Author Archives: Jess

About Jess

I'm a 30ish woman living in Texas. Juggling taking care of my family, and going back to college.

Chilli

So!

Remember when I said we were going to do chicken strips and a steak and all that? Well…things happened. School, my kid getting sick and the metroplex I live in becoming covered in a sea of ice. When it came down to it I could write both of those posts right now, but without pictures it kind of feels..pointless, and last night, when the world was frozen and shivering and everyone in my life was teeth chattering cold, I decided to knock out one of my major monthly contributions to our house’s dinner rotations and make a big batch of chilli.

Now before I begin, I want to state that even if I live in Texas, I do not make Texas Chilli. Texas Chilli does not have beans, and there’s a whole bunch of other rules to it and frankly while I enjoy it when I eat it, I live with northerners and I enjoy beans in mine. So if you’re gonna complain about it, then take them out in your mind. Just imagine my household living in a lovely bean free state and all will be well.

So basically, like most of my recipes there’s no real measurements I can provide you..unfortunately I cook by feel, which I think is perhaps the best way to do things like this but I could be wrong. However, my advice is simple, start with a little, and add more. Of everything. Start with a little, taste, and taste, and taste as you go and soon you’ll start to get a ‘feel’ for things.

Right! So with all that said lets begin!

First I take two pounds of ground pork, and two pounds of ground beef and toss it into the pot I’m going to make the chilli in. I brown the whole mess while covering it with a whole slew of things.

3-4 tablespoons of garlic Depending on your love of garlic

1ish tablespoon of Cumin, Oregano, Chilli Powder and whatever strikes your fancy. Cilantro is a good one too.

Then a couple teaspoons of salt and pepper.

 

When the meat is all browned and good, I drain it thoroughly and put it back in the pan. I then add two big cans of crushed tomatoes, and two big cans of tomato sauce. Then a large can of tomato paste and three drained cans of red kidney beans (though I’m dying to try some other beans, like black or the like) and then add a couple more table spoons of garlic, more cumin and oregano and chilli powder and salt and pepper..

Stir it up thoroughly, and taste. It will be a touch..strong here or should be but not too spicy and overwhelming. Bring to a good bubbling simmer and leave on low heat for at least three hours. Tasting throughout and adding whatever you feel is lacking.

I then make cornbread to go with it and serve it with Cornbread which can be eaten on the side, or crumbled up and mixed in. I also give cheese and sourcream and if we’re having company some chips.

I purposefully make a big pot of it when I make it so that we can put into freezer bags in dinner sized portions and thaw it out and reheat it for lunches or dinner as we see fit. It’s a great way to have something on hand that everyone enjoys!

I hope you all enjoy!!

Mmm Chilli.

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Coming attractions

I fear that this little bit of quiet is coming at the end of a little bit of nasty fall, and some more settling into routines. However, I still have ideas and things to post on here! I was thinking of doing a a steak broiling tutorial, and we recently made home made chicken strips here that were awesome and I wanted to share them so there is content waiting to make it’s appearance on this stage!

 

I will try to get the tutorial for making a steak up on here this afternoon, but I make no promises. I have a lab exam to study for. Hopefully my lovely assistants will be posting something soon as well!

 

-Jess


Chicken and Dumplings

So I apologize for the quiet that has happened in the last few days, I fear the semester started and I have been focused mainly on getting settled into my classes. It doesn’t mean however, that I’ve stopped cooking! And after lastnight with a lovely dinner party consisting of me Lissa Angela (Fayne in spirit..we missed you love!) and a poor bedraggled boy we yanked along (Paco, poor poor Paco) I was reminded that we should be talking about what we are eating more often. The food last night was very good..simple but delicious and I’ll let Lissa go into detail (which btw Lissa is a big hint) so I’ll be talking about what I made the other night.

It’s finally decided to get cold in our southern state around here and when it is cold I am drawn to thick stews, soups, and roasts to warm myself and my family up. So it was with that in mind that I decided to make some chicken and dumplings.

What follows this is just basically what all recipes say about chicken and dumplings, but it’s my version of it and since I know I can make it I am fairly sure anyone else can do it as well.

