Friday, June 27, 2008

Loomi Tea


As you may remember from my very first Taste & Create experience, I was on a quest to find Loomi for my Kuwaiti Chicken Mechbous. Loomi are dried black limes (also called Omani and mistakenly marketed as "lemons"). The limes have been boiled in salt water and dried in the sun until they are blackened. Loomi have a very distinct odor and taste, not like anything I'd ever had.


My partner for the event, Dita, now has a beautiful picture and a description of loomi and its various other names here.

While I was researching a source for loomi, (although popular in the middle east, it is not readily available in the states), I ran across a recipe for loomi "tea." Unfortunately the link no longer works, but luckily I had already copied the recipe! I am sad to lose the contributor's name, but I couldn't get there today.

Loomi "tea" is supposed to be very refreshing when it is hot, so I thought it would be a perfect drink for summertime in the desert. Today, I set out to make it. My plan is to allow the loomi to steep all day, since I did not think to make this last night. This afternoon, when it is nice and hot outside, I will break out the ice cubes and have a nice refreshing, hopefully pleasant drink!

If you'd like to make some loomi tea for yourself, you can buy dried limes here, just search for "omani."


I crushed the limes (hard little things!) in my mortar and pestle. That's Sawed Off's little hand/finger, pointing at and saying "Tea! Tea!" The limes smell wonderful when they are freshly crushed, you'll have to take my word for it as I realize they don't look wonderful!


Floating in the pot of water they look a bit odd...


You can see that they have already started to color the water...and they do smell great!

I am intrigued. The limes have been boiled and are now steeping in the pot. I let the limes steep for several hours, basically until the mixture had cooled. I think it would be a good future plan to boil this in the evening, and then let steep overnight.


Then I strained the tea through cheesecloth into my pitcher, and then gathered up the cheesecloth and squeezed all the juice out of the limes. I added the sugar and mixed it up.


Served over ice, this is a very refreshing drink! It has an unusual flavor, but it is delicious. And there is no caffeine, and very little sugar. Excellent.



Here's the recipe:

Loomi Tea

As for most Middle-Eastern drinks, you have to use your own judgment for sugar and intensity of flavor. The recipe below is only a starting point. Add more loomi or sugar as you think fit.

8 Loomi Lemons, crushed (I used 9, why not)
1/2 cup or more to taste, sugar
1 gallon water

Add a gallon of water to loomi in a non-reactive pan. Bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, turn off burner and cool. (I put a lid on the pot)
Strain and then add the sugar. Let sugar dissolve at room temperature.
Stir, taste for sugar and chill.
Serve chilled with ice cubes.


Note: You can also leave the loomi soaking in the gallon of water overnight. In the morning, bring to a boil, turn heat off and strain and add sugar. But the recipe above can be used when making it in a hurry.

Also, crush the loomi into small pieces using a mortar and pestle. This brings out the flavor and sourness. In old days I am told grandmas would use their hands to crush the loomi as they soaked in the water.

Blueberry Topping


I ran across this recipe (and picture) on marthastewart.com. It sounds delicious, and I bet it would be great on pancakes as well as ice cream.

Blueberry Topping

Pair two of the best things about summer: fresh blueberries and ice cream. Make a sauce by melting 2 teaspoons unsalted butter in a saucepan set over medium heat; then add 1 pint blueberries and 1/4 cup sugar. Cook, stirring, until blueberries release juices, about 2 minutes. Cool slightly, and spoon warm sauce over ice cream. Garnish with more blueberries, if desired. Makes 1 1/3 cups.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Marlboro Man's Favorite Sandwich

We've been on a Pioneer Woman kick recently, basically living on our variation of Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeños. Not that it's a huge or innovative variation, I just use thick bacon while she uses thin. (you should use thick too--trust me) Anyway, I can't tell you how many bags of those I have in the freezer right now. But oh man, a pan of those things and Coronas seem to be all Number One and I need these days.

The other night, I also made Pioneer Woman's "Marlboro Man's Favorite Sandwich." Our teeny tiny local grocery didn't have cube steak, but I've befriended the butcher, who ultra-tenderized some other kind of meat for me, and it was great!

I've made these sandwiches several times in the past, and I always just get the deli rolls like she suggests. But Number One had his own ideas about the leftovers, and today he actually gave me a bite. And I just HAVE to tell you about this: Number One found a sourdough loaf called a Jaco, which is kind of like a small French loaf size, in the fridge. He thought it was a bit thick, so he took a slice out of the middle, then he fried it in butter the way you're supposed to.


While I have really, really liked the Marlboro Man sandwich on the deli rolls, I FREAKIN' LOVE the Marlboro Man sandwich on the sourdough. LOVE IT. LOVE. If you make these sandwiches, do try them on sourdough. It gives the sandwich just a little bit of a tangy kick that pushes it over the top. I'm not kidding. And yes, there are bites taken out of the sandwich in the picture. Couldn't wait.

Marlboro Man’s Number One's Favorite Sandwich (on Sourdough)

2 to 3 pounds cube steak (tenderized round steak that’s been extra-tenderized), thinly sliced against the grain
1 large onion OR 2 small/medium onions, thinly sliced
1 sourdough Jaco loaf, cut in four sections (with slices out of the middles to decrease thickness)
Butter
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
Worcestershire Sauce
Tabasco

-Cook onions over medium-low heat in 1/4 stick butter until soft and light brown. Remove and set aside.
-Season meat generously with Lawry’s.
-Heat 2 TBSP butter over high heat (in same skillet) until melted and beginning to brown.
-Add meat in single layer. Cook one side until brown, then flip and cook until brown, about a minute on both sides.
-Add 1/2 cup (at least) Worcestershire sauce, 5 to 6 shakes Tabasco, and 2 TBSP butter. Add cooked onions. Stir to combine.
-Butter halved sourdough and brown on skillet.
-To assemble, lay bottom half of sourdough on plate. Place meat mixture on bread, followed by a spoonful or two of juice from the pan. Top with other half of roll, and serve.

