Monday, January 30, 2006

Going Old School

Lately I've been reverting to my cooking roots ... buying a whole chicken, cutting it up, boning the breast, simmering a quick broth from the back and wings (and breast bone) to pop in the freezer, using the legs and thighs for another dish. All this for a little extra time and not too much more than paying for the boneless breasts ready to go from the store.

Of course, you have to be comfortable cutting up a chicken, but I'm all over that. After Tom watched me whack a bird apart one day he remarked that he could have used me to field dress game back when he and his brothers used to hunt.

I thought of this when I pulled those legs and thighs out this weekend to use in Pansy's Salsa Chicken recipe. I needed something that I could cook ahead of time and heat up later, when I got back from my weekly Sunday stint with the youth group.

This was perfect and, wonder of wonders, everyone liked it. Everyone!

I served it in flour tortillas with lettuce and a dab of sour cream ... with a salad and some refried beans on the side.
Salsa Chicken

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 lb), trimmed of fat
1-1/2 cups thick prepared salsa of your choice, medium or hot
1 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of pure ground red chile powder
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  1. Coat the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray and arrange the chicken in it. Pour salsa over the chicken. Cover and cook on HIGH until the chicken is tender and cooked through, 3-3 1/2 hours. The chicken will make some of its own juice, thinnning out the salsa a bit.
  2. Stir in the cumin, chile powder, and lime juice, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes before serving.
My revisions to this very versatile recipe:
  • I used two chicken legs and thighs, on the bone, but skinned.
  • Cooked them on high for 3 hours.
  • Added at least one teaspoon chili powder (but the only salsa I had was mild)
  • Took the chicken out, removed it from the bone, shredded it.
  • Before serving, I heated it in a saucepan and cooked down the sauce some more so it wouldn't drip totally out of the tortillas.
  • I think that next time I might use 1 cup of salsa instead.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Happy Year of the Dog

Some Chinese food traditions and symbolism via Slashfood.
  • Dumplings - Good luck, fortune, and family togetherness
  • Lettuce - Prosperity
  • Noodles - When noodles are served, they are never cut because long noodles represent long-life.
  • Oysters - Receptivity to good fortune
  • Seaweed - Specifically, the black moss seaweed is the Chinese word for it also means "wealth"
  • Whole fish - The Chinese word for fish "yu," is the same word for "success" or "abundance." Serving the fish whole is a symbol of togetherness of the family.
  • Turnips - "Cai tou," the word for turnip, also means "good omen."
  • Meat balls - Symbolize reunion because the Chinese word "rou wan" is the same for both
  • Chicken - Like fish, chickens are served whole to symbolizing togetherness of the family.
  • Lotus seed - Is a symbol (or wish) of having many male offspring
  • Ginkgo nuts - Represent wealth
  • Dried bean curd - Like many of the foods that are served because the Chinese word for it also means something else, dried bean curd (tofu) symbolizes wealth and happiness
  • Bamboo shoots - The word for bamboo shoots also sounds like the phrase for "wishing that everything would be well"
  • Garlic chives - Symbolize "everlasting"
  • Prawns - Stand for liveliness and happiness
  • Mixed vegetables - Represent family harmony
  • Oranges - We've already mentioned how they stand for abundance and sweetness of the New Year.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I got an email about Chow having to suspend operations in an attempt to fundraise and keep the publication going ... which I hope they do as I love the magazine.

Here's a little more thorough reporting of the situation.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Steelers, the Seahawks ... and the Munchies

We now know who will play in the Super Bowl. Frankly, I don't have a preference for either team which means I'll have to choose when I watch the game. As much fun as watching the game (in our family anyway) is keeping score on the new ads launched then. Let's face it. Some years, the ads are the only good thing about the game. Except for the munchies, of course.

We see this as our chance to nibble the night away. Maybe some queso dip (Velveeta and Rotel is the only way to go, y'all!), maybe some Salsa Dip, a few egg rolls, some chicken wings. It's like having a sports bar kitchen in our very own home.

Here's something that I think I clipped from the newspaper a long time ago. Despite the humble ingredients, it is universally pleasing. And you don't get much simpler than this.

Cream Cheese and Jalapeño Tart

Unbaked 9" pie crust
3 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons jalapeño jelly

Spread pie crust with cream cheese, over half of the circle. Top with jalapeño jelly, fold crust over, crimp and bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Cut in strips.

