Monthly Archives: February 2010

Cajun Roast with Maque Choux – Wonderful Beef Chuck Recipe

I found a small chuck roast on sale – but really didn’t want to do the typical pot roast or beef stew thing.  What to do?  Well, I found a recipe with a spicy Cajun flavor and just had to try it.

Here is the link to the recipe I found online:  Cajun Roast with Maque Choux. See this link for an explanation of Maque Choux.

I have also copied the recipe here, followed by my comments and photographs.

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Cajun Roast with Maque Choux

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
1 (2 to 2-1/2 lb.) boneless beef chuck roast
1 Tbsp. dried Cajun seasoning
1 (9-oz.) pkg. frozen corn
1 small onion, chopped
½ green pepper, chopped
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/8 tsp. pepper
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. hot sauce
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Preparation:
Rub entire surface of beef roast with Cajun seasoning. Place roast in a large slow cooker. Top with corn, onion and green pepper. In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, pepper, salt and hot sauce; mix well. Pour over vegetables and roast. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. To serve: Cut roast into slices and serve corn mixture with a slotted spoon.

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This recipe was REALLY quick and easy to prepare.  Here is a shot of all the ingredients except for the pinch of cayenne.  By the way, I might add either another teaspoon of hot sauce or a a few extra pinches of cayenne next time.  Although, I had better wait to see how spicy it is the 2nd day around.

All the ingredients - except for the cayenne

I just love the way  raw ingredients look in a picture.  According to one definition of alchemy, cooking is indeed of that art.  From the Webster Online Dictionary definition of alchemy: 2 : a power or process of transforming something common into something special.

Speaking of something special, I really like the Sriracha Hot Sauce that I used in this recipe.  I think I saw it recommended in Bon Appetit.  See my Recommended Kitchen Things page.

With the rub on the beef

You maybe have noticed that I actually used a seasoning blend called “blackened creole blend” by Frontier Co-op, rather than Creole seasoning. See my Recommended Kitchen Things page.  From my research, opinions range from hard-core camps on both the Cajun and the Creole sides who define the two styles of cooking and seasoning as totally distinct, to folks of all levels of expertise saying that much merging has happened between the two cooking styles, or at least the types of seasoning used.  However, I want to research that further.

But for now, I can vouch for the tastiness of this recipe using the Creole blend, which is what I happened to have in my spice cabinet.

Where's the beef? (Sorry, couldn't resist...)

This really was so easy to put together.  Just chop the veggies and put them in on top of the meat….

Sauced and ready to go

…and mix the sauce ingredients and pour it over everything.  Oh, a note about the called for 1/2 a green pepper.  I had maybe 1/3 of one, but grabbed a ripened, and thus red one from the bell pepper plant that wintered over inside at our house.  Check it out:

fresh grown peppers all winter long

Anyway, after about 7 or so  hours, I opened the crock pot,checked the meat, and found it to be nice and tender.

All done!

cutting board shot

Final Plate Shot

I served the vegetables over brown rice.  I was going to steam or saute some greens to go with the meal, mostly just to have something to lighten up the meal.  I was expecting the heaviness that goes with the usual pot roast preparation on top of this being a relatively fatty cut of meat. (Chuck has more fat than the round cuts, for example.)   But, unlike a pot roast dinner, this meal had a delightful lightness about it.

The hot spices certainly made it more easy to digest and “thinned” out the fatty flavor/texture.  And corn and bell peppers are less dense than the traditional potato, turnip, and/or carrots served with a traditional pot roast meal.

In any case, Steve and I both thought this was superb.  But visually, I think meal could use some more green. And, upon re-reading the article containing the original recipe, I noted a recommendation to serve green beans with this meal.  I have a great recipe for blanched, then quickly sauteed green beans with garlic and red pepper flakes…  Next time, again!

Granola – Quicker and easier than I thought

You’d think that someone who lived at least 10 years of her life as an ultra “crunchy granola” type (vegan for a while, even) would have made granola before.  No pun intended.  🙂

But, I had not until this morning.  Why not until now? I think the idea of heating up the oven and having to stir something rather spill-able on cookie sheets  gave me the second thoughts.

