Real Food for Real Life

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chorizo makes everything taste good...

Tacos de Chorizo y Papas

If your kids love tacos (which ones don't?), but you would like to change it up from the usual "taco meat", you need to give these chorizo and potato tacos a try...they are just as easy and inexpensive to prepare, and you'll love the change...

Chorizo and Potato Tacos

16-20oz. pkg. refrigerated shredded potatoes
2 tbs. canola oil
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 lb. fresh chorizo

Serve with crunchy tacos or soft tortillas of choice and your favorite taco toppings- we used just shredded queso Chihuahua, and Tapatío hot sauce.  On the side we had shredded romaine, avocado, pickled jalapeños, and white beans dressed with diced red onion, lime juice, olive oil, cumin, and garlic.

Brown the chorizo in a large skillet over medium heat (cast iron works nicely for this); once browned remove to a paper towel lined plate and drain off the fat from the pan.  Return the pan to medium heat, add the oil and once it is hot, add the potatoes in an even layer.  Cook until browned all over, about 20 minutes- the trick is to not fuss with the potatoes too much, but to allow them a chance to brown before flipping them.  Once the potatoes are brown, add back the chorizo and toss to combine before heating through.  Serve with your favorite taco toppings and enjoy.

Monday, December 27, 2010

And the winner is...

Maddie, Becky, Ben, Kallie, and Sandy

I hope that everyone had a wonderful (and safe) Christmas.  The five of us traveled to Toledo to spend Christmas with Ben's family.  On Christmas Eve my beautiful mother-in-law prepared a lavish (and most delicious) spread for seventeen (yes, I said 17) and then it was off to the Christmas tree for the Walgreens gift exchange.  This has become a fun tradition where we draw names the day before and then go shopping at Walgreens to find the "perfect" gift for a whole $5!!  This adventure has resulted in some very interesting finds, including some unexpectedly nice ones...although, I have a double dare issued to Ben to actually try the beer and nuts he got from cousin Nick this year ;-)

The real event of the evening was the 3rd Annual Kolacky Contest.  Ben enters this contest, not I, as he has told me I'm not "allowed" to because I'm not "blood" (Slovak that is).  Who's to argue?...he makes a fine kolacky and it's one less thing for me to make each year :-)  The kolacky are judged on appearance, how much filling makes it to the end of the roll, taste, and similarity to the original (that would be Chief's, Ben's grandmother).  Cousin Maddie entered for the first time and snapped up the first place prize, proving to everyone that she is the reincarnation of Chief in whose honor the contest was started.  Ben perfected his pastry this year, but cut back on his poppy seed filling...a move that resulted in a slide from last year's second place winning (after his mother's, who can argue?) to third this year :-(  There's always next year...but he's going to have to compete against Christopher who says he's entering next year :-)

I'm giving you the recipe that everyone uses.  This recipe does not include a lot of detail, but is as it was passed down from Chief, so it is up to each baker to interpret it...Ben's family traditionally uses poppy seed filling for the large rolls pictured here, but there are a multitude of fillings available.  Ben's Aunt kallie makes absolutely delicious, melt in your mouth, small kolacky and my favorite of these have an apricot filling.


1 pkg. yeast (proofed)
2 sticks butter 
2 tbs. sour cream
1 cup half and half
4 egg yolks (beaten)
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tbs. sugar
4 cups flour

Mix together, add yeast mixture.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Punch, knead, and divide into 4 equal pieces.  Roll to 1/4" thickness in a rectangle.  Spread filling 1" from edge, roll up, and place on a greased baking sheet.  Allow to rise two hours covered with plastic wrap.  Brush with butter, pierce holes in the top with a toothpick or fork.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Oh my easy Tex Mex goodness...

Chile Rubbed Pork Chop with
Chorizo Cornbread Stuffing

We had had chili earlier in the week and there was still half a cast iron skillet of cornbread left (made with diced jalapeños :).  I had some fresh chorizo in the fridge (bu,t of course), so I knew I wanted to make a cornbread stuffing using the chorizo.  But what to have with?  I was paging through the January 2011 issue of Food and Wine magazine, and near the very end I happened across a recipe for grilled chile pork chops and I had my answer. 

Now it's 10 degrees and snowy outside, so I was not going to venture outside to cook these, so i just seared them up nicely in the same skillet I used for the chorizo and aromatics.  The pork was juicy and ever so flavorful, while the stuffing was delicious with a bit of heat from the chorizo.  Ben commented that the stuffing would have been nice inside some nice fat chops, and that would have made a very nice way to serve them (although this was so much easier).

Chile Rubbed pork Chops
(adapted from Food and Wine, Jan 2011)

4 thin pork chops, loin or sirloin, bone-in or bone out, your choice
1 tbs. ancho chili powder
1 tbs. ground corriander
1 tbs, Mexican oregano
4 cloves garlic, minced
juice and zest of 1 lime
1/4 cup olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
lime wedges, for serving

Place the chops into a glass dish.  Combine the remaining ingredients well and rub over the surfaces of the chops to cover completely.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  A half hour before cooking set the chops on the counter to come to room temperature.  Heat a large saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  Once the pan is hot, place in the chops, working in batches if necessary so as to not crowd the pan, and leave to cook undisturbed for 4 minutes.  Flip the chops and cook the other side for 4 minutes; remove from the heat and keep warm while cooking the remaining chops (if necessary).  Serve the chops with lime wedges.

