Monday, November 10, 2008

Find your inner sandwich MacGuyver

Just writing to let you know that I am taking a week's break from my regular postings.

I have arthritis and it's affecting my hands to the point that typing and using a mouse really hurts. I am working with my doctor to get things under control.

My usage has been aggravating the pain, and I'm choosing to take a week off, rather than quit.

So, this week, take your favorite dinner recipe and turn it into a sandwich. It's a great way to explore leftovers in a different way.

Here are some inspirations:
Meatloaf -- yellow mustard on whole wheat with cold meatloaf slices
Pot Roast -- horseradish, mayo, sliced cold post roast on your favorite bread
Chinese Food -- take the meat pieces out, throw some sauce on a roll with the meat, and eat the rice and veggies on the side
Spaghetti -- Provolone Cheese melted over ground turkey or beef and atop toasted garlic bread

Also, if you know of any treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, let me know. I'm using immunosuppressants, the new "last line of defense" and having little success.

Enjoy your week eat happily!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Free Recipe Friday: Carnitas, or "This is what happy tastes like"

I’ll make a cook’s confession. Up until last night, I couldn’t cook a pork loin to save my life. It’s not for a lack of trying.

My husband is my guinea pig, and every time I serve him something, he says, “This is the best (insert food here) that I have ever eaten.” The jury is still out on whether he's lying, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

But that still doesn’t mean that the non-bacon pork that I’ve put in front of him for the past 3-4 years has been worth a damn. I’ve tried roasting and searing and sautéing, grilling, braising, and even frying and they have pretty much sucked, not to put too fine a point on it.

Two years ago, I traveled to Phoenix to visit my sister and she took us to a Mexican market, Pro’s Ranch Market and it was one of the most amazing food adventures I’ve ever been on.

The Gibson adventure, starring Aunt Betty, Dad, & my then-very-pregnant sister Lindsey

From the Pro's Ranch Market website (

I had the best meal of my life there -- pork carnitas on warm, soft corn tortillas and fresh watermelon water. I have been trying to recreate them since, to no avail.

Until last night.

On a whim, I tried doing the recipe I have backwards, and it worked beautifully.

So, here goes…

-- Serves 6-8
-- Prep time: 10 minutes
-- Passive Cooking Time: 16 hours
-- Active Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Essential Equipment
* large Crock Pot
* very sharp knife
* wire mesh strainer or small colander
* coffee filters

* 1 pork butt (3-4 lbs), cut into 3 inch cubes (if using bone-in, just trim around the bone and include bones while cooking)
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 1 medium onion, peeled and halved
* 2 bay leaves
* 1 tsp dried oregano
* 1 tsp kosher salt
* 1 ½ tsp granulated sugar
* 2 Tbsp white vinegar
* juice from 1 lemon
* juiced-lemon, washed and trimmed and seeded, then sliced
* 2 cups hot water
* 1 pale beer (I just used a Bud Light because that’s what was in the fridge, but you can use anything of the lighter variety)
* pinch of cayenne pepper (optional, if you like them spicy)

Basic Summary
Combine all ingredients and cook in crock pot. Broil the meat. Boil down the reseved juices for a sauce. Pour sauce over meat and serve.

1. Turn on Crock Pot on LOW. Add beer and bay leaves and cover.
2. Cut up pork loin. If using bone-in, trim the meat from the bone and include the bone in the pot while you cook. Include the fat cap (the big layer of fat), but be sure to cut lines into it so that the fat renders.
3. Wash the lemon well, trim the ends and squeeze juice and seeds out into a separate bowl. Remove the seeds and slice up the squished lemon.
4. By now, the beer should be at least lukewarm. Add vinegar, sugar, salt, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and stir. Lay down a bed of lemon slices in the Crock Pot.
5. Squash the pork pieces and onion into the Crock Pot so it’s relatively even on top, so that it will cook consistently.
6. Add hot water until the liquid barely covers the meat.
7. Cover and cook on low for 12-16 hours.
8. Turn off the crock pot and let everything cool off enough to handle the meat. Be careful not to leave it too long to avoid bacterial growth.
9. Remove bay leaves and remaining lemon slices and throw away. Remove meat and onions and transfer to cookie sheet.
10. Put coffee filter in strainer and pour remaining liquid through it. Boil the strained liquid for 20-30 minutes until reduced to one cup.
11. Put pork under a broiler for 7-10 minutes, flipping once in the middle until the meat crisps and the fat caramelizes.
12. Pour liquid over meat and serve with warm soft corn tortillas.

In my opinion, the meat is so good that you don’t need any toppings, but in Mexico these are usually served with chopped onion and guacamole.

