Mexican Roll Ups For Your Next Pot Luck….(or hopefully Super Bowl Party!)

Living in Colorado, we are ALL excited for our Denver Bronco team. With our first playoff game tomorrow, there are many gatherings to cheer them on. Hopefully, we will be gathered around the television on Super Bowl Sunday, with family and friends, watching our team compete and win!

Here is a great recipe for your next food gathering – regardless of the occasion. I found the basic idea on Pinterest, but have made a few changes that we found made this dish the whole complete meal! I had frozen some cooked chicken breast meat which I took from the freezer – this made this dish even easier

At least one hour before you wish to serve this dish, combine an 8 ounce carton of cream cheese with 4 ounces of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. To this mixture, add a teaspoon of finely chopped garlic, a couple shakes of chili powder, a 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, 1/4 teaspoon of coriander, and salt and pepper to taste. The recipe I saw called for cayenne pepper to taste and I added it. It was very good – but you use your own discretion if you want to add it or not.

 

Once your cheeses and spices are thoroughly combined, add a can of Rotel tomatoes – drained, but keep the juice as you may need to add it later. Add a can of black beans that were drained and rinsed, and then a handful of chopped fresh cilantro. Mix all together – and if it seems too thick, add some of the reserved Rotel juice to thin it out.

Cover and place in the refrigerator for an hour to really get the flavors to mix together!

Then, spread a heaping spoonful onto a flour tortilla. Spread to the edges with a knife or spatula. Roll the burrito up and cut into slices. Place each roll-up on a plate or serving tray. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro to garnish.

We served it with a side dish of homemade guacamole which rounded the platter. It's an easy dish to prepare and share.

(Go Broncos!!!)

 

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Sous vide……..What a Great New Way to Cook!

The holidays are always greatly anticipated at our house, especially when we are privileged to host our family and friends. We go into high gear – and this year, it was even more fun than usual.

A couple of weeks ago, a new-found friend had been explaining a cooking technique he used. It was called sous vide. What??? How do you spell that?

It's French, pronounced “soo veed” and it means “under vacuum”. After our friend's animated description, we looked at each other and decided we just had to check into this technique a bit further. Off to the Internet we went, reading different recipes and understanding the whole concept of this type of cooking. The sous vide technique cooks your food in a vacuum sealed bag while it is submerged in a water bath at a precisely controlled temperature —- whew! That's a mouthful!

In a nutshell, you take your piece of meat, for example, and place your favorite spices, fruits, and/or rubs inside the bag. Vacuum seal the bag closed and submerge it in the sous vide cooker. It is preset to a special temperature and the cooker will hold water within one degree of that temperature for the entire period of time it cooks. The natural flavors and juices are locked inside the bag as it cooks. The nutrients found in the food are retained – compared to grilling or baking, where they may evaporate or stay within the pan.

The time and temperature that you cook your meat varies. We did a brisket for 48 hours (yup, you heard it right!). Beef tenderloin – 4 to 6 hours. Pork tenderloin took 6-8 hours and salmon was done in fifty minutes. Each cut of meat was sealed in it's own bag with it's own variety of seasonings. The low, slow way of cooking made the meat OH so tender and moist.

We chose to purchase a sous vide cooker, but have been told that you can make your own by purchasing a heating element and circulator on-line. I will tell you that the cooker, itself, was pricey – but we seldom go out to eat and I would liken the price to a fancy dinner out for four. The water temperature and the cooking time determine the “done-ness” of the food – so special attention was given to the cooking manual!

Not to be outdone by the main dish, we had to have some homemade Thanksgiving bread to complete the look. We made a batch of dough, shaped the rolls into balls and scored the sides with a sharp knife. As the dough rose, it spread apart and gave the appearance of a little pumpkin. We stuck a nut in the top to give it a stem – and off to the oven they went.

After a wonderful day of great family, friends, and food – we paused to say “thanks” for another holiday….and bustled off to the car to go see Santa!!

 

Wild Ricing??

Sometimes you just don't realize what a cool childhood you had. Things that we feel are “normal and every day” are foreign to others. Let me tell you of one of those ah-ha moments.

Last evening we had a neighborhood get-together where everyone brings a crockpot of soup. We share the soup and eat like kings! I made a wild rice/ham soup using the wild rice that my parents had picked in Minnesota.

