Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quick Chicken Tortilla Soup

I know it's summer still in half of the nation but it's been unseasonably cold here. My Ballplayer has practice at night and I need food that warms him after. It also happens to be Taco Tuesday in our house. Anything Mexican works for my family. Tortilla Soup is a favorite of mine because you can make it as healthy as you want. Mine is a vegetable soup base which is great if you are not eating meat. Then I add chicken in (which you can leave out) and serve with tortilla chips and lots of toppings. Everyone in the house loves soups of any kinds except The Tortured Teenager. You can't please everyone. So she is having a cheese quesadilla tonight and not complaining about it.

Quick Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 onion diced
1 bell pepper diced (red)
1 zucchini diced
1 clove garlic minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 sm can diced chilis
1 can black beans rinsed
1 cup carrots chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 cup frozen corn
2 cups shredded chicken
1 carton chicken broth
2 cups water

Chop and drop the onions, bell pepper, zucchini, and carrots (you could add any vegetable you have that is in the bin. And if you are really out of veggies, frozen veggies work great. Just skip the browning and add to the broth.) I like to add a TB or two of olive oil to the pan first and get it warmed up. Cook the veggies on Medium High for a couple of minutes. This does make a difference in the flavor of the store bought chicken stock later. Make sure to season the veggies with some salt and pepper.

Now add the can of diced tomatoes. I only have plain but you could add the ones that have onions or jalapenos in them. Just do not drain them first. This liquid is huge in the soup. Add one can of Ortega chilis, undrained, one can black beans that are drained and rinsed 1 tsp cumin and 1 tsp oregano (all I have is dried)

Add chicken broth/stock (one carton)and make sure you shake up the box first.

Now add two cups of water. You could do more and it really would not affect the flavor. My family likes a thick soup, sort of like a stew.

Let it all come up to a boil and bring it down to a simmer. Let simmer for 15 minutes
This is when you would add in some leftover chicken. I am not big on leftovers so I have some chicken breast tenders that I am sauteing up with some garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper. I didn't measure the spices, just sprinkled it all over. You can't go wrong with garlic powder or cumin, and there is never too much in a recipe in our house.

Pour the chicken and all the juices in the pan. I hope you were lucky enough to have leftovers but if not these smell really good. The Tortured Teenager is asking if she can make a taco out of some. NO! Soup Hater!

Add 1 cup of frozen corn. I do this at the end. It just needs to heat up not over cook. Taste and make sure you have enough salt and pepper or cumin. We like a lot of cumin in this house. Not everyone likes cumin. If you are really adventurous, you could add a tsp of chipotle adobo sauce, but that is another recipe at another time...

Now, I like to put some cheap tortilla chips in the bottom of the bowl. You could make your own, but this is QUICK Tortilla Soup. This gets to the table in 25 minutes (take that Rachel Ray!) I put cheese and green onions on top of it. Ladle soup on top of it. You could put tortillas on top for appearance but I like how they get all soft from the soup and make the broth all creamy.

I dig around looking for the chips, dodging carrots!

Other Toppings you put on your soup;
Green onions
sliced jalapenos
Hot sauce!!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Whiskey Peppercorn Steak

I have a weakness for steak covered in sauce. It is not very popular in this neck of the woods. Here, steak is cooked slow over oak wood. It is flavorful and shouldn't need a sauce. But I can't help it! Maybe it is because I grew up eating cheap cuts of steak. Sauce was used to make it taste better. Whatever the reason, I am stuck on a nice sauce. This one is made out of Jack Daniels. Hello Jack!!! Don't worry, all the alcohol cooks out. This sauce is peppery. Is that a word? It is bold. The sauce was so good that I found myself dipping my potato in it.

Whiskey Peppercorn Steak

3-4 good sized steaks (I prefer Ribeye, The Fireman like New York)
1 TB canola oil
1 TB cracked black peppercorns (you just stick them in a bag and give them a good whack!)
1/4 cup finely diced onions
1/4 cup Whiskey (Hello Jack!)
1 cup beef broth or stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Put the Peppercorns in a zip-lock bag and pound with a rolling pin until it is good and cracked. I like mine more cracked than most. You could just run it through a pepper mill!

Take the steaks out of the fridge 30 minutes before you plan on cooking. Very important. Season them with some Kosher salt (no pepper) and set aside.

Heat oil in the pan on high heat. I would love to say that I am using a cast iron pan. I should be saying I am using a cast iron pan but things happen when you move. Bear with me. Once the pan is smoking hot (literally) put the steaks in the pan and turn the heat down to medium high. You hear me telling you this a lot. My stove is not reliable and it takes too long to cool down. Plus my fan isn't what it should be...

Let them cook for a good four minutes. Don't move them and dont turn them! The Fireman likes to do that. Don't touch my meat!!! You will completely know it is time to turn when it gets enough crust that it flips with out taking the pan with you. Be patient. It really is about four minutes.

