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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Frijoles Rojo and Pupusas...Yum, Yum, Yum!

My first meal on my first trip to Honduras was Pupusas, and it was love at first bite.  From then on, I ordered them whenever I could and even brought some pre-made ones home for my family.  Now each time I return to Honduras I try to have them at least once.

This year I was given a lesson on making them and taught a simple variation which I've been making at home with great success.

Eloisa taught me to take two pre-made corn tortillas, some quesilla (I use Cacique's Ranchero  Queso Fresco, part skim milk cheese here at home) and little bit of oil.

Warm a frying pan over a medium flame and put a little bit of oil or butter on the bottom just to thinly coat the pan.  Add one tortilla.  Generously cover the the tortilla with thick slices of cheese and cover with a second tortilla.  Cook on both sides until the cheese is melted, much like cooking a grilled cheese sandwich, only not so crispy.
Remove from pan and let set just a minute or so before enjoying this delicious treat.

I found that 1 pound of cheese made about 7-8 Pupusas.  Serve them with Frijoles Rojo for a delicious meal.
Now all I have to do is master tortilla making (for another blog entry) and they'll be phenomenal!  For you see, in the restaurants, they first make fresh tortillas and then add the cheese.  Lucky for me, I had that lesson, too, but one step at a time!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Love those Frijoles Rojo!

On my first trip to Honduras in 2011 I was introduced to frijoles rojo or red beans.  I discoverd that I enjoyed eating (refried) red beans so much better than those that I buy in the States.  Our host, Eloisa, taught me how to make them, but admittedly, my first attempts were failures. 

Last year I was given a bag of red beans. They have been sitting in my pantry waiting for me to get the courage to cook them.  While in Honduras this year, I ate plenty of them and came home with the courage and desire to try them once again.  It's a great weekend project.

First, soak the beans overnight in a pot, covered with water and a lid.
Rinse the beans and return them to the pot.  Dice one onion and add to the pot along with about 1 tsp. of garlic salt.  Cover this with water and bring to a boil over a high flame.  Reduce to a simmer, and continue to cook, covered, for about 6 hours.  I kept checking the water level and added more water to  keep the beans covered while simmering.

Drain the beans.  In small batches run them through a food processor.  I used my beloved Vita-Mix.  Puree until smooth.  Add additional seasonings of choice and enjoy!

I've used them in a Taco Bake recipe, or served them as a side dish.  My favorite way to eat them in Honduras is on a fresh tortilla with some slices of quesilla (cheese).  I am searching for that cheese here in the States.  The closest I've found so far is by Cacique (?).

Store the beans in the fridge and warm by "refrying" them in a frying pan.
I have found the red beans at an import store that carries Central American food.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Best Ever Pork Roast!

I was not thrilled about the menu entry "Pork Roast and Steamed Veggies" when I saw it on the calendar.  Even though it was a calculated choice as my family steers away from red meat, pork is often dry when fully-cooked unless it's covered in bar-b-que sauce which is not diet-friendly.  However, this roast was amazing!

I started with a pork tenderloin from Costco which I had simply frozen on my OAM cooking day.  I put it in a small crock-pot (I have 3 different sizes) and sprinkled an entire package of dry onion soup mix over the roast.  I also added about a cup of water before putting on the lid.  That was it. 

When we sat down to dinner nearly 12 hours later, I was amazed by this roast.  It was tender, juicy and delicious.  No need for extra sauce.  No extra calories as the onion soup mix is zero points on Weight Watchers.  This is definitely a keeper!


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pizza Pasta was a Hit, There and Here

There are two evenings at the camp in Honduras before the women come when I make dinner for our team.   It needs to be something fairly simple, but definitely full of flavor because it is made at the end of a busy day of work preparing for the conference.  This year I decided to try a new pasta recipe that I had recently found, Pizza Pasta.  It was a hit!
Pizza Pasta with Elbow Macaroni
Pizza Pasta with Penne Pasta

This week I served it at home to a group of high schoolers who were here at dinner time.  They, too, loved.  I do believe I've found my new "go-to" meal!  It's perfect for a quick meal, a pasta party, or even a potluck.  It's easy to make and only has a few ingredients.

Cook one pound of pasta according to package directions.
Add 6 cups of spaghetti sauce.

Brown 1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey (or defrost a container of cooked meat from the freezer).  Stir into pasta.

Cut 1/2 pound of pepperoni in halves and add to the pasta.  Sprinkle with shredded mozzerella cheese. 

