April 30, 2015 – What to do While Waiting for Purchased Home to Close!!

To back up a little and fill in the blanks – Last July, we put our house on the market with the plan of taking our time over a couple months to plan our strategy in selling what we didn’t want to keep (as we wanted badly to down-size) and what we would put in storage to wherever we finally decided to put roots down.

With St. Joseph buried in the back yard to (hopefully) insure the house sold in a reasonable length of time…. Our house sold in 3 days and the buyers wanted in A.S.A.P. – Panic time. So, after a scramble of a few weeks, we packed up the travel trailer and headed out on Highway 2 with the intention of driving across the northern U.S. and see new sights and old friends. We made it to Minnesota where snow was predicted – in September, for God’s sake!! After visiting with and being fed like royalty by our friends, Laura & Brad Behrendt in Rogers, MN, we hightailed off Highway 2 plans and headed south.

We gave it a bloody try to go south and then east to Florida and be able to head north up the eastern coast. But, after roosting for 3 months in Louisiana waiting for good weather and road conditions, we gave it up as a lost cause.

O.K., that’s the background to where we are today. We left Louisiana traveling west stopping here and there to visit friends and kids and landed back in Washington April 21st. We started our search for a new home Sunday, April 26th AND found the house with the Denham name on it that first day!! If you haven’t noticed Roy and I do not move in slow motion – when we see what we like, we know it and act.

This little farm was calling our name and we knew it the minute we drove in the drive way – this is us!!
Apr 26 the view
and, the bilious blue house, which will morph into a Barn Red farmhouse SOON!
Apr 28 the house
Apr 26 Apple trees  Now is the time of waiting – offer accepted and paperwork crawling along thru all departments it needs to travel. Anyone who has ever bought a house knows how this is just the slowest, agonizing time of waiting……

Hence, the question – What to do While Waiting for Purchased Home to Close!
The answer is – COOK!

I’m filling my days by cooking all kinds of goodies to have pkg’d up and in the freezer so when the house closes, and we are swamped with moving in and beginning remodel, we will have fast food available to us.

Today was a marathon of cooking and remember we’re in a travel trailer. Hope the following pictures don’t bother anyone –

Started yesterday with a Wine-Braised Beef Short Rib dinner from Ruhlman’s new Braising book which is over the top delicious!
Apr 29 Brised Short Ribs  Apr 29 Braised Short Ribs Plated
This morning, I started with a crockpot of Chile Colorado Burrito filling – a recipe which a number of friends (Daphne, Blane and ‘Trixxee’) have made over the last couple of years and we all really enjoy! I plan to use for topping pasta, sandwich and taco filling. Because I lack space in the travel trailer, the crockpot needed to go in the bathroom!
Apr 30 'bathroom' Crockpot

Crockpot Hawaiian Beef Cubes – I’ve used this mixture in sandwiches topped with Fontina cheese, also Garlic jam as a condiment and slices of candied Jalapeno peppers slipped inside. This one braised in the kitchen oven.
Apr Hawaiian Beef Cubes

My sourdough needed feeding, so used the extra for a loaf of Sourdough bread and a focaccia. Stove was too hot with oven on to rise my bread, so found a sunny spot on the bed!
Apr 30 Bedroom Bread
Apr 30 Sourdough Bread loaf
Lastly, with all the nice flavor aromas floating around this trailer, I was in the mood for a simple pasta and tomato dish – and, a new favorite was born! This is such an easy to put together flavorful Mediterranean-style dish and will be called upon in the coming months as we work our aging butts off with no energy to make complicated dinners!!
Apr 30 Pasta w tom, capers, kalamata, wine
Tomorrow will be an easy day of making rice to pkg. up to be added to the different burrito dinners. And, figure out what’s for dinner as everything is in the freezer!!!!   Now, I’m going to pour myself a glass of wine and beat my loving husband at a few games of Cribbage!

