Real Food for Real Life

Friday, June 25, 2010

Headed south for a while...

Edisto Island sunset
photos courtesy of Edisto Island Pictures

We're packing up today to head down south to visit the live oaks for a week or so, staying first on Edisto Island, a sea island near Charleston, SC, for a week before having a leisurely wander back home.  I'll be back sometime after July 4th, ready to share some of our adventures with you, but until then, enjoy the summer heat and have a wonderful holiday...

Botany Bay Road, Edisto Island, SC

Thursday, June 24, 2010

And next up is...Toronja

Toronja (Grapefruit)
photo courtesy of Jarritos

In Mexico it is much more common to drink a cocktail made with grapefruit juice or soda (a Paloma) than with lime juice (the "traditional" Margarita).  Go figure that we associate an "American " favorite (we are all Americans after all) so strongly with Mexico, just like we celebrate Cinco de Mayo (the date of a relatively minor battle against the French), rather than Mexivo's true Independence Day of September 16th (freedom from Spain!).  Oh well, I digress...In a no brainer, I decided to use the bottle of Toronja/Grapefruit soda to make this cocktail.  Again. Chris and I did a taste test of the soda on its own, and both of us found it to be very pleasant (and I'm not a big soda drinker)...I could seriously drink this soda on its own an enjoy it (everything in moderation).  I mixed up the cocktail and just said "Wow," this is pretty darn good!  This complimented the Lemon Lime Chicken Tacos we had for dinner last night perfectly...give this a try, it is seriously good...

Paloma Cocktail

2 oz. tequila blanca (silver)
1/3 to 1/2 bottle Jarritos grapefruit soda
1 big juicy lime wedge

Fill a 10oz. glass with ice, squeeze the lime wedge over the ice and drop into the glass.  Pour the tequila over the ice and top with the grapefruit soda.  Sit back in a scenic location (I like my deck) and be transported to Mexico.

And the first up is...Lima-Limon

Lima-Limon (Lemon Lime)
photo courtesy of Jarritos

I was poking around on the internet looking for inspiration for the eleven bottles of Jarritos awaiting me in my pantry.  Cooking with soda seems to involve a lot of onion soup mixes, canned cream soups, ketchup, or jello, none of which sounds appealing to me (quite yucky, in fact), so the thinking cap has gone on and sent me pondering my options.  I have a few ideas, some obvious, some not so, but we'll have to see how it goes.

First out of the box is the Lima-Limon, or Lemon Lime.  I have an agreement with Chris that he will get to taste test each soda before I do anything with it, so I called him to the kitchen and we popped the top.  I must say that the soda was not what I expected at all, the color and taste more reminiscent of Mtn. Dew than the 7-Up that I was expecting.  I am not a fan of Mtn. Dew, but Chris found the taste very acceptable and said he could drink the whole bottle.  If the caffeine content is more reasonable than the dew's, I just may let him in the future...except for Piña, this is the only other one he has tried and he is already bugging me to go to the grocery and buy them all (that's what I get for limiting soda consumption I suppose).

I thought that the lemon lime flavor would lend itself nicely to chicken, and after viewing an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives the night before where Guy visited that Koren-Mexican fusion taco truck in LA, I wanted tacos.  Fortunately the contents of my fridge and pantry allowed me to go in that direction (any real surprise there?)...

 taacos de pollo lima limon con frijoles

I had the chicken and veg marinating, and did not discover until I went to cook them that the gas frill was out of gas. so I didn't get to cook them as planned.  The next evening rolled around, and with family in from out of town, I still did not get to cook this chicken.  This leaves me tonight, with this chicken in the marinade more than two whole days, and afraid of what I was going to get.

What I got was absolute delishiousness....the chicken had a distinct lemon lime flavor, but still subtle, even after two days.  I grilled up the chicken and veg before slicing up the chicken and tossing it with the veg.  This was served on warm corn tortillas with shredded cheese, avocado slices, crema, salsa roja, and shredded lettuce.  On the side we had the frijoles I had made two nights previously (and reheated gently in the microwave).  These tacos were delectable and got me thinking that this marinade would be fabulous for fish tacos (but not marinaded for 2 days!)...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A post postponed...

