Pssst…Wanna Cheat?

potatoesWell, cheat on Potato Salad, that is.ūüėČ

As with many foods, there are numerous variations on Potato Salad. As Wikipedia tells us:

Potato salad is a dish made from boiled potatoes that comes in many versions in different regions of the world.

It is a popular menu choice of cooks preparing food for a large number of people, because it is easily made in large quantities, it can be prepared in advance and refrigerated until needed, and requires inexpensive ingredients.

[In the United States,]¬†Potato salad is often served with barbecue, roasts, hot dogs, fried chicken, hamburgers and cold sandwiches. Although it is enjoyed any time of year in the United States, it is commonly associated with summer and picnics. White and/or red potatoes are commonly used; it is customary to leave a bit of the skin on red potatoes‚ÄĒespecially when Americans make it German-style.

Basic ingredients for traditional American potato salad include: cubed, boiled potatoes (typically russet potatoes), mayonnaise or a mayonnaise-like substitute such as yogurt or sour cream, yellow mustard and/or mustard powder (dry mustard), black pepper, salt, celery seed, sugar, dry dill, chopped pickles (pickled cucumber), chives, finely chopped red or white onion, chopped green or red bell pepper, thinly sliced/finely chopped celery and sometimes chopped hard-boiled egg whites (usually one egg per batch of salad). Vegetable ingredients (not including the potatoes) are incorporated raw and never cooked. The salad is often topped with paprika and chives, and generally served cold or room temperature.

I myself have several variations, including an Oil and Vinegar Potato Salad,¬†a garden potato salad (it has lots of additional veggies), a baked potato salad I make with fat-free Greek yogurt instead of the more traditional sour cream, and a German-style potato salad. But when it’s just hubby and me or just a small crowd, I sometimes want a smaller, easier batch of potato salad.

And that’s where those boxes of dehydrated potato casserole mixes come in! You know the kind I’m talking about: the box contains dehydrated potatoes and a seasoning packet, and there are typically a variety of flavors available, such as scalloped, au gratin, baked potato, and so forth. You add boiling water, milk, and a bit of butter. Me being me, of course, I use reduced-fat milk (typically 1% or 2%) and cut back a bit on the butter.

Inspired by a recipe on the back of a box of a store-brand of boxed potatoes, I make a potato salad from it, and let me tell you — it was tasty, relatively easy (no slicing, dicing, or peeling of the potatoes!), and it can be a fun, easy way to vary up the flavor of your potato salad.

Also, it only makes about 5¬†to 6 servings, so it’s perfect for a smaller group, such as when it’s just my hubby and me (it gives us potato salad for a couple or three meals).

IMPORTANT TIPS:

  • The recipe is based on a boxed casserole mix that provides 5 (1/2 cup) servings. If your mix has more or less, adjust the recipe amounts accordingly.
  • I’ve made this with scalloped potato casserole mix, sour cream and chives potato casserole mix, jalapeno cheddar potato casserole mix, and Applewood smoked bacon potato casserole mix — it’s really fun to mix up the flavors.
  • Vary the add-ins to suit your tastes, what you have available, and what you think will best complement the base flavor of the casserole mix.
  • I used the same pan for all the steps: cooking the potatoes, hard boiling the eggs, and then mixing the seasoning packet.

So go ahead — the next time you find yourself craving some ‘tater salad, but you wanna take it easy on yourself, don’t be afraid to cheat.ūüėČ And don’t worry, there’s no need for your heart to feel guilty.ūüėČ

 

Easy Potato Salad (Serves 5 to 6)