Food Blog Award Winners

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Vegetable Love

Find a brief review at Happy Catholic.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Saddest Thing of All

There used to be a page on a website issued by the Texas Department of Corrections which listed the inmates' last-meal requests; it has now, deemed to be in bad taste, been deleted, although you can forage about for the sadly not updated text on the Net. I say sadly, as although of course it was in bad taste -- in so many ways -- it was not compelling reading. Perhaps the saddest thing about it, though, was the asterisked line at the top which read "The final meal requested may not reflect the final meal served." Just when you thought your life couldn't get any worse.
No kidding! But this makes me wonder. What would I choose for a last meal? I'll think this over and put my answer in the comments boxes.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Something Borrowed

A terribly busy week kept me merely happy that I was putting full meals on the table, much less trying one of the two new recipes I had bought ingredients for.

En lieu of giving you anything I have tried, I will refer you to these delicious sounding meals which I am printing out to try later.
If y'all get a chance to try any of this and happen to remember how you found your way to those recipes, do drop a comment by to let me know how you liked them.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Monday, January 09, 2006

Stay Slim Without Dieting

It's the American dream and, so they say, the French reality. My review of some helpful diet books from both sides of the Atlantic is up at Spero News.

1st Dropped Book of 2006

Cooking for Mr. Latte: A Food Lover's Courtship, with Recipes by Amanda Hesser

Well I can see why Mr. Latte didn't like going to Hesser's foodie outings ... at least if she acts at all like her writing comes across. Pretentious, snobbish, and shallow. Perhaps I was spoiled by Garlic and Sapphires which is so superior to this it isn't even funny. Made it to page 136.

Something New: Tamale Pie

This is from Cover & Bake . I made a couple of things out of this book when I checked it out of the library and, as you'd expect from Cook's Illustrated recipes, they all have been very good. So I've been longing for it ever since and snapped it up when spending my mother-in-law's gift of a Borders' gift certificate.

This Tamale Pie is so good that it was delicious even when I was lacking the onions (they all went bad the second I turned my back ... okay, maybe they were a few weeks old), jalapeno, and cayenne (skipping the hot stuff in an attempt to make it palatable to Hannah). I didn't even sabotage it when I forgot to sprinkle the cheese over the meat filling until after I'd carefully spread the cooked cornmeal on top ... so I skipped the cheese altogether. It was still fantastic. Everyone took seconds.

This is very simple although the time required is significant, but quite a bit of that is baking time.

Serves 6 to 8

Butter for greasing the casserole dish
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 pound 90% lean ground beef
3/4 pound ground pork
1 onion, minced
1 medium jalapeno chile , stemmed, seeded, and minced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, rinsed
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, with juice
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
Ground black pepper
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1-1/3 cups)

4 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups coarse cornmeal (I had fine cornmeal and it worked with no problem.)
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9x13-inch baking dish (or a shallow casserole dish of similar size) and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add the ground meats and cook, breaking up large clumps, until just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes.

Stir in the onion, jalapeno, and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, oregano, and salt and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in the beans, the tomatoes and their juices, and corn and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add pepper.

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the salt and then slowly pour in the cornmeal while whisking vigorously to prevent clumping. Turn the heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until the cornmeal thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in pepper. (I use a technique that I learned from reading James Beard. Whisk the cornmeal into the cold water and then just keep whisking while the water heats to a boil and cook for recommended time ... much simpler and much less chance of lumping.)

Spoon beef mixture evenly into the casserole and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Gently spread the cornmeal mixture over the top and seal against the edge of the dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the crust is beginning to brown and the filling is bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I Suddenly Feel Inspired to Entertain

Thanks to this book, Perfect Party Food which truly seems to live up to the long explanatory subtitle (that every book seems required to have these days), "All the Recipes and Tips You'll Ever Need for Stress-Free Entertaining from the Diva of Do-Ahead."

Every single recipe serves 10-12 people and has at the very least several steps that can be done up to two days ahead of time. Tips are scattered throughout, some of which I already know but others which scatter are quite new to me and seem simple common sense now that I have read them.

These days my large group cooking seems to be done for big groups of teenagers and I could see this coming in handy, depending on how much effort I feel like putting into it. However, in the nearby future I can anticipate the possibility of cooking for a marriage retreat, a potluck parish celebration of our patron saint, and our parish youth ministry.