Chorizo Cornbread Stuffing

5 cups crumbled cornbread, left uncovered overnight on the counter
1/2 lb. fresh chorizo, removed from the casing and crumbled
1 large yellow onion, diced
inner leafy parts of a head of celery, chopped
2 jalapeños, finely diced (optional- mine were in the cornbread)
2 cups (or more) chicken stock
1 egg

Cook the chorizo over medium heat until almost cooked through; if there is a lot of visible fat in the pan, spoon it off, otherwise, don't worry about it.  Add the diced onion and celery and continue cooking over medium heat until the vegetables are soft.  Add the chorizo mixture to the cornbread and toss to combine.  Pour one cup of chicken stock into a measuring cup and beat in the egg until completely combined; pour over the cornbread and toss to combine.  Add more stock as desired (some people like their stuffing "wetter" than others).  Turn into a baking dish and place uncovered in a 350 degree oven until the egg is set and the edges and top are browned and crispy, about 45 minutes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

For the Brussels sprouts haters out there...

Bacon Sauteed Brussels Sprouts
and Grilled Steak topped with Bleu Cheese
(lot, and lots of bleu cheese...umm, umm, um)

I like Brussels sprouts just fine, as do Ben and Nicole, but Matt and Chris do not (although I blame Chris's dislike on hearing his brother state years ago That HE didn't like them).  One of the latest cooking show rages is to saute the sprouts with bacon or pancetta...and the promise is always that this is a dish for those who swear they hate Brussels sprouts.  I like the sprouts anyway, and bacon is always if this would make the boys like them too, than all the better.

I halved these and broke them apart into leaves before cooking, which was a little time consuming, but I really liked how this allowed more of the sprouts to brown up into caramelized goodness, so it was worth the effort.  Now if I could say they were a hit with the boys (big sigh)...  Matt wasn't home to try them and Chris only ate them begrudgedly, still convinced he didn't like them before one bacon glazed leaf ever touched his lips.  Oh well, the rest of us really liked them...

Bacon Sauteed Brussels Sprouts

1 1lb. pkg. fresh Brussels Sprouts (if you have a choice, get the smallest ones you can get)
1/4 lb. bacon, diced
coarse salt & fresh ground black pepper

Wash and dry the sprouts; with a paring knife, halve and cut out the bit of core before breaking apart into leaves.  In a large non-stick pan saute the bacon over medium heat until crispy; remove to a paper towel lined plate, reserving the drippings in the pan.  Add the leaves, season with salt and pepper, and saute over medium heat until cooked to your preference (I like a lot of browning but don't want them too soft).  Just before serving toss in the reserved bacon.  One pound of sprouts will give you four generous servings.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A little beer is always good...

Beer Brat with Caramelized Onions
and Twice Baked Potato Casserole

I found a family pack of brats on sale and knew immediately what I wanted to a trip back to the bakery for some nice hot dog buns and a trip to produce for onions and I was off...

Beer Brats with Caramelized Onions

1 pkg, fresh brats (I used 8 from a larger pkg.)
2 lbs. yellow onions, peeled, halved & sliced thickly
4 tbs (1/2 stick) butter, not margarine
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
12 oz. bottle/can of beer (whatever you have around)
good quality buns and a coarse grain mustard to serve

Place the brats in a baking dish and then in a 350 degree oven; cook, turning occasionally, until nicely browned, about 45 minutes.  Place the onion and butter in a fairly large pan with a lid; season with salt and pepper, cook the onions over medium heat until richly browned, stirring occasionally, about 25-30 minutes.

Pour in half the beer to deglaze the pan- make sure you scrape up all the good bits.  Nestle the cooked brats into the onions and pour fat from the baking dish (on to paper towels and into the trash is easy).  Using the remaining beer, deglaze the baking dish; pour this liquid into the pan with the brats and onions.  Cover the pan and simmer 10-15 minutes; uncover and raise the heat to medium- cook until most of the liquid is reduced.  Serve the brats in good sturdy buns smeared with grainy mustard and a generous amount of the onions.

These onions were delicious; reminiscent of French onion soup.  Since Christopher would not eat them with his brats (ketchup...yuk!!), I had some left over.  I spread these on flat bread and topped it with some Swiss cheese before putting it in the oven to get all nice and toasty...supper yum ;-)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Now that's some good (cheap) steak...

Steak with Mixed Peppercorns and Pomegranate Glaze,
Fresh Green Beans and Whole Grain Rice Blend

Almost every morning I get a new recipe from and when I saw this one I just knew I had to make it.  I bought a large inexpensive piece of sirloin and used 1/2 for this meal, sticking the other half away in the freezer (I'll probably make this again).  This dish was incredibly easy to make, and by making sure not to cook this too long, even the inexpensive sirloin is tender and flavorful...dare to cook this well done though and I think you'll have leather.  The pomegranate sauce was have to try this...