This can be placed in a baking dish and placed in the oven for several minutes to melt the cheese or just serve it immediately.



Friday, January 25, 2013

I will get a new crock-pot for this!

Last night I took a peek at the menu and saw that tonight's meal of 40-Clove Garlic Chicken would require that I defrost a whole chicken overnight.  So of course, I pulled it out of the freezer. 

This morning I got out my favorite crock-pot and dropped the chicken into it along with 1/2 cup of minced garlic, 1/4 olive oil, 1/2 cup water, and a good sprinkling of dried parsley.  I also salted and peppered the chicken generously before putting the lid on.  Then I set the crock-pot to low for 7 1/2 hours.  Easy!

About 5 1/2 hours into the cooking, one of my sons commented on the new look of the lid.  What new look?  Somehow during the cooking the lid had shattered but stayed intact.  It was really quite stunning, but I wondered if we'd be eating the meal inside!



I was able to remove the lid without too many pieces falling in.  Had it been any other meal, I might not have been able to safely salvage the dinner, but with a whole chicken it was easy.  Phew!  We might have had to go out for dinner which wouldn't have been all bad, but I was glad not to have to do so.


The new crock-pot will be mine this week when I return the shattered one to Costco in exchange for a new one.  Gotta love their return policy along with the access to my American Express purchase records.  I won't even have to look for the receipt even though I keep every one.   

My son told me that I have over-used the crock-pot which I have only had for about a year.  It reminded me of cameras.  I have worn out five cameras in 27 years and find that it's always less expensive to replace than repair.  Maybe the same is happening to my crock-pot.  I'll just have to keep experimenting to find out.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Back from Honduras and Back into Life

Coming home from any time away requires a period of adjustment.  One article I read suggested not even unpacking your suitcases for a week.  I thought that was a bit excessive, but did give myself an entire day off, including dinner before slowly resuming my busy life.  One thing that helped immensely was my once-a-month menu calendar.

In early January I had prepared enough meals to cover my trip and an additional week and a half when I returned.  Just in case I was really tired or came home sick, I'd have meals for my family.  Once again, I am just pulling meals out of the freezer and adding a vegetable side dish.  I am so glad that I spent the time before to prepare these meals as it has been a great help to my travel recovery.

Last night was grilled salmon which I broiled for 15 minutes and served with a large spinach salad.  Those who don't eat salmon got Chili Cheese Dogs.  Both were easy fixes for a tired mom.  I can't take credit for the recipe as I simply bought a box of pre-seasoned salmon from Costco and followed the directions. :)


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Once-a-month Cooking in Honduras Just in January

Tomorrow I leave for 10 days in Honduras co-leading a team of women primarily from my church who will be supporting the Honduran Women's Bible Conference next weekend.  Our job will be to prepare the 8 meals and serve them to over 150 women at the conference.  This will be my third trip, and I LOVE it!  It's like a giant Once-a-month Cooking over the course of a week.  I am excited to be able to use my gifts and abilities to bless others.  Here's what our time will look like:
 
Friday:  We will be flying.  Pray for our bags to arrive on time and to be allowed through customs.

Saturday - After arriving about noon, we will begin our shopping for the meat and dairy products.  All the non-perishable items were purchased in November and are already at the camp.  Please pray for the availability of these items.

Sunday is family day  in Honduras and so we will attend church with one of our host families and spend the afternoon with them and our other host family in Valley of the Angels and Santa Lucia. 

Monday - We load the vans early in the morning and drive 3-4 hours to the camp in La Esperanza.  Then we unload the vans and organize the supplies and our "beds" which will really be the wooden banquet tables.

Tuesday - We will divide into four work teams.  Some will decorate, some will prepare the gift bags and wrap door prizes, will be begin baking and some will shop locally for produce with our Honduran helpers.

Wednesday - The efforts will continue from Tuesday and will also include making 19 lasagnas and other menu items to freeze for the days ahead.

Thursday - We begin by preparing the banquet meal which includes 55 pounds of roast beef, 35 pounds of green beans and 24 Hershey pies.   The women arrive, and the conference begins with the banquet dinner.

Friday - We'll be up early to cook 540 pancakes.  This is our first day to prepare and serve 3 meals on time.

Saturday - Another early morning to bake the 14 egg strata which take extra time in the mountains, and then prepare for the day's meals including decorating 170 sunflower cupcakes for dinner. 

