Monthly Archives: October 2011

Slow Cooker Posole

In the October 16, 2011 Fall Home Improvement section of our local paper, The Daily Sentinel, a page heading caught my eye: Miracle in a Slow Cooker.  Sentinel columnist, Penny Stine provided two recipes that have minimal prep involved–an important condition when trying to throw stuff in the crockpot while cooking breakfast and getting ready for work. 

I’m a big fan of posole.  I’ve had authentic versions created by masters of Mexican cuisine, and let me tell ya–this easy-peasy version rivals those.  Yesterday, I got a half pork-shoulder out of the freezer, and last night I set out the other ingredients.  This morning, I got the posole together, cooked and ate breakfast and enjoyed a cup of coffee–all within 30 minutes.  If I had chopped the onions and garlic last night, that time would be even shorter!

When I got home from work today, the lovely red chili aroma welcomed me at the door.  The pork was fall-apart-tender.  Dinner was ready as soon as I assembled garnishes, bowls and spoons.  Perfect.

An amazing soup with just a few simple ingredients–most of which come from cans!

  • 1 pork shoulder  (My slow cooker is not large enough for a whole shoulder.  I buy the pork, cut it in half and freeze it)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped (I love garlic–used 4 cloves!)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large or 2 regular cans hominy (Yellow or white, your choice.  I like how yellow looks with the red sauce.)
  • 2 15-ounce cans of any combination of: chopped tomatoes, Rotel tomatoes, tomatillos, red chile sauce  (I used chopped tomatoes, and a jar of red chile sauce–I think the red sauce gives a more authentic flavor to the posole.)
  • 1 can chopped green chiles
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp cumin

Garnishes:

  • cilantro
  • avocado
  • cheese
  • sour cream
  • chopped green onions
  • squeeze of lime

Chop the onion and garlic.  Place the pork roast in the slow cooker.  Add everything else.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours.  (Uber-easy, right?!)

I gave it a stir before I left for work.  When you get home, lift out the pork and shred it using two forks.

Return the shredded pork to the cooker.  Prepare any garnishes you wish to use.

Ladle into generous soup bowls, top with your favorite garnishes and get ready for the yum.

So, so flavor-y and satisfying.  In my opinion, a perfect fall soup.  A soup that essentially makes itself, and in that way lets me pretend that someone (like my mom) made dinner for me!  How lovely to come home from work and have dinner already there.  Perfect. 

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Filed under comfort food, crock pot, dinner, Potluck, recipe

Parsley Walnut Pesto

Wow it’s been a while since I’ve blogged!  October is a busy, busy month for a band mom–marching events, the state qualifier and a trip to the State Marching Band Competition take a lot of planning and volunteering.  I’m not complaining–I absolutely LOVE our Marching Warriors!  ❤  Marching season is finished, the show has been “put to bed,” and we’re heading into concert band, jazz band and pit orchestra seasons–all a bit less time-intensive for me, so hopefully my poor blog won’t be so ignored.  🙂

We’ve had a series of hard frosts here in Western Colorado.  The first one got my basil–waaahhhh.  No basil pesto this year.  Parsley is a bit tougher plant and withstood the first frost with no problem.  I’ve been covering it to assure at least SOME pesto for the winter.  Parsley Walnut Pesto is a nice substitute for basil pesto, and just as easy to make.

For one batch:

  • 2 cups loosely packed parsley (I prefer flat-leaf Italian parsley.  I think it is more flavor-y)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

I had LOTS of parsley, so I made triple batches.

Remove leaves from the stems–parsley stems are tough and stringy–NOT good for a smooth pesto!

Wash and dry the leaves.  I float the parsley in water in a clean sink, then use a salad spinner to dry them.

Add the measured amount of leaves and corresponding number of peeled garlic cloves to a food processor–a triple batch has 6 cups leaves, 12 cloves.  I highly recommend those little tube garlic peelers if you’re making tons of pesto and therefore peeling tons of garlic.

Give the parsley and garlic a rough chop.

