Friday, October 31, 2008

Easy Peasey Mac and Cheesy

Do you have funny names for everyday things? Perhaps you mispronounced something, and then henceforth and forever the item was known by the mispronounced version? For example, when I was a wee newborn baby myself, my mom called me “dumpling” a time or two, and my late sister, a mere two years older than myself thus making her only two years old, mispronounced my nickname as “dumpy”. Can you see where I’m going with this? You guessed it, that LOVELY moniker stuck with me forever. I picked up a couple more along the way, but “dumpy” was the leader of the pack. Yep, I can just hear my witty sister laughing her head off in Heaven. Somehow, even though she was only two when she branded me with it, I suspect she had a plan all along ... little stinker.

Now a days with my own kids, I’m quite careful that their nicknames are something they wouldn’t mind me calling out through the neighborhood or from the sidelines during a game. We do, though, have some quirky names for food that we eat. For example, Macaroni and Cheese is never called, well, macaroni and cheese. Instead, it’s usually called “Easy Peasey Mac and Cheesy”. That catchy phrase is something special shared between my oldest daughter and myself, as she’s the mac and cheesy lover in the family.

Just check out this gorgeous version of mac and cheesy. I’m on a comfort food kick lately. Surprisingly, my daughter absolutely LOVES this. I say surprisingly because it has “stuff” in it. She is a serious food separatist, except for a couple things ... mac and cheesy being one of them.

Look at how creeeeaaaammmy this is! Ooooh, I want to snatch that big bacon piece right off of there and eat it! This version is based on a dish we had ordered eons ago at Red Robin Restaurants. They no longer have this on the menu, but it was a hit with my daughter and sooooo easy to recreate at home. Basically, just make your favorite homemade mac and cheese, and jazz it up with a couple of ingredients: Cooked diced chicken, crisp smoky bacon, creamy luscious goat cheese, and savory crunchy bread crumbs. C.O.M.F.O.R.T. Yum!

Couple things before we begin ... When making this, feel free to substitute your favorite basic mac and cheese recipe. Be sure, though, to make ample cheese sauce. Elbow shaped macaroni, as well as other shapes such as rotini, really need a LOT of sauce. Don’t skimp on the sauce quantity. Next, since my daughter’s palate has yet to fully appreciate highly seasoned foods, this dish is really quiet in the spice department. It could take more heat if you like spice. I’d stick to adding spices though, and not actually add chopped onions or green peppers, etc. This dish already has a lot going on in the three c texture department ... creamy, chewy, and crunchy. Adding more texture might actually take away from the dish. Of course, though, that’s just my humble opinion ... if you crave more stuff inside, by all means please your palate! There's that bacon piece again. I want it! To experience this comfort food for yourself, here’s what you do:

Easy Peasey Mac and Cheesy

½ lb Cooked Macaroni (or your favorite shape)
1 T olive oil
4T butter
2 T flour
2 ¼ cups 2% milk
1 cup cream
3 cups shredded co-jack cheese
Couple shakes of garlic salt and onion powder
Quick small shake of red pepper and white pepper
½ cup diced cooked chicken (I used left over roasted chicken)
5 slices bacon – cooked crisp and crumbed
2 Tablespoons goat cheese – crumbled in large chunks

2 sliced white bread, crumbed
1 Tablespoon butter
Season salt

2 Additional Tablespoons goat cheese for garnish
Additional bacon for garnish
Snipped parsley

Start off by buttering a 2 quart casserole dish. Preheat oven to 350. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and toss with olive oil. Keep warm. While pasta is cooking, in a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over med high heat. Wisk in flour and cook for a couple of minutes to get rid of the flour taste. Gradually wisk in the milk and cream, a little at a time. Cook for a couple minutes, then wisk in the cheese. The mixture should thicken up, but remain very creamy. Season with the garlic salt, onion salt, and peppers. Combine with the cooked macaroni. Stir in the chicken and bacon. Gently fold in the goat cheese. Pour into prepared casserole. In a skillet, melt the remaining butter on med high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and season salt, and toast the breadcrumbs until golden and crispy. Sprinkle on top of the casserole. Put the casserole into the oven, and bake for about 15 minutes. Let sit for just a couple more minutes, then serve. Sprinkle each serving with additional goat cheese crumbles, crispy bacon, and snipped parsley.

