Sunday, February 2, 2014

Enchilada Casserole

Enchiladas are one of our favourite dishes to make and it took us a few years of trial and error
with technique and ingredients before we got it right where we want it.  We really didn't think we could make it better...until a few weeks ago.  We had left over shredded pork that we'd made in the slow cooker, and I decided to go the "lazy" route and try an enchilada casserole.  I'd never had one, never made one, only heard of 'em.

Shockingly... we liked it better than our enchiladas.  Justin nailed it when he said it's like a lasagna.  The ratios were great.  We loved the way all the flavours came together.   And it took a lot less time to make than enchiladas because there wasn't the frying process or the rolling process.  Just layer up the dish and go.

For this round, we decided to try ground beef instead of the shredded pork.  I think we liked the shredded pork better, but the ground beef was still great (and we figured we'd go with it for the recipe because it seemed more accessible and quicker).  Shredded chicken would probably be bomb, too!  I think the corn and beans really make the dish - corn adds a nice crunch, beans add a great creaminess.  We made our salsa verde extra spicy, so we didn't add jalapeños to it, but they would also be great amongst the layers.  And since it heats up so well as a leftover, we made the recipe huge so we could have lunches to take to work for the next few days. 

We were thinking we hadn't pulled out much old punk in a while.  So Justin suggested some Suicidal Tendencies, and one he said he liked.  "Memories of Tomorrow".  -jen



ENCHILADA CASSEROLE
Prep Time:  30 minutes
Cook Time:  45 minutes
Poblano chiles
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  10-12 large portions

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 poblano chile, diced
  • 2 packets taco seasoning
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 4 cups salsa verde (make your own quick and easy with CTDF's recipe here)
  • about 15 corn tortillas
  • 1 can (14oz) black beans, rinsed
  • 1 can (14oz) corn, rinsed
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro 
  • 4 cups shredded cheese of your choice (go for 6 cups if you like it cheesy!)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Add diced onion, diced chile and ground beef to pan.  Cook until vegetables are soft and meat is thoroughly cooked, stirring intermittently.  Drain grease from pan, add about 2 tablespoons of water and taco seasoning.  Cook until water has cooked off.  Set aside.

Coat a 3-quart rectangular baking dish with non-stick spray.  Spread a thin layer of salsa verde on the bottom of the dish.  Lay out two layers of corn tortillas over the salsa verde.  (I found I could get two whole tortillas in, and then broke up a 3rd one to fill in the holes for a single layer.)  Sprinkle half of the seasoned meat over the tortillas.  Add half of the beans and corn.  Spoon another thin layer of salsa verde on top.  Add half of the cilantro and one third of the shredded cheese.  Repeat another double layer of tortillas, followed by a repeat of meat, beans, corn, salsa verde, cilantro and cheese.   Finish with a single layer of tortillas.  Top tortillas with a thin layer of salsa verde and then add the remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, uncovered.  Remove and let rest 5-10 minutes.  Cut into squares and serve. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Banana Nut Granola

I had this craving for banana granola the other day and wasn't even sure if such a thing existed!  Well it does now!  Came out real tasty, not super sweet (we don't dig super sweet granola).  So much cheaper to make your own than to buy it, even when you can get it in the bulk bins, it's not this cheap.  I got all the oats, nuts, seeds and pumpkin chips out of the bulk bins at my local store and spent about $5 for the whole thing - it filled 3.5 quart-sized Mason jars.  Bueno!

The thing I like about making your own granola is that you can put whatever you want in it, really.  Whatever nuts you like.  Whatever seeds you like.  It's a good way to experiment with stuff you haven't tried before.  Coconut, puffed rice, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, etc.

We've used the Bouncing Souls a few times with our recipes, but I've been listening to a lot of their later albums the last few days and it's just what's in my head.  So I'm using them again.  "Gasoline".  -jen


BANANA NUT GRANOLA
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time:  30 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  about 10 cups
  • 6 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup banana chips 
  • 2/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 2/3 cup chopped cashews
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/2 cup flax seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • parchment paper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine oats, banana chips, almonds, cashews, pecans, pepitas, flax seed, salt amd cinnamon.  Stir to combine. 