Sausage and Broccoli Pasta

Okay, so yesterday's plan to make my first dish using Jarritos soda was a bust...I went to light up the gas grill to find the tank empty, as was the spare in the garage (why do we have a spare if it is empty?)...we had errands to run after dinner, we were all hungry, and I didn't feel like coming up with an alternate cooking plan, so we ended up at LaRosas eating za...ate least it tasted good.  I'll have to get those tanks filled and try again this eve...

In the meantime, I'd like to share a super simple pasta dish I made a while back.  This dish is so simple that it could easily become a weeknight staple, especially since it would be so easy to add some other veg to the saute, and the type of sausage used is only limited by what you happen to have on hand.  This made a lot of food and I was able to eat lunch from it for a few days.

Sausage and Broccoli Pasta
1 14-16 oz. box sturdy pasta shape 
     (I used a whole grain penne)
1 head of broccoli, cut into bit sized florets
     (I really cheated this and had a bag of prepared fresh broccoli)
1 12-16 oz. pkg. sausage limks 
     (I used a precooked Italian sausage with sundried tomatoes)
10 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced as thinly as possible
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
a big pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
grated Parmesan, or similar cheese, to serve

Cook the pasta according to package directions, adding the broccoli during the last few minutes of cooking; drain, reserving about a cup of the cooking liquid.  Slice the sausage links thinly and brown in a large saute pan, adding the garlic, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes (if using), during the last few minutes of cooking.  This process will take longer if using a fresh sausage, but not too long since you have sliced it up.  Don't worry about draining off any fat unless it seems like you have a lot- if using precooked sausage this should not be an issue at all.  Toss the drained pasta and broccoli in the pan (or large serving bowl) with the sausage, adding some cooking liquid if it seems dry.  Serve with grated Parmesan cheese,

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yet another tasty burger...

Bison Burger on Ciabatta with Dubliner Cheese,
Simple Slaw, Roasted Potatoes, and Cucumber Salad

Yes, we had burgers again, but hey, it is summer after all,  and what is more perfect for a humid summer eve?  I found ground bison on sale at Kroger for $2.99 a pound and snapped up a few packages for the freezer (it is normally $6.99 a pound!).  Bison is very lean with a wonderful meaty taste that we don't like to cover up with a lot of complicated flavors, and this super simple burger was just divine.  The meat was seasoned with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper before a quick grilling, and topped with slices of Dubliner cheese (a family favorite) before sliding into grilled ciabatta rolls spread with the leftover seasoned butter leftover from Father's, um, good.  A simple slaw (no mayo!), roasted potatoes, cucumber salad (yes, we keep eating that too, but it is sooo tasty and refreshing), and iced tea (unsweetened) with lime slices finished out the meal beautifully.  Isn't summer great?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Just some food related photos and thoughts...

This is the cookbook Nicole brought me from Prague.  The English translation is a little shakey, and there are some unfamiliar ingredients and measurements (internet research, here I come), but I can't wait to start cooking from this most welcome addition to my collection.
Father's Day of corned beef hash and eggs, one of Ben's favorites.  We cheat this one often and use canned hash, and have determined that the Aldi store brand hash is the best, even beating the national brands (it is meatier and less fatty).
Ben's Father's Day dinner...grilled porterhouse steak with seasoned butter, grilled lobster tails, steamed broccoli, and a whole grain brown and wild rice mix.  This was an over the top meal well deserved (and enjoyed) by my dear husband on his day.  Chris tried lobster for the second time and decided that he REALLY likes it (great, with his love of sushi, could this boy develop more expensive tastes?).
This is the rice blend we had for our Father's Day dinner.  The Lundberg Wild Blend is delicious, full of nutty, chewy flavor.  I love this blend, and while it does take a while to cook, it is super simple and I serve it completely plain, no butter. sauce, or even salt (although it is great tossed with grilled/sauteed veggies).  I get this at Kroger for two and change, but I'm sure it is available at other major retailers.
I call this "The Girlfriend Spread," and while Arnita and I didn't eat all this, we did make a big dent in it (yum, yum).  Margaritas, chunky guacamole and salsa with tortilla chips, hummus with roasted red pepper blended in, and a very nice baked brie using sundried tomato pesto.  A good friend, good food, and good drink...what more could a girl ask for for a fantastic evening ;-)
A pitcher of margarita perfection.   
Arnita had to drive home,so that just meant more for me (!).
On the rocks, the best way...
Okay, another shot...Arnita took these photos, just showing that I have my friends trained right!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mountainman redux...

