November 15, 2014

Pork and Tomatillo Chili

I've decided to scale Christmas down this year. It seems that Thanksgiving is almost forgotten with the rush to start buying Christmas gifts earlier and earlier. So this year I have talked to my kids about not overdoing the holidays. They will be receiving one large gift from my husband and I and that's it. Now granted they are wanting electronics this year so the one big gift will be a little pricey, but it will still be less than the madness of previous years. In past years between family on both sides my kids have gotten more toys than I would like to admit. This year we will enjoy a big meal with family and the gifts will take a back seat. No mad dash for gifts and the frustration over not finding the 5,000 toys on my kid's wish lists.

The weather here has been cold and is supposed to get colder this week. Since the weather has been less than pleasant I have been making a lot of hot meals. Chili is a family favorite and this recipe for Pork and Tomatillo has great flavor and the meat is very tender.

Adapted from the Food Network Magazine.

Pork and Tomatillo Chili

  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 4 poblano chili peppers
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
Cooking Directions
  1. Toss 1 tablespoon canola oil with the tomatillos and tomatoes on a baking sheet.
  2. On the other side of the baking sheet place the poblanos and jalapeños.
  3. Broil in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until blackened.
  4. Place the peppers in a bowl and cover with a plate or plastic wrap.
  5. Let the peppers soften for 10 minutes.
  6. Take the skins off the tomatoes, then core and chop.
  7. Repeat with the tomatillos.
  8. Peel and seed the peppers.
  9. In a bowl combine the pork with the chili powder, cumin, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.
  10. In a pot over medium heat add 2 tablespoons canola oil.
  11. Add pork and cook 3 minutes until browned.
  12. Move to a plate.
  13. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil and add the onion and garlic.
  14. Cook 3 minutes until softened.
  15. Add cornmeal and cook for 1 minute.
  16. Add the peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos.
  17. Scrap up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
  18. Add the broth and pork and bring to a simmer.
  19. Cover and let cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  20. Uncover and salt and let cook for another 30 minutes.
  21. Remove from the stove and let cool for 10 minutes.
  22. Skim off fat.
  • You can add sliced scallions, pickled jalapeños, or grated cheddar cheese for toppings. 
  • When you trim the pork make sure to keep some the fat for cooking. If you don't have some fat your chili will dry out and your pork won't be as tender. 
  • It may take longer for your peppers to char than 10-15 minutes. Just make sure to flip them when one side blackens so they cook evenly. 

November 11, 2014

Southern Skillet Cornbread

When my husband and I first got married my mother-in-law gifted me a set of cast iron skillets. I had no idea what to do with them. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest the only cornbread my mother really made came from a box or we ate at restaurants. So not knowing what to do with them, I washed the skillets and let them sit to dry. Never, ever, do that to your cast iron skillets. They rust; really, really, rust. In order to hide the evidence I stuck the skillets in a drawer. Then after a few years had passed I decided to take out my skillets and see if they could be saved. After a lot of seasoning they look awesome now. They never get washed, just wiped out and then wiped again with a bit of oil. Cast iron skillets are great, they never stick if you season them correctly and they last for years. My kids are already fighting about who will inherit mine when the time comes.

The best thing about cast iron skillets is cornbread. You really can't compare cornbread made in a cast iron skillet with cornbread made in a regular pan. The skillet makes a delicious golden brown outside crust that is so good! The following is a recipe for skillet corn bread. This recipe has a small amount of sugar, my husband prefers no sugar whatsoever in his cornbread, but my kids like a small amount so this is the compromise. If you want true southern cornbread leave out the sugar.

Adapted from here.

Classic Southern Skillet Cornbread

  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose or bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
Cooking Directions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Place 1-2 tablespoons of oil (or bacon fat) in a 10 inch cast iron skillet and place on the center rack of the oven.
  3. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
  4. Mix until well blended.
  5. In another bowl combine the oil, buttermilk, and eggs.
  6. Make a well in the middle of the bowl with the dry ingredients and add the bowl with the wet ingredients.
  7. Do not overmix or your cornbread won't taste as good.
  8. Remove the preheated skillet from the oven and turn the skillet in order for the sides of the skillet to be coated in oil.
  9. Pour batter into skillet and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  10. Let sit for 5 minutes and then run a knife around the edge to pop the cornbread out of the skillet.
  11. Serve with butter, honey, or sorghum.
  • If you don't have a cast iron skillet this recipe can also be made in a 9 inch pyrex or metal pan. Don't pre-heat the pan. 
  • I do not recommend changing the oil to anything other than canola. Olive oil and coconut oil do not work for cornbread. Trust me I tried once just to see and it was pretty much horrible. Bacon grease works great, but I'm pretty sure I'm the only one with a giant cup of bacon grease in my fridge (my husband insists on bacon grease to oil the cast iron skillet). 
  • You can add jalapeños and cheddar cheese for a variation on this recipe. I have done it many times and it's great to go with chili! 
How to season your cast iron skillet: 
  • To season your cast iron skillet. scrub with soapy water. Then scour with coarse salt. This will get any of the dried food bits and dullness off. Rinse and dry well, do not let the skillet air dry this will lead to rust. Rub the skillet with vegetable oil using a paper towel. Place skillet upside down in a  350 degree oven and bake for one hour. Let skillet cool in oven. 
  • Once your skillet is seasoned it just need to be wiped out and then oiled after every use. You only need to re-season your skillet if it rusts or the surface looks dull or starts to stick. I haven't had to season my skillet in years, I just wipe it out, rub with oil and then store. 

November 9, 2014

Homemade Raisin Bread

When my oldest was born my husband acquired a new habit, he started insisting on having our door closed at night. Part of the reason is that we have two cats who come in and make noises, waking us (mostly my husband) up. The other part is that we have to leave a light on in order for my kids to be able to find the bathroom at night. I'm a pretty good sleeper, so having the light or noise doesn't bother me. My husband is noise and light sensitive, he has to have the room quiet and dark or he can't sleep. We are also opposite when we wake up, I wake right up and am ready to go. My husband can be a little grouchy in the morning, it's best to let him get ready by himself. I don't mind the door being closed, except our room stays warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter with the door open. Plus I like my door open, that way my kids don't knock loudly when they wake up in the middle of the night. Then I have to get up out of bed to open the door (my husband likes it locked also), and see what the problem is. Honestly, I like my sleep and that is one extra step I don't seem to have in the middle of the night. Maybe when we are empty nesters my husband will allow me to sleep with the door open once again....

We eat a lot of bread in my house. My kids are constantly hungry and homemade bread is a great way to save money. We use it for toast, sandwiches, french toast, croutons, you name it. Plus homemade bread makes great breadcrumbs. The following is a recipe for Homemade Raisin Bread. It can be made with or without a bread maker.

Homemade Raisin Bread

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dry milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup raisins
Cooking Directions
  1. If using a bread maker add liquid ingredients to the bread pan.
  2. Add dry ingredients (except yeast) to the pan.
  3. Man a will in the flour and add yeast.
  4. Select regular/basic setting on your bread maker, makes 1.5 pound loaf.
  5. If making by hand or with a mixer, mix wet ingredients together.
  6. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients.
  7. Add yeast to dry ingredients.
  8. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and combine until dough forms.
  9. On a floured surface or in your mixer knead dough for 5 minutes.
  10. Add raisins.
  11. Knead 3 more minutes.
  12. Roll dough into ball and add to an oiled bowl.
  13. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit until doubled (1-2 hours).
  14. Punch dough down.
  15. Form dough into a loaf shape and add to a greased loaf pan.
  16. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until 1 inch above the top of the pan (1-2 hours).
  17. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.
  18. Tent with foil if crust and top brown too quickly.
  19. Wait until cool to slice.
  • All-purpose flour can be used instead of bread flour, however, bread flour makes a superior rise and flavor. 
  • I prefer dry milk and water in bread recipes. However, I have made this recipe with regular milk (omit the dry milk and add 1 cup regular milk). Heat the milk with the butter on the stove and then add to other ingredients. 
  • Don't let this dough over rise in the loaf pan or the top will fall in the oven (trust me I did it once). 
  • Don't worry if the bread begins to get really brown on top, my family loves the really browned outside. The first time I made it I thought it was burnt, but they absolutely loved the browned sugar tasting crust! 

November 6, 2014

Potato and Egg Cake

I'm a bit of a procrastinator this year in regards to Thanksgiving. I have absolutely no idea where we are going or what I am cooking if I do indeed host. A large part of the procrastination has to do with the weather. West Virginia weather in November is really unpredictable. Some years it's in the 60's and other years it's snowing. Plus my in-laws live in the mountains so their weather is even more unpredictable than ours. So all in all I have no idea what we are doing for Thanksgiving this year, yet. I'm hoping that by next week I will be able to figure out if I'm hosting or not. Then the debate about what to fix starts, with my kids insisting on Cornish game hens, my in-laws preferring turkey and we not wanting either. Honestly I prefer the sides and dessert, I have never been a big fan of turkey.

I have been trying to reduce the amount of snacks that my kids eat. If given the option they will only eat snacks and never eat an actual dinner all week. So to combat this habit I have been reducing their snacks and making dinners that they are likely to at least try. The following is a recipe for Potato and Egg Cake, which is kid friendly and makes delicious leftovers.

Adapted from the Food Network Magazine.

Potato and Egg Cake

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
  • 4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 ounces sliced provolone cheese
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced jarred roasted red peppers, drained and patted dried
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  2. Add a rimmed baking sheet to the oven to preheat.
  3. Fill saucepan with enough water to cover potatoes.
  4. Add potatoes to boiling water over high heat.
  5. Let cook until potatoes are soft, 15-20 minutes.
  6. Butter an 8 inch cake pan.
  7. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs.
  8. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter and the parmesan to the potatoes, mash.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Add in the beaten eggs, slowly and mash.
  11. Spread half to the mixture to the buttered cake pan.
  12. Top with provolone, peppers, and parsley.
  13. Make sure to keep an inch border all around the edge.
  14. Top with the rest of the potato mixture, and smooth top.
  15. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs.
  16. Grate the remaining 1 tablespoon butter over top.
  17. Place the cake pan on the heated baking sheet and baked for 15-20 minutes, or until nicely browned on top.
  18. Loosen the edges of the cake with a knife.
  19. Unmold and let the cake rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
  • The version from the picture is made with gluten free panko. Gluten free panko is a great substitute for regular bread crumbs and I use it a lot in recipes. 
  • The gluten free version takes a little longer to brown, approximately 5 minutes. 
  • If you aren't a fan of provolone this would also work with Havarti or swiss. 

November 5, 2014

Irish Soda Bread Muffins

My mother kept a ton of papers, including a large amount of my school work. She had stacks and stacks of drawings, report cards, and work sheets. I am the opposite. I keep my kids report cards and a few great pieces of art work, but everything else goes in the trash. Don't worry I do look over every paper that my kids bring home, I just don't keep them. I'm a neat freak and the idea of stacks and stacks of papers makes me want to clean. I have a filing cabinet which holds all my papers, all nicely organized. It doesn't hold all my kids papers. Honestly, they bring home 10 papers each a day and I just don't have the room for all of them. Also I never looked over all the papers my mother kept. I'm just not sentimental about papers from my childhood. My kids are the same way, once I've seen the papers and art work they're happy and into the trash they go. I'm hoping I'm not the only one that doesn't keep a ton of school papers, I just don't see the point.

Irish soda bread is very popular in my house. My husband absolutely loves it and will only eat it the traditional way with no added raisins or sugar. My kids love it anyway I make it, traditional or not. The following is a recipe for Irish Soda Bread Muffins that are baked in a muffin tin, making for an easy dinner side.  This recipe is non-traditional since it contains sugar, but still yummy.

Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.

Irish Soda Bread Muffins

  • 3 cups bread (or all-purpose) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  2. Using a knife cut the butter into small pieces and add to the bowl.
  3. With either your hands or a fork press the butter into the flour mixture until it makes a coarse meal.
  4. Make a hole in the center of the flour mixture and add buttermilk.
  5. Stir using a wooden or plastic spoon until a dough forms.
  6. Add more buttermilk if necessary.
  7. Do not overmix the dough, it will make for tough muffins.
  8. Grease a muffin tin.
  9. Add dough to twelve muffins cups.
  10. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.
  11. Let cool on a wire rack.
  • You can add 1/2 cup raisins and/or 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds. My husband prefers the caraway seeds and no sugar, so experiment until you find a combination you like. 
  • If you don't have buttermilk you can make your own by adding 1 tablespoon of white distilled vinegar to 1 cup 3 tablespoons milk. 

