Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Spicy, Sweet & Smoky Treat

The smoky, spicy taste of the chipotle pepper adds a unique, Southwest flavor to many dishes. Experiment with the amount of pepper you use to determine just the right kick. I find it difficult to remove seeds (which decreases heat) from the chipotle, so I just use one pepper in most of my dishes. Using more than one will increase the heat and flavor.
I add a chopped chipotle pepper and adobo sauce to chili, casseroles, veggie beef soup, cornbread, even macaroni & cheese. Chipotle peppers can be added to any dish that could use a smoky, spicy, Southwestern kick. If your family likes the flavor, experiment a little by adding one chopped chipotle pepper with a little adobo sauce to your favorite dish.
I buy chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in the can. Generally, I only use one or two at a time. So, what do I do with the rest of the can of peppers? I line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Then I place each pepper with a little bit of adobo sauce about 2 inches apart on the wax paper. Top the peppers with another sheet of wax paper, press lightly, and freeze on the cookie sheet until firm. Remove from freezer and cut squares around each pepper making individually frozen peppers for future use. Stack frozen peppers (still pressed between wax paper) in a gallon-size freezer bag and freeze until needed. This same method works for pesto; freeze in tablespoon or 1/4 cup portions.

Chipotle Sweet Potato Biscuits

5 T cold butter, cut into small cubes
2 1/4 c self-rising flour
1/2 - 2/3 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. sweet potatoes, cooked, mashed, and cold (or sweet potato casserole *see note)
1 chipotle pepper, chopped
zest of 1 lime, chopped
juice of ½ of one lime

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut butter into flour with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Add buttermilk and remaining ingredients stirring the mixture just until moistened. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for about 1 hour. On lightly floured surface, pat dough to 1/2-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch round biscuit cutter. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden.

*If you use leftover sweet potato casserole, you may want to decrease the brown sugar a bit so that your biscuits aren’t too sweet (as if there is such a thing!)

*These unbaked biscuits freeze well up to 3 months. Chipotle Sweet Potato Biscuits can also be used as toppers for pot pies or casseroles. Simply top the unbaked casserole with the cut dough and bake. Try them as a topper for your Turkey Pot Pie after Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Orange Roasted Turkey

The recipe I've posted for Orange Roasted Chicken can be used to roast your Thanksgiving turkey! Simply double or triple the recipe, depending on the size of your turkey. Oven roasting bags are available in "turkey-size", as well. Be sure to cook your turkey until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees.
And, here's a simple Cranberry Sauce recipe that pairs perfectly with the citrus infused turkey.

Cranberry Sauce
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. shredded coconut

Mix together and refrigerate 1 hour before serving.

I have to thank my sister-in-law, Sarah, for the Orange Roasted Turkey recipe. She cooks our family's Thanksgiving turkey this way, and it is always juicy, moist, and flavorful. Give it a try and soak up the compliments for a job well done!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Venison is IN