Sunday - One or two of us will be up at 4:00 a.m. to start the coffee and set out muffins and yogurt for the ladies leaving early on the bus (6:00 a.m.),while others will gather for coffee together in the dining hall.  Our team does final cleaning of kitchen, generously thanks our fabulous Honduran dishwashers, and returns to Tegucigalpa for a team/host family thank you dinner that night.
Monday - It's already time to say goodbye to our host families and return home

I'd thought about posting from Honduras, but I will not have internet access for most of the trip.  We cook American meals and many of the recipes are already on my blog.   However, something we make especially for the conference are our Honduras-shaped Sugar Cookies. 

I found this recipe in the newspaper when I was teaching 2nd grade many moons ago and still have the original newsprint.  It, too, has been tweaked into this favorite dough.

Favorite Sugar Cookies
1/2 C butter
1 C sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
3 C flour
1/2 tsp. salt

Completely melt the butter.  Pour into mixing bowl and add sugar, eggs and extracts.  Mix well.  Add the flour and salt.  The dough should be firm enough to roll immediately.  (I never liked having to refrigerate the dough!) 

On a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll dough to 1/4" thick.  Using cookie cutters, cut the dough and gently liff with a pancake spatula onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Repeat until the sheet is full and bake at 375 degrees F for 8-10 minutes.  Bake larger cookies longer.  Completely cool before frosting.

White Glaze Frosting
1/2 lb. powdered sugar (about 1 1/2 C)
1/2 tsp. vanilla, clear is best
several tablespoons water

Mix well until smooth and runny.  Paint over cookies with a wide pastry brush.  Allow to dry.  Add writing with regular frosting.

 Back to writing in two weeks!





Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Kids and Menus, a Moment to Remember

I keep the calendar of menus posted in my kitchen.  This week one of my daughters wanted to have a friend over for dinner.  When she invited them, she told them what the menu was going to be for that night.  I loved it!  (It's so fun to see a lesson learned!)

A second friend was coming tonight but our approach was different.  I gave my daughter the option of any item on the menu.  She chose her personal favorite, which was very appropriate to the evening and the guest.

Both approaches work great.  The calendar can simply be a list of meals and you pull out what "hits the spot" or you follow a calendar to the letter.  We often swap meals, but I am always careful to cross-out those that I serve so that my freezer inventory is accurate.

Our entree for tonight was Chicken Bake.  (The recipe was posted on Sept 20, 2012.)  For a side dish, we served Sauted Squash. I found this recipe from Mrs. Dash in one of my magazines, and of course, it's a bit tweaked.  It's tasty and low-fat, but also full of flavor.  And with all the time I saved on the entree which only needed to be placed in a hot over for 1 hour, I had plenty of time to devote to the veggies.

non-stick cooking spray
3 large zucchini, sliced like coins and about 1/4" thick (use different colors of squash)
1 large onion, sliced 1/8" thick
1 large mushroo, sliced, dried
4 tsp. Mrs. Dash original seasoning blend
2 tsp. Molly McButter butter sprinkles

Spray a large skillet with cooking spray.  Saute zucchini and onions over medium heat for about 5 minutes stirring often.  Sprinkle with Mrs. Dash and Molly McButter.  Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing, stirring often until mushrooms are browned.  I often turn down the heat and let it simmer under a lid for several minutes at this point.  Cook the squash to desired tenderness.

This yields 3 servings. 

Tonight I mixed yellow and white squash with zucchini, onions and mushrooms.  It was delicious and the guest loved it!

 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Citrus Chicken in the Crock-pot

On Sunday nights I usually take a good look ahead at my menus for the week comparing them to the family calendar.  Why?  I want to be sure that the events of the week will allow for the preparation of the planned meals.  Last night was no different, and was well-timed as I needed to defrost a whole chicken overnight. 

This morning I got out my trusty crock-pot, rinsed the chicken and placed it in the crock.  I added 1 cup of orange juice and a packet of Fajita seasoning mix and set the pot to cook for 7 hours.

Dinner was done.

I did serve canned green beans and pita bread as sides.  So very simple, but flavorful and diet friendly sans the bread.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Huli Chicken will have you Dancing in the Kitchen

This morning I took a look at my posted menu and pulled the Ziploc bag labeled "Huli Chicken" out of the freezer to defrost and marinate at the same time.

At 5:20 p.m. I walked into my kitchen to prepare dinner.

Wash hands.
Turn on broiler to high.
Line a jelly roll pan with foil and place chicken on it.  Set aside.
Retrieve green beans and mushrooms from fridge.  Wash, slice and place on a second jelly roll pan. 
Spritz with olive oil.
Sprinkle with Vegetable seasoning.