At last, the bacon piece is mine! Take a bite. Sigh. Make yummy noises. Henceforth and forever, refer to mac and cheese as Easy Peasey Mac and Cheesy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Meatloaf - Paradise By the Oven Door Light

Do you like meatloaf? Although meatloaf can be found on just about every restaurant menu across the U.S., do you know that meatloaf (the food not the singer) really hasn't been around all that long? Granted, use of ground or minced meat has been around for centuries, but the loaf concoction recognized and enjoyed today really has only been around since the 1950's. Prior to that, many cooks were suspicious of purchasing ground raw meat, in part due to poor home refrigeration availability. Companies selling meat grinders actually started publishing cookbooks showing how to cook ground raw meats as a way to promote their products. Now a days, ground beef is readily available in supermarkets, and most people go pick up a pound or two without a second thought. What was once considered the comforting blue plate special has evolved into upscale "gourmet" versions much like what's happened with the burger!

To me, meatloaf is a shape variation of a gargantuan meatball! The rules for making meatloaf are similar to the hallowed ball version ... season liberally, bind with an egg, add a filler, moisten with a liquid of sorts, and mix lightly. Once that is complete, simply form it into a loaf shape, pop it in a preheated oven, and you've got almost an hour before you have to think of it again. Super easy and super comfort.

My loaf is a very simple version in deference to my little loaf eaters' taste buds. I simply combine ground beef, Montreal Steak Seasoning, sauteed minced onions and carrots, beaten large egg, and BBQ sauce. Hmmm ... notice how that Montreal Steak Seasoning is making its way into many of my recipes? I formed it into an evenly proportioned loaf shape, placed it on a foil lined sheet, and slid it into a preheated 350 oven for 50 minutes. I then slathered it, and I mean poured it on thick, with additional BBQ sauce, and popped it back into the oven for 10 more minutes. Once out of the oven, I let it sit for 10-15 minutes before slicing. Mmmmm,mmmmm, good!

There are zillions of variations of this. Depending on where you live, some folks like to used a mixture of beef and pork, and even veal, too. Instead of oatmeal, some folks use bread crumbs, crushed saltines, cooked rice, and even crushed cheddar crackers. I've had versions where it was loaded with a wagon load of chopped veggies, stuffed with gooey cheese, contained hidden hard boiled eggs in the middle, and topped with spicy salsa. There are recipes calling for it to be coated with cream of mushroom soup, ketchup, gravy, pineapple with teryaki, or even mashed potatoes!

The important thing with meatloaf, no matter which version you try, is to not over mix it or over cook it. You'll end up with a dense, dry, blech beef slab. Properly prepared, it's tasty and the leftovers are even better. I love meatloaf sandwiches, and anticipate them the same way I do leftover turkey sandwiches at Thanksgiving.

Here's my recipe:

1.5 lbs of ground beef(10-15% fat: less fat is too dry and more fat is too greasy)
1/4 minced very fine small onion
2 small carrots, minced very fine
Butter to saute onion and carrots
3/4 cup uncooked oatmeal
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup BBQ sauce (use homemade or your favorite bottled)
Several shakes Montreal Steak Seasoning (which reminds me I'm almost out!)
1 Tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 cup additional BBQ sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. In a small saute pan, melt a little pat of butter on med heat and saute the onion and carrots until they start to wilt. Cool the veggies. In a large bowl, using a light touch, thoroughly combine the meat, cooled veggies, oatmeal, egg, 1/2 cup BBQ sauce, MSS, and parsley. Pour the meat onto the foil lined sheet, and shape into an evenly shaped loaf. Put in the oven, middle rack, for 50 minutes. Pour additional BBQ sauce on top,completely covering loaf. Put back in oven for 10 minutes. Remove and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Slice either thick or thin. Make yummy noises.

See how yummy that outer sauce is? And the texture of the meat is perfect ... not too dense, and not falling apart. It went perfect with buttery mashed potatoes!