  • 1 box (5-serving size) potato casserole mix (e.g., scalloped, au gratin, sour cream and chives, whatever flavor you choose)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon oil (suggest canola oil)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (or 3 tablespoons, if you want it tarter)
  • 1/4 cup light salad dressing (such as light Miracle Whip) or reduced-fat mayonnaise (I eyeball it)
  • Squirt of yellow mustard (approximately 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • Sliced celery to taste (1 or 2 stalks)
  • Other additions as desired, such as chopped onion, chopped chives, chopped green onion, radish slices, grated carrot, crumbled bacon, etc.
  • Coarse ground black pepper to taste
  • Paprika (if desired)
  1. Empty potato slices into a saucepan. Add 3 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for approximately 3 minutes. Drain. Rinse gently in cold water until cool enough to handle. Drain, place in bowl, and refrigerate.
  2. Mix together the seasoning packet, 1/2 cup water, and the oil. Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil (it will begin to thicken). Remove from heat and cool. (I rested my pan in a sink with cold water.)
  3. Once cooled, stir the salad dressing or mayonnaise, the vinegar, and the mustard into the seasoned sauce. Add in coarse ground black pepper to taste.
  4. Gently toss together the potatoes, hard boiled egg, celery and any other desired additions (onions, chives, pickles, crumbled bacon, whatever), and the dressing.
  5. If desired, sprinkle the top of the salad with paprika and/or crumbled bacon. Or, if you prefer, reserve one of the hard boiled eggs and use sliced or diced hard boiled egg as part of the garnish, or sprinkle with some chopped chives or green onions — really, whatever you like that seems to fit with the flavors of the salad.
  6. Refrigerate leftovers.
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Feeling Retro?

I have many, many variations on meatloaf.

OOOPS! Wrong Meat Loaf. Sorry, Mr. Loaf!ūüėČ

I mean this kind:

While many of my meat loaf recipes don’t require a meat loaf pan, my recipe for Old Fashioned Meatloaf¬†bakes up best in a meat loaf pan, and the drippings can be used to make a delicious gravy, if you so desire.

As with most meatloaves, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you let it rest for 15 minutes or so before serving — otherwise, you’ll have meatloaf crumbles instead of meatloaf slices. The crumbles will be just as yummy, ‘though not quite as pretty as the slices.ūüėČ

Along with adding lovely nutrients and a bit of fiber, the vegetables (always onion, and then a bit of whatever other appropriate vegetables I have on hand, typically some celery, and sometimes a fresh mushroom or two or a bit of grated carrot) impart a delicious flavor and moisture to the meatloaf (a boon, as I use lean ground meats), as does the ground sausage.

Taking inspiration from the re-printed Betty Crocker’s Big Picture Cook Book that my mom gifted me several years ago, I use one pound of extra-lean ground meat (beef or turkey work equally well)¬†and 1/2 pound reduced-fat bulk ground sausage (pork or turkey sausage work equally well), which yields a flavorful, moist meatloaf. The sausage is an easy way to add lots of flavor, and it also adds a nice texture to the meatloaf, as well.

Leftovers make excellent sandwiches — I like mine on wheat or grain bread with a bit of steak sauce.

I typically give the veggies a whiz through my mini food processor to help give the meatloaf an even texture.

Using your favorite steak sauce or barbecue sauce as part of the liquid and the topping in this meatloaf adds some sophisticated zip, and it tastes so yummy, it’s no mystery why you’ll¬†find yourself feeling nostalgic for this meatloaf!ūüėČ

Old Fashioned Meatloaf (Serves 6)

  • 1 lean (93/7 or greater) ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound reduced-fat bulk ground sausage (pork or turkey)
  • 1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • Plain bread or cracker crumbs as needed (equivalent of 2 or 3 slices of bread)
  • Healthy splash of liquid (I like to use a splash of wine and a couple of splashes of my favorite steak sauce or barbecue sauce)
  • Seasonings to taste: Worcestershire sauce, squirt of yellow mustard (this complements the sausage nicely), parsley, sage, garlic powder and/or minced garlic, & coarse-ground black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 onion (red, yellow, white), finely chopped
  • Finely chopped celery (1 to 2 stalks)
  • Finely chopped or grated carrot (OPTIONAL, approximately 1/2 to 1 carrot)
  • Finely chopped or grated mushroom (OPTIONAL, 2 to 4 mushrooms)
  • Your favorite steak sauce or barbecue sauce, for topping
  1. Place bread/cracker crumbs in a bowl. Beat in egg, healthy splash of liquid (you can add in more later if need be; ditto with the bread/cracker crumbs), and seasonings to taste.
  2. Stir in minced/chopped veg.
  3. Add ground meat and mix thoroughly. Add more liquid and/or bread/cracker crumbs and other seasonings if needed.
  4. Spread into meatloaf pan.
  5. Top as desired with your favorite steak sauce or barbecue sauce.
  6. Bake at 350F for 1 1/2 to 1 and 3/4 hours.
  7. Let rest at least 15 minutes before serving.

