Friday, May 14, 2010

Refried Beans


Here is Maria's basic recipe for Refried Beans

1 lb. pinto beans - rinsed and sorted
1/4 onion - diced
Salt to taste
1 c. oil or lard (Maria thinks the lard gives a better flavor than the oil, but I haven't gone there)

Place beans in bottom of large pot and fill 3/4 full with water. Add onion and bring to a boil. Allow to cook (boiling) for two hours or until soft. Once soft, add salt to taste.

In a separate large pan heat oil/lard on high until it is very hot (this is key). Strain cooked beans into a separate bowl or pan, but reserve the juices/bean broth. Once the oil is very hot, quickly drop beans (no liquid) into hot oil and cover with a lid. Allow to boil for 2 minutes. Remove lid and stir. Using the bottom of a glass or strong cup begin to gently mash the beans as they continue to cook - take care not to burn yourself on pan sides or bottom.


Add juice if necessary - adjusting the viscosity according to your personal preferences. These beans may be slightly chunkier than processed and prepared refried beans. If a smoother texture is desired, after straining beans, blend, adding liquid as needed, then add to hot oil and stir and cook until incorporated.


Note that beans generally thicken as they cool.
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Chicken Enchiladas in a Tomatillo Sauce


Thanks to my good friend Maria for sharing this recipe with me today. She calls these 'enchiladas suisas', or Swedish Enchiladas.

Meat from 1 rotisserie chicken - shredded
12 flour tortillas

Tomatillo Sauce
2 lbs. tomatillos (the little green tomatoes with the husks)
2 tsp. chicken bouillon
1/4 of an onion
2 garlic cloves
1 c. cilantro
1 c. sour cream

Shredded cheese
1/4 c. chopped red, green, and yellow peppers

After husking and rinsing, boil tomatillos in a saucepan until they become soft - approx. 10-15 minutes.

Remove tomatillos with a slotted spoon and place in blender along with onion, garlic, and cilantro. Blend until smooth. Blend in bouillon and sour cream. Set aside.

Place shredded chicken inside tortillas and wrap 'burrito' style, placing in a large, oiled/sprayed baking dish or pan.
Pour half of the tomatillo sauce over the enchiladas and garnish with shredded cheese and peppers.

Bake at 350* for 15-20 minutes - just long enough to melt the cheese and heat everything through.

Serve with remaining tomatillo sauce if desired.
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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fried Chicken

Several years ago my sister was sharing a recipe with me and she said, 'then you fry it, just like when you make fried chicken'. At that moment, I realized that I didn't know how to make fried chicken.


Fast forward about nine years. Two months ago my daughter asked me if she'd ever had fried chicken. Sure I replied, at KFC. She asked why I'd never made it for her. Good question I thought. My answer was simple - I'd tried it a few times, a few different ways and never like how it turned such, I never make it.

At that moment, I decided to go on a fried chicken recipe quest.

I spent two full days (it seemed like at least) watching youtube video tutorials and visiting several different websites trying to figure out which recipe was really the best. Then, I set out trying some of the different recipes, and I think I've finally perfected one that my family likes. My daughter ate two whole pieces of this the other night as she closed her eyes in bliss, informing us that THIS is her comfort food.

As I sifted through all of the recipes, I think I liked Alton Brown's the best. However, I don't always have buttermilk on hand and 24 hrs. to plan ahead. The rest of his recipe was super simple - which I adapted and really works for us.

The first time I made this, I bought the whole fryer and tried to figure out how to cut it up (I know - who doesn't know how to properly cut up a chicken?...ME!) It was interesting to say the least and I honestly didn't think it was worth the time and the effort (and I hope my mother doesn't read this because she'd be appalled!)

The second time I made this, I purchased thigh fillets - deboned and skinned from the grocery store on sale. I let them rest in milk for maybe 10 minutes. They only took about 20 minutes to cook, which was GREAT!

The picture shown above was made with frozen (de-boned and skinned) thigh fillets. I microwaved them for a couple of minutes to help the defrosting process, then soaked them in milk. Some of the milk froze onto them, but they seem to turn fantastic nonetheless!

Here's our family's favorite recipe for Simple Fried Chicken

8 boneless & skinless thigh fillets (we like the thighs because they are more flavorful and less dry)
1 c. flour
2 t. seasoning salt
1 1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. crushed basil
1/4 t. crushed oregano
1 1/2 t. paprika
black pepper
2 c. milk

Place chicken in milk and allow to soak for 10-30 minutes.

