Saturday, July 17, 2010

Another Thrown-Together Supper

... or last-minute inspiration, if you like.

Mock Gyros

The only reason I'm proud of this one, is that I just happened to have all the ingredients on hand. The secret weapon, the tzatziki, is a yoghurt-garlic-cucumber sauce. I had an 8-oz container of it because I got it as an impulse buy at Jungle Jim's. The Greek seasoning was in our house thanks to my sister in law. The bell pepper was from my mother in law's garden!

1 lb ground beef
2 t Greek seasoning
4 garlic cloves (or more, to taste)
¼ of a red onion
1 small bell pepper
whole-wheat tortillas, or other wraps

Use your hands to mix the Greek seasoning thoroughly through the ground beef. Shape beef into eight to ten little “logs.” Place logs in a frying pan and flatten slightly. Turn the heat on medium low.
Peel garlic cloves, cut off the stem ends if desired, but leave whole. Place in the pan with the beef. Wash and slice red onion and bell pepper, and add them to the pan as well. Cook on medium or low until the pink is almost gone from the beef; then flip the patties. Cook until the patties are well browned on both sides, the garlic is getting some brown spots and softening, and the veggies are relaxed.
Place one to two patties, plus some veggies, in each tortilla or wrap. Serve the tzatziki on the side so each person can add the amount they want of it. Serve with grapes. Serves four to six.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Super Easy Taco Seasoning

If you're frying up some ground beef but don't have taco seasoning, just use :

2 t paprika
1 t cumin
1 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 t garlic salt or garlic powder

Mix the spices together in a little bowl, then add to the meat a little at a time. Seasons one pound of ground beef.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Featured Flavoring: Saffron

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. It is harvested from the stigmas of crocus, which only produce a little bit each and have to be harvested by hand. All this I learned from exhaustive research that took me here and here.

These sites say that saffron has a distinctive flavor. I have never noticed one, except that it is maybe a little bitter, but it does seem to lend foods a nice aroma, and of course a beautiful deep yellow color. Indonesians make saffron rice (nasi kuning), which is pale yellow and is also faintly sweet because it is made with coconut milk.

The only recipe I have ever made that calls for saffron, is a Philippine chicken soup recipe that I got out of Extending the Table, the successor to the popular More with Less Cookbook. It's a simple soup calling for sauteed garlic, a little ginger, and green onions added at the last minute. I would post a recipe, but my copy of Extending the Table is temporarily lost after a recent(ish) move.

I owe the idea for this post to Dogimo, (one of my faithful food followers), who mentioned in a comment thread on his own blog that saffron is made from crocuses. I hadn't remembered that, but it seemed that someone with a food blog ought to know. Luckily, I have only exposed my ignorance in front of three people, tops. Now that I have posted about saffron, it might be fun to feature a different herb or spice every once in a while, posting a recipe with that herb or spice too. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rye-Molasses Muffins

Adapted, as always, from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook’s generic muffin recipe.
The rye flour makes the muffins slightly crispy on top when fresh. They could be served with additional molasses on the side, but are very good with just a little butter. They are pretty good the next day, too.

1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup rye flour
¼ cup sugar
2 t baking powder
¼ t salt
1 beaten egg
¾ cup milk
¼ cup cooking oil
2 T molasses

Preheat oven 400 F. Grease 12 regular size muffin cups. In a medium mixing bowl combine flour, rye flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture.
In another bowl combine the wet ingredients: the beaten egg, milk, cooking oil and molasses. I like to beat the egg using a small whisk or fork in a Pyrex 2-cup measuring cup, then add the milk, oil, and molasses and mix everything right there in the cup. You will have to stir vigorously for a while until all the molasses is dissolved.
Add wet mixture all at one to dry mixture. Stir till just moistened (batter should be lumpy). If you over stir, the muffins will not rise as nicely or develop nice cracks on top.
Divide batter among the 12 muffin cups. Bake in a 400 F oven about 20 minutes. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Use a butter knife to gently loosen around the edges of each muffin; pop them out of the tin; serve warm. Makes 12.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jen's Dilly Potato Salad

Everyone has their own potato salad recipe, right? I’m posting this one because … I need something to post … aaand … some members of my extended family have said they like it.

6 – 10 potatoes
2 – 5 eggs
3 – 8 dill or sweet pickles, plus at least half a jar’s worth of pickle juice
½ an onion, any color, or 3 green onions
1 – 3 ribs celery
½ cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
about 1 ½ cups mayo, Miracle Whip, or either one mixed with plain yoghurt
1 – 2 t dried dill weed
1 t salt
¼ t black pepper
2 T white vinegar
1 T to ¼ cup yellow or spicy brown mustard, if desired

