Sunday, December 9, 2012

SOUTHWESTERN TURKEY VEGETABLE SOUP

This is definitely enough "soup for the troops"...it will feed an army...just double or triple everything depending on how big your soup pot is.

Shhh! I gotta focus. I’m shifting into soup mode”  ~ George, in “The Soup Nazi”

Last night Peter and I were discussing our blogs. I told him that I would do homemade soup next. It is winter and soup is warming.

My soups are my inventions…except for the Albondigas recipe that I previously posted here. There is no reason to improve on that recipe…it is perfect just like it is...thank you to the Terrazas/Rodriguez clan for this heirloom recipe.

Posse Stew is another soup recipe that I posted which is not my invention, although I did enhance it a bit. Check this one out on.

Peter pointed out that he thinks there are many people in the world who have never eaten homemade soup. He said that if he had to make soup from scratch, he would probably put some water in a pan and add ketchup. Boy, am I glad he found me to feed him.

“When I was having alphabet soup I never thought it would pay off.” ~ Vanna White

I would like to point out that most restaurants serve canned soup. Did you know that? It is processed and has chemicals, sugar, even cornstarch and flour in it. They buy it as a concentrate and add water.

Lately, I seem to be seeing ready-made soups in the store that are healthier. There is a consciousness "afloat" to create healthier choices.

You have, no doubt, experienced eating chicken noodle soup. Have you ever noticed that there isn’t much, if any, chicken in it?

 A friend of ours wrote a letter to a popular soup company warning them that the chicken that they dip in the broth to flavor their chicken noodle soup must be shredding as he found an actual piece of chicken in his soup recently.

“Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.” ~ Ludwig van Beethoven

My soup is not only made from fresh ingredients, it is extremely healthy with protective antioxidants to protect you from illness, it is easy to make, it costs less then 50 cents per serving…and, it tastes good.

I make soup from lots of different ingredients but this is one of my family’s favorites.

SOUTHWESTERN TURKEY VEGETABLE SOUP

Ingredients:

Makes 20 servings

All canned products should be organic if possible.

4-tablespoons Pure Olive Oil (I don’t use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for soup making)
1-cup long grain white rice
1-medium-sized onion, chopped
1-head of fresh garlic cloves chopped (or 1-heaping tablespoon of prepared minced garlic)
1 ½ pounds fresh ground turkey
2-pats of fresh unsalted butter (fat is good for you)
2-14.5 ounce cans of diced tomatoes with juice
2-4 ounce cans fire-roasted diced green chiles
1-7 ounce can El Pato tomato sauce
1-teaspoon sea salt
¼-teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
4-Knorr tomato bouillon cubes
4-Knorr chicken bouillon cubes
16-cups fresh water
1-15.25 ounce can golden sweet corn with juice
1-4 ounce can sliced mushrooms with juice
1-15.5 ounce can Cannellini beans (white kidney beans)

The can sizes are approximate. There is no standard anymore for can sizes. It’s a manufacturer profit-margin thing. The sizes I posted are what I happen to have on hand.

Process:

You will add the ingredients in the order given in the ingredient list above.

Set heat under soup pot to medium.

Put olive oil in the bottom of the soup pot.

When the oil is almost to the sizzling stage, add the rice. It should brown just slightly while you stir it.

Add the chopped onion. I use my food processor for chopping the onion and garlic.

After the onion has softened and is translucent, sprinkle in the chopped garlic.

Let the rice, onion and garlic simmer in the oil for about three minutes more.

Put the ground turkey on top of the onion/garlic and rice mixture and mix it in. It must be cooked completely before adding the other ingredients. I like to put a lid on the soup pot at this point.

 Fresh ground turkey has lots of moisture in it so it does not brown like hamburger…it just cooks. If you put a lid on, the meat will be steamed instead of fried. This process releases the flavor of the meat and makes the soup taste better.

Also, by cooking the meat slowly with the rice, onion and garlic, the flavors and valuable nutrients enhance each other.

Stir this mixture frequently so that the meat is thoroughly cooked all the way through.

The meat, onion and garlic are now cooked. The rice will cook after the water is added.

Add the cans of green chiles, the cans of tomatoes and the El Pato. Mix together with a large spoon.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over the mixture.

Crumble the bouillon cubes between your fingers and sprinkle on top of the mixture.

Stir the mixture again.

Turn the burner setting to high and add the fresh water, stirring well.

When it comes to a boil, turn the temperature down to low and let the pot simmer, covered, for several hours. Stir occasionally.

You may want to transfer the soup to a slow cooker at this point with temperature setting on low.


30 minutes before serving, add the corn, mushrooms and beans. Don’t add them before because they can become mushy.

Serve with shredded cheese and chopped fresh chives or green onion sprinkled on top in each bowl.

Fritos Scoops are great with this soup. A fresh fruit salad on the side is also good.

Quesadillas are everyone’s favorite with any soup. The quesadilla “how-to” is in another post on this blog.

Disclaimer: I am not purposely advertising any particular brands of ingredients. The ingredients used in my recipes come from the various places that we shop. My choices are based on value for the healthiest options. I take pictures because I think it is important for the cooking novice to be able to visualize the sizes of food containers they will be using to make a recipe. If you decide to buy the brands I buy, I doubt that those marketplaces will mind.

“Worries go down better with soup.” ~ Old Proverb

EAT YOUR SOUP!

Love,

Mom







Saturday, December 8, 2012

SURVIVAL CAMP COFFEE



Let's get our survival priorities straight.

Have you ever seen a coffee maker that didn't plug into the wall? If so, do you know how to use the non-electric type coffee maker?

When you lose electricity and Starbuck’s or your favorite convenience store is closed, these instructions might be important to your contentment.

The number one priority is assuring yourself that you have some kind of water source. It’s a good idea to have plenty of bottled water to make coffee and for drinking and cooking.

