It’s Five Somewhere

FullSizeRender-2Having the people you love in different time zones can be a pain in the tuchas. First, you always have to remember what time it is where they are, as opposed to where you are. Then there’s math. Add 3, subtract 1, no, wait. Is that subtract 2? How many of us have called someone, thinking math and time was on their side, only to get a sleepy “huh?” Or worse, “WHAT HAPPENED?!!” Then there’s screwing up the collective viewing of a favorite show. If it’s not a live event, you either stand in danger of being the spoiler or the spoiled. All because someone decided to throw up arbitrary time boundaries through the middle of the map.

Yet, there are distinct advantages to time zoning, and I learned quickly how to work them. I could swap snark with the gang back home during long Oscar broadcasts, still see my favorite non-preempted programs, and walk into work the next day without the bleary-eyed blahs. And then there’s cocktail hour. You know that phrase “well, it’s five o’clock somewhere”. Living in differing time zones pretty much guarantees at least one of your pals is time-appropriate tippling. Want to toast something after work with your Jersey Shore pal when you live in rural Oregon? Well what do you know, it’s five o’clock there. Oh sure, I suppose you could do that anywhere. But somehow when you actually know someone bellying up at the sanctioned hour right now, it’s like the Royal Observatory in Greenwich is giving the big thumbs up. So cheers to you all in the east, mountain, pacific, and that one county in Arizona where no-one knows what the hell time it is. It’s five o’clock somewhere!

FullSizeRender-1Last week I had the pleasure of teaching a new class to some of the residents of Flagstone Senior Living. The schedule of this class was set specifically to serve as a prelude to their afternoon happy hour. Naturally, this inspired my recipe and demo, and Savory Shortbread became the lesson of the day. They get their alternative name from an uncanny flavor resemblance to a popular childhood nibble. Cheers! 🙂

Grownup Cheese-Its (Savory Shortbread)

This is an adaptation of something Ina Garten does, though she includes the addition of herbs. I originally made these for a new winery tasting room opening, so I omitted the herbs, and switched up the cheese a little.

Makes 2-3 dozen

  • 1 stick (4 oz.) salted butter, softened
  • 3 ounces (about a cup) grated and shredded parmesan, romano, grana padano or a combination (**SEE NOTE ABOUT CHEESE BELOW)
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • *Pinch salt (*if you are using unsalted butter, add ¼ teaspoon of salt. Otherwise I’d leave out since the butter and cheese are already salty.)

[** A little bit about cheese: the original recipe called for finely grated parmesan. I didn’t have enough but did have some shredded parm so did half that, half grated. The shortbread came out with adorable reddish freckles, and everyone LOVED IT!  So now I use a grated/shredded combo. The key here is they should be dry cheeses. If you had a great extra aged sharp cheddar that kind of crumbles it would be fine too.]

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TO MAKE THE DOUGH:

Beat the butter in/with an electric mixer until it is creamy. Whisk together the rest of the ingredients (cheese, flour, pepper) in another bowl. When the butter is nice and creamy, dump in the dry ingredients. Now here’s the trick so that your kitchen DOES NOT get covered in flour the minute you turn on the mixer. Take a kitchen towel, and drape it over the mixer bowl. Pulse mixer 4 or 5 times on low to start, while you are covering bowl with towel just until the flour starts to incorporate. As soon as there are no loose bunches of flour, and the dough just begins to form a ball, stop the mixer.

Lightly flour a work surface, and dump the now crumbly dough onto it. You can go one of two ways here. Form it into a disk if you want to roll the dough and cut into shapes/bars, or roll the dough into a log that is about 2 to 2 ½ inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in cling wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, longer if you like, and you could also pop the wrapped dough in a freezer bag and stow there for when you want to use it. FullSizeRenderTO BAKE OFF: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line two sheet pans with parchment. If you made the dough into a log, just cut ½-inch slices and place on the baking sheet. These won’t spread much, so you can put the shortbread pretty close together. You can even bake these right from the freezer, just add a little more baking time.

If you are slicing and baking, you’ll need to let the dough warm up just a bit so you can roll it out. Flour your work surface, and roll the disk of dough out to about ½-inch thickness. Use a 2 or 2 ½ inch biscuit cutter, and cut out the shortbreads, place on the baking sheets. Gather up scraps and re-roll and cut.

Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through the baking process. Let cool completely before serving.

