Friday Recipe Exchange: Just a Little Salsa Flavor

Photo by JeffreyW

Photo by JeffreyW

I have lost my cooking mojo. I have a stash this <————> big of recipes I want to try and share with you, but every time I look at my kitchen I go,“meh”. So next week I’m going to begin blogging in a bit of a different way and hope it brings back enough creativity to overcome my kitchen ennui. I hope you’ll check in and see how it’s going. There will probably be plenty of notes on Bixby antics. He’s become quite the clown. Spoiler alert, he has a girlfriend.

Until I can rediscover my kitchen magic, here are some recipes from 2012 that take advantage of garden bounty:

I am not a fan of canning. When I am overrun by tomatoes, I lean more towards freezing bags of pureed cooked tomatoes to use in sauces and soups later on. I also love to make a batch of salsa each week when the produce is fresh. Since I was faced with an abundance of tomatoes this week, I felt it was time for some salsa.

I have a Vita-Mix, which means if I’m not paying attention, salsa quickly goes from chunky salsa to picante sauce in the blink of an eye. Tonight my first batch went to full juice before I realized what I was doing. I’ll pulse my next batch and pay closer attention. Not sure what I’m going to do with the juice – but it sure tastes good.

Tonight’s recipes are all about tomatoes and what to do with the bounty from the garden or farm stand. I bet everyone has a favorite salsa recipe, I like mine fresh and simple. JeffreyW has a good salsa recipe and a nice Salsa Verde in case you’re tired of tomatoes, recipe here. He also makes and cans batches of his Awesome Sauce™, recipe here.

I love tomato season – sliced on a plate, grilled with olive oil, pasta caprese salad (recipe here), or just going out to the garden and eating the grape tomatoes right off the vine.

Are tomatoes a summer favorite? What’s your favorite way to prepare them? Anyone (besides JeffreyW) canning? And I know you have some salsa recipes to share…

Featured tonight, salsa recipes:

TaMara Fresh Salsa

  • 4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 6 green onions
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ to 1 bunch cilantro, remove stems
  • 2 to 4 jalapenos*, remove stems
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • dash of limejuice if desired

blender or food processor

In blender or food processor, add all ingredients and coarsely chop until blended well**.  If you can make a day ahead, it gets even better.  Seal in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.

**If you prefer a chunkier style salsa, you’d be better off chopping vegetables by hand.

JeffreyW’s  Salsa:

DSC_7740 [1024x768]

(Oh, you wanted his recipe…)

Couple of the jalapenos, a smallish onion or two, those green peppers, and most of the tomatoes.  Added a couple of dried ancho peppers all snipped small, a dash of chili powder, a few garlic cloves, a good squirt of lime juice, a bit of salt and fresh ground black pepper

(I think this is why I write the recipes and he takes the photos – both of us working to our strengths)

That’s if for this week. Have a great weekend – TaMara

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Thanksgiving Files: Hearty Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I was looking through the archives trying to decide which recipes to repeat and this one caught my eye, mostly because I had totally forgotten this cooking method. So reposting as an idea for your holiday dinner. For all the Thanksgiving recipes, click on this link: Thanksgiving Files.

I’m never going to turn away mashed potatoes.  Ever.  But I do have a favorite style – unpeeled and hand mashed potatoes.  I love creamy ones too, but with a good gravy, the hearty ones really hold up.

A while I ago I wrote about a mistake I made cooking potatoes and how I used a recipe I remembered from a few weeks before to save them.  Well, I decided to try it for real this time.  I could not track down the recipe, but did the best I could with what I remembered.  I must have remembered pretty well.  They turned out great.

This recipe uses unpeeled potatoes, but you can peel them and whip them for creamy mashed potatoes suitable for the fanciest Thanksgiving table.  And don’t be startled, but you don’t boil the potatoes either, you cook them in cream and butter. Yummy.