Why now?  Let’ see…Steve will eat oatmeal, but he really likes to put all kinds of stuff in it, which means breakfast featuring oatmeal was turning into a big procedure, with having to keep in stock and set out each time all the nut, seed, and dried fruit “condiments.”   I griped, and Steve suggested granola.  “Good idea,”  I thought, but then remembered that most store-bought granolas are high in fat, include high-fructose corn syrup, and can have scary-sounding ingredients in them.  Time to make my own!

I looked around online and found a few recipes to use as guidelines, made sure I had enough rolled oats, and picked up some more nuts and dried fruit.   But I kept putting off making it.  It was the picture of granola spilling all over my oven as I stirred it during the toasting process.  But then…

Lorna Sass to the rescue!  Specifically, her granola recipe in her delightful cookbook, Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen, by Lorna J. Sass.  You will find it verbatim  at the end of this post, including her comments at the beginning of the recipe.

Here is why I like it:  She gives directions to toast the granola in a skillet rather than in the oven!  Okay, so I did spill on the stove-top while stirring, but that is ever so much easier to clean up than if granola falls into the bottom of an oven.  And, as she notes, it is more energy efficient to use a burner for a few minutes rather than heating up the oven for 1/2 an hour.  Plus, the recipe is low in fat.

I used Lorna’s recipe for the general idea of proportions, but I used all oats and a handful beyond the three cups, 1/2 cup each of chopped walnuts and almonds, and a cup of dried fruit – a mix of pineapple, cranberry, and raisins. I added a tad extra oil and used 1/2 cup of maple syrup since I was using more dried goods than called for in the original recipe.

before toasting

I love my old cast iron “fryer.” I really need to season it because I have used it quite a bit for stews, especially tomato-based, acidic dishes, and have not keep up with proper cleaning and seasoning methods.  But, it is great for keeping most of the granola in the pan!

just about fully toasted

heat turned off and fruit added

Cooling off. Note mess on stove top 🙂

I did have a slight mishap when stirring the granola as it cooled and opted to finish the cooling in big bowl.

This is a great recipe.  I just had some with yogurt and I think it has just the right balance of sweetness, crunch, and chewiness.  So, there it is.  🙂

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[Here is the original recipe from Recipes from an Ecological Kitchen, by Lorna J. Sass.]

Triple Grain Granola     Makes about 4 cups

The advantage of making your own granola is that you can control the amount oil and sweetness and, ideally, use all organic ingredients. (Although touted as healthful foods, many commercial granola mixes are loaded with sugar and fat.) Of course, it’s much cheaper to make granola yourself-and very simple.

The possibilities are endless, but here is one to begin with.  Unless you are heating up the oven for another purpose, the most fuel-efficient way to prepare granola is to pan-toast it. Make up a big batch and refrigerate it for up to 1 month or store it in the freezer for up to 8 weeks.

Skillet: 5 to 7 minutes
Oven: 20 to 30 minutes at 375 degrees

  • 1 cup each old-fashioned oatmeal (rolled oats), wheat flakes, and rye
    flakes, or 3 cups oatmeal
  • ½ cup walnuts or almonds, coarsely chopped if desired
  • ¼ cup unhulled sesame seeds
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup safflower or light sesame oil
  • 1/3 to ½ cup (depending upon desired sweetness) maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ cup raisins or currants (optional)
  1. In a 10-inch (or larger) cast-iron skillet, combine the grains, nuts, sesame seeds, and cinnamon.
  2. In a measuring cup, combine the oil, maple syrup, and vanilla, and pour over the dry ingredients while stirring. Mix well to blend.
  3. To pan-toast: Toast over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until oats and nuts become crispy and brown, the sesame seeds begin to pop, and the maple syrup emits a burned-sugar aroma, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Stir in the raisins (if using). Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  5. Transfer to a tightly sealed storage container.

Cook’s Notes: If your skillet is smaller than 10 inches, pan-toast the granola in batches.

To oven roast: Combine the oat-nut mixture and the rest of the ingredients (except for the dried fruit) in 1 large or 2 small cast-iron skillets or spread on 1 large jelly-roll pan. (Cookie sheets can also be used, but be careful to avoid spills when stirring.) Bake at 375 degrees (the oven doesn’t have to be preheated), stirring every 5 to 7 minutes, until grains are dry and crisp, about 20 to 30 minutes. Follow steps 4 and 5.

