Saturday, September 28, 2013

Upcoming Recipes!
I am going to be entering a Burger Contest, and I am working on a fantastic, savory burger: my Chipotle Bacon Chile Cheeseburger with Roasted Poblano Chile, Oaxaca Cheese and Flash Fried Onion Strings with Chipotle Aiolii.  Here's a sample photo, thanks to a friend with a camera:

I am also working on a chocolate cupcake with dark chocolate and Reese's swirl frosting.  Sorry, no photo.  Stay tuned, friends!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Pictureless Post

Shredded Chuck Roast Tacos
This week has been one of great reflection and nostalgia.  Some of it happy and some of it a little painful.  Regardless, I came up with - due to a little absentmindedness - a wildly tasty taco recipe.  While it does take some time, it is worth all three hours.  In addition, I was thinking about College Foodie meals in which one protein product could cover several meals, such as the "week in a day" concept by Rachael Ray. 
 As a kid, my mom often would make a roast of some sort and make several meals out of it:  roast, potatoes with a vegetable one day, roast beef sandwiches with chips and broccoli the next day, spaghetti with roast chunks another day, mini pizzas on English muffins with roast beef and cheese yet another, and so on.  My mom was able to do this also with pork, chicken and turkey.  One bulk protein made a week's worth of meals.  I have been mulling this concept over in my mind so as to help my son eat a balanced diet while away at college.  My mom often made pot roast and made many different meals out of it, and I decided to use that protein and make tacos out of it.  
The reason there is no picture is a bit frustrating and embarrassing.  Last Monday night my phone (an older Blackberry Torch) was charging and I'd forgotten to set it to silent.  The phone rang while I was outside watering my plants, the phone fell off of my dresser and the charger was severely bent, and when I tried to gently remove it, disaster ensued.   I had to wait until the next day to go to my storage unit to retrieve my wonderful "old reliable", my old Nokia flip phone, which has saved my ability to communicate with the world and remain "in the know" several times in the past.  Now, I had given my son my camera last year to use for school projects, so I had been using my Blackberry to take pictures for my blog, ergo why the pictures are the way they are;  not bad, but not camera awesome. While my little old Nokia takes pictures, they are small and a bit grainy compared to today's amazing cell phone cameras.  I finally went to the ATT store yesterday (perfect timing, just before the release of the iphone 5) and ordered my first i Anything.  The sad thing about my wonderful old Blackberry, which I loved very much, is, I lost ALL of my phone directory.  If my friends' phone numbers were not in my Nokia from 2011, or 2006 (the last time I'd used it before 2011), then I have lost them. It has been a bit lonely this week, except for computer messaging, so I have had a lot of quiet time to catch up on work and also to cook.  NOW TO THE COOKING PART!
As I mentioned previously, this has been a week of reflection on the old days and how my mom stretched one main protein (and saved money, which is VERY important to parents putting kids through college!) over a week's time, and also about how technology has changed my life.  While I am the MOST technolgically DEFICIENT person Ever, the advent of the camera phone has enabled me to write and illustrate this humble blog.  During my techno-blackout, there are no pictures of the food.  
Here's my Shredded Beef (Pot Roast) Taco Recipe:
1 large, thick, marbled pot roast (1-2 pounds)
1 large yellow or red onion, or two medium onions, sliced into half moons half an inch thick (to make a bed for the pot roast)
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons (three liberal rounds around a high-sided pot) of vegetable or extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil)
1 can Ranchera Sauce (found in the Hispanic Food section of your grocery store)
1 can Verde Sauce (found in the Hispanic Food section of your grocery store)
1 can or box of chicken stock or broth 
1 large can or bottle of your favorite Mexican beer (I used Tecate)
2 tablespoons Smoked Sweet Paprika
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
salt and pepper
 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
1 tablespoon Chipotle powder
1 tablespoon Poblano or Pasilla Powder
2 tablespoons of dried oregano (crushed in your palms to release the flavor)
 the juice of four limes
In a large, high-sided pot add the oil.  You will want to use an oil that has a high smoke tolerance, such as vegetable or grape seed oil, or, canola oil.  Extra Virgin Olive Oil is alright, if that is all you have, as it will enhance the flavors of the other ingredients, but for searing the meat, which is coming up, one of the other oils would be best for searing. To the oil, add the coriander and cumin seeds.  Turn the heat to low for three minutes, then to medium for three minutes - and watch the seeds begin to sizzle and pop - and then to medium-high heat.  
Meanwhile, season the roast on both sides with half of all of the other dry seasoning ingredients.  If you need more to cover the meat, then add more!  Using a paring knife or a large fork, puncture the meat all over, particularly the fat in the middle of the roast as you season.  When fully seasoned and when the seeds in the oil begin releasing their flavors (your nose will know!) add the garlic and the roast.  Sear it all over, about six minutes per side until all sides are cararmelized, black and brown.  The aroma in your kitchen will be Heaven!
Remove the meat after it has thoroughly seared, add the onion bed to the pot, place the meat atop that, and then add the liquids:  the chicken stock and the beer.  Add the rest of the dry ingredients and the other half of the garlic.  Allow the liquids to come to a boil.  Reposition the roast Just to make sure it is surrounded by the liquids.  As it boils, your neighbors will come knocking on your door to see what you are making.  My oldest son walked by outside to pick something up from my patio, and he texted me about the smell.  Said he was "dying" it smelled so good! 
Now for the easy part.  Cover your pot and reduce the heat to a simmer and allow the meat to simmer for 45 minutes.  Turn the meat after 45 minutes and simmer it for another 45 minutes. There is another  option, which is a bit easier IF you have an oven-safe pot, such as a dutch oven.  If you have a dutch oven, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and, upon bringing the liquids to a boil on the stove top, turn off that stove top heat and place the pot in the preheated oven.  Same time frame applies.  
After the 80 minutes, check the meat to see if it is very loose and if it easily pulls apart.  I have you check that to make sure it is fully cooked.  If the meat still clutches, let it cook for another twenty to thirty minutes.  It WILL be done by that time, regardless of the size of your roast. The aroma will blow you away, trust me.  You will be Quite happy!
Remove the pieces of the roast (because it will NOT come out in one piece now) and let it rest a few minutes before shredding.  Besides, the most difficult part of this meal is about to bore you.  Skim the fat off the top of the remaining liquid in the pot as best and completely as possible.  Next, using either a blender, food processor or immersion blender, emulsify the remaining liquid.  Blend it up!  This is FLAVOR!!!  Set aside a small bowl of the liquid, now your sauce,  and freeze the rest of it for future sauce starters!  
Once the meat has been fully shredded and the fat discarded, add the sauce you had set aside in a bowl.  Mix the meat with the sauce well.  You will LOVE this flavor. Your nose will tell you how good it is!

