Sloppy Joes

We used to go north to our cottage on weekends and Sloppy Joes were frequently our go-to Friday night supper.  Easy to prepare, especially because they involved browning some ground beef, opening a can of Manwich, stirring and loading it onto a bun.  I always had cans of Manwich in the cupboard.  Manwich first came out in 1969 and was marketed as a fast, one dish meal.  It arrived on the scene before Hamburger Helper but much later than Kraft Macaroni and Cheese which came out in the 1930s.  I’m sure, back in the day, I tried a few varieties of Hamburger Helper and I know I whipped up more than a few batches of neon orange Mac and Cheese.  Now I prefer making my own Mac and Cheese, casseroles concoctions, and Sloppy Joes.  Perhaps we ate Sloppy Joes a little too often because I hadn’t made them in years.  Recently we had guests over for a casual supper and I decided to try making them, sans Manwich.  They tasted mighty good.

Sloppy Joe Ingredients:

2 pounds ground beef

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced celery

2-3 gloves of garlic minced

1 12oz bottle of chili sauce

1/4 c brown sugar

1/4 c cider vinegar

1 T yellow mustard

2 T Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup sweet pickle relish (the secret ingredient)

In a heavy skillet brown the meat and season with salt and pepper.  Use a colander to drain the meat and remove the grease.

In the same skillet, saute the onion, celery and garlic for 2-3 minutes until tender but not browned.

Whisk together the chili sauce, cider vinegar, brown sugar, mustard and Worcestershire.

You can combine all of the components in the skillet and simmer for 10 minutes or put them all in a crock pot on low until you’re ready to serve.  I use the crock pot.  Either way, you want the flavors to meld.

Just before you’re ready to serve the Sloppy Joes stir in 1/4 cup of sweet pickle relish, my no longer secret ingredient.

I served the sloppy joes on seasame seed buns with corn on the cob, coleslaw and chips.  You can choose your favorite sides.

NOTE:  If you don’t have chili sauce in your pantry you can substitute a cup and a half of your favorite catsup.  My hands down favorite catsup is Brooks Tangy.

Sangria and Poblano-Jalapeño Jellies

I’m not a huge fan of Sangria or hot peppers but love both of these jellies.  You could spread them on your English muffin but I would call these  hors d’oeuvre jellies.  They are amazing on crackers with a little creamy cheese.  Goat cheese is great with the poblano-jalapeño jelly and Brie is wonderful with the sangria.  Any one of your favorite creamy cheeses will do.  Or just spread a little jelly love on a cracker or a piece of Finn Crisp and enjoy.

I found these two recipes in a Better Homes & Gardens special publication.  I love experimenting and trying new things so I gave these a shot.  Loved them both, as did my taste testers, and ended up making two batches of each.  The sangria is the easiest jelly ever.

Sangria Ingredients:

2-3 oranges – enough for 1/2 cup of juice plus zest

2-3 limes – enough for 1/4 cup of juice plus zest

1 bottle dry red wine

5 cups sugar

1 6-oz pkg (2 foil pouches) of liquid pectin

2 T brandy

Remove 2 tsp of zest from the oranges and 1 tsp of zest from the limes.  Squeeze the juice from the fruit and measure out 1/2 cup of orange juice and 1/4 cup of lime juice.

Combine the wine, zest, juice, and sugar in a heavy nonreactive  kettle.

Bring to a full rolling boil stirring constantly.  Quickly stir in pectin.  Again bring to a full rolling boil stirring constantly.  Boil hard for 1 minute stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat.  Skim off any foam with a metal spoon.  Stir in the brandy.  Ladle the jelly into hot sterilized half-pint jelly jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.

Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 5 minutes starting the timer when the water returns to a boil.  Remove jars from the canner and cool on wire racks.

Poblano-Jalapeño Ingredients:

5 1/2 cups of sugar

2 1/2 cups finely chopped and seeded fresh poblano peppers

1/2 cup finely chopped and seeded fresh jalapeño peppers

1 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup lime juice

1 6-oz pkg (2 foil pouches) liquid fruit pectin

Green food coloring

In a heavy kettle combine the sugar, chopped peppers, vinegar, water and salt.

Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes stirring frequently.  Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 30 minutes.  Stir lime juice into the pepper mixture and bring to a boil stirring constantly.  Boil one minute stirring constantly.  Quickly stir in the pectin and bring to a full rolling boil.  Boil hard for one minute.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in a little green food coloring.  While the food coloring is optional the jelly is pretty ugly without it.