You must have a cooking appliance that works without electricity. It also helps if this appliance is portable. An Hibachi is a good choice. It could be a bar-b-q grill that can burn wood or charcoal or a propane powered camp stove. You will need to have lots of propane canisters stored.

A two-burner propane fueled camp stove runs around $40.00. Fancy ones are more money but unnecessary. The propane canisters are $3.00 and can last a long time. The canisters can also supply fuel for a lantern.

Have plenty of your favorite kind of ground coffee available, unless you have a hand-cranking coffee grinder. The coffee I buy has an expiration date two years into the future.

If you like milk, cream and/or sugar in your coffee, keep canned or dehydrated milk, dry creamer and lots of sugar stored.

My camp coffee pot makes eight cups. It is enamel and can be purchased at a place where camping equipment is available. The cost is about $14.00.

You will need:

Camp stove or wood fire
Coffee pot
Water
Coffee

Process:

Fill the coffee pot with fresh, cold water to just below the lowest hole on the inside of the coffee pot. If you look at where the spout is on the outside of the coffee pot, the holes are in the same location on the inside of the coffee pot.


This is important!!! If you fill the coffee pot with water over where the open places are, you will have coffee spewing into your fire as it perks. Not good.

Put the coffee pot on the fire.

When the water starts to boil rapidly, take the coffee pot off of the fire.

Put ½ cup ground coffee into the metal basket and put the metal lid on the basket.


Immediately place the basket contraption containing the coffee into the coffee pot and place the coffee pot lid on the coffee pot.

Put it back on the heat.

When you hear it perking turn the fire down so that it perks very gently.

Make sure that it continues to perk for about 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat.

Take out the basket that has the coffee grounds in it and put the lid back on the coffee pot.

Place the coffee pot on a burner on low to keep it hot.

The rich smells of the coffee will be inviting and will make your companions think they are at their favorite coffee spot.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

MISS HULLING'S NOODLE BAKE

 When I was small and we would go to St. Louis shopping, eating at Miss Hulling’s was a very anticipated event. The original cafeteria, opened in 1928, was a downtown St. Louis landmark. It closed in 1993. In addition to the all-day cafeteria, Miss Hulling’s included the Catfish and Crystal full-service restaurant, an authentic Williamsburg bar, a full bakery, and a retail pastry shop. 

Ingredients and directions:

1  8-ounce package small noodles, cooked and drained

Brown together:
2 pounds lean ground beef
1-tablespoon butter
Garlic salt and black pepper sprinkled over browning meat

Add to browned meat:

1-cup tomato sauce or tomato puree
1-cup cottage cheese
1-cup sour cream
1 cup chopped green onions
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Stir and put into a greased baking dish. Cover with shredded cheese and bake in a 350-degree oven until bubbly.


Sometimes it's nice to have simple and easy comfort food. This fits in that category. Thank you, Marge M, for saving this recipe for me.




Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

TURKEY DAY DISASTERS: IT'S ALWAYS SOMETHING

This blog title could have been "Janet’s Soup Kitchen and Salsa Factory" but then I would’ve left out the best part.

This day started out like most days…an episode in the kitchen. It was a mess to be cleaned up as a result of being organized and prepared…and it’s only 5:30 AM.

It is Wednesday, the day before the big day. Yesterday I took the frozen container of perfect chicken stock that I had so painstakingly prepared and babied, out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator to thaw. It will be used as the broth for the turkey gravy and stuffing.

I placed it on the top shelf of the icebox with the many beverages we had just purchased for the “big day”.

As I removed a beverage from the shelf to have with dinner last night, I noticed that there was moisture on the shelf around the container of chicken stock. I assumed (if you assume something it makes an a.s out of you and me), stupidly, that it was condensation dripping from the outside of the thawing container.

WRONG!! This morning there was chicken broth all over the top shelf and the beverages were swimming in the slimy greasy yellow stuff.

On further examination, it was discovered that there was a big chunk of plastic missing from the bottom of the container. I’ll have to look for that later…in the gravy.

I know this will be hard to believe from someone as experienced as I am in the kitchen…it’s only been 66 years that I have been eating and going on 45+ years that I have been cooking…but something else just happened that “blows me away”, so to speak. I wish I could blow away at this point. What was I thinking when I decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner?

My task this morning was to take the turkey out of the icebox, (praying that it was thawed) putting it in the brine and back in the IB for the day.

Sounds simple, right?

With plastic work gloves on (that I had worn last night to clean the oven…yes, I washed them well) I removed the packaging from the turkey. It seemed to be well thawed with some parts still frozen where I had to remove the packages of giblets and neck.

I placed the turkey in a large bowl in the sink and ran cold water over the ends to finish the thawing process.

I was able to get my hand inside to retrieve the package and rinse the inside of the turkey.

Except for one important thing…there was no package of giblets. There was a neck all right…not in packaging…and some piece of indescribably sickening piece of something that looked so disgusting it made me want to throw the whole turkey away. I picked it up with my gloved hand, closed my eyes and tossed it in the trash.

I dug around inside blindly searching for the giblets. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake I have made in the past a few times…roasting the package of giblets in the turkey stuffing.

There was no package. I felt something that felt like a liver or gizzard or heart…but when I pulled it out it was fresh turkey meat.

OK…so now I have demolished the inside of the turkey. Maybe no one will notice. I think I’ll make a double batch of stuffing just in case. 

Maybe the "package" will be floating in the brine later today.

I rinsed the turkey and placed it in the brine in a large stock pot. I had adjusted shelves in the refrigerator to make room for it after cleaning up the previously described mess. As I went to pick up the pot it didn't take me long to realize I couldn't lift it out of the sink.

PEEE...TERRRRR...HELLLLL...PPPP!!!!

