Thursday Night Menu: Crash, Bang Edition

My day started out with a bang. A 16 year old girl, rushing to get her brother and herself to their morning finals, hit my car at a stop sign. Physically everyone was fine, my car has some minor damage, but she was an emotional mess. Thank goodness I had a bag of homemade cookies and a box of tissues in the car. Really, when everyone is physically unharmed, a hug and a chocolate chip cookie can go a long way to fixing everything. My boss (super hero today) got her brother to his final, the police officer gave her a note for her test (along with a ticket, poor thing) and an hour later we were all on our way. In the meantime, she and I got to talk and hopefully I calmed her down enough to take her ‘easy’ chem final (in my life there was never an easy chemistry anything). So that was my day, how was yours?

In honor of holiday and accident stress, we’re going with a crockpot/slowcooker menu tonight. And if you ever wonder why I use the term slowcooker, it is because crockpot is actually a trademarked name and they frown on people using without permission. Ask me how I now this. The cornbread is adapted from an Alton Brown recipe. I prefer to cook mine in a cast iron skillet, but if you don’t have one, a glass baking dish will be fine. I left the salad fixings up to you, but Salsa Ranch Dressing is one of my favorite ways to top off a salad, so I ‘suggested’ that.

On the board tonight:

  1. Creamy Mexican Bean & Chicken Soup
  2. Creamed Corn Cornbread
  3. Tossed Salad w/Salsa Ranch Dressing

Creamy Mexican Bean & Chicken Soup

  • 2 boneless breasts, cut in lg. pieces
  • 2 boneless thighs, cut in lg. pieces
  • 4-14 oz cans pinto beans*
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, chopped
  • 1 tsp (1 cube) chicken bouillon
  • 6 cups water
  • ½ tsp to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp to 1 tbsp chili powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 oz sour cream (opt)

large saucepan

Add all ingredients (except sour cream) to slowcooker and cook according to manufacturers directions, (usually at low for 8-10 hours). Using a potato masher, slightly mash beans during last 20 minutes of cooking. Serve with dollop of sour cream.

*if you’d like to use dried beans, use 1 lb, soak overnight, drain, rinse, cover with water, bring to a boil for 15 minutes, turn off heat and let sit for an hour. Drain, cover again and bring to a boil, reduce and let simmer for 4 hours. If you are at high-altitude like I am, a pressure cooker is probably your only way to get beans to cook completely. Bring to full pressure, reduce heat and let simmer at full pressure for 1 hour.

Creamed Corn Cornbread

  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup creamed corn

Cast iron skillet or 8×8 baking dish, melt 2 tbsp of butter and use to coat pan.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix well. In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, and creamed corn, whisking together to combine thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients to the buttermilk mixture and stir to combine. Add more buttermilk to the batter if it will not pour. Pour the batter into the skillet. Bake until the cornbread is golden brown and springs back upon the touch, about 20 minutes.

Tossed Salad w/Salsa Ranch Dressing

If you can’t find salsa ranch dressing:

Mix 1 cup ranch dressing with 1 cup salsa

Shopping List:

  • Salad fixings
  • 8 oz buttermilk dressing
  • 8 oz favorite salsa
  • 2 boneless breasts
  • 2 boneless thighs
  • 4-14 oz cans pinto beans
  • 6 green onions
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 4 oz sour cream (opt)
  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup creamed corn

Also: crushed garlic, chicken bouillon, cayenne pepper, chili powder, salt & pepper, sugar, baking soda


Lazy Sunday.  I went to the store this morning and was thinking it was Saturday until I got there.  Made no difference for the grocery trip because they are open Sunday mornings.  I was going to buy some beer to cook the refried beans I had planned but the blue laws restrict beer sales until after noon.  I had some stout beer at home so I wasn’t too bummed.  I think it worked fine.

I wanted to do a South Western themed dinner but didn’t want to do the usual nachos.  I have some roast pork put up in Mason jars that I figured would make great carnitas.

Carnitas, literally “little meats”, is a type of braised or roasted (often after first being simmered) pork in Mexican cuisine

…Prior to serving, the pork, along with some of the rendered liquid, is placed in fairly shallow pans to maximize surface area, then roasted at high (375 to 425 °F or 190 to 220 °C) heat for a few minutes to produce the desired alternating texture of succulent softness and caramelized crispness.

–via Wikipedia

I was right, the canned pork came out great, some crispy brown edges and butter tender.  Yummy!  Traditionally served on corn tortillas but the fried flour tortillas worked fine.

The refried beans were simple enough, start some onions in oil, sprinkle in some cumin seeds and add some minced garlic and a minced jalapeno.  Then dump in a couple of cans of pinto beans and use a potato masher to mash half of them into mush.  Simmer the mixture for an hour or more, adding beer (or chicken stock) as needed to keep them from drying out.  They need stirring pretty often to keep the beans from sticking.

