I’ve decided that Mother Nature is either a manic depressive or severely PMSing during the spring. She’s definitely a moody one, especially in Montana. Maybe it’s because she loves us so much that it incurs this severe differences in our days (you know the saying, you hurt the ones you love the most). For example, Sunday before last it was a gorgeous beautiful spring day, by Tuesday there was 6 inches of snow on the ground. Moody, moody, moody!
If Mother Nature PMS’s all spring, then I must have become in sync with her living in Montana over the years. Just as quickly as the weather changes so does my mood. If I wake up and the sun is out, so am I. I become an amazing production machine; whether it’s yard work, house work or ‘real’ work. I feel like I have boundless energy and can conquer the world. Continue reading “Hearty Spring Pasta” »
I’m not Irish but both of my kids have Irish blood running through them which I figured that means I’m Irish by proxy. Even if I’m not Irish, I have red hair (thanks to a box), freckles and hazel eyes. I certainly could tell someone that I had an Irish heritage and they would believe it.
However, in this great melting pot of the USA, it doesn’t really matter does it? We celebrate all different heritages; that’s what a true melting pot does, although I have yet to see Norse Day with a lutefisk fest (ummm yuk). For this green holiday, one that celebrates all that is good about Ireland, I recommend you whip up this stew.
It is classically the epitome of all that represents comforting Irish food. And this dish is bathed in the iconic Guinness stout beer. Typically you see this type of stew made with beef in the Americas, but in Ireland they are more likely to eat lamb (beef can easily be substituted if desired) plus it has potatoes two ways. Continue reading “Guinness Irish Lamb Stew” »
This is the longest hiatus between posts that I’ve ever taken. As a matter of fact the last time I posted, was during Secret Recipe Club Reveal last month. At my last posting I was hot and heavy into finals for Part 1 of my school. I then took a one week break and visited family in Washington State. The next three weeks were filled with professional specific studies. I took Stock Photography, The Modern Studio and the class of my dreams Food and Product.
On to my SRC assignment, it’s Debbie, our illustrous leader of group C and of Debbie Does Dinner…Healthy & Low Calorie. What’s so great about Debbie’s site is that she has mostly healthy food (she throws in some other tempting dessert recipe that aren’t so healthy ). Debbie gives the calorie count and if it’s a side dish she gives you serving suggestions to keep your meal at about 500 calories, awesome!
Our Daring Cooks challenge this month was more like a scene from “Chopped”, contestants, open your baskets.
In basket 1 you have Parsnips, Eggplant, and Cauliflower
In basket 2 you have Balsamic Vinegar, Goat cheese and chipotle peppers
In basket 3 you have maple syrup, instant coffee, and bananas
The challenge was to pick one ingredient from each list and create a main meal from them. The challenge this month is hosted by David and Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking. The purpose behind this challenge was NOT to have a “Chopped” challenge, it was to inspire original…truly original recipes from a set of ingredients.
I am so not trendy, seems like when ever everybody is into something, I’m like, “meh”. Just look at my wardrobe… For example the whole five minute artisan bread, I didn’t post anything like that until this post in December. Here I go again… Last year the Charcuterie was all over the blogosphere, there were even contests for it. I read them with interest, but only interest. Oh I wanted to get into the make everything from scratch kind of life but my lazy bone seems to get in the way every time! Plus I am kind of quirky, it seems when something is super trendy I want to turn the other way and run. At least until it shows some staying power and I find it has the possibility of positively contributing to my life.
Sometimes I just know what I want, I crave it, think about it, plan it, prepare it and eventually devour it with delight. Other times, it’s all about whatever I have left in the fridge that absolutely needs to be used up. Other times, meal decisions are based on time, and way too many times they are based on the hunger factor. In other words, I’m hangry and I need to eat NOW!
I love photo props. Some of you other bloggers apply the KISS principle (keep it simple stupid), but me, I can’t help myself, I keep finding adorable little things. I really love vintage things (including McGyver). My children will attest to my love for vintage items, I think I spent a good portion of all my money in Europe on antiques and what-nots. Thinking of Tongeren…
I made the Harvest Chili with ground turkey and decided to do the same for my egg rolls…carrying the inspiration through. I loaded the egg roll with some Napa cabbage and carrots, then ruined all the healthiness by deep frying them.
If egg rolls have intimidated you in the past, they shouldn’t. They are much easier than they look (if you purchase the wrappers). All the stuffing ingredients are cooked in one pan, placed in a wrapper and rolled up burrito style.
I like to use my cheap-o Presto Deep Fryer/All-purpose pot to cook my egg rolls but they can be fried in a deep frying pan on the stove. They can be baked in the oven; just spray them with some cooking spray and bake at 400°F until they are a nice golden brown (approximately 20 minutes), flipping them half way through for even browning.
You can also freeze them before or after cooking. I prefer to cook mine first, let them cool and lay them on a lined cookie and put them in the freezer. Once they are frozen I bag and label them. They can be reheated in the microwave or oven (I use a toaster oven).