Of course, there appeared my "knight in painting clothes" to rescue me once more.

Mi amigo Pedro made his famous cranberry sauce yesterday and it was delicious. We had a taste last night with our chicken. One good thing has happened.

This is only Wednesday…about 27 hours until show time.

I can do this!!

One way to avoid these situations is to not cook Thanksgiving dinner but then you’d miss all the fun…sarcasm intended.

With any luck at all there won’t be more blog posts on this subject.



Friday, November 16, 2012

THANKSGIVING THOUGHTS 2012

Last year I was just learning how to blog. Obviously, I'm still in the experimental stages. As I look back on doing the Thanksgiving posts...and having just reread them...I am amazed at how much time I devoted to it and just how complete they are...from my perspective. All were done before I learned how to include pictures.  

I invite you to visit those other posts. I will probably combine them in the future but not this year. There is nothing fancy about the instructional ones. I hope you find them simple and easy to follow.. There are actually a total of ten posts related to Thanksgiving on this blog. Yes...it is a very important holiday to me.

So many memories of Thanksgivings past flood my mind...and heart. I always hope that what I can contribute will make memories for others.

It is the one time of year that I don't consult with Pedro about who I can invite to dinner. I have always invited everyone that happens to mention that they don't have family or plans. Our first Thanksgiving together he was surprised to find strangers joining us. He knows me better now.

Two years ago, we had twenty family members celebrating with us in our small house. We had the dining event in the garage where we had set tables with hurricane lamps and Thanksgiving decorations.

It did rain that year. 


Last year we joined one son with his family at a luxurious golf resort restaurant in Tucson. It was a special time. 

In 2008 and 2009 we spent the event at the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch. Just the two of us enjoyed a very elegant dinner with champagne and candlelight in 2008.

 In 2009 there were ten of us at Tanque Verde Guest Ranch.

This year we're cooking again.

We will have two of our children with their families and some dear friends from "the mountain". I estimate there will be ten of us. If the weather stays nice, we might dine "al fresco". The only thing that could "dampen" that idea would be rain or wind. The forecast is for sunshine, high 70s, and gentle breezes.

I am thankful to feel healthy enough to offer to cook, to have a husband who makes delicious cranberry sauce, is an expert potato masher and turkey carver...and,  to have family who still want to come to my house for dinner.

Getting here isn't very traditional though. It's "Over the Gila (river) and through the cactus to Nana's casa we go...the truck knows the way to carry the kids through the brown and green saguaros"...lalalalala.

Happy Thanksgiving and God's blessings to everyone!





Monday, November 12, 2012

SIMPLE TATER TOT CASSEROLE


When the weather turns a bit chilly…or downright cold…there’s nothing better than a hot, bubbling casserole to take the edge off. Serve with some fruit or a fresh green salad and you’ve got a meal. Also, you might have leftovers to take to work or school the next day. One serving of any casserole, reheated for a minute in the microwave, gives you a hot lunch that is delicious and nutritious.

This is one I learned from Mi Amigo Pedro. There are lots of versions of this out there but this is the simple, uncomplicated and perfect version…every time.

Ingredients:

1-pound ground beef
1-32 ounce package of frozen tater tots
1-can Cream of Mushroom soup
1-14.5 ounce can of green beans
¼ cup milk or another can of Cream of Mushroom soup
2-cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1-tablespoon minced garlic (in the produce section in a small glass jar)
1-tablespoon dehydrated minced onion (1 tablespoon of this equals one hole chopped onion. It’s in the spice section at the grocery store and usually in a plastic shaker-type container)
1-teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Process:

Preheat oven to 375.

Brown the ground beef on medium heat until it is cooked thoroughly and crumbly.

I use a Dutch oven so I can mix everything together in it instead of having to get two pans dirty. If you use a skillet, you will need a large bowl to mix the rest of the ingredients together before putting them in the casserole.

Sprinkle the onion, garlic, salt and pepper over the meat, mixing it in with a large spoon.

To the browned meat, add the green beans, soup, tator tots, milk and 1-½ cups of cheese.

Toss gently with two large spoons to mix thoroughly.

Dump this mixture into a 2-½ quart casserole.

Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top.

Bake uncovered for one hour.




Sunday, November 11, 2012

GLUTEN-FREE BODY OF CHRIST?

Sometimes the only way to get something off your mind is to write about it. This has been bugging me for a week now. I’m not sure why. I’m okay with it…BUT…it got my attention…and not in a positive way, I now realize.

I admit…I’m not a regular churchgoer.

Mea culpa.

At least, I don’t go to the same church regularly.

I do go to church.

I’m constantly searching for the right fit.

Sometimes it’s the Roman Catholic Church but I can’t receive the Sacrament there. It’s against the rules. Divorce got me kicked out. I had a Catholic baptism before I was married. No Catholic education or First Holy Communion or Confirmation, just baptized and led down the aisle.

My grandmother disowned me and said I would go to Hell. That hurt my feelings. I always wanted to please her. She was a Methodist.

Sometimes it’s a protestant church like Methodist, Presbyterian or Baptist that beckons me. I even attended a Nazarene church service being held in a school. It’s the closest church service to where I live. There are very nice people there and good music. There are unorthodox names of churches like the "cool" church, the "harvest" church, the "epic' church, etc. There are different churches for different people.

The good news about the protestant churches is that I am usually the youngest one there…or at least I’m with my peer group. I like the hymns because they are familiar. And, my grandmother would be pleased.

It is obvious though that these protestant churches in small towns and communities are on their way out. They are beautiful old buildings with dwindling congregations, which translates to financial hardship.

Too many “baby boomers” like me, I guess. Lots of us either don't go to church or bounce around and don’t make a financial commitment to any one church.

