Posole

As I get older I keep going back to those things that were such a big deal when I was little.  Because I can, and now that I can Do It Myself.  I’ve noticed this as I’ve been writing little stories before each recipe.  So it begins.

When I was little, we lived in Albuquerque.  We joined the Southwestern tradition of tamales and posole on Christmas  eve.  Our Christmas tradition is nearly nonexistent, we do something different every year, but Christmas eve is consistent.  We’ve never made our tamales, but we always make a big delicious pot of posole.

Apparently, it was my turn to make it, under the assumption I knew how.  I didn’t.  I knew bits and steps, but had never actually done it enough to remember it.  But here it is!

Posole

5-6 lbs pork (flank meat…?)
28 oz canned hominy
1 onion, chopped
5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
4-6 jalapenos (depends on how spicy you want it…
3-4 tsp red chili powder (New Mexico red is the best, if you can get it)
3-4 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
Salt and Pepper

As is common with stews or soups, the amounts are very approximate, changing to suit the cooks taste.

Cube the pork, in to bite size pieces or 1 inch cubes.  Salt, Pepper and Flour the pork, and brown them in a pan in  hot oil, vegetable oil is fine.  It is important to do this in batches, so that all the pieces brown.  Set aside.  If you have bones with your meat, brown them separately, and throw them in the pot.

Chop the onion and garlic, and put in a large pot with the pork.  Cover with water.   Chop the jalapenos, this can be done before or after the other things are combined, one of the lovely things about stews.  Remove seeds and membranes if you don’t want it to be as spicy.  Add 2 tsp of chili powder, cumin and oregano.  Lightly salt and pepper (a tsp of each).  Bring the pot to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.  Leave to simmer for about an hour.  Add the hominy at the end, about a half hour before you want to serve it.  Add more water if you need to.  At the end, check spices and add more as necessary.  Usually a tsp or two of each, except the oregano.

Enjoy!  This is one of my favorite winter foods!

For the party I did not attend…

This actually happened BEFORE the oatmeal cookies…

Many moons ago I told my cello friend that I would one day teach him how to fold tortellini.  We never quite got around to it, despite constant “we should do stuff sometime” conversations.  He finally requested the lesson, because his ASTA friends were having a party and wanted to do something different.  In an interesting turn of events I wasn’t available to go to the party, but I had already agreed to help make the pasta.  So I did anyways.

I made the fillings ahead of time, because my cello friend would only have a few hours.  Although tortellini are relatively easy to make, it is a very time consuming pasta.

Both recipes make a fuckton of filling

Sausage Filling

1 ½ cup Ricotta
½ cup Parmesan
½ cup Mozzarella
1 lb Italian Sausage
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cheese and Spinach

1 ½ cup Ricotta
½ cup Romano
¾ cup Parmesan
¾ cup Mozzarella
1 tsp dried basil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Pasta dough

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Make a low volcano or crater of flour on your counter (or a bowl, if you don’t have a good pasta counter)  Carefully mix the eggs with your fingers, slowly incorporating the flour.  As it all comes together, knead until smooth.  Or partially knead and use your pasta roller to finish smoothing it all out.

After many problems with getting our pasta dough to work, we finally succeeded.  We had a pile of retarded tortellinis, and many odd shaped scraps.  In the end, we had quite a bit of tortellini, ready to go!

According to everyone at the party, they were quite delicious.  Though, I have yet to make up the leftovers I kept and shoved in the freezer.

Snowy days, my friends

Today, it was cold.  Really cold, snowy and quite windy.  The kind of horrible wind that sends chills through you at the mere sound of it outside your window.  As a result of this (and an official “blizzard warning”), today was a snow day.

After sleeping in, not playing my jury, not going to class and tidying my room a bit I decided it was time to study.  And by study, I really just mean I made some cookies.

Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cup flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
3 cups oatmeal
Optional chopped dried cherries

Cream the butter and sugars until smooth and a little fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla.  Mix in all the dry ingredients, minus the oatmeal.  Once those are combined add the oatmeal.  Really hard.Drop cookies are all pretty much the same, procedure-wise.  It makes me feel repetitive.

To half of this batch I added about half a cup of chopped dried cherries.  I had found them in my pantry, and it just seemed like the thing to do.

When I was little…

My brother and I wouldn’t eat Kraft Mac and Cheese, but we did love noodles and cheesy sauce…  My mom would make it from scratch.   I also didn’t like most fast food.  But that has nothing to do with mac and cheese.