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large sauté pan, cook onions, garlic and carrots until carrots are tender crisp, about 5 minutes. Add ground turkey and continue to cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir occasionally, use a wooden spoon to break up meat.
Drain the meat mixture if necessary, add the 5-spice and soy sauce and cook until most of the soy sauce has cooked off. Turn the heat off and stir in the cabbage. Place 1/4 cup of the mixture onto the center of the egg roll wrapper (see photo), bring the bottom corner of the wrapper up, fold the sides towards the center. Using your finger, moisten the edges of the top corner and fold towards the center to seal the egg roll. Repeat until all the wrappers and filling is used.
Deep fry at 375°F for 2 to 3 minutes, drain on paper towels.. Note: Only fry a few at a time, too many at once and the temperature of the oil will drop. you may end up with soggy egg rolls.
Wow, has it been a month already? It seems like just last week I was doing my first Secret Recipe Club post. It was so much fun that I came back for more. Not only did I have fun, so did the Baby boy. In fact he had so much fun making Southwestern Egg Rolls from The Freshman Cook, he wanted to cook for the next round.
Hey, if you can get a teenage boy interested in cooking through SRC, you are one lucky mom! I got my assignment and informed the Baby boy. He’s on the iPad and asks, “who is it”, I said Family Fresh Cooking. He starts to type in Family, then he goes, “Wow, she’s popular, it’s the first thing that came up”. Then he went rooting around the site, and stated “I don’t think I should cook one of her recipes, I mean, she has a lot of followers”. Kind of intimidating for a teenager, I mean what if they thought he did a bad job?
I assured him that this was about trying recipes from different sites and anybody with “family” in their title would be happy to see one of the kids cooking! He was convinced and set about immediately to find a recipe. He was sold on the Chinese 5 Spice Harvest Chili with Bison. He loves Chinese and he loves chili. The fact that we had temps in the high 80’s was no matter to him.
A little about Family Fresh Cooking, Marla is an amazing person! Not only is she a mom, she is also a food photographer, stylist and writer, she also does recipe development and somehow manages to travel. Oh, and guess who designed the badge at the top of this post? Yep, she’s one talented lady. What amazed me most about Marla is that she gets up at 4 am! Hello, I’m not such a morning person (you won’t see me until after 7 am). She seems to have boundless energy, maybe it’s all that healthy living. Looks like I have a few things I could learn from Marla.
Trying to get the Baby boys schedule and mine to mash (read he’s never home), took some finagling. I finally pinned him down on a cold rainy day…perfect for a bowl of chili! What luck. Only he started feeling sick, and pooped out on me after just a little prep time…
I pressed on. I made very few changes to the recipe (which you can see with the modified original below). I used one of Marla’s substitute ideas, and used ground turkey instead of bison. Bison was $8 a pound and the ground turkey was buy one get one free…what a deal (as long as we don’t get salmonella from it)!
This is also the first time that the Baby boy had parsnips, I mean “white carrots”. Really, I don’t know why I don’t use them more. I enjoy their flavor and they are popular in Montana due to our short growing season.
I also pulled out my three wimpy leeks that I planted year before last (they were a Farmer’s Market impulse buy at 10 cents each). I’ve never grown leeks and had no clue what to do. My leeks had kind of a bulbous end and upon peeling they broke off and there was my leek…which was more like a scallion. I tasted the bulb part and it was not good…can it be used to replant? Is that how it reproduces? Any gardeners out there know? Fortunately I had purchased some big girl leeks to supplement the meager 1/8 cup I ended with from my garden.
As far as the recipe goes…it was delicious. A unique and enjoyable flavor. The 5 spice hits you first and then it’s rounded out by the nice tomato and chili flavor. McGyver refused to call it chili and instead referred to it as stew, guess he’s too much of a traditionalist (he still loved it). Whether you call it a stew or a chili, call it wonderful and make it!
Thanks Marla for a great healthy recipe, I’ll be making more for sure!
Chinese 5 Spice Chili with Turkey
1 cup Chopped Leeks
A few cloves chopped Garlic or 1 tablespoon Garlic purée
1 cup chopped Mushrooms
5 large Carrots, chopped
5 Parsnips, chopped
28 2 14.5 ounce cans chopped diced Tomatoes
6 ounce can Tomato Paste
splash of Lemon Juice
1 2 cup Vegetable or Beef Broth or a few cubes of Bouillon with 1 cup water
1 tablespoon Chili Powder
2 teaspoons Cumin
1 tablespoon Chinese 5 Spice Blend
2 teaspoons Smoked Paprika
Garlic Salt and Pepper to taste
splash of Olive Oil
2 pounds ground Bison turkey
*Add an additional pinch of the above spices to season the meat, use the above measurements to add to the pot of chili
In a large pot add a splash of olive oil, garlic and leeks. Over medium heat cook for a few minutes and add the measured spices. Cook until softened, fragrant and lightly browned. Stir occasionally. Add veggies. Cook to soften veggies for about 10 minutes while the meat browns. Stir occasionally.