Pechugas de Pollo con Rajas


My dear friend Christina prepared this dish for us once years ago--one of our friends and co-workers, Winona, was moving away and leaving us, so this was part of a sort of farewell luncheon. I loved this dish so much, chicken and chiles and rice, and have thought of it often. I finally remembered to ask Christina for the recipe, only to find that I have had the cookbook on my shelf all along!

The recipe is an adaptation of Diana Kennedy's, from The Cuisines of Mexico. I actually have a newer version, The Essential Cuisines of Mexico. Christina serves this chicken with Arroz Blanco con Elote (white rice with corn).


Pechugas de Pollo con Rajas
(Chicken Breasts with Poblano Chiles and Cream)

Serves 6

6 small chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup butter
1/4 peanut or safflower oil
1 large onion thinly sliced
2 1/2 pounds chiles Poblanos, charred, peeled, seeds and veins removed, and cut into narrow strips (or about 20 to 22 canned peeled green chilies WHOLE not chopped)

1Cup milk if fresh poblanos
2/3 cup milk if canned chiles
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
2 cups thick sour cream

1/4 pound grated cheddar cheese

Oven proof serving dish at least 3 inches deep and about 10 inches in diameter.

Bone and skin the chicken breasts. Cut each into four filets. Season well with salt and pepper. (Christina cuts the chicken into bite size pieces)

Heat the butter and the oil together in a frying pan and saute the filets for a few moments on both sides until lightly browned. Set aside.

In the same fat fry the onion gently, without browning, until it is soft.

Peel and clean the chiles. Set aside eight poblanos or nine canned chiles. Cut the rest into rajas (strips). Add the rajas to the onions and cover. Cook over a medium flame (8 minutes for the poblanos and 5 for the canned chiles)

Blend the reserved chiles with the milk and salt until smooth. Add the sour cream and blend a few seconds longer.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange 1/2 of the filets in the dish. Cover them with half of the rajas and half the sauce. Repeat the layers.
Sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake until the chicken filets are done and the cheese melted. It is not necessary to brown the cheese. About 30 minutes.

You can prepare the separate parts of this dish ahead of time but do not combine until just before cooking.

Arroz Blanco con Elote

This dish is an excellent accompaniment to Christina's Pechugas de Pollo con Rajas (Chicken Breasts with Poblano Chiles and Cream) Also adapted from Diana Kennedy's The Cuisines of Mexico.


Arroz Blanco con Elote
(White Rice with Corn)

1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
Hot water to cover
1/3 cup peanut or safflower oil

1/3 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic peeled and finely chopped

3 1/2 cups chicken broth.
1 cup fresh or frozen - but not canned corn

Pour the hot water over the rice in a saucepan and let it stand for 25 minutes. Drain the rice and wash it in cold water until the washing water is clear. Drain well in a colander. Shake it several times.

Heat the oil in a saucepan until it is very hot. Give the rice a final shake to get rid of any excess water. Stir the rice well into the oil making sure that all the grains are coated. Fry the rice over a high flame stirring it from time to time (I say frequently) until it is just beginning to color. Add the onion and garlic and continue frying (and stirring) until the rice is a pale gold. (your patience will be rewarded because the rice turns a lovely color) About 10 minutes altogether. Drain some of the excess oil.

Stir the broth and the corn into the rice and do not stir again during the cooking time. Cook the rice over a medium flame - it should bubble fairly briskly - until almost all of the liquid has disappeared - about 10 minutes. Lower the flame, cover the dish with foil and cook the rice for 5 minutes longer. Remove the dish from the flame and let it stand, still covered for at least 30 minutes, so that it will continue to cook in it's own steam.

You can also make this rice with 1/2 carrot and a small handful of peas.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Aussie Bites

**Updated with lower fat version below!**



This recipe came about when I was hooked on Costco's Aussie Bites--mini muffins with coconut, dried fruit and sunflower seeds in them. Although I had a huge container of them, I RAN OUT. (yes, I pretty much ate all of them myself) Since the nearest Costco is a four hour drive, I couldn't justify it, no matter how much I really wanted more.

I searched and searched on the Internet for a recipe, found one that sounded close, and made it. It wasn't even close. They were dry and crumbly, and the larger ingredients were just too large for a mini muffin. I made some changes, baked another batch, and they turned out better. I made more changes, baked another batch, and they were great--Number One says they are better than the Costco ones, but I'd have to get another container to do taste test...yes, that's exactly the reason! This batch I sent to preschool with H-Bomb for snack. And this is the recipe I'm sharing with you. I am baking a batch of these for us to take on our trip to Michigan next week. A yummy road trip snack--or breakfast if we're desperate!


Aussie Bites

Makes about 50 mini muffins.

Ingredients:
2 cups Regular or Toasted Oats
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
2/3 cup Brown sugar
1 3½oz can of coconut (unsweetened) OR 1-1/4 cup flaked
½ cup sunflower kernels
1 cup finely chopped dried fruit (apricots, raisins, dates, figs, cranberries, etc)—I use a mixture of apricots, raisins and cranberries
¼ cup honey
2 sticks unsalted butter**
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons hot water
3 eggs, beaten


Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mix first six ingredients in a bowl.

3. Melt honey and butter together in microwave.

4. Mix baking soda with hot water and add to butter mixture.

5. Pour butter mixture into dry ingredients, add eggs and mix well.

6. Place tablespoons of mixture into non-stick mini-muffin pans (lightly greased) and flatten mixture slightly. Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden. Cool on wire racks.



**For a lower fat version, reduce butter to one stick. Mix in 1/2 cup applesauce with eggs. You will have to grease your muffin pan, and bake the muffins a couple more minutes, but the muffins will be healthier and still delicious!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

These are the best blueberry buttermilk pancakes. You will love them. The recipe (and the picture) comes from the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.


Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
Makes 16; Serves 4

2 eggs
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or nonstick spray
1 cup fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar, softened butter, warm maple syrup, extra blueberries

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

In bowl, using electric mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed until frothy. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Stir just until batter is smooth and no lumps of flour remain; do not over mix.

Heat griddle to medium-high, lightly grease. Ladle about 1/3 cup batter per pancake. Scatter 1 tablespoon blueberries evenly. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, flip and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Keep warm in oven.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tips for Make Ahead (Freezable) Meals


As you may know, making meals ahead is sort of an obsession for me. It is just so much easier to pull a meal out of the freezer than to prepare one from scratch. It's not that I don't love making meals, it's that sometimes I don't love making dinner. I don't love wondering what to have and then forgetting to make something and at 5:45pm asking the boys, "do you want corn dogs or macaroni and cheese tonight?" Ugh.

Make ahead meals are also convenient for when you're having company, but don't want to spend all your time cooking. Or when your friends are expecting new babies, and you'd like to help them out in the first few days. Or for when you're having a party, so you don't get overwhelmed in the days before. There are so many reasons to do this!

I did realize that I have several recipes here labeled as "Make Ahead," but they cannot be frozen, so I have added a new category called "Freeze It." And the "Freeze It" recipes still qualify as Make Ahead. So don't get confused. Click on the links to see all of our freezable and make aheadable recipes! Enjoy.

Here are my tips for successful make ahead, Freezable meals. (there may be more tips later, this is all I can think of right now)

1. If you're making dinner, why not double the recipe? Serve half, freeze half. You know you love it, and you'll have a great dinner waiting for you on a busy night in the future.

2. Buy some cheap extra pans (8x8 or whatever the recipe calls for) so you won't be missing your good brownie pan when it's in the freezer filled with Beef Enchiladas. The kind they sell at grocery stores are perfect for this. Or you can even use the disposable aluminum pans--I've done that for giveaway meals so the recipient doesn't have to worry about getting a pan back to you. (this is quite helpful if your friend lives 60-90 miles away!)

3. Divide and store your meals in appropriate size containers for your family: if you have four people, store four servings together. If it's just you, store 4 separate servings in 4 separate containers so you won't have leftovers that might go to waste.

4. Securely cover and seal your food. For food in pans, I use Glad Press'n Seal first, covered by foil. You don't want your hard work to be lost to freezer burn! Securely seal all ziploc bags and plastic containers.

5. And most importantly: LABEL & DATE your dishes in the freezer. That way you'll know exactly what it is, and when you need to eat it by. If you're like me, it might be helpful to post a list on the outside of your freezer with the dishes you've made and when you need to eat them.

6. Consider getting a few friends together, and each making a triple batch of a freezable dish, divide them up, then trade! You will end up with several new and different meals to try. *I plan to host one of these parties when my new kitchen is complete. FYI. It will be fun!

Do YOU have any tips for freezable/make ahead meals? Please comment and let us know! Of course we'd love to have your freezable/make ahead recipes posted on the website too!

Picadillo: Cuban-Style Sloppy Joes

Since Number One and the crew are branding calves today, I wanted to make a ranch lunch. I have lots of ground beef, but no hamburger buns, plenty of hot dog buns (but not hot dogs again)! I thought of sloppy joes (on hot dog buns), but I wanted something different.


I really wanted to make a green chile version of sloppy joes, but couldn't find a good recipe and I'm not in the mood to experiment...much. I ran across this recipe for Cuban "sloppy joes" called Picadillo. I think it is exactly what I've been looking for, from Three Guys from Miami, who have written several cookbooks about Cuban cooking. (I don't have any of their cookbooks, but that could easily be remedied, if only amazon.com would sponsor my blog!). This recipe was posted on NPR's website.


I made a few modifications to the ingredients. I had a 2.5 pound package of ground beef, so I increased the spices, but I won't list those changes. I couldn't let go of my hankerin' for green chiles, so I added two 4-ounce cans along with the other peppers. This smelled so good simmering in the crock pot! A delicious blend of flavors, we will definitely make this again soon!



Picadillo

Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 cups diced onion

2 cups seeded and finely chopped green bell pepper (I used 1 each yellow and orange, plus two cans of diced green chiles)

Olive oil to sauté

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds ground beef or ground round

3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (I used 2 cans diced)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 cup chopped green olives

1/3 cup raisins

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional:

Rice

Cuban or French bread (I used toasted hot dog buns!)

butter


1. Sauté onion and green pepper in olive oil in a large frying pan.

2. Sauté about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened, then add the garlic and ground beef.

3. Mash the onion and green pepper into the sautéing meat and cook until the meat is browned, about 5 minutes.

4. Put everything in a crockpot set to low heat.

5. Add the tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, olives and raisins.

6. Cover and let simmer in the crockpot for an hour or two or more. The longer it simmers, the better the flavor!

7. Salt and pepper to taste.

8. Serve hot over white rice or:

9. Cut a loaf of Cuban or French bread lengthwise, but not completely through — like you would for a hoagie. Generously butter the inside — top and bottom. If you like, toast the bread lightly on a skillet. Stuff the bread with plenty of picadillo to make a great picadillo sandwich!

Herbed-Baked Eggs

I've been wanting some good eggs lately, and I've been thinking of all the different ways to serve them. I wish there was a diner around here. Since there's not, here is a delicious method.

I don't know that I've ever mentioned how much I love Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I saw her years ago, before she was very famous, on Martha Stewart's TV show. She was so warm and down-to-earth, and her food was fabulous! I have since acquired two or three of her cookbooks, and I love them all. You can find Ina's cookbooks here or purchase signed copies from her website (this I did not know...hmm. there are several I don't have...) Or, you can just come back here, where I share my favorite recipes!

This recipe comes from Barefoot in Paris. I got individual gratin dishes for Christmas one year (thanks, Mom!) just for making these eggs. I'm sure you can use other oven-safe dishes, just adjust the cooking time.

{picture soon!}


Ina says: "Lots of people who knew I was writing a French cookbook wanted a recipe for omelettes. I spent days making them but my heart was never really in it because I always imagined myself cooking lunch while my friends sat waiting at the table. Rori Trovato came up with the perfect solution--shirred eggs, or herb-baked eggs. They were so delicious that we were standing with our forks ready as soon as Quentin took this photograph. It's very French and you can make them with any seasoning you like."

Herbed-Baked Eggs

Serves 4

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
12 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Toasted French bread or brioche, for serving

Preheat the broiler for 5 minutes and place the oven rack 6 inches below the heat.

Combine the garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley and Parmesan cheese and set aside. Carefully crack 3 eggs into each of 4 small bowls or teacups (you won't be baking them in these) without breaking the yolks. (It's very important to have all the eggs ready to go before you start cooking).

Place four individual gratin dishes on a baking sheet. Place 1 tablespoon of cream and 1/2 tablespoon of butter in each dish and place under the broiler for about 3 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Quickly, but carefully, pour 3 eggs into each gratin dish and sprinkle evenly with the herb mixture, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place back under the broiler for 5 to 6 minutes, until the whites of the eggs are almost cooked. (Rotate the baking sheet once if they aren't cooking evenly). The eggs will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven. Allow to set for 60 seconds and serve hot with toasted bread.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Baked Eggs and Mushrooms in Ham Crisps

(Photo from Gourmet)


This is an elegant and impressive breakfast dish, very nice to take to a small brunch or serve on a special occasion. I believe this recipe came from Gourmet magazine. I made these once for a ranch brunch--I would eat this every day if it were possible.

Baked Eggs and Mushrooms in Ham Crisps

Serves 6 (or 4 hungry people) Active time: 45 minutes Start to finish: 1 1/4 hour

3/4 pound mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
12 slices Black Forest of Virginia Ham (without holes; 10 ounces)
12 large eggs

Garnish: fresh tarragon leaves
Accompaniment: buttered brioche or challah toast
Special equipment: a muffin tin with 12 (1/2 cup) muffin cups

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare mushrooms:
Cook mushrooms and shallot in butter with salt and pepper in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring, until mushrooms are tender and liquid they give off is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in crème fraîche and tarragon.

Assemble and bake:
Fit 1 slice of ham into each of 12 lightly oiled muffin cups (ends will stick up and hang over edges of cups). Divide mushrooms among cups and crack 1 egg into each. Bake in middle of oven until whites are cooked but yolks are still runny, about 15 minutes. Season eggs with salt and pepper and remove (with ham) from muffin cups carefully, using 2 spoons or small spatulas.

Strata with asparagus, sausage and fontina

"A comforting breakfast casserole made from bread, eggs and milk, a strata is enriched with savory ingredients, such as sausage, cheese and vegetables. The strata is assembled in advance and refrigerated before baking, making it ideal for entertaining."

Did you read that? "Assembled in Advance!" Some of my favorite words. This strata is excellent-there is some preparation involved, but trust me it is worth it in the morning. This is an impressive dish for a brunch or gathering, the flavors are so complementary and delicious! You will LOVE this. You will need a humongous bowl and a pretty big pan for baking. This recipe does make a lot, so just organize a brunch and bake this up. And please make sure you invite me! This is also a special dish (and convenient!) to serve for Christmas morning, Easter, etc. You can open gifts or hunt for eggs while it's baking.

I think this is a Williams-Sonoma recipe, but I'm not sure...


STRATA

Serves 12.

10-12 slices French bread, cut into 1" cubes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
10 oz. breakfast sausage (I used cut-up links because I couldn't find fresh bulk sausage that I liked)
16 eggs
6 cups milk
1 bunch green onions, white to light green portion only, finely chopped
4 roasted red bell peppers, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced (I used a 15 oz. jar of roasted red peppers and just chopped them up)**I have also substituted sundried tomatoes in oil, yum!
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed, stalks cut into 1" pieces and cooked until tender
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 cups grated Fontina cheese (I'm sure I used more cheese than that. I used a whole wedge from Sam's Club--not sure how big it was)

Butter a large baking dish. Place bread cubes in a large bowl.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned on both sides, 3-5 minutes total. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a plate. When cool, cut into thin slices and transfer to bowl with bread. (if using bulk sausage, just crumble and cook, then transfer to bowl)

In another large bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Pour egg mixture over bread and sausage mixture. Add green onions, bell peppers, asparagus, salt, pepper and 3 cups (or a bit more) cheese and stir until well blended. Transfer to baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sprinkle top of strata with 1 cup (or more) cheese. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Classic No-Bake Cookies


I have had this recipe forever...I remember making these cookies with my friend Kelly, along with Corn Flake Treats (instead of Rice Krispies! yum!) during sleepovers. We had lots of fun in the kitchen.

These cookies are quick, easy and delicious. I know you'll want to make some!

Classic No-Bake Cookies

In a saucepan, heat 1/4 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa and 1/2 cup milk. Bring to boiling, and boil and stir for 3 minutes.

Turn the heat down and mix in 3 cups oats, 1/2 cup peanut butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. Let cool, if you can wait that long.

That is all.

Make Ahead Steak Fajitas


"Prepare and freeze the ingredients for steak fajitas in advance. Cook them when you're ready for a fresh, easy dinner."

I LOVE make-ahead meals. It is so convenient to be able to pull something out of the freezer for dinner, or get ready for a big party ahead of time. This recipe is perfect whether you want 1 serving of fajitas or more...each serving is frozen individually! Except, when it came right down to it, I froze mine all together. We have four people in our family, chances are we'll all eat it at the same time. My flank steak was almost two pounds, so I used three peppers (yellow, orange and green) but still just one huge onion. I doubled the spices, but it really didn't seem like enough, so I'll report back when we cook these up. I'm sure the make ahead fajitas won't hold a candle to these fajitas, but at least it's an easy, tasty dinner.

The verdict: The make ahead fajitas certainly do NOT hold a candle to these fajitas. I think it would be helpful to freeze the single servings in their own bags, as recommended. Mine took a lot longer than 10 minutes to thaw in the frying pan, and the peppers were no longer bright. The fajitas in general were somewhat bland, as I feared, and I was wishing I had made some of my famous salsa to spice them up. They were okay for a somewhat quick meal, but not spectacular. Definitely serve them with salsa, and feel free to spice them up on your own. I will most likely make up a batch of these again, since they are a quick-ish meal, but with more spices.


This recipe is from the June 2008 issue of Real Simple magazine, recipe by Sara Quessenberry.

hands-on-time: 15 minutes total time: 25 minutes serves 4

freeze it:

1 pound flank steak, thinly sliced against the grain
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, seeded (if desired) and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Kosher salt
4 1-quart resealable plastic freezer bags

In a large bowl, combine the steak, onion, bell peppers, jalapeno, chili powder, hot sauce and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Divide evenly among 4 bags. Freeze until ready to cook, up to 3 months.

cook it:

4 bags frozen fajita mixture
4 teaspoons olive oil
8 8-inch tortillas, warmed
Salsa (optional)
Sour cream (optional)

In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat the oil (use 1 teaspoon per serving). Empty the frozen contents of the bags into the skillet (use 1 bag per serving). Cook, covered, stirring occasionally to break up ingredients, for 10 minutes. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender and the steak is cooked through, 2 to 6 minutes. Serve with the tortillas and the salsa and sour cream, if desired.

Happy Heart Chicken

This is an old recipe from the inside of a Celestial Seasonings Tea box. I remember serving it to my grandparents when they came out for a visit, probably 10 years ago. I'm so happy I found the recipe (on the inside of the original tea box lid that I saved!) I remember the chicken looking so nice with the vegetables on top, and it was delicious!

Even though I don't have a picture ~yet~ I wanted to post it so I don't misplace the recipe again! And if any of you Bad Girls (Miss Niss?? healthy, yummy, easy chicken!! Cheryl??) decide to make this (which you should!) send me a picture and I'll add it to the post!

Happy Heart Chicken
Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:
3 lbs. chicken pieces, skinned
2 teaspoons dried basil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 green scallions
1 large zucchini
2 medium carrots
1 can (14 oz) hearts of palm or artichoke hearts (I used artichoke hearts)

Directions:

Arrange chicken in a large casserole dish. Sprinkle with basil and lemon juice. Chop scallions and spread over chicken. Scrub zucchini and carrots clean--do not peel--then cut each vegetable in half. Quarter them lengthwise to make 8 pieces out of each vegetable.

Arrange vegetables in an alternating pattern on top of the chicken, along with the hearts of palm.

Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour, or until carrots are just tender.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Slush


This is very refreshing and very potent. Consume with joy and caution.

Mix this in a large non-reactive bowl. If you'd like, you can steep the tea and mix some of it in a saucepan before pouring the hot mixture into a bowl.

Pour 2 cups boiling water over 4 teabags, let steep 3 to 5 minutes. Dissolve 1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar in tea. Add 12 oz. can lemonade concentrate and 12 oz. can orange juice concentrate, stir until dissolved. Add 9 cups cold water and 2 to 2 1/2 cups vodka. Mix well. Pour in large container and freeze.

To serve, scrape out desired amount with a spoon or ice cream scoop.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Grilled Pizza

My mom reminded me about this grilled pizza recipe we tried during one of my parents' visits. It's one of Bobby's, from his Bobby Flay's Boy Gets Grill cookbook. He tops his grilled pizza with grilled sausage, peppers, onions and oregano ricotta, but as you know you can top a pizza with just about anything! Although Bobby has his own recipe for flatbread dough, you could purchase fresh or refrigerated pizza dough, or try out Shell's delicious pizza dough recipe. And if you don't want to put your dough directly on your grill for some reason, reddquilter has an ingenious idea for using clay saucers on the grill.

Here's Bobby's recipe. Let us know what delicious combinations you come up with!

Grilled Pizza with Grilled Sausage, Peppers, Onions and Oregano Ricotta

Bobby writes: "Rolling out pizza dough is one of the first cooking skills I learned...Sausage and peppers was always my favorite combination. People are sometimes intimidated by the idea of grilling pizza, but it's actually very easy--a lot easier than grilling chicke in fact! Precooking the crusts on the grill is the key. If you don't want to make your own pizza dough, you can often buy it fresh from a local pizzeria or refrigerated at the supermarket."

Serves 4 as an entree, 6 to 8 as an appetizer

1 recipe flatbread dough or 16 to 20 ounces fresh or refrigerated pizza dough
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
10 ounces Italian sausages, hot, sweet, or a combination of the two
1 large red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
2 large yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered lengthwise
2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and quartered lengthwise
8 ounces (1 cup) whole-milk ricotta, preferably sheep's milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
8 ounces fontina cheese, coarsely grated
Fresh basil and/or flat-leaf parsley leaves

1. Heat your grill to medium-high.

2. Divide the dough into quarters and roll out on a lightly floured surface until thin but still stretchy (you don't want it so thin that it will easily tear). The pizzas can be approximately 6-inch rounds, squares, or whatever shape you prefer.

