Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Chicken and Dumplings

I can hear them now.  The whisperings, the just barely vocalized questions.

Does she really think she can make real Chicken and Dumplings? 

She's not from around here, can she really do it?

Well, she can and she did.


I have to say that this Dane is no stranger to Chicken and Dumplings, just not quite made this way.

But that's OK, I can learn new tricks.  And I did.   Learn, that is.

There are a couple of cheats here, cause, this is the way I learned how to make it from Sarge, and he used frozen dumplings.

You can make your own from scratch and more power to you, but I'm cooking for an undetermined number of people each week.

We can have 30 people show up for lunch or 50 or more.  I never know.

Here's how I done did it.

First off.  Cook the chicken with some onion, celery and carrots, plus a little more seasoning.   I also roasted the chicken for a little while, I find it adds such a rich flavour profile.   I did use a little chicken base because I wanted a rich, full flavoured stock and I didn't have 16 hours to simmer it.

Take the chicken out, and discard the skin and bones.  Set the chicken aside, and strain the stock.

You don't want any of those veggies in there.


No vegetables in the Chicken and Dumplings.

Next up.   Put the strained chicken stock into a large pot, and bring to a boil.
Turn the heat down and add the frozen dumplings, stirring them gently to separate them.   Simmer for a good 45 minutes, although I think these would have been better if I'd cooked them a little longer.
I used Mary B's frozen dumplings.   

They will cook up nicely and the stock will get nice and creamy and thick.  
Add the chicken back in, and let it heat up.

Serve with some nice green beans and sliced tomatoes.   We also had some lovely Vidalia Onions, as well as Lemon Bars and Bread Pudding for dessert.

And don't forget that those biscuits.

Coming up tomorrow, Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Tomato Sauce.    Also known as Galumkis.  And I'm sure they are also known by a few other names.

 I can't believe I'm going to actually make them, I hated them when I was growing up, but I like them now.  See Mom, I do eat my vegetables.  Thank you for telling me that I couldn't say I didn't like something until I tasted at least one bite.    

Monday, May 25, 2015


Taco's are my go-to, can't think of what else to make today, always welcome dinner.

Did that make sense?

All I know is, I can make Taco's once a week or even more often and it is always welcomed.

I usually keep all the ingredients on hand or in the freezer, cause you never know when inspiration won't strike.

And you know you need to get dinner made whether you feel like it or not.  Especially when there aren't a lot of restaurants around or even fast food for that matter.


I make Taco's.

I recently bought one of the main ingredients while we were on a business trip, cause I can't get the exact sauce we like here.

And I've tried other sauces, but they weren't quite right, in fact some of them were downright sweet. ugh

Here's how I do it.

First off...
Take out one pound of ground beef or ground turkey.  Depending on the price of the meat, it could be either kind.   This time round, I used ground beef.  

Brown the meat, it just tastes better when it's got a little browning on it.  

Then add about 1/2 the 12 oz. bottle of La Victoria Taco Sauce, or if you're cooking two pounds of meat, use the whole bottle.

Stir it around a little, then add about 1/2-3/4 cup of water and simmer until the water is reduced.
I'm not too sure of the science behind this, I just know it tastes so much better than if you just add the taco sauce and heat it through.
Then as it's cooking down, chop your tomatoes, onions, black olives (if you like them), the lettuce and grate the cheese.

And get them all ready.

And don't forget your bird, well, I'm not allowed to.  She likes a piece of meat or two, lettuce and cheese.  She also gets her own dish.  If you don't give it to her, she complains and then raids your plate.
That's never a  pretty sight.  She doesn't know how to share, politely.

After you get all the toppings chopped, sliced and grated it's time to fry the taco shells.

Yes, I said fry the taco shells.    You can also use the commercial taco shells here if you choose, but we don't like them real well.

I like yellow corn tortillas and use Mission brand Yellow Corn Tortillas. Extra thin, please.
 I have my totally disreputable looking tortilla fry pan.  It started life as a egg poacher, but over time, it became my de facto taco fryer.  It was the perfect size for a tortilla, and that's all I use it for.  It does go through the dishwasher as well.  I've been using this pan for over 30 years and I'm not about to give it up.
Add just enough oil to the pan, about a 1/2 inch or so, you don't need a great deal.   Heat it to about 350 degrees.  I like peanut oil but you can use a good quality vegetable oil here as well. 
Add the first tortilla to the hot oil, the tortilla will bubble up a little, turn over with a pair of tongs as soon as the edge gets a little firm.  Just poke it with the tongs, you'll be able to tell quite easily.  And if it gets too hard, too fast, just turn it over and make it into a tostada later on.  I usually make one tostada shell for myself. 
Grasp the edge of the turned over tortilla and fold it a little, holding onto the tortilla, and letting it continue frying in the oil.
As soon as it firms up a little,
Hold it into the oil on the opposite side.  By this time, it should have a taco shape.  I like to continue frying them til they are crisp and just a touch browned.
Remove from oil and place into a pan to drain.  Sometimes I put them onto a couple of coffee filters, or paper towels or just like this.   And I don't salt them either at this point, although you can if you like.
Continue until all the tortillas you want for the dinner are finished.
In my case, I wanted one taco and one tostada and my dinner companion wanted four tacos.

Now the fun begins:
For the tostada (which was just one tortilla fried flat until crisp), spread a little refried beans on top, then add some cheese.
Then some chopped onions and black olives.  The olives aren't all that necessary, but I like them. 
I then zap them for about 45 seconds in the microwave or place them under the broiler until the cheese melts.
Then I put my taco together.

