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Tired of Winter Cooking: Some Fresh Ideas

I’m so very tired of winter cooking. Stews, soups (ok, I’m never really tired of soup), roasted meats and veggies. Time to freshen things up.

But with what? The produce section is often disappointing with flavorless items that haven’t seen the light of day. But there are some bright spots and with those I can wave away the winter cooking blues.

First up: Peppers and onions.

This is the time of year when you can find a variety of sweet peppers in all kinds of colors at a pretty reasonable price. My recipes are usually fairly simple. Heat up olive oil, add thinly sliced onions and peppers, season with a dash of salt and pepper. Sauté until they soften and onion are golden. Remove from heat and now you can cook up any number of things: chicken marinated in lemon juice and pepper, thin beef strips marinated in teriyaki and ponzu sauce, pork medallions marinated in apple juice and a bit of apple cider vinegar. The ideas are endless. Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, butter noodles, quinoa…

Or how about Fajitas? That recipe is here.

Next up: Fresh salads.

I found a nice jicama one day and realized I hadn’t made a batch of Jicama Slaw since last summer.  A big bowl of that in the refrigerator to munch on all week really lifted the flavor blahs. You can find the recipe here.

Two other summer favorites that are easy to make mid-winter: Potato Salads (recipes here) and Coleslaw (recipe here).

How about fruits?

Now is the time for Strawberries (recipes here and here)

Blood Oranges (recipes here)

 

And Grapes – one of my favorite grape recipes is Grapes and Sausagesrecipe here.

That should be enough help you get through a few more weeks of winter while dreaming of the fresh vegetables soon to come from gardens and farm stands.

There will be a puppeh update today or tomorrow. Until then…

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Cheesesteak

Ribeye is the canonical cheesesteak meat but I nearly always use flat iron steaks.  This one was cut thin while semi-frozen and tossed in a bowl with onions, green peppers, and salt and pepper.  It marinated for an hour or so – the onions started to wilt a little.That’s provolone starting to melt into the steak and veggies.  I turned small stainless bowls upside down over the two piles to help it along.It worked pretty well.  This is the closest I’ve come to this particular style of cheesesteak, I usually go with a cheese sauce poured over the meat in the bun, and I think I prefer that method although it is just a touch more trouble.

No Really, I’m Still Here and I’m Still Cooking: Sautéed Sausages and Pasta

I’ve been cooking up some great recipes almost daily, but finding the time to put together recipe posts has been difficult. And forget remembering to take photos. Pictured above is Easter dinner, which I did remember to snap. Mostly because as I went to cook the rib roast, I realized I have never transcribed my go-to recipe for this perfect rib roast. I will remedy that in the coming week.

We had snow today, so yesterday before I even sat down to work, I spent time cutting flowers for vases and covering up plants I didn’t want to lose. So there wasn’t a lot of time to think about dinner. Luckily, I had a few items in the frig that needed to be used, so first up for dinner:

Sautéed Sausages and Pasta

  • 1 lb sausage links – I used bratwurst this time, Italian sausages work great, too
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried basil, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 oz dried spaghetti (works best with that, but if you have another style on hand, go for it)

skillet and saucepan

Slice sausages into 2 inch pieces.

Prepare pasta according to package directions, but drain when just Al Dente, you want it a bit under cooked, because it will continue to cook and soak up the sauce in the next step. Reserve the pasta water.

While pasta is cooking, heat oil in skillet, reduce to medium-hi heat, add vegetables and saute until softened. Then add sausage pieces and brown. Reduce heat to medium and cover until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Once sausage is cooked through, add a ladle of pasta water to the pan to deglaze and create a sauce – add more as needed – and stir until well mixed and cook on medium high for a minute or two, reduce heat. Add drained pasta. Toss and let it all cook together on low for about 3-5 minutes to let the pasta soak up the sauce. Add a bit more pasta water if needed.

Serve with Parmesan cheese and salad.

Since it was going to be cold today, I decided soup would be a great idea. I made a traditional Potato Soup (recipe here) but since I had leftover carrots and potatoes from a pot roast earlier in the week, I blended those together with the milk, omitted the flour, and made the tastiest creamy soup base. The flavors were amazing and it was perfect for a cold snowy spring day.



