Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ropa Vieja Stew w/Mashed Sweet Potato

"Cuisine at Home" is my favorite cooking magazine.  I've tried many others but they just don't measure up.  Cuisine also has some great cookbooks, and I just received "Soups, Stews, and Chilies".  Tonight for dinner I tried my first recipe; as expected, it was awesome!

4 strips thick-sliced bacon
1.5 pounds flank steak (or london broil), cut into 3 pieces and seasoned w/salt, pepper
1 medium-large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 poblano chili, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup masa harina
1 bottle beer
2 cups beef broth
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup sliced green olives w/pimiento
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
Salt to taste

** This is a very slight variation on the original ingredients due to what I had on hand. 
** London Broil is currently half the price of flank steak, so that's what I used

Preheat oven to 375.  Cook bacon in a large ovenproof pot (I use a porcelain enameled cast iron dutch oven) over medium high heat until crisp; transfer to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.  Brown steak in drippings, about 5 minutes per side; remove and set aside.  Add onion, chiles and bell pepper; saute until beginning to brown, 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic and tomato paste, cook 2 minutes, then stir in masa harina and cook 1 minute.  Deglaze pot with beer; simmer until nearly evaporated, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pot.  Add broth, bring to a boil, then return steak to the pot; cover and braise in the oven until fork-tender, about 1 hour (mine took 1.5 hours).  Remove steak from the pot, shred with 2 forks, then add back to the pot with reserved (chopped) bacon, beans, olives, oregano, and cumin.  Simmer 5 minutes, season with salt.  Serve with mashed sweet potato.

Mashed sweet potato
2 lb. sweet potato, peeled and cubed
3 Tbls unsalted butter
1 Tbls brown sugar
4 Tbls half and half
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch cayenne pepper to add a bit of spice, if desired

Boil potatoes in salted water until tender, 10 - 15 minutes.  Drain and place in bowl of mixer with butter and brown sugar.  Mix until potatoes start to mash.  Add half and half and seasoning.  Continue mixing until creamy.

Update: This is even better the 2nd day!!

~ Enjoy ~

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Spicy Chicken Soup and Cornbread

Spicy Chicken Soup and Cornbread - the perfect fall dinner

Fall and winter is soup season in our house.  So, every visit to Costco I get a whole rotisserie chicken.  I pull all the meat off, save some for chicken salad and use the rest in soup/stew.  Tonight for dinner I made Spicy Chicken Soup.  I also made cornbread in a cast iron skillet.  It was sooooooo good!  The soup had a sweet afternote, even though there wasn't any sugar in it.  Daryl said it's probably from the fresh carrots - picked from the garden, washed, cut and into the pot.

I like my soup thick and/or chunky, so if you like a more brothy soup, you'll want to use less vegetables or more stock.  This is a pretty quick soup, so making it during the week is possible. 

2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 carrots, cut into bite sized chunks
1/2 large onion, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you want it)
1 cup corn
4 cups chicken stock
2 cans diced tomatoes
16 oz. salsa
14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups shredded or chunked cooked chicken
3 Tablespoons chili powder
2 Tablespoons dried parsley

Place oil, carrots, onion and celery in large pot or cast iron dutch oven, season with salt/pepper and cook about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin and cayenne, and cook 1-2 minutes more.  Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 30-45 minutes.  Serve with shredded cheese and/or sour cream garnish and cornbread.

Whole Wheat Cornbread
I love making cornbread in a cast iron skillet.  Since I hadn't found a good recipe, I was following the directions on the package, but it always came out dry and crumbly.  Then I found this recipe (click the link above) in a Food Network magazine and it's delicious.  One of the reviews mentioned adding baking powder, vanilla and cinammon.  That sounds delish - I am going to try it next time.

~ Enjoy ~

Soup recipe adapted from Catherine's Spicy Chicken Soup on Allrecipes.com

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Green Bay Packers - Quilt #9

Daryl LOVES the Green Bay Packers.  He grew up in Wisconsin, moved away 15 years ago and still maintains his allegiance to the team.  During football season a glass Packers dish decorates the mantle, and every time the Packers play he wears the same Packers shirt and green/yellow camo pants.  When the Packers went to the Superbowl, our house was decked out in decorations and we served up cheesy food representative of Wisconsin.  Even one of the dogs got dressed up!!  We had an extra TV in the kitchen along with the one in living room so no one would miss a minute of the game. 