 A little meat
 Some cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, with just a sprinkle of onions and black olives for topper.

 And that's my dinner, at least once a week. 
Best of all, I take the leftover meat, freeze it and I've got a start on Nachos for another meal.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Lemon Salt

 I got a wild hare the other day and decided that with all the lemon we were using for ice tea that I was tired of throwing away the peels. 

All that lemon zest going to waste? 

Just sitting there, on the slices of lemon I was squeezing into my tea. 

Wasteful, wasteful, wasteful...

And somewhere I had read something about making lemon salt, I think it was on Facebook, but I could be wrong.

So, I decided to try zesting the lemons before squeezing them into my tea. 

Although I got the bright idea after I'd already cut a lemon, which just so happened to be the sole lemon my little lemon tree produced this/last year. 

I just sliced the peel very thinly from it, and proceeded to chop it even further using my mezzaluna.
Luckily there was very little pith, but even so, I took that off as well.

I then proceeded to zest another lemon, cause I decided that I didn't have enough peel to do much good to the salt other than irritate it.

Put them all into a container I just so happened to have, which was full of sea salt for my grinder, and shook it all up, together.

1/2 cup coarse salt for a grinder
zest from 1-2 lemons or more if you like.
Mix together and use.

*** I also spread the salt and zest out in a pan, and put it in the oven at 170 deg. for about 5 minutes, turned the oven off and let it sit.  I wanted to zest to dry out otherwise I think it would have gone mouldy.

I don't use a great deal of salt, but sometimes you just want to amp it up a little when cooking something. 

I'm thinking a few grinds of this lemon salt on a roast chicken, or some fish, maybe rimming a margarita glass or even a Bloody Maria.  (Tequila instead of vodka, so good.)

I'm going to add more zest to the salt container, but I can't wait to start using it.

Come to think of it, I've got a nice fat roasting chicken hanging out in the freezer.  

I think I'll introduce them soon.

Sea Salt

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Healthy Solutions Spice Blends

Awhile back I entered a recipe contest.   I was sent my choice of a spice blend without salt and tasked with coming up with an original recipe using the spice blend.

The company was Healthy Solutions Spice Blends, and the spice blend I choose was their Pork and Poultry Rub.  

Well, time went by, I thought and thought and thought and couldn't seem to come up with a good recipe idea and then...

It was Tapas Night.  Well, I had some  Bok Choy hanging around from a trip to the 'big city',   I'd tried to find some Napa Cabbage, but as I think I've said, oh, ten or twenty times, my local store doesn't carry that fancy stuff.
So, I sat and looked at the Bok Choy, and some mushrooms along with the ground pork and got an AHA!!!! moment and proceeded to make Potstickers  and that was the recipe I submitted to the contest.

And I came in third.  Totally unexpected, and WooHoo!!!!  I came in third.   I was so happy. 

And yesterday when I checked my mail, I saw my prize, 

and certificate had come.
I'm so excited.  I have plans for those spice blends.  So many delicious plans, giggle.  

And since we've got Tapas coming up at the end of the month, and Boat Club next month and of course random events here and there, I'll have a lot of fun playing with them.

And come to think of it, I've got a lovely big chicken in the freezer that maybe some of the spice blends would go good with.    I'm thinking out of the box here. 
Sometimes you just have to escape... 
For a little while.

I used to love playing with mud pies and pretending, but this is a lot more fun, I get to create and feed people real food.   

And look at all the 'mud' seasonings I get to play with. 

I can't wait...

Monday, May 18, 2015

All stocked up

I was looking in the pantry last week, trying to figure out something to make, but then fell into the same old, same old routine.
I'm sure I'm not the only one, I cycle a lot of the same dishes over and over and over.

In my case, it's Mexican inspired meals.

We do like our Mexican food.    From Taco's to Enchilada's to Chile Verde and even the Acapulco Chicken I'm making tonight.

These are our no-brainer, anytime is a good time, meals.

Last week we had Chile Relleno's one meal, I pulled some Chile Verde out of the freezer, and we also had some Chicken Enchiladas.

However I couldn't make most of the dishes without a well stocked pantry.

And I have that now.

I didn't get carried away much while we were on a recent trip, but I did stock up on stuff we cannot get here.  And believe me, I've tried to get the right stuff locally, but haven't been able to.

Since we were out west, I stocked up.  
Just a little.

I bought Taco Sauce, we happen to like this brand.  La Victoria Taco Sauce in Medium.   I can get the mild version here, but then I have to doctor it a little, and while I don't mind the doctoring part, I really prefer to just be able to use it straight.   And, I just realized, I've never shared how I make my Taco's, so I think that I will as soon as I can get the 'right' kind of corn tortillas.  sigh.
It's a challenge living on the Redneck Riviera sometimes...

Rosarita Enchilada Sauce, although La Victoria also makes a great Enchilada sauce as well, I just couldn't find any that day.    I also have to have some Stokes Green Chile Sauce, otherwise my Chile Verde just doesn't taste quite right. 
as well as Whole Green Chiles and Tomatillo's. 
And believe you me, I've been having fun with them.

I don't think I got carried away at all, not one little bit. 

For tonight I'm going to make some Acapulco Chicken.   It's been marinating since yesterday and all I need to make is some Pico de Gallo, and we're good to go.