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a skillet, a slow cooker and the broiler

carnitas

Sometimes I am shocked when I discover the recipes that I have NOT posted on this site in the last five years.

I found a pork shoulder in my freezer and decided that the best thing I could do with it was to make carnitas. I would have sworn, that by now, I would have posted my carnitas recipe. I typed “carnitas” in the search bar over there on the right … No, there was no carnitas to be found. Strange!

crispy browned carnias

In the old days, I’d make carnitas one of two classic ways … deep-frying it in lard (oh my!) or slow roasting it in a hot oven for hours on end (not the best idea in the AZ summer!) … today, I use a slow cooker. OK, not only a slow cooker. Also a skillet at the beginning and a sheet pan, under the broiler, at the end.

The skillet, and a bit of olive oil, is needed at the beginning to brown the meat.  The slow cooker is used in the middle to make the meat fork tender, without heating up the entire kitchen. Finally, the broiler is used for only about 10 minutes at the end to make the pork crispy. Soft meat (which is what the slow cooker produces) does not qualify as carnitas! Below is a photo of some of the meat scrapes from the bottom of the slow cooker, placed in a tortilla. This is what you don’t want! Soft, over shredded, soggy meat. This is not carnitas!

unbrowned over shredded

Even though there are three distinctly different cooking stages, the hands-on time is minimal. Totally worth it! [Read more →]


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September 17, 2014   No Comments

roasted vegetable versatility

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Roasted vegetables are one of the most versatile foodstuffs to have on hand.

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Case in point – I roasted up a bunch of vegetables last week for a meeting I had here at the house.

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I used a few cups of the finished product for mini-pita sandwiches, which were devoured between the meeting attendees and my by guys, after the meeting.

roasted vegetable enchiladas

A couple of nights later I used them to make enchiladas for dinner.

vegetable scramble

And all week long, I added them to scrambled eggs for breakfast.

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No need for the sandwich or egg recipes; just stuff mini-pita halves and warm in a skillet before stirring in a couple beaten eggs. The enchilada recipe is below.

The link for how to roast the veggies has three more recipes using roasted vegetables. The only difference in how I roasted them this time, was instead of using olive oil, I sprayed the foil-lined pans with Pam, placed the vegetables on the foil and then sprayed the vegetables again with Pam before seasoning with salt and pepper and placing in the oven.

[Read more →]


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September 16, 2014   2 Comments

nom nom nom

Are you looking for a healthy Meatless Monday meal?

meatless

Move along, this recipe is not for you!

This is decadence at its best!

Oh sure, I used chicken breakfast sausage and soy chorizo …  don’t let that fool you, this is not a healthy, low-fat, low-cal recipe. It is deliciousness to the max!

soy

Are you still with me?

Good… Enjoy!

The recipe makes two skillets of Queso. It is best to do this in two small 8-inch cast iron skillets, as it is best eaten hot from the oven.

A larger skillet would allow the queso to cool and harden, which is exactly what we don’t want! It’s best while hot and melty.

queso fundido

Now you don’t have to use cast iron, but look how good it looks! You just need to make sure your skillets are oven-safe, meaning the handle won’t melt. If your skillet is not oven-safe, or if you’re not sure, just wrap the handle with at least 3 layers of foil… now it’s oven-safe and ready to rock and roll!

Assemble both skillets at the same time, cover one and place in the refrigerator until the other is about gone (This is guaranteed to happen within minutes of being placed in front of a hungry group!) then pop the second in the oven.

nom nom

Hungry Queso fans will be hanging around the oven, waiting for it to come out… that’s fine, it takes less than 10 minutes to bake.

[Read more →]


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September 15, 2014   2 Comments

Chicken Panzanella Salad

Here, as promised, is the second salad I served on “Dinner and Cards” night this past Friday.

main course salads

Another super quick and easy main course salad that is perfect for summer. It is especially easy and summer-friendly if you start with a purchased rotisserie chicken.

I was too lazy (or maybe it was just too hot to make another stop while shopping) to get a rotisserie chicken – since they don’t sell them at Trader Joe’s, which was the only stop I made.

roasted chicken

So, I started from scratch and roasted a little organic free-range hen instead.

[Read more →]


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August 5, 2014   3 Comments

surprise ingredient

Raw Chocamoca Tart with Espresso Syrup

Isn’t this tart beautiful?

You will not believe what this ultra rich and creamy dessert is made with.  And believe it or not, it is all raw. No baking involved, perfect for Arizona summers.

This is the final recipe I will be sharing with you from my full-day cooking class at Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland.

Raw Chocamoca Tart with Espresso Syrup3

I have saved the best for last.

When I first heard what the secret ingredient was, I was certain that I would not like this dessert. Oh, how wrong I was! You’ll have to read the recipe and check out the photos to see what I’m talking about. I don’t want to give it away quite yet.

line pan bottom

Instead of a tart pan, the dessert uses a springform. Since it’s not cooked, there is no reason to cut out a perfect circle to line the bottom of the springform. Just place a piece on the bottom part of the pan…

attach ring

Attach the sides, the ring part of the pan, and you’re ready to rock and roll.

remove from base

Removing it is a breeze as well. Run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen, then remove the ring and slide a long thin pallet knife or spatula between the paper and the base…

remove from bottom

…to move the tart, with the paper, to the counter.

tart pan bottom

Then, use the removable bottom of a real tart pan to transfer the tart from the paper to a serving plate.

move to platter

[Read more →]


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August 4, 2014   4 Comments

cards and dinner

george and Julie

Last night, we had George and Julie over for cards and dinner. You may remember George and Julie as the “side vs. salad” couple from the 4th of July party. That’s George sitting on the cool deck and Julie in the blue top on the far right.

limoncello lemonade

We’ve always been a big “cards family.” We play either Hearts, Spades, Rummy 500, Pinochle, or Gin Rummy with my dad nearly every Sunday. So “cards and dinner” is nothing new at our house, but having another couple over for that explicit reason is.

jars and crackers

I had family obligations all morning and into the early afternoon, so dinner had to be fast and easy. I made a quick cocktail by whizzing a few frozen mixed berries in the blender with about a cup of purchased lemonade. I strained out the seeds and put the mixture in a pitcher and then added the rest of the bottled lemonade and popped that in the fridge to chill. When it was time to serve, I poured the berry-lemonade and an ounce of vodka over ice and topped it off with a splash of homemade limoncello. Cocktail Done!