Add nuts, cheese, salt and pepper.  Process on low.

With the machine running, slowly stream in the olive oil. 

Mix until well combined.  You have pesto!  Taste it and adjust salt and pepper if needed.  How easy was that?  No need to pay the big bucks for grocery-store pesto when you can whip up a batch freshy-fresh!

I like to make a lot while I’m at it, package it up and freeze it for the winter. I measure out 1/2 cup amounts and place them in a snack-size ziploc, then place a bunch of the pesto packets in a gallon freezer ziploc, marked with the date and contents. 

Yummy!  1/2 cup is a perfect amount for saucing a pasta, adding to mashed potatoes, or jazzing up chicken

The pesto freezes well and defrosts in a jiffy in the microwave.  My triple batches resulted in five little 1/2 cup bags of pesto.

This recipe is the one I use for basil pesto, subbing in basil for the parsley, pine nuts for the walnuts.  Play around with it according to ingredients you have.  Tree-nut allergies?  Try using sunflower seeds.  I’m thinking pecans would also be yummy…..mmmmmmm!

What will YOU make with your fresh pesto?

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Filed under appetizer, Canning and preserving, dinner, Garden produce, recipe, side dish, Vegetarian

Quick and Easy Tortilla Soup

Winter weather warning….winter weather advisory…..freeze warning….windy….. chance of rain, 90%.  Quoted from the current weather and forecast for Western Colorado and the surrounding high country this week–Ack!  What to do when Fall decides to be Winter?  Soup!  Here’s a quick, easy and yummy soup perfect for the first chill of Fall (and also uses up some of the summer squash sitting on your counter).

 Mmmmm!  Hot, flavor-y and spicy.  Gather up a few staples; you’ll have soup in under an hour!

For the soup:

  • 1-1 1/2 pounds chicken (thighs, breasts or combination)
  • 2 boxes chicken stock
  • 2 cans Rotel tomatoes
  • approximately 1 pound EACH zucchini and yellow squash, sliced into half-moons or quarter moons
  • 4-5 tomatillos, chopped

Garnishes:

  • tortilla chips
  • avocado, chopped
  • green onions, chopped
  • shredded cheese–I like a Mexican Blend
  • sour cream
  • red or green salsa
  • cilantro, roughly chopped
  • squeeze of fresh lime

In a large pot, poach the chicken in chicken stock and Rotel tomatoes until completely cooked and tender.

While chicken cooks, chop the squash and tomatillos. 

When chicken is cooked, remove from broth and shred, using two forks to pull the meat into bite-sized pieces.

Add chicken back to broth, along with squash and tomatillos.  Simmer for 15 minutes or until veggies are tender.

Set up garnishes so each person can jazz up their soup to their own taste.  I like ALL of them!

How easy was that?!  Change into somethin’ comfortable while the soup simmers, serve yourself a bowl with your favorite garnishes and watch the chilly weather stay on the otherside of the window.  Inside, it will be warm, toasty and yummy!

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Zeb’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti

Fall somehow compels me to cook, bake and consume pumpkin.  My friend Kellie (aka Zeb) is also a pumpkin lover, but cannot tolerate gluten.  While catching up on one of my fav food blogs, I spied a recipe for pumpkin biscotti–and a grand culinary convergence occured in my kitchen!  In the back of my mind, I remembered a gluten-free flour mix that could be substituted one-for-one in place of wheat flour….I just knew I could use it and make the pumpkin biscotti gluten-free!

First, I needed to make the flour blend.  In Gluten Free and Easy, the author, Robyn Russell shared a blend she spent years developing: 2 cups white rice flour, 2/3 cup potato starch (produces a tender, moist crumb), and 1/3 cup tapioca flour (lends a springy texture, promotes browning and makes a crispy crust).  I made a double batch and stored it in a canister.

 You can find the ingredients for the rice flour blend at natural foods stores and larger supermarkets.  While you’re there, pick up some xanthan gum (pricy but goes a long way); it’s a great gluten substitute–holding particles together in baked goods, and helps keep them moist.  (NOTE:  I’ve been told Natural Grocers Bulk flours are made in a facility that also processes flour with gluten.  If you have a high level of gluten intolerance, be sure the flours you select are clearly marked gluten-free.)

