Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Coffee Day

Today, September 29, 2011 is "National Coffee Day." Coffee is my  comfort drink.  I love the way it smells, tastes, and makes me feel.

Benefits of Drinking Coffee

1. Coffee drinkers are less likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes, Parkinson's diseas, and Dementia.
2. Coffee drinkers have fewer cases of heart rhythm problems and strokes.
3. The acidity in coffee helps fight acne.
4. Flavonoids in coffee have been found to inhibit the formation of UVB induced tumors.
5.  The caffine in coffee has been linked to an emotional uplift.
6.  Coffee improves your memory.
7.  It keeps you regular.
8. Eases muscle pain.  Drinking coffeee before a workout can prevent post-workout soreness.

According to the Mayo Clinic,  drinking  between 2-4 cups of brewed coffee a day is not harmful.

So go and enjoy a cup of coffee today.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Spaghetti and Meatballs: A Timeless Classic

Spaghetti and Meatballs is a favorite dinner, midnight snack  at my house.  The sauce is rich and thick with a hint of spiciness.  Add meatballs to this great tasting sauce  and you have a dish your  family loves.

Spaghetti Sauce


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1-teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1-teaspoon sugar.
1-recipe Meatballs (see September 26, 2011 post)
Pasta cooked according to package directions
Grated Cheese

1. In a large heavy bottom pot heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until translucent.  Add the minced garlic and cook for two minutes or until fragrant.
2.  Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, baking soda, black pepper, dried basil, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, bay leaf, and sugar.  Stir well to combine.
3.  Bring to a boil.   Add the meatballs to the sauce.   Cover and simmer for 1-1/2 hours stirring occasionally.  For a thicker sauce, remove the lid during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
4.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.  Remove Bay Leaf.
4.  Serve over cooked pasta of your choice topped with grated cheese.

Serves 6

Monday, September 26, 2011

Meatballs: A Classic Food

Today I am posting a recipe for "Italian Meatballs".    I use this recipe when I am making meatballs for spaghetti sauce*, meatball soup,  appetizers, pasta bakes, pizza topping, sandwiches, or just plain eating.

The meatballs are made with all-ground beef, spices, cheese, seasoned breadcrumbs, and an egg.  Simple ingredients when combined together result in a delicious meal.

                                            Italian Meatballs


1-pound ground beef
1 egg beaten
¼ cup Italian style breadcrumbs
1-tablespoon onion powder
1-teaspoon garlic powder
1-teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil


1. In a medium-mixing bowl, place the ground beef, beaten egg, breadcrumbs, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper and cheese.
2.  Mix with your hands until the ingredients are well combined.
3. Measure the ground beef mixture using a measuring cup or a cookie dough scoop (depending on the size of meatballs you want) and shape into a ball.  Set aside.
4.  Heat the oil in a large skillet.  Place meatballs in skillet and brown on all sides.
Note: Do not cook the meatballs until they are completely done if you are going to use them in a sauce or soup.  Let them cook the rest of the way in the sauce or broth.
5.  Drain the meatballs on paper towels.  Add to your favorite sauce or soup broth.


Ready to Be Mixed

Ingredients Well Combined

The Meatball

In the Pan Getting Browned

Delicious Result

 * My recipe for "Spaghetti Sauce" will be posted on September 28, 2011.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Greatness of Cast Iron

For years my husband  has been trying to get me to cook with cast-iron.  I just did not want to  for whatever the reason. Finally, he got me a cast-iron skillet, a bottle of vegetable oil and told me to go for it.  I will forever be grateful.  I love my cast iron cookware.  Today I am the proud owner of a cast iron skillet, griddle, and two enamel coated cast iron Dutch Ovens.

There are two types of cast-iron on the market -  bare cast-iron and enameled cast iron.  The bare cast iron is less expensive than the enameled cast iron.  Both cook wonderfully.

Cast-Iron History

Cast-Iron has been around for years and years. In fact, the first cast iron was made by the Chinese in the early sixth century BC.  In the Eighteenth century, cast iron was so valuable that it was bequeathed with other precious objects.  In the 1800's enameled cast iron came about.