So, I made some.  Just cuz it’s tasty.

Cheesy goodness, with salty ham bits.

 

Mac and Cheese

2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
3-4 cups milk
8 oz Cheddar
½ cup Colby Jack
1/2 cup Parmesan
1 lb mini shell pasta – any small shape will do, I just like shells
½ lb cubed ham
Salt and Pepper

Before I start the directions for this, I just want to point out that my hot foods are very “meh, this seems right”, and I don’t pay that close attention to how much stuff gets thrown in.  I also don’t use measuring cups for hot foods, I just estimate it.  Measuring cups are for baking.  This is a very loose and vague recipe; it’s more of a starting point than anything else.

Start a roux.  Not the sexy Johnny Depp character, silly!  Melt about 2 tbsp of butter over medium heat, stir in about 3-4 tbsp flour, until it comes together to make a paste.  Slowly add milk, about a ¼ cup at the beginning.  Stir the sauce until the flour absorbs the liquid and thickens it.  Keep adding milk until there is about 3-4 cups of sauce (I’m really guessing at this point.  I filled up my small sauce pan about 2/3 full).

Add the cheeses to the sauce, the Parmesan was to give the sauce a little tang, and I decided I needed more than 8 oz of Cheddar, so I used some Colby Jack I had in my fridge.  Sharp cheddar might be better?  Play around with it!  Once all the cheese melts add salt and pepper to taste.  Oh right, and hold out about ½ – 3/4 cup of mixed cheddar and Colby back.

While working on the sauce, cook and drain the pasta, keep it a little under al dente (this will be finished in the over later) Make sure your ham is all cubed and ready to go!  All this stuff ready? Good.  It’s time to put it all together!

Pour the pasta into a casserole dish, mix in the sauce and ham.  Sprinkle the extra cheese on top.  Bake in a 350* oven for about 15-20 minute until the cheese is melty or golden brown (depends on how you like it.)

Chocolaty Goodness

Seeing as I am college student, I am constantly broke.  As a result birthday presents frequently manifest themselves as baked goods.  My friend just turned 21, and I was trying to make him a different kind of cake than I have before and he suggested that brownies might be tasty.  I didn’t have much time last week, and then I ran out of eggs.  We didn’t get to go on a grocery adventure until last night. Needless to say, there was a slight delay in getting it all done.

Wednesdays are my shortest days, I only have one class from 11-12 then I am free to be productive – and bake or cook!  I finally had time to get brownies done for my friend!  And make the Mac and Cheese I have been craving for a week or two!  The baking and cooking are also extremely cathartic after a few days of bitchy, difficult teachers and frustrating classes.

 

Tasty Chocolaty Treat

 

Brownies

3/4 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
½ Cup Unsweetened Cocoa (I had about a 1/3 cup left, so I topped it with sweet cocoa power.)
3 eggs
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¾ cup flour

Melt the butter and add it to the sugars and vanilla until well blended.  I added the Cocoa into the warm butter/sugar in the hopes it would melt some, but I could be high.  Incorporate the eggs, and when those are well mixed add the dry ingredients and mix into a smooth batter.  This batter, it will be delicious.  Try not to eat it all so there is something left to bake, but go to town on those beaters!!

Bake in a 350* oven for 30-45 min.  I used a spring form pan (perhaps 8 in?) lined with buttered foil, because I made these for my friends birthday – and a circle is all cake looking and can be decorated accordingly.  And because I felt like it, damnit.

 

So Excited

La-ZOG-nya

It is often the case that I will get a craving, and I will repeatedly plan and work out exactly how I will do it in my head for a few days. In part, it is because I don’t have a car and I only go grocery shopping once a week. It is also because there are only a few days that finish classes early enough to cook dinner and then eat at a reasonable time.

The point of this is that I have been fantasizing about some sort of spinach lasagna for a few days. I went through quite a few recipes trying to figure something out, and nothing was quite what I was imagining. Therefore… I just made it up. I had planned to just throw some stuff together, using some no-boil noodles, but I threw that out the window when I saw all the tasty looking spinach noodles. So, here is my spinach lasagna adventure!

 

The noodles are homemade!