It’s confusing. Growing up, women wore hats and gloves to church. I always thought, even as a youngster, that God didn’t care what they wore.

I also remember the elderly commenting about how so and so wasn’t in church…actually gossiping about it. I didn’t think that was right either.

Now these protestant churches have become less formal and strict in their protocol. People are more casual; there are lots of women in pants, men in sports shirts with open collars, people visiting with each other and laughing. Is this to attract younger families? Is this to compete with the new bigger-than-ever churches? Is it to be more like the Catholics?

They just don’t “get it”. Maybe I’m the one who doesn’t get it.

Roman Catholic Churches have welcomed the faithful no matter what they were wearing. I witnessed this first hand when I was 19.

While attending summer school in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1965 I happened into a Roman Catholic Church. I sat in the back and quietly watched the people coming to the mass that was about to begin.

Young and old men, women, children, and families were coming into the church, blessing themselves with Holy Water, kneeling, praying, and silently practicing their faith. Many were barefoot; some women were sharing rebozos so that their heads would be covered. Children were well behaved, knowing it was expected of them, as family members held them so that they felt secure. They were learning how to worship God by example.

I returned to college after a summer in Mexico and enrolled in a class called “The Study of Far Eastern Religions”. That confused me even more. There are lots of prophets and philosophers with endless opinions, questions and interesting parables about how to live life. I attended the non-denominational chapel services on campus and did some charity work. There wasn’t any mention of Jesus, as I recall.

A couple of times I have attended one of those new mega-churches that have their services in huge auditoriums with a rock band playing during the worship service and a coffee shop in the lobby. Some are in “converted” Wal-Marts. Some are so prosperous that they have acres of land with campuses that rival a college or university. They seem to attract young families and singles…and some elderly persons, as well.

They are multi-denominational protestant “churches”. Everyone…every sinner…is welcome.

The last time I ventured into one of those (with an open mind) the minister felt compelled to teach a spiritual lesson about sex. Excuse me, Lord, but I felt a bit uncomfortable being with my teenage grandsons and my daughter and her husband.

I understand that it is necessary to learn about sex and what the Bible teaches us about it but, pul…eaze, send the information to me in a newsletter.

I am confident that my Puritan Methodist grandmother would have been equally disturbed. I can just hear her now, clearing her throat.

On television, Joel Osteen is easy to watch on Sunday mornings from my recliner. They call him a “prosperity” minister. He is definitely prosperous. It’s kind of like a Dale Carnegie class.

I have attended funeral services at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and I visit their Family History Center to do genealogy research.

The Mormons teach their children about life and how to live it but in segregated groups…the women teach the girls and the men teach the boys. I’m in favor of that method.

One of my favorite churches is Thoreau’s church. It serves me well; “communing” with Nature (a capital N), sauntering and meandering by the river while praying and quietly enjoying God’s creations. His essay called “Walking” is my peace.



They all have a part to play in my religious life. The persistent quest keeps me searching and keeps me praying and grounded.

There is little doubt with casual observation that the Mormons and the Roman Catholics have the most churches and the largest congregations in this country. One is 958 years old and the other is only 182 years old.

What is the oldest Christian church?  Jesus Christ, the Son of God founded the Orthodox Church in the year 33. It has not changed since that time and is now 1,979 years old.

I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not going to join a church at my age…which is old. Was it Ben Franklin who said that when women cease to be handsome they study to be good? Well, I’ll never be that good.

I believe in God. I believe that we should treat each other like we want to be treated. I believe that Love Wins. I believe that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. I believe that Compassion is God.

Sometimes, I honestly wish that I had never had the formal education I have had. It has caused me to question everything…to be skeptical…to see through things that I might otherwise have accepted.

I wish that someone had squelched my curiosity at a young age. Then I wouldn’t know about the lives of the saints, about all of the prophets of the world since the beginning of time.

I wish that I wouldn’t have studied comparative religions to reach the conclusion that I have reached.

I wish that I hadn’t noticed that all wars are a result of religious differences, which are tied to cultural differences and race.

Aren’t we all the same? Isn’t race just skin deep? Why, oh, why can’t we respect each other’s ideas and belief systems and let each other “be”?

Maybe then, I wouldn’t have been so bothered by what the minister said last Sunday at the church I was attending.

When preparing the Sacrament, she held up the bread with both hands, looked at it solemnly and said, “The Body of Christ and it’s gluten-free. We have to be politically correct.”

Good God Almighty.





Friday, October 26, 2012

CHICKEN TACOS RANCHEROS

When in doubt about what to do with leftover chicken...or just in doubt about what to make for dinner...period...try these.

If you're in a hurry, use canned chicken, canned refried beans and Mexican rice. Beans and rice recipes are in other blog posts on this site. There is no quick way to make the rice but it does only take about 40 minutes.

These tacos always get eaten and are often requested...by everyone. Even HM, our 5-year-old grandson, recently decided he liked them. That makes it official that they are popular and tasty.

I only have one story about chicken tacos that is just one of the pieces of evidence explaining why my nickname is Calamity Janet. For archival purposes, you'll have to endure it.

As I prepared for the coming of our first grandchild, (DW who's now in college) I asked his mother, ES, what she would like for me to serve at the baby shower I was having for her.

ES & DW after the shower
She immediately responded that she would like chicken tacos with guacamole, Calamity Janet's salsa, beans and rice.

There were about twenty ladies coming to the baby shower.

I was teaching school at the time (no excuse for the calamity) and had scheduled the baby shower in the evening on a school night. Mistake number one.

I had been working on the beans for a couple of days. I just had to put those in the slow cooker to heat up and would serve them hot from the slow cooker on the serving table.

I had also made the salsa ahead of time and kept it safely refrigerated in Mason jars.

I had the cake, ice cream, chips, flowers, silverware, plates, cups, and punch all ready to set out.

