Wednesday, June 30, 2010

WFMW: Ingredient Replacements

Pantry Cookin' is all about using what you have in your kitchen and avoiding last minute trips to the store.  But sometimes you really want to make a certain recipe and you don't have one ingredient.  I normally find this to be the case on Sunday night, since I don't shop on Sundays, it always seems that I want to make something on that day but I'm  missing an ingredient.  Here is a handy list of substitutions.  Some are from  a Taste of Home advertising insert. I decided this would be a good first post to join the Works for me Wednesday over at We are THAT family.




Buttermilk
1 cup = 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar (white) plus enough milk to equal 1 cup.  Stir together and let stand about 5 minutes.

Cream  or half and half
1 cup = 1 tablespoon melted butter plus enough whole milk to equal 1 cup

Honey
1 cup = 1 1/4 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup water or apple juice

Lemon Juice
Replace equally with apple cider vinegar

Vegetable Oil (for baking like cakes, muffins, sweet breads)
Replace equally with applesauce

Sugar (for baking)
1 cup  = 1/4 cup maple syrup (sometimes less depending on recipe sweetness) 

Bread Crumbs
Equal replacement of crushed cracker crumbs (saltines, gold fish, butter), crushed corn flakes, oatmeal

Molasses
1 cup = 1/2 cup honey (flavor will not be as strong)

Corn Syrup - light
1 cup = 1 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water

Monday, June 28, 2010

Recipe: Greek Couscous Salad

This recipe for Greek Couscous Salad is a super easy recipe to make and is perfect for a summer lunch, side dish at dinner or to bring to a summer BBQ or potluck.



Greek Couscous Salad
Serves: 6-8 (as side dish)

Ingredients
2 Boxes of Couscous
(I used Near East Toasted Pine Nut & Parmesan because I had on hand but you can also just make with plain couscous.)
1-2 cucumbers, partially peeled and diced finely
1-2 stalks of celery finely diced
grape or cherry tomatoes (sliced in half depending on size)
8-10 oz of feta cheese
1 small can of sliced black olives

Dressing
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
juice of 1/2 of a lemon or 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Prepare couscous according to package instructions.  Dice veggies.  While couscous is cooling whisk together dressing ingredients.   After fluffing couscous with a fork, transfer to a large bowl.  Mix together couscous and veggies.  Add dressing and mix together.  Add feta (crumble if not already crumbled).  Taste and check for seasoning.  Cover, refrigerate and enjoy.  This is one of those salads I actually like better a few hours later or even the next day.

If you use plain couscous (not a boxed mix with a seasoning packet) you will most likely need to add additionally seasoning to your dressing.  But that is dependent on your tastes.

Menu Plan Monday: June 28th




Monday
Hubby making Stuffed Chilis
Elote

Tuesday
Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes with Ham
Steamed Green Beans

Wednesday
Leftovers

Thursday
Potluck lunch at work and I'm bringing Pulled Pork Sandwiches. Leftovers for dinner with Rhodes Rolls
Baked Beans

Friday
Asian Beef Stir Fry with Tofu and Buckwheat Soba Noodles

Saturday
Have two 4th of July Parties but haven't heard back for the hosts as to what to bring...

Sunday
Apricot Pork Loin
Couscous with Apricots, Almonds and Cranberries
Steamed Broccoli

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Things I Love: ICE CREAM

So it is insanely hot right now where I live in Las Vegas.  Although it has been a "cool" spring and summer so far it has now reached the triple digits and that is just too hot. 

But one thing I love about summer and hot weather - ICE CREAM



And honestly, I think I like about every flavor I have ever tried.  I've tried some interesting flavors too - garlic, purple yam  just to name two unusual ones.  I can't pick a favorite because that is totally dependent on my mood.  The only flavor that I question is vanilla.  Does that really count as a flavor?  OK, maybe a Madagascar vanilla bean scented homemade vanilla counts but vanilla out of a tub is just plain boring and dare I say a little useless in my opinion.  The whole beauty of ice cream is that it is a luscious, creamy delivery system for delicious ingredients like fruit, chocolate and nuts.