In a medium mixing bowl, combine bananas, brown sugar, maple syrup, vegetable oil and sesame oil.  Using a stick blender, puree mixture.  (If you don't have a stick blender, you can use a food processor, a stand mixer or a hand mixer.)

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir until completely coated.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Spread half of the oat mix onto each pan and bake for 30 minutes, stirring the granola every 10 minutes.  Granola should be golden brown.  Keep an eye on it, it can start burning quickly towards the end. 

Let granola cool and store in an airtight container.

Uses:  mix with yogurt, eat with milk or almond milk like cereal, put in cookies, stir into your waffle or pancake batter, sprinkle on ice cream.   


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Mexican Four Bean Salad

We'd gotten all the ingredients for Mexican dinner tonight - taco and/or enchilada stuff, ingredients for fresh guacamole, fryin' up some corn tortillas for fresh chips.  But lunch time rolled around, we'd skipped breakfast, and I decided to make 3-bean salad for lunch.  Looking in the fridge, I was staring at all the tasty Mexican ingredients and decided to do a spin on my salad.  It rocked!  I think we're going to use some of it in our tacos or enchiladas tonight!  Way better than refried beans!

Just learned about this band and kind of digging their sound - think I'll check out more.  Latterman singing "We Work the Night Shift".  -jen


MEXICAN FOUR BEAN SALAD
Time:  15-20 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Serves:  4-6
  • 1 can (15oz) garbanzo beans
  • 1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans
  • 1 can (15oz) white beans
  • 1 can (15oz) green beans
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon (4 dashes) green Tabasco sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions (about 4 medium sized) 
  • 3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper (about 1/2 a pepper)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green olives (or black if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped 
  • 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeño (fresh or canned)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
Combine all four cans of beans in a colander.  Rinse, then set aside to drain.

In a large mixing bowl, combine lime juice, vinegar, and mustard.  While whisking, slowly drizzle the olive oil in until combined.  Whisk in oregano, cumin, celery seed, Tabasco, salt and pepper.  Add the drained beans to the dressing.  Add green onions, bell pepper, olives, cilantro, jalapeño and garlic.  Toss to coat.  Serve at room temp.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Chai Oatmeal Cookies

My friend Jonathan was talking about how he'd been sprinkling some cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla into his coffee grounds.  It made me want to make up a chai spice for my own coffee.  When I made it, it smelled so amazing, I knew I wanted to make cookies with it (and if you haven't noticed, I'm not big into baking.)  Leaning towards a chai-spiced sugar cookie initially, I changed my mind when I saw my canister of oats.  These cookies came out so chewy and awesome.  Though there are 2 teaspoons of chai spice in it, the finished product is not overwhelmed by the spice.  In fact, if you really wanted a spiced cookie, I'd go with 3 teaspoons instead of the 2 in the recipe!

I have no specific reason for choosing this video except that I love the Street Dogs.  And this is their video for "Punk Rock & Roll".  -jen


CHAI OATMEAL COOKIES
Prep Time:  10 minutes plus 30 minutes to refrigerate
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  about 18 cookies

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temp
  • 2/3 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons Chai Masala (see recipe below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped (optional)
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, brown sugar, egg and almond extract with an electric or stand mixer.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, Chai Masala, and salt.  Add dry mix into wet mix until combined.  Fold in oats, raisins and pecans.

Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Scoop dough into rough balls about 1-1/2" diameter.  Lay 2" apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 11-13 minutes.  Allow to cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

CHAI MASALA
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Makes: 1/3 cup (15 teaspoons)

  • 4 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground all spice
Whisk all ingredients together.  Store in air-tight container.  I'm still discovering the uses for it, but it smells amazing!  I've put it in my coffee grounds pre-brewing.  The oatmeal cookies were great!  I've sprinkled some in a milkshake.  We have a ton of apples and I'm thinking about using it to make a spicy chai apple crumble.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Char Siu Pork Ribs (Chinese Barbecue Pork)

I was completely stoked with how the marinade came out for these pork ribs.  These are great as is, just served with a side dish or two.  But I was specifically making them so I could chop them up in the food processor and use them in spring rolls!  I'd happily use this recipe on chicken as well. 

Been listening to old AFI recently, when they were a little faster and a little grittier, so went with "Lower Your Head And Take It In The Body".  -jen


CHAR SIU PORK RIBS (CHINESE BARBECUE PORK)
Prep Time: 6-8 hours for marinating
Cook Time: about 30 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup hoisen sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1.5 teaspoons red powdered food colouring
  • 3/4 teaspoons orange powdered food colouring
  • 1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil
  • 4-6 large boneless pork ribs (country-style ribs), about 3 pounds
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients except the pork ribs.  Microwave for 1 minute and whisk again.  Place pork ribs in a gallon sized Ziplock bag and add 2/3 of the char siu sauce to the bag.  Marinate in refrigerator for 6-8 hours.

Add 1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil to the remaining char siu sauce, cover, and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

After marinating, place ribs on a large baking sheet (I recommend lining with foil to make clean up easy because the sugars will burn!)  Roast until rib temperature reaches 120 degrees F (about 20 minutes), turning and basting ribs with remaining sauce every 10 minutes.  When ribs reach 120 degrees internally, turn up heat to 425 degrees F and cook until ribs reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees F (about 10 minutes).  The higher heat at the end helps the charring, but if you're looking for even more of a candied char on the outside, stick 'em under your broiler until they're to your liking.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fried Cheese Fritters

In Eastern Wisconsin, just over the Illinois border, is a town called Bristol, which has held a large Renaissance Faire since 1972.  Living outside of Chicago, we went to the faire many summers growing up.  And then later, my aunt owned a permanent booth at the faire for years where she sold her very cool handmade dolls.  It's like a small village.  And in their food court, they have always sold these cheese fritters which are A-MAZ-ING!  During a visit back to the Chicagoland area a few years ago, I took Justin to visit the faire for his first time and he agreed - we needed the recipe for those fritters.  We were never successful in getting it. 

The other night, Justin was mentioning these evil, addictive fritters again and I started Googling, on a mission to find a similar recipe.  I ended up taking some ideas from a few different recipes and then added a few twists of my own to it.  They came out awesome!  We were so stoked!  They were also super quick and very easy.  Score!

I think I have the Nekromantix in my head because Halloween was just here... and I dig a little gothabilly/psychobilly sometimes.   I'm a sucker for big pompadours and stand-up bass.  Nekromantix's "Horny In A Hearse".  -jen


FRIED CHEESE FRITTERS
Time:  20-30 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  about 12 fritters, depending on size
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions (I used just the green tops)
Preheat peanut or vegetable oil in deep fryer (or use 3 cups of oil in a large pan) to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, chili powder, garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne pepper.  Set aside.

In a smaller mixing bowl, add egg and milk.  Whisk.  Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix, just until dry ingredients are combined.  Don't over-mix.  Fold in shredded cheese and green onion.


Carefully drop a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into the oil.  Most fryers or pots will hold about 4-5 fritters at a time.  Do not overcrowd.  Cook for 3-4 minutes, turning fritters half-way through the cooking time.  They should be a deep golden colour.

I made a quick spicy dipping sauce with 3 parts plain Greek yogurt, 1 part mayo, enough Sriracha to give it a spicy kick, and then a dash of Worcestershire, some seasoning salt, chili powder, cumin and tarragon.  You could use ranch, mustard or barbecue sauce.  Whatever you want.  Or no dipping sauce.