P.S. I need to pass along a tip I was reminded of when reading the Braising book – Michael Ruhlman’s “How To Braise” – when braising, topping the pot with a regular lid allows the  contents to come to a boil, which is counterproductive to a braising  method. The meat and veggies can fragment and loose valuable flavor.
Apr 29 short rib parchment
A parchment paper lid is a perfect solution; one which I learned in culinary school and have completely forgotten over the years!! Cut a circle of parchment paper and cut a little hole in the center of the paper for steam to escape and keeps the meat/veggie from drying out. I hope you all will give this a try and find how well it works.

Here are a couple of the above mentioned recipes –

Chile Colorado Burritos
This recipe is from a blogger – http://www.plainchicken.com/ and it is delicious!

2 lb stew meat
1/2 cup of tomato sauce (if you’re out of tomato sauce – mix 1/2 tomato paste & water for a substitute)
1 Tbs Knorr’s Caldo de Tomate (easily found in the Mexican section of grocery stores)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbs chili powder
3 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
flour tortillas
shredded cheese

Make enchilada sauce. In a medium sauce pan, whisk together tomato sauce, Caldo de Tomate, garlic powder, chili powder, flour and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Place stew meat in 6-quart slow cooker. Cover with enchilada sauce. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Shred beef. On an oven-proof plate, lay out a tortilla. Top tortilla with about 1/3 cup of the meat and some shredded cheese. Roll up into a burrito. Pour some enchilada sauce from the crock pot over the burrito to cover it. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly, about 2-4 minutes.
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Crockpot Hawaiian Beef Cubes
This recipe is very flexible – can be doubled, tripled; whatever your needs are. I made this with no clear idea of what to do with it after….So, I’m still looking for ideas other than sandwiches and topping pasta or a pizza. I adapted this recipe from one given to me by my cousin, Lynn Shelledy and we bless her every time I make it! Serves 6 to 8

1 1/2 – 2 lbs. Beef chuck roast, cut in chunks, 1” to 1 1/2″ size
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tsp Sriracha, optional – but so good!!

Spray crockpot with cooking spray for easier clean up later.
Combine all together, cook in Crock-pot 6-8 hours…that’s it! Done!
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Pasta with Tomatoes, Capers and Kalamata
Serves 2 generously

It can be a bit tricky cooking angel hair pasta. You have to pay close attention to cooking time. Here’s the trick: Cook this pasta to just below al dente, drain, and toss it with just enough olive oil to avoid stickiness. Then add the pasta back to the pan, and heat it through quickly so the pasta does not overcook. It is worth the attention because when you get it right, this dish is sheer perfection. This tip is from The Fast Diet Cookbook for Weight Loss.

4 oz Angel hair pasta
Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced (or if you have them, 2 T. roasted garlic cloves)
3 tomatoes, rough chopped
1 Tbs capers, rough chopped plus 1 tsp. of the brine
8 Kalamata olives, rough chopped
2 Tbs fresh basil, chopped
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chicken stock
Chives for garnish
1/4 cup (1 oz.) grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese

Cook the angel hair pasta according to the package directions, drain, toss with
1 teaspoon of the olive oil, and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil until shimmery. Add the garlic and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, capers, olives, and basil, salt, and pepper, and cook until heated through, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the cooked spaghetti to the vegetables and toss to combine.
Add the chicken stock and reserved brine; stir well to coat the pasta; continue over heat until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Serve the pasta sprinkled with chives on warm plates and pass the Parmesan cheese in a bowl.
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Enjoy! Come back and visit – I’ll be making some easy summer dinners for a while and I’ll share the best ones with everyone.

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April 23, 2015 – Freezer Clean-out Time

Since we’re winding down on this trip, I took everything out of the freezer and I could not believe what all I have in there. I won’t list everything, but suffice to say – we could probably live off this inventory for 2 months!!

I wasn’t going to admit this on any ‘social media’ – but, then I realized some good recipes and ideas are coming out of this cleanup project, so like everything else in my life, I’m hanging these ideas out for everyone.

The bad part is, I will be making dishes I can’t possible duplicate; as in the dish we had today – a dish from Noble Pig’s blog: Skillet Bowtie Bacon-Cabbage-Ham-Mushroom Pasta.

The following is a statement I make so often upon seeing a recipe which sounds too good not to make, but…….