I took one whole chicken and cleaned it out and patted it dry. In the pot that I was using to do the whole thing in, I put some cut up onion (about a half of one) and a overly healthy addition of garlic (seriously I put at least a whole head in ) but I like mine garlicky so if you don’t scale back. I sauteed them until the onion was translucent and then I put the chicken in and covered it with water. To that I added four bay leaves, rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano in an amount that frankly made me a bit nervous. I then added salt and pepper and put it on in between medium and  high and let it boil for two and a half hours, covering the pot to keep it from evaporating..

When I came back the chicken was easily pulled off of the bone with a fork, so I got the whole bird out of the water, and using two forks and a lot of pulling up of the big girl panties, I pulled off all the skin and tossed it, then removed all the usable meat from the bones and tossed the bones, after putting the meat back in. Then I added chopped celery and carrots, enough that it felt like a good ratio (this depends on the amount of broth and chicken you have in there, for my chicken I used four stalks of celery bite sized chopped and five carrots. And in it went again without the lid for another 2 and a half hours. By the way I can not stress enough to test the broth during this phase. I had to add a lot more salt and pepper, and some more garlic powder to mine during this to get it to the taste that I wanted.

Once I made sure that the carrots were soft enough to be cut with a fork, I then took the one cheat of the whole process and made bisquick drop biscuits. They are easy, and when I think ‘dumplings’ they are immediately what springs to my mind.

After I made the dumplings, I realized that the broth was too think for my taste, and so bisquick came to the rescue one more, I took two tablespoons, and a bowl, spooning some of the broth into it and mixed up a quick roux and put it into the broth to simmer for another 15 minutes before serving. I like my chicken and dumplings to be somewhere between stew and soup, so it came out perfect for me.

The boys of course wouldn’t eat it. I ended up giving my picky eaters, a peanutbutter sandwich and yogurt for their dinner, but it warmed the adults of the house for a few days before we froze the leftovers for another cold snap.

Personally? I enjoy mine with a nice little sprinkling of red pepper flakes on top. For a little zing with all that flavor. I hope you can make this for your cold days as well!


Quick and Dirty

So the other night, I made Pioneer Woman’s BBQ Meatballs and I was going to do a little how much do I love these things (I have a few for lunch for days afterwards) but the cooking gods were not with me that night and I managed to over pepper both the meatballs and the mashed potatoes I made to go with it. The meatballs were totally my fault the mashed potatoes? was the pepper container’s fault. I really do loathe that container.

Neither of them were inedible, everyone enjoyed dinner, they just weren’t…spectacular. I realize that part of this blog’s intentions is to put up the foils and failures as well, but really, when one of your favorite meals goes face down into a sea of bleh…well it takes a day or two to face it again.

Last night, however, I did one of my favorite takes on a quick and dirty meal, an easy throw together that my family is big on. Really I know that this isn’t all that special or dazzling but you know what? some people never think of  doing all these things so I’m just throwing it out there.

I buy a good jar of spaghetti sauce (I like Classico tomato and basil but your mileage and taste varies), get some of the tortellini from the fresh pasta section, and some sweet Italian sausage. It’s a generally big and filling meal, I cook the sausage separately because I like the caramelized spots  on the outside, boil up the pasta, heat up the sauce, toss it all onto a plate with a little Parmesan and while it is a lot more processed than I like..it’s quick easy and everyone seems to like it.

Tonight however, I’m doing a familia favorite that I got from MFA Mama that we call ‘Mexican Casserole’ around these parts. This is another hit that everyone universally comes to the table for. Well nearly everyone, the boys eat this with various stages of success.  Now I double my recipe, so if you don’t have four people who want left overs to consider, half everything that I do

Mexican Casserole (Pic to follow tomorrowish probably?)

I take Three – Four chicken breasts, cut them up into bite sized pieces.

Throw them into a pan and -heavily- season them with salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, chilli powder and cilantro.

Turn the oven on to pre-heat at 350

Add in two cans of re-fried beans and stir it up, let it simmer, while that is happening find your biggest casserole glass dish baking pan. It’s probably hidden in the back of the cupboard.

When you come back out, pour in a can of enchilada sauce and stir it up, let it simmer.

Get a spray can of pam, and spray down the inside of the glass dish and then put a layer of  tortilla chips, I’d start out with just covering on the bottom, if you like more do more next time!