Now, and FINALLY, prepare your corn or flour tortillas, whatever your preference is, and your cheese, for serving.  You could also finely chop or shred cabbage or lettuce for this, thinly slice radishes, halve a couple of limes or get out your favorite hot sauce or salsa, and serve yourself and your loved ones this amazing beef.  

One last thought:  You Could also take some of the meat and crisp it up in a small skillet if you like your meat a bit crispy!

I served my tacos with Oaxaca cheese I had shredded, with red cabbage I'd finely chopped, and lime juice, and garnished with cilantro.  I will tell you, this reminded me of eating at the food carts in Ensenada, Mexico. Flavorful, filling and satisfying, and completely nostalgic.  

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did.  AND, once I get my new phone, I will make this again and post pictures for you! 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Paprika Chicken and Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Brought to my attention recently by someone whose opinion I highly value, this particular recipe is not necessarily a College Foodie recipe.  How many college students have paprika on hand, let alone a spice rack, and how many college students do we know who have culinary knife skills?  I know that students who are off to a university fresh out of high school and experiencing dorm living are going to rely on their university card and cash from their family to eat at the campus cafeterias and restaurants.  Graduate students and those transferring in as juniors, on the other hand, whose living arrangements (often living in university apartment housing) are more solitary or, in some cases, who are married, will oftentimes need to "fend for themselves" as opposed to practically cohabitating in the campus restaurants. Much of their home time is spent studying, researching and composing papers.  When I was a junior and senior at Sacramento State University, where my son currently attends as a junior, I often cooked "at home" in the apartment I shared with two roommates the first year (then with one roommate the next year).  I often made roasted teriyaki chicken thighs and sometimes spiced chicken thighs (using a packet of taco seasoning).  I think my roomies got very tired of that after while.  When I contemplated writing a College Foodie blog series, roasted (baked) chicken thighs was my very first go-to recipe. Not the first recipe I wrote, but the first one I thought of.  I was thinking more about what my son would like versus what I made back in the day.

With that in mind, here is my exceptionally simple recipe for Paprika Chicken and Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce.  