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…and sometimes, I don’t want to

No, this doesn’t have to do with job shopping (although I don’t particularly want to there either, but a gal’s gotta eat.) Sometimes, I really don’t want to cook. Or bake. Or do anything that calls for more effort than it takes to open a bag of salad and douse in the pre-made dressing and crouton packet. However, there too, a gal’s gotta eat, and when part of my funds for that come from shoving things into oven and hawking the results, “I don’t want to” inevitably turns to “suck it up cupcake – you have to”. Which brings me to doughrigami.

I’ve experienced the zen-like attention to making puff pastry from scratch. Roll, fold, rest…roll, fold, rest…repeat again, and again. It’s kinda the flour and butter equivalent of “wax on…wax off”. Patience + time = puff. Know what else equals puff? Freezer section + Pepperidge Farms. So the other day when I had a new class/demo to teach, wasn’t sure of the kitchen I’d be teaching it in, and, frankly, didn’t wanna pull out the butter and flour, I pulled out the box of puff from the farm, and started playing.

The reason puff pastry does what it’s named for is due to many layers of butter and dough. Those layers push upward like an accordion when high heat hits the water in the butter and turns it to steam. It’s like a little pastry steam engine. And when you make little slices, scores and folds in the dough here and there before it hits the oven, wonderful things happen. It’s origami, with dough. Doughrigami!

Doughrigami is actually ridiculously easy once you get the hang of it, impresses the hell out of your friends, and you get to eat any mistakes. It’s also a good way to turn a sometimes I don’t want to, to an I’m glad I did. 🙂

2016-04-08 09.21.41Doughrigami

What you’ll need:

  • 1 box of puff pastry sheets (two 9″x9″ sheets per box)
  • Rolling pin, sharp paring knife, pizza cutter, ruler, pastry brush, serrated knife (if you are making mini sandwiches)
  • Flour for work surface
  • Cream, half & half, milk, or just plain water
  • Yummy savory and sweet things to bake in or top the puff once baked (cinnamon-sugar, grated cheese, jam, cream cheese, smoked salmon, chocolate ganache, berries…you get the idea.)

Since puff is sold frozen, you’ll have to thaw so you can work with it. I like to pull it out the night before I use and let it do that in the fridge. You can also do it in about 40 minutes on a counter. You want it cold but not frozen. Also, puff pastry doesn’t last more than a day all nice and crispy so try to bake them as close to serving as possible for maximum shattering buttery goodness. That said, what you can do with all of these is form them, then stow them in the freezer, and when you are ready to bake, just pull and pop in oven.

Preheat oven to 400º F. Lightly dust your work surface so all your hard work (ok, not so hard work) doesn’t stick. Dust the rolling-pin and ruler too.

Mini Puff Sandwiches: (These make stinkin-cute nibbles with your favorite adult beverage)

Puff pastry sheets, the ones from the farm that is, are 9-inch x 9-inch squares, folded in three. This means once unfolded, you’ve already got three 3-inch x 9-inch strips, that just need a little slice down the folds. Now you have two choices. You could just cut each strip into three squares, 3×3, or if you like your tiny sandwiches rectangular, use the rolling-pin to coax another inch out of the dough, lengthwise, then cut to 2×3 inch rectangles. Place the dough on parchment-lined baking sheet.

If you are going to fill the “sandwiches” with something savory, brush lightly with cream or water, sprinkle with a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper. If it’s sweet going inside, sprinkle with a little sugar or better yet, cinnamon-sugar.

Baking time is going to vary on all the doughrigami. Puff pastry doneness is more by eye than time. I always start at 10 minutes on the top rack, let them puff, then lower them to bottom rack and bake 5-10 or so minutes more so they get nice a golden brown and the bottoms are cooked. There’s nothing worse than beige puff with soggy bottoms. Once they are done, cool completely, then use a serrated knife to slice them in half horizontally. Spread whatever you like on the bottom, place top on top, and nibble away!

The bottom left is a pinwheel. Bottom right is a such.

Pinwheels & Such:  Both of these start out as squares. If you go with 3×3, it’s more a nibble, 4″x4″ more dessert-ish/breakfasty. This is why you need a ruler, rolling-pin, and pizza cutter. Makes all of this much easier. And a sharp pairing knife for these guys. Take your square, and for pinwheel, make a slice in each corner towards the middle. Wet your finger with water and dab a little in the center, then take alternating corners and press to middle to make pinwheel. (Don’t worry, I did it wrong the first two times, then got the hang of it. Same with the “such”.)

