Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Stew, Cold Weather and Lazy Days Fit Well Together

This week has been a bit unknown with later dinners so I tried two new slow cooker soups to make things easy.  I made Brazilian Feijoada (Beef Stew) and Chicken Guinness Stew.

The Feijoda was pretty good but I didn't like how the crispy kielbasa became soft from cooking all day and the flavor didn't stand out which made me wonder why add the extra fat.  I did like the hint of orange and that is something I'm usually not crazy about.  I didn't finish the dish with raw jalapeños, vinegar or oranges.  Next time I will but instead of raw jalapeños I'll saute them with the onion.  I loved the tip on pureeing one of the can's of beans.  It made for a thick stew.  After doing some research on "Feijoada" there are more changes I want to make (see my variations).  Original recipe came from Cusiine at Home #85, Feb. 2011.  Update:  The next day this was very good, more flavorful and spicy.

What I learned about Feijoada.  Feijoada means beans in Portuguese.  It is a dish made with beans, beef and pork. Feijoada is typically cooked in former Portuguese colonies such as Brazil, Macau, Angola, Mozambique and Goa (India). However, the recipe can differ slightly from one country to another.  NW Portugal uses white beans, NE uses kidney with tomato , carrots and cabbage.  Feijoada has been described as the national Brazilian dish with black beans and a variety of salted pork or beef products.

The chicken stew (shown here) was thick and very good with a ton of chicken, maybe too much.  I used 2 lg. breasts and 2 thighs because that is what I thawed but next time only thighs, less chicken.  It was totally shredded after 8 hours so next time I'll check at 7.  Since I added S&P to my bowl, I've added the salt and pepper to the slow cooker here.  I'm also thinking a bay leaf and ¼ t. ground dry chipolte pepper like my Irish Stew for a bit more flavor.  Original recipe came from Eating Well, Feb 2012.   Update:  The next day this was solid, too thick, too much chicken, no juice.  Will need to loosen it with some broth.  I also don't like when onions are not sauteed before putting in the crock pot.  They boil and can have some hard skins.  When you saute you notice these firmer skins and can pick them out.  Like a pot pie filling but needs work.

Drizzle oil
1 lb. beef stew meat, seasoned with salt and pepper
8 oz. kielbasa, sliced into ½" rounds, diced, set aside
¼ C. OJ
Slow Cooker:
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded, finely diced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
15 oz. can black beans, drained, rinsed, pureed
15 oz. can black beans, drained, rinsed
2 T. garlic, minced
1 T. hot chili powder
¼ t. coarse black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 orange, zested, pealed, wedged

In a large skillet drizzled with oil, brown beef, 5 minutes per side.  Add to slow cooker.  To the same pan, drizzle more oil and add diced kielbasa and fry till browned, 3 minutes per side.  Set aside.  Deglaze skillet with orange juice by scraping up brown bits on bottom of pan, pour over meat in slow cooker.  Chop onion, jalapeño and mince garlic.  To the same pan add onion and jalapeño.  Saute till onions start to soften and are golden, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic and saute another minute.  Add to slow cooker.  Add canned tomatoes, chili powder and pepper.  Stir.  Cover and cook on high until steak is fork tender, 4 hours.  Stir in red wine vinegar and diced kilbasa.  Serve with orange wedges.

Serving Suggestion:  Serve over cooked brown rice and sautéed greens like collards or kale.

  • Try adding bay leaf, pepper, carrots, ham hock, thick cut bacon, scallion, dried chorizo, linguisa, diced ham, bell pepper.  Finish with cilantro.
  • Try using dried black beans, soaked overnight then cooked in slow cooker 6-8 hours.

6 T. flour
½ t. salt
½ t. coarse black pepper
Drizzle oil
4 boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat
6 slices bacon, chopped, cooked
Slow Cooker:
1 can Guinness
1 lb. baby carrots, cut in half
8 oz. pkg. baby portabella, halved or quartered
1 lg. onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ t. dried thyme
¼ t. Kosher salt
¼ t. coarse black pepper
1 C. chicken broth
2 C. frozen baby peas