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Anything Goes Quesadilla Casserole

Talk about easy – and, if ingredients are chosen  with a bit of thought, healthier than one would think.  And really tasty, too!

Just look at this:

final quesedilla plate

This was SOOOOO good....and easy to make!

Note: Click  HERE for my guacamole recipe.

This was my second time making quesadillas – both times as a baked casserole with layers of flat tortillas rather than folding the tortillas in the traditional manner.   For cookware, I used glass pie plates and made enough filling for  two “casserole/pies.”

Here is a basic outline of ingredients:

  • Olive, canola, or other vegetable oil or spray as needed for sauteing and “greasing” pans.
  • 1-2 cups veggies – For example, I used onion, ½ green pepper, 1 smallish carrot, and 2 cloves if garlic
  • 1 or 2 fresh chili peppers (I used 2 salsa chilies from my bedroom “garden,” one green and one more ripe and thus red.)  OR, red pepper flakes or cayenne, to taste.  Maybe start with 1/2 teaspoon? Depends on your taste and how hot your chili power or taco seasoning is.
  • 2-3 cups of any combo or just one: poultry, beef, pork, beans.  Any meat should be ground or, if using leftover cooked poultry or meat, shredded. I used 1/2 lb ground beef and a cup of kidney beans, both of which I found in the freezer.  🙂
  • 3 or so cups grated cheese, divided.  Your choice of cheese(s).  (I used mostly sharp cheddar with some smoked cheddar this time.  Smoked Gouda is really good in quesadillas, too!)
  • Salsa, as needed or desired.

And, here’s how you do it:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Chop veggies, including any fresh chilies, and saute in olive or canola oil until somewhat tender, then remove from pan.  (If using dried red pepper flakes, include them here with the fresh veggies.)
  3. If starting with raw meat or poultry, add to pan and cook before adding other ingredients. Then, combine any meat, poultry, and or beans with the package (or homemade equivalent) of taco seasoning, and 1/2 cup or so of water.
  4. Heat until thickened.

To assemble a pie:

  1. Lightly grease pie plate.
  2. Place a tortilla in the pie plate and spread a little sauce on it, flip over, and repeat.
  3. Cover with some meat/veggie mix, sprinkle with cheese, and to with dots of salsa to taste.
  4. Place another tortilla on the pie and repeat layers.
  5. Top with one more tortilla and cover with a light coating of sauce and cheese.
  6. Pop in the oven and check after 20 minutes. If it is bubbling and toasty brown on top, it’s done!

Serving suggestion: As show in the picture at the beginning of this post, serve with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream (or yogurt).

First the veggies - oops! I took this before adding the chilies.

Cooked ground beef, beans, and veggies before adding taco seasoning

Lightly coat both sides of bottom tortilla with sauce

Add the meat/veggie/bean mix

Sprinkle with some cheese

Dot first layer with salsa to taste

add another tortilla and coat with more sauce

Add another tortilla and coat the top with sauce

then more veggies...

Then more cheese...

top off with a tortilla, with a bit of sauce and cheese to cover

I didn’t remember to take a picture of the the fully assembled pies until after they were the oven for a minute or two.

As shown, I used the top oven of my new dual-oven, five-burner gas range.  🙂  For those wondering, it is a Maytag Gemini.  Pricey for home cooking, but a reasonable deal if you want some features approaching the  professional level (I love the 16,000 BTU burner!)  at a relatively modest price.

But, I digress.  Once the quesadilla casserole (or pie) is done, you can leave it in a warm oven (170 degrees works well) until you are ready to eat.   And, it reheats wonderfully, which is why I always make enough for a few meals.

The best thing about quesadillas, though, is that you really can’t go wrong.  Whether you just use cheese in a folded tortilla that you heat in a frying pan, or compile a complex, multi-layered creation, it is all good.  And, you  can stretch your dollar by using more or all veggies and/or beans, and reduce calories by using low-fat cheese and accompany with low fat sour cream or yogurt. And, for you non-lacto vegetarians,  just use soy cheese and “yogurt.”