This year we agreed not to get each other gifts for our 12 year wedding anniversary.  So, I made him one instead.  I started looking at the internet for ideas on a football themed blanket.  I didn't find any one blanket that really charmed me, so I pulled things I liked from many blankets and created my own pattern.  I was very surprised that there aren't many templates out there for sports related items. There's one out of print book I could find. I scoured both book sections of Joann's hoping to find one, combed through Amazon.com...  so for the applique I used a combination of Google images and I downloaded a free trial version of Adobe Illustrator. 

Normally I agonize over fabric choices when I'm looking to buy for a new project.  This time, I went in Joann and had everything picked out within 30 minutes.  I wasn't crazy about the fabric for the green border and 'field', so I went to Aunt Mary's Quilt Shop in Smokey Point (Arlington, WA) and found ones that were absolutely perfect.  Now I had everything I needed!

I started by washing and starching/pressing my fabrics.  This step takes a lot of time, especially when I have so many different fabrics, and a few were large pieces.  It's worth it to me though, I prefer working with washed/starched fabric.  Then I put the top together, which was pretty quick.  Now it was time for the applique.  I love doing applique - I think it adds so much character to a project.  I wanted to try using a satin stitch around the applique (I usually use an applique, or blanket, stitch), but my machine doesn't have a satin stitch and it wasn't doing the close zig zag really well.  On a small amount of applique, I could have used stabilizer and made it work... but with so much I went back to my normal stitch.  
Green Bay Packers Quilt
I did end up using a satin stitch and stabilizer for the threads on the middle football though.  The placement of the football was bugging me, I just didn't like it.  Dionne came over one afternoon while I was working on it and suggested adding the threads on that ball only.  She was soooo right!  Good call Dionne!

Since this was a surprise, I had to work in small pieces at a time whenever Daryl wasn't home.  The design wall was a big help in getting the different pieces put in the right spot.  I started with paper cutouts, pinned them in place to make sure I liked it, and it helped to make sure the size of each piece was right.  Good thing, the original letters I was going to use were too small.  Back to the drawing board....

I was planning to quilt around every piece of applique along with stitch in the ditch around the white field lines and inner border.  The ditch stitching went pretty well.  I then used a metallic gold embroidery thread to stitch just inside the stars.  I was getting so frustrated trying to fit this large of a blanket through my machine's 4" throat, I only ended up doing the larger stars and stopping.  It was that or the machine would have suffered.  Then I would end up suffering with no way to sew.  Got the binding attached and the blanket was ready for our anniversary weekend.
He nap tested the blanket yesterday and it passed.  Today he's keeping it close by as he spends this wonderful fall day watching football.

Happy Anniversary My Love!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

White Bean Chicken Chili

Modified version of Giada De Laurentiis's White Bean Chicken Chili
Fall has officially arrived!  After longer than usual summer weather the clouds, wind, and rain arrived yesterday.  I'm so excited to start cooking soups, stews, and chilis again!

Tonight's dinner is a slight modification of Giada De Laurentiis's recipe.  The main differences are the chicken and omission of swiss chard.  Daryl wouldn't like it with the 'green stuff' in there.  Here's a list of the changes I made:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled off rather than ground chicken (still let chicken/seasonings cook/warm a few minutes before adding the liquid ingredients);
  • Instead of oregano I used Italian seasoning;
  • No swiss chard;
  • Instead of adding beans with all the other ingredients, waited a half hour so they wouldn't break down as much;
  • Added 1/4 cup heavy cream at the same time I added the beans;
  • Covered half way through so it wouldn't thicken/reduce too much;
  • Omitted parsley (only because I didn't have any - that 'green stuff' would have been ok).
The picture doesn't look great -- I forgot to wipe down the sides of the bowl - but trust me the chili tasted amazing.  We had it with a side of toasted baguette bread.  Yum!  Thanks Giada!