In a shallow bowl, mix flour, salt and pepper.  Pat dry chicken, dredge in flour mixture.  Shake off excess.  In a large saute pan with a drizzle of oil add chicken.  Fry - minutes per side till golden brown.  Add to the bottom of slow cooker.  Cut up bacon, fry in same skillet as chicken.  Pour the dredge flour into a 1/2 C. measure and add fresh flour to fill measuring cup.  Pour into skillet with bacon and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the beer and with a wooden spoon scarp bottom of pan to remove any brown bits.  Cook until mixed and foam decreases.  Pour over chicken in slow cooker.  Cut carrots in half, chop onion, mince garlic and layer on top of gravy in slow cooker.  Sprinkle with thyme and pour over chicken broth.
Cover and cook until chicken is falling apart, 4 hours-on high, 7-8 hours on low.  Check to see if chicken is shredding if so pull apart.  Add frozen peas.  Stir.  Cover and cook another 10 minutes to thaw and heat peas.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Although my sister in law would think I’m crazy these were actually really good.  My grocery store only  had one 3.5 oz. package of shitaki mushrooms so I used one plus half of an 8 oz. package of baby portabella mushrooms.  This didn’t make a difference so next time I’ll use all portabella mushrooms and save $2.00.  I also always use Braggs liquid amino acids vs. so but if you haven't switched over soy is the same.  Original recipe came from Cuisine at Home, #97, Jan 2013.  One thing I was able to do at my grocery store was to only buy 10 cabbage leaves.  When I weighted the cabbage it was heavy and $8 since it was $1.99/pound.  The grocery man said I could peel off the leaves I needed since it was sold per pound.  Check with your grocer but this was perfect, under $2.

¾ C. cooked brown rice
8 oz. baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
½ C. fresh cilantro, scissor cut
½ C. carrot, shredded
1 lb. ground pork
¾ C. frozen shelled edamame
2 T. amino acids (soy sauce)
1 T. garlic, minced
1 T. fresh ginger, grated
1 t. kosher salt
½ t. red pepper flakes
12 large outer napa cabbage leaves
¾ C. low sodium vegetable broth
¼ C. rice vinegar
¼ C. soy sauce
2 T. chili garlic sauce
1 T. fresh ginger, grated
1 T. toasted sesame oil
1 T. brown sugar
2 t. cornstarch

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Cook rice.  Clean, slice then chop mushrooms, pick and measure cilantro leaves, cut with scissors in measuring cup and grate carrots.  In a large bowl combine raw pork, mushrooms, cilantro, carrot, rice, frozen edamame, amino acids, garlic, ginger, salt and red pepper flakes.  Mix to combine.  In a 2 cup measure add all sauce ingredients.  Whisk, set aside.  Remove outer cabbage leaves from head, wash, place each one individually on a cutting board and with a rolling pin roll to crush the leaf, especially the stem to make it pliable to you can roll it.  When you crush the leaf you release some of the water in the stem.  Place a ⅓ C. of the filling on the stem end of the leaf and roll up.  Place in a 9x13” baking pan.  If the leaf is large enough tuck in the sides like a burrito but if not or they won’t stay it doesn’t matter.  Do this for each leaf until you run out of filling.  Makes 10 rolls.  Pour sauce over rolls.  Cover with foil.  Bake 30-40 minutes or until thermometer inserted into middle of roll registers 160°F.

Serving Suggestion:  Serve with rice or roasted vegetables drizzled with the pan sauce.

Note:  I would suggest making the rolls and sauce in the morning and storing in the refrigerator. When ready to eat pour sauce over rolls and bake.  It is a bit time consuming on a busy evening.  The sauce was not thick which I expected because of the cornstarch but it is needed to cook the rolls.  I only put a couple of teaspoons of the sauce over the rolls and I didn’t serve it with rice so most of the sauce went to waste which is why I wonder if I should thicken the sauce after the rolls are cooked and use it more like a dipping sauce.  Maybe next time.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Getting Back on Track in 2016

After getting some inspiration from a friend we have decided to start doing better again.  We totally fell off the wagon during the holidays, which frankly is expected if you want to have fun, but it was just taking too long to get back on track.  Our last excuse was football season but  now that we are all out, it is time to do better.  I can't diet, even saying or thinking the word makes me binge.

I started back by eating breakfast everyday (avocado, 12 grain toast, Sriracha, EVOO), coffee or green tea and a fruit and eating lunch however these were not as well planned so not the best.  Two weeks ago we started Meatless Mondays, this upcoming Monday will be our third week.  Then after the inspirational Tuesday, I upped the game with consistent healthy dinners, we skipped our Thursday night out for a cocktail and are on the road to skip cocktails this weekend.   Hopefully no or less cocktails and eating better will shed some pounds before we have to be more drastic.   Wish us luck!

Hubby has already lost a few pounds, which is great but I wonder why not me too.  Men loose weight easier and does have more to loose but still.