Cooking With Cast Iron

Cast Iron is prized for its' durability and the ability to retain heat and distribute heat evenly. It can also withstand and maintain very high cooking temperatures.  This makes it a a great choice for searing or frying.  Its' excellent heat diffusion makes it a good option for long cooking like for stews or braised dishes.  You can bake a cake, cornbread, hamburger, sear a steak, even cook eggs in a cast iron skillet.  Another big plus is cast iron is versatile, it goes from stove top to the oven.

Other benefits of Cooking with Cast Iron:
1. The pans are non-stick once they are seasoned properly.
2. Cast Iron has no toxic chemicals.
3. It is fairly inexpensive (bare cast iron).
4.The pans can last a lifetime as long as you take care of it.

Seasoning  Bare Cast Iron

Seasoning creates a slick glossy coating by baking on thin coats of oil.   Today, you can buy seasoned cast iron pans. Seasoning your own pan is not difficult.  It just takes heat, oil, a brush to spread the oil, and paper towels.

1.  Preheat you oven to 325 degrees.
2.  Wash the new cast iron pan with hot soapy  water.  This removes any waxy protective coating .  ONLY USE SOAPY WATER THE FIRST TIME.
3.  Towel dry the  pan immediately.
4. Put a even coating of vegetable oil on the cooking surface of the pan.
5.  Bake for one hour.
6.  Remove the cast iron from the oven.  Let it cool to the touch. Redistribute  any excess oil in the pan.
7.  Put the cast iron in the pan and bake for another hour.
8.  Remove the cast iron from the oven.  Let it cool to the touch and if there is any excess oil wipe it with paper towels.
9.  Cool the pan completely and store the pan in a cool, dry place.  Do not stack cast iron.

Caring For Your  Bare Cast Iron

Cast Iron is easy to take care of.   To clean it you wash it in hot water shortly after use.    You can use a nylon scrubber to scrap off any food.  Dry the pan immediately with a towel.  Do not air dry it.  Store in a cool dry place.

Finally, you may need to re-season the pan sometime in the future.  Some of the seasoning has wore off and food sticks to the surface or there is rust.  Just properly clean your pan and follow steps 1-9 above.  For rust you will need to use fine steel wool, fine sandpaper or a wire brush to remove the rust.

Note:  During the first few uses of your pan you may need to first clean your pan, then heat it on the stove and add just enough vegetable oil to coat the surface. Wipe off any excess, turn off the stove, let the pan cool and store.

Enameled Cast Iron

Enameled cast iron has a vitreous enamel glaze.  The enamel coating prevents rusting and eliminates the need for seasoning.  This cookware is more costly than bare cast-iron.
When cooking with enameled cast iron use a low to medium heat setting.

Care of Enameled Cast Iron

Allow your pan to cool before washing it in soapy water.  Use a plastic scrubber when cleaning to protect your enamel.  If there are stains you can remove them with a mixture of one teaspoon bleach to one pint of water.  Hand dry your enamel cast iron. Do not air dry.

Cast Iron is very forgiving.  Just follow the seasoning, cleaning tips and you will have a pan that will last lifetimes.

Getting Ready to Re Season My Skillet

Brushing Vegetable Oil on Cast Iron Griddle

Before Going in the Oven to Be Seasoned

Seasoned Skillet

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Brazilian Lemonade from "Our Best Bites"

The curious thing about this lemonade is that it is made with limes not lemons.  Whole limes to be exact.  The limes are blended with water, sugar, and condensed milk.  The result is a creamy, tangy, refreshing beverage.

I followed the directions almost to a "T" except I made a syrup of one cup sugar and two cups water instead of mixing the sugar and water.  I have better results making a syrup.

Helpful tip from "Our Best Bites":  Try to find limes with thin, smooth skins.  They are juicier and the thin skin cuts down on the chance of your drink being bitter.

                                                           Brazilian Lemonade
                                                           from "Our Best Bites"


4 juicy limes
1 cup sugar
6 cups cold water
6 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk


1.  Mix cold water and sugar very well.  Chill until ready to use.
      Note:  This step can be done ahead of time.
2.  Wash limes thoroughly with soap.  Cut the ends off the limes and then cut each lime into eighths.
3.  Place half of the limes in a blender.
4.  Add half of the sugar water.  Place the top on your blender and pulse 5 times.
5. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a pitcher (the one you will serve the lemonade in) and  pour the blended mixture through the strainer and into the pitcher.  Use a spoon to press the rest of the liquid into the pitcher.
6.  Dump the pulp and stuff in the strainer into the trash.
7.  Repeat with the remaining limes and sugar water.
8.  Add the sweetened condensed milk. Stir until mixed.
9.  Taste and adjust sweetness if needed - add some more sugar or milk.
10.  Serve immediately over lots of ice.

