Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tapas for May

I think I'm glad the month is over, it feels like it was such a busy, busy month.

We delayed Tapas by a week, cause last weekend was the Memorial Day weekend, and we were hoping to get our AC working correctly as well as getting our front porch screened in.

The AC is still not working, sigh...
The front porch is still not screened in...

So we moved Tapas from our place to the Senior Center where  I cook on Thursdays.    Their AC is working just fine.

As it so happened, last night was also the 40th birthday of the Senior Center so we combined the two.

We did Tapas at our usual hour and then celebrated the birthday with friends, and made some new friends as well. 

There was a great turnout for both events.

I was a little busy decorating the two cakes for the birthday celebration, so I didn't get the Tapas setup done as well as I wanted, but luckily for me one of my friends took over and did it.
I like having friends.

And then I got so busy greeting people that I forgot to take pictures of the food, and when I told people to please start eating, I was told they couldn't cause I hadn't taken any pictures yet.
Imagine that, no one would eat until I pulled my camera out and took pictures of the food.   Good thing I brought my camera.

Without further ado and no fanfare, here are the Tapas offerings for May.
And there were a lot of great dishes as well.
 Bean Salad, and as always I love looking at the great serving pieces people use.  I think I fell in love with this dish.  And the contents weren't bad either.
 Vegetable Medley, I love seeing what Kathleen comes up with on vegetable combinations.
 Deviled Eggs, which have got to be one of the most popular dishes people bring. 
 Green Salad, delicious, and again, look at the pretty serving bowl.
 Potstickers, which you may know I have a major weakness for.  I did after all win a contest with a potsticker recipe, recently.
 Mac and Cheese, another one of my faves.
 And who doesn't like Potato Salad?  Not me.
 Guacamole and chips.   Which I noticed disappeared fast.
 Kind of an overview of one of the tables full of food.  From the bottom left:  Chips, vegetables, pickles, nacho cheese dip, more chips, crackers and dip and in the middle, pineapple.
 There was also a great Brown rice salad, which was totally yummy.
 Cheese Pizza, cut into nice little squares so you could just grab and eat. 
 I made some some homemade crackers, some red pepper hummus and of course here is the Pineapple with the Santa toothpick holder. 
He seems to be multiplying.
 Some Chicken stuffed rolls, and by the time I got around to trying one, they were gone.
 Some whole wheat wraps.  I love these things.
 Yummy Fish dip.
 A locally grown watermelon, OMG good.
Don't tell anyone but I kept sneaking bites. 
 A Mediterranean Eggplant dish.  Which was very tasty.   Of course I love eggplant.
 I made some Honey Garlic chicken thighs and drums, but I won't be sharing the recipe.   Quite frankly, I didn't like it cooked in the crockpot.  And since it's my dish I can say it. However, I think I know a tweak or two I'd like to do to it, and then slather it on some wings....
I'm thinking here.
 A squash casserole, which went very fast.
 And if you were wondering about the cakes I decorated, here's one of them.  I got far enough away that it looked pretty decent. 

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Friday, May 29, 2015

Delicioso Garbanzo Bean and Cannelini Bean Salad

Honestly, I've been trying to come up with a clever name for my newest dish.   And this is the best I could come up with.
Chop Bean Salad

But the taste, well, let me put it like this.

I was invited to a shrimp boil aka Low Country Boil, and as is usual around here, we bring something.   I had decided to bring some crusty artisan bread I'd picked up in the big city but I really kinda wanted to make something.

And I thought a three bean salad would be good.   The contrast of a three bean salad with the yummy Low Country Boil, I thought they would complement each other nicely.

I didn't want to go into town for anything, it was Memorial Day weekend and I knew it would be crowded down there.


I delved into my pantry.   I 'knew' that there was a can of green beans in there, along with some garbanzo's and some kidney beans.

There weren't any green beans anywhere in there and the can of Kidney Beans, well, let me just say, I thought I rotated my pantry goods a lot better, cause the beans were three years out of date.

I did recycle the can though.

But that left me with just garbanzo or chick peas if you'd rather.

However I'd picked up a can of Cannelini Beans last week so I grabbed that can before it could disappear into the depths of the pantry.

I now had two kinds of beans.
I knew I could make a nice viniagrette but they would have looked really bland and would have been mooshy in the mouth.

In other words, no crunchy contrast.