I have been posting all my dishes to instagram,
First Monday:  Beet Burgers with a salad
Second Monday:  Spaghetti Squash Patty with a salad
Tuesday:  Mozzarella topped Chicken Tenders topped with a salad (see this on instagram)
Wednesday:  Baked Salmon with Roasted Broccoli (see recipe below)
Thursday:  Salsa Verde Burritos (blew it a bit since I had 2 because I forgot to plug in the crock pot with the actual dinner)

2 salmon fillets
¼ C. raw almonds, coarsely chopped
½ oz. maple syrup
½ oz. OJ
½ T. lemon juice
½ T. amino acids (soy sauce)
1 clove garlic, minced

If using individually wrapped frozen salmon, place each fillet in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes to thaw, then remove wrapper.  Place on a piece of parchment paper.  Chop or grind almonds, sprinkle over fish.  In a small bowl mix sauce ingredients.  Pour over nuts.  Place on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake 425° for 10-15 minutes.

Serving Suggestion:  Place a broccoli florets on half the cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes while you prepare the salmon.  Then add the parchment paper with the salmon to the other half and bake another 10.

Note:  The individually wrapped frozen salmon fillets you get at Costco work great here.  They thaw in 5 minutes in a bowl of cold water.

For lunch on Thursday I tried a new salad:  Black Eyed Pea Salad with Fried Kalamata Olives and Parsnips from Southern at Heart.  Don't know if I have ever had black eyed peas, never fried kalamata olives but infusing the oil with them was a great idea for the dressing.  I think to bulk it up next time I'll serve the salad over lettuce.  

I also tried some Peanut Butter Energy Balls from a guest on the Rachael Ray show but I didn't care for the texture, too mushy, and they were just OK so I won't make them again.

Monday, December 28, 2015


This recipe snuck in at the end of the year, Christmas morning, and it was so good it is my favorite breakfast recipe of 2015.   Although I broke my own rules of following the basic recipe the first time and then modifying it there after to fit my own tastes.  But my changes up front were perfect and even better was it allowed me to use up leftovers.  Even though I'm calling it Tachos because they are like Tater Tot Nachos they don't eat like Nachos.  Its is a fork meal that I cut in pie wedges which also makes it a better company dish.  Shown here with a side of salsa but it isn't necessary because it is that good.  Original recipe was from Feb 2016 Cuisine at Home, #115.  They used ham steak, and mushrooms,

30 oz. bag frozen Ore-Ida Crispy Crowns (flat disk shaped tater tots)
Sprinkle salt
Sprinkle pepper
½ C. lite mayonnaise
1 ½ T. Cholula hot sauce
1 lg. clove garlic, grated
½ C. sour cream
1 ½ T. Cholula hot sauce
Drizzle oil
-Leftover turkey taco meat (see note)
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 jalapeño, seeded, minced
3 green onions, sliced
3 eggs
2 T. milk
Sprinkle salt
Sprinkle pepper
Sliver butter
2 C. shredded Colby Jack cheese
2 green onions, sliced
Salsa, optional

Preheat oven to 425°F.  On a large foil lined baking sheet, lay crowns in a single layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake according to package directions, 25 minutes.  Mix mayo, hot sauce and grated clove.  Pour into a zip top bag and set aside.  In same bowl mix sour cream and hot sauce, set aside.  Dice bell pepper, 3 green onions and jalapeno.  In a saute pan with a drizzle of oil, saute veggies until soft, 5 minutes.  Add taco meat.  Heat till warm.   In a small bowl, whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper.   Melt a sliver of butter in a nonstick fry pan, pour in eggs and cook on low while stirring till mostly done, but still slightly moist.  To assemble use a baking dish and layer in the following order.

  • Half the Crispy Crowns
  • Two thirds of the mayo mixture (cut corner of bag and squeeze over top of tots)
  • Half of the meat veggie mixture
  • Half of the eggs
  • 1 C. cheese

Bake 3 minutes to melt cheese then add another layer of remaining ingredients (Potatoes, remaining mayo sauce, then add sour cream mixture and add ⅓ of that), meat veggie mixture, eggs, cheese).  Bake another 3 minutes to melt cheese.  Remove from oven and top with remaining sour cream mixture and 2 diced green onions.

Note:  Since I had leftover taco meat from the week I used that but if you don't you can make it with a pound of turkey meat, taco seasoning spices and water.  See Sandwich section under tacos.  You can also use any other meat such as diced ham, sausage, chicken, beef, etc.    I baked it in my Pampered Chef Stoneware pan (11" diameter x 2" deep) and it fit perfectly but use what you have that is close to these dimensions.

New (for me) Holiday Recipes

This holiday season brought lots of good food and new recipes but not all new recipes were winners and will get a repeat.

This years Christmas Goodie basket had the following item and they are listed in the order in which I liked them. Rugelach, Macaroons, Apple Snickerdoodles, Hot Chocolate sticks and PBJ Thumbprints.