Makes 4 servings

Sugar, Water, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Limes

Ends cut-off of  the lime

Cutting the Lime

Cutting the Limes into Eighths

Limes in the Blender

Straining and Pressing Remaining Liquid

Adding Sweetened Condensed Milk

Brazilian Lemonade

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gingery Peach Mango Smoothie

Today was one of those busy days where I started out running.  On days like this, I blend up smoothies either for a quick breakfast or for a refreshing pick- me- up.  Smoothies are both nutritious and delicious.

One of my favorite fruit combinations to use in smoothies is peach mango. I find the peach mango fruit combination very satisfying and flavorful.  The following recipe adds vanilla yogurt, gingersnaps, and honey to the peaches and mango nectar  to make a tasteful and healthy smoothie. 

                                          Gingery Peach Mango Smoothie

1 cup ice – omit if you are using frozen fruit
2 cups sliced fresh or frozen peaches
1-cup vanilla yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup ginger snap pieces
1-cup mango nectar
Whipped Cream
2 tablespoons ginger snap crumbs for garnish

1. Place ingredients in order listed in a blender.  If you need, poke the ingredients in the blender with a spoon to allow the nectar to flow down.
2.  Blend on high until smooth.
3. Pour in glasses and top with whipped cream and ginger snap crumbs.
4.  Serve.

Makes 4- 8-ounce servings

Ready to be blended

Friday, September 16, 2011

Creme Brulee Cheesecake Bars

Creme Brulee Cheesecake Bars

 My two favorite desserts in life are Cheesecake and Creme Brulee.      I decided to do some experimenting to combine my two favorite desserts into one.

I like this recipe because the cheese filling is light with  a touch of creme brulee flavor.  The cookie crumb crust with the crunchy  topping make this dessert irresistible.   

                                  Crème Brulee Cheesecake Bars


1 Package (10 Oz) Lorna Doone Cookies
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 packages (8-ounces) cream cheese softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brewed Crème Brulee coffee at room temperature
2 eggs at room temperature
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1-tablespoon water


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put the Lorna Doones in a food processor.  Pulse until crumbs are formed.  Add the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moist.
3.  Grease an 8x8-inch baking dish or a 9x9 inch-baking dish.    Press the cookies crumbs in the bottom of the prepared pan.
4. Beat the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and crème brulee coffee until smooth.
5.  Add eggs to the cheese mixture one at a time.  Do not add the next egg until the first one is incorporated into the cream cheese mixture. 
6.  Pour the cream cheese mixture over the cookie crumb crust.
7.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the center is almost set.
8.  Cool completely.  Refrigerate until just ready to serve.
9.  Before serving preheat the broiler.  Mix the brown sugar with the water.  Spread it evenly over the cheesecake filling.
10.  Broil 4-6 inches from the heat for about 2 minutes or until the topping is bubbly.
11.  Cut into 16 bars and serve.   Refrigerate any leftovers. 

Serves 16

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Best Onion Strings Ever

 The other day I found a great recipe for Onion Strings.  It was on the "The Pioneer Woman Cooks"  blog.   I made some and they were simple delicious.   I used them for on our Green Chili Cheeseburgers.  Never have I tasted such a good burger.  

Onion Strings
From Pioneer Woman Cooks

1 whole large onion
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon(scant) salt
1/4 teaspoon (to 1/2 teaspoon) cayenne pepper
1 quart (to 2 quarts) canola oil
Black pepper to taste

1.  Slice onion very thin.  Place in a baking dish and cover with buttermilk and soak for at least an hour.
2. Combine dry ingredients and set aside
3.  Heat oil to 375 degrees
4. Grab a handful of onions, throw into the flour mixture, tap to  shake off excess, and plunge into hot oil.    Fry for a few minutes and remove as soon as golden brown to a plate with paper towels.
5. Repeat until all onions have been cooked.