Oh, and since I didn't use bread crumbs, this was gluten free all the way, baby! (Note: If you use commercially prepared BBQ sauce, take care that it's wheat free/gluten free!)

How do you make your meatloaf?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Roger Ramjet Would Approve Of This Noodles Romanoff!

If you think that I enjoy catchy phrases and plays-on-words, you'd be correct. My funny bone enjoys jousting with words, and the writers from the old, old, old TV show Roger Ramjet certainly shared my folly. With it's subliminal political commentary, Roger Ramjet was the patriotic but not too bright cartoon superhero who triumphed every week over the bad guys like his nemesis, the gangster named Noodles Romanoff (this was during the Cold War after all), and the foreign spy femme fatale Jacqueline Hyde (Jekyll and Hyde). He took orders from General GI Brassbottom, and he was often needing to be saved from the clutches of N.A.S.T.Y. (National Association of Spies, Traitors, and Yahoos). I don't really remember a single episode, but I do remember the theme song. Funny how that works, I can't remember where I put something, but I can remember just about every song from my childhood and teenage years.

Another thing I remember from growing up was a lovely noodle dish called Noodles Romanoff. It is a very simple peasant dish, but full of creamy goodness and is VERY filling. I promise you that this noodle dish is just the ticket for the cold nights many of us will be facing in the coming weeks. Pair it with a lovely roast, or spoon it next to a slice or two of meatloaf. Yep, I said meatloaf. That poor maligned entree that many folks actually love, but won't fess up to. I like meatloaf in the cold months, and I especially love the leftovers in sandwiches. But enough about that, here's the recipe for a Noodles Romanoff that Roger Ramjet would approve of:

2 Cups Cooked Noodles, hot(I used Kluski style)
1 Cup Small Curd Cottage Cheese
1 Cup Sour Cream
2 Tablespoons minced onion (I minced mine really small)
1 small garlic clove, finely minced (next time I might just use garlic powder)
Seasoned Salt (I used Lawrey's)
Couple quick shakes of red pepper or hot sauce
Quick shake of White Pepper
1/3 cup Grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and lightly grease a 2 quart casserole dish. In a large bowl, combine the hot noodles with all the ingredients except the parmesan cheese. Spoon into the casserole, and top with the grated parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden. Serve.

This is so good and pure comfort food. Can you see that golden crust? There's no cheddar in this recipe, that golden color is from the parmesan and it adds a wonderful nutty flavor to the noodles. Every recipe I read discouraged adding additions to the dish such as mushrooms or veggies. It's meant to be a creamy noodle side dish. Alrighty then. I did sprinkle on some snipped chives for color though; parsley would work well, too.
Do you have any recipes from your youth that conjure up special memories for you? And ... what about meatloaf? Do you have a favorite recipe for that?

And, a very happy, happy birthday to my dear friend Marjie over at Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet.

Middle School Dance
One quick side note. My daughter attended the middle school sock hop dance tonight for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders and had a wonderful time. The school offered these for the first time starting last December, and she really enjoyed attending. Her entire 7th grade class attended (30 kids) and they all hung out in one big group. Everyone dances with everyone, and no one is purposefully left out. When hubbyman went to pick her up, my son tagged along. My son knows all these kids because he used to attend that school years ago and still plays CYO sports with them. ANYWAY ... my son went to sit on the bleachers to wait for his sister when an 8th grade girl came over and asked him to dance. He said, "No thank you," and the poor thing walked away.(OUCH. Picture me performing a big eye popping expression and saying, "YOU SAID WHAT?") I know this girl, she's a petite little thing, and is very cute and sweet. Anyway, said girl lamented to my daughter (who was dancing at the time) that her brother said NO. My daugther, while dancing with a boy herself, told the girl to ask again because she figured her brother was nervous. So, this girl gathered her courage again and this time brought a 7th grade girl who knows my son with her for moral support (my son is in 7th grade) and asked him again. How gutsy she was to ask again! Keep in mind that my son is now 5'8", 185 lbs, size 13 shoes, is rock solid, and dwarfs just about everyone in his old class and just towers over her. This time, hallelujah, my son said yes. So he had his first dance ... with an older girl no less. Afterward, all his old friends wanted him to join in with them, but it was time to head for home. They told him to attend next time. While he loves homeschooling, it's great that he can walk comfortably in both worlds. Then my littlest dancer at the ripe old age of 9 was wondering which boys would ask her to dance when she's older. Ah, and so it begins. GULP.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Shout Out Roasted Red Potatoes