Make It Ahead of Time: You can mix up the meatloaf and place in meatloaf pan, cover, and place in ‘fridge for up to 24 hours before baking.

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Want to Monkey Around?

Monkey_2.svgMonday, 08-Feb-2016, kicks off the Chinese New Year.

According to China Highlights, this year will be the Year of the Fire Monkey:

2016 Is a Fire Monkey Year ‚ÄĒ What ‚ÄĚFire Monkey‚ÄĚ Means

In Chinese astrology, each year is associated with a Chinese zodiac animal sign and one of the Five Elements: Gold (Metal), Water, Wood, Fire, or Earth. Both the sign and element of your birth year are said to affect your personality and destiny.

 

Given my philosophy of never passing up a reason to celebrate, hubby and I always look forward to Chinese New Year. While we enjoy Chinese food all year ’round, for Chinese New Year, I often like to either tackle a new recipe or make something that I seldom make otherwise.

If, like me, you’re starting to plan out your Chinese New Year celebrations, you may find some inspiration from these posts:

  • Asian-Style Pork Ribs:¬† https://thatsmellsyummy.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/well-pooh/
  • Crab Rangoon:¬†https://thatsmellsyummy.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/hows-about-a-hiss-hello/
  • Egg Drop Soup:¬†https://thatsmellsyummy.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/humpty-dumpty/
  • Sweet and Sour Meatballs: ¬†https://thatsmellsyummy.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/sweet-and-sour/
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken or Pork: ¬†https://thatsmellsyummy.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/are-you-sweet-or-sour/
  • Pepper Steak:¬†https://thatsmellsyummy.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/stake-anyone/
  • Fried Rice:¬†https://thatsmellsyummy.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/brown-or-white/
  • Honeyed Apricot Orange Almond Cake: ¬†https://thatsmellsyummy.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/yes-there-be-dragons/

This year, I’m planning on experimenting with a somewhat different variation of Chinese ribs, along with, of course, homemade crab Rangoon. The rest of the menu will be rounded out on that day, but I imagine we’ll also include some Ramen noodles —¬†a New Year’s Good Luck superstition for the Chinese includes eating unbroken noodles on New Year’s Day for long and healthy life. (Rather like Southerners’ penchant for eating black eyed peas on New Year’s Day or the German penchant for eating pork on New Year’s Day for luck.)

So go ahead and celebrate the Year of the Monkey!

 

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Charlotte Knows Her Apples!

Apples_supermarketI first became intrigued with making Apple Charlotte after Mrs. Patmore’s refusal on “Downton Abbey” (due to her failing eyesight) to attempt to make the recipe when Lady Cora requested it for Sir Anthony Strallan. Apple Charlotte is also the dessert proposed for the Heritage Christmas Dinner in my Williams-Sonoma Complete Entertaining Cookbook.¬†

I became further interested in preparing an¬†Apple Charlotte when I saw Jacques Pepin and Julia Child prepare one as part of a “Cooking in Concert” program that also includes a turkey roulade:

http://www.pbs.org/video/1333042208/

So a few weeks before Christmas, when I was searching the grocery store for a rib roast (also a facet of the Heritage Christmas Dinner), I texted my hubby to ask him to please double-check the recipe for me in regard to the size of the roast. (Not that I needed a roast of the size specified in the recipe, but I wanted to make sure I was gauging the number of servings properly.) He verified what the recipe told me, and then a few minutes later, he texted back and asked if I would also be making an Apple Charlotte with brandied whipped cream and apricot sauce.

He had been teasing, and thought I would respond with a sarcastic “Oh, yeah, right!” but instead I said, “Yes, I could do that.”

And what’s more, I was confident that I could make it sugar-free successfully, and also with less fat. Some¬†Apple Charlotte¬†recipes call for a very rich bread — such as sliced brioche — and most all recipes also instruct that the bread be dipped into melted butter. Given how much butter the bread would absorb, I thought that simply brushing on some melted butter would still make the bread a lovely golden brown and also keep the apple filling from soaking through the bread, but would reduce the amount of butter needed overall, and also make the bread a bit easier and less messy to handle.