Ladle the jelly into half pint sterilized jelly jars leaving 1/4 inch of headspace.  Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, starting the timer when the water returns to boiling.  Remove jars from canner and cool on wire racks.

The results are amazing!  Hope you’ll give these a try.

NOTE:  It’s a lot of pepper chopping but food processors tend to turn peppers into liquid mush.  Just get a good sharp knife out and chop chop.  The pepper jelly is NOT hot.  You get the great flavor from both peppers without the heat.

Spanish Rice

Pork Loin with Tomatillo Salsa and Spanish Rice.  That was last nights supper.    (You can find the recipe for Roasted Tomatillo Salsa in an earlier post.)

This Spanish Rice recipe is one I started making in the early 70s. It is listed under “Pork Casseroles” in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book that I received as a gift from my Home Economics teacher, Mrs. Little.  It has a serious burn mark on the back cover…another down side of electric stoves I say, and several pages that have splatter on them.  For several years, when I first started cooking, it was my go to book.

We all either own one of these books or have seen them in antique shops.  The Spanish Rice recipe is listed next to the Cantonese Casserole which calls for frozen French style green beans, soy sauce, sour cream, cubed ham and water chestnuts topped with buttered soft bread crumbs and then baked.  I never did make Cantonese Casserole.  On the opposite page are Glamorous Rice Rings…which call for pressing hot cooked rice with chopped canned pimientos and peas into a ring mold.

As you read this cookbook you’ll find that the ring mold was a must have in every kitchen.  It was used for salads like the Harvest Fruit Mold, Frosted Cranberry Salad or Rosy Strawberry Ring; vegetable dishes like Tomato Aspic; and main dishes like Jellied Chicken Salad.  Back in the day we had lots of “molds” hanging in our kitchens.  Of course the conventional ring mold but others shaped like a fish or fruit or fancy loaf shapes.  I  love this cookbook.  There are some tried and true recipes that I still use today including a never fail pie crust recipe written in the margins.

Back to my Spanish Rice.  I have modified the recipe a bit but even in its original form it is a good recipe.

Ingredients:

3-4 slices of bacon

1 cup diced sweet onion like Vidallia

1 half sweet bell pepper diced

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 pint tomatoes

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup uncooked long grain rice

1/2 cup chili sauce

1 tsp brown sugar

1 T Worcestershire

Fresh cilantro to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

In Dutch oven or heavy skillet cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Set aside.

Add the onion, pepper and garlic to the bacon grease and cook over medium heat until tender but not brown.  Two to three minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, broth, rice, chili sauce, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce.

Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed.  Once the rice is done stir in the crumbled crisp bacon and cilantro.

Dish up and enjoy.  This was a perfect side to my pork loin but would also go well with pork chops or roast chicken.  The tomatillo salsa kicked the pork up a bit.

NOTE:  When I buy bacon I freeze some in 3-4 slice servings to use in recipes like this one.

The original recipe calls for 8 slices of bacon, thus qualifying it as a Pork Casserole.  I reduced that significantly but you’re welcome to add more bacon if you’d like.  If you do use significantly more bacon be sure to drain off most of the grease before cooking the vegetables.

I was fortunate to have a jar of chili sauce that someone had made and given to me.  It was excellent!  Perfect for this recipe.  I wish I remembered who gave it to me so I could thank them.  I think I’ll add chili sauce to my tomato canning this summer.

 

Potato Salad

Today is our friend Joyce’s annual 4th of July party.  She loves to entertain and is a natural at making people feel welcome and comfortable.  And she LOVES feeding people.  She makes the main dishes…her famous lemon breaded chicken, meatballs, and sauerkraut with several different kinds of sausage.  People bring dishes to pass and today I’m making potato salad.

I have never been a big fan of potato salads.  But I do like this recipe.  This is not the traditional mayonnaise, mustard and egg potato salad most of us are familiar with.  This salad is perfect  for hot days when we all worry about having to keep mayonnaise based foods adequately chilled so as not to poison our guests.  Actually this salad tastes best served at room temperature.  Lots of veggies make this salad colorful and marginally healthier.

