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.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Onion Enchiladas

Onion Enchiladas
The people of Mexico were rolling corn tortillas around food when the Spanish showed up.  Enchiladas were mentioned in the first ever Mexican cookbook, El cocinero mexicano (The Mexican Chef).  Basically, an enchilada is a corn tortilla wrapped around a filling, topped with sauce, and baked.  They can be topped with a red chili sauce, mole sauce, or cream sauce and can be filled with anything.  If you like these you can make Chicken Enchilada Suizas, corn tortillas wrapped around juicy chicken and covered in a sour cream sauce. Or you may prefer a more traditional Enchilada of beef filling covered in a red chili sauce.

I made these Onion Enchiladas for Meatless Monday.  They take a little time, but are easy to make and so delicious.  You can find mole paste in the ethnic food aisle of your grocers.  Better yet, visit a Hispanic grocers. I use Rogelio Bueno or Doña Maria.  You can use the mole paste to make Mole Chicken another day.

I serve the enchiladas topped with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkled with chopped green onions.  Salted, sliced tomatoes or a small side salad make this a complete vegetarian meal.

Servings: 4-6
Time:  Prep: 15 minutes, Cooking:  1 hour 30 minutes.
Hardware:  A cutting board & knives, measuring cups & spoons, a large skillet, tongs, a large spoon, sauce pan, a whisk, a plate, a paper towel, a 9x13 glass baking dish

  • 2 large onions (16 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons+ 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup mild chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons mole paste
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 ounces cream cheese-softened
  • 1 ½ cups of shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
  • Cooking spray
  • 8-6 inch corn tortillas
  • Salt
  • Sour cream and chopped green onions

  1.  Place the cream cheese on the counter.
  2. Slice the onion. Don’t slice them too thin or they will burn rather than caramelize. Cover the bottom of the skillet in the butter and 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they are dark and soft. If they are crisping up too quickly turn the heat down.  Stir occasionally. When they are the color of peanut butter, turn the pan up and add the water, scraping the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle generously with salt. As soon as the water evaporates remove the skillet from the heat. This entire process will take 45 minutes. Allow them to cool.
  3. In the sauce pan, heat the remaining oil over medium heat until it begins to sizzle. Add the flour and stir constantly until there are no lumps and the flour is a nice buttery color.  This should take about 2 minutes. (This is called a roux.) Add the chili powder, cumin, and mole paste.  Whisk until every thing is incorporated and you have removed all lumps.
  4. Slowly add the broth.  Whisk the entire time, scrapping the sides and bottom of the pan.  Simmer the sauce for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Taste and adjust the salt. Remove the sauce pan from the heat.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 350°. Spray the baking dish with cooking spray.  Spread about 2 tablespoons of sauce in the bottom of the glass pan. Mix 1 cup of the cheese with the onions.
  6. Place the tortillas on the plate and cover with a damp paper towel.  Heat these in the microwave for 30 seconds.
  7. Work with one tortilla at a time.  Spread ½ ounce of the softened cream cheese on the tortilla. Place ⅛ the onion mixture into the tortilla and roll up. Place the rolled tortilla, seam side down, in the glass pan. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
  8. Pour the sauce over the enchiladas. Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the enchiladas and cook for another 3 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  9. Allow the enchiladas to cool for a few minutes.  Serve with sour cream and green onion.
Covered in mole sauce and cheese
Filled with caramelized onions

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Brown Jambalaya

Jambalaya is a classic Louisiana Creole dish. The Creole people are of French, Spanish, African, and Native American descent. The French contributed the name jambalaia and the dish itself is related to Spanish paella.  In and around New Orleans jambalaya includes tomatoes.  That is red jambalaya or city jambalaya. However, even though I love tomatoes, I am a fan of Brown Jambalaya, made without tomatoes. It is sometimes called Cajun jambalaya or rural jambalaya.

The brown color comes from the bits of meat and vegetables that stick to the sides and bottom of the pan. As you cook, just scrape them off and stir them into the mix.  Using a cast iron pan helps create those brown crunchies without allowing the food to actually stick.

After you make this a time or two, you can get creative. The easiest way to change it up is by using different sausages.  I use kielbasa.  However, you can use andouille which is spicy. You can even use Italian sausage or bratwurst.  I sometimes cook shrimp with the meat.  I don’t return it to the jambalaya until just before serving, otherwise it will overcook.  If you live with or are a hunter you can add anything you catch- turkey, deer, quail, or anything-this dish is very forgiving.  If you want red jambalaya then add canned stewed tomatoes with the rice, just make sure to adjust the liquid.