I made another batch of these and I used one teaspoon Southwestern Chipotle Seasoning instead of the Cayenne pepper and reduced the salt to two teaspoons.  MMM good:)

I can't wait to try these onion strings for topping my Macaroni and Cheese, Tuna Casserole,  and Green Bean Casserole.

They are also great for snacking.

Sliced Onions

Sliced Onions In Baking Dish

Sliced Onions In Buttermilk

Flour, Salt, Southwestern Chipotle Seasoning, Black Pepper

Heating Oil

Onion Slices In Flour Mixture

Coating the Onions

Tasty Result

Monday, September 12, 2011

Beef Jerky

With the activity level picking up at my house, school, sports, music lessons, etc. I have started making snacks.  Snacks to go, snacks to eat at home, on the trail, in the car, snack to eat just about anywhere.

Today, I made some beef jerky. This beef jerky has a little spice to it which I like.
First, I slice flank steak in thin strips, marinade it, bake it, let and cool, and it is ready to eat or store.

                                              Beef Jerky


2 pounds flank steak
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
2/3-cup soy sauce
1-teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon Agave nectar
1-teaspoon garlic powder
1-teaspoon onion powder
1-teaspoon celery salt
½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1-teaspoon red pepper flakes


1. Trim excess fat from the flank steak.
2.  Place steak in a zip loc bag a freeze for 1 hour – this makes the steak easier to slice.
3.Remove the steak from the freezer.  Slice the steak into thin long strips with the grain of the meat.
4.  Place the strips of meat in a zip loc bag.
5. In a small mixing bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients.  Stir well.
6.  Pour the marinade mixture over the steak strips.  Close the zip loc bag and shake.
7.  Place the meat in the refrigerator for at least six hours or overnight.
8.   Preheat oven to 150 degrees or the lowest temperature of your oven.  Line two large baking sheets with foil.
9.  Remove steak strips from the marinade and pat dry.  Place in a single layer on the prepared pans.
10 Bake for 3 hours with the oven door slightly open.  Turn meat strips over and bake for another 3-4 hours or until the meat is firm and dry to the touch but not crumbly. If you are using a dehydrator follow the manufacturer’s directions. 
11.  Cool and store in a zip loc bag. 

Slicing the Flank Steak


Steak slices in marinade
Ready for  Oven

Friday, September 9, 2011

Roasting Green Chile

Fresh Green Chiles Ready For Roasting

I can tell fall is coming to New Mexico.  Not only is the air crisp, there is the smell of green chiles roasting. I love the smell.  So to get in the spirit of fall, I went and bought my green chili at my local Farmer's Market.  I usually buy enough green chili to put in the freezer and to enjoy right away.

You can either roast your green chile yourself or have it professionally roasted.  I like to roast my chilies.  The smell that radiates throughout the house is wonderful.

Roasting chiles is not hard.  You can do it in your oven or  on your gas grill.

                                           Roasting Green Chili In The Oven

1.  Preheat your broiler to high heat - 450 degrees.
2. Wash the green chilies and pat dry. With a fork, prick the chile peppers one time.
3.  Line a baking sheet with foil and place the chilies on the foil.  Put the chilies  about 5 inches away from the heating element.
4.  Roast the chiles for about 3 minutes.  Check and see if they are about 60 percent charred.
5. Remove the pan from the oven and using tongs turn the chiles.  Cook about 2-3 more minutes or until they are charred.
7.  With tongs, remove the chilies from the heat and place in a plastic bag or in a large bowl covered with a damp towel.  This is referred to as sweating the chilies.
8. Sweat the chilies for about 30 minutes but no more than 2 hours.  .
9. If you are going to use the chilies right away peel them.  BE SURE TO USE GLOVES.  To remove excess seeds rinse under cold water and drain them in a colander.
10. If you plan on freezing the chilies, put in them in a freezer bag, seal, and date.  You can peel the chilies if you want before you freeze them.  The chile will last about a year frozen.

