Friday, November 29, 2013

the ubiquitous thanksgiving leftover post: chipotle turkey salad

Chipotle Turkey Salad
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon canned chipotle pepper, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
Juice of one lime
1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Add all ingredients listed above into a bowl.  Stir to combine.
4 generous handfuls of chopped romaine lettuce
2 cups leftover turkey, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup cubed avocado
1/2 cup cotija or feta cheese, crumbled
  1. Toss the salad ingredients in a large separate bowl.  Add dressing and toss to coat.  Serve.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

how to restore a cast iron pan

This past Tuesday I volunteered to bring cornbread dressing to my son's School Thanksgiving Feast.  Confession.  I have never made my grandma's cornbread dressing.  Another confession.  I am a Texan and I do not cook southern food (Cajun, at times, but southern, hardly ever.)    I can't believe I just put that out there.  So I called my mom for the recipe and fished my cast iron pan out of the cabinet.

There it was-hardly used, never abused, just neglected and sticky.  Why was my pan so darn sticky?  Oh, it probably was the copious amounts of oil I used when I tried to season it.  Oi!  What is a southern, non-southern cook to do?

With a bit of research and faith in a lot of strangers I tried my own little method of restoring my sticky, tacky cast iron pan.  This method can also be used to restore rusty pans as well.

Scrub.  This is not the time to use your gentle cloth rags or your semi-scruffy blue scrub pad.  No, no.  Whip out the steel wool or the heavy duty scrub pads.  Yes, go against the rules! Put some muscle into it!  If you'd like, add salt for traction and get to scrubbing.  Once done check for the icky-sticky, discard the salt and rinse pan with warm water.

Wash.  Wash that mess with a dab of soap, if desired.  Be brave, you are once again being lured to the dark side-break the rules again!  Give it a good washing with a stiff brush and rinse when done.

Dry.  Dry your pan completely, thoroughly and immediately.  Don't air dry it on a rack.  Get 'er dry with a terry cloth towel.

Oil.  It doesn't take much.  In fact too much oil is what got me in this sticky situation.  I used a scant teaspoon for my 8" pan.  Rub vegetable or canola oil gently over the pan with a rag or paper towel.

Bake.  At 425 degrees F.  Place a piece of foil on the bottom rack (do this first, so you don't burn yourself).  Place pan upside down on the middle rack and bake for 45 minutes.  Turn off heat and let pan cool completely in the oven.
Ahhhhh, now I have a smooth cast iron pan.  Time to bake some cornbread!

***please note:  I am aware that I recommend a lot of "never evers" (i.e. using soap, using steel wool).  Please keep in mind this is a tutorial for restoring an unwell cast iron pan.  For basic cleaning I recommend a WASH, DRY, SEASON regime.

Monday, November 18, 2013

braised pork chops

Easy.  Flavorful.  Tender.  Aren't those the words you want to hear when describing your dinner?  Braised Pork Chops have been a long time dinner favorite at our house.  Months ago I made these when my mom came to visit.  When I announced that we'd be having pork chops for dinner, she snubbed her nose, her lips pursed and she accepted the menu hesitantly.  She shared that she didn't like pork chops because they are dry and stringy and have no flavor.  My answer was simple.  You've never had mine.  To her surprise she began to like pork chops that day and has since made this recipe several times.  This is evidence on how great these chops really are.  They can convert the non-chop-believers.

Fast forward to present, actually it was last Wednesday, so technically it is the past, but more current than the time described above...anywho...I did something I have NEVER done before.  Something so out of the ordinary I had to tell someone immediately.  My husband was shocked by my text and said he literally LOL'd as he was sitting in his office.

Wow! That's a first.  I BURNT THE PORK CHOPS! I don't know why my phone does that. (my phone randomly does ALL CAPS)  But seriously, burnt as in the wife cookin' for the 1st time burnt!  It's pretty bad...

I couldn't believe it.  Defeated, I salvaged what little meat I could, carving off the burnt edges and cutting it into tiny bits so E and I could eat something for dinner.  The hubs was lucky, he worked late.  However, something wonderful came out of that burnt mess-E actually ate all of his dinner!  And, he asked for leftovers the next day.  Obviously his salvaged portion was not as burnt as mine-mine was pretty bad but still edible. 

That is how good these chops are...they convert the non-believers and even if they are cooked to the nth degree, the pickiest eater in The Lone Star State accepts them onto his plate and into his tummy.  So, if you actually remember that you have dinner on the stove and not get lost in the deep, dark black hole of internet shopping (hem-hem), you will enjoy beautifully glazed, tender, flavorful pork chops.

Braised Pork Chops
serves 4

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3-4 center cut pork chops
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt
  1. Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium high heat.  Brown pork chops on all sides, 3 minutes per side.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together mustard, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire Sauce and garlic salt with 1/3 cup of water.  Pour over chops, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until tender, about 1 hour.
  3. Once pork chops are cooked, remove them from pan and tent with foil.  Turn heat to medium high and reduce sauce until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Add pork chops back to the pan and coat with glaze.
Source:  Southern Country Cooking from the Loveless Cafe; Jane & Michael Stern.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

when the light splits, glints & sings

The sun told me it was going to rain today.  He spoke through his halo.  The high cirrus clouds drifted above my head and danced with the sun's light.  They danced until the light split.  They danced until the light glinted and sung.  They danced in the curious world of refraction & reflection.  The sun beamed and burst until an ethereal crown glowed through a cool autumn sky.  Its halo, bright, white and calm, was a gentle reminder that mother nature is a wondrous thing to behold.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

jack skellington on halloween

Jack's Lament
Jack in Halloweentown
On our way to Trick-Or-Treat
Applying makeup to this child was like applying makeup on a rabid squirrel!!!  Tough job.
I thought this was just too adorable.
What! The night is over?!?