  • 2 1/2 cups rice flour blend
  • 1/2 cup almond flour (the inspiration recipe used 3 cups of whole wheat flour, I wanted to get some of that whole-wheat nuttiness and texture, so instead of substituting one-for-one, I used almond flour for part.)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (Not pumpkin pie filling.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped (The original recipe had walnuts; Mom just sent me fresh pecans from New Mexico, so I just had to use some!)

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

Add rice flour blend, almond flour, xanthan gum, sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, nutmeg, cloves and ginger to the bowl of a mixer (or large mixing bowl).  Mix until thoroughly combined.

Add eggs, vanilla and pumpkin puree.  Mix well.

Add pecans and continue mixing for a few minutes, scraping down the blade as needed, to be sure pecans are distributed evenly and the batter/dough has an even texture.

Using your hands, form the dough into a loaf on the baking sheet (think biscotti in your head for the proper width).  The dough will be sticky, and your loaf will not be perfect.  No problem–the biscotti will be yummy!  I promise!

Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and firm in the middle.  Cool for 15 minutes.

Transfer loaf to a cutting board, and using a serrated knife, cut 3/4 inch slices.  Lay them on their sides and return to the baking sheet.  Reduce temperature to 300F and bake an additional 30 minutes or so–until they are as dry as you like, and golden brown.  Flip them over about half-way through the baking time.

(I cut off the rounded ends of the two end pieces so they would lay flat and ate them….shhhhh!)  Your kitchen will be smelling all pumpkin-spicy wonderful!

Cool completely on wire racks.  This will also help dry the biscotti.

Now.  Go put on your flannel jammies (you know, your favorites–the ones with the cowboys on ’em) and a big pair of wooly socks. Pad on out to the kitchen and brew yourself a cuppa; maybe sprinkle it with a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set out some of these yummy biscotti.  Dip.  Crunch.  Sip.  Yummy!  Not too sweet, nice texture, just the thing with your coffee.

Pack some up and share the taste of fall with your pumpkin-loving friends; maybe drizzle them with melted white chocolate?!   I’ll be making these again soon–they’re super easy and don’t seem to last long!

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Sweet-Tooth Saturday: Rhubarb Muffins

I just got the cutest little cookbook on the clearance rack at B&N: Cupcakes & Muffins.  It has lots and lots of great recipes, all illustrated with mouth-watering photos–yum!  I’ll be trying a bunch of them, but the first:  Rhubarb Muffins.  I just love rhubarb in baked goods; the lovely sour bites surrounded by slightly sweet yumminess…mmmmm!  Sugar on top adds the perfect balance, and is super pretty:

 These yummy breakfast bites come together quickly and take just a few ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cup diced fresh rhubarb
  • sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 400F and line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.

Place egg in a bowl and beat lightly.

Add oil, sugar, milk, sour cream and vanilla, stir to combine.  (Stirring did not work to incorporate the sour cream–I ended up using a whisk.)

Sift flour, baking soda, and cinnamon into a large bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour wet ingredients and rhubarb into the well. My well overflowed…oh “well!”  (Couldn’t help it!)  Stir just enough to combine.

Spoon batter into prepared liners, 3/4 full.  Sprinkle with sugar.

 

Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out with just a few moist crumbs.  My, aren’t they pretty?

 

Cool in pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely…or do what I did and transfer to a plate, cut in half and apply a bit of butter.  Watch it melt for just a second and take a bite, and another bite, eventually licking your finger to pick up the crumbs on the plate.  Pair them with your morning coffee–mmmmm!  Yummy!

The leftovers kept really well for a few days in a ziploc bag on the counter, ready to be microwaved for a few seconds, buttered and snacked on!  Serve these rhubarb muffins warmed, with a scoop of ice cream and you have dessert!

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Filed under breakfast, dessert, Garden produce, recipe