Happy eating! I served these to my husband and he said, "This is what happy tastes like."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Belated Free Recipe Friday: Black Bean Hummous

I'm learning to embrace Murphy's Law: anything that can deter you from your goal will happen when you are trying to get something done, up to and including small pygmy warriors breaking into your home and kicking you in the shins.

I'll admit, I exaggerated and penned the last part. The pygmy warriors didn't kick me in the shins. They poked my external hardrive with sticks until it ceased to function.

So, I hope that you can have patience that this recipe is 3 days late, and I pledge my alliances to you when those pygmies come knocking on your door.

The following recipe is vegetarian and is one of the tastiest things ever. I would choose this over a succulent piece of meat anytime, and I'm definitely a "meat-a-tarian." I make it a little thick, so I can spread it on toast. If you want it thinner, then add more olive oil to it.

Please note: This recipe uses canned beans. I usually start with dried beans as they are much cheaper, but I chose to give you this recipe as it is super-fast.

Happy Eating!

-- serves 6-8 as an appetizer dip
-- prep time: 15 minutes
-- cooking time: 10-15 minutes

Essential Equipment
* Food Processor or Blender

Basic Summary
Using Canned Beans: Rinse and drain the beans, combine all ingredients in food processor and process, enjoy!

* 1 can of garbanzo beans (chick peas, or cici beans)
* 1 can of black beans
* one clove of garlic
* 3 lemons
* 1 1/2 Tbsp Tachina Sauce (or Tahini, which is a Mediterranean Sesame Butter, sort of like peanut butter, but with no sugar. You should be able to find it in the Mediterranean aisle.)
* 2 Tbsp olive oil
* salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse and drain both cans of beans. Place beans in food processor or blender.
2. Peel garlic and add clove to food processor.
3. Squeeze juice from the lemons into a small bowl, so you can make sure you catch any seeds. Pour into food processor or blender.
4. Add Tachina and olive oil and process until smooth.

Serve with veggie crudites, crackers, pitas, with toast. I've even used it when making creative tacos.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Food Porn: Pics & Previews

Chicken Soup -- sear the chicken first for more flavor.

Preview for next week: Black Bean Hummous

And, potato salad... Stay Tuned!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Free Recipe Friday: The BEST Chicken Soup

This is one of those recipes that I swore I would never share. It is technique-heavy and chock full of surprising secrets, but taking time with this one really makes the difference. And, it's fairly cheap and filling.

This is the perfect food to feed someone who's got a cold.


- serves 6

- prep time: 10 minutes

- cooking time: 90 minutes-2 hours

Essential Equipment

* large stock pot

* large burner on the stove

* paper towels

* baking sheet

* sturdy tongs


* 6 chicken thighs, bone-in & skin-on

* one large yellow onion or 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered

* 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

* 4 celery stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces

* 2 cloves of garlic, whole

* one bay leaf

* 2 tsp of fresh thyme or 1 tsp of dried thyme

* 1 tsp of fresh rosemary or ½ tsp of dried rosemary

* 2 Tbsp of kosher salt in a small bowl

* 2 tsps freshly ground black pepper

* 3 Tbsp olive oil

* 5-6 cups of water

* 1 Tbsp ketchup

* large wire-mesh strainer

Basic Summary: Sear the chicken, add veggies and spices, add water, cook and enjoy.

1. Place stock pot over medium-high heat and add 2 Tbsp of olive oil.

2. Line a baking sheet with 2 layers of paper towels. Place chicken thighs on paper towels w ith the skin facing up and cover with 2 more sheets of paper towels. Pat the chicken completely dry.

3. Rub or brush 1 Tbsp of oil on the skin side of the chicken and sprinkle with salt from the small bowl (having a separate bowl of salt reduces the chance of cross-contamination; you definitely don’t want raw chicken drippings in your box of salt!).

4. By this time, your oil should be hot. You will know it’s ready when it just begins to smoke.

5. Using the tongs, place the chicken breasts skin-side-down in the oil in one layer. If they don’t all fit, then get a bigger pot or reduce the recipe for 4). Sprinkle the backsides of the chicken with more kosher salt and pepper. Let the chicken sear in the pan 7-10 minutes. Flip the chicken and sear the backside for only 4-5 minutes (Note: you will only flip the chicken once. The chicken only sticks to the pan until it forms a crust; you might be tempted to fiddle with the chicken because you think it will burn, but as long as you watch the time, it won’t).

6. Add onions, celery, carrots, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary to the pan and stir a couple of times to distribute the olive oil and chicken drippings. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic cloves and stir once more.