For the Such:  carefully make a slice around the corner on opposite sides of the square about 1/2 inch from the edge, and to about half way along the edge in each direction. (Ok, look at the pictures below….you’ll get it.) Now dip your finger in a little water and dab the inside point where you made the cut. Gently pull the outside edge across to the opposite inside point. (Again, check that picture out.) Do the same for the other side, making sure to press it to the dough so it sticks. Brush everything with a little cream and sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon-sugar.  Bake until done (see above.) Let cool completely, then fill the middle with jam, chocolate ganache and a berry, cream cheese, whatever you like. Finish with a dusting of powdered sugar.

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Easy tarts: These have been my go-to “can you bring dessert” response for a very long time. Here I’ve made two – one with a base of apple butter, sliced apples and cinnamon-sugar, one with just fresh rhubarb and strawberries, and sugar. I’ve also done these with cherry tomatoes tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper. You can use a full sheet, or roll it out a little to 12″ x 9 ” and slice down the middle to make two 6″x 9″ rectangles. All you need to do is score the pastry rectangle about 1/2-inch from edge. Score, not cut all the way through – I use a butter knife or the back of my paring knife. Spread, lay out or sprinkle the fruit or filling inside the scored edges, brush the outer edge with cream or water and sprinkle with sugar, or in the case of the tomatoes, sea salt and pepper.  Bake until the edges have puffed to form a crust and the bottom is crisp — again, start with 10-15  minutes on top rack, move to bottom or middle, bake until done, lowering the temp or covering the top if the edges look like they are getting too dark.

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Cheese squiggles: Hi, I’m Karin. I’ve never made a successful cheese straw that stayed twisted in my life. But, I’ve got something better. Take your favorite grated cheese (parm, locateli, mix of whatever), sprinkle the board. Take a sheet of puff and place over the cheese and roll over a few times with the rolling-pin. Flip the sheet, sprinkle some more cheese, do it again. Now cut strips 1-inch wide, 9″ (or thereabouts) long. Take a metal skewer, and thread the cheesy dough through (think ribbon candy.) Bake as usual. My cheese straw shame is appeased.

 2016-04-08 07.55.20 2016-04-07 17.32.06

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  :-)

Aluminum Rooms

cropped-dsc01979.jpgIf you grew up where I did, chances are diners were a part of your life. A big part. Regardless of whether it was a six booth and counter aluminum room or acropolis of 24-hour neon and naugahyde, the local diner usually served the same purpose. It was the auxiliary kitchen table. And just like at home, important things happened across diner tables. Life changing events were shared. Met a new guy and things starting to get serious? The besties were summoned to a booth, and the details dished over dishes of cheese fries. Break-up eminent and you needed your girlfriend’s shoulders to sob on? Just tell them to meet you at the diner for cheesecake. That’s all the explaining you had to do. By the time you got there they’d have reserved your usual booth, kleenex in hand.

Diners in the NY-Metro area could be small or large, but never understated. Neon, chrome-rimmed, with sparkly vinyl seats befitting a tricked out 70s corvette were par for the course. Decor could vary from Elivs-movie raceway to Athens via the BQE, but one thing you could always count on. The autographed picture behind the counter. For a time Telly Savalas was popular, but as time and television programming changed, Don Johnson, John Travolta, and my favorite, Abe Vigoda were often enshrined behind the butter cookies and melt-away mints at the register.

I miss diners, as much for the ritual as for the food. I loved the weekend diner breakfasts, catching up over eggs, planning the day. And as the last stop of the evening, nothing capped off a fun night with friends better than a plate of pancakes or onion rings in the wee hours. I’ve moved pretty far away from the local diner, but I’m not too worried about that. Because even if there’s no autographed Telly, and “diner” isn’t in the name, as long as there’s a booth and friends to share it, I’ll aways have a kitchen table away from home.

2016-02-04 18.10.45When I think of diners, I think of onion rings. Battered and fried onion rings. Probably because this was the dish most often consumed in the wee hours after work as a waitress at the Rustler Steak House. Yes, my first foray into the culinary arts was done while wearing a plastic cowboy hat.

Anyway, I recently got back from a trip to Salt Lake City, during which I spent a lot of time enjoying some pretty great cider with a cider maker who’s pretty great too. Which brings me back to onion rings. In honor of my diner nostalgia, the Superbowl, and because I’ve been playing with cider recipes lately, here’s my take on a favorite late night treat – Cider Battered Onion Rings.