I love my memories of ice cream.  As a small child growing up in rural Maryland we used to make homemade ice cream every summer. I remember the old wooden ice cream  machine with the ice and rock salt.  My dad used the same recipe each time and we would add ingredients like fresh berries from our garden.  Now that I am adult with children I love watching my little toddlers eat ice cream.  Honestly - doesn't ice cream make everything better?

Thanks to The Diaper Diaries for making me think of something I love today!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Recipe: Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole

This is one of my favorite easy family casseroles. I love casseroles. They may not be exciting or gourmet but I find the my family loves casseroles and they are easy to make with pantry staples. This particular casserole is made even easier because I try to keep extra cooked rice and already cooked and diced meat (chicken, ham) in the freezer. 



Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole
Servings: 8-10

8 cups cooked rice (I used mixed brown and white)
1 family size can of cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom or chicken soup
16 oz bag of mixed frozen veggies
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast cooked and diced into 1 inch pieces
2 cups shredded cheese
1 sleeve saltine crackers
3 tablespoons butter

Directions:  If like me you have the rice, meat and veggies in the freezer they need to be defrosted and/or brought to room temp in the microwave.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl combine the rice, chicken, soups and veggies.  Spoon half into a 13x9 casserole dish, spread and then sprinkle one cup of cheese.  Add the remaining mixture and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes (depending on how cold your casserole was when you placed in the oven).  Increase oven temperature to 415 degrees.  Crush the sleeve of saltine crackers finely (great job for a small child!).  Melt butter and combine with crushed saltines. Remove casserole from oven, sprinkle 3/4 cup of shredded on top of casserole.  Sprinkle the saltine/butter mixture evenly over the top and then remaining cheese. Return to oven until top is nicely melted and brown - generally about 10 minutes.  Enjoy.  This is a also a great dish to put extra servings in the freezer for quick lunches or busy weeknight meals. 

Variations:
Meat:  I have done this with ham, chicken and pork.  We prefer ham or chicken.  I generally try to keep some diced meat in casserole portions (about 2 cups) in the freezer so it is ready to go when I need to make dinner.  I season my chicken with my "pantry" seasoning which is a mixture of Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and garlic before cooking.  But if you don't have seasoned chicken you will need to add some seasoning to the dish probably. Ham doesn't need as much seasoning (especially salt).  

Topping: I have used crushed pretzels, goldfish, different types of crackers and even breadcrumbs.  I generally use whatever is in my pantry.  My two favorites are goldfish and saltines. 

Veggies: You can use just about any veggies you have one hand - fresh, canned or frozen.  Fresh will need to be steamed or cook the casserole longer at 350.  I find that frozen end up with the best texture but I have used all depending on what was in the pantry.

My almost 3 year old smashing the saltines for me - he had a blast!


I think he was a little surprised that I asked him to break something. I think he would have happily crushed the whole box of crackers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Menu Plan Monday - June 21 - 27th

This week will be a little light since my teenage stepdaughter leaves for camp in the morning and my son still have swim practice. 



Monday
Delayed Father's Day Dinner (due to impromptu party at friends on Father's Day)
Steak in Garlic Butter
Roasted New Potatoes*
Green Beans with Onions, Butter and Garlic*
Glazed Carrots*

Tuesday
Swim Practice - Leftovers

Wednesday
BBQ Chicken
Steamed Broccoli*
Baked Beans

Thursday
Swim Practice - Leftovers

Friday
Breakfast - Pancakes, Eggs and Fruit

Saturday
Apricot Roasted Pork Loin
Rice
Green Beans*

Sunday
Ham and Rice Casserole

Recipe: Sam's Chunky Monkey Cookies

Each Christmas I like to participate in cookie exchanges.  Last year I decided that I wanted to create new cookies inspired by my family.  At the time my youngest was just under a year.  He loved bananas and was a very chunky baby (often called by me - Chunky Monkey).  I was inspired by this recipe and made a few changes. 