If you ask my daddy what his favorite day of the year is, you would expect him to answer with Christmas Day, his birthday, his anniversary, or the first day of vacation. While those days, and others spent with his family, are important to Daddy, his FAVORITE day of each year is "the third Saturday in November." Many of you will know immediately that that date is the beginning of deer hunting season (rifle/shotgun) in Virginia, and every die-hard hunter looks forward to that day each year. This year, it happens to be the 2nd Saturday because the actual rule, as stated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries reads "the Saturday prior to the 3rd Monday in November." So, deer hunting season is in full swing here in Virginia.
Now, what does the first day of hunting season have to do with my cooking blog?? Well, I have been eating deer since I was knee-high to a duck, and if there is one thing I do know how to cook, it's deer meat. Many people think deer meat is gamey. That is true if the meat is not handled properly. I can't stress this enough. The hunter really has to know what she/he is doing when field dressing, skinning, processing, butchering, and soaking the meat. Deer meat, often called venison, is actually a tasty, low-fat, naturally hormone & preservative free source of protein that is abundant in The Old Dominion. I don't like gamey- or wild-tasting venison...I don't know of anyone who does. If you know a hunter and you trust that she/he processes the deer meat safely, try cooking with venison. I cook with venison in many recipes, as I often substitute deer meat for beef. The fresh meat should not smell yucky; it should just smell like meat. If it has a funky smell, it will taste funky; so don't bother cooking it. From properly processed deer meat, I make maple-glazed meatballs, barbecue, pot roast, venison stew, venison veggie soup, spaghetti sauce, and my new favorite is my sister's jagerschnitzel.
You want an inexpensive meat for your family? Venison is your answer. Each year, Daddy kills a doe and has the meat ground (except the choice loin, which is sliced or kept whole). The cost of processing the meat this way is approximately $60. The average deer will produce around 35 pounds of meat. That's $1.71 per pound. Venison is quite economical, plus deer meat is a healthy choice for those looking to cut fat in their diets and still eat meat.
Find a friend who hunts or contact a local hunt club, and see if you could purchase venison for your family this winter. Hunters for the Hungry is an organization that provides venison to hungry families throughout Virginia. Visit their website to learn more about this Virginia charity, and to see a list of deer processors in Virginia. Any hunter will be happy to guide you in finding a nearby processing facility if you want a deer ground or processed into stew meat, roasts, and steaks. Especially when it is ground, venison is a versatile meat that you can use as a substitution for costly ground round.
When I went away to college, the home-cooked meal I craved was Fried Venison. My mother would thinly slice the tenderloin, dust each cutlet in flour, salt and pepper, and fry them in vegetable oil. Then, she'd make an onion gravy and mashed potatoes, too. This meal says "home" to me because my Daddy is never happier than when he has spent his whole day hunting. Coming in from the cold to this home-cooked meal, he regales us with all the hunting stories of the day. He spares no detail as he tells us of the big, old buck who outsmarted him again. Good luck this season, Daddy!
Here's the recipe for Jagerschnitzel, which is German for escalope. It's very similar to my childhood favorite, but I've made it a little healthier by using peanut oil (and less of it) and I added mushrooms to the gravy to make it heartier. And, yes, this recipe works well with pork, chicken, or veal, too!

Venison Jagerschnitzel...simply put, this is a venison cutlet with mushroom gravy

1/3 c. chicken breader (I use House Autry)
1/4 t. coarsely ground pepper
1/2 t. seasoned salt
4 (4-oz.) venison loin steaks, pounded to 1/4-in. thickness
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. dry unseasoned wheat bread crumbs
3 T. peanut oil (or vegetable)

For Gravy:
1 T. butter
1/4 c. finely chopped sweet onion
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 c. beef or venison stock
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. seasoned salt

1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 T. fresh chopped parsley

In a shallow dish, combine chicken breader and next 2 ingredients. Place eggs in a second shallow dish and bread crumbs in a third shallow dish; arrange three dishes in order. Dredge venison steaks in chicken breader mixture to coat. Dip steaks in eggs; then dredge in bread crumbs. In a 12-inch skillet, heat 1-2 T. oil over medium heat; cook steaks 4-6 minutes or until browned, turning steaks once and adding oil as necessary. Remove steaks to serving plate and keep warm with tented foil. To make gravy, melt butter in skillet; add onions and cook until transparent. Add mushrooms and wine, stirring to scrape bits off bottom of pan. Cook 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. In 4-cup measure, combine stock and 1/4 c. flour. Gradually stir stock mixture into skillet. Cook 8-10 minutes or until gravy is thick and bubbly, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/4 t. seasoned salt. (adding salt before now will make mushrooms tough.) Serve mushroom gravy over venison cutlets and smashed potatoes. Top with fresh chopped parsley and fresh lemon wedges for squeezing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hubby's Favorite Steak & Potatoes...a New Way

There is something classic and all-American about a grilled steak and mashed potatoes. My husband could eat this meal every night of the week. He may just vary the potatoes...sometimes baked, sometimes fried, sometimes mashed. So, grilled steak is generally a weekend meal for us and often a steak is leftover, as are a few servings of mashed potatoes. I don’t like to re-heat the steak in the microwave for fear of overcooking it, and leftover mashed potatoes just aren’t as good as the first night. For a quick weeknight meal, I turn those leftovers into creamy, hearty Steak & Potato Soup. The measurements for the steak and potatoes are approximate. Just use close to that amount in what you have leftover. Try it the next time you have steak (or any cut of beef) and mashed or baked potatoes leftover.

Steak & Potato Soup

2 T olive oil
3/4 c. onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. flour
4 c. water, divided
2 ½ c. mashed potatoes
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
½ t. salt
1/4 t. ground pepper
1 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
2 c. milk
2 c. steak, cubed

In Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is transparent. In small bowl, combine flour with 1/4 c. water, stir until smooth; set aside. To onions and garlic, add remaining water and next 4 ingredients. Bring to a boil and slowly stir in flour mixture, stirring constantly for about 4 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add cheese and stir until melted. Reduce heat to low. Add milk and steak being sure not to let soup return to a boil. Stir well and heat through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Side suggestion: cornbread & green salad

Friday, November 6, 2009

Orange Roasted Chicken

A number of ladies who attended Ladies' Latte last night requested the Orange Roasted Chicken recipe...Here it is! Enjoy!