It is now 5:28 p.m.
Place chicken in the oven for 15 minutes.
Put away extra veggies and supplies.
Update Facebook.

At 5:45 p.m. the timer goes off.
Turn chicken.
Put tray of veggies in oven and set timer for 5 more minutes.
Start writing this blog.

5:50 p.m. and the timer goes off again.
Remove chicken and cover with foil.
Move veggies to top rack and set timer for 10 more minutes.
Back to writing this blog.
Son and hubby walk in.  Stop to greet and chat with each.
Set table.

Isn't this easy?  SOOO very much worth the effort to be a Once-a-month Chef!
6:00 p.m. Put food on the plates and deliver them to the table.
Now, if only the family will come...
Huli Chicken recipe:

5 lbs. Chicken breasts or tenderloins, boneless, skinless
1 C brown sugar
3/4 C ketchup
3/4 C reduced sodium soy sauce
1/3 C sherry or chicken broth (I used white wine)
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger


Place chicken in a Ziploc bag.  This recipe is likely enough for two meals in two separate bags.  Mix other ingredients together and pour over chicken.

To enjoy later:  Freeze.  Defrost and grill.  Or you can broil on high for 15-20 minutes, turning once.

This chicken is best when marinated at least overnight, so plan ahead if you want to serve it up right away.

(My thanks to Sharon Boling for sharing her recipe with the magazine.  Was it Taste of Home?  It sure is delicious!  Even my pickiest eater loves it and goes back for seconds.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Beef Dip Sandwiches aka leftovers

As one of our family goals we are re-establishing a "formal" dinnertime.  And while it is unrealistic to expect that all three college kids will be home at 6 p.m. to eat every day, the other three of us will be here.  With this goal already underway, I began dinner today and was met with complaints that it wasn't 6:00 when I called my family to the table.  They were correct; it was only 5:30 p.m.   Dinner preparations had only taken about 20 minutes!  How? 

Veggies:  Wash a handful of asparagus and several mushrooms.  Slice mushrooms and place all veggies on a jelly roll baking pan.  Spray with olive oil in a spritzer and sprinkle with McCormick's Vegetable Seasoning.  Put in broiler for 10 minutes.

Main Dish:  In a skillet, bring 1 C of water to boil and add 1 tsp. of Beef Better than Boullion.  Stir until completely dissolved.  Add leftover beef roast which was shredded last night and simmer.  Open several French Rolls and line with Monterey Jack cheese.  Add warmed beef and some au jus.

Place some veggies on every plate and serve.  Colorful.  Delicious.  Filling. 

Corn Dog Casserole by Request

How fun it is to get requests! It's often a guess at to what will generate interest, and so it is a delight to respond with an answer.

I first found this recipe in Taste of Home Magazine, and like always, have adapted it for my family.  Unfortunately, I used a sharpie marker to make the changes and so must send you to their website if you want the original.  Here is my current recipe for this dish.

1 1/2 lbs. hot dogs ( I use Hebrew National)
2 eggs
1 1/2 C milk
2 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix
2 C cheddar cheese, shredded

Slice hot dogs into rounds of about 1/4 inch.  Spread in a 9"x13" baking dish.  Cover with cheese. 
Mix together eggs, milk, and cornbread mix.  Pour over the cheese. 

To enjoy tonight:  Bake uncovered at 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

To enjoy later:  Cover and freeze.  Defrost and following baking directions above.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cooking Day was way too easy, but boy did I love that!

In all truth, I usually have to psych myself up for cooking day.  And if I don't start in the morning, it becomes a chore.  Today was almost too easy.  I had only 9 meals to prepare, and there is no challenge in so few.  What did draw me in was the anticipation of those wonderful words, "I am done" and the accompanying emotions of success, not to mention a full freezer.  The task took about 1 1/2 hours.

The ground turkey that I buy comes in a group of 4 packages each about 1 1/2 pounds.  I browned the contents of each package in a skillet, one at a time.  The fat was drained and the meat put into a 3-cup freezer container and simply labeled "ground turkey."  I repeated this process three more times using the same skillet and utensil.  Do let the food cool before putting it into the freezer.

Then I tackled the chicken.  I bought a different package than usual, and so admittedly, came up short and did not prepare two meals, but I was able to:

  • boil some tenderloins, shred the meat and add taco seasoning.
  • use several tenderloins for Chicken Bake prepared in a 9"x13" baking dish
  • prepare Huli Chicken marinade to pour over a Ziploc bag of chicken which is now frozen

Next time I grocery shop (which is only once a week) I will buy the additional chicken and finish those meals, too.