Now I am going to have start  experimenting with homemade salsa recipes.  Can you believe I have never made my own salsa?  One of these days…  🙂

I’ll leave you with an offering of food art:

Just a fun shot of the salsa chilies and some guacamole ingredients

Salsa chili peppers from our indoor plants and two guacamole ingredients

Guacamole – Sometimes simple is better

I adore avocados. I love the texture, the taste, and the color.  I am happy eating plain slices of avocado, but given my love of garlic, tomatoes, and onions, guacamole is a big favorite of mine.

I have tried many different recipes over the years, some complicated, some less so.  I ended up finding what is for me the perfect balance of flavors and textures by using as few ingredients as possible.

Here is how I do it.  First, the ingredients:

  • 2 avocados, peeled and chopped
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1/2 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 medium onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste.

First, the lovely avocado, with lemon juice added once all is in the bowl

Next, 1/2 a tomato, chopped

Next, 1/2 a tomato, chopped

Then, some diced onion - a quarter or more

Then, about 1/4 of a medium onion, large diced

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced will do the trick

two or three cloves of garlic, minced, does the trick

Mix and mash, leaving some lumps and add the ground black pepper

Mix and mash, leaving some lumps, and finish with fresh ground black pepper

So simple, so easy. The flavor is  clean, fresh, and zesty,and I find the “fork-mashed with some lumps left” texture to be more satisfying than guacamole that is pureed.

If you want some complexity, try adding some cumin or cayenne pepper.  And, for a bit more richness, add some olive oil.  But, I really enjoy the simple version.  And, I NEVER add salt.  I did once and found it brought out a bitter flavor, which surprised me, since salt can bring out sweetness.

In any case, if you are new to making guacamole, or have been using a more complicated recipe for years, give this one a try.  I bet you’ll like it.

Stone Soup with Chicken

Leftover chicken, leftover brown rice, leftover whole wheat spaghetti…well, the pasta will have to be used for something else, but I just made a great soup with a bunch of leftovers.

From a chicken carcass to finished soup took just a bit more than an hour, but that is because the time included making the stock.  If I had used stock from my freezer or a can/box, it would have been under 20 minutes.

If you are making your own stock, start by puitting  the water in the pressure cooker (or stock pot if you are going to do a longer simmer) and turn on the burner. That way, you get a head start bringing everything to pressure (or to a simmer).  Also, if you are using anything from the freezer, pop them into the microwave to defrost a bit if you want to save additional time.

[NOTE:  you can start with frozen everything – bone/carcass and veggies if you are not pressed for time.  However, the pressure cooker could take 30 minutes to come to pressure if using items directly from the freezer.]

This time, I used the chicken carcass from the French Chicken in a Pot I made a few days back.  First, I put 7 cups of water in the pressure cooker and turned the burner on high.  Then, I picked off all of the meat that was easy to remove, leaving the rest to pick off after the “second cooking.”  Then, along with the bones, I tossed in a carrot, a small stalk of celery, a bay leaf, 6-8 peppercorns, 1/2 an onion, and a crushed garlic clove.  I let it cook 25 minute once to pressure and then turned off the burner, letting the pressure come down naturally.  [Note: if in a hurry, you can bring the pressure down quickly by putting the pot under cold running water.]

Once I strained the stock and picked the test of the meat off the bones, I brought the stock to a simmer in a pot.  Here is where you can add whatever strikes your fancy.  Basically, you want to add any seasonings that simmering will bring out first.  Then, once to a simmer, add raw rice  or noodles, if using, before adding the veggie or veggies that take longer to cook.  Then,  add the veggies that cook more quickly, then anything already cooked once the all the former are tender.  The final step is to season to taste.

Today, I started with a de-seeded and sliced up a  salsa chili pepper (we have a bunch growing in our bedroom) that was red and starting to wrinkle and then added a few veggies once the stock was simmering,  in this case, the last carrot and last chunk of daikon radish in my fridge, both sliced thinly.  Once they got soft, I added chopped fresh parsley and about a cup of snow peas that I discovered, just in time, in my vegetable bin. Last, I added my leftover cooked rice and  cooked chicken from teh carcass, as well as the meat I got off both the turkey neck and chicken neck  that I used to make stock the other day for the Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup.

