Sunday, September 23, 2012

Peppers - Part 2!

Here's the final product of the pepper drying:  Crushed Peppers for our cooking!  Don't they look HOT...and delicious? :)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

First Day of Fall, Last Day of Garden Harvest

Well folks, it's the start of my favorite season here in WI - FALL!!!!  I love everything about it. . .ok well there are two things I don't like about it:  1) The length of the season is WAY TOO SHORT 2) And my skin will begin to get itchy and scratchy.  But I love the smells, the colors of the leaves, the cool breezes, the crisp a.m. air, pumpkins, apples, apple pickin' with the fam, walks in the 'hood, h.s. football games, no a/c. . .What's not to love?

Here are a few photos of the last of our garden harvest today:

All of the tomatoes will be stored in paper bags in our garage so we can still enjoy fresh garden schmaters for several more weeks - they ripen up well in paper bags, like a banana or avocado would.  If you haven't ever tried it, you should! 

Our fresh mint has been washed, placed on paper towels, will be left to dry out for several weeks in a cool, dry location, and once it's dried it will be crushed and used in a variety of the dishes we cook here in our household!

And, last but not least. . .HOLY PEPPERS!!!  Ali grew ALOT of hot peppers this year and we have TOO MANY!  Jalepenos, thai chilis, Hungarian hots. . .They have been washed, sliced/chopped, placed on a cookie sheet in a 160F oven.  Leave them in the oven at this temp to dry out at least 6-8 hrs.  Let them cool.  Place in blender or food processor and make into a spicy powder, great for ethnic dishes!  Or you can chop up the dried pieces and make your own "shaker peppers" for pizza. . .and other dishes! :)  DELISH!

Happy First Day of Fall!!!!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chicken Cacciatore. . .Amore'!

Goodness, it's been awhile since I posted a recipe or anything food related on my blog!  It's been busy busy busy and now it's almost fall here in WI!  My FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR!!!!

So, to honor that, I made Chicken Cacciatore for dinner!  This is a version of Giada's recipe - ok, all you men put your eyeballs back in your head and your tongue in your mouth, do you hear?! :)

I tweak this recipe, depending on what all I have in my pantry and refrigerator!  You can add fresh chopped zucchini or 1/2 can artichoke quarters for example! :)

Here's how I made it tonight:

Chicken Cacciatore

Prep time:  15 min
Cook time:  40-50 minutes
Serves: 4

4-5 boneless chicken thighs
1-2 chicken breasts ( you can use more 2-3 more thighs instead, if you wish -the dark meat gives this dish a nice richness)
2 t. salt, or to taste
1 t. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Wondra flour for coating the chicken (find it in the baking aisle, near the flour - it's a fine flour, perfect for sauces!  I always have this in my spice cabinet!)
3 T. olive oil
1 med bell pepper, chopped (optional . . .can use jarred red peppers, too - 2-3 large ones, sliced)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 fresh garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 package button mushrooms, cut in 1/2
3/4 c. white wine (plus some  for the chef!  optional. . .I made this without the wine tonight. . . and drank a glass instead!)
1 can diced tomatoes with juice/liquid (14 oz.)
3/4 c chicken broth/3/4 c. veggie broth
3 T. chopped green olives with pimentos (optional. . .I didn't use tonight, but this adds a nice acidic, briney taste to the dish. . .I'm not a capers fan believe it or not, but you can use capers instead - again, optional)
2 t. dried oregano
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil leaves - or more if you wish!

Sprinkle chicken with 1 t. of salt/pepper.  Dredge with Wondra flour to coat lightly.  In a large saute' pan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add chicken and saute' until brown, about 5-6 minutes per side, or until golden brown.  If all chicken doesn't fit, do in two batches.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside.  Add pepper (optional), onion, garlic, mushrooms (optional), and carrots (optional) (this is when you could add the zucchini if you are adding it, as well as the artichokes)  to the same pan, using the chicken drippings, on medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3-5 minutes.  Add tomatoes and their juice (liquid), broth, capers/olives (optional), and oregano.  Return chicken to the pan with the sauce and turn them to coat in the sauce.  Bring sauce to a simmer.  Continue simmering over medium-low heat until chicken is cooked through, approximately 20-30 minutes.

Serve with pasta of your choice and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese (freshly grated is always best, but sometimes "pizza Parmesan" does suffice!) . . . slices of a nice, crusty artisan french bread. . .and your favorite white wine! :)


Welcome fall!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Today's the big FOOTBALL day - Super Bowl! I look forward to all the snacks and food more so than the game, even when the team I normally route for is in it! :)
Homemade salsa and guac are frequent foods/snacks in this household as we are lovers of Tex Mex! Today I'll kindly share my SIMPLE salsa and SIMPLE guac recipe. I hope these will become favorites in your household as well!
**Just for the record the texture and taste of this salsa is similar to Pasqual's salsa, for my Madison, WI friends. Pasqual's has yummy salsa!**

Simple Salsa
1 can organic diced, NO SALT tomatoes (I like the no salt kind since I can control the salt in the salsa - I like Muir Glen brand)
2-3 fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs included! (less depending on how spicy you like it and how spicy the pepper is!)
1 generous handful of fresh cilantro
salt/pepper to taste
ground cumin to taste (adds a nice smokey flavor)
1/2 small onion (optional - sometimes I add an onion, sometimes I don't, depends on my mood and taste-factor)
*Double this recipe if you enjoy salsa as a snack . . .that's what I do!
1) In a food processor, combine all ingredients.
2) Hit "chop" and whir for about a minute or so.
3) Pour into serving dish and serve with yummy tortilla chips! :)
You can omit the food processor step if you like chunkier salsa, which I do sometimes. Just be sure to finely chop your onions, garlic, jalapenos, and cilantro. Combine all ingredients in serving dish, stir and serve!