Then you take the whole glop from the frying pan and pour it on top of the chips. Pour another 3/4’s of a can of enchilada sauce on (I know I hate wasting that last little bit but I can’t help it, the whole thing is too much) and the cover with as much cheese as you like. I won’t begin to tell you how much cheese that is, we all have our own very deep and personal feelings about cheese.

Put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

I then serve it with taco toppings, like salsa, sour cream, chips, avocado or black olives, and chips. Use it like a..nacho dish kind basically. I warn you it’s pretty filling so I only take a little, but it leaves good left overs that are nice to have throughout the week

Of course you could make this all low fat (and I try to whenever possible though I admit to mixing some real cheese in with the low fat since the low fat sometimes melts weird without it) so it doesn’t have to be a terrible dish.

But if you want to make it for company I’d go for all out, it is a treat after all!

 


Pizza for the first time

So Last night I snuck a kid free night over at Lissa’s (she being the only one amongst us without two tagalongs..though she loves ours enough to be partly responsible for them) and to celebrate my freedom and a few hours of relaxation before the new semester comes, I brought up the idea of a home made pizza and she jumped on it. Now she made the pie to go with the dinner so I’ll let her discuss that, but since I made the dough and we both agreed on toppings I’ll handle the pizza.

For the dough, we used Smitten Kitchen’s Basic Pizza dough which I doubled, because I like a good thick bread-y crust. The recipe by the way was great, easy to use and the only complaint I had was that she didn’t have  a temperature listed for baking but we found one on her pizza updated so all was well. For the sauce, we sauteed some garlic and onions, poured in crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper and oregano, and then left it to simmer for 20 minutes while the dough finished raising. For our toppings we used bacon, Brown sugar ham slices, basil leaves (which were chopped) and a ball of mozzarella.

Over all? It was a very yummy pizza! The sauce was a touch saltier than we liked, but that’s easily adjusted, and the dough was a great one for our purposes. I think we’ll try the updated one next time, just for a little bit of flavor to it, and perhaps another one down the line but we both really enjoyed it.

I think we’re going to repeat this one again, we talked about doing a white pizza last night and there are some more ‘out there’ ones that I enjoy that I would like to try. Liss is not down for the bbq pizza but I think that it would be a lovely one to try at home with the boys here.

Smitten Kitchen’s Pizza Dough

Really Simple Pizza Dough

Makes enough for one small, thin crust pizza. Double it if you like your pizza thick and bready.

1 1/2 cups flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Dump all clumps and floury bits onto a lightly floured surface and knead everything into a homogeneous ball.

If you are finding this step difficult, one of the best tricks I picked up from my bread-making class is to simply pause. Leave the dough in a lightly-floured spot, put the empty bowl upside-down on top of it and come back in 2 to 5 minutes, at which point you will find the dough a lot more lovable.

Knead it for just a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl (a spritz of cooking spray perfectly does the trick) where you had mixed it — one-bowl recipe! — dump the dough in, turn it over so all sides are coated, cover it in plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.

Dump it back on the floured counter (yup, I leave mine messy), and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.

Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, toss on whatever topping and seasonings you like. (I always err on the side of skimpy with toppings so to not weight down the dough too much, or if I have multiple toppings, to keep them very thinly sliced.)

Bake it for about 10 minutes until it’s lightly blistered and impossible to resist.

 

Our recommendations? work with the dough, push and knead it to get it where you want..make sure that you make it even, we had some thicker parts on the pizza that disrupted the even nature of it. Otherwise? delish!

 

A delicious kid free dinner


Welcome to the kitchen

Welcome!

This is just a small modest beginning, for what I hope will be a somewhat larger adventure. By somewhat larger, I mean that I hope someone reads this that isn’t obligated to do so out of friendship or familial ties. What is this modest beginning? Lately I and my friends (who are gracious enough to help and write here) have been creating wonderful meals in our kitchens, sharing recipes and techniques between us and trying new and exciting things in an attempt to make our kitchens achieve their potential. I wanted a place for us to record our triumphs and failures, to place our favorite recipes, to discuss tips and techniques, and to share those with others so that they might enjoy as we do.

This is not going to be high cuisine, at least not all of the time, but it is going to be good food and hopefully good for you.

So I am going to wrap up this post here with a little bit more hope. I hope that you all enjoy what you read, I hope that you participate in our discussion, and I hope that everything that comes out of your kitchen is good and flavorful.