The final touch was a bunch of freshly ground black pepper and a tablespoon of tamari, just to round the flavor out.    Oh no!  I forgot to take pictures and we already had lunch – two servings each so there is not much left:

Not much was left!

My final advice – try the French Chicken in a Pot recipe, too!  Someday I’ll post about it, but you can link to it above.

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

This is fabulous!  I’ve been meaning to try making this from scratch for ages.  It was worth the wait.

I found a number of variations online, but you don’t need to go fancy for this soup.   A special thanks to Dennis Caswell for the recipe on his Rock ‘N Roll Kitchen blog.  You know, I just love the Internet.  15 years ago, who would think that anyone with 1/2 a brain and a computer could easily find recipes shared by a complete stranger living in Great Britain?

Here’s how I made it:

That’s a bit over a pound of tomatoes and closer to 2 lbs of red peppers.

I just sliced the tomatoes in half, seeded and halved the peppers,  halved one onion, and peeled 6-8 cloves of garlic. I then rubbed them with olive oil and sprinkled with dried basil.

Ready to roast!

I started them off at 275 degrees, but it was slow going, so I upped it to 400 at the end.  Different recipes give different temperatures and lengths of time, but figure 20-45 minutes depending. In the end, you want them to look like this:

Roasted!

Well, it is a little hard to tell in this picture.  And, FYI – I flipped the tomatoes part-way through.  But, you basically want the skins split and wrinkled on the red veggies, and it is fine if they get a bit charred.

Next, I peeled off the really tough outer layer of the onion halves.  The garlic was a bit tough, too but it ended up not causing an problem with the soup’s texture.  however, next time I will roast the garlic with the skin still on and then peel.

I then put the roasted veggies in a pot with 3 cups of puoltry/veggie stock.*   I think it was three cups – perhaps 3 1/2.  I know I have three cups left:

The rest of the homemade stock

Well, lets go for 3 cups and add more if you want a thinner texture.  I used 8 cups of water when I made the stock that morning but seemed to lose more liquid than usual.  See below for how I made the stock.

The final step was to use my handy-dandy new immersion blender and puree the whole lot right in the pot.  You can also put part of the stock  and the veggies into a regular blender and then add back to the rest of the stock.  Then, I seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper.  heated it up, and that was it!  I hear it freezes well, but I think we will be eating it all in a short time.

Yum! (And, YES, I LOVE my new range!)

So, there it is.  A lovely soup.  It would be great served chilled in the summer, also.  Now I want to try the variation I found called: “Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup With Onions, Garlic, Garbanzo Beans & Oh Why Not? Artichokes” Click HERE to see the recipe on the blog Farmgirl Fare.

*And, for the stock:  from the freezer, the neck and innards from one turkey and one chicken, three corncobs (Just pop them into the freezer after you eat the kernels off – the BEST for stock!) a handful of asparagus stems, and, from the fridge, some leftover raw kale, a stick of celery, a carrot or two, half and onion, a bay leaf, and…probably a few cloves of garlic – I can’t remember.  Into the pressure cooker with 8 cups of water it went for 30 minutes after it came to pressure.  NOTE:  you can use whatever you want – more poultry parts, just veggies, whatever.  However, I highly recommend corn cobs in all stock.  They add a great flavor!

So, that’s it for now.   Thanks for reading.  🙂

Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon

I meant to post about this with current notes when Lori and I made this dish on December 30, 2009.  But, I didn’t. Here is a VERY brief rendition:

I used regular bacon and now can’t remember what kind of wine.  BUT, it was really good!  I took notes and will hopefully post them at some point. But, the bottom line is that it is totally worth it to make this dish.  And, better yet, do it with a friend!

My dear friend Lori and I had a blast.  Then, our husbands joined us for a lovely meal that of course included a duplicate of the the bottle of wine that went into the stew.  🙂

For the original recipe and related and necessary information, see the Knopf (publisher of all books Julia) web page dedicated to this recipe:

Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon (Or, Beef bo bo bo, as the non-French speaking Lori and I call it.)

After seeing the very brief video called “jumpingonion” (click HERE to access)  let me know if you think we should do a cooking show together.  <grin>