Brown Jambalaya meets my criterion for a good dish.  It is inexpensive, healthy, easy to make, and delicious.

Servings: 4-6
Hardware:  A cutting board and knives, measuring spoons and cups, a large pot (I use cast iron) with a lid, a wooden spoon, slotted spoon, bowl
Time:  prep:  10 minutes, cook: 1 hour, rest: 3

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ½ pound smoked sausage
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 large onion (1 ½ cup)
  • 1 green and 1 red bell pepper (1 cup)
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
  • 2 ½ cups liquid (I used 2 cups chicken broth and ½ cup water)
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • Salt

  1. Cut the smoked sausage into 1 inch pieces then cut them in half length-wise. Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces.
  2. Cover the bottom of the pot in olive oil and heat on medium low.  Add the meat and cook until the chicken is brown on all sides. Don’t stir that often.  You want the meat to stick a little. Scrape off all the little brown bits that stick. This should take about 10 minutes.
  3. While the meat is cooking, dice the pepper, onion and garlic, the smaller the better.  Set aside.
  4. Use the slotted spoon to remove the meat.  Add the veggies.  Cook until the onions are soft.  Again, you want the veggies to stick just a bit.  Scrape up all the brown crunchies that stick to the bottom and sides.  When the onions are browned (another 10 minutes) return the meat to the pot.
  5. Add the rice and stir until it is coated with oil.  Stir in the liquid and seasonings and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Tuck the bay leafs into the rice.
  6. Cover with the lid and turn the rice down to simmer.  Simmer, without opening the lid, for 35 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  7. Remove from the heat, with the lid still on, and allow it to rest for 3 minutes.  Remove the bay leaves and taste.  Adjust salt as needed.
  8. Fluff with a fork and serve warm.  Offer your guests hot sauce and pieces of toasted baguette.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak

A Good Beginning

Often our dinner is decided by local sales.  Earlier this week, I found bell peppers for 50¢ each at a market that carries locally sourced produce.  So peppers it was.  Usually when we have peppers I stuff them with rice, tomatoes, and ground beef.  However, that is labor intensive and this time of year is crazy busy at school.  I had papers to grade and couldn’t do something requiring more than a few steps.  The slow cooker to the rescue.

I decided to make Pepper Steak.  I’ve made the fast cooking variety that requires a wok and only takes a few minutes to finish many times.  So I just tweaked that recipe a little.  A different cut of beef was required, but because I was using the slow cooker I could buy something less expensive.  Sounding better all the time.

Inexpensive and easy are often a consideration, but taste is what matters. The slow cooked pepper steak tastes similar to the speedier version of the dish.  The texture is different, but not unpleasing.  In fact, the leftovers tasted better than any pepper steak I’ve ever made.  I used three different colored peppers to make the finished dish more colorful. You can peel the tomatoes before adding them if you wish, but I wasn’t looking for more work. I served it over jasmine rice, but it would also taste good over ramen.  

Slow Cooker
Pepper Steak
Servings:  4-6
Time:   Prep: 10 minutes Slow Cook:  4-5 hours
Hardware: knives & cutting board, measuring cups & spoons, a 3-4 quart slow cooker, a skillet, a small bowl, a fork, and a whisk

  • 2 pound mock tender roast (sometimes called chuck filet or chuck tender)
  • 1 pound plum tomatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • pinch pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger (1½ teaspoons dried, ground ginger)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ cup teriyaki sauce (make your own)
  • 3 large bell peppers
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • Salt & pepper

  1. Whisk the ginger, brown sugar, pepper flakes, and teriyaki sauce into the slow cooker.
  2. Slice the onion and garlic.  Remove the stem end of the tomatoes.  You don’t need to chop them as they will disintegrate when stewed. Place all three veggies into the slow cooker. 
  3. Salt the roast and place it into the sauce.  You may need to cut the roast in half to make it fit.  Cook on low for 3 hours.
  4. Remove the seeds and white ribs from the peppers. Slice them into long thin strips.  Add them to the slow cooker and cook for another hour or until the steak roast is tender.
  5. Stir the cornstarch and cold water together in the small bowl until there are no lumps and set aside.
  6. Remove the roast from the slow cooker and allow it to rest on the cutting board.
  7. Pour the rest of the contents of the crock into the skillet. Turn the heat up to medium high and bring to a boil. Add the cornstarch-y water to the boiling liquid and stir until it thickens. Remove from the heat.
  8. Cut the roast into serving size pieces and stir into the warm sauce.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.  Serve over rice or noodles.
Healthy, colorful, easy, inexpensive, delicious