Combine all other ingredients in a ziplock bag and shake to incorporate.
Place chicken pieces one at a time in bag and gently toss to coat.

Melt 1/3 c. shortening in cast iron pan (cast iron allows for better heat distribution and better cooking), and heat oil to medium high heat. Place flour & spice coated chicken pieces in pan.

Slide digital thermometer probe into the middle of one of the pieces and cover pan with a splatter screen (I highly recommend a silicone splatter screen. I recently purchased one and I AM IN LOVE WITH IT!) Once chicken has reached an internal temperature of 160*, using tongs, carefully turn chicken pieces over and replace splatter screen. Once chicken has reached an internal temperature of 170*, turn off heat and remove from pan onto serving dish. Cover with foil and allow to rest for approximately 10 minutes.

Make sure to only turn chicken ONE time. Also, regulate heat. If it gets too hot, the oil will begin to smoke and the chicken will burn so watch carefully and adjust as needed.
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Friday, May 7, 2010

Butterfinger Bars

Several months ago, we stopped by my parent’s house for a visit. Almost everyone was there and so my mother pulled out the heavy artillery. She had tubs of baked goodies for everyone to munch on while we all visited. I blithely grabbed a square ‘something’ that looked almost like a brownie, but not quite, but enticing nonetheless because it was frosted. As I bit into it – I was transported. Yes, as in Star Trek – ‘beam me up Scotty’ transported…back to my elementary school. I was eating a much coveted, often traded (at very high stakes), always anticipated ‘Butterfinger Bar’. I couldn’t believe it.


Over the years I have searched for this specific recipe. I found some that professed to be the real thing, but I always came away disappointed. But now unbelievably, my mother had them there on a tray in front of me. I quickly noted where they all were on the tray and sneaked back into the kitchen to hide them all so that I could hoard them all before my siblings all happened upon my discovery.

I demanded to know where my mother had gotten the recipe and began negotiations to obtain the recipe (er..begging). Unfortunately, my mother said that she did not (oh fie!) have the recipe, and that she got the treats from a family member. Cousin, aunt, niece…she just couldn’t remember. Oh the agony!

While I left slightly disgruntled, my tummy was full and happy.

Long story short, I contacted a cousin and hit pay dirt on the first try! She did not make the Butterfinger Bars, her sister did. She however, also had the recipe and would be happy to send it to me…after she got home from work. What a great cousin! I am now the proud owner of the recipe for Butterfinger Bars, and can now transport myself back to elementary school whenever I want!

I made these this morning and found that due to my altitude I needed to make a few adjustments. So, here is the recipe, worked for a 6,000+ altitude. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

3/4 cup butter softened
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar

Mix in
1 tsp soda
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

1 3/4 cup flour
2 cups quick oats.

Spread into greased 11x17 bar pan. Bake at 350* for 12-17 minutes or until light brown (don't over bake).
Watch these carefully. For lower altitudes, bake at 325* for 10 – 15 minutes. When baked at 325* at a higher altitude, these take 22+ minutes. Take them out when they are light brown and puffy - just past the stage when you aren't sure if they are really done or not.

½- 1 c. peanut butter over top while still hot.

Let cool.
Spread with chocolate frosting.

Chocolate Frosting:
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tea vanilla
1/2 cup butter softened
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp cocoa

Mix all ingredients until smooth and creamy adding milk as needed for spreading consistency.
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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quick and Easy Lasagna

(Photo disclaimer - this photo is not indicative of the yumminess of this recipe. I forgot to take a photo when the lasagna was fresh and steaming hot from the oven. This is my left-overs for lunch photo)

I always thought that lasagna was a difficult, time intensive, and intimidating dish. About 12 years ago, I learned that lasagna could be made without pre-cooking the noodles (or purchasing fancy 'no-cook noodles'). I also learned that I could use prepared spaghetti sauce to speed up the preparation time and ease as well.

This is the recipe I've developed over the years for quick and EASY lasagna. I like to add spinach to mine, but it is just as easy to leave out. The juices from the spaghetti sauce hydrate the noodles so that this turns out perfectly, with minimal mess or fuss. This can be made and refrigerated 24 hours in advance and baked just prior to serving.

