A Rainbow Dinner

It’s been said many times by the health experts that one of the healthiest ways to eat, particularly when it comes to fruits and vegetables, is to have a wide variety of colors and textures be a part of the meal.  Tonight’s dinner certainly had a range of colors and textures.  Our vegetables covered the spectrum of the rainbow, from purple to yellow.  I did a medley of sauteed vegetables with sauteed zucchini, yellow squash, red onions, sweet grape tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic and kobiashi squash (orange on the inside), which was accompanied by purple lyonnaise potatoes and marinated steak.

Yes, purple potatoes.  They are a beautiful deep purple and hail from Peru.  They are a little sweeter than most potatoes, though not sweet like sweet potatoes, and have a little more starch, but otherwise taste much the same as any other regular potato.  They are just so cool because of their beautiful, vibrant color.  I was experimenting with them and mixed them with red potatoes.  The cooking time is a little different, so next time I might cook them separately, but they still came out very tasty and delicious.

A dear friend of mine had asked me about rubs and marinades for meats and seafood.   A rub is a mixture of dry ingredients that you rub on the meat and a marinade is more of a liquid that your soak the meat in.  I use all kinds of things.  I usually make my own, but there are some great rubs and marinades on the market, coming in all flavors and styles.  Just find something that tickles your fancy and try it out.  There really are no rules when it comes to rubs and marinades, but anything with an acidic base, like lemon juice or vinegar, is going to also act as a meat tenderizer because it will break down the proteins of the meats.  Heavier meats, like steak can marinate for up to about 24 hours.  Lighter meats, like chicken can’t take being in the marinade for more than 3-4 hours, or it will come out really mushy.  And seafood  really should not be marinated for more than about 30 minutes to 1 hour max.  If you are using a dry rub, then time does not matter too much.  For our steak, since we had potatoes from Peru, I thought I would somewhat stick to the South American theme, and made a rub/marinade consisting of dried lime peel, crushed aleppo chilies, chili lime powder, cayenne pepper, as well a little lime juice.  The steak was very flavorful and very tender.  I marinated it for about 7 hours.  The wine choice for the evening was a very smooth, red French Regnie that paired very nicely with the meal.  Desfruitas y Bon Appetite!

Tonight’s ingredients for the meal.   The Lime Peel and Crushed Aleppo Chilies are from Savory Spice Shopa local company based here in the Denver Metro area.  If you have never been, you should definitely check it out.  It is a spice lover’s dream.

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The vegetables, potatoes and shallots for the potatoes.

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Our rainbow dinner.

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Time for Green Chili

Colorado is known for it’s green chili.  You can find many different varieties everywhere  all throughout the state.  Some people like it thin and some people like it thick, but everyone has their own unique style and recipe.   I like mine thick and spicy, with a lot of pork.  Just like when I make soups, I make a big pot and freeze a lot of it, so I can use it again later, especially when the temperature drops and we need something to warm us up from the inside out.   We like it served just about anyway you can serve it, but our favorite way is to serve it over tamales.  This time, however, we are not going to get too much of it, since my husband volunteered me to make it for his co-workers.  Darn, I’ll just have to make some more just for us sometime soon.   If you don’t like pork, you can substitute chicken, or to make it vegetarian or vegan, you can use the vegan sausages.

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Cooking both the pork and the vegetables.

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It’s almost done. The pork and the vegetables are added together.  It’s in the simmering stage.  Let it simmer for at least about 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick or burn.

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Served over tamales with a margarita especial.

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Jeanne’s Green Chili

I cook everything to taste.  When cooking, I rarely measure anything,hence the reason you don’t see a lot of amounts in my recipes.  About the only time I really measure anything is when I am baking, since baking is more of an exact science and cooking is more like the artist’s perception.

3-4 lbs pork loin, cubed

flour to coat the pork, if using to thicken

tomatillos, peeled and diced

onions, diced

jalapenos, diced fine (use as many as you need to spice it up depending on your level of spiciness)

roasted hatch chili peppers, skinned and seeded, diced (we get both the green and the red mixed together because we like it spicy)

green bell peppers, diced (I also use pasilla or Anaheim chilies a lot as well)

garlic

cumin

oregano

thyme

marjoram

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

chicken broth

cilantro

top with sour cream, cheese, cilantro (optional.  Sometimes we even like to top it with Fritos as well.)

Cut all your vegetables, except the roasted peppers, and saute them all together, in olive oil until tender, for about 10 minutes.  As your vegetables are cooking, in a separate pot, cook your pork.  Since I like my green chili thick, I coat my pork pieces in flour and saute in hot oil until cooked thoroughly.  Add the cooked pork, making sure to get all the flour coatings and drippings, to the vegetables along with your chicken broth, roasted peppers and spices.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, and continue cooking for at least 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently.  If you do not like your green chili thick, don’t add the flour, or add less of it to make it to your desired thickness.  Once it’s all done, make yourself a nice margarita or two, and enjoy.