~ Enjoy ~

p.s. to see more about the table runner peeking out in this picture, click here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review of Patak's Curry Sauce

Normally I go to Costco by myself after work.  This past weekend, Daryl was almost out of chocolate milk so he suggested we go together.  It's a good thing I brought him along!  Strolling the aisles, he spotted a three pack of curry sauces and wanted to give them a try.  The ingredients panel didn't have anything I couldn't pronounce, just regular food ingredients, so we put it in the cart.  This sent my husband back to a time he had wonderful curry...

He was in Santa Monica for work many years ago with another guy that's British, and in their free time they headed out to the Santa Monica pier.  He found a place called Ye Olde King's Head Pub and stopped in for refreshments.  It was here he had the best curry of his life!  He still talks about it 1-2 times per year. 

Tonight for dinner I cooked up some chicken breast chunks with fresh carrot and zucchini from the garden, then added the Tikki Masala sauce (simmered), and served over Basmati Rice.  The result: it was really good.  It wasn't spicy, but by the end of the meal there was a nice warming on my lips and tongue.  I like having some spice but still being able to taste the food.  I hate when something gets so spicy you lose the flavors. 

Daryl said it similar to the great curry he had at the King's Head and wants me to buy more.  This is a highly recommended product.

~ Enjoy ~

Brie and Apple Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese with Brie and Apple Slices

I've been on a kick of making fresh bread recently, it's all because of this Crusty Bread recipe I stumbled upon a few weeks ago while perusing Pinterest.  It is the best bread, it's so easy and it makes - hands down - the most wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches.  I've also been on a grilled cheese kick lately too.  Daryl's favorite is colby jack and pepper jack cheese.  I really like it with havarti, but over the weekend (during a 'sew' fun sewing Sunday with my friend Dionne) I wanted to mix it up a little.

Saturday afternoon I made up the dough mix adding in some fresh thyme.  Sunday morning I baked the bread so it would be ready for lunch.  When it came time to make the sandwiches, I layered Brie with apple slices.  Holy grilled cheese, this was so darn good.  When this bread is grilled it gets crispy, fluffy and soft all at once.  Hard to truly describe the wonderful texture.  It was lightly flavored with thyme, then you reach that creamy, melty Brie and get a nice surprise from a crisp/tender, tart/sweet apple slice.  Heaven!  Today I made another one of these for lunch.  I savored every delectable bite!

~ Enjoy ~

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Autumn Table Runners

Autumn table runners
Since I've learned to sew and quilt, I'm embracing decorating my tables for the seasons or holidays.  I didn't want to decorate for Halloween because making something general for fall made more sense.  Halloween stuff can stay out pretty much just in October, but if I made autumn themed runners they could be out from mid-September all the way through Thankgsiving!  I'm a more-bang-for-your-buck kinda girl.  :)

I'm also a glitter, sparkly and colorful kinda girl.  My friend Dionne and I went shopping a few months ago and found some beautiful fall fabrics.  So, here's how I used them!

Table runner using Quilt Bug free pattern
For this runner, on the bar table, I used a pattern from QuiltBug.com.  It's looks complicated, but it went together pretty quick!  I only changed it by adding 4 rows (two on each end).  The strips are not cut on the bias, but will be once you sew them diagonally.  For this reason, be careful how much you stretch the runner as you're making it.  For quilting I used stitch in the ditch on every other strip.  I love all three fabrics, but the glittery fall leaves is my favorite!

Gorgeous fall fabrics with glitter!

The next runner, for the dining table, I used Twiddle Tails' Strippy Runner pattern/tutorial.  This was fun and really easy.  For the first time since I started quilting, I cut strips without laboring over a ruler ensuring my cuts were exactly straight, and it was so nice!  My husband saw the runner top put together and was shocked I would make something like this since I'm so anal and haven't been known to do random, 'imperfect' projects.  I have been known to surprise him now and then.  Watch out world - Tina is learning to be crazy!  :)

When I started sewing the strips together, I was thinking I may not like the runner, then as I saw the bigger picture, I thought it was going to be difficult to get the 'quilt sandwich' layers to stay flat.  I was regretting going wonky, but then, it all worked out beautifully.  For quilting I used stitch in the ditch on every 3rd strip.  I look forward to making more of these!
Fall table runner using wonky cut strippy patternFall table runner with beautiful fabrics
~ Enjoy ~