Salad Ingredients:

5# Yukon gold or redskin potatoes

1# green beans

3 sweet bell peppers (one each red, yellow and orange)

2 bunches green onions

4-5 stalks of celery

Dressing Ingredients:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

2 T whole grain mustard

2 T Franks hot sauce

2 tsp salt

I leave the skin on the potatoes.  Cut the potatoes into potato salad size pieces.  Rinse them well and cook until tender.  Blanch the green beans and set aside.  While the potatoes are cooking rough chop all of the vegetables.

You want to dress this salad while the potatoes are still warm so they absorb the dressing.

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together.

Put all of the rough chopped vegetables in a large mixing bowl.  Add the drained, still warm potatoes to the mixing bowl and pour on the dressing.  Gently toss all the ingredients together.

While this salad is good cold it is really best served warm or at room temperature.  It’s a bit reminiscent of German potato salad.  Make sure you sample a bite.  Or two.

NOTE:  If you’d like to serve this as an entree cut some spicy smoked sausage or polish sausage into bite size pieces and brown them in a little olive oil.  Stir the sausage pieces into the potato salad and serve with a fresh green salad.

Enjoy!

Asparagus Pickled and Asparagus Soup

Roadside stands and farm markets selling fresh asparagus is a sure sign of Spring in Michigan.  At our house we love asparagus roasted, in risotto, in quiche and, of course, pickled.  Anyway it’s served!  The pickled spears make perfect Bloody Mary swizzlers, make a relish tray look fancy and are just great for munching.  Several people were joking about asparagus and smelly pee so I decided to do a little research to see what causes the smell.  Asparagus, they say, contains asparagusic acid…not a very creative name…which breaks down into sulfur containing compounds when ingested.  Apparently everyone’s urine is pungent after eating asparagus however not everyone has the special gene that allows them to smell it.  Interesting.  In my research I came across a quote by French novelist Marcel Proust from the early 1900s.  He wrote  “asparagus transforms my chamber pot into a flask of perfume”.  I can tell you I do not have the “flask of perfume” gene.  In my reading I also learned that to cultivate white asparagus the shoots are covered with soil as they grow.  No exposure to sunlight causes them to remain white.  White or green, asparagus is very low in calories (about 3 calories a spear) and high in vitamins and fiber.  So enjoy guilt free!!

I bought about 25 pounds of asparagus and turned the majority of it into pickled spears…20 pint and a half jars.  I used taller jars allowing for longer spears but you still trim off several inches.  So as not to let that all go to waste I made asparagus soup.  Recipe follows.

Pickled Asparagus Ingredients:

7-8 pounds of asparagus trimmed to the appropriate length

2 quarts of water

1 quart of white vinegar

1 cup of granulated sugar

2 tsp mustard seed

1 T dill seed

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 T black pepper corns

1 T kosher salt

14 cloves of garlic peeled

1 onion sliced

Trim the spears to approximately 6″ and wash them thoroughly.  Sterilize the jars in a water bath.  In a heavy kettle combine the water, vinegar, sugar and spices and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and maintain the brine at a simmer.

In the meantime clean the garlic cloves and thin slice the onion.

Once the asparagus is trimmed, brine is simmering and onions and garlic are ready begin filling your jars.  I find it easiest to lay a sterilized jar on it’s side to fill it with spears adding some onion slices and a couple cloves of garlic to each jar.  Once the jar is filled top off with hot brine leaving 1/4 inch of head space.  Seal the jars.

Once all of the jars have been filled process them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove the jars and allow them to cool completely.  As with all other canned goods I store them in a cool dry place,  Make sure the jars have sealed before stowing them away.  If a jar did not seal put it in the refrigerator and enjoy within a few weeks.  The quantities above made 7 pint and a half jars.

Allow the jars to sit for a couple of weeks prior to sampling.  That allows the brine to permeate the asparagus spears.

NOTE:  If you like your spears kicked up, add some sliced fresh jalapeño  to each jar or increase the red pepper flakes.

 

All of these yummy pieces of asparagus (and more) were left behind after my pickling and I did not want them to go to waste so they became soup.

 

Cream of Asparagus Soup Ingredients

2 pounds of asparagus pieces

1 medium onion rough diced

2-3 cloves of garlic

2 T butter

24 oz chicken broth

2 medium potatoes peeled and rough chopped

3 ribs of celery rough chopped

1 tsp of thyme

lemon juiced (approximately 1/4 cup)

12 oz half n half

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven heat the butter and saute the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the asparagus, potato and celery.  Saute for 2-3 more minutes.

Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for approximately 20 minutes until all of the vegetables are tender.

