Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pork and Tomatillo Stew

This is a great and different stew I found over at the fantastic Smells Like Home blog. I had never worked with tomatillos but they were a cinch to work with and really made the dish. Just peel away the papery skin under warm running water and consider yourself a fancy chef! This has a rich but mild flavor so it's a blank canvas for adding more heat or whatever floats your boat.

The Swallow’s Pork and Tomatillo Stew
Adapted from Ruth Reichl, Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table

1/4 cup canola oil
8 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 lbs. lean pork, cut into cubes
1 bottle dark beer
12 oz. orange juice
1 lb. tomatillos, halved
28oz canned diced tomatoes, drained
2 large onions, chopped
2 jalapenos, diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
salt and pepper

1 cup sour cream
juice of one lime

In a saucepan, add the beer, orange juice, tomatoes and tomatillos. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, simmering until the tomatillos are soft, about 15 minutes. Set aside.Meanwhile, heat the canola oil in a dutch oven or stockpot. Add the garlic cloves and stir to coat with the oil. Sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper and then add it to the oil, in batches, to brown on all sides. Remove from the dutch oven. Add the onion and jalapeno and saute until tender, 5 or 6 minutes.

Add the tomatillo mixture to the dutch oven, scraping the bottom of the pot to be sure you are getting all the browned bits. Add the pork, cilantro, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cook, partially covered, for about 2 hours.

Taste for seasoning. Add the black beans and corn and cook an additional ten minutes, uncovered.

Serve the stew over rice, with lime wedges, sour cream and hot sauce for those that need kick.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Simply Homemade Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing is king at our house. I make a mean salad dressing but my kids' hearts belong to ranch. They might even eat chicken feet if I gave them ranch for dipping! This homemade version is fresh and will turn even non-ranch fans into believers. Adapted from the Gourmet Cookbook, 2004.

Ranch Dressing

3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice (start with 1 Tbsp.)
1/4 to 1 cup buttermilk
1 small bunch of chives, roughly chopped
Small handful of parsley
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients with 1/4 cup of buttermilk in a blender. Blend for 10 -20 seconds. Check consistency and blend in additional buttermilk and lemon juice if desired. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge and will keep for 2-3 weeks.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ginger Bens

My mom worked her holiday magic again this year and brought these unbelievably addictive cookies to our Christmas Eve festivities. There was no way Santa was getting his hands on these! Inspired by a recipe from Bon Appetit, October 2004.

Ginger Bens

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper
1 cup granulated sugar, plus additional for coating cookies (divided)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 cup light molasses
2 tbsp of orange juice

4 ounces white chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, pepper and salt. In another large bowl, beat 1 cup sugar and oil until pale in color, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg, orange juice and molasses. Gradually stir in flour mixture.

Roll 2 tablespoonfuls dough into ball, then roll in additional sugar to coat. Repeat, forming 6 dough balls. Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet (cookies will spread). Bake until cookies are golden brown around edges and cracked on top, about 12 minutes. Let cool 2 minutes on sheet; transfer cookies to rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

Stir white chocolate in top of double boiler set over barely simmering water until melted. Dip fork into chocolate and drizzle over cookies. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 10 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fresh Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

The thing about reading food blogs is that everything makes you hungry and a tempting photo can send me running into the kitchen. Take a look at this apple cake. Just take a good look and tell me you cannot mentally count the apples in your kitchen in hopes of making this immediately? This was a fantastically moist and a perfect fall/winter dessert with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's so good that the next time I make this cake I'll try and double the recipe, invite some friends over and wait for the compliments to roll in.

Fresh Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

Apple Cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups finely chopped apples
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped (optional)

Brown Sugar Glaze:
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon heavy cream

For the cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch pan (round or square) and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.Stir with a whisk to mix everything together.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs with a hand mixer til light in color and foamy. Add the oil and vanilla and beat well.

Stir in the flour mixture with a spoon and continue stirring the batter til the flour disappears. Add the apples and nuts (if using) and stir to mix them into the batter.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place the hot cake on a wire cake. While it's still hot, prepare the glaze.

For the glaze: Combine all the ingredients into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Cook for 3-5 minutes.

Spoon the hot glaze over the still hot-from-the-oven cake. Let the glazed cake cool completely before serving straight from the pan.

Adapted from Southern Cakes with irresistible photo from the great blog Lick the Bowl Good

Monday, January 3, 2011

Express Chicken White Chili

Sometimes a lonley (aka boring) rotisserie chicken just speaks to you and today my chicken was feeling a little fiery. She yearned to be liberated from her sad state and reborn as a spicy, heart-warming dish. I think this quick version of white chili did her proud.

Express Chicken White Chili

4 whole cooked chicken breasts - shredded or one rotisserie chicken picked clean
1 whole white onion, chopped
2 cloves mined garlic
3 cans (16 Ounce Cans) Northern (white) beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (26 Ounce) Cream of Chicken soup - can use low-fat
2 cans (28 Ounce) Rotel or fire roasted diced tomatoes - I used one can Rotel and one can diced since my kids cannot take the heat! Do not drain.
1 package McCormick White Chicken Chili Seasoning Mix
32 ounces chicken broth - more or less depending on how thick you like it
1 cup frozen corn

Dutch Oven Method:
In a large Dutch oven saute onion and garlic in a few Tbls. of extra virgin olive oil until softened and fragrant. Add all ingredients and simmer on low for at least two hours but as long as you can.

Crock pot Method:
In a small saute pan, saute onion and garlic in a few Tbls. of extra virgin olive oil until softened and fragrant. Add onion/garlic mixture to Crock pot and add all other ingredients to pot. Cook on high for a couple of hours and then switch to low for a couple of hours. Or cook all day on low if necessary.

Toppings (optional)
Extra Hot Sauce
Sour cream
Shredded cheese
Raw onion
Tortilla chips or Fritos

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tea Punch

Happy New Year all and I hope to make it a healthy, happy and delicious one! This punch recipe hails from my sister-in-law and is requested by my eldest for special occasions such as her birthday, sleepover with friends or a random Tuesday night. The last occasion doesn't count so she'll have to make due with milk at dinner and not punch accompanied with a floating ice ring. Although I'm a sucker for a nicely made ice ring - makes me feel very 1950s housewife. A favorite at baby/bridal showers.

Tea Punch

2 cups boiling water
6 tea bags - your favorite variety is fine just don't get too crazy or it will fight with the other friends in the pool

Let tea steep in hot water for 5 minutes then remove bags. Then add:

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups cold water
6 Tbls. lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 tsps. almond extract
46 oz. pineapple juice
2 liter 7-up (I may try with diet since the drink it sweet)

Mix together and chill. Serve with ice ring made from 7up and Maraschino cherries or other fruit.