There seems to be doubt as to the origins of¬†Apple Charlotte¬†— is it¬†another version of Charlotte Russe, perhaps? — but regardless of its origins,¬†Apple Charlotte is essentially a thick,¬†thick¬†filling of apples encased in buttered bread mold.

It is that simple. And oftentimes, simple flavors are the best.

There are, of course, many variations on¬†Apple Charlotte, but based on my research and my recent experience in making — and eating! — this for the first time on Christmas,¬†here are what I think are the key points to making the delicious dessert:

  • The filling must be thick, almost like a puree or overly thickened apple sauce. You CANNOT simply substitute pie filling.
  • You need the right kind of apples. Williams-Sonoma recommends McIntosh, Empire, or Rome Beauty apples. I could not find those, and so after my hubby did some research for me (I was at the store, he Googled away at home and texted me answers), we opted for Honey Crisp apples. Fuji apples would also likely¬†substitute well.
  • Use a good white bread that is sliced about 1/4″ thick. I purchased a sliced Italian loaf (about 14 ounces) from the WalMart bakery for $1. It worked great.
  • Taking a tip from Jacques and Julia, I placed a circle of parchment paper in the bottom of my baking dish, as well as a strip of parchment (rather like a “handle”) that extended beyond the edges of the dish. This help ensures that the Charlotte will remove from the dish.
  • If you want to break up the labor of making this dish, prepare the apple filling a day (or even two!) before and gently reheat it before assembling the Charlotte.
  • The Charlotte must cool for at least 30 minutes before un-molding. You can make it earlier in the day, let it rest, and then gently reheat it in a warm oven for about 15 – 20 minutes — while you prepare the whipped cream and the apricot sauce, say — and then un-mold it.
  • Place your bowl and mixer beaters for the whipping cream in the freezer for at least 30 minutes (to several hours) before whipping the cream — it will whip up better!
  • I suggest you make 1 1/2 to 2 times the recommended amount of whipped cream — because yes, it’s that good!
  • If you can’t find fresh apricots — I couldn’t! — you can reconstitute dried apricots by pouring boiling water over them and letting them soak several hours or overnight. (Thanks, Mom, for that suggestion and for reconstituting the apricots!)
  • Use the proper-sized baking dish. ¬†You need a baking dish that holds 6 cups. I used my two-quart (8 cup) Pyrex baking dish — sans the lid, of course!
Pyrex Baking Dish, 2 Quart

Pyrex Baking Dish, 2 Quart

This dish has simple flavors, but is elegant in presentation. Williams-Sonoma claims the recipe serves 6; I would venture to say it can serve 10 – 12 easily.

To break up the labor on the dish, I pared and prepared the apple filling the day before, then reheated the apples and finished assembling the Charlotte the next day. The apples were a bit too juicy, I thought, to serve their purpose as the firm filling, so I stirred in a few tablespoons of cornstarch before reheating them, which turned it into the nice, thick filling it needed to be.

This turned out utterly delicious and impressed the heck out of all of us.

So the next time you’re wanting an elegant dessert with simple flavors that’s sure to please, give Apple Charlotte a go. You can watch an episode of Downton Abbey or listen to Charlotte’s Song as you pare those apples.ūüėČ

Although the recipe looks as though may be complicated, it REALLY isn’t it — it’s apple filling in a buttered bread crust with whipped cream and an apricot sauce!

Apple Charlotte (Serves 10 to 12)

For the Charlotte:

  • 12 McIntosh, Empire, or Rome Beauty apples, peeled, cored, and cubed (NOTE: I couldn’t find any of those varieties, so I used Honey Crisp apples. Fuji apples would also likely work.)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 8 tablespoons butter (1/2 cup), melted
  • 3/4 cup Splenda granular or other artificial sweetener of choice (just make sure it measures spoon for spoon like sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Lemon zest from 1 large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I eyeballed it)
  • Corn starch (2 to 3 tablespoons), IF NEEDED
  • White bread, sliced 1/4″ thick, trimmed of crust (I used a sliced Italian loaf from the WalMart bakery; it took about 2/3 to 3/4 of a 14 ounce loaf)

For the Brandied Whipped Cream: (Suggest you make 1 1/2 to 2 times this amount)