Add the thyme and using an immersion blender blend until smooth.  Stir in the lemon juice.

Stir in the half n half and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Bring the soup back to a simmer.

While the soup is warming blanch some asparagus tips and pieces and set aside to add to the soup.

Ladle the soup into bowls.  Add some asparagus pieces and garnish with Parmesan cheese.  Serve with homemade croutons or crusty bread.

NOTE:  Discard the thick tough stalks and wash and cut the tender left over stalks into 1-2 inch pieces.  Blanch, bag and freeze.  They can be used in soup, quiche, or other recipes.

Steel Cut Oats with Chia Seeds

My dad is going to be 90 in a few months.  His conversations with same age and even younger cohorts frequently revolve around health issues.  Comparing blood pressure, cholesterol readings, everyday aches and pains, medications.  And, as the oldest child of that nearly 90 year old, I realize I’m getting older as I start thinking and talking more about things like colon health, good and bad cholesterol, heart health, etc.  when shopping for groceries and preparing our meals.

I have always liked hot cereals like cream of wheat, oatmeal, and remember malt-o-meal??  I was watching an episode of The Chew a few weeks ago where Michael Symon prepared what he called The Worlds Greatest Oatmeal.  I got online after the show and saved the recipe.  A “simple” breakfast which contained nearly 30 ingredients.  Michael Symon’s recipe uses steel cut oats, chia seeds, coconut oil and coconut milk.

Steel cut oats look more like rice than the rolled oats most of us are accustomed to.  They are less processed, take longer to cook, and have a chewier consistency and nuttier flavor.  Nutritionally they are not significantly different than rolled or instant oats.   Chia seeds are one of nature’s superfoods.  They come from a flowering plant in the mint family and date back to the Aztecs.  They are rich in antioxidants, fiber, iron, calcium and contain more omega 3 than salmon.  They also absorb as much as 10 x their weight in water so they help us feel full and satisfied.  All of that makes this a heart healthy, colon healthy breakfast.

My modified version of The World’s Greatest Oatmeal  uses some of the process and ingredients in Michael Symon’s recipe.  And, to be fair, his 30-ingredient recipe included a blueberry compote and a streusel topping which I omitted.

Ingredients:

1 T coconut oil

1 cup steel cut oats

3 cups water

1 cup full fat coconut milk

3 T brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 T chia seeds

Because steel cut oats take much longer to cook than even the old fashioned rolled oats it works best and is most efficient to start this before going to bed.

Heat 1 T of coconut oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and toast the oats for a couple minutes stirring constantly.

Add 3 cups of water and bring the oats to a boil.  Cover the pan and remove from the heat.  Let the pan sit overnight.

In the morning uncover the oats and stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and 1 cup of coconut milk.

Bring the oats up to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes.  About 8 minutes into the simmer stir in the chia seeds.

Ladle into bowls and top with fresh fruit and a little granola for extra crunch.  (My granola recipe is on my blog.).  I used blueberries but you can use your favorite berries, banana, or diced peaches.

Add a little milk at the table and you have a very satisfying, tasty, stick to your ribs breakfast.

NOTE:  If you prefer not to use coconut milk you can substitute an additional cup of water, milk, or half n half.  You may also want to stir in some coconut flakes or chopped walnuts or pecans.

And yes, the chia seeds in this recipe are the same chia seeds that sprout “hair” on the clay heads sold as Chia Pets.

 

Shrimp and Polenta

When we visited Charleston last spring we went to a little brewery for dinner and adult beverages on our first night in town.  Everyone said, if you visit Charleston you need to eat some shrimp and grits.  So…I ordered the shrimp and grits and enjoyed every bite.  This recipe is my take on that dinner but I substituted polenta for the grits.  I like grits but I like polenta a little better.  You can serve this with grits if you’d like.  It’s a really easy meal to prepare and very satisfying.  I tried to enjoy an IPA with my dinner when we were at the brewery but they were tapping a new keg and I had my IPA for dessert.  My timing was better at home.

Ingredients:

4 T olive oil

1/2 cup green onions diced

2-3 cloves of garlic sliced thin

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup fresh parsley chopped

1 lemon zested and juiced

2 T tomato paste

red pepper flakes to taste

3/4-1 pound of raw shrimp cleaned and deveined

salt and pepper to taste

Prepare your polenta (or grits) per package instructions. 

In a heavy skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat and saute about half of the onion, red peppers flakes to taste and all of the garlic for a minute or two.  Add the shrimp to the skillet and cook  a couple minutes on each side.

