Real Food for Real Life

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A new Puerto Rican favorite...

Pernil with greens and yellow rice

I love the flavors of Latin America and I love cooking with my crockpot, so a recipe that gives me both of these is just about perfect.  I found this recipe over at Gina's Skinny Recipes, one of my regular blog reads.  Pernil is a Puerto Rican pork roast, and while this version is by no means traditional, it certainly is easy and delicious.  Thanks, Gina!
Slow Cooker Pernil
adapted from Gina's Skinny Recipes
3 lb pork butt (shoulder) roast
5 cloves garlic, crushed 
1 tbsp coarse salt
1 tsp oregano
1tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper black pepper
3 oranges, juice of (1/2 cup)
2 limes, juice of
Using a sharp knife, cut slits into the pork and stuff holes with half of the crushed garlic. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour over pork. Place in the ceramic part of the crock pot, surround with the citrus remains, cover and refrigerate, turning pork occasionally so the marinade covers all of pork.
After 8 hours, or overnight, remove pork and shred using two forks. Remove liquid and citrus remains from crock pot and add pork back to crock. Squeeze the citrus to extract the juices and add about 1 cup (or more, if you like) of the liquid back and adjust salt, pepper and cumin (you will probably need to add more). Let it cook another 15-30 minutes. Store leftovers in the cooking liquid.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Freezer treasures...

Thai Chicken with simple slaw

I have been on a bit of a mission to use up all the stuff I have tucked away in the freezers (way too much).  After doing a quick inventory of what was on hand, I noticed the May issue of Food and Wine magazine staring up at me from the coffee table.  Right there was the answer for the package of leg quarters in the basement freezer.  I had everything on hand to make this Thai chicken recipe except tamarind concentrate, so I just left that (and the sugar) out and subbed in the mango syrup that I did have.  The recipe said to marinate for 20 minutes but I did it overnight instead and am glad I did.  The flavors of this dish were great, especially with the sauce spooned over, but I generally don't like to eat chicken off the bone (too messy and not worth the effort), and this recipe did not change my mind.  I will definitely make this again, especially considering how much the boy liked it, but will use boneless, skinless breasts and thighs the next time around.  The only thing we had with this was a simple slaw, made even simpler by just being shredded cabbage marinated in a bit of seasoned rice vinegar.  Super simple and the cabbage stays crunchy, and the only way I can get the boy to eat cabbage.

Thai Chicken
adapted from Food and Wine

marinated chicken 
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce 
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
 4 whole chicken legs, skinned 
  dipping sauce 
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 
1 small garlic clove, minced 
1 small Thai chile, seeded and minced 
2 tablespoons mango syrup
1 tablespoon water 
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil 
1/2 cup chopped cilantro 
 In a mini food processor, process the cilantro, fish sauce and pepper to a coarse puree. Coat the chicken with the marinade. Let stand at room temperature for20 minutes, or refrigerate overnight  .In a bowl, combine the mango syrup with the fish sauce, lime, garlic, chile, sugar and water.    Preheat the oven to 400°. Light a grill. Rub the chicken with the oil and rub the grill with an oiled paper towel. Grill the chicken over moderately high heat, turning, until charred, 12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, until cooked.  Just before serving, stir the cilantro into the dipping sauce and serve with the chicken.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spicy, creamy, crunchy goodness...

Buffalo Burger with Bleu Cheese Celery Slaw
and Easy Steak Fries

Sometime last week we were watching an episode of triple D, but the only thing I can remember about the episode is a celery bleu  cheese slaw that was served with hot wings.  I have had that stupid slaw on my mind all week, so enough was enough, I had to make the slaw.  I did not have any wings in the freezer but wanted the spicy bite against the cool slaw, so I decided on buffalo burgers.  Preparing these was as simple as basting the burgers with hot sauce while they were grilling; we used Frank's Extra Hot Red Hot to ensure that they were indeed spicy, but you could obviously use whatever suits your taste.  I used sirloin burgers here, but would have actually preferred turkey or chicken, so again, use what you have or like.  The slaw was so crisp and delicious, I don't even know how to describe it, you just have to trust me and give it a try.  To finish out the meal we had easy steak fries, which I couldn't resist dipping in Frank's spicy BBQ sauce. 