 

Pasta

21/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 Tbsp oil
3 Tbsp cooked, drained spinach (I’d use more if I were to redo this…)

I cooked half a bag of frozen spinach in the microwave, and just pulled a few tablespoons worth out for the pasta

Make a pile of flour on your counter, create a crater (like a volcano!) sprinkle in salt, carefully crack in your eggs into the pit, and add the oil and spinach. Carefully break the yolks and mix them together, progressively adding flour until the dough comes together. Knead into a ball, divide into quarter and let rest under a damp towel.

Run about an eighth of the whole ball through the machine, down to the second to last setting. Cut into lasagna noodle sizes. Boil about 3-5 min, drain and let cool on a towel (to dry a bit…)

Fillings!

Sauté small cubes of chicken (about 1 breast worth) in olive oil, salt and pepper until cooked.

Use the rest of the frozen spinach and mix with a 16 oz tub of ricotta (I’d suggest perhaps using more spinach then I did…)

Grate 8 oz Mozzarella cheese (or more if you like it extra cheesy)

Sauce

I was originally going to try to make a béchamel, but it was too bland.

3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
2-3 cup milk
¾-1 cup parmesan cheese

Make a roux, add the milk, melt the cheese in, salt and pepper.

The problem with me trying to explain a sauce and the quantities is that I learned how to cook from my mom.  She has only ever made one dish in my memory that is actually the same every time.  Don’t get me wrong – her cooking is amazing, it just isn’t exactly the same.  Most of my techiques (especially the French ones) include eye-balling it.  This isn’t helpful if you don’t already know how to do stuff.  So, tough noogies.  I am more than happy to teach, in person, those who ask me to.

Assemblage!

Put a little sauce on the bottom of your pan (I used a casserole dish), add a layer of noodles, ricotta, sauce, noodles, sauce, mozzerella, noodles, sauce, chicken, noodles, ricotta, sauce, noodles, suace, mozzerella, noodles, mozzerella.

This is, in fact, a mere approximation of how I layered it.  It could be compleatly wrong.  I honestly didn’t pay that close of attention when I did it, and as I made up the recipe I can just quote the instruction that I skipped from the recipe I used.  Use your head, make some guesses, use up the supplies you have, I’m sure it’ll be fine.  It’s how I do it.

Bake in a 375* oven for about 50 minutes.  Take out, and let cool.

Feed to your friends!

(The general consensus from The Roomie and The Friend was that it was quite tasty – they kept going back for more)

 

I didn't have a better place to dry the pasta

I had more pasta dough than I needed for the lasagna, so I just turned it into spinach linguine, and hung it over my rolling pin between my chairs.

Nawleans Cookin…

When I was a child, I was quite the picky eater.  There are still quite a few foods I still will not eat, but I will at least try most foods (I do have limits…)  A lot of my problems were (and still are) texture based.  I also didn’t like fast food, and until the middle of elementary school I only liked Taco Bell.  This was a problem with how much we traveled, especially when heading down the south, towards North Carolina.  At some point I learned to like red beans and rice, and will have random strong cravings.  Today, was one of those days.

I had spent a good chunk of my day thinking about what I was going to eat for dinner, and the idea of red beans and rice just kept circling around.  When my roommate called asking if I was home and ready to eat, I asked if he had any preference.  To my shock, and pleasure, he mentioned rice!  So I went ahead with my red beans and rice adventure.

I have never made this before, nor could I find a suitable recipe, so I just… threw it together, with what kinda smelled and sounded right.

Red Beans (and rice…)
(serves about 3…)

1 can Kidney Beans
¾ cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne
Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Dice the onions, I like to have them super small so they disintegrate while cooking – all of the flavor, none of the texture – and sauté them with butter in a sauce pan, until slightly caramelize.  Crush or mince the garlic and add that to the caramelized onions.  Add the can of beans, liquid and all, and about ¼ cup water and cook over medium heat.  Add the dry spices, and mix in.  I let the beans cook until thick and mushy, about 10-15 min – , and squished some of them up against the side of the pan.

For extra tasty, cut 1 chicken breast into small cubes, sauté until cooked through, and about 3 patties worth of sausage, fry until cooked.  Add the meat at the very end.  If you happen to not eat meat, this was really good with out it.  I just like meat.  A lot.

Serve with plain white rice, and any cooked frozen corn.  (1 cup rice to 2 cups water, bring to a boil, simmer covered for about 10-15 min, nuke the corn on the frozen veg setting.  I’m sure you can figure that out…)

Consuuuuuuume!