Hearty Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • 1/4 cup half & half
  • 1/4 cup water or broth
  • 3 tbsp to 1/4 cup of butter
  • 4-6 small garlic gloves, peeled and minced
  • 6 to 8 medium potatoes (russet or yukon gold work best)

4-qt saucepan

Add half & half, water, butter and garlic cloves to the pan and turn heat to low and let butter melt and liquid heat.  Meanwhile, scrub potatoes well and cut small (not diced, but smaller than 1-inch cubes).  Add to liquid and turn heat to high.  Stir constantly until liquid begins to boil, turn heat down to medium-low, cover and let cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 20-30 minutes.  Keep an eye on them and turn the heat lower if it looks like they might stick – if you feel like you need more liquid, add half & half.  There is so much water in the potatoes, this technique works really well.  And the potatoes are extremely creamy because you haven’t soaked them in water.  When they are tender, turn off heat and mash to desired constancy.

Originally posted November 2011

Smoked Pork Shoulder

This has a generous rub of ground coriander seeds, coarse black pepper, kosher salt, and garlic powder.  I made several slits all over the shoulder and inserted whole cloves of garlic – more than a dozen, you can see one there amid the pulled meat.  It spent the night in the smoker, set at a low temp, I doubt it made it to 200.  It sat on a rack over a pan of apple juice to help provide moisture, and I expect the reduced and defatted juices will make a delicious addition to the pork.  It has turned windy and cool and made cooking to a finish in the smoker too long a process to contemplate so I brought it in to the oven.  It hit 160 and I pulled it to cool.  I did take a sample, because.. smoked pork!  I used apple wood and cherry for the smoke.

Cranberry Roasted Chicken

I was reorganizing the freezer today and found two bags of cranberries. Not possible! By this time I’m usually out and anxiously waiting for the season to begin again. But last year they were really inexpensive and I stocked up..then the bags got buried under vegetables. I took one out and thawed it, along with some chicken thighs. I used the recipe below, which is an adaptation of my original Cranberry Grilled Chicken from July 2010, but did a bit of experimentation. I lifted the skin on the thigh, seasoned and added the sauce between the meat and the skin. I replaced the skin, brushed it with olive oil and roasted at 400 degrees. The skin was crisp and flavorful and the meat was moist, tender and had cranberry infused through it.

No secret for anyone who reads the blog with any frequency that I love cranberries.  This cranberry chicken is tangy with a sweet and tangy crust.  Great with rice and a salad. I left out the marinade of cranberry juice and wine with this adaptation.

Cranberry Roasted Chicken

  • 4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
  • 8 oz whole berry cranberry sauce (I made my own from fresh cranberries)
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp ground dried mustard
  • ¼ tsp crushed garlic

bowl, saucepan, baking dish

In saucepan, mix together all ingredients except chicken, bring to a boil, stirring constantly, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Loosen skin from chicken thighs, season meat, add 2-3 tbsp of cranberry mixture between skin and meat (I pulled the skin most of the way off, covered the meat with cranberries and folded the skin back over it). Brush the skin with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees until cooked through.

Crispy Baked Chicken and Gadget Update

Chicken à la noir.

Kinda wish I had that lighting all the time.

This was going to just be a gadget update, but I thought the chicken turned out so good,  I figured I’d include it.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my newest gadget and I’ve been using it pretty consistently since it arrived. I thought I’d give an update, because I’m really pleased with it. It’s almost all pros. It’s a breeze to use, it doesn’t take a lot of force to penetrate the meat. I love the way it infuses the meat with whatever seasoning or marinade I cover it with – quite literally it helps the meat absorb all the marinade in a couple of seconds. Another plus is how neat it is while tenderizing – the meat, especially chicken, doesn’t need to be wrapped before pounding – there is no meat flying around the kitchen. The real plus is how easily it cleans. Because of the guard between the base and the meat, stuff doesn’t get all caught up in the tines. A bit of soap and hot water and the thing is spotless. Really important with chicken. The one con I have, and it may be a strength issue for me, is that sometimes the tines get caught in the meat and I have to pry it out, kind of like pulling a stick out of mud, and start again. This happens with the thicker parts.