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gyros with Apple Tzatziki

I had this great plan to make gyros and tzatziki this weekend... and for a minute, it looked like it was a disaster.  But as history has proven, necessity is the mother of invention and what I thought was a problem turned into awesomeness. 

I grew up in the Chicago area where gyro stands are everywhere and I love them.  Where we live now, in Humboldt, there's only one gyro place and it's a 15 minute drive each way.  They don't load them up as much as they do in Chicago and so while they're decent, I always feel a little gypped.  So I decided to make some gyros here at home.  I hastily made the grocery list while I was at work; I couldn't check to see what we had on hand at home.  When I went to make everything today, I realized the cucumbers I'd been counting on to use in the tzatziki had gone bad, so I had no cucs.  We always have at least one onion on hand, but it seems this time was an exception.  And I thought we had some leftover basil, but turns out we didn't.  So a lot of my main ingredients were missing and Justin is gone for the weekend with our only car, so I had no way to get to the store. 

Instead, I decided to try shredded apple in the tzatziki sauce and I was pretty much counting on not liking it as much as the classic cucumber.  I was wrong.  It came out awesome!  Good crunch and just a slight sweetness at the end.  Lacking fresh onion for my gyro loaf, I used some dried shallot, dried chive, and onion powder.  And though I had no basil (fresh or dried), I did have fresh mint and decided to load the loaf up with a ton of herbs and spices!  Sooooo good! I know there's like 25 ingredients in the gyros; we use what we have on hand.  But I recognize most people don't have the spice and herb collection we do, so I made sure to add an alternative.  Don't let it intimidate you!

While I typed this whole post out, I listened to the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" a few times on repeat.  I love this song so much.  So rad.  And the retro 70s detective theme isn't so bad either.  -jen


GYRO LOAF
Prep Time:  1.5 hours
Cook Time:  about 1.5 hours
Difficulty:  Easy
Serves:  4-6
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint
  • 3 tablespoons dried shallots
  • 2 teaspoons dried chives (or half an onion chopped fine in food processor in place of shallots and chives)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • *1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • *1 teaspoon ground dried lemon grass
  • *1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • *1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • *1 teaspoon ground dried rosemary
  • *1 teaspoon tarragon
  • *1 teaspoon ground dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
*If you don't have all of these herbs, you could replace the 7 teaspoons of herbs with 3 tablespoons of Italian seasoning.  Or 7 teaspoons of whatever combination you may have on hand.
In a large food processor, pulse old fashioned oats until they're about half their size.  Add the remaining ingredients into the food processor and process about one minute until meat mixture feels tacky. 

Place meat into a large bowl and cover meat with plastic wrap (not top of bowl, but place the plastic
wrap on the meat itself) and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Pack meat mixture into a  7"x4" loaf pan, pressing it down well to eliminate any air bubbles.  Place a damp kitchen towel in the bottom of a large roasting pan.  Place the loaf pan on top of the damp towel and carefully pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it comes 1/2 way up the sides of the loaf pan. 

Bake until inner temperature reaches 160 degrees F, about an hour and fifteen minutes.  Remove loaf pan from roasting pan and carefully pour off accumulated fat.  Cool slightly before slicing thinly.  Brown slices either in a non-stick skillet on medium-high or place in oven or toaster oven broiler until browned.  Serve on a pita with lettuce or cabbage, onion, tomato and Apple Tzatziki sauce.

APPLE TZATZIKI
Prep Time:  40 minutes minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  almost 3 cups
  • 1 small red apple, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 2 and 3/4 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon dried chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Shred apple.  Place shredded apple in a fine colander over an empty bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice.  Once coated with lemon juice, toss again with teaspoon of the salt.  Allow to drain for 30-60 minutes.

Place shredded apple in  some cheese cloth or a clean tea towel and squeeze out remaining juice.  In a medium sized mixing bowl combine the shredded apple with the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and all the remaining ingredients.  Mix well.  Can be served immediately but the flavours merry better if you refrigerate for an hour or more.