Cider Battered Onion Rings

The amounts below are for about two portions, but the recipe is easy doubled

  • 1/2 cup flour plus extra for dusting the onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry hard cider like Ruby
  • Two large onions
  • 1/2 cup oil (I used coconut oil and it worked great!)
  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onions
  • 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

For the Onion Salt: 

These rings are good, but a sprinkle of onion salt makes them great. Take the minced onions and the coarse sea salt and grind them up together in a food processor or spice grinder to a fairly fine powder. You’ll have much more than you need for the rings, but this stuff is pretty great on taters, steak, etc.

For the Onion Rings:

Peel and slice the onions into rings about 1/4″ thick, and separate the rings. You could also do these in half moons if that’s easier.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Add the cider and whisk until there are no lumps. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.

When your batter is ready, heat the oil in a deep frying pan (I use cast iron for this). You can test when the oil is hot enough by dropping a tiny bit of batter in once the oil is “shimmering” (about 350F on a thermometer if you want to go that way). If the batter sizzles and cooks, you’re good to go.

You’ll want to set up a place to put the cooked rings before starting to fry, since things go  fast once you’re sizzling rings. Here’s how I do it:   I cover my counter closest to the stove with a brown paper grocery bag. It sops up grease well, makes an easy place to season with onion salt, no waste of expensive paper towels, and easy clean up. Once I’ve laid out the bag, I put a dish of the onion salt right next to it for easy sprinkling once the rings come out of the oil and are still hot.

Now to the frying: Throw a little flour in a bowl, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Dredge the first batch of onions in the flour, then in the batter, and carefully place in the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan. The battered ring will puff up, which is exactly what you want. Fry for about 3 minutes on one side or until golden. Carefully turn over, and fry another few minutes til done. Remove to paper bag, and sprinkle on a little of the onion salt. Repeat with the remaining rings. If I’m making a bunch, I’ll put a cooling rack on a baking sheet, put the finished rings on it and keep them warm on it in a 300F oven while frying the next batch

Serve with a cold glass of Ruby or your favorite hard cider.

It may not have "diner" on the sign, but you may be pleasantly surprised...

It may not have “diner” on the sign, but you may be pleasantly surprised…

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

Real Gourmet

DSC07902I’m a good, sometimes great cook, and my heart cockles warm when I overhear someone I’ve fed call me that. But please, pretty please, don’t call me a “gourmet cook”. I honestly hate that term. I don’t know if it’s because it brings to mind visions of snooty elites and $100 entrees, or that I just have no idea what a “gourmet cook” is. Either way it’s one of those phrases that just pisses me off.

According to wiki-whatever, the word means “refined, elite, a higher degree of sophistication” and other hoity words you’d suspect. As if a gourmet’s palate has specially adapted taste buds that look down upon the lower, classless buds living on the other side of the tongue. To me, food should be far more democratic than that. I’m a culinary socialist with a palate of the people. Sure I love layered flavors, unique ingredients, creative cooking and top quality tasty things. I just don’t think those things should be elevated over a really good street dog with the works, a perfectly baked potato, or even a late-night plate of stoner nachos. If it tastes great at the time you’re tasting, right on! Who’s to say noshes that would send a self-defined gourmet screaming into the night aren’t gourmet to someone else? After all, one mouth’s trash is another mouth’s treasure, right?

Which brings me to Mormon Funeral Potatoes and a moment of enlightenment. This most tasty and decidedly not (by Wiki standard) gourmet fare falls into the culinary category of hot dish or casserole. You know, one of those wonderful concoctions shared at potlucks and hospitality hours, or brought over to nourish the grieving and guests (hence the name). In its most traditional form, a can of condensed soup, cheese and corn flakes aren’t far from the ingredient list. About a week ago, I tasted a version that can only be described as bar food nirvana.

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The best bar food EVER, courtesy of The Garage on Beck (and Josh).

That Mormon Funeral Potatoes would enter my life had been foretold to me about a month or two earlier. After receiving instructions to “google it”, I had a vision of what might unfold from this potato and cheese prophesy. But it wasn’t until I landed in Salt Lake City a few months later that the full extent of my culinary awakening was clear.