Garden Fresh Pasta Dinner

I had friends over on Sunday and by request, made a garden fresh entrée. The advantage with this type of dinner is, it is quick and easy to prepare while guests are there. We had pleasant conversation as I put it together, which from start to finish was less than 20 minutes.

I apologize in advance, I have no photos of the final dish because I was having such a good time I completely forgot to even get my camera out.

Garden Fresh Pasta

  • 4 tomatoes
  • about 4 basil leaves (or 1/2 tsp dry)

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  • 12 oz linguine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper (or red or orange as desired), chopped into large pieces
  • 2 zucchini, cubed
  • 1 large eggplant, cubed
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 tomatoes (I used a variety from my garden and my friends’ garden), chopped into large pieces
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp dry)

saucepan, skillet, large pot

Blend 4 tomatoes and 4 basil leaves together until smooth and add to saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer while prepping the remainder of the dinner.

In large pot, cook pasta according to package directions, to al dente. Drain, but don’t rinse.

In skillet, heat 1 tbsp of oil, add onions. Saute for a minute and then add peppers. Stir occasionally until they are softened and onions are translucent. Add additional tbsp of oil, once heated, add garlic, zucchini and eggplant. Saute until tender. Finally, add tomatoes and basil, cook for one to two minutes and then add the tomato mixture from the saucepan. Stir together gently and bring to a low boil for about 1 minute. Serve over pasta.

I served it with grated Parmesan, tossed salad and fresh baked bread

Go wild and add whatever fall garden vegetables you have on hand….



 

Sammich Pr0n

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Side Dishes: Antipasto Salad

This is great with Chicken Tortellini Soup or Linguine with Peppers

Antipasto Salad

  • 4 oz can sliced black olives
  • 2 oz jar sliced green olives
  • 4 fresh mushrooms, washed & sliced
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 8 oz green beans, cooked & cooled
  • 1 green pepper, seeded & sliced
  • 1 banana pepper, seeded & sliced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 oz grated parmesan or Asiago cheese

serving bowl

Mix vegetables together in serving bowl.  Blend vinegar, oil, basil & garlic then pour over vegetables and toss.  Salt & pepper to taste. Garnish with cheese.



 

 

Butterbeans and Cornbread

DSC_1430 (1600x1060)We made a run up to a local meat processing place a while back.  It’s just a tad too far away to make spur of the moment purchases or to include in weekly grocery runs.  We take coolers up there when we go and plan on filling them up with various items.  One thing they offer that just puts Kroger’s meat section to shame are their smoked ham hocks.DSC_1425 (1600x1060)This is half of one.  They brought out two whole hocks and asked if we wanted them cut down.  Yes, please!  They are cured and just lightly smoked.  I boiled this one for almost three hours so I could break it apart with a pair of forks.  I cut the rind into lardons and crisped them as bacon and used those crumbled crisps and the rendered fat in the cornbread.DSC_1426 (1600x1060)This is the standard back of the box cornbread recipe, with chopped peppers and a handful of shredded cheddar to go with those bacon-y crisps.DSC_1428 (1600x1060)Recipe for the beans?  This one is pretty good!  The minced veggies add a bit of color and the seasoning suggestions are on point.

Tidbits

DSC02956 (1600x1200)The in-laws gifted us these two fig tree cuttings and sent over a small bowl of figs from the tree they were cut from.  Tasty!  I hadn’t ever eaten a fresh fig before, my only exposure to figs of any sort was by way of those Newton cookies and the occasional holiday candied treat.  They didn’t provide too much info on them except to say they were Italian fig trees.  They say they will grow to six feet and bear fruit in the second year.  Any luck and we won’t kill them before that. DSC_1242 (1600x1060)This is my second try at baking slider buns and I think I’m on the right path.  Those black specks are bits of garlic that I flavored the melted butter with for the pre-bake brushing.  I didn’t worry about them when it went on but I should have known they were going to char in the oven.  It looks like one KA recipe will make 20 appropriately sized buns – 2-1/2 to 3 inches each.DSC_5429 (1600x1060)Bea was in the pot with the jalapenos when I looked out the window but by the time I had my camera in hand she was out of it and back into her usual spot.DSC_1245 (1600x1060)We had chicken enchiladas for dinner today, nothing special – tomatillo sauce, roasted poblanos, and Monterey jack.  I made the corn/black bean salad I’ve done before but new to the table is the hominy/sweet corn/red bean salad.  Both salads have onions and green peppers in a rice vinegar dressing.DSC_5424 (1600x1060)Bitsy is taking her turn in the catnip pot.  They are all just crazy for that stuff.

