Serious excuse for a long, hot tub bath with aromatic salts to rest those feet, you will be on them for at least 24 hours.  Is this a good or a bad?

The Good:
1)  This is a great excuse to invite friends to come and help. Maybe serve up some margaritas?  I'll take mine on the rocks with salt please.
2) The freezer protrudes with tamals and you don't have to worry until you run out again.
3) You know the time and work you invested in this project and it truly becomes a gift of the heart to those with which you share.

Espero que les guste
(I hope you enjoy)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Tamales....Please...someone come save me... I will post the Hominy Casserole instead

Hominy Casserole

This recipe came to me back in 1990 when I worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory and was a member of the LALT (Los Alamos Little Theatre).  A crew member or cast brought this fabulous dish to one of the cast parties (one of many)---Lordy they knew how to party.  I am sorry I didn't get her name, but the recipe has endured for almost 20 years it is that good.

Yes, this is me and the "Villian"-NOTzz. ....Tom Priestley.  I even got to sing and dance!

32 oz. canned hominy (drained)
1  jar sliced pimentos, sliced
8 oz sour cream
2 - 8oz  cans of chopped green chile
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
salt and pepper to taste

more cheese for the top.

Mix all ingredients, place in a non-stick sprayed dish.  Top with more cheese and bake for 45 minutes at 350.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Garbanzo Nuts

Need a healthy, low-fat, easy to make snack to eat while watching the college football playoffs?  In lieu of chips, try Garbanzo Nuts.  I have altered the original recipe which came to me from the cookbook "Simply Colorado".  I love these little "pseudo-nuts"--as they satisfy my desire for crunchy and salty without the fat and are high in protein.

1 Can Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed

Seasonings you can try:

1 tsp. lemon/pepper seasoning and 1 tsp. garlic powder


1 tsp. smoker rub (Katherine Helmuth's recipe---I don't know what's in it) and 1 tsp. dry barbecue rub


Any combination of seasoning you like...I'm going to try some garlic and dill weed with sea salt.

Sprinkle dry seasoning over garbanzo beans (chickpeas) to coat lightly.  Place in a single layer on a baking pan sprayed with non-stick spray.

Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes at 350 or until crunchy.  Stir 1/2 way through cooking time.  Allow to cool before eating or storing in a dry container.

1/2 cup = 110 calories, 0 fat, 7g of protein

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Halibut Twist and Bulgar Wheat Tabouli

Who else goes on vacation and comes back weighing less and feeling more fit?  Jim and I just got back from our winter respite in Hawaii where we soaked up some serious Vitamin D, ate lettuce wraps in lieu of sandwiches and rice dishes in lieu of fatty steaks and buttery seafood. 

I was also inspired by my niece, Andria's blog and her commitment towards living a healthier lifestyle, so we have joined the get fit and feel better wagon so-to-speak.  Even though Hawaii has much to offer in the way of healthy foodstuffs that is not available to us in Alaska, I have chosen to make a dish tonight that can totally transfer and even be enhanced by Big Island ingredients.

Bulgar Wheat Tabouli

Bulgar Wheat Tabouli Salad
1 Cup Bulgar Wheat
1 1/2 Cups boiling water
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

1/4 C. Lemon juice
1/4 C. Olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. Garlic powder

2 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 C. chopped parsley
4 green onions, chopped (green and white)

Pour the boiling water over the bulgar wheat and salt.  Stir slightly and cover for 30 min.  Add juice, oil, and garlic powder.  Cover again and chill for 2 hours.  Add tomatoes, parsley, and onions.

A Twist on Halibut - Greek Style

Sunset Magazine, January 2011, page 96.

4 Halibut fillets (skinned and boned)
2 TBSP Olive Oil, divided
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, divided
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper, divided
Fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 1/4" slices
1 TBSP Ouzo (anise flavored liqueur)
2 Garlic cloves chopped
1 14.5 can diced tomatoes
1/2 C. water
1 14.5 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
2 TBSP fresh chopped oregano

Season halibut with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper, brown in a non-stick skillet with 1 TBSP oil.  Remove fish to a plate.

Add remaining oil with fennel and ouzo to skillet.  Stir constantly until light golden, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add tomatoes, 1/2 cup water, chickpeas, salt and pepper to taste.  Add oregano and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer.  Add halibut to sauce and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Serving Suggestion:
Serve with Marlborough Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc