Thursday, June 23, 2005

Southwest Shells

Sorry for the delay, things have been in a bit of turmoil at the Saucehold. You can read about things here, if you are so inclined.

This evening's supper was made from a recipe I got from a woman I worked with at the hospital. I forget where she got it, bit it is rather good. (And yes, purists, I know it's not authentic. Doesn't stop it from being fast and tasty.)

Southwestern Shells, Sorta

You'll need

1 pound (approximately) of your favorite Ground Beast or Ground Beast Substitute
1 brick of cream cheese (full, low, or no fat)
1 packet of taco seasoning (or your own blend of cumin, garlic, chili, etc)
1 jar salsa
1-2 cans tomatoes (diced plain, Southwest style, Rotel, whatever floats your boat)
Cheese (cheddar, Jack, Taco, fresco/blanco, it's flexible.)
Large or Jumbo pasta shells (though, in a pinch, you could use lasagna, or other pasta and make a casserole instead)

Boil the pasta till it's al dente. If it's a little underdone, don't panic. You can fix it. In the meantime, brown your ground beast. When it's cooked, add the taco seasoning (with the amount of water indicated on the packet) or your own blend, with about a half cup of water. Cook the seasonings and beast together for a few minutes, then remove from the heat. Cube the cream cheese, and add to the warm meaty mixture. Mix the meat and cream cheese until thoroughly combined. This will be the filling for your shells.

Once the shells are finished cooking, prep your pan by putting in 1/2 can or so of the tomatoes on the bottom. (If your shells are a little underdone, put 1 full can on the bottom, juice and all.) Fill your shells with the meat mixture and place them on the tomatoes. Once your pan is filled, top with the remaining tomatoes (add an extra can if you so desire) and/or salsa. (My family hates spice, so I top with plain tomatoes, and serve salsa on the side.)

Top the whole shebang with cheese, wrap in foil, and pop it into your oven (350) till it's bubbly. Take the foil off and let the cheese brown up some, and you're good to go.

Note: If you're cooking on the cheap, or are using up some beast from a larger package, feel free to stretch the meat mix with a can of black or pinto beans. None shall be the wiser, and it tastes good too. Just pop them in when you add the spice mix.

And a side note: The German Chocolate cake on the inside of the Baker's German Chocolate box is really, really freakin' good. My dad's favorite cake is GC, and I meant to make it for him for Father's Day, but was stuck working a double. So I whipped this up on Tuesday to rave reviews. The icing in particular is delicious. Just the right custardy feel to it. Mmmm.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Bumble Bee Tuna Steaks

So for supper this evening I decided to try the new Bumble Bee marinated tuna steaks. Well, steak. You can find a whole host of flavored tuna in those swell little plasti-foil pouches now. I'm a huge fan of the Garlic & Herb Starkist pouches (and so is everyone else, apparently, because I have a hard time finding it). The Lemon Pepper tuna is also good. It's great because you can just open the baggie and dive in. It's great on salads, or just plain. That said, the tuna steaks are a bit interesting.

The size is just right for one person, and the Ginger Soy marinade on the one I purchased is delicate, but tasty. However, what you need to remember is that this is, basically, canned tuna. It's ultra-firm, and that's a little creepy. I'm used to a piece of fish that big being a bit... juicier/more tender. (Even regular tuna/salmon/other fish steaks.) That was a bit difficult to get used to. Overall, it wasn't bad, and with the help of some jasmine rice (boil in bag, oddly enough- which was very tasty.) and veggies I had supper ready in under 10 minutes.

What was that supper?

Wicked Fast Food

You'll need:

1 marinated tuna steak (if you use the bumblebee, it'll be a lot faster, but your own tuna will taste 1,000 times better)
1 pouch boil in bag rice (success brand is actually pretty decent) or your own real rice.
1 cup of your favorite frozen stir-fry vegetable blend

Soy Sauce, if you like.

Start by boiling the water you'll need for your rice. When the water's ready, cook according to the package directions (though, I find it always cooks faster than they say). While the rice is cooking, put your vegetables in a small pyrex/microwave safe container. Open up the tuna package and pour the extra marinade in with the vegetables. Cover the veggies with plastic wrap and nuke for 3 minutes (give or take). When the veggies are done, and the rice is tender, microwave the tuna for 30 seconds.

To serve, put some of the rice on your plate, pour the vegetables and marinade over top, and serve with the tuna.

Tasty, rapid, and not bad for you. Of course, now i need to figure out how to turn that leftover rice into rice pudding, because I'm fiending.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mini Margherita Pizzas

Now that it's not so ungodly hot in the house, I decided to fire up the oven and make Mini Margherita Pizzas.

Scale this recipe up or down, depending on the number of tomatoes you have, and people you need to feed.

For 3 rounds, I used:

1 medium tomato and 6 smaller campari tomatoes, small dice (but use whatever floats your boat)
1 gigantic clove of garlic
a good amount of fresh basil. sliced thinly
Olive Oil
(fresh if you can get it)
Pocketless pitas (or wheat pocket-y ones)

peel your garlic clove and if it's big, whack it into a few pieces. Place it in a small saute pan over medium heat. Toast it for a few minutes, just to take the bite out of it.

In the meantime, dice your tomatoes into small pieces and toss them in the basket of your salad spinner. When you think you have enough, put the lid on, and spin out the seeds and goop. Run the toasted garlic through a garlic press, and add your thinly shredded basil. Salt & pepper to taste, if you like.

Put the tomato mixture on the pitas, drizzle with olive oil, and top with the cheese. Bake in a 350 oven until cheese is melted and the crust is as crispy as you prefer.

Gee, can you tell I'm not cooking for my family this week? I always eat more healthily when left to my own devices. Heh.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Why it rocks to live in the "country"

What did I do this morning?

Picked cherries off the tree in the back yard.

Sure, the birds got the top half of the tree, but I got everything I could reach that hadn't been pecked already. Suhweeeet.

And if you're ever faced with a large quantity of cherries to pit, the best tool is NOT a paper clip. They're too flimsy. Instead, get two smallish binder clips. Make them "bite" each other, by clipping them together (so the silver pieces are on the outsides, and the black bits meet in the middle). Use one of the silver bits to pit your cherries. MUCH easier.

I'll probably pit and freeze these guys, and make some cobbler or something later on.


Monday, June 13, 2005

Central Market 'Mater Salad

We got this salad at one of the market stands last week, and It was awesome. One of the weird knacks I have is being able to figure out what's in something, so I can make it again at home. It doesn't work out every time, but usually I can figure stuff out, if I really like it. That said, I hit this one spot on.

Central Market 'Mater Salad

Again, I hate measuring. Scale this base idea up or down depending on your tastes and the number of people you have to feed. This particular batch made a nice sized bowl full (bigger than a cereal bowl, smaller than a 10 cup tupperware container) for a side dish. I have enough for lunch tomorrow (paired with some lemon-pepper tuna), easily.

You'll need:

2-3 medium tomatoes. Get the ugly-ripe ones, or a box of the campari brand ones, if good tomatoes aren't in season.
1 lime
1 rib of celery
1 1 small tin of sliced black olives
1-2 tablespoons fresh cilantro

Chop up your tomatoes into bite sized pieces. You may wish to use more tomatoes, but whatever you do, for the love of pete, do not use styrofoam, flavorless, wooden tomatoes. Your salad will suck*. Ripe, juicy, flavorful tomatoes are crucial to this recipe. Slice up your celery into reasonably thin-ish slices. You don't have to split the rib in half, though, unless it's ginormous. Toss both into a bowl and sprinkle a pinch of salt over the lot. Mix it together, toss on your drained olives, minced cilantro**, and squeeze on the juice of half the lime. Reserve the other half of the lime for iced tea, margaritas, or in case your salad needs it later.

Pop the whole lot into the fridge and let it sit for a bit. The tomatoes will give up some of their delicious juice, mingle with the lime and cilantro, and make the whole thing pretty much scream SUMMER at the top of its little tomatoey lungs. SO. Good.

Edited to add: If you're feeling particularly adventuresome, the leftovers of the salad are especially tasty when you add in some cooked tortellini, and let the whole thing sit for a while. You may need a bit more lime juice, and a shot of olive oil, but the thing will be ultra-tasty. (So discovered because I made Barilla's dried porcini mushroom tortellini for supper, and put the extra pasta in the leftover salad. Will make an awesome lunch!)

* Seriously. If you use crappy tomatoes, I will know, and I'll smack you. Use the Cherry-Berry ones if you want, but don't use shitty tomatoes.

** I don't want to hear "I don't like cilantro". Use it. My mother, whose vehement hatred of cilantro rivals only her abiding hatred of CCR, didn't mind the cilantro in this recipe. Besides, Cilantro and Lime is a classic. Hell, if I could bottle the fragrance of C&L, and wear it, I would.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

And while I'm at it

I have to say, Bisquick is my friend.

I've been a biscuit fiend lately. I don't know why. And for whatever reason? Bisquick does it for me. And the new reduced-fat bisquick? It's awesome. I recommend it highly.

On that end, 2 of my favorite goodies from the Bisquick Box.

Bisquick Biscuits (good for fiendish cravings)

2 1/4 cups bisquick
2/3 cup milk

Mix together. Turn dough out onto work surface dusted with bisquick. Knead about 10 times. Roll about 3/4 inch thick, and cut out with a drinking glass. Bake at 450 for 9 minutes, brush the tops with butter, and be happy, oh so happy.

If you're feeling shmancy, throw in about 1/2 to 2/3 cup of shredded cheese, and (if you're adventuresome) a healthy dose of coarsely cracked black pepper. The closest, fastest thing to my grandma's pepper cheese bread.

...and a note on grandma's pepper cheese bread. I always wanted that recipe, and I think my mom got it before my grandmother died. However, I haven't seen it in years, and I fear it may be lost. Which is a shame, because my Aunt Sandy has the house, and all its contents. And I know I will never see that recipe again. (Family feuds, love 'em.) Grandma was incredible- she had this big flour bin in the kitchen- her recipes weren't for one or two loaves. Oh no. We're talking 12 loaves at a time. TWELVE. And rarely did she write down things- she just knew how much flour and yeast to dish out.

Come to think of it, both my grandmothers had their strong suits. Dad's mom was the queen of bread, and made the world's best beer-battered fish- always made with their catch from Canada, or the local creeks. So good. Grandma G. also made the best macaroni salad. Nobody knows how she did it, but you could always count on it at picnics and funerals. However, Grandma G. made lousy pie crusts.

Grammy on the other hand? AWESOME pie crusts. Crappy bread. Which leads to the family theory. You're either a pie person or a bread person, but rarely both. I make a passable pie crust (mom doesn't hate it. Which is not faint praise, I assure you- She's a pie crust person.) I'm better with bread, but don't always like taking the time to do it. Apparently I cook like grammy (and look like her too, go figure). Which is a point of pride for me.

Anyway, pardon that little trip down memory lane.

On to my favorite summer dish- shortcake. I actually dragged out an ancient bag of frozen blueberries today, to appease the family, as I was craving just plain old shortcake. Bisquick, naturally.

Bisquick shortcakes

2 1/3 cups bisquick
1/2 cup milk
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons melted butter

Mix that all together, and drop into about 6 little mounds on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little more sugar if you like, and bake at 425 for 12 minutes.


Aunt & Uncle who came to visit say I should really cook in a professional capacity. Or cater. I'd just be afraid I'd suck, or hate it. Though I have toyed with the notion of opening a stand at market before. I don't know if I'd have enough hook. Then again, one of the places we visited at lunchtime was pretty simple, and did a decent business.

Who knows...

Grilled Sweet Taters

So you are hungry for baked sweet potatoes, are you? What's that? It's hot enough to fry a dog on your kitchen floor? (A hot dog, people, not a real dog. Sickos.) Fear not. You can copy the taste without turning on the oven.

How? You can make Grilled Sweet Taters.
(Use your electric grill pan, stovetop grill pan, or outdoor grill)

What you'll need:

3 (or so) Sweet Potatoes
about 3 tablespoons (or less) of vegetable oilabout 3 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
about 2-3 Tablespoons Butter
a healthy squirt of Lemon Juice
A pinch of Cinnamon
A pinch of salt

Scrub your taters thoroughly, and slice them (on a diagonal, it's prettier) about 1/4 inch thick. Place the slices in a bowl, and toss with a bit of vegetable oil to coat.

Now, if you're using an electric grill, and it's a piece of crap like mine, that you can't regulate the temperature on, arrange the sliced potatoes on a microwave-safe plate and nuke for 1 minute or so. If you're using a real grill, you can put them in a spot where the heat's not too high, and if you're using a grill pan on your stove, keep the heat moderate.