When they’re done the shrimp will be opaque and the shells will be pink.  Remove the shrimp to a platter and set aside.

You want to cook the shrimp with the shells on because the shells add a lot of flavor to the dish.  Add the tomato paste to the skillet and cook over medium heat stirring constantly for a couple minutes.  Stir in the white wine and a quarter cup of water or chicken broth.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 3-4 minutes to reduce slightly.

Stir in the remaining green onion, parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Add the shrimp back to the skillet and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Dish up some polenta (or grits) into your bowl and ladle on the shrimp and sauce.

Serve with a salad and some crusty bread and a nice cold IPA and enjoy!

NOTE:  I buy white wine in little four packs.  We drink very little white wine and the little bottles are the perfect size for cooking. If you don’t have any wine on hand you can substitute chicken or seafood broth.

I did not do this but, if you prefer, before adding the shrimp back into the sauce you can remove all but the tails from the shrimp making them a little easier, less messy, to eat.

 

Black Rice

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On our way home last weekend after visiting friends we stopped at Horrocks in Lansing.  I’ve always loved that place!  Their website says they are a Farm Market but they are so much more.  A huge selection of beers and wine, all sorts of packaged products including a lot of organic items, meats, cheeses, and, of course, produce.  Many things that you might not find in your average grocery store.  We were with another couple and my friend Jane and I can both spend a LONG time reading labels and looking for new and unusual items to try.  We met a woman in the rice and pasta aisle who is apparently a kindred spirit.  She  was looking for Forbidden Black Rice.  She said she loves the taste and consistency.  We had never heard of it or seen it.  So naturally, each of us bought a bag.  On the way home we looked up recipes for preparing black rice and found instructions for the pressure cooker.

A little more research told me that black rice is a superfood.  It has more anatioxidants than blueberries.  Its always a bonus when something tastes good and is good for you.  Legend has it that it was grown only for the emperors of ancient China and was called “forbidden” because it was off limits to the general public.

Last Wednesday I cooked my bag of black rice.  I served it with chicken with a mushroom sauce and asparagus.  And we loved it.

Ingredients:

2 cups black rice

2 3/4 cups water

1 T olive oil

1 tsp salt

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The instructions are pretty straight forward.  Combine the rice, water, olive oil and salt in the pressure cooker.  Select high pressure for 22 minutes.

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Allow for 10 minutes of natural pressure release.  After the 10 minutes, release any remaining pressure.  Keep the rice warm until you’re ready to serve.

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Black rice is not as fluffy as white and it has a rich nutty taste and a chewy texture.  We liked it much better than brown rice.  I think it would be excellent in a stir fry or a cold rice salad.  I had quite a bit leftover and took the advice of the lady we met in Horrocks and froze it.  Maybe I’ll use it in soup next.

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The day after I had cooked my black rice I got a picture and a text message from my daughter.  Unbeknownst to me, they had cooked black rice as well.  Great minds apparently think alike.  And from the looks of their dish they liked it as well.

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Thank you Kate.  I’m glad we met you in Horrocks and love that you introduced us to forbidden black rice.

Navajo Tacos

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I hadn’t made these in a long time.  What makes these tacos so very good is the fry bread.  The dough is made from very basic ingredients…flour, shortening, baking powder and water.  No yeast.  The fry bread is rustic, flattened and shaped by hand and then fried in hot oil.  Fry bread dates back to the mid 1800s and originated in Arizona.  It reminds me of the sopaipillas we love in New Mexico.  My daughter went to a restaurant in Denver Colorado a few years ago that specialized in tacos served on fry bread.  And fry bread was named the official state bread of South Dakota in 2005.  The fry bread.  It’s what makes these tacos stand out.

Fry bread Ingredients:

2 cups of flour

2 tsp of baking powder

1 tsp salt

4 T lard or shortening

2/3 cup cold water

peanut oil for frying

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Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the shortening until the mixture looks like fine meal.  I cheat and use my food processor…it works great!  With the food processor on low slowly add the water until the dough comes together.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times until the dough is smooth.  Wrap the dough in Saran Wrap and set aside while you make the chili.

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Chili Ingredients:

1 medium onion diced

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

1 T chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp dried oregano

3 T canola oil

1 pound ground pork (or beef)

3 T minced chipotle in adobo sauce

1 T tomato paste

1 can pinto beans

salt and pepper to taste

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Measure out the spices and dice the onion and mince the garlic.