Sam’s Chunky Monkey Cookies

2/3 cup of butter, softened
2/3 cup of Granulated Sugar
1/3 cup of Light Brown Sugar
2 eggs
1 cup of mashed ripe bananas
1 ½-teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 cup of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
¼-teaspoon baking soda
12 oz Semisweet Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup of chopped nuts


Directions:  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, banana and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto cooking sheets (stoneware works best). Cookies do not spread much. Try to make sure they are in uniform shape and then press down gently with the back of a wet spoon to ensure even cooking. Bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes or until edges are very light golden brown. Let set for 1-2 minutes and then place on rack to cool. Yields about 4-5 dozen cookies.

These cookies are very soft and keep well in a sealed container so they are great if you need to make a few days ahead.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Recipe: Roasted Garlic Sopa de Fideos

I've mentioned that my husband is Mexican-American and over the last four years I have learned to like and sometimes love Mexican food.  One of the recipes I have come to think of as the perfect comfort food is Sopa de Fideo.  Most commonly a tomato based chicken soup with fideos pasta which is basically short cuts of angel hair pasta.  The spices vary but every version I have tried has lots of salt.  You can even buy a soup mix package in the Mexican food aisle at the grocery store. It's pretty good but if you look at the ingredients list several items aren't really food or I am not able to pronounce.  Well this week I have been fighting a nasty cold and at work yesterday Sopa de Fideos sounded perfect.  I decided to give it a try at home.  I asked my co-worker from Mexico for a few tips and this is what I came up with.  It turned out well. My husband upon coming home informed me that he has never liked Fideos Soup and didn't even want to try it.  Well he tried it and loved it.



Roasted Garlic Sopa de Fideos
Servings: 6

Ingredients
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water
1 small can tomato sauce
7 oz package of fideos pasta
3-5 cloves of roasted garlic
1-2 teaspoons salt
1/2 chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon oil (twice)
1/2 tablespoon butter
4-8 dashes of hot sauce
1 peel diced tomato (if desired)

A few notes:  Fideos pasta can be found with the ethnic or Mexican foods in the grocery store. You can also break angel hair pasta into smaller pieces if you already have in your pantry. About 2" pieces is what you want.  Also note I used broth - not stock. If you use stock that is richer you can adjust the water to stock ratio. It can also be made with bouillon. That is the traditional way for most Mexicans but due to the salt content I try to stay away from bouillon. 

Directions:  Roast the garlic for about 15 minutes in foil at 425 degrees.  Heat butter and oil is a medium sauce pan, add fideos and lightly brown. You just want to lightly toast the fideos to bring out the flavor. When you start smelling the warm earthiness of the grain its done.  Remove fideos.  Add a little more oil and lightly saute chopped onions until just translucent.  I had dehydrated onions on hand so used those but I think fresh or frozen chopped onions would taste better.  If using dehydrated you don't saute just add at the end. 

Add fideos back into the pot and add the liquid ingredients, fresh tomato and squeeze the roasted garlic into the pot.  Stir to combine all ingredients well and bring to a boil.  Leave it at a low boil for 6-9 minutes until the pasta is at the tenderness you like.  I like al dente, my family likes mush so I usually go in between.  After about five minutes taste the soup and determine what spices you want to add.  I used a low sodium chicken broth so I could control the salt. I still added about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.  I also added about 5 dashes of hot sauce. You could add some extra garlic powder or onion powder if you want more of those flavors or oregano would be a nice flavor with this soup as well.  After the pasta is cooked your dish is done. Enjoy!

This is an older post but I love this soup so I am joining SoupaPalooza and you can too!  Love the great prizes.  Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored byKitchenAidRed Star Yeast and Le Creuset

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Recipe: Asian Inspired Slow Cooker Pork Chops

Asian Inspired Slow Cooker Pork Chops

Combine the following to make the marinade/sauce. Whisking is helpful but not required.
½ cup water or broth. I used water but broth or stock would be better.
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Dash of hot sauce or chili flakes
½ teaspoon of flour
1 tablespoon dehydrated onion (optional)

Pork Chops (2-3lbs)
Place pork chops in slow cooker. Poor sauce on top. I used 2lbs of pork chops. Make sure all pork chops are coated with sauce.

Depending on thickness of pork chops cook 3-5 hours at low. If very thick adjust to cook longer. About 20-30 minutes before service turn the slower cooker to warm (only due this after you are sure meat is fully cooked) and then add the following.