My prophet escorted me into a temple of MFP worship called The Garage on Beck. Our minister Josh handed us prayer menus and we took our place on stools, ready to receive our tater testimony.  Sacramental PBRs were poured, and the reason I was there was placed in front of me. One bite of the revelatory nugget and I knew my life would be forever changed by this bar nosh of trashy greatness. Am I gushing? Perhaps. But if you’d tasted a perfect creamy combination of cheese, bacon and potato wrapped in a perfect deep fry crunch and washed it down with a cold beer, you’d be gushing from steeple-top too. This, my brothers and sisters, this right here, is real gourmet food. AMEN!

IMG_2018 The manager of The Garage on Beck, Josh, is terrific guy. I have a complimentary shot glass to prove it. Unfortunately, Josh was a bit hesitant to ask the cook when when I inquired about the recipe for bar nosh nirvana. I get that. When you’ve perfected something so wonderful, you want to keep it close. Luckily, he was able to give me a  really good visual on what went into the mix, so I figured I could play around a little when I got home. What I found out after some more research is that I wasn’t the first to ask for the recipe. Sunset Magazine had beat me to it, and published it when they featured Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes as one of their Chefs’ Favorite Restaurant Dishes in March 2013. So that’s the recipe I’ll share with you. Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t play around a little with it, since that’s kinda what I do.

At The Garage, MFP are served with a ranch dressing dipping sauce. But my mormon funeral potato missionary and I thought there might be a better way. With the original recipe from Sunset, I’ve included two suggestions for dipping sauces. The first, Wasabi Ranch, and the second Horseradish Honey Mustard both gave a really nice bite of heat and sweet, but if you’d like to stick with ranch I can testify that it was really tasty too. And if you come up with another saucy suggestion, please share in the comments. What good is finding wonderful noshes of trashy goodness if you can’t spread the word! 😉

Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes (From Sunset Magazine, February 2013) 

Makes 20

These little nuggets from The Garage restaurant, in Salt Lake City, are based on Mormon funeral potatoes, a crunchy, cheesy, creamy casserole dish that is served at just about any big function in that town. Rolled into balls and deep-fried, they are totally over the top.

  • 8 ounces bacon, chopped, cooked, and drained
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 or 2 jalapeño chiles, minced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups defrosted frozen shredded hash browns
  • 1 cup coarsely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup finely ground corn flakes, divided
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Chopped parsley (optional)

Whirl bacon, cream cheese, onion, jalapeños, green onion, and sour cream in a food processor, about 1 minute. Place in a large mixing bowl. Stir hash browns, cheddar, flour, cornstarch, salt, eggs, and 3 tbsp. ground corn flakes into bacon mixture. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop up a scant 1/4 cup of potato mixture and roll into a ball. Drop ball into a bowl filled with 3/4 cup corn flakes and roll to coat (mixture will firm up once coated). Place on sheet and repeat with remaining mixture. Chill until ready to cook. Heat 2 in. oil in a medium pot until it registers 350° on a deep-fry thermometer. Fry potato balls, a few at a time, until golden, 5 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels.

Wasabi Ranch Dip/Dressing Makes about 1/2 cup, and can be doubled/tripled easily Whisk together the following ingredients. Chill until ready to use. (This is also pretty awesome on a steak sandwich!)

  • 5 TBSP sour cream
  • 2-3 TBSP buttermilk (depending upon how thin you want dip)
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp prepared wasabi (depending on taste and heat tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Lowry’s Season Salt
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • 2 tsp – 1 TBSP mayonnaise
  • Squirt of lemon

Horseradish Honey Mustard Whisk together the following and chill until ready to use.

  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBSP prepared horseradish
  • 2 tsp honey

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  

The 12th Woman

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I’m a lazy football fan. If the game is on I’ll watch it, but more likely as background noise than something I’m riveted to my couch to watch. I considered it much like golf or pro bowling. Turn the volume down, and it makes nice company for a lazy sunday nap. That’s before I moved to the pacific northwest.

Up until last year, my loyalties to gridiron gladiator were somewhat anemic. I’d cheer the local guys, happy if either one made it all the way, but not particularly undone if they didn’t. If invited to a Super Bowl party, I’d try to match my outfit (or at least my socks) to the team color, but beyond that, no major effort was made. Then I landed here. Sure it helped that the local team not only made it, but won the BIG show last year. But here was something else too. In a world of jerseys and painted faces (and guts, which takes a lot of guts to do when you’re in Green Bay or Buffalo), I was given a number. Suddenly I wasn’t just a fan, I was part of the team. I know the phrase “the 12th man” is not new to football, but these guys had a flag. I’m a sucker for a flag.

So this afternoon, when the hype stops and the game begins, I’ll be firmly behind the blue and white flag. The 12th man now has a 12th woman too. GO HAWKS!!

Lazy Chicken Enchiladas

Lazy Chicken Enchiladas

This recipe came about yesterday morning when I needed to clean out some room in the fridge. Seriously. I have some recipe development projects to start for a client in the coming week, along with truffle orders for Valentine’s Day, and needed space. I actually LOVE recipes like this. It uses up leftovers while satisfying a couch full of hungry fans, and the variations are endless.

This recipe truly is the height of laziness. The bones are familiar, basically a redux of my basic enchilada recipe that I shared a few weeks ago. But as I piled the ingredients up on my counter, the thought of warming the tortillas, then dishing out quarter cups of filling and rolling just wasn’t looking like much fun. See what I mean…lazy.

However, what if I just laid the tortillas in the casserole dish, and layered everything on top? Lazy Chicken Enchiladas has all the best parts of the original, but far less fuss.

Lazy Chicken Enchiladas

Serves 6

  • 1 16 oz. jar of your favorite enchilada sauce (about 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken (rotisserie is fine, or bake/poach about 12 oz. of boneless skinless breasts, thighs or a combo of both)
  • 10-12 corn tortillas, cut in 1/2
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a combo of cheddar and mozzarella)
  • 2 oz. block of havarti, muenster, or jack cheese, sliced thin (I do this will a vegetable peeler – works great!)
  • 1/2 cup drained and diced pickled hot peppers (I used peppadews)
  • 1/4 tsp each of garlic powder, cumin and chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp each of salt and black pepper

Preheat over to 400F.

2015-01-31 11.42.36 Add the thawed and dried chopped spinach and the diced hot peppers in a bowl, along with the garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and mix well. Put aside 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese for the top, and add in the rest and toss until combined.

2015-01-31 11.43.20Put 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish (I used my 8 1/2″ x11″ dish.) Layer in a third of the tortilla halves. I halved the tortillas so they were easier to line the pan and cover the sauce. 2015-01-31 12.00.08Now, like a lasagna, add half the spinach/pepper/cheese mixture, top with half the shredded chicken, and drizzle over a third of the remaining sauce. Do another layer of tortillas, filling, chicken and sauce, then finish with the last third of the tortillas and sauce, making sure to spread the sauce so it covers the tortillas.2015-01-31 12.01.03

Layer the thin slices of cheese over the top, and sprinkle the reserved 1/2 cup of cheese. Cover with a sheet of oiled foil (helps keep the cheese from sticking), and bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and browned a little.

2015-01-31 12.08.41Serve with wedges of lime, sour cream, and chopped avocados on the side. Calories: approximately 350-375 per serving.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

THE SKY IS FALLING!!!

snowheadThis past week the east coast was hit with a blizzard. Which, naturally, is portrayed by the various forecasters, meteorologists and sundry other weather people as SNOWPOCOLYPSE!! BLIZZAGHEDDON!! SHOVELPALOOZA!! Stock in Charmin is sky high due to demand outpacing supply. Easterners are forced to buy FULL FAT milk, as shelves are emptied of their precious 1 and 2%! The only cereal left in the aisle is All Bran, because everyone knows natural disasters and MEGA STORMS mean Captain Crunch and Fruit Loops are allowed as a meal substitute.The. End. IS. NEAR!!!!!

Ok CNN and the rest, get a grip. Sure it’s entertaining as hell to see all those broadcast Chicken Littles work themselves into a lather as they get footage of a lone snowflake on mitten (yes, we know each is unique, we too learned that in second grade), and flail arms over computer generated storm track maps.But it’s just snow. Butt-loads in places perhaps, but still just snow. Frozen water. Something that will melt, eventually. Inconvenient? Yes. Messy? You betcha. And isn’t it fun to hunker down in a cozy home with snuggly people, and the treats everyone allows themselves when the frozen stuff pours from the sky. Even the authorities know this. Orders of “shelter in place” translate to ‘stay inside and drink’. Surely that’s what they meant. And if you weren’t one of the hungry hoards standing on line in the markets during pre-snow hours of non-stop TV doom, you knew the unexpected joys of creating meal plans out of what you had in your bunker.

