Sunday, November 27, 2011


In Texas, we believe in good food - really good food. Especially when we are talking Tex Mex. I adore carnitas (pork that is slow roasted or braised - and found on most Tex Mex menus) but have never made it. It's often found cut into small chunks, or even pulled. As long as it's not fatty, I love it anyway it comes.

I feel like I keep singing the praises of the blogger Lisa Fain and her fabulous blog, The Homesick Texan but it's only because her recipes rock. If you're a cookbook lover, you should order hers. I don't own it but I've heard it's fabulous.

These carnitas are cooked so simply it's almost ridiculous. You take a relatively cheap, fatty piece of meat and let it simmer in water and OJ (no seasoning but salt!) until all the liquid cooks off. Then you let it cook even longer in just it's own fat. The fat renders out, the meat is tender and not grissly at all, and it's amazing. Truly, amazing. And your house smells so so good.

Don't trim your meat prior - this is a recipe where fat is good. I cut off anything that looks remotely like fat so this was hard for me but I promise it will all cook off and ensure your meat isn't dry.

We made burritos bowls with the meat - cilantro lime rice, black beans, shredded lettuce, sour cream, cheese, etc. You could make enchiladas, soft tacos, or just eat them with a fork (which is what I did the next day...). Throw it on while you're home one afternoon and just let it do it's thing.

And when your mom walks in your house a few hours later after you've invited her over for dinner, she'll immediately say, "Oooh, what smells so good?" and you'll smile and know your dinner is going to rock.

3 pounds of pork butt, with plenty of fat
1 cup of orange juice
3 cups of water
2 teaspoons of salt

Cut pork into strips (three inches by one inch), add to a large pot with the liquids and salt. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered on low for 2 hours. Do not touch the meat.

After two hours, turn heat up to medium high, and continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the pork fat has rendered (about 45 minutes). Stir a few times, to keep pork from sticking to bottom of pan.

When pork has browned on both sides, it’s ready (there will be liquid fat in the pan). Serve either cubed or shredded (pork will be tender enough that just touching it will cause it to fall apart).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Gingerbread Pancakes

Mmmm, pancakes. I rarely eat breakfast (I know, I know) but I love having breakfast for dinner! Basic pancakes are always a standby meal for us; they're quick, cheap, versatile, and super easy to throw together at the last minute.

I'd never made gingerbread pancakes at home so I was excited to see this recipe posted on one of my favorite blogs, The Homesick Texan. These pancakes are from the Austin restaurant, Magnolia Cafe, and were originally shared with Texas Monthly magazine.

They are thick, cake like, and delicious! The first Sunday of Advent is tomorrow so it's officially time to start enjoying all things Christmas - including these gingerbread pancakes!

Gingerbread Pancakes
3 eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brewed coffee
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon nutmeg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Cream eggs and sugar together. Stir in buttermilk, water, and coffee and set aside. In a separate bowl sift together remaining dry ingredients.

Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients, then mix in melted butter.

Add more water or buttermilk if necessary, but batter should be thick.

Cook until done on a lightly greased hot griddle or in a heavy skillet (turn once when bubbles appear on upper side and start to break).

Pancakes will be thick and cake-like in texture.

Makes 8 to 10 five-inch pancakes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chicken Saltimbocca

This quick Italian dish is traditionally made with veal but can also be made with chicken or even pork. I came across it on one of my favorite blogs, Elly Says Opa and it looked easy and tasty for a weeknight meal. We had this with the Greek Potatoes I posted a couple of days ago but it'd really work with any sides your family likes.

We both loved this - it's flavorful and inexpensive, plus it cooks super fast! With sage and prosciutto, how can it not be good?

Chicken Saltimbocca
6 Tbsp. all purpose flour
4 thin-cut chicken cutlets (about 4-5 oz. each) or chicken breast halves, pounded to about 1/4″ thickness.
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
4 whole sage leaves (optional)
4 thin slices of prosciutto, cut to match chicken chicken (about 2 oz.)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 clove garlic, lightly smashed
~1 cup dry vermouth or white wine
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. cold butter
1 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
salt and pepper

Combine flour with salt and pepper (about 1 tsp. pepper and 1/4 tsp. salt) in a shallow dish. Pat the cutlets dry with a paper towel and then dredge in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Lay the cutlets flat and sprinkle each with the sage. Place a slice (or slices, depending how they are shaped) of prosciutto onto each cutlet and press lightly to adhere.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add sage leaves (if using) and garlic. Cook until sage leaves begin to change color and are fragrant, 15-20 seconds. Remove the sage and garlic with a slotted spoon.

Add the cutlets to the pan, prosciutto-side down, and cook until golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook on other side until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove the chicken and keep warm.

If there is any excess fat in the skillet, pour it off. Stir in the vermouth, scraping up the browned bits, and simmer until it’s reduced to about 6-7 Tbsp. Stir in lemon juice.