1 tablespoon white or rice vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce or oyster sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Sprinkle each ingredient evenly over pork and replace the lid. This adds a fresh taste to a slow cooker dish.

This is a very light marinade. If you want a thicker sauce remove the pork chops at the end, strain the sauce to remove fat and bits of meat and then reduce in small saucepan over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until it reduces by half.

Variations: Use chicken or beef instead of pork. Could also do with just about any cut of pork, it does not have to be pork chops. Today I used pork chops because those are what I had in my freezer. If I had beef I would probably have done it with beef. Would also be nice to add some toasted sesame seeds at the end for texture.

Serves 4 (dependent on the amount of meat used)
Prep Time - 5 minutes
Cook Time - 3-5 hours on low in slow cooker

I served it with Bok Choy with Caramelized Onions and Garlic and a mixture of brown and white steamed rice.  It was very good.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Are you ready for a... Food Revolution?

Did you watch the Food Revolution? I have been a Jamie Oliver fan since back in the early days of the Naked Chef when it was on PBS and Jamie was a bachelor in a London flat. I love his simple, fresh approach to food and cooking. I seem to be caught between two very different loves when it comes to food. First: rich, decadent, often fattening food like my favorite southern style dishes and second: fresh, clean, earthy tastes that remind me of warm summer days in family's garden when I was a child. Jamie's food generally fits into the second category but he doesn't forget the need for a little decadence now and again.

I eagerly tuned into Food Revolution mainly for Jamie but ended up hearing the message loud and clear. As a mom of 3 I have thought more and more about how important what I serve my children is to their lifelong health. I think of the world today with obesity and illness rampant and wonder how much of that is because of what we eat. Now, don't get me wrong, I just don't have enough will power to start eating only raw food. Nor do I have enough money to eat 100% organic, especially since I live in a desert city far away from local agriculture, but I do think we can all do more to actually eat FOOD. Real food. Food that has includes ingredients you can pronounce. Food that has ingredients that you know what they are and where it came from.

Do you read food labels? Honestly, most of us don't. Or if we do we look at the nutritional facts at the top and not the ingredient list at the bottom in 5 pt font. About three years ago my husband was diagnosed with diabetes. That was when I began to actually read labels. I was astonished to discovered how many items have huge amounts of sugar, mainly due to high fructose corn syrup. Did you know spaghetti sauce has corn syrup in it? Now how many of us would get out a bottle of corn syrup if we were making a batch of sauce at home? Not me.

I'm not a scientist, I am not a doctor or a nutritionist but I do honestly believe that what we eat has a huge impact on our health and well-being. I also believe in the power of food to bring a family together. Food is what has united my family for decades. Food brings us together to laugh and it is what comforts us when we have cried. But I ask you the question now: Is the food you are serving your family actually food or unpronounceable chemicals?

If you, like me, think maybe you need to make some changes I would suggest you visit Jamie's website and learn a little more about his Food Revolution. There is also a new toolkit to aid in you joining the food revolution. If you have school age children I high encourage you to check out the information regarding school lunches and get involved to help our children get healthy.

Have a favorite health recipe?  Please comment or email it to pantrycookinmama@gmail.com.  If you have a blog include a link.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

One of the items in this week's co-op Mexican variety pack were tomatillos.  I prefer green Mexican sauces and salsa which are made with tomatillos but I have never bought or tried to cook with a tomatillo. My daughter even said, "what is that"?




Thanks to PBS/Celebrity Chef Rick Bayless I know what a tomatillo is but that's about it.  Tomatillos are related to the gooseberry and a staple of Mexican cuisine.  In Mexico they are often known as green tomatoes and are in fact a tomato variety.  Unlike a tomato, tomatillos have a paper like husk that you have to peel off before using. Tomatillos are grown all over the Western Hemisphere and can be grown in home gardens. Tomatillos, although sometimes known as green tomatoes, are different than unripe red tomato varieties that are also used in dishes.  So after that little botany lesson, the real question is what to do with them?