Today I used it to tenderize chicken breasts before breading and oven roasting them. When making this basic oven fried chicken, breasts can be difficult because they can dry out easily. Pounding them flat first makes for quicker cooking, less chance of drying out.  And here’s the recipe I used today:

Oven Fried Chicken:

First I seasoned the boneless breasts with salt and lots of pepper. I pounded them on both sides. Then I dipped them in an egg wash (1 egg and 2 tbsp of water per 4 breasts) and then dredged them in a mixture of bread crumbs, panko bread crumbs and seasonings – I used garlic powder, basil, sun dried tomato flakes, rosemary and a touch of oregano.  I lined them up on a foil covered baking sheet, covered them with foil and baked at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Then I raised the oven temp to 425 degrees, removed the foil and baked for an additional 5-7 minutes until crisp.

They were very moist on the inside, with a nice crisp crust. Leftovers will be great in lunch salads…

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Tomatoes

Photo by JeffreyW

I am not a fan of canning. When I am overrun by tomatoes, I lean more towards freezing bags of pureed cooked tomatoes to use in sauces and soups later on. I also love to make a batch of salsa each week when the produce is fresh. Since I was faced with an abundance of tomatoes this week, I felt it was time for some salsa.

I have a Vita-Mix, which means if I’m not paying attention, salsa quickly goes from chunky salsa to picante sauce in the blink of an eye. Tonight my first batch went to full juice before I realized what I was doing. I’ll pulse my next batch and pay closer attention. Not sure what I’m going to do with the juice – but it sure tastes good.

Tonight’s recipes are all about tomatoes and what to do with the bounty from the garden or farm stand. I bet everyone has a favorite salsa recipe, I like mine fresh and simple. JeffreyW has a good salsa recipe and a nice Salsa Verde in case you’re tired of tomatoes, recipe here. He also makes and cans batches of his Awesome Sauce™, recipe here.

I love tomato season – sliced on a plate, grilled with olive oil, tomato cucumber salad (recipe here), or just going out to the garden and eating the grape tomatoes right off the vine. Are tomatoes a summer favorite? What’s your favorite way to prepare them? Anyone (besides JeffreyW) canning? And I know you have some salsa recipes to share…

Featured tonight, salsa recipes from me and from JeffreryW:

TaMara Fresh Salsa

  • 4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 6 green onions
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ to 1 bunch cilantro, remove stems
  • 2 to 4 jalapenos*, remove stems
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • dash of limejuice if desired

blender or food processor

In blender or food processor, add all ingredients and coarsely chop until blended well**.  If you can make a day ahead, it gets even better.  Seal in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.

**If you prefer a chunkier style salsa, you’d be better off chopping vegetables by hand.

JeffreyW’s  Salsa:

(Oh, you wanted his recipe…)

Couple of the jalapenos, a smallish onion or two, those green peppers, and most of the tomatoes.  Added a couple of dried ancho peppers all snipped small, a dash of chili powder, a few garlic cloves, a good squirt of lime juice, a bit of salt and fresh ground black pepper

(I think this is why I write the recipes and he takes the photos – both of us working to our strengths)

Back to Basics: Grilling Steak

A little background. When I began What’s 4 Dinner Solutions, it was a subscription menu service.  Because of the experiences of the people around me, I targeted it to families and specifically those who were intimidated by cooking. I wanted them to have easy, fool-proof recipes that kept them away from fast foods. It grew and grew and then as my life went in another direction, it kind of morphed into this blog.

I want to explore some cooking basics, just because I think everyone can use a refresher now and then. And also, while I was watching a cooking show the other night I realized I could use to improve some of my basic skills, too. I’ve gotten a little sloppy over the years.