Mountainman Breakfast
and toasted English muffins with wild blackberry jam

We had our second attempt at the dutch oven cooking yesterday morning, this time very successfully.  We made the changes we planned after the first attempt to delicious results and will now most certainly make this while camping...can't wait now to try a different dish. 

Mountainman Breakfast

1 lb. ground sausage (use pork sausage for the fat content)
20 oz.bag refrigerated shredded hash brown potatoes
6 eggs beaten with a big splash of milk
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper

In a 12" camp dutch oven over a full bed of coals, crumble and brown the sausage.  Remove the cooked sausage with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.  Brown the potatoes in the remaining drippings; spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle the sausage over and toss with the potatoes.  Sprinkle on the cheese and cover.  Cook with 8 coals underneath and 16 on top for 15 to 20 minutes, until the eggs are cooked.

In the photos you can see that we have the dutch oven on a galvanized trash can lid.  This is an easy method to contain the coals and protect the surface where you are cooking if camping (this was at the gravel area around my potting table).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I'm back from camp and cooking again...

BBQ Chicken, Southwestern Rice,
and Cucumber Salad

We are all home and relaxing, me and my three guys from an exhausting week at scout camp, and Nicole, from her adventures inPrague.  Except for a crockpot meal on Monday night, not much cooking has been happening,and Nicole was lamenting the lack of leftovers in what is normally a full fridge.   Split breasts on sale at Kroger for one dollar a pound meant BBQ chicken for dinner, and the contents of a veggie drawer that needed to be used lead me to an accompanying rice dish and cucumber salad.  Dinner on the deck with fresh limeade all around (with a bit of tequila for the grownups :) made for a great night at home on the deck.
Ben is a proud grill master and snapped this photo of "his" chicken after he pulled it off the grill.  The unsauced breast to the right is intended for this evening's dinner- this huge breast is nearly a pound on its own, and when we go back to Kroger today for Father's Day steaks, I'll be picking up more of these for the freezer.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cub Scout day camp...

It's here, it's here, my Jarritos is here...

11 flavors, a t-shirt and a CD

Nearly two weeks ago I received  a random email from a marketing firm in LA asking if I would be interested in sampling all eleven flavors of Jarritos soda, and then sharing my thoughts about the product with you, my wonderful readers.    I first tried Jarritos during a trip to Mexico in 2007, and of the few flavors I have tried, my favorite has been the Piña (pineapple).  I don't know how my little blog was selected, but I find it all to just be kinda cool (I'm a newbie to this, can you tell?).  I replied (obviously) that I would be very happy to do this, and after some cheerful coorespondence with the marketing rep, the wait was on.  The much anticipated package arrived Friday afternoon, and not only did I get the soda sampler, but also a t-shirt (can't have too many of those) and a Latin music CD (or those either).  Before I ramble on any further, let me tell you a little about Jarritos, for those of you who may not be familiar...

What are Jarritos...

Jarritos, is a Mexican soda brand started in 1950 by Don Francisco "El Güero" Hill.  Jarritos is made in fruit flavors and with less carbonation than soft drinks made in the US, although the biggest difference lies in the use of real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup, in its production (one of those things our family is trying to limit).   The word jarrito means "j little jars," in Spanish and refers to the Mexican tradition of drinking water and other drinks in clay pottery jugs.

 Today, Jarritos is the leading brand in the US in the Mexican soft drink category and has become a Mexican cultural icon. Whether it is the distinctive glass bottle, or the eleven unique fruit flavors, Jarritos has become fairly well known in the US, and can be found in many major grocery stores. Jarritos flavors are a reflection of Mexico in its array of traditional Mexican flavors, including: mandarin orange, lime, hibiscus, mango, strawberry, lemon-lime, pineapple, tamarind, guava and grapefruit.
Traditionally, water and other drinks were kept in clay pottery jugs called jarritos to keep them cool and fresh. Today, Jarritos bottles reflect this heritage with their unique shape.  Jarritos flavors are based on Mexican regional traditions in food. Grapefruit, for example, is made from fresh grapefruit from the state of Veracruz.   Jamaica (hibiscus) uses extracts from jamaica flowers originating in Guerrero and Oaxaca. The region of Colima provides lemons for a lemon flavor, and the same with pineapple from Tabasco. Today, these popular flavors still come from these regions where each year growers compete to provide Jarritos with the best fruit. 

