Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nacho Cheesy Rice

I enjoy making dishes like this for work during the week. It stores well and reheats nicely in the microwave, but most importantly, it really is a tasty dish. I can eat it like a dip with tortilla chips or garnish with chili flavored corn chips for texture. The rice helps make this stretch to 3 or 4 servings and only a pound of ground beef is used.

I like to make a cheese sauce in dishes like this because it stays in a more liquid or gravy-like form after it cools. Its much easier to reheat and return to the creamy texture when eating as a left over. Just throwing shredded cheese in a dish like this is great if you're eating it hot, but it clumps back together once it cools. The sauce route is much better if left overs are part of the plan - which is the case for almost everything I make.

Eat well, cook often ...

Nacho Cheesy Rice
1 lb ground beef
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 jalapenos, seeded, diced
1/2 onion, dice (1C)
1 Tbs chile powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 Tbs flour
2 C milk
2 C pepper jack cheese, shredded
2C cooked rice
Chili flavored corn chips for garnish

In a large pan or pot brown ground beef over medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove to paper-towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. Add butter to drippings in pan, once melted saute onion and jalepeno until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add spices and garlic, cook until fragrant, a minute or two. Return ground beef to pan, stir into mixture. Add flour, mix in to absorb liquid, stir and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in milk. Bring to simmer and let thicken slightly. Add cheese 2 tbs at a time, stir constantly and let melt completely, then add more cheese. Repeat until cheese is gone. Stir in Rice. Remove from heat, let cool slightly, then serve. Garnish with chili corn chips.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Friday Night, Taco Night

Fresh corn tortilla, steak, cilantro and onion with chipotle ranch sauce.

Friday dinner is reserved for tacos.

When I first moved to Austin I set aside Friday nights to hit new taco joints in search of the ultimate taco. I didn't find the ultimate, but I did find the elements to creating one. I'm still searching and creating on my own for that perfect bite, but here is what I learned so far:

Fresh made tortillas are a must!

The protein or meat element must be perfectly cooked and if its seasoned, the seasoning must compliment the sauce.

I'm partial to limited garnish: just a little cilantro and onion go along way. Lettuce, tomato and maybe a little cheese are good, but also in limited quantities and I reserve the latter for just crunchy style tacos. For me it about the tortilla, meat and sauce ...

THE SAUCE -  it makes the taco! Different sauces make for entirely different meals. Mixing and matching the right sauce with the perfect protein is the secret to a great taco experience.

As I write this I can feel the slight burn of the chipotle ranch sauce that adorns the steak taco above. It helped this simple treat become a savory, smoky bite. Its creaminess meshed perfectly with warm tortilla - which I can still feel the masa in the ridges of my finger prints from making them fresh. Call me crazy - but I love that feeling!

The ultimate taco? No. But, a tasty treat indeed.

Eat, well cook often ...

Find the recipe for the chipolte ranch sauce here.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My snack tonight

Fresh made corn tortilla, chorizo, cumin crusted pork, refried beans and red onion — drizzled with a chipotle ranch sauce — a tasty treat indeed!

A little snack thrown together with odds and ends left over from weekend experiments.

Decided to snap a shot. Scrumptious!

The sauce recipe:

1 C buttermilk
1 packed Ranch dressing mix
1/4 C mayo
1/4 C sour cream
3 whole chipotle peppers with some adobo sauce.
1 clove garlic
Handfull of cilantro
S&P to taste

With blades running in a blender, drop clove of garlic in to finely mince. Add the rest of the ingedients, blend until smooth, 5 or 6 minutes. Scrape down sides once halfway through the blending process. Transfer to squeeze bottle or container and refrigerate at least one hour for flavors to meld, then serve.

Eat well, cook often

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A new adventure has begun

I'm just getting settled in Austin, Texas!

A great opportunity has come my way and for the second time in my life, I decided to pull up stakes and leave the comforts of the Midwest and Northern Indiana.

I packed up my place outside Chicago. Spent the holidays with my family. Then loaded a 20-foot U-haul and took off for Texas with my car in tow. Two days and 180 gallons of gas later, I rolled into town and have been soaking it in ever since.

I didn't have to wait for the warmth of spring this year, I drove right to it. Austin has had beautiful weather since I arrived and the natives tell me that it has been a warmer winter than usual.

The spirit of the people here reminds me of the spirit you find in New York City, just slightly slower moving and not as consumed with grift. I'm still brand new to this place but I have to admit, something feels really right about this move. I can't predict the future but I have to say - so far, so good.

As the number of boxes to unpack diminishes, the more normal things I get to do. Normal things, like sharing a post here at the blog, are starting to blossom — Just like the plants and trees outside my door.

Eat well, cook often ...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Spaghetti Squash with Special Sauce!