Margarita Especial

Tequila

Sweet & Sour mix

Grand Marnier

a splash of lime juice

a splash of sprite

 

I like mine on the rocks with no salt, but if you like them blended, just pour everything into a blender over ice and blend until it becomes slushy,

 

 

 

 

 

Southwestern Scallops in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

This Southwestern dish has two of my favorite ingredients; sea scallops and a spicy cream sauce.  As I have mentioned, I love all kinds of foods, from all over the place, and all different ethnicities, but anything Southwestern is typically going to be one of my favorites.   And there is nothing better than something rich and creamy when the temperature decides to drop a few degrees to warm you up.  Normally I serve this over pasta, but tonight I served it over rice and lentils instead, which was very tasty as well.  In fact, it actually lightened it up a bit and it was not such a heavy meal.  I also served the potato bread and completed everything with a cool, crisp chardonnay.

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Southwestern Scallops in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

1 1/2 lbs sea scallops, cleaned and rinsed

bacon, cooked and chopped

vegetables (I used the left over zucchini and yellow squash from the other day, but use what you like)

1 large shallot, sliced thin

chipotle peppers and sauce to taste, chopped fine

1 heaping TBSP garlic

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2/3 cup dry white wine

cilantro, chopped

Cook the bacon first, then remove and set aside when done.  Cook the scallops, shallot and garlic in the bacon grease.  Add more olive oil if needed.  Cook the scallops only for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until browned on all sides.  You want them to be nice and soft.  Remove and set aside.  Saute your vegetables.  Add the white wine and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the wine is reduced and most of the liquid is gone.  Add the whipping cream, chipotle peppes and sauce, salt & pepper to taste.  Add the scallop mixture and bacon and chopped cilantro and incorporate into the mixture, just enough to heat them up.   Serve over pasta, rice, or even mashed potatoes.

If you don’t like sea scallops, you can substitute shrimp or chicken, or tofu to make it vegetarian.

I think They Liked It

We started making the wet food for Lucie and Vinnie about 2 years ago.  While we were on vacation, at some point, all the meat in the freezer defrosted and we did not know how long it had been that way.  We came home to a freezer door that was wide open.   None of the meat smelled or looked bad, but we could not take a chance on it for us, and dogs have a much higher tolerance level to foodborne illnesses than we do, so they were treated to a wide variety of meats, mixed with different vegetables and fruits, as well as potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, lentils, etc.  We’ve been doing it this way ever since.  It costs about the same or even slightly less, but most importantly, we know exactly what is going into their food, and it is very healthy for them.  We want them to eat and be healthy.  They always seem to know when Mommy is making their food too, although they are always ready to help out in the kitchen no matter what I am cooking.   By looking at the way they chow down their food, I am going to go out on a limb and say they liked it.

 

Fritzie, my assistant, is helping to prepare everything.  The kids are eating pork loin, rice, lentils, zucchini and yellow squash cooked in canola oil, and finished with yogurt.  No spices for the kids.  They may be able to handle foodborne illness better than we do, but spices are a big no-no.  This mixed, with their dry food, will last about 1 week.IMG_0744

 

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My testers, Lucie on the left and Vinnie on the right.  I’m not sure, but I think they liked it!

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Hungry for Hungarian

If you are cooking Hungarian food, you will be using paprika, which is the dried powder of a sweet, mostly mild red pepper.  Often times paprika has a smoky flavor to it as well, which enhances the flavors of your foods even more.  There is a lot of crossover between Hungarian foods and German foods, so even though the recipe is Hungarian, it comes from one of my German cookbooks.  Since I made the Hungarian potato bread earlier, I figured I should stick with the Hungarian theme for the day, so I made Hungarian Chicken Paprika.  The German name for it is Kalbspaprika, just in case you were wondering.  I served it with garlic mashed potatoes (yes, the same ones I used for the potato bread), the potato bread and roasted vegetables, finished with a smooth Merlot to complete the meal.

The ingredients.

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Cooking the chicken with the garlic, onions and white wine.

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Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussle sprouts ant garlic, ready for the roasting.

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Dinner at last.

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Hungarian Chicken Paprika, otherwise known as Kalbspaprika

2 1/2 lbs chicken, veal or beef,

3 TBSP cooking oil

2 cloves garlic

1- 1 1/2 thinly sliced onions

1 TBSP sweet Hungarian paprika

salt & pepper to taste

parsley, chopped

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup chicken broth

2 TBSP cornstarch

1 cup sour cream or yogurt (I used yogurt, because that is what I had on hand.  They are interchangeable in recipes).