The challenge...

The easy part of this challenge is to just actually taste each of the flavors and share my opinions with you.  This part of the challenge will also include the opinions of Christopher, my little guy, who has made me promise that he can be part of this.  The bigger challenge will be in how to use these sodas beyond simply a mixer for adult beverages is a given, but can I cook with them as well?  I guess you will just have to keep reading to find out...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Now this IS a tasty burger...

"Now this IS a tasty burger!"

One of our all time favorite movies is Pulp Fiction, and after a bite of last night's burger, Ben said that I had to start this post with a photo of Jules in the Big Kahuna Burger scene.  If I ever have the opportunity to try a Big Kahuna Burger, I will only do so because it has been mentioned in so many of Tarantino's films, as it really doesn't look that appealing to me. 

Last night's burger, however, was a different story.  The Italian Sausage Burger with Garlicky Spinach is the second burger we have had now from the June edition of Food and Wine magazine, as well as the second "keeper."  Chris was a little put off initially by the sight of sauteed spinach in his burger, but declared it delicious once he had a taste.  Between the garlicky spinach and the garlic in the Sundried Tomato Pesto spread on the roll, this is a burger for garlic lovers.
Corn cooked on the grill in its husk is a given in our house to go with just about any summertime burger, but the meal still needed something more.  The big pot of basil growing on my deck needed to be thinned out, and this was the inspiration for the rest of the meal.  I don't have any delectable summer tomatoes yet, but did have some grape tomatoes in the fridge, so I thought I would use the small basil leaves with the small tomatoes and make a Caprese Pasta Salad.   The fairly simple tastes of the salad were the perfect foil for the strong tastes in the burger.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

One recipe, so many possibilities...

9 grain baguette topped with Sundried Tomato Pesto

I love pesto and I love sundried tomatoes, so I whipped up a (big) batch of sundried tomato pesto.  This simple, tasty pesto is just as versatile as traditional basil pesto.  We had this last night on crusty baguette slices to accompany our grilled steak dinner, tonight I will be topping a baked brie with it, and tomorrow I will be spreading it inside some grilled ciabatta rolls for Italian sausage burgers.  I'll probaby even stir a few tablespoons into some low fat cream cheese for a tasty bagel topper (or spread it on some protein for grilling, or toss it with some pasta, geeze, the possibilities are endless :). 

I was working from an open jar of tomatoes so I dumped them and their oil onto my kitchen scale to see if I was correct in my guess that I had about 8 ounces (I was!).  Since I had the scale bowl dirty anyway, I just measured the rest of my ingredients in by weight before dropping it all into the food couldn't get any easier than that!  The following recipe makes A LOT of pesto, so you may want to halve it, or plan for lots of uses like I have (I have never frozen it before, but imagine it would freeze well).

Sundried Tomato Pesto

8 oz. oil packed sundried tomatoes with their oil
4 oz. walnut pieces
4 oz. permesan cheese
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
coarse salt, to taste
additional olive oil, as needed

Place the tomatoes with oil, nuts, cheese, and garlic into the bowl of a food processor and grind to your desired consistency.  Taste for seasoning and add any additional oil desired, process again to combine.  I added a big pinch of salt and about 1.3 cup of olive oil to loosen the pesto as it was very thick.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An old favorite, and a new one, too...

Cheddar Stuffed Chicken with 
Foil Roasted Asparagus, Mushrooms and Prosciutto

I had a request from my little guy for "cheese stuffed chicken," referring to a chicken dish I have made repeatedly over the years.  This recipe comes from one of my oldest cookbooks, Chicken, published by Better Homes and Gardens, and counts as one of my first culinary success stories.  Asparagus is in season and extraordinarily cheap right now, so I thought this a perfect time to try the slow cooked method from The New York Times that I posted on the Facebook page a while back.  This method of cooking did truly infuse the asparagus with the flavors of the mushrooms and prosciutto, while retaining its crispness...I will certainly use this easy method again.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

First attempt at dutch oven cookery...