Turn heat down to low, and whisk in the butter. Remove from heat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over cutlets before serving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bacon and Butternut Squash Risotto

I was sitting at the nail salon last week and they had on the Rachael Ray Show. I typically never watch her show, because it's on the same time as Nate and I adore Nate, but I was glad to catch it this time as she made this recipe! I went home and pinned it immediately.

This is a traditional risotto in that there is time and stirring involved. However, it's worth the effort for that creamy texture and rich taste. I couldn't get enough of it!

This makes a lot and would be the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving table! Or, just a delicious meal at home.

Bacon and Butternut Squash Risotto
1 medium-large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling plus 2 tablespoons
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
Honey, for drizzling
1 quart chicken stock
1 generous pinch saffron threads
1/4 pound slab bacon or pancetta, diced
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1 1/2 cups carnaroli or Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, a couple of handfuls

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Place squash on baking sheet and dress with EVOO, salt, pepper, nutmeg and a drizzle of honey. Toss to combine then arrange in a single layer and roast to tender, 20 minutes. Remove half the squash to food processor and puree with a little water or stock.

Heat stock with saffron and 2 cups water in a saucepot. Keep warm over medium-low heat.

In a medium pot with rounded edges at bottom, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO over medium-high heat. Add bacon or pancetta and render to lightly crisp, 2-3 minutes. Add onions and garlic and stir to soften, 2-3 minutes more. Add rice and season with salt and pepper; toast 2 minutes, then stir in wine and let evaporate. Add a few ladles of stock at a time stirring rapidly with each addition to build starchy, creamy quality. Rice will take 18 minutes from first addition of liquid to cook to al dente.

Stir in squash puree and melt in butter. Add grated cheese and taste risotto for seasoning. Serve in shallow bowls garnished with reserved diced, roasted squash.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Greek Style Potatoes with Oregano and Lemon

It seems like I easily find "main course" recipes I want to try but don't branch out enough with side dishes - especially potatoes. I came across these potatoes on the blog, Better Than Takeout, and they were, in fact, better than takeout.

These were very easy to make, inexpensive, and had great flavor. Just be sure and throw them in with plenty of time since they take awhile! I served them alongside chicken saltimbocca (which you can see in the pic). I'll post that recipe this week as well.

Greek Style Potatoes with Oregano and Lemon
1 lb round potatoes (Yukon gold, Russet etc.)
6 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried oregano (or more...)
Juice of one large lemon 
1 cup water (more as needed)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F. Peel potatoes and cut into quarters. Put remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Toss the potatoes in the liquid mixture. Spread on baking sheet and bake until tender, about 90 minutes stirring often. Add water as needed - there should always be moisture in the pan

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Green Chile Hominy Casserole with Chorizo

Have I mentioned my deep love for cast iron skillets? Up until just a couple of years ago, I'd never used one except while camping. Jason decided we needed one in the kitchen so he bought one and I was soon in love. So much so, that I asked him to climb into the attic and pull our "camping skillets" out so I'd have 3 in the kitchen to use at a time. Now if a recipe can be made in a castiron skillet, I'm immediately drawn to it.

When I originally checked out The Homesick Texan, I didn't even click on this recipe. But, a friend made it and highly recommended we try it so when I saw it took hominy (love!) and a cast iron skillet, I was in.

There is good reason for why it was highly recommended. It's highly delicious.

You could make this into a one pot meal and call it a day. Or, you could serve it as a side dish with some basic grilled meat. It's quite versatile.

If you've never really cared for hominy before, you should try it in this dish before writing it completely off. It soaks up the flavors in the dish and adds a great texture. If you're not a fan of chorizo, you could sub in another kind of sausage - or leave it out all together.

I highly suggest you make this sometime. Soon.

Green Chile Hominy Casserole with Chorizo
2 poblano chiles
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 pound Mexican chorizo, removed from casing and crumbled
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 jalapeños, seeds and stems removed, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans of hominy, drained
8 ounces sour cream
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and black pepper to taste

Roast the poblano chiles under the broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place chiles in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chile steam for 20 minutes. Take the chile out of the bag and rub off the skin. Remove stem and seeds and dice.

Preheat the oven to 350.

On medium-low heat, heat the vegetable oil and then cook the crumbled chorizo while occasionally stirring in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet until brown, about 8-10 minutes. With a slotted spatula, remove the chorizo and drain any excess grease from the skillet, leaving 1 teaspoon. Add to the skillet the diced onions and jalapeños while occasionally stirring, cook on medium-low heat until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the diced poblano chile, chorizo, hominy, sour cream, cumin, cayenne, cilantro, lime juice and half of the cheddar cheese. Stir until well combined, taste and add salt and black pepper and adjust seasonings. Top with remaining the cheddar cheese and bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until brown and bubbling.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Skillet Peach Cobbler

This is one of those recipes that has been on my "to make" list for a couple of months now. It's from the August issue of Bon Appetit magazine and I put it aside to make one night when my dad came over for dinner (peach cobbler is one of his fave desserts). For various reasons, I didn't get it made until this weekend when dad came over for dinner.