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Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and sweat the onions, garlic and spices together  for a few minutes until the onions are tender.

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Add the ground pork, chipotle and tomato paste.  Cook until the pork is no longer pink.

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Stir in the beans and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Cover and keep warm in the oven while you fry the bread rounds.

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Heat the oil to 375.  I use a wok for deep frying.  The oil maintains a more consistent temperature, it’s less likely the oil will splash and it’s fairly easy to lift things out.  This is a trick I learned reading “The Food Lab” by J. Kanji Lopez-Alt.  An awesome book I highly recommend.

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Cut your dough into six pieces.  On a lightly floured surface use you hand to flatten and shape the dough into a disc.  Keep the discs covered with a clean kitchen towel or Saran Wrap until you are ready to fry them.

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Drop the discs, one at a time, into the hot oil. Cook a couple minutes on each side until the fry bread is golden brown.

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I line a jelly roll pan with paper towel and put a rack on top of the  paper towel.  As the breads finish frying I put them on the rack and keep them in a warm oven until I am ready to assemble the tacos.

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Get your favorite toppings ready so that you can assemble and serve the tacos.  I used shredded sharp cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, black olives, jalapeño and sour cream.  Well, no jalapeños on mine.  You could also use diced onion and salsa.  Avocado is my favorite topping but I did not have any.

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Put a generous serving of the chili on a fry bread and choose your toppings.  Squeeze on some fresh lime juice.

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If you have fry bread left over you can warm it and enjoy it with a little honey, jam or powdered sugar.

NOTE:  You can increase or decrease the seasoning based on your personal taste.  Mine were a little spicy tonight.  Or use your own favorite recipe for tacos.  Like I said, what makes these so special is the fry bread.

I usually open a couple cans of chipotles in adobo sauce at a time and run them through my small food processor.  I put the purée in an ice cube tray and freeze it.  Once the chipotle cubes are frozen I put them in zip lock snack bags and keep them in the freezer.  Recipes typically call for one or two tablespoons and this ensures that the rest of the can doesn’t go to waste.

 

Risotto with Peas and Baby Spinach

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Risotto is a an Italian dish; a perfect comfort food.  Like macaroni and cheese.  In Italy it would be served as a first course.  When prepared properly it has a rich creamy consistency.  It makes a great side dish with shrimp or fish or chicken or you can add the protein to the risotto before serving. Tonight the risotto was the main course.  Risotto is fairly easy to make and it is a very versatile dish.  Almost anything in your refrigerator will work.  Tonight I used fresh spinach and broccoli and frozen peas.    I remember asking my Dad if he liked Chinese food.  His response was, “I don’t care much for rice.”  I don’t think this is a dish my Dad would appreciate.  As an entree or as a side dish.

Ingredients:

1 T olive oil

2 T butter

2/3 cup dry white wine

5 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

1/4 cup shallot diced

1 cup broccoli flowerettes and stems sliced

1 cup peas

2 cups baby spinach

1 T lemon zest

3 T fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 cup fresh grated asiago or Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

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Grate the cheese.  Zest and juice the lemon.

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Heat the oil and butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat and saute the shallot and broccoli for a couple minutes.

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While you saute the vegetables put the chicken broth in a sauce pan and heat.  You will be adding hot broth to the rice.  The hot broth helps to release the starch from the rice so that the risotto cooks properly.

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Add the rice to the skillet and stir to coat the rice with the oil and butter.

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Add the white wine and simmer over low heat stirring constantly until almost all of the wine has been absorbed.

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Add  the chicken broth two ladles at a time stirring frequently.  Wait for the broth to be absorbed before adding more.  This entire process will take about 30 minutes.

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About half way through the cooking process add the peas and the lemon zest.

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When you add the last of the broth also add the spinach.  Continue cooking and stirring until the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender.

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Add the cheese and lemon juice stirring to combine.  Add salt and pepper.  Cover the skillet and remove the skillet from the heat for a few minutes.

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Serve the risotto hot and sprinkle with more cheese.

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Enjoy!  Mangia!

NOTE:  Feel free to use any combination of vegetables.  Leeks, asparagus, fennel, squash, mushrooms.  You can also substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.  Add vegetables that take longer to cook earlier in the cooking process.

Dry reds are the wines of choice at our house so I purchase white wine in the small, single serving bottles.  Perfect for cooking.