7. Warm the water in the microwave until it is hot. Add water to stock pot while scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze (deglazing gets all of the amazing concentrated seared chicken flavor unstuck from the bottom of the pan).

8. Bring the soup to a boil, put a lid on, reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer for 90 minutes.

9. Remove every bit of chicken from soup and let rest. Pour soup through strainer and then put back in the stock pot and turn heat to medium. Add 1 Tbsp ketchup.

10. Remove bay leaf from strainer and put all veggies back into soup.

11. Using two forks (and a bit of caution), pull the chicken from the bones and put back in soup.

12. Simmer for 10-20 minutes, salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Last note: If you like your chicken soup with rice or noodles, cook them separately and add right before you serve. If you try to cook them in the soup, you’ll end up with a big squishy mess.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Free Recipe Friday: Comfort Food-Mashed Potatoes

After being bombarded this week with the message that the world is going to Hell in a hand-basket, I thought a good, cheap, and easy recipe should be on the menu.

Hang in there, folks. We've seen better, but we've seen worse and the only thing that ultimately matters is what we do with what's put in front of us. You have the choice to make your life whatever you'd like it to be, even when things get tough.

When things get tough, I make mashed potatoes. Potatoes are cheap and mashed potatoes freeze well, so you can buy the 10 lb bag, spend an afternoon cooking a big pot and then be set for a couple of weeks.

Happy Eating!

- serves 6
- prep time: 10 minutes, relatively unattended
- cooking time: 20-30 minutes

* large-ish standard stock pot
* potato masher or large serving fork (if you like your potatoes with lumps)
* hand-held blender (if you like your potatoes smooth)
* large burner/eye on the stove
* large dish for soaking the potatoes
* soup bowl, for reserving your potato water
* small scrub brush (I bought a $.99 fingernail brush that works great)

* 6 medium size baking potatoes (you can use any potato of your choice, but I really like the light, fluffy baked-potato texture)
* 1 stick of unsalted butter (be sure to get unsalted, or you'll have to play around with how much salt you add)
* 3/4 cup of half & half or whole milk (you can substitute 2% or skim, but they won't be quite as rich... which is the whole point of comfort food, right?)
* 2 tsp coarse kosher salt (you can substitute 3 tsp regular table salt, but kosher salt is fairly cheap and tastes SO MUCH BETTER)
* 1 bay leaf
* additional salt and pepper to taste

Basic Summary: soak the potatoes, scrub the potatoes, boil the potatoes, mix in the yummy fattening things and enjoy!

1. Place unwashed potatoes in a large dish and cover potatoes with HOT water. Let sit for 10 minutes.

2. Remove potatoes from dish and scrub them with a brush under running lukewarm water to dislodge any soil from them.

3. Cut the potatoes in half so that each one could fit completely in the palm of one hand. Place into large stockpot. Make sure you have a single layer of potatoes.

4. Cover the potatoes in warm water, making sure to add no more than 1 inch of water above the tops of the potatoes. Add the bay leaf and 2 tsp of coarse kosher salt. Bring water to a rolling boil, stirring the potatoes once or twice only to prevent any sticking. Turn heat down and simmer the potatoes for 15-20 minutes, until they flake (sort of like a baked potato) when you press them with a fork.

5. Remove the potatoes from the eye of the stove. If you've followed the directions, the water in your stockpot should be half-way up the potatoes. Remove the bay leaf and pour the water into a bowl and set to the side. Make sure to drain the potatoes very well.

6. Melt the stick of butter in the microwave (about :30) and pour over the potatoes.

7. Warm the half & half in the microwave (about :45 to 1:00) and add half to the potatoes.

8. Smash the potatoes to the smoothness of your choice, adding additional half and half to loosen up the mixture. You should easily use the rest of the half & half.

9. At this point, your potatoes should still be a little dry and tight. Add the reserved potato water one tablespoon at a time until they are the way you like them.

10. Add salt and pepper... or cheese... or red onion ... or bacon ... you get the picture.

You'll have potato water left over. Save it and add it when you're making soup. The potatoes have made the water starchy which is perfect for thickening up sauces or soups.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wednesday What's On the Menu

I've had some GREAT experiments this week. Enjoy the inspirations!

Teriyaki Chicken Skewers with sauteed navel orange sections and cold soba noodles with veggies
Italian Sausage & Egg scramble with wheat toast and cantaloupe
Hot Sweet Cucumber, Carrot and Red Onion Pickles
Philly Cheesteak Stir Fry (this one's the WINNER this week -- yummmm! Most of the ingredients from a cheesteak, but low-carb!!)
Mexican Chicken and Rice with roasted red onions and tomatoes

Happy Eating!