Back into the pantry for another look see.
I found a can of water chestnuts and a can of Southwestern Style Corn and that was good.   I also added a small can of mushrooms, but they really didn't add much other than a little visual contrast.

So I  raided the fridge.
There was a whole stalk of celery in there as well as some scallions or green onions.
I then proceeded to dump and rinse and chop and combine everything.
And it looked very pretty.
Chop Salad with beans

But I needed a dressing on it.  
And here's where I really had fun.
I had some Black Currant Balsamic Vinegar from Smashing Olives, as well as some Baklouti Green Chile infused Olive Oil. 
Mixed them together and added a little more EVOO and tasted again.
Poured them over the salad and tasted and then proceeded to fill a bowl and eat it.

While it looked and tasted good at this point, I still wanted a little more color in there so I grabbed a jar of pimentos and some more corn, out of the freezer this time.
Mixed them in and had another bowlful, just to taste.
I was going to be bringing it to share and wanted to make sure it did taste good.

I think this is the best chopped type salad I've ever made.   I did take it to the party, but luckily for me, there was some left to take home, and I've had it for lunch two days now.
When I make it again, and I will make it again, I'll add a chopped red pepper for a little more crunch and I won't add the mushrooms.
Other than that, won't change a thing.

1 can (15 oz) Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed.
1 can (15 oz) Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed.
1 can Southwest Style Corn
1 whole stalk celery, chopped
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 bunch (6 or so) green onions, chopped whites and greens
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
1 jar (2 oz) Pimentos   or
1 red pepper, chopped

1/2 cup Black Current Balsamic Vinegar
1 tablespoon or more to taste, Baklouti Green Chile Olive Oil
1/2 cup EVOO
Whisk together and pour over vegetables, mix, then refrigerate for an hour or more to let the flavours get acquainted.
Chop Salad
*** If you can't get a fruity balsamic vinegar, then just use the best quality Balsamic Vinegar you can get along with a superior quality Olive Oil.   I really feel that spending that little extra on the vinegar and olive oil is so worth it.***

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Chicken and Dumplings

I can hear them now.  The whisperings, the just barely vocalized questions.

Does she really think she can make real Chicken and Dumplings? 

She's not from around here, can she really do it?

Well, she can and she did.


I have to say that this Dane is no stranger to Chicken and Dumplings, just not quite made this way.

But that's OK, I can learn new tricks.  And I did.   Learn, that is.

There are a couple of cheats here, cause, this is the way I learned how to make it from Sarge, and he used frozen dumplings.

You can make your own from scratch and more power to you, but I'm cooking for an undetermined number of people each week.

We can have 30 people show up for lunch or 50 or more.  I never know.

Here's how I done did it.

First off.  Cook the chicken with some onion, celery and carrots, plus a little more seasoning.   I also roasted the chicken for a little while, I find it adds such a rich flavour profile.   I did use a little chicken base because I wanted a rich, full flavoured stock and I didn't have 16 hours to simmer it.

Take the chicken out, and discard the skin and bones.  Set the chicken aside, and strain the stock.

You don't want any of those veggies in there.


No vegetables in the Chicken and Dumplings.

Next up.   Put the strained chicken stock into a large pot, and bring to a boil.
Turn the heat down and add the frozen dumplings, stirring them gently to separate them.   Simmer for a good 45 minutes, although I think these would have been better if I'd cooked them a little longer.
I used Mary B's frozen dumplings.   

They will cook up nicely and the stock will get nice and creamy and thick.  
Add the chicken back in, and let it heat up.

Serve with some nice green beans and sliced tomatoes.   We also had some lovely Vidalia Onions, as well as Lemon Bars and Bread Pudding for dessert.

And don't forget that those biscuits.

Coming up tomorrow, Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Tomato Sauce.    Also known as Galumkis.  And I'm sure they are also known by a few other names.

 I can't believe I'm going to actually make them, I hated them when I was growing up, but I like them now.  See Mom, I do eat my vegetables.  Thank you for telling me that I couldn't say I didn't like something until I tasted at least one bite.    

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Monday, May 25, 2015


Taco's are my go-to, can't think of what else to make today, always welcome dinner.

Did that make sense?

All I know is, I can make Taco's once a week or even more often and it is always welcomed.

I usually keep all the ingredients on hand or in the freezer, cause you never know when inspiration won't strike.