Jen's Guac
3-4 ripe, black avocados (Haas or similar brand is best. . .and ripe avocado should give a bit to the touch, but still be firm)
2-3 T. Simple Salsa
salt/pepper/ground cumin to taste
1) Cut avocados in half, remove pit.
2) Scoop avocado flesh into dish.
3) Add salt/pepper/ground cumin to taste, as well as 2-3 T. Simple Salsa.
Again, if you like your guac chunkier, you can add the chunkier-version of the salsa (as stated above) to the avocados.
4) Smash mixture with a potato masher until well blended and smooth - even for a chunkier version I do this. You can also feel free to mash with a fork.
5) Serve with your favorite tortilla chips. . .and the salsa above!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Apple Crisp on a Cold Winter Day

BRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! It's cold here in WISCONSIN! What better way to warm up the house/kitchen and tummies than with Apple Crisp! MMMMMMMM I am truly not a baker but there are some recipes that I can make and that turn out. . .and this is one of them! It's a tried and true recipe that I tweaked from my Better Homes "New Cookbook"! :) I'm not a fan of apples with cinnamon - yes, I know, I know, I'm weird one - so this is sans cinnamon. Sorry. . .but I don't think it is needed!
Apple Crisp Sans Cinnamon
10-11 medium apples, peeled/cored/cubed (I used a combination of Granny Smiths and a sweeter red/green apple)
4-8 T. sugar, depending on how sweet you would like it (I tend to under-sweeten, as the crisp topping is sweeter)
1 c. regular rolled oats
1 c. packed brown sugar (can use a little less)
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. butter (I use European style, salted, as the salt cuts the tartness of the apples a bit)
1/2 cup chopped raw walnuts

1. Combine apples and sugar in a bowl. Pour into a slightly greased/sprayed 9x13 glass baking dish.
2. For the crisp topping, combine oats, brown sugar, flour, nuts in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles chunky crumbs (I tend to make mine a bit chunkier, not fine, as I like the chunky, rustic texture!).
3. Sprinkle crisp topping over sugared apples.
4. Bake in 375 degree over for 35 or so minutes, until bubbly. Fruit should be tender and topping should be crispy/crunchy!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

New version of a Spinach Salad: Sweet, Sour, Salty!

MMMMMMMMMMMMMM! I have so been enjoying our winter CSA spinach from Snug Haven Farm (near Belleville, WI). . .I'm coming up with different versions of the Spinach Salad!

3/4 of a red onion, sliced and quickly sauteed (a few minutes, just to get soft and a bit translucent)
1/2 pound thick sliced bacon, cooked, drained, and diced
Raw walnuts, chopped
Organic red delicious apple, cored and diced
6 cups organic spinach (chopped)
Mix ingredients together in a large bowl.
Top with homemade sweet sour dressing (equal parts apple cider vinegar and vegetable oil-approx 1/3-1/2 c. each, 1 T. honey, 1 t. sugar, dried parsley flakes, salt and pepper to taste - mix well)!

Mumbo . . .Gumbo! :)

Seems like fitting weather for gumbo now in Wisconsin! We've technically had our first "real" snowfall now after having such a mild start to our winter. Not that I was complaining!

I discovered this recipe in a magazine. . . tweaking it to my tastes. . .While it is a "lighter" version of a New Orleans favorite, it does not lack for flavor! Paired with a few splashes of Tabasco (or alot if you like it really spicy!), a Red Stripe brew, and some French bread for "sopping", it makes for a mighty fine "warm me up" meal! :)
Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 t. salt
1/2 cup Wondra flour (good for making sauces thicker - I prefer this to regular all purpose flour)
1-2 T. (or more!) Creole/Cajun seasoning
1 -2 t. garlic powder
5 T. canola oil
2-4 T. butter, salted
3 Andouille sausage links, cubed
1 large bell pepper, diced
1 medium to large onion, diced
6 cups homemade chicken broth (I save the broth when I boil chicken!)
1 - 1 1/2 c. diced tomatoes (I used tomatoes from our garden that we had frozen - unthaw a bit, then chop - somewhat easier to chop when they are still slightly frozen)
2 1/2 c. sliced frozen okra (can also use fresh, of course)
4 cups cooked rice
1/2 c. parsley for garnish
Tabasco splashes for each bowl (optional!)
1. Sprinkle cubed chicken breasts with salt and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large baggie, combine 1/4 c. Wondra flour, Creole/Cajun seasoning, and garlic powder. In a large frying pan or deep pot (whichever you prefer - you use the same pot to simmer your gumbo) over medium-high heat, heat 2 T. of oil. Add chicken to baggie and shake to coat. Transfer chicken to pan and cook until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes.
2. Transfer chicken to plate. Add sausage to pot. Cook about 3-4 minutes until lightly browned. Add peppers and onion to pot and cook until onions are translucent and softened (5+ minutes). Transfer this sausage-veggie mixture to a bowl and set aside.
3. Wipe pan clean and set on medium-low heat. Add remaining flour and oil (I also add a few T. of butter, as I like the richness in a roux) and stir constantly until a deep brown roux forms - approx. 10 minutes. Add sausage-veggie mixture and stir to combine. Stir in chicken broth, increase heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil. Add chicken and then reduce heat to medium-low. Allow to simmer for about 40 minutes.
4. Add tomatoes and okra. Simmer until okra is tender - 10-15 minutes (longer if you use fresh okra). Then add cooked rice, stir to combine. (Or you can serve OVER the rice if you prefer).
5. Garnish each bowl with a sprinkling of parsley. Serve with sliced French bread for "sopping"! :) A few dashes of Tabasco adds a nice touch of spice/heat to your bowl, too!