Creamy Corn Chili Dip

Creamy Corn Chili Dip
I had a pretty great weekend, filled with party after party, all at my house. Which means that as the week has gone on, I’ve been eating party leftovers every day. I think my cheese addiction has gotten a little out of control, but I regret nothing.

Parties are always a fantastic excuse to break out the food I love but can’t really eat on a daily basis (like spinach artichoke dip. How do you call that a meal? (Hmm…note to self: make that a meal)) but with having so many parties right on top of each other, it gave me an excuse to branch out and find even more food I love but shouldn’t eat daily. This corn dip is a fantastic option if you love the creamy goodness of spinach artichoke dip, but get a bit bored with the ubiquity. The corn gives a sweetness and the chilis add a punch of brightness. I could eat this for a week. Oh wait, I have.

Creamy Corn Chili Dip

2 bricks of cream cheese, softened
2 cups corn, cooked
1/2 cup milk
2 cups shredded romano cheese
7 oz can diced green chilies

I used frozen corn, because it’s convenient, so if you do to, defrost it before including it in the rest of your ingredients. Toss all the ingredients together and heat for two minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips, veggies, or bread. Makes enough to serve a crowd. Or one.

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Creamy Chicken Crepes

Creamy Chicken Crepes

Creamy Chicken Crepes


I really kind of can’t believe I haven’t blogged this recipe before. This has been a part of our family repertoire since before we were a family. It was, like, the *one* “fancy” thing my mom ever made and each of us daughters adopted it when we launched our own domestic efforts. My mom had an electric crepe maker appliance, something like an inside out frying pan you’d dip into the batter, and one sister got one as her most cherished wedding present. Another sister made this so frequently that when I, newly married, called for the recipe, she recited it from memory. In our early married years I made this so often and in such abundance that we got thoroughly sick of it and I haven’t made it in years. Which is probably why I haven’t blogged it. But today is the day. Today is the day I reclaim this part of my history and share it with all of you.

How to make crepes

How to make crepes


Contrary to how I was raised, you don’t need a special crepe maker appliance to make crepes. If you can make a pancake you can make a crepe. In the same pan. Mix up the batter and get the pan medium hot. I like to use a smallish skillet that heats evenly. Coat the pan with non-stick spray – butter is better but you only need a very little bit – and pour a little less than a 1/4 cup of batter in. Unlike pancakes, you don’t just dump the whole amount in the center and let it spread. To get it as light and thin as you want it you have to make it spread. I start pouring the batter in at one side and pour it as thin as I can, trying to get it all around the skillet. Then I tilt the pan to make a solid surface – no gaps or holes – and to use up any batter that is pooling anywhere. You can even use a knife or a spatula to help this process if you’d like, but once you make a couple of wonky shaped crepes you’ll get the hang of it.

Crepes for dinner

Crepes for dinner

Creamy Chicken Crepes

2/3 C mayonnaise
1/3 C flour
4 C milk
3 C jack cheese, divided
2 C cooked and chopped chicken
1 green onion, chopped
1 large jar pimentos

Crepes
2 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 eggs
4 cups milk

Whisk together the crepe ingredients and cook as explained above.

Melt the mayonnaise in a pot and when the oil is released add the flour to make a roux. Add the milk a cup at a time, stirring to incorporate the roux and remove any lumps. Add 1 1/2 C cheese and stir until it melts. Add the rest of the ingredients.

Fill the crepes and roll them up. Place in a 9 x 13 casserole dish and top with the remaining sauce and cheese. Bake at 350 until cheese on the top is browned.

If you hate mayonnaise you can always use regular butter to make the roux, but then you’ll want to be thoughtful in seasoning. The mayo adds a great tangy kick that a regular bechamel sauce doesn’t have.

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Recipe: Plantains Fried in Browned Butter

Plantains Fried in Brown Butter
I’m known to be rather…well, “excitable” is the word we use in our family. I scream, I clap, I jump up and down, I have a laugh that shakes the rafters. There’s really no mistaking how I feel about something, especially if I’m enjoying it, and I don’t really have a public filter (which I think is pretty obvious if you’ve been reading here for more than a week).