Season your meat with salt and pepper then cook your meat in hot oil on a medium-high heat until browned on all sides or for about 10 minutes.  I cooked it before slicing, but you can cook it either way.  Add the garlic and onions and saute until browned, for about 5 more minutes.  Stir in the paprika.  Reduce the heat and add the white wine and chicken broth.  Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.  Take some of the juices from the pan and mix with the cornstarch, then add to the mixture and mix well.  Stir in your sour cream or yogurt.  Serve over mashed potatoes or noodles.  Top with parsley.  Wunderbar.

 

 

It’s All About the Potato

A friend of mine said she had a whole bunch of potatoes that she was not sure what to do with, which put me in potato mode.  Potatoes were discovered in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in South America and have records dating back to around 400 BC.  Potatoes have been feeding the world ever since.  Today, potatoes are a staple food source for about 2/3 of the world’s population, and they are the world’s 3rd most important food crop.  A field of potatoes yields more energy per acre than any other food crop.  Potatoes are used for everything, and come in many different varieties.  They are very versatile, and very healthy, as long as they are not loaded with so many of the things we attribute to good potatoes.  I admit, I am guilty of that too.

So, in honor of the fabulous potato, I made potato bread today.  The recipe itself is pretty simple.  Making a good bread, for this one, is more about the process, and the time than anything else.

The first rise.

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The second Rise

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Scoring the finishing touches before putting in the oven.

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Fresh out of the oven.

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Dill Potato Bread

2 medium to large potatoes, or enough to make 2 1/2 cups of mashed potatoes.  I used russet potatoes (even though my picture is seen with red potatoes).

4 tsp dry active yeast

3 1/2-4 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

dill

Boil your potatoes and mash them, reserving the cooking water. Of course, I add garlic to just about everything, so of course my mashed potatoes have garlic in them as well, along with heavy whipping cream and butter.  I always have to have butter.

Once the potatoes are mashed and cooled, make your dough.

Sprinkle the yeast into about 1/3 cup of the potato water and let sit for about 5 minutes, or until the yeast is dissolved.  Mix the yeast into the flour and salt and cover to let “sponge” for about 20 minutes.  Then incorporate the mashed potatoes.  I used dill, but if you like other herbs or flavorings, add what you like.  Work the potatoes into the flour to make a soft dough.  Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes and form into 1 large ball.  Cover and let rise for about 2 hours.

Divide the dough in 1/2 and form into round balls and let rise again for another 30 minutes.  Once the dough has had it’s second rise, sprinkle some flour on top and make 3 diagonal slices on top.  This is called scoring the bread.  Bake in a hot, pre-heated oven, at 425* F for about 1 hour or until it comes out golden brown and crusty on top.  You will know it is done when you give it a little knock and the sound is hollow.  And then there was bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mocha Snowtops

I love making cookies, and unfortunately, I also love to eat cookies.  One of my favorite memories from my childhood was when one of my “second moms” made cookies.  She made cookies everyday, and the house always smelled so wonderful.  And of course, as kids, that meant we got to eat cookies everyday as well.   She made different cookies all the time too, so we never got “bored” with the cookie types, but then how can one get bored by cookies.  Seriously!  That is probably where my love of cookies came from.  Cookies are always so welcoming and inviting.  Cakes and other desserts seem like they are more for special occasions, whereas cookies seem more everyday and down to earth to me, which more than likely adds to their appeal.

Before baking, after they have been rolled in the powdered sugar.

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Cookie time!

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Mocha Snowtops

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

2/3 cup cocoa powder

1 TBSP instant coffee

4 eggs

1/8 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

1 cup tightly packed brown sugar

2 2/3 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup powdered sugar

 

In a saucepan, add the butter, cocoa powder and and coffee and stir just until all the coffee and cocoa powder are dissolved and incorporated into the soft butter.  Be careful not to melt the butter.  You want kind of  a creamy consistency.  Combine the eggs and sugars and mix in a blender until creamy and well incorporated.  Mix all the dry ingredients together and set aside.  Add the chocolate mixture, then add the flour mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.  Once the dough has set, roll about 3/4 TBSP at a time into balls and then roll into the powdered sugar, making sure they are completely covered.  I like to press my cookies down just a bit before baking to make them spread a bit more.

Bake at 350* F for 12-15 minutes.  Let cool then remove to cool completely on a cookie rack.  Then ….. Cookie time!

 

 

 

 

 

Old Fashioned Spaghetti and Meatballs

Sometimes we just are in the mood for some good, old fashioned comfort food.  Spaghetti and meatballs is an old classic that we all love, and handmade meatballs, from fresh meat straight from the farm is always the best.  We got the meat from our brother-in-law’s farm in Kansas.  Fresh meat sure does make a difference.  We had a traditional spaghetti dish complete with garlic cheese bread and a bold Cab Franc to finish off the meal.  My garlic cheese bread is a recipe I “permanently borrowed” from an Italian restaurant that was a tradition in Pasadena, California, where I grew up.  I have made it ever since.   I have to admit that I did not make my sauce from scratch, but I certainly enhanced it with extra garlic and herbs, although I absolutely do know how to make my own sauce.  I just did not this time around.