3. Brush the crusts with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Do NOT close the grill lid. Bobby didn't say to close the grill lid. Closing the grill lid is a Big Mistake. Trust me). Turn them over and grill until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from the grill and set aside on a large cookie sheet (or two if needed), or sheet of foil that will fit on your grill. Leave the grill on.

4. Grill the sausages on both sides until golden brown and cooked through, about 10 minutes on each side. Brush the onions and peppers with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the onion and the peppers until soft and browned, 3 to 4 minutes on each side.

5. Remove the sausages from the grill (leave the grill on), let rest for 5 minutes, then slice 1/4 inch thick. Remove the onion and separate into rings. Remove the peppers and slice each quarter lengthwise in half.

6. Mix the ricotta and oregano in a small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.

7. To assemble the pizzas, divide the fontina cheese among the crusts (leave the crusts on the cookie sheet or foil). Divide the sausages, onion and peppers over the cheese. Transfer the cookie sheet to the grill, close the cover, and grill until the cheese has melted, 2 to 3 minutes. When the pizzas are almost done, raise the lid and put few dollops of the ricotta mixture on each one. If using two cookie sheets, do this step in two batches.

8. Remove from the grill and sprinkle with the basil. Let rest for 3 minutes before serving, then serve the pizzas whole or in slices.

Bobby's Flatbread Dough

Another recipe from Bobby Flay's Boy Gets Grill.


Bobby says, "Making flatbread on the grill is easy. (I honestly don't think we've tried this, but I do love every other one of his recipes that we've tried, so I don't think he'd steer us wrong. I don't remember if we used this for Bobby's grilled pizzas or not). It does take a while, but most of the time you are just leaving the dough alone to rise. And the fresh, yeasty flavor is so satisfying! The repeated risings make the breads light and crackly."

For the Flatbread:

1 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing
Freshly ground pepper

1. Mix the water and yeast in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook and let stand for 15 minutes.

2. Start the mixer at medium-low speed and slowly add 2 cups of the flour. When this flour is lightly mixed in, mix for about 1 minute more. Let rise, covered with a kitchen towel, until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

3. Start the mixer again at medium-low speed and mix in the salt and oil. Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing after each addition just until the flour is incorporated. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for a few minutes until the dough is smooth. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place until puffed, about 2 1/2 hours.

4. Divide the dough into quarters and roll into balls with your hands. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for another 30 minutes.

(At this point, you are ready to prepare Bobby's Grilled Pizza, or just continue making flatbread).

5. Heat your grill to high.

6. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a 6-inch round. Brush the rounds with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

7. Grill the breads for 2 to 3 minutes, turn them over, and grill for another 1 to 2 minutes, until lightly charred, firm and crisp. Remove from the grill and brush with more olive oil. Cut into wedges for serving.

Bobby's Balsamic-Marinated Flank Steak

This recipe comes from one of our favorites, Bobby Flay. (We just call him Bobby). It's in his cookbook we have,Bobby Flay's Boy Gets Grill, on page 215. You'll just have to believe me when I say I didn't even have to look that page number up. That, my friends, is how good this steak is.

Some people are afraid of flank steak, or, like my dad, hadn't had a good flank steak until we cooked this up. Honestly I think a lot of people just overcook it. Don't be afraid of a rarer steak--this steak is best on the medium rare side, or even rarer than that. Trust me. You will not be disappointed.

Here we go:

Serves 4; can be doubled for 6 to 8 (no need to double the marinade)

½ cup balsamic vinegar

¾ cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped rosemary leaves

1 (1 ½- to 1 ¾-pound) beef flank steak

Salt and freshly ground pepper


1. Whisk together the vinegar, the oil, the garlic and rosemary in a large dish (or use a thick, sealable plastic bag). Add the steak and turn to coat. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 8 hours, turning every 2 hours.

2. Heat your grill to high.

3. Remove the steak from the marinade and season with salt and pepper. Grill until lightly charred and crusty, 4 to 5 minutes. (do not close lid on grill unless it is cold and/or windy) Turn steak over, reduce the heat to medium or move to a cooler part of the grill, and grill until medium-rare, 3 to 4 minutes more. *(If your steak is larger, grill for an extra 1 to 2 minutes per side, but be careful not to overcook).

4. Remove the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into ½ inch thick slices against the grain of the meat.


Serve immediately with slices of grilled crusty bread and a salad. We usually just have steak, to be completely honest. We're beef people, after all.

Fresh Peach and Oat Muffins


I've been on a muffin kick lately. Two of my absolute favorite recipes are Allen's Orange Marmie Muffins with Cardamom Pine Nut Streusel, and these: Fresh Peach and Oat Muffins.

This recipe comes from a cute little cookbook called Muffins and Other Morning Bakes, currently available in paperback at a great price!

The cool thing about these muffins, although the recipe calls for fresh peaches, I generally use canned peaches (or pears!) with fantastic results. Delicious, and fairly easy to put together. I'm happy for any excuse to make a batch of muffins. You can whip these up while you're waiting for your coffee to brew. Yum.

Fresh Peach and Oat Muffins

Fresh peaches make these muffins extra special. Serve warm with fruit salad compote and plenty of plain yogurt.

Makes 12 muffins

1 1/3 cup rolled oats
1 1/3 cups buttermilk (I never have this, I just add vinegar OR lemon juice to milk)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
12 oz. almost ripe peaches, rinsed, pitted and flesh cut into large chunks (I use 1 15-ounce can of peaches or pears, drained and roughly chopped)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Put the rolled oats and the buttermilk in a large bowl and let soak for 10 minutes. Add the lightly beaten egg, melted butter or vegetable oil, and sugar and mix well.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices onto the soaked oat mixture and stir briefly. Quickly fold in the chopped peaches. Do not beat or over mix; the batter should look slightly streaky. Spoon the mixture into well-greased muffin pan, filling each cup about two-thirds full.

Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Let cool in the pan for 1 minute, then turn out onto a wire rack. Eat warm, immediately or within 24 hours When thoroughly cooled, the muffins can be wrapped then frozen for up to 1 month.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Taste & Create XI: Mushroom Stroganoff

Taste & Create is a monthly food blog event, hosted by Nicole of For the Love of Food, in which food bloggers are randomly paired and tasked with preparing one of their partner's recipes.

For June's Taste & Create event, I was paired with Judith of Shortcut to Mushrooms: A Vegetarian Food Blog. (don't laugh, Shell! I'm still very much a Carnivore Cattle Rancher!) I do happen to love mushrooms...I miss the days of mushroom-picking back in Michigan when I was young. I am a sucker for mushrooms, white wine and sour cream, so I decided to make Judith's Mushroom Stroganoff.

Unfortunately, my small grocery store is mushroomically challenged. Meaning, I had three choices for mushrooms: white button mushrooms, portabella mushrooms, or canned stems and caps. Again, please don't laugh. I have to deal with this every time I go to town. I felt lucky to even see a portabella. I decided to go out on a limb and use a mixture of white and portabella mushrooms. Cutting edge, I know.

Incidentally, I don't use the "m" word (margarine). I use butter, and more than one tablespoon. I also eat meat. I invited the ranch hand's wife and the farmer over for dinner, H-Bomb told them we were having "noodles and mushrooms," and the ranch hand's wife said, "I'll bring the meat." That is the kind of place we live.

But this dish was excellent. I love stroganoff! The only problem was the color: it was, well, gray. I don't know if it was my gourmet mix of mushrooms or the sour cream or what, it was quite gray and a bit unappetizing-looking. But delicious! I will probably make this dish again. And hope for a better color!



Mushroom Stroganoff

2 lbs. mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Egg noodles

Boil a pot of water for the pasta, and put butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute' garlic for about 30 seconds, then add the onion and saute' another two minutes. (I like cooking my onions a bit longer, I probably left them in there for 5 minutes).

Keep an eye on your water, and when it boils throw in pasta and salt, and cook as recommended.

After 2 to 5 minutes sauteing onions, add the mushrooms and stir. I put a lid on for a few minutes to steam the mushrooms a bit, then removed the lid and turned up the heat to encourage the mushroom juice to evaporate. I cooked them for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to cook out most of the juice.

When the mushrooms are tender and the juice is almost all gone, lower the heat to medium and add flour. Stir and cook for about a minute, then add half a cup of white wine and continue to stir frequently for three minutes or until it thickens considerably. Turn the heat off and stir sour cream and nutmeg. I did not use any salt or pepper. And the boys like their "sauce" on the side, so I just served the mushrooms either on top or on the side of the noodles, instead of tossing all the noodles and sauce together.

Slow-Cooker Smothered Chicken

I got this recipe from Sandra Lee's book, Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Slow Cooker Recipes.   If you have absolutely NO time to prepare a meal, then this one is for you!  Throw it together in the morning in the slow cooker and have a fabulous "comfort food-ish" meal waiting for you when you get home! Whip up a side of cous cous or rice and you're all set.

What you will need...

1.5 lbs  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1  med-large onion cut into 1/4" slices
1  16-oz can   baby corn (drained)
1  8-oz package of pre-sliced mushrooms
2 cans of Campbell's Creamy Chicken Verde Condensed Soup
salt/pepper
thyme

*** Before I start...  let me say that I've never been able to find the Chicken Verde soup.  I've simply used Cream of Chicken and it's been fine.  I've even used the Healthy Request version which has a lot less fat and it's still delicious.  I threw in some fresh green garlic scapes and Voila! it became VERDE.  Also... the recipe calls for 1.5-lbs of chicken breasts but it could easily handle 2-lbs.

Place the sliced onion, mushrooms and baby corn in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Place chicken on top.  Season the chicken.  Pour the soup over the chicken.  Cook on low for 4-6 hours.  

  

Beef Enchiladas

{picture soon!}

This is another make-ahead recipe, this time from Everyday Food magazine. It is delicious, perhaps just a bit spicy for some kids, but we liked it a lot. I just remembered the recipe, and I just got a bunch of beef, so I am going to make a batch or two for the freezer. When I have an extra hour, that is...stay tuned!


Beef Enchiladas

This recipe is easily doubled; you can bake one batch tonight and freeze another for a no-fuss weeknight meal.

Prep: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes


Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 small chipotle chile in adobo, minced, plus 1 tablespoon sauce (from a small can)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 pound lean ground beef
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 corn tortillas (6-inch)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. Make sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil over medium. Add flour and cook, whisking occasionally, 1 minute. Add broth, chili powder, chipotle and adobo sauce, and 3/4 cup water; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat, and simmer until lightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Make filling: In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add onion, garlic, and beef; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until cooked through, about 8 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (If freezing, don't place any sauce in baking dish.) Spoon 1/4 cup sauce in bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Set aside. Make enchiladas: Stack tortillas; wrap in foil, and warm in oven, 10 minutes. Fill each with a heaping 1/4 cup beef mixture and 2 tablespoons cheese; tightly roll up.
  4. Raise oven heat to 450 degrees. Arrange enchiladas, seam side down, in baking dish. Top with remaining sauce; sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, until hot and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Serve garnished with cilantro and, if desired, a green salad.

    To freeze: make sauce and enchiladas; arrange enchiladas in baking dish without sauce (so tortillas don't become soggy). Place sauce in an airtight container. Cover dish with plastic wrap and foil. Label, date, and freeze enchiladas and sauce. Use within 2 months; bake without thawing.

    To bake from frozen: Thaw sauce in refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove foil and plastic wrap from baking dish. Pour sauce over top, and sprinkle with cheese; cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake until lightly browned and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes; serve.