Once you flip, turn the heat down...I know, again but there is a method to my madness. We are turning it down so it doesn't overcook. Stay on top of it at this point. I like mine medium. Just medium (about 135 on a meat thermometer) but The Fireman likes his burnt...crisp...shoe leather! Once your steak is perfect, put on a place on a plate. Do not cut into it thinking you will just have a bite while the sauce cooks! You will ruin the steak! It needs to rest so it will be juicy (despite The Fireman's being shoe leather)

In the same pan, add the onions and saute until they get just a tad of color to them.

Add the Whiskey (Hello Jack!) and scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the peppercorns. Add the beef stock/broth and turn up to high heat. You are going to let it all thicken about 5 minutes.

Now add the cream. I love cream. I love Butter. This isn't about Butter but you mention cream and I go nuts. Back to the sauce. Give the cream a minute to mix in with the sauce. Let it thicken just a minute. Now add the parsley. (Have I mentioned how much I dislike what my stores have lately?) and taste it to make sure it has enough salt and pepper.

Pour the sauce over the steaks (careful to not give MY steak to the Fireman, because I do not want his steak) and ooh and ahh as you eat!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sausage & Peppers Subs

"Is that all we are having for dinner," whines The Tortured Teenager.

"Oooh sausage and peppers! Right on!" cheers The Fireman

I guess you can't please everyone all the time.

I guess you have to grow up eating this. Personally this was a regular. One my father could make and would make. The Fireman grew up with his on mashed potatoes. We'll cover that in the winter.

This is quick and easy. I'm gonna give you the basic version. There are a million ways to dress it up and those are another time.

Sausage & Peppers Subs
makes 5 subs

1 pkg Italian sausage (sweet, hot or regular I could only find Mild Italian sausage)
1 red bell pepper sliced (if you have a large family you could double or triple but there are only 2 that will eat them tonight.)
1 orange bell pepper sliced
1 large onion halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup water
French rolls

These are the sausages I am using. The Fireman prefers one that says "Sweet Italian" on it but these were pretty close without freaking anyone out.

I pop them in a sauce pan. Any frying pan that you can lid will work great. If you dont have a lid for your pan, have some foil handy.

Brown the sausages on all sides on medium high. While you are browning them, cut up your veggies. Get them into a pan sauteing with a little oil or even butter (I love butter) over medium high and when they are just about done, add the garlic.

Once the sausages are brown, add 1/2 cup water to the pan and cover it. This will steam them for the remainder of the cooking. This takes about five minutes. I use a meat thermometer to check. I want them cooked all the way but not tough and over cooked.

I like to toast my buns, whole in the oven. Stick them on a cookie sheet and in the oven at 350. Stick them in when you are just about thinking of adding water to the pan of sausages. Have some provolone cheese handy for when you pull them out. I like to cut them and stick cheese on them immediately so the cheese gets all melted. Stick one sausage on the bun and pile with the veggies.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Making Bacon

I really need to cover this because it seems to be unknown by so many and baking bacon is really my preferred method. If you have been in front of the stove with grease popping at you, then I have a treat for you! Bake it! it comes out so perfect, so not greasy and you can still save the drippings if you are after them (I rarely ever do that.)

First you need one of these baking cooling racks. I use mine for everything from cooking oven chicken nuggets to steaming buns for hotdogs. Originally I bought mine for cookies. Those days of baking are long gone (well not completely but one can wish!)

Stick this into your cookie sheet. Line the rack with bacon, careful to not overlap. Overlapping is bad. I didn't need much bacon this time but I have loaded the pan down.

Put into a preheated 425 degree oven. It takes about 15 minutes but do not trust my calculation because I have walked away from bacon and wondered what was burning too many times. It just happens too fast. Take out and transfer to paper towels (I still do it)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly

My grandma made these for me as a child. Just let me close my eyes and....ya I'm back in her kitchen. She had red carpet in her kitchen! Red carpet in the family room. Hmm that must be where I get it from? No I do not have red carpet! But I LOVE RED! Yup! Our bedroom comforter...red! The throw blankets in my family room....red! All my accessories...red! Nickname my hubby calls me...you got it! Red!

My grandma didn't make this very often. It's rich! Perfect for the middle of the night or when upset! The last time she made it for me, I was fourteen...no maybe thirteen (I think, it was a long time ago) and I was staying home sick. I wasn't sick but a boy had broke my heart for the very first time. To make matters worse, he was my grandparents paperboy! This town was way too small! My best friend lived around the corner, half the girls I went to school with (not really, I'm exaggeration just a tad) lived in the neighborhood. I was embarrassed. I was hurt! And this sandwich made me feel better. Funny thing! My husband's grandparents also lived in the neighborhood. I didn't know them, or at least I don't remember knowing them. Small world!