I found a great recipe for Roasted Tomatillo Salsa at  Food in Jars.  As a canning newbie I will be definitely heading back to Food in Jars in the future (especially love the photography). 

It's a very simple recipe.  First pre heat your oven to 425 and then start by taking the husks off of the tomatillos, cut in half and lay on rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminium foil.  I had a very large yellow onion in the co-op pack so used about 1/4 of that in large chunks and 5 garlic cloves still in wrapper.  I roasted a little more of the garlic because I prefer the roasted flavor rather than raw.  Roast for 10-15 minutes. In my oven 15 was just about right.  Let cool until able to handle.

In a blender put the remainder of the onion and peeled garlic. I used another 1/4 of the onion and cut in large chunks.  I used 1 more clove of garlic for a total of 5.  Clean and dice your jalapeno and add to the blender.  I used just one jalapeno and removed the ribs and seeds because I like things mild. If you like it spicy leave the seeds and ribs or add more jalapenos.  If I make this again I think I will roast the jalapenos as well.  Then add the roasted ingredients.  Make sure to squeeze garlic from skins.  Add cilantro, I used just about a tablespoon of cilantro since it is not my favorite. Add the juice of 1/2 a lime and blend.  Taste and decide if you want to add a pinch of salt and/or sugar. I added a small pinch of salt and about 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.  I am not a fan of hot things and I really like sweet/salty, sweet/sour flavor combos so I added more sugar than most people would but my whole family really liked.   And finally - enjoy! 

I'm thinking of adding chunks of avocado to it tomorrow for a snack at work.  The co-op pack had four avocados and I think the freshness of the salsa will blend well with avocado. 


Menu Plan: June 14th - 20th

This week is going to be busy.  My almost 3 year old starts swim lessons and our teenager is getting ready for summer camp so it will be a busy week.  If you checked out my post last week I have added some links to recipes now. Thanks to I"m an Organizing Junkie for hosting Menu Plan Monday.


Monday
Papa's Seafood Pasta Salad
Tomatoes*

Tuesday
Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes - they were such a hit last week I'm doing again but this time adding ham from the freezer to make a complete meal.
Sauteed Green Beans*

Wednesday
Asian Stir Fry or Mexican? Not sure yet.

Thursday
Chicken and Rice Casserole

Friday
Tostadas*

Saturday
Open - Leftovers etc.

Sunday - Father's Day
Need to discuss with the hubby what he wants but I know Steak will definitely be on the menu.

* Includes items from my produce co-op basket.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A little comfort... in a bowl

I woke up with a sore throat and after teaching in church today it just seems to be getting worse. 

I wanted something warm and soothing. I checked out the pantry and found cream of wheat.  Whisked up a nice comforting bowl with butter, honey and cream. 


My sore little throat said thank you and now it's time to go to bed.

What's your comfort food when you are under the weather?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

This week's Co-Op Basket

________________________________________________________________________________

This week in addition to the regular produce basket from Bountiful Baskets I decided to get some of the add-ons options they had available. I got 20lbs of tomatoes (although the box says 25lbs) and the Mexican Produce pack.  I think I'm going to try and make salsa and can it for the first time!  That will be the challenge this week and I will post the results soon.  


I also got a whole coconut! I haven't had a whole fresh coconut since I was a little girl.  My kids wondered what it was and opening and eating it should be an adventure. 
There was also 16 beautiful apricots. I thought I would do a easy tart but with how quickly we are eating them they might not last long enough! 

I'm really enjoying getting to meet new people each week at the pick up, the fun of not knowing exactly what you will get in your basket and the challenge of cooking things I wouldn't normally purchase at the store. 

Recipe: Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes

I had ham on the menu this week and got potatoes in my co-op basket so decided I wanted to make scalloped potatoes in the slow cooker. Now I will admit I normally just buy the box mix and "jazz" them up a bit with some extra touches.  Since I am trying to make more things from scratch decided to try a new recipe. I found my inspiration at A Year of Slow Cooking.  I highly recommend her book Make it Fast, Cook It Slow by the way. I didn't have all the ingredients and it was a little richer than I wanted for a family weeknight meal so this the recipe I came up with. 

Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes
Cook Time: 6-7 hours (low) or 3 hours (high)
Yield: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
*Sauce*
8 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
2 1/2 cups half and half
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon chili powder or 3-5 dashes hot sauce
pinch of nutmeg 
__________ 

*Main Ingredients*
5-6 baking potatoes
1/2 onion chopped or 3 tablespoons dehydrated onions
1 cup of shredded cheese (I used pre-shredded Colby jack blend)

Directions:  Peel potatoes. I just did a quick peel of the potatoes so some skin was left on the potato for a little texture like Stephanie's recipe.  Slice potato in half lengthwise and then slice in 1/4in to 1/2 inch slices. If you need to leave in slow cooker longer make closer to 1/2 inch.  Put in the bottom of crock pot.  If using fresh or frozen onion put in slow cooker also.

In saucepan melt butter over medium-high heat.  Whisk in flour, making sure to constantly whisk for 1 to 2 minutes.  Whisk in the half and half and spices and stir until smooth.  It will not be very thick but will thicken as it cooks.  If you are using dehydrated onions add the onions to the sauce after you have taken off heat and stir in fully. 

Pour cream sauce over the potatoes, cover and turn on crock pot for 6-7 hours on low or 3 hours on high.  When potatoes are tender stir in 1 cup of cheese.  Allow cheese to melt and then serve.

Tips:  If you don't have hot sauce or nutmeg you can omit. I just find that hot sauce helps cut some of the richness of cream sauces and nutmeg is a classic addition to any cream sauce but don't feel like these are necessary.  If you don't have in your pantry - leave it out and it will still be good.  If you don't have half and half milk would work as well just won't be as rich. 

I had to leave in crockpot for 7 1/2 hours and my potatoes started to fall apart, especially because you have to stir when you add cheese. It still tastes great but not as pretty. If your potatoes are very tender I would suggest plating and then adding cheese to individual servings if you want the dish to be more "presentable." 




Thursday, June 10, 2010

What's your food unicorn?

Is there one dish that you always say, "I wish I could make that?".  A family classic?  A restaurant favorite? Maybe you've tried to make it and failed? A recipe that feels like a myth.

The perfect souffle or maybe Boeuf Bourguignon of Julie and Julia fame.  Now if you are a home style cook like me it might not be so fancy but I think all cooks have at least one (or more) elusive recipe they want to master.  Often it is wishing that your chocolate cake turned out like Aunt Martha or your scalloped potatoes were like your mother in law's (or better).  For me it's a kind of funny but right now my "unicorn" is Stuffed Cabbage.  Yup, not only exciting right but for some reason every since last St. Patrick's Day I have wanted to make stuffed cabbage. But of course it's not just any stuffed cabbage. It's a particular recipe I had long again and I want to recreate, the perfect blend of sweet and sour with cabbage that melts around the rice and meat. So far I've tried and failed. Not miserably but it definitely hasn't come close to that wonderful food memory I'm trying to match.

So my question for you... what's your food unicorn? What is the that one dish you wish you could make? Maybe we can find the perfect recipes together!

Cook Once, Save for Later

I'm not exactly talking about leftovers.  Although I love leftovers and we eat frequently, I'm talking about cooking extra and saving part for later. Doing this saves time and money.  For example the other night when I was making Chicken Fajitas Verde I had more chicken then needed for the recipe. Instead of wrapping up and refrigerating or freezing the chicken I cooked it.  I seasoned the chicken and put it in the oven to cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  When it was done I diced the chicken and placed in a freezer bag for use later in a salad, casserole or soup.  With our busy lifestyle I often find that if I am not careful leftover refrigerated raw food goes bad before I can use it.  By cooking the whole package of chicken the same day, but using two methods, I made sure the food won't go to waste but don't have too much of the same thing.  Also, if I end up with enough extra chicken for two or three meals I will make sure to put in separate bags so I only defrost one portion at a time. 