Bleu Cheese Celery Slaw
adapted from Guy Fieri and Triple D

bleu cheese of choice
bleu cheese dressing of choice  

Yes, seriously, this has only three ingredients.  Use what ever amounts you want to make.  I had some celery sticks in the fridge and a wedge of gorgonzola dulce (may favorite bleu), so that is what I used.  Slice the celery very thin and then crumble/grate the bleu cheese into the same bowl.  If not eating immediately, just stash the bowl in the fridge at the point.  just before serving mix in just enough of you favorite bleu cheese dressing to moisten the slaw and serve.
Note- only make the amount of slaw that will be eaten at the meal.  We had some leftover and when we went to eat it a few days later it wasn't so good.  The celery had released water, leaving it limp and the slaw wet :(

Peonies in a Piilsner

"Mommy!  Put that camera away!"

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Manager's Special dinner...

Simple Broiled Salmon, Brie Cream Linguine, 
and steamed vegetables

I have taught me husband well and he, too, is a great appreciator of the "manager's specials" at the grocery store.   When he was shopping for my Mother's Day dinner he found the brie at $3.49 a wedge and bought two.  We still had the second wedge a few days later when I was reading a blog post by Cooking with Caitlin, and was intrigued by her Brie Cream Pasta.  Perfect!  I now knew just what to do with the brie (besides just eating it, which would have been okay too :).  I did not have the asparagus she used in her recipe, but I did have two bags of prepared broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, also manager's specials at 79 cents each (actually only 29 cents each after my coupons :).  I would have been fine to eat just the pasta and veg, but Ben likes a piece of protein with his dinner, so I went scrounging through the freezer.  What did I find but yet another manager's special, a thick 12oz piece of beautiful salmon that I had snapped up for $2.99.  Chris had a leftover grilled portabella mushroom because the silly boy won't eat salmon...unless it's in expensive sushi that is, than he'll make a pig of himself.  We squeezed fresh lemon all over everything on the plate which really made it, and there was enough pasta and veg leftover for lunch the next day.

Brie Cream Pasta
adapted from Cooking with Caitlin

1 lb pasta (spaghetti, linguine, or fettuccini), I used 13.25oz of whole grain linguine
1 wedge of Brie, rind removed
1 cup 2% milk
 fresh lemon wedges
salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper

Cooke the pasta in salted water until a minute or two shy of al dente; drain and leave in the strainer.  While the pasta is cooking, remove the rind from the Brie and cut into small cubes.  Return the pan to medium heat and warm the milk and brie until the cheese is soft; whisk until smooth and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Add the pasta back to the pan and stir for a minute or three, or until al dente and the sauce is absorbed and coating the pasta.  Serve with fresh lemon wedges- this is a must.

Simple Broiled Salmon

This technique works with any choice of seasonings, you can even brush the salmon with a salad dressing of choice.  Just make sure there is at least a small amount of oil in whatever you decide to use.  We are not fans of the skin, so by placing the fillets on unoiled foil we are able to use a spatula to lift the cooked fillet and leave the skin behind.  Added bonus is easy cleanup.

 Salmon fillet(s)
olive oil
seasonings of choice

Preheat the broiler and line a broiler safe pan with foil.  Place the salmon on the foil, oil lightly, and season as desired.  Broil 4 to 6  inches from the broiler.  Thinner pieces will be done in 6 minutes or so, but a thick piece such as this, you may want to finish in a 350 oven for another few minutes.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A belated Mother's Day post...

 Brie Smothered Pork Chops and
Steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise

Except for being in the middle of a three day bout of vertigo, my Mother's Day was fabulous.  The boys did everything the whole day, bought me a nice little bunch pretty flowers (that still look great almost two weeks later :), and most impressively, worked together to make a fantastic meal.  They cheated a bit and bought a cheesecake, but that's okay, I'll forgive them :)

The brining produced and incredibly juicy and delicious pork chop while the sweet "pan sauce" was the perfect counterpart to the slightly salty brie.  We did not have any Calvados, so Ben subbed bourbon, and in doing it again I think I would keep the bourbon.  I did wish that there had been more apples, so a repeat will involve doubling the pan sauce (not really a sauce).  The Hollandaise was perfect but left Christopher complaining of a sore arm after all the whisking, but hey, how many 12 year old boys can say they can make Hollandaise?  The leftover sauce firmed up in the fridge and made a wonderful spread on breakfast bagels for the whole week following :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Iced Coffee Yum!!

Iced Coffee Yom!!