November 4, 2014

Cheddar Pepper Drop Biscuits Made with Homemade Baking Mix

Today was a day off from school for my kids. My kids were hyper from the time they got up and got worse as the day wore on. I would love to say that my nerves aren't fried this evening, but they are. I never realized when I was young just how loud and destructive two boys could be. Honestly, I never really though I would have two boys. Don't get me wrong I love my two boys, but I was totally unprepared for being the mom of only boys. In my mind I always thought I would have a boy and a girl. When my second son got old enough to move around I quickly realized being the mom of multiple boys and only boys is a feat. They are loud and very physical. Boys don't sit down and read, or daydream. They do fight, and throw rocks to see if they can break, try to kill bugs, get dirty, really, really, dirty, and generally don't sit still. It's even funner when one of your kids has ADHD and so does your husband. There are days where my house might actually resembles a madhouse. Tonight I'm just glad that tomorrow is a school day. I love my kids, but one day off was enough for my sanity. I'm also thinking that my kids will be spending a lot of time at camp this summer, as much for me as for them.

The last month I have posted a couple of times about the Homemade Baking Mix that I have been using. It's really great and tonight I'm going to share a third recipe that utilizes the mix. This recipe is for Cheddar Pepper Drop Biscuits and is great recipe as a side with meals.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine.

Cheddar Pepper Drop Biscuits Made with Homemade Baking Mix

  • 3 cups Homemade Baking Mix
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine baking mix, cheese, and pepper in a bowl.
  2. Add milk and cream to mixture until a wet dough forms.
  3. On a parchment lined baking sheet drop dough into 8 biscuits.
  4. Add grated cheddar cheese to the tops of each biscuit.
  5. Bake biscuits in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Serve warm or reheat when ready to eat.
  • Since everyone has slightly different measuring cups the amount of heavy cream can vary. The original recipe used 1/3 cup. I found that that wasn't nearly enough. I have made this recipe a number of times and the total amount of cream needed has ranged from 1/3 cup to over 1/2 cup. Basically add cream until the dough forms and is moist. Additionally, if you want to save on fat you can add 1/3 cup cream and then slowly add additional whole milk until the dough is the right consistency. 
  • I have used low fat cheese with this recipe and it worked fine. I accidentally bought low fat cheese and was worried that it wouldn't melt etc, but it was a fine substitute. 
  • Make sure to store your homemade baking mix in the fridge, it will go bad since it has butter in it. 

November 1, 2014

Lemon Raisin Scones Using Homemade Baking Mix

So I have a weird fear. It's a fear that I've had as far back as I was 18 and hasn't gotten much better. I hate voting in person. I know it's sounds weird, but as soon as I was old enough to vote I voted by absentee. Since I grew up in Washington I never had to have a reason to want an absentee ballot. Now that I live in the state of WV it's another story. You can't vote by absentee unless you have a reason. I would love to say that I have voted in every election and am a great citizen even though I have a panic attack every time I try to vote in person. I don't. I vote in presidential elections, but in-between I am not a great voter. My kids are growing up already going with my husband to vote, and love going to the court house to early vote like they did today. I'm hoping that they will grow up without my anxiety associated with voting. I inherited it from my father and having the behavior stop with me would be a  good thing. It's a weird fear, but I hope by sharing it that other people that share my anxiety will feel a little less alone.

So I shared a homemade baking mix last week that can be used for a variety of baked goods. My kids are in love with the baking mix since it can be used for pancakes, scones, biscuits, you name it. Pretty much anything you could use Bisquick for, except that this mix has fresh butter in it. Here is a recipe for Lemon Raisin Scones using Homemade Baking Mix.

Lemon Raisin Scones

  • 2 cups homemade baking mix
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup chopped raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine baking mix, granulated sugar, raisins, and zest.
  2. In a separate bowl combine cream and egg.
  3. Stir into dry mixture until it comes together.
  4. Add more cream if neccessary.
  5. Hand pat into a 6 inch round.
  6. Cut into 8 wedges.
  7. Brush with heavy cream and sprinkle with sugar.
  8. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.
  9. Let cool on a wire rack.
  • If the mixture doesn't come together well, add more cream. Keep adding cream until a usable dough comes together. 
  • Try not to overwork the dough. The less the dough is worked the fluffier your scones will be. 
  • If you don't like raisins, Craisins would also work. 
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