A present table was ready with a few gifts on it from her brother and me.

Since I usually got home from school at  4:30, I would have to hustle. Chicken tacos, guacamole and rice would have to be prepared from scratch before the party.

I can do this!!

I like to put all the ingredients for a meal on the counter so I don't get confused and miss something.

I made the guacamole.

I started the rice.

For the tacos, I hastily retrieved the canned chicken from the pantry. The tortillas, shredded cheese, chopped green onions, lard, tongs, paper towel-lined glass baking dish to put tacos in after they were cooked were all lined up by the burner on the stove.

I drained the canned chicken and dumped it into a bowl and started making the tacos.

Guests started arriving and the girls laughed and visited, digging into some chips, salsa, guacamole and punch.

I finished up the tacos and rice.

Everything was ready and on the serving table. Whew!! I did it.

One of our guests, Pauline Padilla Merrill, could be considered the restaurant Godmother of Greer. She had worked in every restaurant in Greer and pretty much ran them all. She is now the very successful owner of The Rendezvous Diner on Main Street in Greer.

When Pauline began eating I noticed that she had a surprised look on her face. She said, "Janet, how clever you are! These tacos are delicious!! I have never thought of using tuna to make tacos."

Tuna??? I was aghast!!! I motored over to the wastebasket in the kitchen and found the "chicken" cans. Yup! Chicken of the Sea...TUNA!!

One of my most embarrassing moments, no doubt. They did disappear however.

Here's the recipe for Chicken Tacos:

Count on a minimum of four tacos per person. If you make more someone will eat them.

Ingredients for six diners:

Two dozen corn tortillas
Four cups fresh (cooked not raw) or canned chicken
Bag of shredded Mexican cheese
Two bunches green onions chopped
Lard or vegetable oil

Equipment:

2 dessert plates
Frying pan
Metal tongs
9 X 13 glass baking dish
Paper towel
Foil

Process:

Set everything you need on the counter by the stove.


Put the fresh tortillas on one dessert plate. Set the other dessert plate close to the stove.

Put the cheese in a bowl.

Put the chopped green onions in a bowl. (Not shown)

Heat about 3 tablespoons oil in a skillet on medium to medium-high, depending on what kind of stove you have.

Line the baking dish with paper towel and place it on the counter close to the stove so that you can move the tacos from the skillet to the pan easily.

When the oil sizzles as you sprinkle a little water in it, it's hot enough.

Put in one tortilla at a time. let it get just a little soft and turn it over, about five seconds on each side.


Put the softened tortillas on top of each other on the empty dessert plate. As I take them out of the skillet and place them on the plate, I sprinkle garlic salt on each one. This adds a special hint of flavor that isn't necessary but is appreciated.



When all tortillas are softened, turn the stack over on the plate. The ones on bottom are cooler than the ones on top. This makes it easier to make the tacos so you don't burn your fingers.

Place a pinch of chicken, some cheese on top of the chicken, and a sprinkle of green onions on top of the cheese on one side of the tortilla.



Holding it in place, roll it up like a cigar.




With the tongs, lift the rolled taco into the skillet with the sealed side down.

After a minute or so, turn the taco over and let it get crispy on the other side.


Move it to the paper-towel lined glass baking dish.

Do this with each of the tortillas.

When they're all cooked, cover the baking dish with foil and put it in the warming oven (250 degrees) until ready to serve.



Serve with some good salsa...

Love, love, love Santa Cruz Green Salsa from Tumacacori, Arizona

Refried Beans and Mexican Rice...




and a little chopped relish of lettuce, cucumber and radishes...



SIRVASE USTED!


















Sunday, September 30, 2012

CHICKEN & DUMPLINGS

If a recipe can be in your DNA then that's where this one came from. I don't remember any of my relatives ever serving soup except for Campbell's. I started creating this long before the Internet and did not have any trustworthy cookbooks available.

It might have motivated me, as a young bride, that I also didn't have much money. I wonder how many cans of soup you'd have to buy to have this much soup on hand in case of an emergency....hm-m-m.

I'm pretty sure that most everyone reading this, from anywhere in the world, has been given chicken soup in some form or another when feeling ill. My mother loved to give me Campbell's Chicken Noodle, Chicken and Rice or Tomato soup often...with a grilled cheese sandwich. If I was sick, she'd hold the sandwich. Saltines were substituted.

Anybody else out there with a similar experience?

There is something about chicken soup that is cross-cultural. It is considered health food for the body and the soul from ancient civilizations to present time. It is a survival food, and, if stored properly, can be available if someone in the family has the flu, a cold, respiratory problems, or is suffering from anxiety or insomnia.

CHICKEN SOUP IS "COMFORT SOUP"

For those of you who resist the temptation to spend hours in the kitchen and opt for the easy method of putting a meal on the table for your family, I challenge you to try this.

Personally, I receive huge benefits from going the extra distance in preparing fresh ingredients to serve to my family. It does take longer. It does require having plenty of storage available and lots of containers on hand. It requires physical stamina and lots of time. Call me crazy but it brings me contentment to know that they are well-fed.

Mexican food is like that. All fresh ingredients and it is time-consuming to prepare. But, the end result is remarkable. Mexican food...like chicken and dumplings or fresh chicken soup, with lots of fat in it, cannot be faked.

It has to be the real thing.

You’ll need to be home for two days to make the Chicken and Dumplings.
Cooking the chickens for other purposes can be accomplished in one day.

Cooking the Chicken:

Two 2-3-pound  whole organic chickens with giblets removed
5 stalks celery chopped in large chunks, leaves and all
5 carrots, quartered, not peeled
1 large yellow onion, quartered
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1/2-stick of unsalted butter
2-teaspoons salt
1-bunch of fresh parsley, minced

Remove giblets from chickens and cook them for the dogs. Ski and Oso liked them with the broth poured over their dry food.