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup Splenda granular (or other artificial sweetener of choice)
  • 3 tablespoons brandy (optional, but I recommend it)

For the Apricot Sauce:

  • 1 cup sugar-free¬†apricot preserves
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup brandy (optional, but I recommend it)

Garnish (Optional):

  • Apricot halves or orange peel
  • NOTE: If you can’t get fresh, dried apricots can be reconstituted by pouring boiling water over them and letting them soak for several hours or overnight

FOR THE FILLING:

  1. Peel, core, and cube the apples. Place them in a LARGE (12″), deep non-stick skillet. Add in 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook apples over medium heat, stirring frequently, until butter melts and apples begin to soften. Add in the 3/4 cup Splenda, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, the lemon zest, and vanilla. Cook, stirring to prevent sticking, until the apples soften and reduce, about 15 to 25 minutes. You should end up with about 5 to 6 cups of apples.
  2. TIP: If you prefer to break up the task of making the Charlotte, you can let cool and then refrigerate the apple mixture until the following day — or probably for even two days — and then rewarm¬†it before assembling and baking the Charlotte.
  3. NOTE: If apple mixture is juicy/liquid at all, stir in two or three tablespoons of corn starch and simmer, stirring gently but constantly to prevent scorching, to thicken. I made the apple filling the day before, then added the corn starch to the apples before reheating them when I assembled the Charlotte the following day.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CHARLOTTE:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Trace and cut out a circle of parchment paper that will fit along the bottom of your baking dish and place it on the bottom.
  3. Cut a long strip — long enough that it extends from either side of the baking dish, like a “handle” of sorts — and place it along the bottom and let it extend up and beyond the sides of your baking dish.
  4. Trim bread crusts (reserve for another use or feed them to birds). With a pastry brush or sauce brush, lightly brush the side of the bread that will be placed against the baking dish/mold and assemble the bread in the mold. Do not overlap, but do fit bread edges together closely to prevent gaps. Trim slices as needed to fit gaps.
  5. Lightly brush the other side of the bread with butter (the side that will have the filling).
  6. Gently spoon in the apple mixture. Top with bread, brushing each side with butter.
  7. Bake on LOWER RACK of oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F and bake for another 30 minutes, until bread is golden.
  8. Remove and let rest for AT LEAST 30 minutes before un-molding. OR, let rest for several hours and then gently reheat in a warm oven for about 15 to 20 minutes before un-molding.
  9. TO UNMOLD: Run knife gently around edge to make sure the Charlotte has not stuck. Place your serving plate on top of the Charlotte, then invert. Remove the mold and remove the parchment paper.
  10. Garnish with apricot halves and/or orange peel, if desired.

TO PREPARE THE BRANDIED WHIPPED CREAM:

  1.  For best results, chill bowl and beaters before whipping cream.
  2. Whip cream and 1/4 cup Splenda until soft to medium peaks begin to form.
  3. Fold in brandy, if desired.

TO PREPARE THE APRICOT SAUCE:

  1. Gently heat apricot preserves and water in a small saucepan.
  2. Stir in brandy, if desired.

TO SERVE:

Place individual servings on a dessert plate and garnish as desired with whipped cream and apricot sauce.

REFRIGERATE ALL LEFTOVERS.

Freshly UnMolded Apple Charlotte with Apricot Garnish

Freshly Un-Molded Apple Charlotte with Apricot Garnish

 

Apple Charlotte Topped with Some Brandied Whipped Cream and Apricots

Apple Charlotte Topped with Some Brandied Whipped Cream and Apricots

Apple Charlotte: The Thickened Texture of the Filling Keeps it From Collapsing

Apple Charlotte: The Thickened Texture of the Filling Keeps it From Collapsing

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How Have You Bean?

Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk

I have a little Slow Cooker cooking magazine by Betty Crocker. One of the recipes in it that I’ve tried is for a¬†Three Bean Chili (you can find Betty’s recipe at this link on their website and my take on it here). It’s a tasty recipe and I’ve made it a few times, but I’ve been wanting something a bit different.

So, inspired by another bean chili recipe I read in one of my old Diabetic Cooking magazines, in combination with the Bean and Lentil chili, I decided to try making Four Bean Chili in my CrockPot yesterday.