Psssst. (Picture me using my whisper voice and looking first left, then right.) I have something to confide. Lean in a bit please. Here it is ... I've only recently discovered red potatoes. I mean, of course, I've eaten them, but to be honest I've not really used them in my cooking. I typically pay homage to the good ol' russet and occasionally the yukon gold gems. For some unknown reason, reds just never made their way into my kitchen. That's all changed, though, as I've recently embraced the little red beauties.

Potatoes are interesting tubers for sure. As a species, they are an incredibly versatile veggie, lending themselves to boiling, baking, frying, and mashing. They are great standing alone and yet they also play well with other foods. All in all, they are just lovely little orbs.

All three of my kidlin's are potato eaters in one form or another, and my hubbyman definitely qualifies as a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Soooo, a couple weeks ago, I took a chance on some baby reds when I made that incredible salad nicoise. Oh, the little guys boiled up so beautifully and they provided just amazing texture and flavor to the salad. So, when I was shopping at Costco yesterday, I grabbed a BIG sack of the red guys to experiment with some more.

When it comes to my kids, less is more. With that in mind, I thought why not simply roast the little dudes (the potatoes not the kids) and see how they turn out. Well, folks, these potatoes were shout out worthy. I've never heard so many yummy noises emitting from my eaters. No whisper voice needed here. They were, in their simplist form, quite delicious. (Again, the potatoes not the kids.)

Here's the deal:

Shout Out Roasted Red Potatoes

Red Potatoes (I used about 25 potatoes)cut into quarters, or bite sized pieces
In a large ziploc bag, combine the Marinade ingredients:
Canola Oil - 4 Tablespoons
Olive Oil - 2 Tablespoons
Butter - 2 Tablespoons, melted
Fresh lemon juice - 1 Tablespoon
Montreal Steak Seasoning - several shakes
Season Salt - quick shake
Chives - 1 teaspoon
Rosemary sprigs - 2 small

Place the cut potatoes in the bag with the marinade, seal, and combine. Let sit for about 15 minutes.

Drain the marinade, and place the potatoes on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven, and let the potatoes remain in the oven for another 15 minutes. Remove and serve.

See this gorgeous color? The spices are very light, allowing the potato flavor to shine through. See the spices on the surface? That's the Montreal Steak Seasoning. YUM! Love that seasoning. These are creamy, creamy, creamy on the inside and beautifully golden crispy on the outside. I didn't stir them, and so there is this amazing contrast in colors and texture. Loved these! Don't you want to reach out and straighten the wrinkle out of that golden corner! Go on. We'll wait. I want to snare that one in the lower left corner and pop it in my mouth! I think I did! Oh, and naturally this is gluten free, all the way baby. It pared beautifully with pulled pork sandwiches, corn on the cob, and fruit salad.

Do you like red potatoes? How do you prepare them?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Soup Me Up!

What are your thoughts about soup? Do you like soup? I loooovvvve soup, and eat a bowl of the steamy goodness just about every day for lunch. It's been that way ever since I was little. I was the kid who brought a thermos of soup for lunch at school. I still remember the hollow scratching of the lid unscrewing off the thermos, and then instantaneously being greeted with that yummy aroma of whatever type of soup my mom made for me.

Now a days, I'm the one that makes the soup. Once a week, I haul out my heavy duty stock pot, and whip up something out of whatever I've got available that will satisfy my soup fix. My littlest souper girl shares my love of the spoon and bowl. For such a little thing, she sure can put away a bowl of soup in record time. I've had to adjust some of my recipes to accommodate her wheat allergy. Luckily, she's not picky and enjoys the variety of many types of cuisine. How lucky she and my other kidlin's are to have experienced such a diverse gastronomical education their entire lives!