Spinach Lasagna
(Serves 12 - 14)

2 large boxes lasagna noodles (uncooked)
1 4 lb. jar Prego traditional spaghetti sauce
1 lb. cottage or ricotta cheese (or half cottage and half ricotta)
2 c. mozzarella cheese – shredded
½ c. parmesan cheese
2 eggs
2 t. dried basil
1 t. parsley
1 t. garlic powder
Fresh spinach
1-2 lbs. sausage, cooked and drained (or substitute w/ hamburger, add 1 t. fennel while cooking)

While meat is cooking, in a medium sized bowl, mix cottage/ricotta cheese, 1 c. mozzarella cheese, ¼ c. parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, garlic, and parsley together.

Spray large glass cooking pan with cooking spray (or two 9x13 pans) and apply a thin layer of spaghetti sauce. Place a layer of uncooked noodles on top of sauce. Cover with a layer of the cheese mixture. Add a layer of fresh spinach, and top this with a layer of spaghetti sauce. Repeat several times. After last layer of noodles is placed, cover with a final thin layer of spaghetti sauce and then sprinkle with remaining mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese.

Bake uncovered at 350* for 1 hour so that the cheese melts and begins to form a slight crust. Place foil over lasagna (so that the cheese doesn't burn)and allow to cook for an additional 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook for an additional 10 minutes. (Before removing from oven, pierce with a knife to ensure that the noodles are completely cooked).

Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes prior to serving.
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Jenny's Gingersnaps


Many years ago a friend presented me with a plate of these cookies and I couldn't believe how yummy they were. Here's my twist on her recipe.

Yield 7 dozen (this recipe is easily halved)

Cream together
1 c. butter
1 c. shortening

Mix in
4 c. sugar
4 eggs
½ c. molasses

2 t. salt
2 T. baking soda
2 T. ginger
1 ½ T. cinnamon
2 t. ground cloves
7 c. flour

Roll into balls (walnut-golf ball size.) Roll in sugar.
Bake at 350* for 12-15 minutes, or until cracks appear. Bake longer for crispy cookies, and shorter for soft and chewy. Remove from oven and immediately place on cooling rack for cooling.

Store in airtight container with a slice of bread to retain softness
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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Creamed Tuna on Toast

This is the first meal I remember making as a child for my family. There were lots of us and boy, did I make a lot of toast! For me, this is a very simple, satisfying, and quick meal as well as a comfort food. I was surprised when my kids asked for it for dinner last night - apparently they love it!


Argo's Classic White Sauce

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 4 cups

4 tablespoons Argo Corn Starch
1 quart milk
8 tablespoons butter OR margarine
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Stove Top: Combine corn starch and milk in a small saucepan; stir until smooth. Add butter, salt and pepper. Stirring constantly, simmer over medium heat for 1 minute.

Microwave: Combine corn starch and milk in a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl; stir until smooth. Microwave on HIGH (100%) for 2 minutes; remove and stir. Microwave 1 to 2 minutes more, or until mixture thickens and boils for 1 minute. Remove from microwave. Stir in butter, salt and pepper.

After preparing the white sauce, add two cans of drained tuna and 1 can drained peas (or 1 1/2 c. frozen).
Once the tuna and peas are heated, spoon over slices of lightly buttered toast and serve.
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tammi's French Bread Pizza Dough and French Bread

My friend Tammi made this pizza for us and shared the recipe.

Here's her recipe with a few slight modifications.

Heat oven to 400*

In medium sized bowl dissolve:
2 T. yeast
½ c. warm water
1 T. sugar
Set aside and allow to proof for approximately 10 minutes

Meanwhile, boil:
1/3 c. Crisco
2 c. water

Add to mixing bowl with:
3 c. flour
1 ½ t. salt
3 T. sugar

Mix using dough hooks. Allow to cool for a few minutes, and then add an additional 3 c. flour and mix. Add yeast mixture and mix for an additional 4-5 minutes.

Roll out onto greased baking stone or pizza pan. Divide in half for thin crust or use entire amount for a deep dish, thick crust pizza.

Bake dough for approx. 12 minutes. Remove from oven, add pizza sauce, cheese, toppings. Return to oven for approximately 15 minutes or until done.

French Bread Variation:
Allow dough to rise for 10 minutes, then punch down for 1 minute. Repeat three times.
Separate into 6 balls for braided loaves, or divide into two balls and roll each into a rectangle, then roll into a loaf. Allow to rise for 20-30 minutes on greased pan.

Bake at 400* for 25 minutes.
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