Locked Down Cooking: Raiding the Freezer

I’m trying to clean out the freezer, using up items before my weekly shopping trip. Since I can’t run out to pick up something I may have forgotten, I’ve had to get creative as I cook. Here are two meals made from what was in the house on those days.

My favorite Oven-Baked Fried Chicken and mashed potatoes, with a little twist: smoked brisket gravy. The thing about oven-baked chicken is there’s not enough drippings to make a good gravy. But in my freezer, I had little secret ingredient to make a great, smoky gravy: burnt ends. These were leftover from my very first smoked brisketContinue reading

Holiday Gifts: Spicy-Sweet Pecans

I received this as an early Christmas gift. Yum. They are addictive. The rosemary is the surprise ingredient that takes it up a notch. This will make your gift boxes and bags really stand out.

Friends Mary and BJ included the recipe.  Here you go:

Mary and BJ’s Spicy-Sweet Pecans

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp finely crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 large egg white
  • 4 cups pecan halves

cooking spray, wax paper, bowls, baking sheet, parchment paper Continue reading

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)