When I moved to the beautiful Pacific Northwest years ago, my exposure to different cultures and cuisines skyrocketed. Suddenly, I could choose from an array of Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, German, Greek, Italian, Polish, Indian, etc. The list just goes on and on, and I love them all. I especially enjoy the bright, fresh flavors of Asian food, and that's what I was craving when it was time to make this week's soup.

Preparing this soup was a snap. Yes, there are a lot of ingredients and some prep time is involved, but when you figure that this recipe can soup you up for multiple servings, it's time well spent. Plus I used up the last of my garden carrots, so it was thrifty, too. Let's begin, shall we?

Asian Noodle Soup with Chicken, Shrimp, and Fresh Vegetables

2 T Canola Oil
1 large onion diced
3 cups sliced carrots
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced with a couple grinds of sea salt
1 head napa cabbage, shredded in long thin shreds
1 lb ground chicken
2-1/2 quarts chicken stock (you need a lot because of the rice noodles)
4 oz white wine
1 T soy sauce (I used wheat free tamari)
2 T chopped fresh parsley
2 t lemongrass paste (sold in a tube in the refrigerated section; it's thick like tom paste)
1 t ground ginger (I didn't have fresh on hand)
Shake of season salt
1 Pkg rice vermicelli noodles, cooked according to directions and cut into shorter strands
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
1/4 lb. raw shrimp
About 5 shakes of sesame oil - a little goes a long way
About 2 shakes of chili oil (if desired) - a little goes a long way
Garnish with whatever you like: chopped cilantro, jalapenos, bean spouts, green onions and/or chili paste if desired

In a large stock pot, heat oil on med high heat. Stirring often, saute the onions and carrots for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for about 1-2 more minutes. Add the cabbage and stir it in well. The cabbage will reduce very quickly. Once the cabbage has reduced, add the ground chicken, and stir it vigorously to blend with the veggies in the pot. This will help the chicken break down into small bits as opposed to large chunks. Continue to stir until the meat has changed color. Add the broth all at once and bring to a full boil. Add the wine, cover, and turn the heat down to a strong simmer/low boil. Cook for about 15-20 minutes. Remove the cover, add the shredded chicken and raw shrimp. Cook for about 5-6 minutes, or until the shrimp have cooked through. Add the cooked rice noodles, and stir to combine. Cook until heated through. Stir in the sesame oil and chili oil if desired. Spoon into bowls and garnish to your tummy's desire.

Doesn't this look YUMMY? It was sooo good. There are so many flavors going on in this soup. The lemon grass paste was simply terrific; it really brightened up the flavor. The rice noodles were the perfect accompaniment to the other ingredients. Plus, using those rice noodles means that this soup is gluten free, all the way baby! Soup me up!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pick a Peck of These Poppers!

The chill in the air signals that the holiday season will be popping up soon. With that comes friends, family, festivities, and feasting! Whether you like to go a'visitin or if you open your home to the masses, it's always great to have some great munchies to tame the crowd until dinner time.

One little tasty item that I've come to love is Jalapeno poppers. This is a relatively new development. During my last pregnancy, I developed a love for spicy peppers, and the affinity for them remained after giving birth. Prior to that, I wanted nothing to do with the sweat inducing crunchers, but now, well, I love them.
There are so many great ways to prepare them. Some folks like to wrap them in bacon; others like to batter and fry them. Then there is the cheese debate ... cream cheese filling or cheddar? When it comes to poppers, I'm a cream cheese kind of girl, plus creamy dairy tends to tame the fire of chili peppers, so there you have it.

When the threat of frost was forecast the other day, I quickly harvested what was left in my garden including a handful of jalapenos. As I was putting them in the fridge, I saw some cream cheese and immediately thought of poppers. The problem, though, was that I only had about 8 peppers, and really didn't want to use up all of my pepp's on poppers. I then thought about that artichoke dip/spread that is made with cream cheese, and wondered how it would taste if I substituted jalapenos for the artichokes? A quick internet search showed me that about 1/2 the population had already thought of it, and there were several recipes to try out.