Scrub the potatoes under running water, picking off any sprouts. Place in a large saucepan. Arrange the eggs on top of the potatoes. Cover the whole thing with water, salt lightly, bring to the boil. Boil, partially covered, 20 to 25 minutes or until the potatoes are soft when poked with a fork. Drain in a colander and allow to cool until the potatoes are still warm, but cool enough to handle. Reserve the eggs.
Meanwhile, chop up the pickles until you have about ½ a cup of chopped pickles (or more – to taste). Place in a large bowl. Chop up the onion, celery, and parsley, and add to the bowl.
When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel the skin off each one with a sharp knife, chop to desired size, and place in another large bowl. I like to do one or two at a time. One you have some potato pieces in the bowl, add a little pickle vinegar so the potatoes can marinade while you chop the others. As you add potato pieces to the bowl, periodically add more vinegar and stir the potatoes around a little bit.
Once all the potatoes are peeled and marinating, combine them with the pickles, onion, celery and parsley in whichever bowl is larger.
In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the mayo, dill weed, salt, pepper, vinegar, and mustard if you are using it. Add to the ingredients in the large bowl, adding more mayo if necessary for a creamy result, and mix thoroughly. At this point, you can also add ¼ to ½ cup of sweet pickle relish if desired. I think this is gross, but my father in law loves it.
The very last thing you do should be to peel and chop the boiled eggs and add them to the top of the salad. I do this last so that the yolks will not get all smushed and distributed throughout the salad. You can add them either before you chill the salad, or right before serving, whichever is more convenient.
Makes 12 to 20 servings, depending on how much of each ingredient you used.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Green Cloverleaf Rolls for St. Patrick's Day

... Although I must admit, non-green rolls (of whatever shape) are more appetizing. I recommend apple butter on the green rolls, because strawberry jam just looks too gruesome.
In each batch of 24 cloverleaf rolls, I like to include one four-leaved clover. Can you see it in the picture?
This recipe, except for the green food coloring, is the dinner roll recipe from my trusty Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. They tell you how to make a variety of shapes of roll, and how to include wheat or rye flour.

2 cups white flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, margarine, or shortening (I use butter)
about 13 drops green food coloring
¾ t salt
2 beaten eggs
1 ¼ cups wheat flour
an additional 1 to 1 ½ cups white flour

In a large mixing bowl stir together the 2 cups white flour and the yeast. Put the milk, butter, sugar, food coloring, and salt in a medium saucepan. Turn on low heat. Stir occasionally; meanwhile, grease a bowl, and in a separate bowl or cup beat the eggs. When the butter is almost completely melted, add milk mixture to dry mixture. Add eggs.
Stir slowly with a wooden spoon until mixed. Stir vigorously for 3 minutes. I alternate hands every 30 seconds so my arms don’t get tired. Stir in the wheat flour and as much of the additional white flour as you can.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total). Shape the dough into a ball. Place in the greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double (about 1 hour). I cover it with a damp paper towel (a damp tea towel also works) and put it in a cool oven, then place a pan of hot water underneath it.

Punch dough down. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Cover, let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, grease 2 muffin tins.

For each half of the dough, divide it in half again. Divide each half into six little balls of approximately equal size. (I find that the dough rises better if I don’t divide each quarter until I am ready to use it.) Each ball will become one roll. Take each future roll, divide it into three, and with greased hands roll each of the three parts into a ball. (The dough stays together better if you squeeze each bit before rolling it.) Place the three balls together on the counter, pinch them together on the top, then invert the whole thing and put it in a muffin cup with the pinched side down. Repeat. This will make clover-shaped rolls.
When each muffin tin is filled, cover it with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place till nearly double, about 30 minutes. I do the first 15 minutes of the rising time in a cool oven with a pan of hot steamy water in it. Then I remove the rolls and the pan, and let the rolls continue to rise on their own while the oven preheats.

Remove covering from rolls and bake in a 375 F oven for 12 to 15 minutes or till the tops of the rolls start to brown slightly. Immediately remove rolls from muffin tins. Cool on wire racks. Makes 24.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Frito Casserole

Fritos are a thick, crunchy corn chip made with corn flour and oil and salt. You know, your basic American junk food. Better than many. You can make the casserole without topping it with Fritos, but I have a feeling that is what made it really popular around here.

1 cup cooked brown rice

meat mixture:
1 lb ground beef
1 1/2 t garlic salt
2 t paprika
1 t chili powder
1 ½ t cumin
1/8 t black pepper

1 20-oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 15-oz can kidney beans, with liquid
1 15-oz can whole sweet corn, drained
1 green sweet pepper, chopped
¼ cup black olives, sliced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ bag Fritos

Pre-cook brown rice. For prep work, you can also pre-chop the sweet pepper and olives, and pre-grate the cheese. Preheat oven 350 F.
In a large frying pan, brown the meat. Meanwhile, put the spices in a small bowl and blend them together. When the meat is browned, sprinkle the spices over it, stir around, and allow to fry for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and juice and stir it around to allow the spices to come off the pan and into the juice.
Place the rice in a 9x13 glass baking dish. Add the kidney beans with their liquid, corn, sweet pepper, and black olives. Mix. Transfer the warm meat mixture from the frying pan to the baking dish, and mix everything together. Sprinkle cheese over the top.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake 1 hour at 350 F. If necessary, the temperature can be reduced and the mixture can be left in a warm oven until serving time.
A few minutes before serving time, crunch up the Fritos by squeezing the bag with your hands. Remove the aluminum foil from the casserole, and sprinkle the Fritos evenly over the top. Bake another 5 or 10 minutes.
Let stand about 10 minutes before serving. If desired, serve with salsa.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Make these for the family you love

Not the greatest picture, but you get the idea.
Taken with only very few tweaks from Better Homes & Gardens' Sugar Cookie Cutouts.