And you know you need to get dinner made whether you feel like it or not.  Especially when there aren't a lot of restaurants around or even fast food for that matter.


I make Taco's.

I recently bought one of the main ingredients while we were on a business trip, cause I can't get the exact sauce we like here.

And I've tried other sauces, but they weren't quite right, in fact some of them were downright sweet. ugh

Here's how I do it.

First off...
Take out one pound of ground beef or ground turkey.  Depending on the price of the meat, it could be either kind.   This time round, I used ground beef.  

Brown the meat, it just tastes better when it's got a little browning on it.  
Ground Beef, browning in pan.

Then add about 1/2 the 12 oz. bottle of La Victoria Taco Sauce, or if you're cooking two pounds of meat, use the whole bottle.

Stir it around a little, then add about 1/2-3/4 cup of water and simmer until the water is reduced.
Taco mixture, simmering in pan
I'm not too sure of the science behind this, I just know it tastes so much better than if you just add the taco sauce and heat it through.
Then as it's cooking down, chop your tomatoes, onions, black olives (if you like them), the lettuce and grate the cheese.
Chopped Tomatoes


Grated Cheese

Toppings for Taco's
And get them all ready.

And don't forget your bird, well, I'm not allowed to.  She likes a piece of meat or two, lettuce and cheese.  She also gets her own dish.  If you don't give it to her, she complains and then raids your plate.
That's never a  pretty sight.  She doesn't know how to share, politely.

After you get all the toppings chopped, sliced and grated it's time to fry the taco shells.

Yes, I said fry the taco shells.    You can also use the commercial taco shells here if you choose, but we don't like them real well.

I like yellow corn tortillas and use Mission brand Yellow Corn Tortillas. Extra thin, please.
Mission Corn Tortillas
 I have my totally disreputable looking tortilla fry pan.  It started life as a egg poacher, but over time, it became my de facto taco fryer.  It was the perfect size for a tortilla, and that's all I use it for.  It does go through the dishwasher as well.  I've been using this pan for over 30 years and I'm not about to give it up.
Taco Pan
Add just enough oil to the pan, about a 1/2 inch or so, you don't need a great deal.   Heat it to about 350 degrees.  I like peanut oil but you can use a good quality vegetable oil here as well. 
Taco Pan with Tortilla
Add the first tortilla to the hot oil, the tortilla will bubble up a little, turn over with a pair of tongs as soon as the edge gets a little firm.  Just poke it with the tongs, you'll be able to tell quite easily.  And if it gets too hard, too fast, just turn it over and make it into a tostada later on.  I usually make one tostada shell for myself. 
Grasp the edge of the turned over tortilla and fold it a little, holding onto the tortilla, and letting it continue frying in the oil.
Taco Pan with Tortilla
As soon as it firms up a little,
Taco Pan with Tortilla
Hold it into the oil on the opposite side.  By this time, it should have a taco shape.  I like to continue frying them til they are crisp and just a touch browned.
Taco Pan with Tortilla
Remove from oil and place into a pan to drain.  Sometimes I put them onto a couple of coffee filters, or paper towels or just like this.   And I don't salt them either at this point, although you can if you like.
Taco Pan with Tortilla
Continue until all the tortillas you want for the dinner are finished.
Taco Shells
In my case, I wanted one taco and one tostada and my dinner companion wanted four tacos.

Now the fun begins:
For the tostada (which was just one tortilla fried flat until crisp), spread a little refried beans on top, then add some cheese.
Tostada with cheese
Then some chopped onions and black olives.  The olives aren't all that necessary, but I like them. 
Tostada with Cheese, Onions and Olives
I then zap them for about 45 seconds in the microwave or place them under the broiler until the cheese melts.
Then I put my taco together.
Tostada with Cheese, Onions and Olives

 A little meat
 Some cheese, lettuce and tomatoes, with just a sprinkle of onions and black olives for topper.
Tostada with Cheese, Onions and Olives and a Taco

 And that's my dinner, at least once a week.
Best of all, I take the leftover meat, freeze it and I've got a start on Nachos for another meal.

BTW, I once saw Alton Brown demonstrating how to fry a taco shell, using a cylinder of aluminum foil.  It just looked like too much work for me.  I've been making my own taco shells for over 30 years now, and if it ain't broke, I'm not fixin it.

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