Rinse chickens inside and out in cold water
Put one chicken in the refrigerator to cook later.
Put one chicken in a large kettle of water with all of the vegetables.
Cover with cold water and bring to a boil.
Cover pot and turn down heat.
Simmer for three hours.
After three hours, turn off stove and let sit covered for one hour.
Pour contents of the pot into a colander sitting on top of a very large glass pitcher or measuring cup.

If you use "soup socks" you don't have to worry about straining everything. Just lift the "sock" out of the broth and start cooking the second chicken in the same broth.

Set broth aside. 

Separate chicken from the bones, vegetables and yucky stuff, saving the carrots.

I give this to the dogs also…not the chicken, the leftovers after removing the chicken. It disappears instantly. If you don’t have dogs with cast-iron intestinal constitutions, then wrap it all in a newspaper, put the newspaper in a plastic vegetable bag, knotted tightly, and freeze it until the day the garbage is collected.

Place the cooked cleaned, chicken in a container and put it in the refrigerator to use later for the stew.

Pour the same broth back into the pot to cook the second chicken, adding fresh vegetables as before.

Follow the same instructions for cooking the first chicken.

It is important to cook two chickens in the same broth because it makes it richer and healthier.

Separate the cooked chicken from the bones and yucky stuff. I usually put it in a few small containers, labeled with what it is and the date, and freeze them for later.

The chicken is wonderful for tacos, casseroles, chili, chicken salad, and chicken and dumplings.

The broth is absolutely the healthiest thing you can have on hand to use as a substitute for water in rice, to make any kind of soup, or just to drink in a mug.

If you are cooking the chicken for anything other than Chicken and Dumplings AND you have a big pot that will hold two chickens, you can cook them together.

It is important to freeze or can what you aren’t going to use in the next couple of days. It is terrible to go to all that work and have it spoil. Be sure to label it well.

Chicken and dumplings:

Cook chicken as explained above. Two chickens must be cooked separately in the same broth. This is the secret. The broth is unbelievably rich and there's lots of fat in it for cooking the dumplings.
Measure enough broth into pot for six servings of stew.
Bring to a boil.
Put in dumplings and follow the directions below.

Dumplings:

1 1/3-cup sifted all-purpose flour
2-teaspoons baking powder
½-teaspoon salt
2/3-cup milk
2-tablespoons salad oil

Sift dry ingredients. Combine milk and salad oil; add to dry ingredients a little at a time until just moistened.

OR…you can use Bisquick. The dumpling recipe is on the box.
2-cups Bisquick
2/3-cup milk
Mix together with a wooden spoon until soft dough forms.
The rest of the process is the same.

Stir as little as possible. Drop by heaping tablespoons atop hot, boiling stew.

Cook uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes;

Add chicken.

Cover and cook 10 minutes longer without lifting the lid.

With a slotted spoon, remove dumplings from the stew and put on a plate.

Spoon stew into large soup bowls; top with dumplings.

Makes about 6 dumplings.

Enjoy!


Saturday, September 1, 2012

WHY SPAGHETTI SQUASH?


Because it’s easy…it’s healthy…and it’s good!

What other reasons are there?

I first tried this on the Atkins Diet. It was in the recipe section of one of the books. The low-carb choice of spaghetti squash can be used as a substitute for pasta…and it does look like spaghetti.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with pasta for years. I hate it because I always eat too much and I feel bloated afterwards. It is made out of flour and I have a “hate” relationship with flour too.

But, there’s just something about it. A big plate of spaghetti smothered in homemade spaghetti sauce sprinkled with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese is the ultimate feast. Especially at Mama Louisa’s in Tucson. Their version is “Joe’s Special” and that will keep you going back to that restaurant again and again for years and years.

My favorite way to eat spaghetti pasta is “naked” swimming in garlic butter…emphasis on the garlic.

I used to be teased for eating leftover "naked" spaghetti pasta for breakfast “the morning after” fixing spaghetti for dinner. I always seemed to make a little extra pasta so there would be just enough for my morning meal.

I’m making spaghetti squash tonight for Shrimp Scampi. 

Here’s how to cook the spaghetti squash:

Buy an organic spaghetti squash as it has a beautiful color and is nice and firm. The other ones have been looking old and yucky and dull lately.

(I wish I were organic)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

With a fork, pierce the outer skin of the squash a few times all the way around. This keeps it from blowing up in the oven.

When the oven has heated, place the whole squash into the oven, setting it on the rack in the middle of the oven.

Set your timer for one hour.

Cooking the squash whole is the easiest method. You might read that it is better to cut it in half. I don’t think so. Doing that requires a lot of muscle and you need a very sharp knife.

When the squash is done, remove it from the oven with potholders or oven mitts. It will be very hot. Set it on a plate and let it cool for about 30 minutes.

Now, slice it length-wise straight down the middle.

Put a medium-size bowl and some newspaper or paper towel next to where you are going to prepare the squash by removing the spaghetti and seeds and strings from the rind.

Use a small knife and a spoon to remove the seeds from the middle of each half. Discard these onto the newspaper.



When all of the seeds and strings are removed, with a fork, start pulling the spaghetti away from the rind and put it in the bowl.

The fork is the trick! The first time I ever did this I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get it out and how beautiful it was. It has such an appetizing color.

When you have all of the spaghetti out of both sides of the rind, put the rind on the newspaper and wrap it up or put it into your compost pile.

Put the bowl of prepared spaghetti squash in the refrigerator, covered, until you are ready to use it.

To heat it, put it in a covered saucepan on the stove, on low, for about ten minutes.

For Italian spaghetti, using a spoon and fork, put some squash into the middle of a dinner plate.

Spoon some spaghetti sauce on top.

