Eating is a necessity. However, we choose what to eat. The choices we make reveal a great deal about us. The food you eat can tell quite a bit about your heritage, your family, your fears, your sense of adventure, your attitude toward yourself and others, and a myriad of other personal tidbits to anyone paying attention. Everything about eating is a glimpse into your soul.

I hope to reveal a little bit about myself to you through my food. I enjoy cooking. I enjoy eating. I find pleasure in bringing pleasure to others. I hope that by sharing my recipes I bring you a little bit of joy.

Cook my food. Feed it to the people you love.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pork Carnitas

Carnitas means ‘little meats’ in Spanish. These little chunks of goodness are a popular ingredient in tacos, burritos, or just served on their own.  Think of them as Mexico’s version of pulled pork. I wait until pork shoulder or butt are on sale to make them.  So, this is inexpensive.  I don’t remove the fat from the meat when I’m preparing it, since it renders off in the braising process. I also make sure the oil is very hot when I fry the meat, because I just want to brown the outside while leaving the inside moist and juicy. You can double this recipe using the same amount of liquid, but doubling the spices.  If you want you can add a chopped chili to the liquid.  I love heat, but prefer my carnitas savory instead of spicy.

I always serve carnitas in warm, soft tacos with refried beans and Spanish rice.  I offer my guests chopped tomatoes, avocado tossed in lime juice, chopped cilantro, pickled jalapeños and sour cream to dress their carnita tacos.

Servings: 4-6
Hardware:  A cutting board and knives, measuring spoons and cups, a large Dutch oven (or other big pot with a heavy bottom), a wooden spoon, a heavy skillet, a slotted spoon, tongs, a bowl
Time:  Prep:  10 minutes    Cooking: 3 hours   Active time: 20 minutes

Pork Carnitas Tacos

  • 2 pounds pork butt or shoulder
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 large, thin-skinned orange
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • Oil for frying
  1. Cut the pork into 1 ½ inch cubes.  Leave on the fat. Wash the orange carefully. Quarter the onion and the orange. Smash the garlic.  Toss the meat, orange, and onion with the seasonings in the Dutch oven.  Add the shortening and turn the heat up to medium.  Let the shortening melt. Then add everything but the frying oil. Allow the liquid to boil.
  2. Lower the heat and simmer without the lid.  Stir occasionally.  Simmer until the pork is tender, 1 ½ -2 ½ hours.
  3. Remove the pork with the slotted spoon.
  4. Heat the oil in the heavy pan on high.  The oil should be deep enough to cover the pork pieces and you want the oil to be very hot. Fry the pork pieces until they are crispy, about 2 minutes per side.
  5. You can make these on the weekend and serve them up to three days later.  Serve warm.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fish Cakes

Fish cakes are an easy way to get non-fish fans to eat fish.  They can be made into sandwiches or eaten as is.  You can even make tiny fish cakes and serve them as snacks.

Any firm fish will make a good fish cake.  I chose tilapia because it is mild.  However, I have made these with salmon and amberjack. You can even use more than one type of fish.  Using different fish will give your fish cake a different flavor, so feel free to experiment. You can also use 1 cup homemade mashed potatoes rather than the dry instant potatoes. Really, anything goes.

Servings: 4-6
Time:  Prep: 20 minutes    Cooking:  20-25 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring cups and spoons, a knife and cutting board, a zester, foil, a baking sheet, a metal spatula, a mixing bowl, a heavy skillet, a paper towel covered plate, a shallow bowl, and tongs.