1 package of chicken thighs 
3 tablespoons Paprika
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped, and separated in half (or, 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic, separated)
6 and 8 sage leaves, six leaves rolled, chopped, and finely chopped, and two more leaves left whole to garnish each of the four chicken thighs after cooking.
Salt and pepper for each side of the chicken thighs, and 2 tablespoons of salt for the pasta water
1/2 stick of butter
1 teaspoon dried sage powder or 6 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus a tablespoon for the pasta water
1 or 2 packages of your favorite fresh frozen ravioli 

To start, bring the olive oil to heat in a large high-sided oven-safe skillet* over medium-high heat.  Also preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the rack in the center. Meanwhile, season the chicken thighs, top and bottom each with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper, and dust each side of each chicken thigh with a heaping amount of paprika.  Smoke Sweet Paprika is amazing with this dish, but any paprika will be just fine.  Add the chicken thighs to the skillet skin side down first. Get a good dark sear on both sides of the chicken.  This may take three to four minutes per side.  Don't be alarmed if the skin appears black-ish.  The paprika will change to that color as it caramelizes with the skin of the chicken.  *If you do not have an oven safe skillet, no problem!  Just place the seared chicken on a baking dish and place that or the oven-safe skillet, whichever you have, in the oven to finish cooking the chicken.  This should take about twelve to fifteen minutes.  To keep the thighs moist, place a foil tent over the skillet or baking dish. 

Bring the pasta water to a boil and liberally salt the water and add the evoo.  This is to help prevent the ravioli from sticking together.  Add the ravioli to the water and stir it around to prevent them from not only sticking to each other, but from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  The ravioli should be done in only a few minutes, three or so minutes, tops. 

Meanwhile, over medium-high heat, add the half stick of butter to a small sauce pan, along with the separated garlic, and allow the butter to melt.  When it becomes foamy, add the finely chopped sage and saute' over reduced heat until the butter browns.  Drain or remove the ravioli from the pot, place it in the sauce pan with the butter sauce and toss to coat each ravioli evenly.  The pasta will begin to absorb the flavors.  So good!

Plate the ravioli - leaving a space for the chicken! - and top with shaved parmesan cheese.  It is beautiful and amazingly flavorful! 

Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest a few minutes.  Plate the chicken, garnish with the fresh sage leaves, and serve!  It is a treat for your palette! 

I made this same chicken a week or two ago and served with saffron scented rice.  Also a wonderful dish.  There are many sides or ways to serve this chicken.  And if all else fails, season the chicken simply with season salt or salt and pepper, bake, and serve with pasta, ravioli or rice.  What is not to like?

Enjoy!  Thanks for your time!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Savory Turkey Tacos

Welcome Back to another episode of my blog series on College Food!  While I used some fresh ingredients and some dried spices, this dish can be made with almost all fresh or all dried herbs and spices.  Turkey Tacos is one of those recipes that parents and students can be assured is healthy with much less fat and sodium than store or some restaurant purchased tacos.  The great thing about cooking at home is that YOU are in control of your ingredients, both the dried and the fresh.  You control the measurement of the ingredients, control the sodium (salt) products incorporated in to the recipe, and you control the portions.  With that knowledge, let's get to the recipe and how you can manage it to meet your own needs. 

I used part fresh and part dried ingredients.  I love using fresh ingredients whenever possible, but I realize that most college students - whose palettes are  more sophisticated than college foodies of yesteryear -  are time and patience deprived, therefore I incorporated both dried and fresh ingredients and spices.  Here's my ingredients line-up:

1 pound of ground turkey
1 small or half a large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 Fresno chili, ribbed, seeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon pasilla pepper powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil  (aka. evoo)
fresh tortillas 

Here's what to do:

Add the evoo to a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the cumin and coriander seeds to the oil and allow the oil to heat.  Be careful, for as the oil begins to heat up, the seeds with begin to pop and the coriander seeds may pop out of the pan.  Add the ground turkey to the skillet, break it up with a wooden spoon, and allow to cararmelize.  After four or five minutes, add all of the dried ingredients.

Cumin and Coriander seeds heating up in the olive oil.  

Incorporate the seasonings and spices thoroughly in with the ground turkey.  Reduce the heat to medium-low after four or five more minutes, and allow the mixture to simmer and thoroughly cook about fifteen minutes further.  Meantime, prepare your tortillas - flour or corn - whatever your preference, although I used flour, to receive the meat. I used a Cheddar-Jack cheese combination, but, in order to reduce calories and fat, use an all-white cheese, such as Oaxaca, Cojita, or Queso Anejo. 

Serve with your favorite taco sauce, pico de gallo, or salsa and enjoy!  The flavors are savory and profound.  Your own kitchen will seem to become your new favorite Mexican restaurant!