Sprinkle with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese and some chopped green onions on top of the cheese.

If you want to serve spaghetti squash as a side dish with meat, chicken or fish, after you put it in the bowl, sprinkle some brown sugar on top and add lots of melted butter.

Serve with some fresh fruit, salad and a green vegetable.





Saturday, August 25, 2012

POLITICOS HAVE STOLEN MY JOY


Yes, I know…you have to give them permission to steal your joy. Well, I haven’t given any of them permission…but…there they are…IN MY FACE!!

Right now there are hundreds of signs lining the streets I must travel…wretchedly ferocious advertising on the two TV stations I like to regularly watch just in case something has happened that I need to know about…like finding out this week that our water was possibly contaminated with e-coli. Yep. We learned of this from TV news almost a week after the test was bad. We did not get the news from our water company. How do you recall the water you’ve been drinking for a week? Unbelievable.

I don’t know what the statistics are but I am suspecting that the more vicious a politician is against his opponent the better his or her chances of winning an election. That in itself is baffling.

There is something sick about that outcome.

How can the good people of the United States of America be influenced by such irascible behavior of the politicians who seek our affirmation and expect to lead this country?

I am so disgusted with the political process that I’m ready to become an activist. Lots of people feel the way I do and just don’t vote. They give up. I want the “give ups” to get up and do something.

I value our freedom and our democracy. I value it beyond anything. I want my children, grandchildren and their children’s children to have the same freedoms.

I’ve always been neutral politically. I like to decide who I think the best candidate is that reflects what I believe should happen in our country. Then I listen and watch and read and vote.

I don’t want my vote to be a political one. I don’t want to vote against someone. I want to be able to vote for someone.

But who in "tarnation" can I vote for? They’re all spending so much money on advertising that defames their opponents. It just screams of a lack of conscience or true perception of what the American people need right now.

We do not need any more fiscally wasteful politicians in office.

Or any immoral ones.

I cannot witness such blatant abuse of the American public. Who do they think they’re “singing” to? They obviously think we’re ignorant. They must perceive us as being positively influenced by screaming, yelling, action, adventure, and mud slinging from our political candidates.

Fly your flag. Get involved to make a difference. Don’t let them treat you like idiots. Make an intelligent choice and VOTE.



Sunday, August 19, 2012

PERFECT OVEN-BAKED FISH FILLETS

FLORIDA FISHING FOR BARRACUDA, BASS AND CRAPPIE

I now understand why my Grandpa Hunt let me drive the car to Lake Osborne to go fishing.

Their winter home was in Lake Worth, Florida. I think they had it built in 1951. We visited there every Easter during the mid to late 1950s.

520 Wright Drive
On recently researching the details of that memory, I discovered that Lake Osborne was only a couple of blocks from my grandparents’ home. I thought I had driven at least five miles.

I was 10 years old.

One of the things I’ve learned from being a grandparent for the last 18 years, is that you let the grandchildren do lots of things that you wouldn’t have let your own children, their parents, do.

A particular situation comes to mind. I shocked myself that I did this.

We used to live two miles from one of our grandchildren. The road between our houses was in the country with no traffic. This particular afternoon it had rained and the air smelled and felt so clean and cool. When it rains in the Sonoran Desert, the creosote bushes offer the most divine, soft fragrance. I was taking this grandchild from her house to mine.

When she got into the truck, she asked if she could sit in the front seat. Totally against the law isn’t it? Bravely, I said that she could but she had to wear her seatbelt. Agreed. We rolled down the windows and she held her hands outside the window, feeling the cool air, exclaiming all the way the freedom she felt.

Daring wasn’t it? I feel guilty…but I’m sure she remembers it.

Grandpa Hunt was a bit more adventurous than I was. He was babysitting me while my mother and grandmother went shopping. He asked me if I’d like to go to the lake to go fishing and ride in his boat. “Sure”, I said.

As we went to the car with our fishing gear, he said, “Windy, do you want to drive the car to the lake?”

He called me “Windy”. He liked giving nicknames to his favorite girls. Mom’s name was Florence and he called her Bill.  Mom’s sister’s name was Roberta and he called her Bob. Grandpa Hunt called Grandmother Hunt…his wife… Bird. Her name was Pauline but Bird was her middle name, her Grandmother Smith’s maiden name.

I told him that I had never driven a car before. He assured me that it was easy and I would take right to it.

He adjusted the seat so that I could see over the steering wheel (I was tall for my age) and he settled into the passenger seat.

Talk about brave!! Good grief!! What a great grandpa!!!

I drove to the lake and back to the house. And, we rode in the boat and caught some nice fish…probably Largemouth Bass and Crappie.

What a super day and a cherished memory.

I don’t ever remember Grandma Hunt cooking the fish Grandpa caught. He did clean them and put them in the freezer.


I, however, have cooked many Bass and Crappie. By the way, Crappie is pronounced like crop-e…not what you’re thinking.

Here’s how:

To thaw the fish fillets if they are frozen, take off the plastic packaging and put them in a glass pan covered with plastic wrap. Then, put them in the refrigerator for several hours.

If you are leaving for the day, do this before you leave. The fish will be thawed when you get home and your prep time for dinner is only 30-40 minutes total.

Prepare them the same as Catfish if you want them fried.

To bake the fish fillets in the oven:       

You will need:

1- fish fillet for each person.
A cookie sheet
Cooking spray
Sea Salt
Pepper
Paprika
1-stick of unsalted butter
Note: Chef Paul Prudhomme's ( may he rest in peace) Seafood Magic is an excellent seasoning to sprinkle on top of each fillet before you add the butter pats.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a cookie sheet with vegetable oil.




Place fillets on the cookie sheet.

Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and paprika.

Put pieces of unsalted butter on top of the seasoned fish.




Place the cookie sheet with the fillets in the oven.