Squash has been dated as far back as 7,000 B.C. in parts of Mexico and South America. According to The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, explorers from Europe originally thought squash were melons and were delighted to find them everywhere they went in the new world.

Squash is one of many examples of a modern food staple discovered in the Americas. I'm starting to think that the diet of most Europeans before they began exploring consisted of grass, tree bark and the flesh of what ever animal they weren't currently using as transportation.

Today, squash is divided into two primary families, summer squash, most abundant in late summer, and winter squash, which thrives in the fall. Summer squash, such as cucumber and zucchini, have edible skin, soft seeds and require little cooking. Winter squash, like pumpkin and acorn, have tough skin, hard seeds and require an ample amount of cooking time.

Here I used spaghetti squash, a winter variety, as a substitute for — you guessed it — spaghetti. It's so much lighter than pasta and has a delicate flavor. In fact, I prefer spaghetti squash over actual spaghetti.

The sauce is a traditional store bought sauce with some amplifiers. Kind of like a factory car turned into a hot rod. Fresh sausage, onion and green pepper give it a flavor boast that is sure to please.

Eat well, cook often ...

Serves 4, 45 minutes
1  Spaghetti squash (3 to 4 lbs.)
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 lb Italian sausage
1 C  Red pepper, diced
1 C  Green pepper, diced
1 C Red onion, diced
3 C Traditional  pasta sauce

Cut squash in half length-wise. Scrape seeds from middle. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and cook in apreheated oven at 375° for 40 minutes. Let cool slightly and scrape flesh into a bowl with a fork.

Over medium heat, cook sausage in a large pot until browned and cooked through. Remove to a paper towel-lined bowl. Sauté onion and peppers in sausage drippings until soft, 5 to 6 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Return sausage to pot and add pasta sauce, cover and bring to a simmer

Spoon sauce onto a portion of squash then shower with fresh grated parmesan cheese (otional),
serve immediately.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Taco Rice Beef Burritos

Taco Rice Beef Burritos

I like to have a couple of flavored rice packets in the pantry for a quick bite to eat now and then. If you watch the shelves at the local grocery, you can get these packets on sale for a $1.00 or less. Just a couple weeks ago I purchased 4 packages of the Knorr brand fiesta sides for 89¢ a packet.

I can eat most of one of these packets for a lunch and have the rest as a side with dinner the next day. The rice by itself isn't something I crave or would pay more the a buck for, but it does qualify in the fast-cheap-lunch category in my kitchen.

Recently I decided to make a packet of Taco Rice for burritos. I had ground beef, chipotle salsa, lettuce, onion and cheese leftover from tacos the night before and needed the rice to make a meal out of the leftover taco supplies.

The Taco Rice really helped fill the burrito out and when combined with the other ingredients made for a better-than-average lunch in the taste department. If I had had the time I would have made my own taco flavored rice, but for lunch on a busy work day — and to get ride of the taco dinner leftovers — this packet provided me with a great meal that filled my belly.

That's really all a man can ask for.

Eat well, cook often ...

Makes 2, 25 minutes
2 Burrito sized tortillas
1 5.4 oz pkg Knorr Fiesta Sides Taco Rice
1/2 lb Ground beef cooked through
1/4 Cup shredded cheese
Salsa, shredded lettuce and diced onion

Prepare rice according package directions.

Assemble burritos
In center of tortilla place 1/2 cup of rice, 1/2 of the ground beef, 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese then garnish with lettuce, onion and salsa. Fold in sides, then roll tortilla shut forming burrito, then serve. Repeat.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Culinary Catastrophy: Buffalo Disaster Rolls

Buffalo Disaster Rolls

A couple of weeks ago I attended my cousin's wedding and was treated to the best food I had ever eaten as part of a nuptial celebration. One of the appetizer served was a Crispy Buffalo Chicken Spring Roll with a blue cheese sauce — it was amazing!

All week long I had been planning to recreate it.

I bought spring roll wrappers, roasted and shredded some chicken breast and had everything ready to go. I prepared them with care. Rolled up the filling in the wraps and placed them in the oven to cook away.

The excitement of pulling these delicate treats from the oven and the fantasy of devouring them came crashing to the ground as soon as I opened the oven door.

They hadn't crisped up and browned at all.

They looked like condom-wrapped cheese plugs.

Turns out there was to much moisture with the cream cheese filling I had made. The moisture never let the wrap cook and dry out properly to crisp up. They just turned to rubbery cases for the buffalo chicken filling.

All was not lost.

I peeled away the wrappers, harvested the filling and made a simple buffalo chicken dip with it. These things happen. Especially when you experiment. Usually the mess-ups aren't this bad though, that's why I had to share it — you really have to be going for it to create a monster like this.

Eat well, cook often ...