I'm only partway through but this book is going to have some test runs done on half recipes (to simply feed our family) to check out the viability of the "do aheads."

Because if they work? Maybe we'll actually have large groups of friends over. Something I remember from our dim past and that we loved to do before the labor of kids and volunteer activities made entertaining seem like just one more job.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Something Old: Kansas City Steak and Vegetable Soup

I have been trying to get a chance for several days to put this recipe out there for y'all. Especially for those who have not been having this terrible, terrible 80+ degree weather.

My husband is not a soup fan (except for Chicken Tortilla Soup, which is a whole other ball game). Naturally, that means I love all soup with a passion. When I say that I'm making soup, even this soup which is a proven family favorite, for dinner his response is tepidly polite.

And then he tastes it and tastes it again. And says, "This is really good!' (This has happened more than once.)

It is from The Soup Mix Gourmet (which puts it in the category of being cringe-making a la hiding the Velveeta in my shopping cart so no one else sees it and judges it the way that I would judge them). But it is soooo good, do give it a try.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 pounds boneless sirloin, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I use chuck, which cooks more gracefully for a long time.)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic mashed (I put them through a garlic press)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 envelope Knorr Tomato Beef Soup Mix (I suspect that this is not being made anymore which is a shame because it is wonderful ... I use Knorr Tomato Basil instead)
1 envelope Lipton Beefy Onion Soup Mix
6 cups water (the recipe calls for 4 cups of water but that is really, really thick and not very souplike)
1 cup peeled potatoes cut into 1/2-inch dice
1-1/2 cups corn kernels, either cut fresh from the cob or frozen (and defrosted)
2 cups green beans cut into 1-inch pieces (I can get frozen haricot verts for a good price and so just break those into small pieces instead. I leave them frozen before adding them.)

Heat the oil in a 5-quart stockpot over medium-high heat. Dry the beef with paper towels and sprinkle it with the salt and pepper. Brown the beef in batches in the hot oil, turning it frequently.

When all of the beef is browned, return it to the stock-pot, add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes.

Add the soup mixes, water, and potatoes and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the beef is tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (I add the potatoes after half an hour of cooking, otherwise they tend to lose their shape and identity by the time the soup is done.)

Add the corn and green beans and cook the soup until the beans are tender, another 6 minutes. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

2005 Food Blog Awards ... Polls Are Open

Go vote here.

If you're not familiar with the food blogging world, this is a great chance to check out some of the best, or find some new favorites.

Too Many Carbs in Your Diet?

From my in-box.
For those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on nutrition and health.

It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies.
  1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
  2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
  3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
  4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
  5. The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
Eat and drink what you like.

Speaking English is apparently what kills you."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Russian Food

A few years back, I was in St. Petersburg, Russia, waiting to discover the new, glorious, post-glasnost Russian cooking. Waiting and waiting, as it turned out, and walking an awfully long way down vast streets -- the sort whose scope and architecture make one aware, in our puny mortality, and as only a post-Feudal, post Soviet city can, of how immaterial we are in the grand scheme of things -- to find yet another restaurant that served pancakes with floury chicken stuffing.
That sounds just about right, doesn't it? Of course, she goes on to tell of the taxi driver who took her to a wonderful place that inspired all the lovely recipes for a Georgian feast in her book. But that description sounds like the opening shots of every movie I've ever seen that shows Moscow.

What to Do With That Leftover Roast?

That was my friend Deb's question about her prime rib leftovers. Erik kindly provided a fantastic sounding answer that I'm bringing up from the comments boxes so it gets a little more notice.
Fry up some pancetta and a peeled clove of garlic in EVOO, then finely diced onion, then finely diced carrot and celery. Add chopped prime rib. When it gets really fragrant, add a generous splash (about a cup) of dry, red wine, a can of tomatoes, a couple of bay leaves, a few sprigs of thyme, a handful of dried porcini mushrooms, and a cup of brown stock as well as any leftover cooking liquids from the rib. Let it simmer and reduce for a few hours.

Heat up your skillet. Toss in this meat sauce, heat it up. Add a generous splash of dry marsala and cook the alcohol out. Add a cup or so of cream, reduce, grate some reggiano parmiggiana into it, finish with fresh cracked pepper and freshly grated nutmeg and serve over pasta, garnished with cheese and chopped parsley. Serve with a good Piedmont or Tuscan red.