When Dave got home from work, I asked him to the scour the refrigerator for olives and the pantry for smoked fish and pâté and arrange it on a platter with some crackers and grissini breadsticks.  Snacks Done!

Below is the recipe for one of the two salads I made, the other will follow in a day or so.

[Read more →]


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August 2, 2014   1 Comment

flat green beans

Ballymaloe Cookery School

Ireland has THE BEST green beans in the entire world! It’s actually difficult to categorize the “Irish green beans” as beans and as vegetables. They are more like long green pieces of sweet delicious candy!

This is not a matter of personal opinion, it is a fact!

I have never seen green beans like these in any grocery store or farmer’s market in Arizona. Never!

flat green beans

I searched for images on Google by typing in “long, wide, flat, best green beans in the world.” What you see above, is what came up.

Yes, I believe that these are the beans. See how flat and wide they are? Since there is no point of reference, it’s hard to tell how long they are, but I still think this may be them. I’m going to order some seeds and try to grow them for myself.

kitchen rack

When our little group of six began the hands-on portion of the day-long cooking class at Ballymaloe Cookery School, we were thrilled to learn that one of the four recipes we’d be tackling (out of the 18 recipes) was the Gremolata Green Beans.

Ballymaloe kitchens

We prepped the beans, then dropped them in the boiling water to blanch. After they were rinsed and then spread out on a platter to be “set aside” while we made the gremolata, we would snag one or two (or ten) every time the instructor turned away. Exactly like little girls, sneaking candy! Well, except for the Irish young woman in our class, Amie. Somehow Amie restrained herself, but we five Americans – thieves. Common thieves were we.

Above is our instructor with two of the bean-stealing “little girls” from my group.

classmates and instructor

The beans were meant to be shared with the other 30 students for our evening meal. We didn’t care, we wanted to snack on them and have them all to ourselves!

In the background of the photo above are some of the “unfortunates” who didn’t get as many green beans as they were entitled to. In the foreground – our gremolata prep. The beans are either all gone or just out of view.

Ballymaloe kitchen window

I tried to recreate the recipe at home, using our regular old sub-standard, nothing-like-candy green beans, and they were OK. I’m certain that to most uneducated palates, they would be declared delicious and these poor unfortunate “don’t-know-any-betters” would be thrilled with the dish.

My husband, son and dad thought they were fabulous. But I know better.  Of course, I share the recipe with you below.

My new quest is to get my hands, and teeth, onto the real deal. If you have ever seen, or more importantly know, where to get long, flat and wide green bean candy, please let me know!

Allow me to apologize beforehand for the out of focus photos I took of the green beans during the cooking class.

lunch beans

I may have been high on the all the green bean candy I ate and my hands must have been shaky. That must be it – I know you wouldn’t challenge my excellent photography talents!

[Read more →]


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July 30, 2014   No Comments

Ballymaloe chicken coops and succotash

Ballymaloe garden

Dave, Connor and I spent an hour or so walking around a very small part of the Ballymaloe House grounds.

Ballymaloe map

We searched out and found the chickens.

free range chickens

Hundreds of chickens who were so happy and content with the big bins of fresh kitchen scraps.

kitchen scraps

Plus oyster, clam and mussel shells from last night’s dinner.

oyster shells

Chickens need the calcium and the grit from oyster shells. If you want to learn more about the reason, go HERE.

trailer chicken coop

As we were walking towards them, we noticed a couple old trailers on the other side of the fence from the “chicken yard.”

chicken coop trailer

Guess what the trailers are used for?

trailer coop

Chicken Coops!

How brilliant is that?

There was a gentleman in a little red golf cart who was collecting the eggs. All he had to do was open the trailer door, step in and gather the eggs for The Yeats Room and the school.

Ballymaloe back kitchen eggs

There are no eggs in this healthy and scrumptious salad recipe from the Ballymaloe Cookery School. It’s a twist on the traditional American Succotash. I love the addition of quinoa and the change from lima beans to chickpeas.

[Read more →]


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July 29, 2014   2 Comments

zucchini melts

zucchini melts with grilled asparagus and tomatoes

What does this plate say to you?

To me – it screams SUMMER! All those bright and colorful veggies, grilled to perfection!

You can use your outdoor grill or a grill pan to make it. I chose the grill pan … for obvious reasons.

After looking over the post, you almost don’t need a recipe. I took so many photos of each step – so as long as you know that you need enough olive oil, salt and pepper to coat everything, you might want to skip the reading and just use this as a pictorial instructions. Enjoy.

[Read more →]


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July 26, 2014   3 Comments

grill-master fail

One of the appetizers that I planned to serve at the 4th of July party was these cheese-filled grilled mini peppers.

Cheese-Stuffed Grilled Sweet Mini Peppers

Don’t they look yummy? My guests never got a taste, let alone a glimpse, of them. This photo is lifted from the web. That’s because, my grill-master husband turned the 30 little peppers, that I lovingly spent time and effort cleaning out and stuffing, into charcoal.

Photos of his burnt-to-the-crisp peppers at the bottom of the post.

[Read more →]


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July 13, 2014   2 Comments