I think Mother Nature throws these meteorological events at us just for this purpose. After all, just how many boxes of the ‘San Francisco Treat’ do you plan on collecting before you die? There’s no contest you know. Add some cheese, a little of that full fat milk instead of water, roll in breadcrumbs and you’ve got the best fried rice balls you can guiltily have without guilt. You know there’s no guilt in a snowstorm, right? It’s a barometric pressure thing. You want pancakes and french toast and eggs and bacon and sausage? Go right ahead. You’ve got to keep up your strength…there’s SNOW out there!

The basic food groups shift too. Again, barometric pressure. And there are more of them. There’s the chocolate group, the butter group (dip is included in this, and cheese, lots of cheese), the wine group (or whiskey, or both), the “carrier” group (pasta, bread, potatoes, chips), and peanut butter. And anything you can bake with eggs, butter, flour and sugar. Incidences of baking seem to increase at the thought of snowflakes. If you’ve got peanut butter you don’t even need the flour. Peanut butter cookies are as easy as sugar, eggs and the Skippy. Gluten free too…see, it’s HEALTH FOOD!

Of course, by dawn’s light and the plow’s third pass, the crisis has passed, CNN turns back to whatever else is going on, and things go back to a slushy slog, and longing for spring’s first buds. So embrace it while it lasts. The shovel can wait ’til tomorrow…

DSC07878I love the opportunity to peruse the pantry and clear out. It’s a nice exercise in the Karin thought process. For example, why exactly do I have 4 cans of cannellini beans. I know why I had one, but apparently I kept thinking I needed more. Same goes for chickpeas. I really like hummus, but I’m one person. I don’t like it enough to warrant 3 cans of garbanzos worth. So with my wealth of beige legumes, and the Superbowl this weekend, I thought I’d try to come up with something that would purge these beauties from my pantry, in a snacky kind of way. Enter Garlicky Cannellini Bean Dip, and Roasted Spiced Chickpeas.

Roasted Spiced Chickpeas

Makes about 1 1/2 cups of chickpeas

This is a ridiculously simple recipe. Which is good, because the key to a snow day is not slaving over the stove, but rather lying around, eating, drinking, and generally saving up your strength to face the elements at some point. It’s also totally up to you what spices you add. Like curry instead of cumin? Go ahead. Want them a little sweet rather than savory? More cinnamon and a little pinch clove. Hotter? Have at it. You get the idea…

  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2-2TBSP olive oil
  • 1-1 1/2 tsp salt, depending on taste (I used sea salt, which is a bigger flake, so if you use regular table salt, you may want to cut back a bit.)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp smoked hot paprika (or cayenne or whatever spicy mix you like)

Preheat over to 375F. Drain, rinse and dry the chickpeas. I put them on a paper towel lined  sheet pan, then rub them with another paper towel. Some of the skins will probably come off, that’s fine. Just pick the skins out (they have a tendency to burn).

In a bowl, add the olive oil, salt, pepper and spices of choice. Whisk to combine. Toss in the now dry chickpeas and toss so they are all coated. Taste a chickpea and adjust seasoning if needed. Just don’t over salt. These shrivel up a little so a bit under salted is fine. You can always sprinkle a little more over at the end.

Pour out the seasoned chickpeas onto a foil-lined baking sheet, and arrange so they are all in one layer and spread out a bit. Roast for 40 minutes, shaking the pan a few times during roasting. Taste one and decide if you want them just crispy on the outside and creamy inside, or crunchy through. If you want crunchy, continue roasting for another 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn.

Cool and serve. These are best the day you make them. Calories: approximately 125 per 1/4 cup.

Garlicky White Bean Dip

DSC06069 - Version 2

Garlicky Cannellini Bean Dip

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com. Thanks!  🙂

 