When I mentioned that it was hand-picked and processed, people were a bit mystified……rice? Did you grow up near a rice pattie? How do you pick it?

Well, “ricing” was an actual season in Minnesota – the same as fishing season and hunting season. The wild rice (which is actually an aquatic grass) grows in shallow water in lakes or slow-flowing streams and rivers. My family would rice in the area lakes and slow-moving waters of the Mississippi River where the plants grew in areas of slow or no current. Ricing season was during the last part of August and first part of September. The Division of Natural Resources controlled the season and you had to purchase a license to be able to rice. You were not allowed to rice with any motorized boat – the vessel had to be propelled by muscle power only. My parents used a canoe and my Dad pushed the canoe through the water with a big pole that had “feet” on the bottom of it. As he pushed, my Mom sat in the middle of the canoe with two 3-foot sticks. She would reach out to the right with one stick pulling the rice stalks over the boat and then would knock the heads off with the second stick. Then she would repeat the process with the same sticks, only working on the left side of the canoe. They worked back and forth, in this way, through the wild rice patch. You certainly ran the risk of losing all of your rice if you tipped the canoe over, so many would unload mid-day just in case!

There were always buyers on the shore to buy your “green” rice, or you could take it in to be processed for your own use. My family always had a burlap bag of processed rice and we ate it often. One of our family favorites was wild rice pancakes where my Mom added cooked wild rice to our pancake batter. (You want to talk about a flapjack that would stick with ya – that was it! Try it!)

 

So, here is the recipe for the Wild Rice Ham Soup that we enjoyed last night. It's hearty and delicious!

Since I was preparing for a lot of people, this recipe will serve 12 and fill a good-sized crockpot. First, bring 2 cups of rice and six cups of water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes. Your rice will pop open when it is done – taste it to be sure.

 

Then in a separate pot, melt 3/4 cup of butter and sauté a small diced onion in the butter. After the onion is done, blend in one cup of flour until smooth and then gradually add six cups of chicken broth. Stir this mixture constantly as it thickens until it comes to a boil, then reduce the heat and stir in your cooked wild rice, 1 and 1/2 cups of diced ham, a cup of shredded carrots, 1/4 cup of slivered almonds. Cook for an additional few minutes and then add 2 cups of half and half just before serving.

 

A Great Recipe for Your Cherry Tomatoes

It's October, and our area has already experienced a number of frosty nights. We hurriedly pulled the tomatoes from their vines and have frozen and canned a number of batches. One favorite recipe for our cherry tomatoes follows. It makes a beautiful presentation and is full of all kinds of nummy flavors!

 

Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed with Mozzarella and Basil

This recipe will yield about 36 hors d'oeuvres.

1/2 pound of fresh mozzarella, cut into very tiny diced pieces. Should cut enough to make approximately

1 1/4 cup

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup of chopped basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated lemon zest

Salt and pepper

20 cherry tomatoes

 

In a medium bowl, stir together the cheese, oil, basil, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before assembling to let the flavors all come together.

Slice each cherry tomato in half and scoop out the insides with a melon-baller or teaspoon. Sprinkle each half with a dash of salt and place, inverted, on a paper towel to drain for about 15 minutes.

Fill each tomato half with about a teaspoon of the cheese mixture and arrange on a serving tray. We like to finish the plate with a drizzle of balsamic reduction over the tomatoes – not much – just a little bit for a great flavor!

Enjoy!

 

The “Fruits” of our Garden

It was an idea that I had been brewing all year – having a farm-to-table dinner with the bounties of the ranch. Boy, did we have fun!

We invited friends from our neighborhood to join us for the fixings. For two days before the party, we gathered and chopped fresh fruits and vegetables.

 

Our evening started with cherry tomatoes stuffed with mozzarella and basil and a charred corn and avacado dip. Baked potatoes and homemade bread (yup, Mom's recipe from my blog earlier this year) coupled with our grassfed beef smoked to perfection. One neighbor accepted a “throw down” challenge with the beef, and he and Kevin each prepared their prime rib and New York strip roasts with their own secret seasonings and techniques. Fresh corn on the cob was mouthwatering, and the watermelons were ready for the picking. We finished off our evening with apple crisp and strawberry rhubarb crisp. Many enjoyed our homemade wine with the meal.