When the weather turns warm I love iced coffee.  What I don't love is paying $4 for one, nor knowing exactly what is in it, and I'm quite sure that I would not be happy with the calorie count.  Making my own at home does away with all of that, plus I can enjoy one (or two) whenever I like.  While I normally take coffee black with no sweetener, I find that when it is iced I like just a touch of both sweet and white.  I just add ice to a tall glass and drizzle a bit of agave syrup over the ice before filling with leftover coffee (I've been keeping leftovers in a Rubbermaid bottle in the fridge).  I give it a stir with my straw and add a splash of coconut or almond milk (forgive me, but I just don't like cow's milk).  I haven't tried it yet, but think that a vanilla or chocolate flavored milk would be divine here.  The agave syrup stirs easily into the cold beverage and at 60 calories for a whole TABLESPOON of the stuff (I think I might be using 1/2 teaspoon at the most).  So what is that, 10 calories?  The coconut milk has 80 calories for a whole CUP, and again, I'm using just a bit so the calories are minimal.  

Save yourself the $4 and massive calorie count and try making your own iced coffee at home.  Use whatever sweetener and whitener you like, in whatever amounts you like, and make it your own.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Don't forget me...

I know I haven't written in a while (and it was pretty sporadic even before that), but I wanted to assure you that I'm still here and that casa en la cocina is not coming to an end. The master's degree is nearly finished...I'll be writing my thesis over the summer, defending it mid August, and then receiving my degree (hopefully I pass muster :)  The presence of my physical body in class won't be required after the first week of May, allowing me to concentrate solely on the thesis and not a thousand other things, so I expect to start visiting with all of you again at least once a week.  Until then, take care (and don't forget about me).

Harrison Hall at sunset

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I love these darn things...

Tamales de puerco con salsa roja, frijoles negros y ensalada de maíz
Pork filled tamales with red sauce,black beans and corn salad

I love tamales and have fond memories of the sweet tamales (tamales dulces) I had in Mexico, some filled with a sweet corn mixture and some with pineapple.  I have never tried to make a sweet tamale at home, but will make savory, usually filled with pork.  As much as I love them, I don't usually make them more than once a year because them are time such, when I do make them it will usually be a double or triple batch (they freeze fairly well).

I was in the midst of a severe craving for tamales last week, and with leftover pulled pork in the fridge and masa harina in the pantry (a staple), tamales were going to be had.  I served these with a corn salad (or relish) and black beans made with  adobo and beer.  A note about tamales is  that as long as you have the basic technique for making them, you can put whatever you like in them...and the corn husks?  When I first started making tamales (quite a few years ago now) I used to have to seek out the husks, but now they are easily found in any large grocery store (or your local Aldi).  This recipe makes 12 to 15 tamales, but I advise soaking a few extra husks, because if you are anything like me, you will tear a few in the process.

adapted from Zaeela Martínez, found in In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs

 20 (or so) dried corn husks
2 1/3 cups masa harina
1 tsp. salt
2 cups warm water or chicken stock 
4 oz. shoetening
2+ cups of filling of choice 

Soaking the corn husks:  Place the corn husks in a large bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let soak at least 1/2 hour.

Making the masa:  Combine the masa harina and the warm water or stock in the bowl of a stand mixer, stir to combine well.  Place into the mixer and start beating while adding the shortening by spoonfuls.  Continue beating for 3 or 4 minutes (longer if beating by hand or with a hand mixer) until the mixture is very light and fluffy...this is important so that the finished tamales are not heavy and dense.  

Forming and filling the tamales:  Remove the corn husks from the water and gently squeeze out the excess, then pat dry with a kitchen or paper towel.  Place the corn husks on the counter with the rough side down and the narrow end pointing away from you.  Spread a scant 1/2 cup of the masa over the bottom 2/3 of the husk in a rectangle, leaving the narrow end uncovered.  Spoon a few tablespoons of your choosen filling into the center of the masa.  To enclose the filling, fold the sides of the husks together...the masa will come away from the husk and you can form it over the filling.  Fold the sides of the husk in, overlapping them tightly, then fold up the pointed end in, leaving the wide end open.

Steaming the tamales:  Arrange the tamales in a steamer with their open ends up, placing a ball of foil in the center to act as a prop.  Pour one inch of boiling water into the pan (or up to the bottom of your steaming basket) and lay a clean, damp kitchen towel over the tamales (this helps hold in the steam).  Cover tightly and bring to a boil; reduce the heat to maintain a gently bubbling and steam for 45 minutes to 1 hour, replenishing with boiling water if necessary.
When are they done?:  The tamales are ready when the masa is firm to the touch.  Remove from the steamer and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.  The tamales may be served in their husks, or unwrapped and placed on individual plates with sauce and sides.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Better without frying...