So a couple years ago on some cooking show, this sandwich was being made. It's not original for God's sake! Elvis was known for eating it ALL THE TIME! So anyways The Tortured Teenager turned her cute little nose up at the sight of the sandwich! Noooo! I couldn't have that! It's a culinary masterpiece! So just to prove a point, I HAD to make it! She peered from around the corner. In her snotty voice "I guess it smells good but I won't eat that!" hmm but I didn't make it for her! So I cut it and sat right next to her. Oh it's ooey and gooey and rich! She snatched a corner and says "I guess I'll try it but I won't like it!" HAAA! I HAD to make her one! Just because she "wouldn't like it" lol! The Ballplayer on the other hand hadn't discovered his love of peanut butter and jelly on the same sandwich. Back then he only ate peanut butter sandwiches. Who are these kids? How are they related to me???

I haven't made these in years. Just recently The Tortured Teenager asked if I would make them. Her heart wasn't broken. But they forever will be a Heartbreak Sandwich for me.

Grilled Peanut Butter & Jelly

Butter (yes butter! I heart butter! But I am being good and am using Smart Butter)
Peanut Butter
Strawberry jelly (or your favorite)

We like wheat bread. No really! But use what you like. We also like the old fashioned peanut butter but again, use what you like. One requirement-use jelly not that cheap jam. Trust me! Plus the wheat bread makes me not feel so guilty for eating this. Sort of.

Make yourself a PB&J. I personally put butter under my jelly. Don't ask why! My grandma did it, my dad did it, my husband does it. Everyone claims it keeps the jelly from making the bread soggy. I have never tested this theory. I am afraid to. Resist the urge to take to the table and eat.

Butter both sides of the sandwich.
Now grill it like a grilled cheese making sure both sides are perfectly golden brown.

I got a little sloppy with my jelly. This will be my first bite!

Carefully flip. Oooh more jelly. Now which side will I eat first?

Serve. I like to let it sit just a minute. (Let rest!) I've burned the roof of my mouth one too many times.

Remember I said to let it rest...proof I cut it too soon. Ooozing peanut butter.

Serve with milk. Really it is must!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Greek Cous Cous Salad

I have been actively watching my waistline. Watching it grow....not really. But I hope not. This dish reminds me of what you would eat at a spa. I have no idea what they serve at a spa but I would want to eat this. I may even want to lick my fingers after.

This does feed an army. Cous Cous is amazing at being affordable and stretching the dollar. The Fireman and I ate this for lunch for two days. This may or may not have been low in fat or calories but I felt good after I ate it. It is full of flavor. You could easily add some grilled chicken or shrimp to it or keep it meatless.

Greek Cous Cous Salad
1/4 cup butter (I know! Not spa like but I'm trying!)
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup chop kalamata olives
1/2 cup chop sun dried tomatoes
1/2 c wine
1/2 lemon juice
Salt pepper
1/2 cup feta

Prepare plain cous cous according to the package. I just happen to have some leftover from dinner last night.

Melt the butter in a saute pan. Add the garlic and cook until it gets some color. Add the wine, and lemon juice. Let cook for a minute or two. I have to resist grabbing bread at this point. I love wine and butter mixed together. I have love handles to prove it..
Add the Kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes (you could totally add more of any of these items.) Give it a stir and let it all just warm up.

Add the cous cous to the pan. Mix well. Now I could have done a better job last night at fluffing my cous cous. Once I stored over night I had little pasta balls and there was nothing I could do about it nor did it affect the flavor.
Now add the feta and serve.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Brats with Beer and Onions

"you're cooking your kids in a vat of beer with onions??"

Only my funniest friend from the sticks would ask me that!!

Yes I've got Brats in beer cooking. Sausages, not my kids! Taco Tuesday was forgotten this week. Purely by accident. I promise. I simply forgot what day of the week it was. You are welcome to wrap a tortilla around it if it makes you feel better. I bet it would taste good too!

One package of brats (I'm using the beer ones)
2 small onions for boiling
1 clove of garlic for boiling
2 TB butter for boiling
2 beers (whatever you can pry out of your husbands hands)
3 small onions for topping
2 TB butter for topping
Buns-mine are warmed

Make this once and I promise the men in your house will ask for it again and again.

Slice up 2 small onions and mince
1 clove of garlic

Melt 2 TB butter in a deep frying pan and add the onions. Cook till you get just a tad of color. Then add the garlic. Let cook just until you get a spot of color.

Add the two beers. Bring to a boil

I'm not sure where these beers came from. The Fireman prefers dark beers.

Add the Brats (sausages...not kids)and a pinch of salt (kosher but just a pinch)

Cover and cook 25 minutes on a simmer

While the brats are boiling, cut the other onions. Melt the remanding butter on medium heat and caramelize the onions.

Heat a grill pan or get your hubby to start the BBQ. Place brats on grill and brown.

Do not discard the beer. Uncover and reduce the beer mixture while the brats brown.

Place browned brats in beer. Turn to warm. Let them just sit in the liquid until ready to eat. This is perfect if you are making them for a game!

When ready to eat, place brats in warmed buns. I like to use French rolls. I place on a cookie sheet and place in a 350 degree oven for ten to fifteen minutes.

Top with caramelized onions. I like mustard on mine too.
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