Peoples, this makes for an easy, yummy, hearty, low-calorie, fat-free dish that is incredibly affordable! You can enjoy it with tortilla chips, rice, pasta, crackers — any accompaniment you normally enjoy with chili. I made some cornbread for ours, which was quite yummy with it.

While this dish is perfect for the slow cooker, you cam make it on the stovetop, as well.

When making in the slow cooker, I recommend using a liner for easy clean-up. ¬†This packed my 3 1/2 quart CrockPot to the top, but it didn’t overflow!

Important Food Safety Tip: This recipe uses tinned beans, both for convenience and for safety. As Betty Crocker points out,¬†“Tomatoes and tomato products keep dry beans and other legumes from softening even after hours of cooking.” Furthermore, as Wikipedia tells us:

Some kinds of raw beans, especially red and kidney beans, contain a harmful toxin (lectin phytohaemagglutinin) that must be removed by cooking. A recommended method is to boil the beans for at least ten minutes; undercooked beans may be more toxic than raw beans.¬†Cooking beans in a slow cooker, because of the lower temperatures often used, may not destroy toxins even though the beans do not smell or taste ‘bad’¬†(though this should not be a problem if the food reaches boiling temperature and stays there for some time).

Draining and rinsing the beans not only reduces the sodium, but it also reduces the gas-causing impact that legumes and other healthy, fresh vegetables often have. Additionally, on those occasions when I do use a chili seasoning mix (such as for this recipe), I like to get Williams Chili Seasoning, as it has no added salt.

Don’t have a good chili seasoning mix on hand?¬†Season to taste with chili powder, garlic powder, red (cayenne) pepper, paprika, and cumin. I typically like to “boost” the flavor of the chili seasoning with these spices, anyway.

Dress each serving of Four Bean Chili¬†as you would any other chili: grated cheese, oyster crackers or tortilla chips, diced onion, dollop of sour cream, sliced jalape√Īos¬†— whatever makes you happy.

I used four different types of beans for contrast in color, flavor, and texture, but you can make it with all pinto beans, all black beans, or a mix of just two types of beans.

However you make it, you’ll likely be finding yourself singing “The Bean Goblin” song.ūüėČ

Four Bean Chili (Serves 8 to 10)

  • 1 can (15-16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15-16 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15-16 ounces) cannellini¬†beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15-16 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 packet (1.25 ounces) chili seasoning mix (see note above if you don’t have a good chili seasoning mix on hand)
  • Bay leaf (one or two)
  • 2 cans (14 -15 ounces EACH) diced tomatoes, UNDRAINED (I used fire roasted tomatoes with garlic)
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1 medium to large onion, chopped
  • 2 jalape√Īos, chopped or sliced, if desired (NOTE: Wear disposable gloves when handling fresh jalape√Īos, as they can burn or blister your skin when raw)
  • Hearty splash of vinegar (suggest white or apple cider vinegar)
  • Healthy squirt of ketchup
  • Additional seasonings to taste, as desired: Chili powder, cumin, garlic powder or minced garlic, paprika, red pepper flakes, onion powder or onion flakes, and splash of Worcestershire sauce (Vegetarians: leave out Worcestershire or use a substitute)

TO MAKE IN A SLOW COOKER:

  1. If desired, place a slow cooker liner in your Crock Pot to make cleanup easier. Place all  ingredients into your slow cooker. (I placed the onions in first, then one of the tins of tomatoes, then the jalapenos, two tins of beans, another tin of tomatoes, the seasonings, the remaining beans, and spread the tomato paste on top). Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
  2. Gently stir to combine all the flavors and ingredients. (NOTE: You can give it a gentle stir before it starts cooking, as well, but my slow cooker was packed too tightly for me to be able to stir it until after it had cooked.)
  3. Dress each individual serving as you desire:¬†grated cheese; oyster crackers, saltine crackers, or tortilla chips; diced onion; dollop of sour cream; sliced jalape√Īos, cornbread — whatever makes you happy.
  4. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

TO MAKE ON THE STOVE TOP:

Place all ingredients in a large Dutch oven, soup pan, or other cooking pot. Add in liquid (water or beer) as desired — I’d probably start with about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of water or beer. You can add in more liquid if it’s too thick; or simmer it uncovered to cook it down if it’s too thin. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until heated through — it can be ready in as few as 10 or 15 minutes of simmering, but the longer it simmers, the better the flavor.

Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

 

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Posted in Chili, Main Dish, Soup/Stew, TexMex, Vegetarian/Meatless | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hostess (and Host!) Aprons — Are They Too Retro?

apronThe fall and winter holidays are approaching, which typically bring more parties and and gatherings.

Hence, my poll question.

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It’s Mexico’s Independence Eve

Many people think — falsely — that Cinco de Mayo (May 5th) is Mexco’s Independence Day, but it’s not! Mexico’s Independence Day is September 16th. ¬°Feliz Cumplea√Īos, Mexico!

Mexico’s Independence Day was kicked off by a Roman Catholic priest named Hidalgo.

As Wikipedia tells us:

The¬†Grito de Dolores¬†(“Cry of Dolores”) also known as¬†El Grito de la Independencia¬†(“Cry of Independence”), uttered from the small town of¬†Dolores, near¬†Guanajuato¬†on September 16, 1810 is the event that marks the beginning of the¬†Mexican War of Independence¬†and is the most important national holiday observed in¬†Mexico. The “Grito” was the¬†pronunciamiento¬†of the¬†Mexican War of Independence¬†by¬†Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a¬†Roman Catholic priest.

Hidalgo and several criollos were involved in a planned revolt against the Spanish colonial government, and the plotters were betrayed. Fearing his arrest, Hidalgo commanded his brother Mauricio, as well as Ignacio Allende and Mariano Abasolo to go with a number of other armed men to make the sheriff release the pro-independence inmates there on the night of 15 September. They managed to set eighty free. Around 6:00 am September 16, 1810, Hidalgo ordered the church bells to be rung and gathered his congregation. Flanked by Allende and Juan Aldama, he addressed the people in front of his church, encouraging them to revolt.

The Battle of Guanajuato, the first major engagement of the insurgency, occurred 4 days later. Mexico’s independence would not be effectively declared from Spain in the¬†Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire¬†until September 27, 1821, after a decade of war.

I Like Corona Lightūüôā

Not only is September 16th Mexico’s Independence Day, it’s also my late father’s birthday. He would have been 77 this year.

We enjoy celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day in our house. I believe one should never pass up a reason to celebrate. For me, personally, not¬†only is September 16th a great excuse for eating delicious TexMex (although TexMex is so delicious and versatile, it makes any occasion specialūüėČ ), it also commemorates my late father’s birthday.

Daddy and I had what grew into a difficult relationship — we were estranged the last 10 years of his life — but for me, his birthday and Mexico’s Independence Day are always linked. On this day, I always remember one of the last of his birthdays we spent together, our sitting in a Mexican restaurant on his birthday, chips and salsa and queso on the table, frozen margaritas in hand, and his telling me that we were celebrating not only his birthday, but Mexico’s Independence Day, as well.¬†And I think of his 50th birthday celebration, when I flew in as a surprise guest (thank you, Jan!).

When Mexico’s Independence Day comes around, I view it as an excellent excuse to change my whole latitudeūüėČ by splurging on some Corona Light (with lime, of course!) and/or maybe a Carb-Conscious (no-sugar-added) lime margarita¬†on the rocks.

Frozen Lime Margarita — So Refreshing!

For Mexico’s Independence Day (and my late dad’s birthday), I often like to make something that I don’t usually make — such as my own salsa, flour tortillas, charro beans (absolutely delicious!) — or try some kind of new recipe. It was through trying a new recipe that I discovered that hubby loves, loves, LOVES chimichangas.ūüôā For my beloved, chimichanga means fiesta!

So have a Fiesta tomorrow! You can start the day out with Breakfast Tacos or perhaps Migas. Your options for lunch and supper are myriad and yummy — just a quick search on my blog alone yields variations on enchiladas — including spinach enchiladas¬†—¬†chimichangas, charro beans, brisket tacos or double-decker tacos, fish fajitas, black bean soup, taco soup…and much more!

¬°Feliz Fiesta!¬†¬°Feliz Cumplea√Īos, Mexico!

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