I settled on one that incorporated both fresh and canned chilies. Actually, this combo was suggested in the comments section by someone who made the recipe, and I liked what she had to say. Boy, was this GREAT! It has heat, but not cloyingly so. This was also soooo much easier to prepare than the traditional popper recipe. Don't get me wrong, I still love poppers. However, this dish requires little effort and produces a great result. It will serve a crowd; you may want to make a double batch because it goes quickly! I served mine with asiago bread that I sliced into bite sized pieces, sprinkled with parmesan cheese, and baked in the 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes. So, without further ado, here's the recipe.

Paula's Poppin Popper Spread

2 bricks cream cheese - softened (I softened mine in the microwave)
1/2 cup mayo
1/4 heaping cup shredded parmesan cheese
3 seeded and chopped small finger sized fresh jalapenos
2 tablespoons chopped jarred jalapeno peppers
1 small can whole fire roasted and peeled green chilies - diced

Heat oven to 375. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Don't use a food processor ... you want to have the contrast of creamy and crunchy texture. Pour into a baking casserole dish. This will puff up as it cooks, so leave about an 1" of space to the top. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until top is golden and starting to brown.

Now, for those of you who DON'T like heat, not to worry. You can easily eliminate the jalapeno's, and just use MILD canned green chilies. La Victoria has a lovely product of WHOLE fire roasted peeled green chilies. Don't buy the prechopped ones. For some reason, when I purchase those, they are tough and very unappetizing. The whole chilies, however, are just lovely. It only takes a snap to slice and dice them.

I should also point out to those of you who DO love HEAT, that this recipe only ranks to just about medium on the fire scale. If you want more heat, use hotter peppers (maybe serranos) and more of them. I like the warmth from the jalapenos, but I don't want it hot enough to clear out my sinuses.

Serve with bread. Make yummy noises.

This tastes so amazing. It has great texture. It really clings to the bread. Doesn't it look pretty? I'm actually going to mix it with some roasted chicken and use it as an enchilada filling. YUM!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Make This Again Pork Tamale Pie

Have you ever felt the kind of tired where if you sat down, you'd be at risk for dozing off? You know what I mean ... elbow on the table, chin propped up by your hand, eyelids threatening to close? Yeah, you know what I mean.

That's where I was yesterday, wiped out and faced with making supper. Naturally, the little natives in my house had the opposite energy level. Why is that? Is there some strange phenomena or alternative lunar cycle that creates this mayhem? Anyway, I do have a point in all of this. Due to my lack of energy (and enthusiasm) last night, I longed to just whip up a quick, no brainer meal. Luckily my larder is stocked full, so I had lots to choose from. But what to make? My depleted mental energy didn't even have the oomph to make that decision. So off to the internet I went for some culinary rescuing.

My internet searches kept bringing up the same recipe over and over, so I took fate's hint and went with it. The recipe was called Pork Tamale Pie and the same recipe appears on about 400 gazillion sites. It's touted as quick and easy, supposedly kid friendly, gluten free, and about 45 minutes to pull together. Yep, this was for me.

As I assembled the ingredients, I thought there's no way I will be blogging this as it's a bare bones, no frills recipe. I threw it together, plopped it in the oven, and 35 minutes later, I was dishing it out to my natives. It wasn't even very pretty, but guess what? They ATE it. They weren't wild about it, mind you, but they ate it and didn't raid the pantry afterward for snacks before bed. And hubbyman? He devoured it; kept going back for more. The man kept saying over and over how much he loved it, how I should make this again, should make this again, should make this again, etc. He even brought it up again this morning how great dinner was last night and how I should, you guessed it, "make this again". I couldn't believe it. I know that I stood there looking at him this morning with the blinking owl look as he's bringing up dinner from the night before.

Well, personally, I thought it was fair to good, but it obviously gets a thumbs up from the hubbyman. I'd much rather have real tamales, which I do make with great success, but this will do in a pinch. It's easy, meaty, cheesy, and corny. If those items appeal to you, tuck this recipe away for when you need a quick dinner. It would be good for a potluck, too.

