Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Midweek Ramblings

My good friend Kim wanted the recipe for the Slow-Cooker Carnitas I shared with her a few months ago. We ate the carnitas with fresh cilantro leaves and prepared salsa rolled inside flour tortillas. This recipe is simply a delicious and easy way to make carnitas. Since this recipe makes a lot, you can freeze batches of the cooked pork for future meals. My only suggestion is that you may want to adjust the salt in this recipe. I found it was a bit too salty for my taste. Then again, I don't remember if I used a smaller grain of salt which may have increased the saltiness.

Below is another simple dish that I served last night. Surprisingly, Ashley loved it. It was tostadas.

Easy Weeknight Tostadas
Mission brand tostadas shells (or similar)
1 lb. 93% fat-free ground meat
garlic powder
16 oz can vegetarian refried beans
4 oz light cheddar cheese, grated
1 small jar of prepared salsa
lettuce, shredded
1 small onion, diced

Brown the ground meat in a skillet until it's no longer pink. Season with the salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Remove from skillet and pile onto a large serving platter. Warm up the refried beans in the same skillet until warm. Remove from skillet and make a separate pile on the same platter. Place 4 tostadas shells in the warm skillet, cover with a lid, turn off the heat.

Arrange the cheddar cheese, lettuce, and onion into separate piles next to the meat and beans on a serving plate. Stack up the warmed tostadas shells next to the other ingredients on the serving plate. Allow diners to make their own tostadas by layering the refried beans, meat, salsa, lettuce, onion and cheese according to their desires.

Ashley and I recently joined Lighthouse Baptist Church. I am so pleased to see that Ashley is very excited about being involved in the children's ministries. She joined the children's choir and young girls dance ministry. We also attend weekly Bible study classes.

Last Sunday, Ashley performed with the choir at both the 8 am and 11 am services. She just joined on Saturday and had only one day to learn and practice three songs. The children sang How Excellent Is Your Name, How Great Is Our God, and one more song which I couldn't figure out the name. She did an excellent job!

Tonight is Bible study. Ashley had to learn the names of the first 10 books of the Bible. I had a workbook lesson to complete along with scripture to remember. I am loving our new focus on spiritual growth and learning.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Food Is On My Mind

**Note: This post was started on September 5 so the weather temperature is from last week.**

The weather has been sinfully beautiful this weekend. It reminds me so much of my home town which I miss often. When it's 70s - 80s degrees outside, I throw open all of the windows and bathe in the warm breezes. There's nothing like have clean, fresh air circulating within your home. It's always made me happy and I came to find out that it's good feng shui.

I had a hankering for some food, something simple, something easy, something homemade. I started out by concocting a drink.

Strawberry-Banana Smoothie
4 large strawberries, cut into 1/4" slices
1 small, very ripe banana, cut into 1/4"slices
1/2 lemon
8 oz. Almond Breeze Vanilla Beverage
dash cinnamon (optional)
dash freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

Place strawberry and banana slices into a quart freezer baggie. Squeeze lemon juice over the fruit in the bag. Push out the extra air from the baggie and seal. Place in the freezer. (Tear or cut up the lemon half and grind it in your garbage disposer or place it in your dish water as a natural boost to your regular cleaners.)

Remove the fruit from the freezer when the pieces have frozen solid. Break apart the fruit, if they have froze together. Place frozen fruit into a blender, add Almond Breeze beverage, and blend until smooth. Add more Almond Breeze, if needed to make a desirable consistency. Add spices and serve.

You can add supplements such as soy powder, wheat germ, or ground flax seeds to boost the nutritional value of the smoothie.

Don't forget to rinse out the baggie and re-use it for your next fruit smoothie.

Then I decided to work on two frozen desserts. One was a peach sorbet. The other was made of coconut milk. I've had a Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt machine forever. When I first got it, I made a couple of batches of ice cream which were absolutely delicious yet expensive to make. The expensive convinced me not to use this machine for years but I couldn't let it go. Now was the time to put it back to work.

I didn't have enough fresh peaches or nectarines to make the sorbet. So, I found a large can of sliced peaches in heavy syrup and decided to use that. I put the entire can in the freezer while I started on the second recipe.

I had a can of coconut milk sitting in the back of my refrigerator. I got it out, opened it, and discovered that the milk was frozen solid. While the peaches were freezing, the coconut milk needed to thaw.

Now, I went on to the next experiment. I bought some yellow squash, zucchini, and eggplant from the farmer's market last Friday. I decided to concoct a squash and brown rice casserole.

Summer Squash and Brown Rice Casserole
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
3-4 small yellow squash, slice into 1/4" rounds
3-4 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4" rounds
2-3 Fairytale eggplant (or other small, mild variety), sliced into 1/4" rounds
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
4 T. flour
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 c. milk (or milk substitute)
8 oz sharp cheddar or cheese of your choice, shredded
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
4 c. cooked brown rice

Grease a large casserole dish with olive oil. Set aside.

Saute the squash, zucchini, and eggplant in the extra virgin olive, in batches, in a heavy pot. Remove the vegetables and set aside.

Prepare a Bechemal (white) sauce by heating the 4 T. olive oil in the pot. Stir in the flour, using a whisk, and continue stirring until smooth. Let the oil-flour mixture cook, but not brown, for about 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, warm the milk in the microwave for 2 minutes or until hot but not boiling. Slowly pour the hot milk into the oil-flour mixture, stirring constantly with the whisk to avoid lumps. Continue to stir until all of the milk is incorporated. Once the sauce starts to thicken add the cheese and stir until melted. Let the sauce cook until thicken, about 2 - 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together the vegetables, rice, and cheese sauce until combined. Pour the mixture into the casserole dish. Bake in the oven at 375 until heated through and bubbly.

This casserole can be a main course served with a tossed salad and bread. Or, it can be a side dish.

Now to the peach sorbet.

Easy Peach Sorbet
28 oz can sliced peaches in heavy syrup
1/4 c. - 1/2 c. light corn syrup

Freeze peaches in syrup until ice crystals start to form. Pour into a blender or food processor and process until smooth, adding corn syrup until desired sweetness is reached. Process peach mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer instructions.

Christina thought the sorbet wasn't sweet enough. I liked it because it wasn't too sweet. I think next time I'll try to use fresh peaches and add some cinnamon to the mix to make it more like a peach cobbler in taste.

Finally, the frozen coconut milk dessert. I admit that this didn't come out the way I wanted. That's what happens sometimes when you experiment in the kitchen. I searched the Internet for recipes but I didn't find any that met my needs. I won't torture you with my recipe. I'll keep trying variations until I discover something that works.

That's it for now. I hope you try one of the recipes and let me know what you think. Until next time. Enjoy!