One last meal to prepare was Corn-Dog Casserole.  You see, I will be gone for 11 days in January serving in the kitchen at the Honduran Women's Bible Conference, and so needed a few kid-friendly meals.  Kid-friendly now means able to be cooked by a kid, and this is one that satisfies that requirement as well as their palette.  On this menu I also included some "out" nights as I know my hubby will likely take the kids out for a meal or someone will take pity on my family and invite them over for dinner.  You know how it goes when Dad is in charge of the kids. 

And now, my freezer is full.  This month there's even room for ice cream!



Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Cupboard was Bare or Starting a New Month of Menus

Do you remember the nursery rhyme about Old Mother Hubbard?  One day she went to her cupboard only to find it was bare and she had nothing to give her poor doggie.  Such could be said of my freezer today, in fact, one of my daughters texted me a message about our refrigerator and freezer being so empty that it looked like it does before a vacation!


It's a good thing I was already at the store doing a Once-a-month shopping trip!  This afternoon I sat down to compose a new monthly menu, one that is Weight Watcher friendly and low on carbs.  Here's what I created:


From that menu, I generated a grocery list.

Time spent: 
1 hour creating menu and grocery list, gathering any recipes
2 hours shopping at 2 stores
45 minutes putting away groceries and organizing meats in the freezer, starting a pot roast (Mrs. Ringle's Brisket, see blog) for tomorrow's dinner

I took several steps while putting away the groceries that are a big help towards completing the cooking. 

  • The fish simply went into the freezer as I purchased  it pre-seasoned and individually wrapped.  OAM cooking doesn't mean it all has to be from scratch.  :)
  • 2 whole chickens: package opened, gizzards and neck removed, chickens repackaged in gallon-sized Ziploc bags.  Put in freezer.  I will add the spices when I cook them.
  • Pork tenderloin: separated into two packages.
  • Turkey patties and buns simply frozen. Yeah!
  • Beef roast:  opened, washed and placed in a crock-pot with a good drizzle of mustard and 1 package of Lipton Onion Soup Mix sprinkled over.  Pot set to cook for 20 hours.  Oh yum!
  • Steaks were cut into a total of 14 pieces.  I put 7 in each of two Ziplocs, labeled the bags and put them in the freezer.

The bag of boneless, skinless chicken was put into the freezer until tomorrow, and the ground turkey was put into the refrigerator.  Both replicate the state in which I brought them home.

I also bought a 5-lb bag of Mozzarella cheese.  I divided it into 4 bags and froze them all.  It's not something we use daily, but I like having it on hand to be able to make pizzas for the surprise houseful of teen-agers. 


Now, my freezer is looking a little better.  Tomorrow, I will cook the ground turkey and freeze the meat to add to red sauce and pasta.  Or, if need be, it can be turned into taco meat.  Then I will prepare the 5 dishes using the chicken.

I'm over half-way done with a month full of meals and only about 4 hours of work.  I've also saved money by purchasing in bulk and reduced the temptation to go out at the last minute.










Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Tail-gate Brunch and Swedish Tea Sandwiches

A long-standing tradition in our family is an early morning trek down Orange Grove Blvd. admiring the floats lined up for the Rose Parade on New Year's Day.  After the parade starts we walk back to our car for a tail-gate brunch before driving back home to watch the parade on TV.  One of our favorite menu items is Swedish Tea Sandwiches, and we never seem to make enough.


For a party gathering:
2-3 large loaves of white bread
3 cans tuna
2-3 C light mayonaise
12 eggs, hard-boiled
1-2 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
salt

Drain tuna and mix with mayo until smooth.  Consider mixing it with a hand-mixer for a smoother texture.
Cool, peel and coarsely chop the eggs.  Using a hand-mixer combine the eggs with mayo until smooth.  Add a sprinkle of salt to taste and mix again.


These sandwiches are layered:
bread
tuna salad
bread
cream cheese
bread
egg salad
bread




I like to divide the loaves into 4 equal piles and then lay out one stack on waxed paper or other clean surface.  Cover all with the tuna mixture. Then cover all with another slice of bread.  Continue this assembly line approach until all the sandwiches are made.

Cut off the crusts.  Slice the sandwiches into thirds or fourths and lay gently on a serving tray.  Cover with a wet paper towel and refrigerate until serving.

The amounts of the ingredients are approximate depending on the thickness of each layer.  I usually make sandwiches until I run out of one "flavor" and save the other flavors as leftovers.