Make This Again Pork Tamale Pie

2-1/2 cups shredded cooked pork + 1/2 cup broth
1 cup corn meal
1/2 cup milk
1 15 oz can whole kernel corn
1 14.5 oz can peeled and diced tomatoes
2 eggs beaten
1 teaspoon ground pasilla chili powder*
1 teaspoon ground ancho chili powder*
1/2 teaspoon regular chili powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup shredded co jack or cheddar cheese
*NOTE: If you don't have ground pasilla or ancho chili powder, just up the regular chili powder amount to 2 teaspoons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish. In a large pan over medium heat, combine the cornmeal, milk, corn, tomatoes, and eggs. Stir well and add the chili powders and paprika. Stir often and cook for 10 minutes. Add the pork and broth, mix well. Poor into the prepared baking dish. Top with cheese. Bake for 35 minutes.

I served this with creamy coleslaw, sliced strawberries, a plain fresh tomato salsa, and homemade guacamole. The cheese on top made it very cheesy. If you like cheesy, you'll like this.

I think this would be good with shredded beef or shredded chicken, too. I would prefer it with some onion, garlic, and a little chili pepper heat, but perhaps the absence of those is what appealed to my natives. In any case, it's quick, filling, and on the repeat list. Oh, and it's gluten free, all the way baby!

What are your "go to" meals for when you are looking for quick and easy?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Company Worthy Salad Nicoise

When you have guests visiting, do you stick to your regular cooking routine and recipes, or do you perk it up a bit? I was pondering that question last night. My wonderful dad and his sweet wife are visiting us this week, and I find that I am most definitely perking it up a bit. I don't know why that is really. My dad and are are close, he knows me and my cooking quite well, and, besides, my dad is so easy to please and his wife is always so complimentary that I know I don't need to do anything different from usual. I think that I must be channeling both my late grandma and late mom in that when company comes, you take good care of them, prepare your meal with love and care, and you never let anyone leave your house hungry. No problem there ... I like to feed people.

Yesterday was a drizzly day here in the Pacific Northwest, and in the culinary department, I just wanted to hold onto summer a little bit longer. What to do, what to do. Soup and salad sounded just right ... soup for the warmth and comfort, and salad for the crunchy, summery feel. But with company here, a regular tossed salad would not do. I remembered seeing a wonderful recipe called Salad Nicoise in one of my well loved older cookbooks (Cookery for 1 or 2 by Barbara Swain). This cookbook was one of the very first that I purchased right before I got married, and fell in love with it. Although my cooking requirements have evolved beyond feeding 1 or 2 people, this cookbook retains its place of honor on my shelf.

People, this salad is GOOD and so company-worthy!!! It can easily stand on its own with a thick slice of bread. I pared it with homemade chicken and rice soup, and had to refrain from making multiple yummy noises ... I had company after all!

This salad took some organizational effort, but was quite easy to make. It's so pretty to look at, don't you think? I almost didn't want to toss it before serving! Every single bit was eaten. When I cleared the dishes, the salad serving bowl was clean!

Here's what you do: Boil some baby red potatoes that have been cut in bite size halves or quarters, until tender. While potatoes are boiling, prepare a simple french vinaigrette by whisking 3 parts Olive oil, 1 part white wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice, little bit of whole grain mustard or dijon mustard, few shakes of garlic salt, freshly ground pepper, and your favorite herbs. Drain potatoes and immediately toss with vinaigrette. Set aside to marinate. Do the same with the green beans; marinate separately from the potatoes. Layer lettuce in the bottom of a large serving bowl. Arrange the following items in their own section on top of lettuce: marinated potatoes, marinated green beans, hard boiled eggs-quartered, slice tomatoes, olives - I used plain old black olives because that's what my guests like, but use whatever type you like including nicoise olives!, and good quality tuna or even grilled tuna would be terrific. Prepare another vinaigrette, same as before, but this time add some finely diced shallot or red onion. Drizzle over the salad. A traditional salad nicoise calls for layering anchovies on top. My guests and hubbyman opted not for the anchovies; however, as I love anchovies, I lovingly layered mine on as well as ate their portions of the little salty strips, too. Serve this immediately at room temperature or refrigerate it and serve cold. If you don't have guests, make yummy noises. Oh, and this salad is gluten free, all the way, baby!

What are your favorite dishes to serve guests? Since my company will be here for a couple more days, I'd love to hear any recipe suggestions you may have!