Sunday, January 29, 2012

Roasted Pork- the Zeus of Leftovers

If I ever get around to writing a fiction novel, it will be one of those Greek mythology/fantasy hybrids.  But the twist I'm planning to add is:  I'm going to write it about leftovers. In the pantheon of leftovers, roasted pork has got to be the Zeus; really any kind of roasted meat.  Having leftover roast is like having 3 more instant meals in your ice box.  Plus- it kicks butt over any other kind of leftover, hands down.

On Sunday mornings, my standard operating procedure is to stand in front of my ice box, eyes glazed over, trying to figure out what I can make with the hodgepodge of tasty tidbits I have.  This morning I was staring at a container of leftover roasted pork (BINGO), some assorted roasted veggies, odds and ends of cans of tomatoes (sauce and crushed), one lonely, wilted fresh jalapeno and a huge block of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar.  In my mind, I saw visions of shredded pork tacos with slaw of some kind and home made salsa.

I have several wonderful recipes for salsa, but it seems that I never have all the ingredients on hand for any of them.  So I decided not to let that dissuade me from my task.  I would make a darn good salsa from whatever I had on hand.  So that's what I did.  This recipe is typical of the ones on my blog.  I don't give exact amounts because I was using up little glass dishes of leftovers.  And really, that's what most people are trying to do, right?  So lighten up!  Let go of the tethers to your cookbooks!  Learn to wing it!

Here's what I did- in case anyone happens to have the exact same things lying around as I did.  If you don't- use this as an inspiration to make your own version of salsa!

I took out my trusty blender and my spice grinder.  In the blender I dumped about half a large can of crushed tomatoes and a small glass dish of tomato sauce.  To that I added a can of diced green chiles, half a baggie of frozen chopped cilantro, a roughly chopped fresh jalapeno, salt, a dash of ground coriander, some ground dried chile de arbol, and some freshly ground cumin seed.  After whirring it around in the blender, I added a tad more salt and some red wine vinegar- for tang.  It made enough to fill a glass dish for tonight's pork tacos, and filled another quarter ziplock baggie that landed in the freezer for some day in the future when I need something to pour over smothered burritos, or just for chips after school.

Once again, leftovers have come through for me in a pinch!  I was the damsel in culinary distress, and Zeus came down from Mount Olympus, lightning bolt in hand, to save me from frozen pizza!

I'm looking at the title for this post, and I'm thinking it's really about salsa, not leftover roasted pork.  Hmmmmmm.  I can't really think of anything better, though.  So I guess I'll tag it as salsa and get on with my life!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snowy Day Potato Soup

We're getting more snow today.  I hope it keeps snowing- all day today and tomorrow!

I had left over mashed potatoes from the Bangers and Mash experiment earlier this week (post coming).

As I have discussed before- one of the best things to do with leftover mashed potatoes is to make mashed potato soup!

I won't go into the procedure again, but I'll link you to the original post.

This afternoon, I'm on to homemade Rugelach!  I can't wait to see how it all turns out.  I'll be sure to post  the results.

Quick Tamale Dinner

There are quite a few good cooks in my building.  One of the things I love about living around here is the plethora of ladies selling tamales by the dozen.  Every time an email surfaces advertising tamales in the lounge- Dev and I always jump on it.

Dev scored 1/2 a dozen fresh tamales yesterday, so I knew dinner that night would be super quick and tasty!  Our favorite way to celebrate Friday is by having a quiet dinner at home with a movie.  This week's selection was "Doom."

I decided to make some red rice and pico de gallo to go with our tamales.

When we got home, I threw the red rice in the steamer.  I used one scoop of regular long grain rice, and for liquid, I went with one scoop of organic tomato sauce and one and a half scoops of beef stock.  I gave it all a stir and closed the lid on the rice steamer.  Done!

Next I seeded and chopped 4 roma tomatoes, and one fresh jalapeno.  I added 1 whole scallion, chopped (white and green parts), the juice of one lime, a little salt and a little pepper.  Done.

I nuked the tamales, then stirred a chopped scallion and a handful of sharp cheddar into the rice when it was done.

I plated the tamales with a spoonful of pico and a scoop of rice.  I garnished Dev's plate with some shredded cheddar.  My plate got cheddar and sliced avocado.

Dinner was amazing.  The movie?  Not so much.  I rented it because it has one of my favorite British actors in it- Ben Daniels.  In the movie he plays a Marine under the command of The Rock.  Yeah- pretty stupid from the get-go, huh?  Ben Daniels is a wonderful actor, who has done more theatre than film.  He is very handsome and dignified.  He also happens to be very strong and gay.  And he doesn't live in the closet- he's out and proud and challenges people's pre-conceived notions about sexuality and box office draw.  To see him in this movie- using a fake American accent- was sickening.  It was an unholy fusion of those dystopian-futuristic flicks with alien gore-fests.  Apparently he figured the exposure he'd get, coupled with the stretch of genre, would give his career a lift.  Yeah- didn't work out.  I still love him to pieces, but I hope he sticks to more intellectual fare.  "Doom" just sucked.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Breakfast on a Snowy Morning

We woke up this morning to a winter wonderland!  This is quite a change from the weather back home in GA.

Because I haven't cooked breakfast in over a month, I was anxious to get in my kitchen.

I decided to go with some kind of breakfast sandwich and hashbrowns.  I even juiced some oranges to top everything off.

I wanted to boost the hashbrowns with some veggies, so I added chopped fresh mushrooms, about a cup of fresh spinach leaves and some scallions.

The sandwiches were built on whole grain English muffins.  Dev's had egg, bacon and cheddar.  Mine had egg, bacon, avocado and cheddar (with a little mayo to moisten things up).  It was a very good winter breakfast.

Next time I think adding some roasted tomato slices would make the sandwiches even better!

I think tomorrow will be garlic cheddar grits.....

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Chicken Fajita Salad with Pickled Okra

Weeknight dinners.  Enemy of every amateur chef who has to work to put food on the table.  This is a pic of our dinner Tuesday night.  It was our first full day back at school since we got back from Savannah.  Needless to say, we were both pooped!  We had to stop at the grocery store on the way home to pick up milk.  I was so tempted to grab a frozen pizza and call it good, but I decided to pick up some chicken tenders and baby spinach instead.  I brought them home, and a few visits to the pantry later, this is what I came up with.

I wanted to get the chicken marinating right away, so I put it in a pyrex dish and zested a lime over it, then squeezed the juice on it.  I added salt and pepper, dried ancho chile (ground in the spice grinder), and regular chili powder.  Then I toasted some whole cumin seed and whole coriander seed in a dry skillet, and ground them up, too.  I used about 2 tablespoons of the ground spice on the chicken.

Then I made the chipotle ranch dressing.  I use the dry ranch mix in the packet, then add buttermilk instead of regular milk, sour cream and mayo.  To make it a little spicy, I added some chipotle powder after it was mixed to the consistency I wanted.

The salad part was cucumbers, mushrooms, chopped marinated artichoke hearts, avocado, and chopped picked okra.  After I made the salads, I sauteed the chicken in a lightly oiled skillet and put the strips on top of the salads.  I crushed blue corn chips and sprinkled on the top like croutons, then added the chipotle ranch dressing.

This really was a good salad.  It had the right balance of veggies and protein, and the dressing was really spicy and creamy.  I think the secret is marinating the chicken in fresh lime juice, and toasting whole spices to use in the rub.  Already ground cumin and coriander you buy at the store is so bland compared to toasting and freshly grinding whole seeds.  Yes, it is extra work, but after you taste it, it's hard to go back to using weak, bland spices from the store!
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