Mmm… chili

DSC_1187 (1600x1060)That beef roast we used to make the veggie beef soup yesterday was plenty big to allow for leftovers.  Chili sounded good, what with the nighttime temps dipping into the 40s.  I almost brought out the meat grinder for the beef but decided against it in favor of a knife.  I left it in the freezer for a tad too long so it was more frozen than firm but my knife is sharp and I am able to bring a lot of weight to bear.  It ended up in a 1/4 inch dice – almost a mince.  I added the same amount of pork sausage, ending with 2 pounds or so in total.  I wanted to try a marinade so I put the meat into a stainless bowl and drizzled in rice vinegar and soy sauce, sprinkled on garlic powder, onion powder, and various chili powders, grated in half a big onion, diced and added the remainder, several minced garlic cloves, a couple cups of chopped peppers (green bell, poblano, jalapeno), salt, pepper, dry mustard, brown sugar, and maybe a few things more,  I’m sure I’m  forgetting something but this is most of it and should suffice.  I sealed that all into a plastic container and left it in the fridge overnight.20151011_103627[1] (1600x1060)

Cooking it down today was by far the easiest part.  Cook the meat and marinade in small batches and dump those into a bigger pot.  I like my Dutch oven for that.  Once you have the big pot going add your favorite beans and canned tomatoes – I like the tomato bits with green chilies.  I also stir in tomato paste or sauce, depending on how liquid it is, and bring out my secret weapon – anchovy paste.  A tablespoon will do and it adds a nice “something” I’d have trouble describing.  We’ve borrowed a word from the Japanese that covers it: umami.  Let it simmer for a couple of hours on the stove top, or in a 325 oven.  Add water as needed.

Enjoy!

 

Friday Recipe Exchange: Garden Bounty

N1106NIWO126.JPG Eddie Running Wolf of Boulder is carving figures with a Northern Arapaho theme out of the remaining stumps and trees along Niwot Road. The town of Niwot has commissioned him to do the work. For a video of the project, go to www.dailycamera.com. Cliff Grassmick / November 5, 2009

Carving by Eddie Running Wolf of Boulder, Photo from Times-Call

I am completely slammed again this week. Though I am hoping to escape early today and head out to Chainsaws and Chuckwagons to see some of the artists. We take our old tree stump carving very seriously here. Since I didn’t have time to cook this week, I decided to raid JeffreyW’s recipes and photos.

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Let’s start with his Stuffed Anaheim Peppers, pictured above and recipe here

Then there is his Homemade Sauerkraut, for instructions click here.

I bought ribs on sale and am going to make my slow-cooker Polynesian Ribs this weekend, the complete dinner menu and recipes are here. Even if I can’t find time to cook, these are easy and quick.

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JeffreyW took some of his garden harvest and made a fresh batch of Hot Giardiniera last weekclick here.

Have any recipes to share using fresh from the garden bounty? What’s your recipe for fun this holiday weekend? Cooking up anything special?

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I picked two featured recipes tonight, both taking advantage of fresh garden veggies and herbs, like JeffreyW’s lush basil, above. They are simple and quick to make, so you can get back outside to take advantage of the last unofficial weekend of summer.

Pasta w/Fresh Basil

  • 10 oz bow-tie pasta
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch basil (1 loose cup)
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan

saucepan

Cook pasta in saucepan according to package directions.  Drain well.  In saucepan, heat oil, basil, tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute, add pasta and toss with cheese.  Serve immediately.

Collard Greens w/ Bacon

  • 4 slices bacon
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch collard greens (or spinach)
  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • salt & pepper to taste

skillet, saucepan, steamer

Wash collard greens. In skillet, cook bacon till crisp, remove, cool and crumble. In bacon drippings, sauté onions, remove. In saucepan, place steamer and enough water to come to the bottom of the steamer, add greens and steam until tender. Mix honey & vinegar, and a little of the bacon drippings if you like. Toss all ingredients together and serve.

Aren’t JeffreyW’s photos fun? I’m so lucky he came on board years ago. That’s it for this week. Have a safe and fun holiday weekend.  – TaMara

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