I'd love to share one of the appetizer recipes – it's a hodge-podge of garden veggies that is light, colorful and healthy!

 

Charred Corn and Avacado Dip

2 ears of corn

2 avacados, diced

2 jalapeños, seeded and diced

1 red onion diced

A handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 can (or fresh cooked) black beans, drained and rinsed

Juice of 1 lime

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Remove the silks from the corn, soak in water for 10 minutes and then place corn on a hot grill for 10 minutes, rotating several times. Cool and remove the kernels from the cob. (note: I have made this several times when corn on the cob was not in season. I simply cooked the frozen or canned corn on the stove in a pan with a bit of EVOO).

Combine all of the remaining ingredients and refrigerate for one hour before serving.

Enjoy!

 

A Special Dinner – Honey Baked Chicken

Everyone has a favorite dinner – one that they choose when it is a birthday or other special occasion. One of my favorite meals has always been chicken and dumplings….my mom could make the best dumplings. Light and fluffy – and when I would visit, she would inevitably make the special meal for me.

 

In our house, one of our favorites is a recipe of Honey Baked Chicken. Since the chicken bakes in a mixture of butter and honey along with some great spices and mustard, it is not a low-calorie meal. We simply choose to make it a few times a year – to celebrate a special day or get-together!

We start by peeling and slicing a few potatoes and placing them and four deboned, skinned chicken breasts into a baking pan.

 

Combine 1/4 cup of melted butter, 1/2 cup of honey, 1/8 cup of prepared mustard, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder.

 

Pour this mixture over the chicken and potatoes and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Baste every 15 minutes or so which will keep the meat and potatoes tender and browned nicely.

Mmmmmm! Enjoy!

 

Save Money (and a Long Drive to Town) With Home Made Cleaning Products

Where we live, it's a long trip to the grocery store – when we run out of something, it simply goes on a list. When the list is long enough or the need outweighs the waiting – you go buy the stuff on the “list”. So, partly because of this and partly because I am a do-it-yourself'er, I am always on the alert for simple ways to skip a few aisles at the grocery store. I had so many comments on the window washing solution in my last post, I thought I would share a few of the other cleaning products that I make and use. Be on the watch for future posts – there are a lot that I will post at a later date.

 

Ever used the product that you drop into your garbage disposal to clean it up and make it smell better? I have – it works great. One type makes this blue foam that swells up into the sink – when it disappears down the drain, your disposal is clean. But if you have a lemon, some white vinegar and an ice cube tray, you can make your own cleaner for mere pennies. Simply slice the lemon into small pieces (including the rind), and drop them into an ice cube tray. Fill with vinegar and freeze. When your disposal needs a cleaning, use a couple cubes with the water running.

 

Counter cleaner is another favorite. This homemade product smells great, costs very little and kills germs! We use one gallon of distilled water, 2 teaspoons of washing soda (this is not baking soda – look for washing soda!) 1 teaspoon liquid soap, and 1/4 teaspoon of essential oil. For years I have used a combination of tea tree oil, lavender oil, thyme oil and lemon oil. The antibacterial qualities of these essential oils will help keep your counters clean and germ free. You end up with a gallon of wonderful spray cleaner that will last a long time!

This laundry soap recipe has been shared by many – but just in case you missed it – this one works great! There are two ways to make the detergent – and I prefer the “dry” version because of the amount of storage space the “wet” version requires. Figured I didn't need to store “water”! I simply combine one and a half cups of washing soda with a half cup of borax. Then add one bar of either Fels Naptha soap (grated) or one bar of Ivory to the washing soda/borax mixture. Use 1 tablespoon for regular loads and 2 tablespoons for heavy loads. Note: I soak the majority of my grease-laden clothes for 8 hours or so and also add a couple of teaspoons of lemon or orange essential oils to help cut the grease. Depending on how fine you grate the soap, this extra soaking time also allows the soap to melt.

Besides saving you money at the grocery store, these products keep you away from harmful toxins that are in many household products. Consider this – essential oils are an economical way to disinfect, clean, and deodorize. Thyme oil kills strep and staff on surfaces, lavender and rosemary are anti-bacterial, anti-infectious and anti-viral. Lemon oil kills strep and staff in the air and is great for cutting grease. Use equal parts eucalyptus, tea tree and lavender oils for air fresheners. Simple products, natural products. Simple!