Steak with Mixed Peppercorns and Pomegranate Glaze
1 1 1/4-pound top sirloin steak (about 1 inch thick)
Peppercorn mélange, coarsely ground
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 cup pomegranate juice
4 teaspoons (packed) light brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, divided

Sprinkle steak very generously with coarsely ground peppercorn mélange and salt. Sprinkle each side of steak with half of chopped rosemary. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak; cook to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steak to platter to rest. Add pomegranate juice, golden brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar to skillet; boil until reduced to scant 1/4 cup glaze, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Season glaze to taste with salt.
. Slice steak; divide and arrange alongside what ever you are serving it with. Drizzle glaze generously over steak and serve.
I still had half the bottle of pomegranate juice left so I made a vinaigrette.  This sweet tart dressing was perfect over greens with a sprinkling of walnuts and bleu cheese crumbles.  I also mixed some with dijon mustard and basted some salmon with it before broiling; that was super good too.

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

1 cup pomegranate juice
4 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed

Whisk all the ingredients together and store in the fridge.  Shake well before using.  I had mine around for about three weeks and it did not seem to lose any quality during that time.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some (belated) Thanksgiving treats...

 We had an overabundance of marshmallows in the house left over from various scouting events this summer and fall, and knowing that they won't keep until spring (not and remain soft anyway), we needed some ways to use them up.  Chris wanted to make a contribution to the Thanksgiving sweets selection, so he used one bag to make some cereal treats, using a corn cereal instead of rice crispies (Hey, ya gotta use what you have).  You can't tell it from this action shot, but the marshmallows Chris microwaved to soften became HUGE...which got us to wondering what would happen if we nukerated the fist sized marshmallows we had in the pantry from Grandma S...we've yet to try that :-)
 All set and ready to cut...
 Chris cutting them up and stacking on a plate...and yes, he does have a cheek full...
 Yum yum, and a nice change from the ubiquitous rice crispies...
 I made pilgrim hats cookies last year for the November Cub Scout pack meeting and had been requested to do it again, so that was good for another two bags.  The first step is to "glue" the marshmallows to the fudge stripe cookies with a bit of chocolate frosting (or vanilla)...
 We also had chocolate bars left from the summer so I used those to make the coating; you could use chocolate chips.  Run a heavy knife over the chocolate and place in a microwavable bowl with a good glug of cream.
 Microwave at 50% power for two minutes and then stir until all the chocolate bits are melted.
 The cookies were placed on cooling racks over waxed paper.  Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cookies to cover completely; the excess will drip below and leave a nice finish on the cookies.  Leave the cookies for a few hours and the chocolate will firm up again; albeit, not quite as firm as the original chocolate since a bit of cream was added, but it is the cream and the tempering of the chocolate from the stirring that gives it the glossy look.
 Once the cookies were firm I scrapped the chocolate from the waxed paper and microwaved to use it again.
The finished pilgrim hat cookies...I thought I had bought a small tube of yellow icing to pipe on buckles but found that I had instead bought gel (fail! as Christopher would tell me).  The cubbies had just wrapped up their popcorn sale for the year so I popped some scout corn and used the kernels as the buckles, using a bit of frosting as glue again.  The leftover chocolate?  The remelted chocolate was drizzled over graham crackers and dusted with sprinkles.  So easy, but these things were devoured.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Long time no see (read)...

Cholula Chipotle Wings
Hello's been awhile, hasn't it?  I wrapped up my first semester of grad school yesterday and does it ever feel good to be done.  A few other students have told me that the first semester is the hardest and that it gets easier now...let's just hope that's true :)  I certainly learned that I need to improve my time management skills...and to think, I always thought those were pretty good :)  Oh well...I'll write about the past semester sometime soon on my other blog if you're interested in the gory details.

I've got lots to share, and with it nearly being Christmas, lots more to here's hoping for some consistent writing efforts (for a while anyway).  When I last wrote in October, I had earlier in the week received a shipment of Cholula salsas picantes (hot sauces) to review.  The Cholula has a wonderful flavor and for that I would recommend it; but if you are looking for heat, you'll want to look elsewhere.  I found the original to be a wonderful addition to a fried egg on toast (Christopher's comment- "You want some egg with your hot sauce?").  The Chili Garlic we sprinkled on our Pasta de Picadillo where it added a very nice note.  The Chili Lime I'm not to sure of, I'm going to have to try it with some chicken or fish.  The Chipotle I found to be very tasty, with just a touch of sweetness to set off the smokiness.  This one I have found particularly enjoyable sprinkled on cheese pizza.  Remembering how much I liked the chipotle maple sauce I had tossed my oven baked wings with, I decided to try the Cholula Chipotle as a wing sauce.  I took some crispy wings from the oven and tossed them in the Cholula, no butter or anything else added, and this was indeed a wonderful use for the sauce, and it could not have been any easier.  If you are looking for a "hot" sauce with a lot a flavor but a mild heat, Cholula is a must try.
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