This also works really well with rice.  When planning my menu for the week I will often have two or three nights with rice on the menu.  I will make extra rice the first night so I don't have to worry about cooking it a second time.  I generally like to place theses "extras" in the freezer rather than the fridge so that if plans change I don't have wasted food.  Again, rice was part of the menu the night I made the fajitas but I knew that I wanted to make my Cheesy Ham and Rice Casserole soon so I double the batch of rice. It's now waiting in my freezer for me to use.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chicken Fajita Burritos - Slow Cooker

My husband is Mexican-American.  The funny thing is, when we got married I hated Mexican food. Literally I liked just about every food but Mexican and Indian.  Well, being married to a Mexican has slowly won me over to the beauty of Mexican food (and watching some Rick Bayless, Mexico One Plate at a Time).  Although I would not say that I am an authentic Hispanic cook, I do like to incorporate Hispanic touches and flavors into my dishes. One of the dishes that I really like is Chicken Fajitas done in the slow cooker.  And what's even better is to go all the way and make Chicken Fajita Burritos.  So let's start with the Chicken Fajita Recipe.

Chicken Fajitas Verde - Slow Cooker

  •  2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast - sliced into 1/2 inch wide pieces
  • Las Palmas Green Green Enchilada Sauce, Medium 10 oz. (this is the favorite brand of my husband)
  • 2 sliced bell peppers (I like red but yellow, orange or green work fine)
  • 1 small sliced brown or white onion
  • 10 oz can of Rotel Tomato & Green Chilies Diced (drained)
Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker, stir and set to low for 4-6 hours.  If you like your veggies with a little more crunch and it fits your schedule add the peppers and onions after about 2 hours. 

You can just serve over rice or create Chicken Fajita Burritos.

Chicken Fajita Burritos
  • Chicken Fajita Verde
  • Cooked Rice
  • I can Black Beans (You can use unseasoned or seasoned. Either works)
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Salsa or Chili
  • Tortillas (I prefer flour for this but you could use corn).
  • Sour Cream (optional)

Heat the tortillas.  My husband insists this must be done over the flame of our gas stove.  My mother in law warms in a dry skillet over high for 30 seconds a side.  Place the tortillas in a towel or tortilla keeper to keep warm.  Cook rice according to package instructions. This is also a great time to use the leftover rice from another dish you may have in the freezer because you don't need a lot.  I often blend 1/2 white and 1/2 brown rice together.  My family is more willing to eat the brown rice if disguised a little bit.  Heat black beans, if unseasoned I normally add a little garlic and onion powder.  Then just put everything on the table and let everyone build their own burrito.  Even though I have very small children this works well because they love beans and they are easy for small children to eat.  We had this the other night with elote and it was heavenly! A true easy to prepare Mexican feast.



Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The LIST

So one of the most important things about staying within budget and saving time by eliminating last minute trips to the store is having a well stocked pantry. For me the key is a good shopping list. I am ADD, so by nature don't remember everything all the time. I also sometimes forget to have my list but I have found that I am most successful as a Pantry Cook when I keep to the list formula. The link to a sample of my grocery list is below.


Now this list is organized according to the store layout of my neighborhood Wal-Mart store. I stopped shopping regularly there a few years ago and shop mainly at Fresh and Easy and Sam's Club now but have never changed the order. The nice thing about this list is that it includes dinner ideas. I find it very helpful to know what dinners I plan to make for the week BEFORE I go grocery shopping. Now obviously to save money I will make a change if I find a particularly good sale on meat or produce but generally my weekly menu is already planned which saves time and money - the perfect combination for a working mom! You will notice I also have a note for the items that I always have a coupon for to remind myself to bring the coupon.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Elote - a Mexican favorite

As I mentioned in this post about the food co-op there was corn in the basket and I knew exactly how I was going to use it - elote.

The first time I was offered elote my answer was "no way". A street vendor was selling it in my then-fiance's neighborhood.  My husband, who is Mexican-American, told me how good elote was and that I had to try it myself.  The idea of buying steamed corn slathered with mayonnaise, butter, cheese and chili from a street vendor working out of a shopping cart sounded awful. But then... I tried it and I have been hooked ever since. As summer is upon us you can readily find inexpensive corn on the cob and although, like me, you might not think elote sounds good I encourage you to give it a try. I live in Las Vegas and can get elote from street vendors or Mexican stores regularly, but if you can't it is easy to make at home.   