But, I don’t have Bowtie pasta, bacon, or ham, or sour cream… …

Here’s the recipe and I think the original would be very tasty, but with the revisions I had to make, I think it was wonderful!! I made kind of 1/2 a recipe of the below –

Skillet Bowtie Bacon-Cabbage-Ham-Mushroom-Leek Pasta – Altered to fit our ingredients Author: Noble Pig, 12/28/12

1/2 lb bowtie pasta, dry (I used 4 oz. Spaghetti Rigati)
6 slices thick cut bacon, diced (I used 1/4 cup prosciutto bits)
4 leeks, white parts only, sliced (no leeks, I used 1/2 on onion)
8 oz sliced mushrooms (I used dried morels and porcini)
2 cups leftover ham, cubed(no ham, used ~2 cups seasoned alligator bites a cook gave me in Louisiana and I froze)
8 Tbs butter (~ 3 T. clarified butter from freezer)
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded (used green)
1/2 head purple cabbage, shredded(no purple- didn’t use)
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Garnish with: freshly ground black pepper (added Truffle Salt – great addition of musky flavor.)
dollop of sour cream (had none – not needed)

1. Make pasta according to package directions. Let sit in the water to keep warm. Kind of bastardized the method from here, but pretty much close:

2. Sauté bacon over medium heat until slightly brown. Add leeks and continue to sauté for about 5 minutes more. Add mushrooms and ham and cook until done. Remove from pan.

3. Without wiping the pan, melt butter and add cabbage. Cook until softened, about 5-8 minutes. Add bacon-ham-mushroom mixture to the cabbage as well as bowtie pasta. Toss together and serve immediately. serves 6
Apr 22 Alligator, Mushroom Pasta 1  Onions, reconstituted morels and porcini mushrooms
Apr 22 Alligator, mujshroom pasta 2  Cabbage, pasta and sautéed alligator added to the onion mixture –
Apr 22 Alligator, mushroom pasta plated a great combination of flavors: Morel and Porcini mushrooms, prosciutto bits, sautéed cabbage and onions tossed with pasta and chunks of Louisiana seasoned alligator and seasoned with Truffle salt and lots of freshly ground pepper – what a dish!!

And, because we have so many goodies in the freezer, I don’t think we’re going out for Mexican tonight after all, as we had planned. In fact we may not have dinner at all…also found some Vanilla ice cream in the freezer and I have bourbon, maple syrup and peanut butter….know where I’m going with this?????????????? Probably will be our dinner.

Peanut Butter Bourbon Milkshake
Dec 1 P.Butter Honey Bourbon Milkshake
2 oz bourbon
1/2 oz maple syrup
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup vanilla ice cream (we use frozen yogurt)
1 cup of ice cubes (or use however many to make as thick a shake as you prefer)

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until fully incorporated and frothy.
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More dishes which turned out very tasty from leftover packages:
Apr 21 Hawaiian Pork Tostada Hawaiian Pork and rice from a Medford, OR restaurant – diced the pork, added the rice and a can of refried beans spiced up with taco sauce and packaged up in 1/2 cup baggies. One morning, spread the filling on a crispy corn tortilla topped with tomatoes, green onions and cilantro for a Tostada dinner.

Apr 18 Hawaiian Pork burrito For brunch, used the filling in a burrito and topped again with tomatoes and green onion and served with a grapefruit and banana salad. Four more pkgs. are left to think about.
How easy can a dinner or brunch be for a busy family?

Apr 21 BBQ Rib Pizza A pkg. of BBQ Ribs with sauce morphed into a wonderful pizza! Brush a pizza dough round with BBQ sauce, then layer chopped rib meat (or BBQ Pork roast meat), cheese slices (I had Taleggio cheese), tomato slices, dried basil and red pepper flakes sprinkled over and baked. Sprinkle with green onions as it comes out of the oven.

It was a good feeling to scratch out a few items on my list of freezer goodies, but I have a couple pages to go yet, so I’m anxious to see what dishes  develop out of this little experiment. I’m thinking the real challenge will be to have on hand some of these same packages again so when I have to go freezer diving, I can recreate them.  More to come……