There are different kind of cobblers - some have more dense breading and others are more cake like. This is very cakey and very delicious. Dad polished off a large bowl and then took home the leftovers so it was a hit in this house!

This took about 5 minutes to throw together and then you just sit back and let it bake.

I do have to confess that I did not use fresh peaches... I subbed in canned. No one at my house seemed to notice or if they did, they didn't dare mention it :)

Instead of making the whipped cream, we just scooped Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream over top of the hot-from-the-oven cobbler. Heaven in a bowl!

Skillet Peach Cobbler
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/2 cups crème fraîche, divided
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 pounds peeled, pitted peaches, each cut into 1/2" wedges (about 2 cups)
1 cup peach preserves
1 cup chilled heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, 1/2 cup crème fraîche, milk, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients; whisk until smooth. Melt butter in a 12" castiron skillet over medium heat. Swirl pan to coat with butter. Remove from heat.

Add batter to pan. Scatter fresh peaches over, then spoon dollops of preserves evenly over batter. Bake until a tester inserted into center of cobbler comes out clean, 45–50 minutes. Let cool slightly. Meanwhile, whip cream in a medium bowl to form soft peaks. Fold in sugar and remaining 1 cup crème fraîche. Cut cobbler into wedges and serve with whipped cream mixture.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Crockpot Refried Beans

When we go our for mexican food, Jason always orders double beans, no rice. He has a great love for refried beans. At home, I have to admit I usually just open a can of refried beans and throw it in the microwave before we have anything mexican - tacos, burritos, fajitas, etc. Not the tastiest but worked okay.

Then I came across this recipe on Stick a Fork In It and was excited to give it a go. Especially since dried beans are SO cheap!

I cooked these all day while we were at work and the house smelled delicious when we got home. They were super easy, too, and tasted much better than the canned variety!

Crockpot Refried Beans
3 cups of dry pinto beans (rinsed)
1 onion, diced
9 cups of water
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Put all the ingredients in a crockpot and cook on high for about 8 hours. (I put mine on low - my crockpot runs hot)

When they are done cooking, drain all of the liquid and set aside. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until they reach your desired consistency. Or, run them through your food processor. (Using a slotted spoon, I just transferred the beans from the crockpot right into my food processor in batches - took less than 5 minutes to do the entire pot) Add the reserved liquid until you reach your desired consistency.

Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. I ended up putting quite a bit more cumin, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in ours.

This is also freezer friendly - which is great since it makes a large batch!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cheese Enchiladas - Tex Mex Style with Chili Gravy

Cheese enchiladas are a staple of Tex Mex cuisine - and for good reason! The gooey cheese and brown gravy create a perfect combination of feel good food. They also traditionally include chopped onions but I don't care for the bitter crunch it adds to my otherwise plate of goodness so I always leave them out.

I never was sure exactly what made that delicious brown sauce over top - it certainly couldn't be found in the canned enchilada sauces - so I was thrilled to find that The Homesick Texan knew. And shared it with the world.

If you're a Texan, or a fan of Tex Mex food, you'll want to make this - soon. Your family will love you. If you've never tried the Texas version of cheese enchiladas, you should. Your family will love you.

I'm a card carrying member of the I Love Processed Cheese Society so I went all high class and used good ol' Velveeta for the ultimate in cheesy goodness. If you're not a fan, feel free to use cheddar.

Oh - the gravy ended up being pretty salty so I would cut way back on the salt. You can always add it later to taste.

**you can make this vegetarian very easily

Chili Gravy
1/4 cup lard or vegetable oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt - I would cut way back, to maybe 1/4 teaspoon
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chili power
2 cups beef broth, chicken broth or water (I used beef broth)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and continue stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it makes a light brown roux.

Add the black pepper, salt, powdered garlic, ground cumin, dried oregano and chili powder and continue to cook for 1 minute, constantly stirring and blending ingredients. Add broth or water, mixing and stirring until the sauce thickens. Turn heat to low and let sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add water to adjust the thickness.

Cheese Enchiladas
1/2 cup vegetable oil
8 corn tortillas
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese (can make it with Velveeta for extra melting oomph and good ol' Tex-Mex authenticity)
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups chili gravy (recipe above)

Preheat the oven to 450 and grease a large baking dish.

Pour the oil in a small skillet, and heat the tortillas one at a time. Keep them wrapped in a cloth until all 8 are heated. (I just wrap mine in a cloth towel and microwave to soften them)

Pour 1/2 cup of chili gravy in a baking pan.

Take a tortilla, put 1/4 cup of cheese and 1 tablespoon of onion in the center and roll it. Place rolled tortilla in baking dish, seam side down.

Continue with remaining tortillas.

Take remaining chili gravy, and pour it over the rolled tortillas. Sprinkle remaining cheese and onions on top. Bake for 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.

See Aimee Cook

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