ELOTE - Mexican Corn 

  • 6 Wooden Skewers
  • 6 ears of Corn on the Corn
  • 1/2 cup Mayo
  • 1 cup Cotija Cheese - Parmesan can be used if you cannot find the Mexican specialty cheese
  • Chile - powdered or liquid like Tapitio or Valentina
  • Butter (if desired)
  • Salt
  • Lime or lemon (if desired)
Boil the corn until soft. Insert the skewer into the bottom of each ear of corn (to use like a handle). If you have a big enough pot you can insert the skewer before boiling. Lightly salt the corn and slather with mayo generously. Mix the cheese and chili (if using powder) in the bottom of a plate or pan. Roll the ears of corn in the cheese mixture. You can also sprinkle the chili on separately which is a good choice if you have family like varying degrees of heat. If desired sprinkle with melted butter. If using liquid chili sprinkle on corn using more or less depending on how spicy you desire. Squeeze lime or lemon on finished elote (if desired) and ENJOY!
Having a BBQ?  Grill the corn in the husks instead of boiling and then follow the same preparation. It's wonderful with grilled corn.

Variation: Don't have corn on the cob or time to prepare it?  Follow my friend Erika's method for elote style corn anytime of year.  Heat canned corn on the stove or microwave. Drain, add 1-2 tablespoons of mayo or sour cream if you aren't a fan of mayo.  Add cheese, butter and chili to taste. If you leave in a little of the canning liquid it becomes almost like a soup.  A perfect comfort dish in minutes.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Co-Op Challenge - Asian Bok Choy with Caramelized Onions and Garlic

As I mentioned in my earlier post I participated in a food co-op for the first time this week. One of the items in my basket was bok choy, something I have never cooked before. I love Asian food so I have eaten bok choy just not prepared myself. I got some very good suggestions and thanks to those that provided comments. I found one recipe that sounded good over Mom Chef's blog but I'm not a fan of ginger so I knew I would be making some changes.  As normal I love to look through recipes for inspiration, get ideas from friends and then just come up with something that sounds good to me.  This is ultimately what I came up with.

Asian Bok Choy with Caramelized Onions and Garlic

1/2 medium brown onion
1-2 cloves of garlic
8-10 small/medium bok choy
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of oyster sauce
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
1 small can of water chestnuts
1 tablespoon of butter (optional)
¼ cup of water or chicken stock (recommend stock)
Pepper
Pinch of sugar (optional)

Directions:  Dice half of a brown or white onion into 1-2” inches pieces or half moons. Heat a wok or large frying pan (12inch) to medium and add ½ tablespoon of oil. Add onions when oil is warm. Saute onions until caramelized over medium heat. Stir regularly and adjust heat as needed so onions do not burn.

While onions are caramelizing mince 1-2 cloves of garlic and set aside. Also clean the bok choy by cutting off ends, separating leaves, washing off dirt, and rinsing in colander. Coarsely chop bok choy. When onions are almost caramelized, brown but still some white add the chopped garlic. Saute for 1-2 minutes watching closely so that the garlic does not burn. Remove caramelized onions and garlic completely from pan and wipe down with paper towel.

Add an additional ½ tablespoon of oil allow to heat over medium high heat and then add coarsely chopped bok choy. Turn the heat to high and stir fry bok choy until it starts to wilt. You may need to add the bok choy in batches if you are using a frying pan with low sides. It will wilt down and reduce in volume considerably. Add water or chicken stock and continue to stir fry over high heat for about 5 minutes. You should see the green wilt completely to appear like cooked spinach. The bok choy stems will soften and mellow in color.

Add oyster sauce, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar and freshly cracked black pepper. If you like spice red chili flake would work well also. Continue to cook over high heat for an additional 5-7 minutes depending on how much texture you like. Just before service add water chestnuts and stir thoroughly. After water chestnuts are warm, sprinkle the dish with a pinch of sugar and add the butter in small pieces. Stir until butter is melted and serve.

Serves 4-6

I served with Asian Inspired Slow Cooker Pork Chops and brown jasmine rice. My husband and daughter went back for seconds - the true sign of a successful meal.