1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup shortening
½ cup sugar
1 t baking powder
1 egg
1 t almond extract
2 cups flour, 1 white, 1 wheat
4 candy canes

Preheat oven 375 Fahrenheit.
Crush candy canes by putting them in a plastic bag and pounding them with a rolling pin. Or, crush them with a mortar and pestle.
Beat butter and shortening until combined. Add sugar, baking powder, and a dash salt. Beat till combined, scraping bowl. Beat in egg and almond extract. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer, starting with the white flour. Stir in the remaining flour. Divide dough in half. The book recommends you chill the dough for up to three hours to make it easier to handle, but I find room-temperature cookie dough easier to handle. I then flour the rolling pin frequently so it doesn't stick and pull up dough.
Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time to 1/8 inch thick. Use a large heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out heart shapes. Transfer heart cookies to aluminum foil covered cookie sheet. Then use a tiny heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the middle of the cookies. Remove the cut out pieces. Fill the holes with crushed candy cane. Take the cut out pieces, combine them with the dough scraps, re-roll and cut more cookies. Continue until all the dough is used up or eaten.
(To make the smaller cookies pictured, use a medium-sized heart cookie cutter, place cookies on an ordinary cookie sheet, and sprinkle with pink colored sugar.)
Bake at 375 F for 7 to 8 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms very lightly browned. Cool cookies completely before removing from foil.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Build Your Own Apple Crisp

One person can't eat gluten. Another is avoiding sugar. We accomodated everybody at a recent Bible study meeting by creating a build-your-own-apple-crisp bar.

First came a glass baking dish filled with sliced baked apples (that's right, just apples - no sugar, cinnamon, or anything). Then a glass bowl of sliced fresh apples. Then four little stoneware crocks, each labeled, containing dry oatmeal, chopped pecans, brown sugar, and melted butter.

The crocks looked very pretty, but no, I didn't take a picture of it. I've got a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old, both sick. I don't got time to be taking pictures of food lately.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Breakfast at our house

2-year-old ... a bowl of instant apple-cinnamon oatmeal with 1/4 cup plain yoghurt stirred in

Mom ... an apple, halved, seeds scooped out, cavity filled with peanut butter, plus cold cereal, omlette or whatever my heart desires (e.g. cake)

Dad ... coffee is a must-have, plus oatmeal or egg, toast and cereal

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Spinach Bacon Alfredo with Whole-Grain Pasta

Pretty fast in itself, this recipe can also be done in stages throughout the day.
I thought it was going to be a froufrou, girly recipe, but my husband liked it! Must have been the bacon.

6 – 8 slices bacon (half a packet)
6 oz frozen spinach (half a bag)
2 T flour
1 t garlic salt
¼ t pepper
2 cups milk
½ cup shredded cheese (optional)
¼ cup sour cream (optional)
6 oz dry whole-grain rotini (half a box)

Stage 1
Fry the bacon until crisp; drain on paper towels. Pour half the drippings into a deep saucepan; reserve the other half in the skillet. Meanwhile, partially thaw frozen spinach.
Stage 2
Slightly heat the reserved bacon grease in the skillet. Gently put the frozen spinach in it, a little at a time. If not done carefully, the water in the spinach could cause the bacon grease to spit and burn you. Keep the spinach on low heat, stirring the grease into it until it is completely thawed and has absorbed the grease. You can do that periodically while making the white sauce.
For white sauce, reheat the bacon grease in the saucepan. Add 1 t to 1 T of butter, depending on how much grease you have. The behavior of the butter will tell you when the grease is the right temperature. Mix flour, garlic salt and pepper in a small bowl. When the butter is melted and starting to sizzle, dump the flour mixture into the saucepan. Stir it to create and partially cook a rout, until all the grease is absorbed. Then add the two cups milk, pouring carefully in case the cold milk causes the grease to spit. Cook and stir the mixture over medium to high heat until it thickens and begins to bubble. Cook and stir one minute more to make sure the flour is fully cooked. Reduce heat to low. Optionally, stir in ½ cup shredded cheese until it melts into the sauce. I used cheddar and Monterey Jack; Swiss would also work well.
Stage 3
Boil water and 1 t salt in a large pot. Add the rotini and cook 12 minutes or until done. (Whole wheat pasta often requires a slightly longer cooking time.) Meanwhile, stir the spinach into the white sauce. Optionally, stir in ¼ cup sour cream. Crumble the bacon and add it to the white sauce.
When the pasta is done, drain thoroughly and add it to white sauce. Mix everything together. Serve with Parmesan and ground black pepper. Serves 4.