Enchiladas were tortillas stuffed with chorizo sausage, onions, cheese, and a bit of ancho sauce.  Cover the stuffed rolls with a cheese sauce, enchilada sauce, drizzle some ancho sauce on, bake at 350 for 30 minutes then sprinkle some shredded cheese on top and return to the heat.

The guacamole was about as uncomplicated as it could be:  Mash two avocados with some finely chopped onion and the juice of a lime, add a teaspoon of salt–Ta Da!


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Mmm…Chorizo Chili

IndyLib, in comments on the cornbread post, mentioned chili.  Got me thinking about chili, and the day dawning chilly and cloudy sealed the deal.  Chili it was gonna be.  Now then, in the past chili was always a simple enough affair.  Brown some meat, dump in some tomatoes and a can of beans, sprinkle in some chili powder, maybe some extra peppers of one kind or another, the serve with cheese on top.  Lots of folks seem to rely on cornbread as a side for chili but it never was something that we associated with chili.  Saltine crackers, yeah, maybe cheese crackers of some sort.  Lately Mr J has been topping her chili with crumbled nacho chips and I’ve taken after her lead, though I prefer mine more as chili scoops as anything.

But I want to talk about the chili.  Now that I’m a famous food blogger [Hi Mom!] what was once good enough just won’t cut it.  Had to go find an interesting (and photogenic!) chili recipe. I just so happen to have some chorizo on hand so I included that in the recipe search.  Came across this one. Love the blog name.  I didn’t have any hamburger on hand so my chili had pork as the only meat, about half plain ground pork, and half my homemade chorizo.  Thinking hard on it, the only other changes were mostly Mrs J related.  Didn’t add the fresh jalapenos, the ground chipotle, or the cayenne.  Mrs J’s reaction when she read the “2 tablespoons cocoa powder” caused me to reduce that to 1 tablespoon. I did have some fresh banana peppers that I wanted to use up, so I diced those as an addition, they came to less than a cup.  I used my frozen “hockey pucks” of red bell pepper.


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Thursday Night Menu: South of the Border Edition

Photo from the Larilyn and Alton collection

Okay, the What’s 4 Dinner crew is a bunch of invalids today.  Feel better soon JeffW.  I’m nursing a nasty burn on my arm, the product of not paying close enough attention while pouring soup into a container – it was hot, the container was cold and a small explosion occurred. No medical attention was required, I’m just whiny about it.  So we’ll just move right on to the menu, nothing to see here people.

Tonight we have a guest menu from my friend Alton Gunn, who has provided us with several good recipes.  It’s delicious, I’ve been lucky enough to have it several times (good are the friends who feed you).  And can I just say: TEQUILA!

On the board tonight:

  1. Carne en su Jugo
  2. Pico de Gallo
  3. Tortillas
  4. Margarita Melon Salad

Carne en su Jugo

  • ½ lb bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 lb sirloin steak, sliced thin and then cut in 1-inc pieces
  • 1 can (28oz) tomatillos
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt
  • 2 can pinto beans
  • sour cream for garnish
  • shredded cheese
  • chopped onions for garnish
  • fresh lime juice for garnish
  1. Brown the bacon in a large dutch oven. Add the beef and cook until brown (leave the bacon grease in the pot).
  2. Blend the tomatillos in your food processor and strain well to remove the seeds. Add about a cup of the tomatillo liquid back into the food processor and blend with the cilantro, and garlic.
  3. Add the tomatillo/cilantro/garlic sauce and the rest of the strained tomatillo liquid to the beef and bacon. Add salt to taste.
  4. Stir in pinto beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beef is tender, about 1 hour.
  5. Ladle into bowls  and garnish with pico de gallo (recipe below),  fresh lime, sour cream.
  6. Serve corn or flour tortillas on the side.

Al’s Notes: I’ve made this with beef and pork. The basic sauce is good for stewing pretty much any meat. Will try chicken next.  Works well in the crockpot

Pico de Gallo

  • chopped onion
  • chopped tomato
  • chopped cilantro
  • splash of lime

Mix together 20 to 30 minutes or more before meal.

Margarita Melon Salad

  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 shots tequila
  • 2 tablespoons orange liqueur (I used Triple Sec)
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ cantaloupe, seeded and cubed
  • ¼ honeydew melon, seeded and cubed
  • ¼ small watermelon, cubed

Many markets sell halved melons and wedges of watermelon, making it easy to prepare this salad closer to desired amounts.

Combine lime juice, tequila, liqueur, and sugar in a bowl. Add melons and toss to coat with tequila and lime. Serve in shallow bowls.