Bake small thin fillets for 15-20 minutes. Increase the time for thicker fillets to 40 minutes depending on how thick the fillets are.

My well-tested time and temperature for a fresh salmon fillet that will feed four people would be 350 degrees for 40 minutes. It works every time.

I don’t know how to cook a Barracuda but I would suggest that you be sure it’s completely dead before you try it or it could be eating you for dinner.

On one of our Florida trips, my dad dragged my mom and me out on a daylong deep-sea fishing expedition in the Atlantic Ocean. Dad snagged a Barracuda. It was so big he needed help from the crew to bring it in. About all I remember was that it was very beautiful but it had lots of threatening sharp teeth. When it opened its mouth I wondered why it hadn’t eaten the fishing pole. I had helped hold the pole before the Barracuda experience. After that, I was only an observer.

“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” ~ John Buchan





Thursday, August 16, 2012

FRIED CATFISH RECIPE AND A FISH TALE




"The world's best fish cooker"...that’s what Mi Amigo Pedro calls me. He goes a little “overboard” with the praise now and then. Could his motivation be that he wants me to keep cooking for him? Hm-m-m-m.

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.” ~Doug Larson

How can you talk about summer fun and not include fishing? It is probably the least expensive outdoor activity that takes you to some of the most beautiful places on this planet.

My love affair with fishing and eating fish goes back a long way. The stories of my fishing life will be intertwined with recipes for cooking fish. There are lots of them, both stories and recipes. I’ll begin with the following:

Part I: Fish Tales

My fishing life must have started around the age of five when I got a fishing pole about the length of my arm for Christmas. At that point I never associated fishing with actually catching a fish and eating it. Fishing was just for fun.

"Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting." ~ Dave Barry

Jimmy G. and I would go to the old pond in the woods behind his house and try to catch some Bluegill. They are just the right size for five-year-olds to be hauling in. Jimmy was so gallant when it came to putting the worms on my hook and taking off the occasional fish.


We’d usually become preoccupied with the frogs and turtles and we’d end up with a washtub full of critters, including a few dead fish, to decorate Foxie’s back porch. I’m glad Jimmy didn’t trick me into capturing a Water Moccasin to put in our collection. They were plentiful at our fishin’ hole.

I’ve heard that not everybody who likes to fish also likes to eat fish. The only way I could explain that is that they haven’t ever had a fish cooked just right.

Along those lines, I don’t remember my mother ever cooking any fish except the “classical” frozen fish sticks once in awhile. So I didn’t get my “expertise” in that department from her.

My poor children…I made them suffer through frozen fish sticks too. They were always served right along side the always-appreciated Kraft dinner with a big dollop of ketchup on the plate to enhance the flavor of the not so flavorful fish stick. It was little kids’ comfort food…and still is. Holden prefers the new invention, Chicken Nuggets...thanks to McDonald's.

My first experiences with eating fish and really liking it were at the taverns along the Ohio and Wabash rivers in southern Illinois. Yes, I started going to taverns at an early age…always accompanied by my parents, of course. The taverns I remember most fondly were Margaret’s in Grayville and one in Old Shawneetown. The latter was a barnwood wreck with a creaky floor and a questionable clientele…but…oh that catfish…it was worth the risk.

We’re talking Catfish here…fried to perfection. That is Catfish with a capital “C”.

Fishermen would deliver their catch to the taverns each day. The fish fillets would be covered in some kind of light breading or crumbs and deep-fried. It was usually served with French fries, coleslaw, hush puppies and cornbread. The folks would have a beer and I would have milk. How times have changed.

Fried Catfish

The tricky part is finding good fresh catfish. Do not buy farm-raised. Somewhere I read farm-raised fish described as “marine couch potatoes who don’t get any exercise and gorge themselves on fish chow.”

If you like catfish, you probably already know where to buy it. If you don’t, take a trip to St. Louis and find an off-the-wall tavern down by the river and let them cook your catfish for you. You’ll be “hooked”.

Here’s the recipe.

You will need:

A large, heavy, preferably cast iron, skillet
Tongs or a spatula for turning the fillets
Newspaper laid out on the counter with several layers of paper towel spread over it
Plastic vegetable bag for shaking
Two pie plates

Ingredients:

2-3 pounds of catfish fillets
3-tablespoons white all-purpose flour
1-teaspoon salt
¼-teaspoon pepper
¼-teaspoon paprika
2 eggs beaten together
¼-cup whole milk
1-cup cornmeal
Oil for frying (Crisco with a little bacon grease mixed in.)

Process:

Rinse the fish fillets under cold water and pat them dry with paper towel, setting them on a cookie sheet.

Put the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika together in the plastic bag.
Shake the fillets gently in this mixture and set them back on the cookie sheet.

In one pie plate, put the beaten eggs mixed with the milk. Gently coat each fillet on both sides in the egg mixture.

Put the cornmeal in the other pie plate and coat each side of the fillets with the cornmeal.

Set the fillets back on the cookie sheet so that the coating can dry a bit.

When the oil is hot (about 375 degrees and sizzles if you drop a little water in the grease) put in the fillets.

Fry for about 4 minutes on each side. TURN ONLY ONCE. They should be golden brown and crispy when they’re cooked.

Lift them out of the grease and put them on the paper towel, on top of the newspaper, to drain.

If you have lots of fish to cook, keep them warm in a 200-degree oven.

After they have drained on the paper towel, place them on a clean cookie sheet and put them in the warming oven with a loose piece of foil across the top. If you wrap them up they will get soggy.

When leaving my hometown in 1964, I did not leave behind my love of eating catfish. On every visit after that, a Friday night dinner at the local Elks club was on my list of things I had to do. Golden brown, crispy all-you-can-eat fried catfish was served every Friday night. Maybe it still is.