Mountainman Breakfast

In anticipation of a summer full of camping adventures, Ben and I decided to expand our outdoor cooking skills and bought a dutch oven, a real one that goes on the fire or uses hot coals, not a covered metal oven casserole.  We started with the basic Mountainman breakfast from the Lodge Camp Dutch Oven Cooking 101 book, and from this simple dish learned that we have much learning to do.  Adjusting the heat with the coals is going to take practice, as is the best ways to deal with our ingredients (something we don't give too much consideration too, even if cooking on the camp stove).  From our first attempt we learned to not use frozen potatoes, they cool the pan off too drastically and don't allow the potatoes to brown.  The potatoes were more like mashed potatoes than hash browns; Nicole's comment was that it would have been good with some sort of sauce (again, like mashed!).  We will also try halving huge recipes in the future (we ate from this for days); I don't think we will have burnt food if we do (our fear).  Well, here's what we worked with...I'll give updates as we tweak this...

Mountainman Breakfast

2 lbs. ground sausage (we used 1 pork and 1 turkey)
2 lbs. shredded potatoes
8 large eggs, beaten with 1/4 cup of water (we used milk)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
salt and pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce for serving

In a 12" camp dutch oven over a full bed of coals, crumble and brown the sausage.  Remove the cooked sausage with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.  Brown the potatoes in the remaining drippings; spread evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle the sausage over the potatoes and pour the eggs over the sausage layer.  Sprinkle on the cheese and cover.  Cook with 8 coals underneath and 16 on top for 20 to 25 minutes, until the eggs are cooked.

Notes:  Perhaps is was because of the turkey sausage, but we found that we had very few drippings in the pan and had to add a bit of canola oil to cook the potatoes (which never did get brown).  on the next attempt we will halve the sausage and potatoes, but only reduce the eggs to 6.;  We are also going to toss the potatoes and sausage together. rather than layer them, this should allow the eggs to better penetrate the whole dish.  And again, we will not use frozen potatoes.  The salt and pepper were our additions that were surprisingly not listed in the recipe.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

That's a darn good (turkey) burger...

 These don't even look like turkey burgers, do they?

The June issue of Food and Wine magazine is full of grilling recipes that I will be trying out this summer.  The first up was an Asian inspired chicken burger with a spicy peanut sauce...I had a pound of ground turkey on hand, and as I usually sub ground turkey for beef, it was a natural sub for chicken.  Ben is not usually a huge fan of turkey burgers, saying that they tend to be dry and tasteless, but this one was a hit and he wanted seconds!  The little guy raved as well and made me promise to make them again, and I most certainly will.  A natural with this was an Asain slaw inspired by one I saw not too long ago on Sandi's blog, A New York Foodie.  Give them both a try...

Asian Turkey Burger with Provolone on Ciabatta,
Asian Slaw, and Home Fries

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

No more bananas, please...

Christopher making a batch of banana bread.

For the scout training event we had weekend before last, I had purchased enough fruit for 40 adults.  This was great, except that they forgot to set it out for breakfast and BUNCHES of bananas ended up coming back home with me. I ate bananas every day until I felt like I had them coming out of my ears.  Come Saturday and there were still 16 (!) on the counter, and their state of ripeness dictated that they had to be used NOW.  Christopher wanted banana bread so I found a recipe that would use six (the most I could find) and set the boy to work making the bread himself.  Chris did a fine job, doing everything himself and loved the results all the more for having made the bread himself.  The bananas we had left I froze and will use in future smoothies (also one of the boy's favorite things to make).

Banana Bread
adapted from the Pfaltzgraff Collector's Cookbook
 1 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
6 ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional, we did not use)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Thoroughly mix the wet ingredients, to include the baking powder and salt.  Add the flour and mix to just combine.  Pour into 2 greased loaf pans ans bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the loaves test done.

Kitchen Tip...

Did you find bananas on sale dirt cheap, or just have a few too many around that you don't want to spoil?  Peel the bananas and freeze individually on a lined baking sheet.  Once frozen solid, just pop them into a freezer bag for future use.  Thaw and mash as many as you need for your favorite recipe, or use frozen in smoothies.

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