The meatballs before cooking, made from fresh ground beef, garlic, onions, basil, oregano, salt & pepper, bread crumbs and eggs.  Mix them all together and then rolls them into balls.

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Cook the meatballs separately in a large skillet with a little cooking oil.  This is one time I do not use olive oil, since it has a much lower smoke point than canola oil and will burn much faster.  Cook until the meatballs are browned on all sides, then remove from the pan.  Drain the rest of the oil.

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Saute garlic and mushrooms (if using) then add your sauce and chopped tomatoes.  I also added extra basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme and salt & pepper, as well as my jar of tomato sauce.  Yes, I do know how to make it from scratch, but why, when there are so many good brands already out there.  Bring to a boil, then reduce down to a simmer, and cook for at least about 30 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add your meatballs and mix them in thoroughly.

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The cheese bread.  Mix together softened butter with garlic and herbs and spread on your choice of bread.  I used a rustic pugliese.  Top with shredded cheddar cheese and then with shredded mozzarella cheese.  Top with a little bit of paprika and bake until bubbly at 350* for about 15 or so minutes.   If you have any leftover butter, just add it to your sauce and incorporate it in.

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Buon Apetito!  Old fashioned spaghetti and meatballs.

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Glazed Orange Pecan Cake

I love the combination of both oranges and pecans, but then I am from Southern California, literally the land of fruits and nuts, since a huge percentage of both fruits and nuts, as well as a lot of other agricultural products, comes from California.  There is just something so refreshing about this combination.  It is so  warm and welcoming.  My husband keeps telling me to stop making all the delectable desserts because we are both trying to lose weight, but I just can’t help myself.  They are all so tasty.  Besides, my argument was that because there are nuts, there is protein, and there is fruit as well, so it has to be healthy, right?!  I know, it is a poor excuse for healthy, but I guess I can say a slightly healthier version of dessert, with the emphasis on slightly.

Before baking.

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The finished cake.

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Preheat the oven to 350*F

Prepare a bundt cake pan with a little bit of cooking spray, and if you want, brush a little flour around the pan as well.

 

1 cup butter, softened

2 3/4 cups flour

1 TBSP baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup tightly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

4 eggs, separated

3 TBSP grated orange zest

1 tsp orange extract

1 cup orange juice

2 cups chopped pecans

Mix all the dry ingredients together, except the chopped pecans and set aside.  Mix the butter and both sugars until soft and creamy.  Add the egg yolks, one at a time and mix.  Add the orange zest, and alternate adding the flour and orange juice, mixing in between, until it is all mixed in together.  In a separate clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then gently fold into the batter, along with the pecans, and spoon into your prepared bundt pan.  Bake at 350* for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until it is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool.  Then top with the orange glaze, pecan halves and orange slices (optional).  If you prefer a lighter version, just sprinkle powdered sugar over the cooled cake.  You are going to really enjoy it either way you serve it.

 

Orange Glaze

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 TBSP softened butter

3 TBSP heavy whipping cream

1 tsp orange extract

pinch of salt

Combine everything together in a mixer and mix thoroughly.  It will be a thick glaze.  Immediately spread over the cake.  There is a delicious bit of spring in every bite.  Enjoy.

You Never Have Your Last One

Years ago, I worked at a Public Relations firm up in San Francisco, CA, where we had mostly food clients.  Because most of our clients were selling food products, we actually had out own test kitchen on the premises.  Being the kitchen manager for that kitchen was my dream job, only it never happened.  I learned a lot from the person who was the kitchen manager though.  One of my most memorable things I learned from her was that you can never have too many cookbooks, although my husband would seriously disagree with that statement.  At the time, she had over 3000 cookbooks, and her collection was always growing.  She is the one who told me “you never have your last one”, and I took it to heart.  I don’t have near as many cookbooks as she did, but I do have quite a few.  My collection is only at slightly over 600, so I guess by her standards, that means I have some catching up to do.  I have wide variety of cookbooks.  I have all different kinds of ethnic books; books on baking; specific books for just breads or soups, and many, many more.  My favorite ones are the ones with detailed pictures.  I can figure out the ingredients on my own, but I like to see how the finished product is supposed to look so I can use it as a guide.  Even though there are some really great recipes on line, and now even some of mine are on line, there is nothing better than a new book in my hands.   I am very proud of my wall of cookbooks, and even though my shelves runneth over, I am trying my best to live up to my kitchen manager’s words of wisdom, and hope to “never have my last one”.

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