Rugelach, a Jewish pastry, crescent rolled cookie was my hands down favorite this year.  Although it may seem like a lot of steps if you make the dough and filling the day before then assemble and bake it is much easier.  I used my homemade Plum Jam but you can use apricot, strawberry or your favorite jam.  I thought the raisins were going to be a problem since I didn't chop them but it was fine, no need to chop. I believe the original recipe came from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa.

The Macaroons were a repeat from earlier this year I just tried fresh lime zest vs dried so you could actually taste the lime flavor.  I liked it, would not recommend dry and instead leave it out if you don't have fresh.

The Apple Snickerdoodles had a great flavor but they were too moist.  By the next day they would barely hold their shape when you picked them up, like a wilted rose.  Maybe if I wouldn't have packed them up and instead eaten them that day they would have been better but not good for a goodie bsket.  Original recipe came from my QVC cookbook with David.  Next time I'll try adding maybe 1/2 C. to 1 apple to my Snickerdoodle recipe and see if they stay crispier.

The Hot Chocolate sticks were a great concept but in order for it to make a good hot chocolate the piece of fudge was very large, larger than you would use if you were eating a square so it seemed like a waste of good fudge but people loved the idea and it gave my goodie basket something different. The recipe was basically my Foolproof Fudge recipe but with a few subtractions and additions.

Lastly the PBJ Thumbprint cookies.  They were a bit dry and crumbly, my peanut butter cookie recipe is better and that was basically what they were but topped with jam.  This is one of those recipes that suck me in with the name but if I would have gave it some thought, peanut butter cookies would not have been in my basket.  I think what I like about a Thumbprint cookie is the shortbread like cookie so I wasn't thrilled with the peanut butter part.  What I did take away from this was adding round nuts to the outside of the cookie (roll the raw dough in ground nuts before you bake them). They also had ground nuts inside but this may be why they were also dry.  I will not make these again.

8 oz. block cream cheese, room temperature
2 sticks butter, room temperature
¼ C. sugar
¼ t. Kosher salt
1 t. vanilla extract
2 C. flour
6 T. sugar
¼ C. light brown sugar, packed
½ t. ground cinnamon
¾ C. raisins
1 C. walnuts, finely chopped
8 T. preserves, smooth or process
Egg Wash:
1 egg
1 T. milk
3 T. sugar
1 t. cinnamon

In an electric mixer with a paddle blade add cream cheese and butter.  Mix until combined.  Add sugar, salt and vanilla.  Mix.  With the mixer on low speed add the flour and mix until just combined.  Dump the dough onto a well  floured board and form into a ball.   Cut the ball in quarters and wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or  overnight.
In a small bowl combine the sugars, cinnamon, raisins and walnuts.  Set aside.
When ready to bake, remove dough from refrigerator, unwrap, on a well floured board, roll out each ball into a 9" round circle.  Spread dough with 2 T. of your favorite preserves, sprinkle with ½ C. filling mixture and press into dough with back of measuring cup.  Cut each circle in 12 wedges:  cut the while circle in quarters then cut each quarter into thirds.  With each triangle of dough, starting at wide edge, roll up each wedge.  Place cookies, points tucked under, on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Chill for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Whisk egg and milk, brush on each cookie. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove to wire rack to cool.

18 oz. (2 ¼ C.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 C. walnuts, chopped
1 ½ t. vanilla extract
Dash salt

In a heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt chips with sweetened condensed milk and salt.  Remove from heat; stir in nuts and vanilla.  Spread evenly into wax paper-lined 8-9 inch square pan.  Chill 2 hours or until firm.  Turn fudge onto cutting board; peel off paper and cut into squares.  Store loosely covered at room temperature.  Makes about 2 lbs.

Cooking Method:   In a microwavable bowl, mix chocolate and milk.  Microwave uncovered on high for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until chips are almost melted.  Stir in the vanilla and nuts.

  • White Chocolate:  Use white baking chips instead and add 2 t. orange zest and use almonds or add ¾ C. dried cranberries and ½ C. pistachios.
  • Add 1 t. Amaretto extract along with nuts.
  • Add peppermint extract and top with crushed candy canes.
  • Instead of all chocolate chips substitute some peanut butter or butterscotch chips.
  • Hot Chocolate Sticks:  Omit nuts, vanilla and salt.  Heat condensed milk and ½ C. heavy cream, stirring constantly until it simmering.  Pour over chips and add 4 oz. (¾ C.) unsweetened chocolate.  Stir to melt.  Pour into a foil lined 8x8 pan and let set.  Cut into 25 squares, stick with a lollipop stick.  Stir into 1 C. hot milk.  Drink.    Variation:  Add a large marshmallow to the skewer, roll the fudge in crushed peppermint or cocoa or drizzle them iwth white chocolate before you wrap.  Shown here placed in a tiny paper muffin cup, wrapped in red plastic wrap and tied with curly ribbon.