In a separate pan, add splash of olive oil, cook and brown ground meat. Add pinches of the above spices, stir to combine. Add cooked meat, chopped tomatoes tomato paste, broth and lemon juice to veggie pot. Stir to combine. Bring to boil. Turn down heat to low and simmer for about 1/2 hour or until veggies are cooked thorough. Add additional broth or water if necessary to thin out. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Hop on over and check out all the other SRC recipes.
I mentioned during this post that I was lucky enough to deploy to Tunisia while I was in the Air Force. It was a joint Medical operations. We flew down from RAF Lakenheath, UK in the not so comfortable jump seats in the back of a cargo plane.
Our mission: To share/exchange some of our medical/dental knowledge and then practice a mass casualty scenario, which involved buses, helicopters, burning tires…which created real life emergencies from the toxic fumes. Let’s just that wasn’t the best planning on the Tunisian side, but it did give us an opportunity to practice for real.
We were housed in bunkers right next to the Mediterranean. Although we didn’t have windows, or heat or AC, I didn’t have a single complaint. Except that there were only two showers for something like 18 women. Two showers, say what? Then I found out that we were lucky to have toilet paper as it is not used normally. So fine, a shower schedule was worked out and we all rejoiced in the toilet paper instead.
I was selected to go because they needed a dental assistant to accompany the Oral Surgeon, I happened to work with Oral Surgeon that was slated to go. They also needed people to teach CPR and EMT-B course. I was both a certified AHA BLS instructor and an EMT-B instructor. They hit the trifecta with me and that meant it saved the Air Force money and it scored me a trip to Tunisia. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together!
Since English was not their primary language, we were going to have to do our best to teach in their secondary language, French. Understand this, I had one year of French like 15 years before this deployment and I sucked at it. Here would be my biggest challenge. I created slides and had them translated in to French, then I memorized them in French, and I studied crammed as much French into my head as I could. You are probably thinking that I’m going to say, it all came back to me? Well it didn’t, but I muddled along and had the help of one or two students that spoke decent English.
A Tunisian Field Drill
I loved it, every moment of it. Waking up at 0’dark thirty to heat up tinned sausages and rehydrated eggs, creating unique meals with my MREs (Meals Ready to Eat = three lies for the price of one), teaching, sharing, experiencing. This was why I joined the military, to go to another country and work together to do something amazing!
While we were there, the Tunisian’s hosted a dinner and opened a bar for us. Their beer is served in tiny cans so I made sure to grab two at a time to avoid the lines.
For dinner they made Tunisian Couscous. A dish so flavorful and wonderful. I gorged myself on it, I couldn’t get enough. The depth of flavor was wow-mazing! I just made that word up since I couldn’t think of another that could describe my experience.
Tunisian Couscous is their version of a stew, it is traditionally made in a couscoussier. The meat and veg are cooked in the bottom pot with all the spices and the couscous is steamed on top. I do not have couscoussier, I probably won’t ever, so I used a large stock pot and cooked my couscous in a separate pot.
The ingredient list is long…so is this post, but it is worth the time and effort. I made this particular one with chicken, in the future I would use skinless boneless chicken. The skin, after cooking for so long just cooked off the meat and ended up getting tossed (you’ll need to adjust cooking time accordingly if you use boneless chicken). Tunisian couscous is especially good made with lamb.
The recipe came from a compilation of recipes I found on the internet and my memories of the wonderful first taste back in Tunisia. A critical ingredient for Tunisian Couscous is Harissa, you can purchase it at a specialty market or you can the recipe here.
Did you know that Tunisian couscous is served in a single bowl that everyone eats from? And that the spicier it is the more the wife loves her husband?
1 (4 lb.) chicken, cut into pieces (or skinless boneless chicken or lamb)
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion diced
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz. tomato paste
2 cups water or more if needed
2 tbsp. harissa (or more to taste)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3” pieces, then halved if large
4 cups cubed butternut squash
2 zucchini sliced 1/2 “ thick then quartered
1 16 oz. can Garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1 cup golden raisins
10 oz. plain couscous, uncooked
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown chicken in batches (if necessary), return chicken to the pot. Add the diced onions and all the spices. Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the onions start to sweat and the spices become very fragrant. Add the garlic, stir and cook for another 30 seconds.
Add tomato paste and 1 cup of water, stirring to deglaze the pan. Add just enough extra water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer 30 minutes, adding more water if necessary.
Add carrots and cook 15 more minutes. Add harissa and butternut squash, cook for 10 minutes. Finally add the zucchini, garbanzo beans and golden raisins. cook until the butternut squash and zucchini are tender about 10 more minutes.
During the last leg of cooking, prepare the couscous according to package directions. Place couscous in a large bowl, stir in one cup of the cooking liquid from the stew. Stir well to mix. Make a well in the center of the couscous and add the chicken and vegetable stew.
Serve with extra cooking liquid and harissa on the side.
Thought you might find it funny that I had to use a step stool to stir my pot. Either the pot was too tall or I’m too short.