    If baking right away: Spoon 1/4 cup sauce in the bottom of baking dish; pour the rest over the enchiladas.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Warming Tortillas

The most effective way to warm flour or corn tortillas is over a gas burner. (Don't even think about warming them in the microwave!!) Just turn on your gas burner, a bit under medium, and place a tortilla directly on the burner. Flip frequently, after it's been on just 10 seconds or less, so you don't burn it. I just use my fingers, which requires a bit of dexterity and skill, but you could use tongs if you're worried about burning your fingers. Keep flipping until the tortilla is nicely browned in spots, and usually they will puff up a bit, then it's done. Don't worry if you have some blacker spots, it will still taste good. Adjust the flame if you need to, you'll get the hang of it.

You can either serve up the tortillas one by one, or put them in a covered tortilla warmer. Make sure to put a single paper towel in the bottom of the tortilla warmer first, so the tortillas on the bottom don't get soggy.

If your kitchen isn't equipped with a gas stove, you'll have to make due with a frying pan. Use a good heavy one, either cast iron or nonstick, DRY. This method doesn't require as much flipping, but you really should spin it around with your fingertips. I give my tortilla a quick spin every few seconds or so, until it's almost too warm to touch, then flip it and spin again for roughly the same amount of time. Again, I suppose you could use a set of tongs for the spinning/flipping, but why have another thing to wash if you don't have to?

I'd much rather wash my hands than more dishes.


Now that you know how to warm tortillas, go show off your skills and make fajitas or tacos (lamb or beef) or something.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Barbacoa de Borrego



Also known as Min's Famous Lamb Tacos!

Lamb Barbacoa from the Backyard Grill has got to be one of our all-time favorite recipes from Rick Bayless' Mexican Kitchen. If you have ever been curious about preparing authentic Mexican foods, you cannot live without this book. Find one, and buy it.

This is slow-roasted lamb at its best. Although the roasting takes virtually all day for a larger roast, it is a simple dish to prepare. Almost everything else can be prepared ahead of time, and because it is roasted on the grill, there is virtually no clean up, and minimal hands-on time. The recipe also includes a soup that is cooked right underneath the lamb. We save the soup in the freezer for a rainy day, and it is delicious.


We usually prepare this dish for dinner guests, as we did last night. We have also prepared this special meal for Christmas Eve dinner--that is how good it is. The lamb roasts we buy are larger than the recipe calls for, so they take a bit more roasting time, but you just have to start a bit earlier. The roast pictured weighed almost 6 pounds. There are some things in the soup that we typically leave out, so I will leave them out of this post as well.


Lamb Barbacoa From the Backyard Grill

Serves 6 to 8, with 7 cups of soup

3 medium red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 cup cooked (or canned) garbanzo beans (I just throw in a whole can)

One 3-pound rolled and tied boneless lamb shoulder roast
Coarse salt

For serving:
- Salsa (my homemade Roasted Tomato-Jalapeño Salsa, if you're lucky enough to have the recipe)
- finely crumbled Mexican Queso Fresco or Queso Añejo (these come in 12-ounce rounds, we crumble the whole package with a fork)
- 1 cup good-quality olives (we use a mixture of jalapeño- and garlic-stuffed olives)
- warm tortillas

1. Preparing the grill and soup ingredients. You will need a gas grill with two controls--so you can turn off the flame on one side for indirect cooking, and two grill racks. (*If you'd like me to post the directions for charcoal, leave a comment and I will. I've never used charcoal, but you can) Turn on both sides of your grill to preheat, about 10 minutes or so before.

In a 12 x 9-inch heavy-duty aluminum foil pan (or something similar), combine the potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic and garbanzos. Position the pan to one side of the lower grate and turn off the flame under the soup. Pour water into the pan to about 1 inch from the top (it'll take about 5 cups). Position the second cooking grate 8 inches above the flame.

2. Grilling the meat. Sprinkle the lamb liberally with salt. Lay the roast on the top grate directly over the soup, and set an oven thermometer next to it, if you have one. (if you don't have one, I recommend you go out and buy one for this purpose.) Cover the grill and cook, maintaining a moderately low temperature (between 250 and 300 degrees), checking the temperature every 30 minutes. the will be beautifully smoky-roasted--it'll register about 170 degrees on a meat thermometer and be fall-apart tender in about 2 1/2 hours. Be sure to check periodically the slow-simmering soup that's capturing all those aromatic lamb juices to ensure the liquid level remains more or less the same, adding more water if needed.

3. Finishing the dish. With a big pair of tongs, a couple of meat forks or spatulas, remove the roast to a platter. Sprinkle with salt and let rest, loosely tented with foil, in warm place for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, with the precision of a steady-handed circus performer, carefully remove the pan of soup from the bottom of the grill. (I take a sheet pan out and slide the soup onto the pan before attempting to carry it. Also, since don't usually eat the soup with the meal, I just leave it on the turned-off grill until dinner is over--but don't forget to bring it in after dinner!!). Taste the soup and season with salt, usually about 3/4 teaspoon. Ladle into small, warm soup cups. (or into a container for freezing!)

Remove strings from lamb. Slice into good thick slabs and arrange on a warm platter. Strew the olives around the platter and carry to the table with a flourish. Pass the meat, salsa, cheese and lots of warm tortillas for everyone to make delicious soft tacos.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Cream Cheese Frosting

This is a super quick and easy frosting, one of our favorites. It's from the old standby cookbook, Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book.

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Beat together two 3-ounce packages cream cheese, softened (I just use an 8-ounce package); 1/2 cup butter, softened; and 2 teaspoons vanilla till light and fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, beating well. Gradually beat in 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 cups additional sifted powdered sugar to reach spreading consistency. This frosts tops and sides of two 8- or 9-inch layers (or lots of cupcakes!) Cover and store cake in refrigerator.
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