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan

I found eggplant on sale at a price that could not be passed up, so I snapped up four of these beauties without even knowing what I was going to do with them.  The cold weather meant something substantial and comforting, so thoughts drifted to Eggplant Parmesan.  But, I hate frying, so I thought I'd lighten things up a bit and roast the eggplant slices instead.  So, so glad I did.  This dish was elegant in its simplicity, and the taste was divine.  It tasted even better the next day (and the next, and the next)...yes, I had this for lunch for three days in a row, it was THAT good.  I didn't miss the pasta, but the boys stated that they would have liked some with the dish, but that will be up to you and yours.

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan

1 large onion, diced fairly fine
1 tbs. olive oil4 large clove garlic, minced
1 tbs. dried oregano, crushed
2 tsp. dried basil, crushed
1 heaping tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup dry red wine
4 large eggplants
olive oil
coarse salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 and 1/2 lbs. mozzarella, divided use

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  In a fairly large pot, saute the onion in 1 tbs. olive over medium high heat oil until softened and just turning golden.  Add the garlic, oregano, basil, pepper flakes, salt and pepper; saute an additional minute until fragrant.  Stir in the tomatoes and wine and bring to a boil before reducing the heat and letting the sauce simmer while you prepare the eggplant.

Brush two baking sheets with olive oil.  Trim the ends and slice the eggplants into 1/2 inch slices and arrange on the oiled baking sheets.  Brush the top of each slice lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom after 15 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Spray a "lasagna" pan, or other large baking dish, with nonstick cooking spray.  Ladle 1/2 of the sauce into the bottom of the pan, spreading it evenly.  Layer in 1/2 of the roasted eggplant to completely cover the sauce.  Layer 1 pound of mozzarella slices or shreds over the eggplant...I used fresh here, but the bagged mozzarella "shreds" would work too.  Cover the cheese with the remaining eggplant, again arranging it to cover completely.  Ladle over the remaining sauce, cover the pan tightly with foil, and bake for 45 minutes.  Uncover the pan and layer on the remaining 1/2lb. of mozzarella...I did use the bagged shreds here...and bake uncovered an additional 15 minutes to melt and brown the top cheese layer.  Let the Eggplant Parm rest on the stove top at least 1/2 hour before cutting.  This made 8 large servings.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Christmas Tradition...

Poppy Seed filled Kolacky

We were away for Christmas this year, so Ben was not able to compete in the annual Kolacky baking contest.  Not wanting us to be without a Christmas Kolacky, his sister sent us one via second day UPS.  Undoubtedly, Becky would have won this year as this was the best one that we had ever had.  I posted a picture of the Kolacky in a Christmas album on Facebook where a friend saw it and wanted the recipe.  Since I was originally going to email it to her, but as I have been so remiss in posting, I decided to share it here.  As it turns out, I had already posted this last Christmas, so the recipe can be found here.  Ben uses Solo Poppy Seed filling and says that he uses about 3/4 can for each roll (and leftover filling is good eaten right from the spoon :)

While I didn't take a photo this year, another traditional (in the sense that we eat it at all holidays) holiday dish from Ben's family is Escalloped Pineapple.  One of my purposes for this blog was to create a recipe collection for my (and anyone else's) future use, but when I looked for the recipe here I found that this must have recipe was not included.  Out came the book of handwritten recipes and cooking commenced.  This recipe, like the Kolacky, is short on detailed instruction...I've played with it over the years, cutting the amounts of butter and sugar and subbing soft wheat bread for the white, cutting off the crust sometimes, keeping it others.  This year I used the whole amounts given for butter and sugar and used the white bread (with crusts).  It was just perfect.

Escalloped Pineapple

4 cups white bread cubes
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup margarine (I use butter)
1 can crushed pineapple (I use the large can)

Mix ingredients and bake 30 minutes at 35o degrees.

I find that I usually use more than 4 cups of bread cubes; I use stale bread and keeping cubing and mixing in until the mixture is not too soupy.  To get it nice and golden brown with crisp edges (my favorite part), I find that the baking time is usually closer to 40-45 minutes in a 9" x 13" glass baking dish.
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