Hoppy Hour

©cooking in my heels

©cooking in my heels

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know my grandmother has gotten a lot of ink on these cyberpages. To me she was Oma, but to those not swimming in her gene pool, she was Betty, or more likely Tante Betty. Tante Betty fully believed in giving back to the community. As long as the community understood that Tante Betty was in charge. Meaning that if in the course of her volunteerism she felt something wasn’t being run well, she would run it. Think of her as a female version of the Desert Fox –her kids did. The organization she was most intimately involved with was an assisted living facility we called the ‘Altenheim’ (or Old Folks Home). Actually, both my grandparents were involved with the Altenheim. My grandfather sat on its Board of Directors, and Tante Betty sat at one time or another on pretty much every other committee there was. When it came to any major holiday party, celebration, or whatever, her potato salad was likely on the buffet, and she was there organizing and telling people what to do, whether they wanted her to or not. The most consistent group she “managed” was the resident’s weekly hobby-hour, or as her German accent pronounced it, “Hoppy Hour”. The purpose of Hoppy Hour was not as you might assume, time set aside to fine tune your favorite hobby-esque activity. This hour of leisure craft had a very specific purpose –to create something wonderful that could be sold at the annual fundraising “Bat-Zaar” (think bazaar, but with teutonic accent.) Residents would gather Friday afternoons and Betty would set them to whatever task was scheduled that week. Countless crocheted potholders, a plethora of plastic mesh embroidered bookmarks, and baskets of felt holiday ornaments were churned out in the form of weekly hoppy hour product. It was Tante Betty’s benevolent factory. And if you didn’t do it correctly? Well, she would make sure you did, or redo it herself. All in the name of hoppy hour happiness. Martha Stewart had nothing on Tante Betty! Why exactly am I relating all of this? It seems I have become my grandmother. Or to be precise, I have become Hoppy Hour. Once a month in the upstairs kitchen/party room of a lovely assisted living facility in my town, Tante’ Betty’s granddaughter teaches cooking class for an hour or so. A subset of residents, all Tantes in their own right, are my most enthusiastic students, and everyone (especially me) has a pretty great time. The only difference is, instead of adding valuable merchandise to the annual bat-zaar bin, we eat our projects at the end of class. I have a feeling Tante Betty would be just fine with that too. IMG_6891 This past week my lovely students at Hawk’s Ridge were treated to a dish that took advantage of the wealth of tomatoes and basil available at the end of the summer.  To say this Roasted Cherry Tomato Tart is easy is understating it. Thaw out some store-bought puff pastry, grate some cheese, and toss halved cherry tomatoes in your favorite vinaigrette and you are pretty much there. A little thyme before it goes in the oven, a little basil after it comes out. That’s all there is to it, except for a glass of chilled white and a plate. Now that’s my kind of Hoppy! photoRoasted Cherry Tomato Tart with Puff Pastry Crust Makes 1 10″ round or 11″x8″ rectangle Serves 6-8

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1-1/2 to 2 pints small cherry tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3-4 leaves fresh basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper, plus more for sprinkling on tart
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 2-3 TBSP balsamic vinaigrette (homemade or your favorite brand)
  • 1/2 cup grated fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan, romano, asiago, or a combination

Preheat oven to 400F. Unfold the thawed puff pastry and roll out a little so it fits into your tart pan with a little overlap up the sides. Trim the overlap, and with a fork, dock or poke just the bottom of the dough all over. This will prevent the bottom from puffing. Chill in refrigerator until you are ready. Halve the cherry tomatoes and toss in a medium bowl with salt, pepper, and vinaigrette. Take the crust out of the fridge and sprinkle over the cheese evenly over the bottom. Lay the cherry tomatoes, cut side up, over the tart in rows. Sprinkle over the leaves from two sprigs of thyme. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper over tart, and drizzle the honey. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until edges are golden brown and the tomatoes have wilted and are bubbling, rotating tart halfway through baking time. Let cool 5 minutes. Stack the basil leaves, roll together and cut in thin slices. Sprinkle over tart. Serve warm.

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You can make individual tartlets by cutting a sheet of puff pastry into 4 squares or circles, and score the dough 1/2″ from the edges to create a puffed crust.

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen at cookinginmyheels.com Thanks! 🙂

And the Oscar Goes To… (Again)

Last year I pondered the following question: ‘What if they gave an Oscar to food?’  This time around I’m in Oregon, so any musing on that and all the other Hollywood hullabaloo unfurls with the red carpet around 3PM. So after sitting though the marathon of “interesting” fashion choices, multiple mothers/wives/partners/agents/5th grade teachers thanking, and awkward camera zooms on those whose name the envelop didn’t contain, I’ll still have time to catch up on Shameless. That perk aside, I’m going to have to figure out how to fill 5 hours with food. I’m guessing so are some of you, and to that end, I’ve included a few nominations of nibbles below.

So settle in, get those Oscar bingo cards ready, and enjoy the annual parade of tinsel and stars!

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button), and check out what else is going on in my kitchen atcookinginmyheels.com Thanks! :-)