  • 1 pound tilapia
  • 4 large lemons
  • 9 sprigs of fresh dill
  • ½ stick very cold butter
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1¼ cups instant mashed potato flakes
  • ¼ cup mayo
  •  Oil for frying
  • Salt & Pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°.  Line the baking sheet with foil.
  2. Zest and juice one of the lemons. Set the zest aside.  Slice the butter into thin pats. Wash the dill and remove it from the stems. Mince the dill and set aside 1 tablespoon of it. Slice the lemons and the green onion.  Set the onion aside.
  3. Rinse the fish in clean water and pat dry.  Place the fish onto the prepared baking sheet. 
  4. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Lay half the lemons and sprinkle half the remaining dill on the fish. Bake the fish for 7 minutes and then turn with the spatula. Season the other side of the fish with salt & pepper and all but 1 tablespoon of the dill.  Cover with the remaining lemons and juice. Bake for 5-7 minutes on the second side depending on the thickness of the fillets.  Be careful to not overcook the fish.  It is done when it is opaque and flakes easily.
  5. Allow the fish to cool.  Reserve the liquid that cooked off the fish. While the tilapia is cooling cook the bacon until it is crispy.
  6. Crumble the bacon into the mixing bowl.  Make sure the bacon pieces are small. Mix in the ¼ teaspoon salt, dill, lemon zest, green onion, Old Bay seasoning, mashed potatoes, mayo, and liquid from the fish.
  7. Gently flake the fish and fold it into the potato mixture.
  8. Place an inch of oil into the skillet with the bacon fat.  Heat it on medium high.
  9. Put the bread crumbs into the shallow bowl. Gently form ¼ cup of the fish mixtures into 1 inch patties. Make sure you apply enough pressure so they won’t fall apart, but don’t over handle them. Place the fish cake into the crumbs, flipping them so they are covered in crumbs. Salt and pepper the cakes.
  10. Fry the cakes until they are golden brown. Flip the cakes and fry until the other side is golden.  Remove to the paper towel covered plate.
  11. Serve warm.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ranch Chicken Sandwiches

Sandwiches are often an afterthought for me. I realize that I haven't planned dinner and so we have sandwiches.  Chicken Ranch Sandwiches take some planning, but are still easy to make.  They are hearty enough for even the biggest appetite and impressive enough to serve to guests.  They are also delectable. 

The avocado and the Ranch Dressing are bright tasting over the fried chicken and the crunchy onions.  I like to make my own dressing.  I also use more than this recipe calls for. You can do both. If you don’t like onions then you should add sliced cucumbers.  The sandwich needs the texture.

Servings: 4-6
Time:  Prep: 10-15 minutes   Cooking:  10-15 minutes
Hardware:  A cutting board and knife, measuring spoons and cups, 3 shallow bowls, a fork, a whisk, a paper towel covered plate, a deep skillet, tongs, and a butter knife

  • 6 pieces of bacon
  • 1 ½ lb. boneless skinless chicken breast-sliced very thin
  • 1 teaspoons + 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoons + 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon + ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying
  • 2 Haas avocadoes
  • ¾ cup Ranch Dressing (make your own)
  • 6 slices of sweet onion
  • 6 sesame seed Kaiser rolls
Ranch Chicken Sandwich
  1. Cook the bacon on medium in the skillet until it is crisp. Cut each slice in half and place all of them on the paper towel covered plate.
  2. Cut the chicken in half horizontally so that it is thin. Season the chicken on both sides with ½ the garlic salt, onion powder, and black pepper.
  3. Put the flour in the first bowl.
  4. In the second bowl whisk the eggs and milk together until completely blended.
  5. In the last bowl, toss together the crumbs and remaining seasonings.
  6. Heat the oil on medium high.
  7. Dip the chicken into the flour and shake to remove the excess.  Dip the floured chicken into the egg and then dredge it with the crumbs, making sure it is covered.
  8. Fry the chicken for 4-5 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  Don’t crowd the chicken.  You may need to cook it in batches.
  9. Remove the chicken to the paper towel covered plate.
  10. Slice the avocado.
  11. To assemble the sandwiches spread one tablespoon Ranch Dressing on the bottom of each bun. Place a piece of chicken on the bun and top the chicken with another tablespoon of Ranch Dressing.  Then lie a slice of onion, two slices of avocado, and 2 bacon halves on each sandwich. Top the sandwiches with the top of the bun.
  12. Serve with a side salad or Sweet Potato Fries.

Ranch Dressing

I like to make my own salad dressing.  Bottled dressing always has a strange aftertaste. Maybe it is the xanthum gum or disodium phosphate…Who knows?  This will not taste like the stuff you make with the dry package of strange chemicals.  I think it tastes better.  I know that it is better for you.  I made this jar for my Ranch  Chicken Sandwiches.

Servings: 1¾ cups   Time: 10 minutes
Hardware:  Measuring cups and spoons, a knife and cutting board, a whisk, a plastic spatula, a mixing bowl, and an airtight container.

  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ tablespoon minced chives
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon FRESH ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
Better when homemade
Mince the chives and parsley.  Mash the garlic. Shake the buttermilk vigorously. Whisk everything together.  Store the Ranch Dressing in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  Allow the dressing to rest for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight to allow the flavors to meld.  This will keep for a week if you keep it refrigerated.