Grill until the potato slices are tender- your time will vary based on the type of grill you're using. It took about 3 minutes per side (though I turned them somewhat frequently) on my crappy electric grill.

In the meantime, put the sugar, butter, lemon juice & cinnamon in a small, microwave-safe container (or in a grill-safe container and melt on the grill) and nuke about 30 seconds- long enough to melt the butter. Stir it up.

Pull the potatoes off, and put them back into a bowl (use the one you used to toss them with the oil). Toss with the sugar/butter mixture and put onto a convenient plate. Sprinkle with a tinch of salt, and you're good to go. Quite tasty.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Again, with the strawberries

So I have 3 quarts of strawberries in my fridge right now, and there are only so many tarts to spread around the neighborhood (though the woman who runs the storage rental place was ever so delighted to receive some) so I'm gettin' creative. With that in mind, I present:

Crazy-ass Salad

You will need:

About a cup, to a cup and a half of sweet corn. I used 3 ears worth of corn on the cob (cooked), but you could use frozen or canned

About a cup and a half to two cups of quartered strawberries

1 scallion or spring onion

1/4-1/3 cup white vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
a healthy dash of celery seed
salt & pepper to taste

slice up the scallion, and sprinkle it over your corn and strawberries. In a small jar with a tight fitting lid, combine the remaining ingredients, and shake well. Taste it to see if you need more sugar or vinegar. You can also add a dash of water if necessary. Pour over the corn/strawberries/scallions, and you're good to go.

I know it sounds revolting, but it's really quite good. The sweetness of the corn and strawberries is picked up by the sweet/sour dressing, and it just works. You could also toss in a bit of minced bell pepper if you were so inclined.

Maybe tomorrow I'll make chicken and strawberry stir fry. A local Chinese restaurant makes that, and it's delicious.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Strawberry Season!

It's Strawberry time here in Pennsyltucky, and I am in ecstasy. Yes. Really. Honestly, if you don't have any where to get fresh strawberries where you are, move. No, I'm not kidding. Fresh strawberries, like fresh tomatoes, are proof that there is a God, and that God? Is happy.

I just picked up 4 quarts of strawberries from the Amish lady up the road, so I present to you my Quick and Easy Strawberry Tartlets

There is NO measuring in this one. It all depends on how many strawberries you have.

You'll need:

1 package refrigerated pie dough OR one recipe of your favorite pie dough
Chocolate bits
Strawberry Jelly
(NOT JAM) or Strawberry glaze

You'll also need a tartlet pan (the kind of pan that looks like a mini cupcake tin), a cupcake tin, or a jumbo muffin pan. Whatever you have that's handy.

Eyeball your baking apparatus. If you're using a tartlet pan, a narrow drinking glass should be perfect for cutting out circles of dough. For a cupcake pan, probably a pint glass, or a biscut cutter. For a jumbo muffin tin, I used a quart sized soup container from the Chinese restaurant. Open up the pie dough, and place it flat upon your countertop. Cut out the circles of dough, and gently press them into your baking pans. (I recommend spritzing the pan's wells with Pam beforehand) Be sure to get the dough as flat to the sides/bottom as possible.

Take your handy fork, skewer, or other sharp pointy thing, and dock the pie dough. (Docking means "poke lots of little holes into it, so that when you bake this, it won't blow up like a balloon.) Make sure to get the bottom and the sides. Don't turn it into swiss cheese, but make sure that you've covered it pretty thoroughly.

Bake as directed on the package. (I went about 11 minutes, but I'd keep checking every few minutes after 5, just to be safe.) The crust is done when it's slightly browned, and crispy.

After you pull the crusts out of the oven, drop a few chocolate bits into the bottom of the crust, and let them melt a bit. Smoosh the melty bits around to coat the bottom of the crust. Remove the crusts from their pans, and let them cool off on a baking rack.

When the shells are cooled, fill with sliced (or un) strawberries. The tartlet pans are perfect for one small strawberry each, the larger ones, you can slice up several to fill.

If you'd like, you can stop right there, but if your strawberries aren't quite sweet enough for you, or you'd like them shiny, melt some strawberry jelly in the microwave and brush it over the strawberries with a pastry brush. Taadaa! Good eatin!