If you have absolutely no interest in purchasing your spice set, nor collecting them, you could simply purchase in your spices aisle at the grocery, a packet of taco seasoning. Many grocery stores have a Mexican cheese section, and some of the authentic cheeses are now being sold pre-grated.  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

St. Louis Style Ribs with Tamarind BBQ Sauce

While this is technically not part of my College Foodies Series, it could be, because I did everything on my stove top and in my oven.  These luscious ribs took me a little less than two hours to make, altogether, and the tangy flavor of Tamarind is out of this world!  I love tamarind.  It is a seedy,pod-like fruit found in many lush parts of the world, but my favorite is Mexican tamarind.  It is made into suckers and candy south of the border, and I fell in love with it on my trips to Tijuana and Ensenada, Mexico.  Amazing, versatile and full of strong, tangy heated sweet-and-sour flavor, tamarind can be made in to chutney, various sauces,  concentrated paste, as well as the candies I mentioned earlier.  I learned that one must never underestimate to power of tamarind paste!

Here is how I made this happen:

I started by making a paste, the base of my ribs marinade and barbeque sauce, both.  Here are the ingredients for both:

1/2 red onion, chopped 
4 cloves garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil + 2 teaspoons + 3 more tablespoons
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika
2  tablespoons Tamarind paste
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon honey or brown sugar
 2 teaspoons pasilla powder (or chipotle powder, or chioptle in adobo)
1 tablespoon Tamari sauce
1 tablespoon Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup Pomegranate juice (not concentrated)
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard 
salt and pepper (pinch of each)

To a mini food processor, add the chopped onion, garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper and chili powder. Add the two teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil and a drizzle of Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar (about a teaspoon).  Pulse on low until the chunky onion and garlic have been ground, then finish for about thirty seconds pulsing on high until the mixture has thickened into a paste. 

To a medium-sized bowl, add the spicy paste.  Add the rest of the ingredients except the ketchup, pomegranate juice and tamarind paste and stir thoroughly until fully incorporated.  Place a quarter cup of the mixture into a small sauce pan over medium-high heat with the two teaspoons of evoo.  Add now that tamarind paste, pomegranate juice and ketchup.  Stir as the pan heats up, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer.  This is the barbeque sauce!

The sauce smells ridiculously good and reduces quickly on low heat.  

Remove your ribs and treat it however you need to.  I, for example, not having a great amount of space in my kitchen, had to cut the slab in half in order to fit it on the rack in my roasting pan.  In any event, I decided to steam the ribs, but I had wanted them to have flavor when I steamed them, so I slathered them on both sides with the remainder of the original paste, and allowed the slabs to marinate for about thirty minutes.  Afterwards, I placed them on a rack in my roasting pan, filled the bottom of the pan with about four cups of water, added garlic powder to the water, and covered the ribs with foil.  

Place the racked ribs in the oven at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to an hour. 

After you have deemed the ribs to be done, which your nose will most likely tell you in about an hour, remove the ribs and slather them with the rich, tangy bbq sauce.  Remove the ribs and place them on a shallow lipped sheet (such as a baking sheet) lined with foil. Place the bbq sauce slathered ribs rib-bone side down.  Slather the top with some of the sauce, reserving the rest of the sauce.  

 After fifteen or so minutes, remove the baking sheet, turn the ribs meaty side down, and roast for another fifteen or twenty minutes.  Afterward, add quite a bit more of the sauce to the meaty top side of the ribs slabs, and place on the bottom rack under the broiler.  Do not have the rack above the center position, as the sauce splatter is really horrible.  Broil for five to eight minutes, until the dark sauce has turned into a thick glaze.  Do not let the sauce burn!  Remove the sheet or sheets from the oven, allow the meat to rest for about seven to ten minutes.  Remove one slab, place it on a cutting board designed to catch fluids, and using a cleaver, find the soft meat between the ribs and chop the ribs apart.  

 Using a cleaver to chop the ribs up is the fun part!

Now, serve with your favorite side dish or dishes, and enjoy!  Be sure to moisten a paper towel or two and have extras!  These ribs are tangy and sticky!  I served my ribs with my old fall-back oven roasted spice crusted potatoes.  I spiced them with coriander seeds I allowed to pop open as the oil in the pan heated up, cumin seeds, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, stone ground mustard, black pepper with a good pinch of lavendar salt to allow for a nice aroma that pairs well with the floral aroma of the tamarind sauce.  I also added a little parmesan cheese and stirred the potatoes to allow the cheese to melt and crust on to the potatoes.  Good flavors! 

FINALLY, Time to Eat!!!!!

In-House Cook's Lasagna Rolls, Lasagna, and In-House Cook's Bacon Bacon Cheeseburgers!!!

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