This week’s recipe uses a meat thermometer, citrus zester, and an oven roasting bag. You may never have used a meat thermometer, but I always use mine to make sure meats are cooked to the proper internal temperature. Most models even have the temperatures and different meats listed on the thermometer, so they are quite user-friendly. A citrus zester is a small tool that you lightly drag across the peel of citrus fruits to shave off that wonderfully fragrant and tasty zest. You could also use a microplane by grating the fruit across the edge as you would a cheese grater. Oven roasting bags trap steam which keeps the meat moist and tender. Of course, you can use a roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil, but roasting bags make clean-up quick and easy. If you use a roasting pan, you will need to baste the chicken half-way through baking.
I ALWAYS bake a larger chicken than we will eat in one sitting. I do this so that I will have about 2 cups of cooked chicken left over. I will turn that flavorful chicken into another dish later in the week. And, I NEVER discard the cooking liquid. After it cools, I pour it through a sieve and then into ice cube trays or small plastic baby food containers with lids. Then, I freeze this perfectly seasoned broth to use later when cooking rice, or I add it to mashed potatoes, soups, pastas, etc.
While this chicken is roasting, place a few sweet potatoes in the oven, too, for about 45 minutes to one hour. Just place them on the oven rack and they will bake just fine. To serve, split the sweet potatoes lengthwise and top with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of brown sugar. Perfect and simple side dish for this citrus-infused chicken!

Orange Roasted Chicken
4-5 lb. Roaster chicken
2 oranges
4-6 garlic cloves, sliced
1 sweet onion, quartered
4 T. olive oil, divided
1/4 c. orange juice
1 T. Orange zest (from one of the oranges)
1 t. salt
½ t. garlic powder
½ t. onion powder
½ t. paprika
½ t. black pepper

Wash roaster inside and out, and pat dry. Zest one orange and then cut it into quarters. Slice other orange into 1/4-inch slices. Coat cavity with 1-2 T. Olive oil and stuff with orange quarters, onion quarters, and some garlic slices. Stuff orange slices and garlic slices under loosened skin covering the breasts and thighs. Mix remaining olive oil, orange juice, orange zest, and next 5 ingredients and set aside. Place stuffed roaster in oven roasting bag and follow instructions on package. Also place in roasting bag any remaining orange slices or garlic slices. Pour orange juice mixture over stuffed roaster. Tie bag and place in pan, as per instructions on package. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 1 hour and 45 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh reads 180 degrees . Let chicken stand 5 minutes before carving.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Butternut Squash...A Good Gourd!

Butternut squash is a versatile and tasty fall vegetable. It can be a savory side dish with garlic and thyme or it can be a sweet, cinnamony treat, as well as a creamy soup or braised in stews. Some people are hesitant to cook butternut squash because of the gourd’s tough skin. Here’s a trick to making the butternut squash more user-friendly.
Pierce squash with a knife a few times and place directly on rack in preheated 325 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel with a vegetable peeler, scoop out the seeds, and cube the squash. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and place cubed squash in it. Top squash with 1/4 c. apple or orange juice, and a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or brown sugar. Bake until squash is tender. Drizzle with honey or maple syrup to serve. Of course, it is easiest to prepare and roast butternut squash while you have another dish baking in the oven. Don’t fuss over the oven temperature: if you are baking something at 350 degrees, throw the squash in there for 10-15 minutes, and it will still peel and cube fine. Also, if you don’t have time to wait around for the squash to cool, handle it with a pot holder.
Here’s another recipe for butternut squash. This one is a savory side dish that pairs nicely with just about any meat.

Butternut Green Bean Saute

1 butternut squash
2 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb fresh green beans and/or wax beans
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 c. vegetable stock
salt & pepper to taste
Partially cook squash as per directions above. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute garlic, being careful not to burn. Add cubed butternut squash, season with salt and pepper, and stir well. Cook 4 minutes stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high, add beans, thyme, and vegetable stock. Stir well, cover and cook until squash and beans are tender and desired doneness, about 5 minutes. Salt & pepper to taste. Add red pepper flakes for a little heat, if desired.