Since it’s Memorial Day Weekend, I thought grilling would be a great place to start.

Photo by JeffreyW

It’s a pretty basic skill. There are some tips to grill the perfect steak every time. Cut isn’t as important as cooking technique. My favorites are sirloin, t-bone, rib eye, occasionally I’ll do a NY strip steak. JeffreyW has had some luck with flat iron steaks. I haven’t played with that one enough to have a good feel for it. Pick your favorite and let’s start grilling:

Step 1 – Always have meat at room temperature before grilling. This means taking it out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before grilling. Season it, cover it and set it on the counter.

Step 2– Seasoning. Start with the basics while you perfect your technique.  You’ll want to salt it, lightly if it’s a thinner steak, a little heavier for a thick steak.  Use pepper and garlic liberally, With these you are creating a crust that will grill up nicely on your steak. Later on you can move to coffee rubs or seasoned rubs.

Step 3 – Grilling. You’ll want a very hot flame to sear both sides of the steak. Here’s the trick, put the steak on and do not turn it until you can easily move it when you give it a push with a  utensil (usually about a minute or 2). Flip it and repeat. Then move it to a medium flame (or away from direct flame on a charcoal grill) and let grill. For rare your total grilling time is about 5 minutes a side, including searing. Use a meat thermometer until you get a feel for it. NEVER cut into it to test it, see step 4. Rare to medium-rare is going to give you the best grilling experience.

Step 4 – Rest.  Steak (and roasts, too) need to rest for 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute. This keeps your steak from losing all its juice when you cut into it.  If you cut into before that, you’ll be chewing a completely dried out piece of meat, no matter how rare.

That’s it. That is a perfect steak. I’ve heard some people put a pat of butter on it as it rests, I’ve never tried it, but watch enough cooking shows and you’ll see someone do it. Some people use steak sauce…I have no idea why. A good baked potato and salad are all I need with my steak.

Have a good holiday. And remember to thank a vet somewhere along the next three days.

Cracked Pepper Garlic Roast

After a long talk with my local butcher Friday, I decided to try a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for a while.  A garlic and pepper butter spread used on an inexpensive cut of beef.

The butcher kindly picked out a nice sized roast he thought would be good for what I was trying to do.  It was about 5.5 lbs, enough to feed 4, with leftovers.

It was pretty simple and the results were incredibly tender, juicy and flavorful.  The menu was simple, as well,  I made garlic mashed potatoes, trying something new, I sautéed the garlic in the butter while the potatoes steamed, added milk and let the whole mixture get good and hot before adding to  the well drained potatoes.  They mashed up nice and fluffy while staying nice and hot.  The gravy was simply roast drippings made into a quick roux and added enough water to make a nice thick gravy.  We all wished I’d made more.   Alton (not that one) made green beans with bacon and sun-dried tomatoes, which were excellent.

Here’s the recipe for the roast:

Cracked Pepper Garlic Roast

  • 5 lbs or more of tri-tip or similar roast
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 4 tbsp cracked pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced

roasting pan

The roast I had was three pieces held together by connective tissue and fat.  It was well-trimmed, so I didn’t need to trim.  Mix together butter, pepper and garlic, spread 1/2 in between the layers.  Then coat the top of the roast with the remaining mixture.  Tie together or skewer the roast.  Let sit for at least an hour at room temperature.  You can make it the night before and store in the refrigerator, lightly covered in plastic.  Remove and bring to room temperature before cooking.

Pre-heat over to 475 degrees (a bit lower than the technique Kirk Spencer taught me) because I didn’t want the butter to burn.  Place roast in the oven at this temperature for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 130 degrees.  You want it to be about 130 degrees when you remove it because it’s going to rest for 15 minutes, at which time it will reach about 145 degrees.  This will give you a medium rare roast in the center and the outer ends will be more medium.  If you prefer a rare roast, pull it out at 125 degrees.  It will reach about 140 degrees after resting.