Chiles Ready  Fore The Oven
Roasted Chiles
Chilies Sweating
Peeling Chile
Freezer Ready

                                         Roasting Chile On The Grill

1. Preheat the gas grill on high.
2. Wash the chiles and pat dry.  Prick the chiles one time with a fork.  Place the chiles on the grill.  Turn after about 3 minutes.
3. The chile is done roasting when about 60% charred.
4.  With tongs, remove the chilies from the heat and place in a plastic bag or in a large bowl covered with a damp towel.  This is referred to as sweating the chiles.
5. Sweat the chilies for about 30 minutes but no more than 2 hours.  .
6. If you are going to use the chilies right away peel them.  BE SURE TO USE GLOVES.  To remove excess seeds rinse under cold water and drain them in a colander.
7. If you plan on freezing the chilies, put in a freezer bag, seal, and date.  You can peel the chiles if you want before you freeze them.  The chile will last about a year frozen.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chile 101

A common question when you are eating at a Mexican food restaurant in New Mexico is red, green, or Christmas.  They are referring to what type of chile you would like on your food.  Christmas is a combination of half red and half green.  So what is the difference between red and green chile?

All chilies start off green.  As they ripen, they turn red or yellow.  Most red chilies are dried so you need to reconstitute them in hot liquid before you use them.  There are some varieties of chile such as the jalapeno, habanero, or serrano  that will turn red and still be used fresh.

I like to eat Hatch, New Mexico,  green chile.  There are four varieties.

Mild:  This pepper is about 6-9 inches long with little to no heat.  This is a good place to start to get your chile fix.
Medium (Big Jim): The size of the pepper ranges from 7-10 inches.  This pepper is meaty and the heat varies from chile to chile.  Big Jim's are great for making chile rellanos, or just chop and use in your favorite enchilada casserole, scrambled eggs, hamburgers.  The possibilities are endless.
Hot: (Sandia):  This chile is smaller.  It ranges from 5-8 inches.  It has a consistent heat and is great for spicing up dishes.  If you like heat, this is the chile for you.
Extra Hot (Barker).  This chile packs a punch.  Use it in small quantities.

I've talked a lot about the heat of a chile.  The heat  of chilies is measured in Scoville heat units (SHU).  The number of SHU's indicates the amount of capsaicin present.  The SHU scate ranges for 0-15,000,00.  Zero is the bell pepper and the 15,000,000 is pure capsaicin.  The active chemical capsaicin is stored in the veins and seeds of the chile pepper.

Chile Fun Facts

Did you know:
  • One fresh medium-sized green chile pod has as much Vitamin C as six oranges.
  • One teaspoon of dried red chile powder has the daily requirements of Vitamin A.
  • Hot chile peppers burn calories by triggering a thermodynamic burn in the body, which speeds up the metabolism.
  • Teas & lozenges are made with chile peppers for the treatment of a sore throat.
  • Capsaicinoids, the chemical that make chile peppers hot, are used in muscle patches for sore and aching muscles.
  • Chile peppers are relatives of tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants, all belonging to the nightshade family.
  • The color extracted from very red chile pepper pods, oleoresin, is used in everything from lipstick to processed meats.
  • There are 26 known species of chile pepper, five of which are domesticated.
Adapted from the New Mexico Chile Institutes’ “Chile Pepper Facts”

In future posts, I am going to have some great chile recipes for you to try including how to make a great red chile sauce from dried red chile pods.    

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ultimate Brownie Bars


This brownie recipe combines two of my favorite things -  brownies and Seven Layer Cookies.  The crust is a brownie crust topped with the goodies for Seven Layer Cookies.  The tasty result is a chewy, moist, delicious treat.  You cannot go wrong with these brownies.

                                   Ultimate Brownie Bars

1 box brownie mix
1/3-cup butter melted
¼ cup chocolate syrup (omit if your brownie mix has a chocolate syrup pouch)
1 egg beaten
2/3 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup butterscotch chips
2/3 cup flaked coconut
2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1-cup condensed milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. Grease an 8x8 inch-baking dish.
2.  In a large mixing bowl combine the brownie mix, butter, chocolate syrup and beaten egg.  Stir until well mixed.
3. Press dough mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Bake for 14 minutes.
Dough pressed in the prepared pan

Baked brownie crust
4. Remove the brownie crust from the oven.  Top the crust with the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, flaked coconut, walnuts, and condensed milk.            
5. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the center is set and a light golden brown color. 
6.  Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting. 
7.  Cut into 4x4 rows.

Yield: 16 bars 

Brownie Crust Toppings
Delicious Result