Bear and I went to a Cuban restaurant once where I ate plantains served with sour cream and onions and the yummy noises I was making were apparently so ridiculous that the waitress started joking with me. But I couldn’t help it. I was discovering a taste that was brand new to me and I was savoring every morsel. It was worth a little embarrassment.

Plantains are common in a lot of South American and Caribbean cooking, but since I’m not familiar with those traditions I just saw the weird green banana looking things at the grocery store and shrugged my shoulders at them. Not anymore. It’s got a freshness like a cucumber as you’re peeling it, and then when you eat it it’s like a banana and a potato had a beautiful starchy baby with just a hint of sweetness. But unlike a potato it cooks up so fast that you can get the rich browned butter flavor on it and it’s cooked before the butter turns black.

Plantains Fried in Browned Butter
1 plantain, peeled and sliced
2 T butter

It really is this simple: Melt the butter in a saute pan and let it heat until foaming and brown. Toss the plantain rounds into the butter and let it cook for 30 seconds or a minute. Flip, cook for 30 or so more seconds, then remove from the butter.

I like to eat mine with sour cream and green onions, just as I had it in the restaurant, and sprinkled with a little chili powder. But the possibilities are endless. They’re like unique little french fries, you could dip them in anything that tastes good.

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Recipe: Winter Root Vegetable Gratin

Winter Root Vegetable Gratin
This picture is from our Thanksgiving meal last year and it’s been sitting on my hard drive all year waiting to be seasonally appropriate again. I brought a friend with me to our family Thanksgiving, which meant that she was responsible for contributing a side dish. But since I am a bossy friend who loves to cook, I made her buy the vegetables and then made it myself.

Last year I was OBSESSED with parsnips. I still am, they are woefully underrated, but last year I was putting them in every single dish. So when it came time to come up with a Thanksgiving side dish, I decided to go with my obsession and top it. I pulled out every underrated winter vegetable, threw them in a dish, poured cream and cheese over the top, and called it heaven.

This recipe, like most of mine, is really flexible. I just started chopping vegetables until I couldn’t fit any more in the dish, grated cheese between each layer and more on the top, and poured on as much cream as I could without it overflowing. So basically, what I’m telling you is that my measurements are guesses and you should embrace this recipe as the free form experiment it is.

Winter Root Vegetable Gratin

3 Parsnips, sliced
2 Rutabegas, sliced
3 Turnips, sliced
2 Leeks, white parts only sliced
1 pt heavy cream
1 can chicken broth
2 Cups gruyere cheese, grated
salt and pepper

Rub butter around the bottom of a 9 x 13 casserole dish. With all the vegetables washed and sliced into rounds – a food processor makes short work of this – start layering them into the dish one vegetable at a time. Between each layer sprinkle salt and pepper, and some cheese. Save half the cheese for topping. Keep going until your dish is full, saving the leeks for the top layer. Pour in the cream and chicken broth. Cover the dish with tinfoil and bake at 350 for an hour or until the vegetables are tender. Remove the tinfoil, top with the remaining cheese, and bake until the cheese is melted and crispy.

This dish was my favorite kind of “make it up as you go and see what happens” kind of recipe, and was such a huge hit that my family is already double checking that it will be there again this year. One of these days I’ll learn to measure as I go.

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Project Put Together: Food Dehydrator

Dehydrating Bananas
Trying to reduce my gluten intake means I need to find all new snack foods. I love snacking. Dangit, I love it SO MUCH! But I have to let go of the crackers and find something else to eat.

When I was a young teenager I used to babysit for a family that had a food dehydrator and would dehydrate everything. Their shelves were stocked with fruit leather and vegetable soup mix, and dried bananas. And every time I was there I made a beeline for that pantry and gorged myself on those bananas. I did it so often that the bananas eventually disappeared and I swore they hid them from me. Gosh I was a terrible babysitter.

But that memory came back to me when I was thinking of what snack food could possibly replace my beloved Cheez-its. So I kicked up the old Amazon Prime and in a couple of days I was making them myself. Although I made the mistake of giving Atti some, and now a war is waging over the “candy bananas.” They don’t last very long around here.

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Canned Soup

Home Canned Soup

As I try to keep my gluten reduced, trying to eat from scratch, really just cutting out some processed foods “diet”, I knew I needed to give myself a safety net. There are a lot of days around here, a LOT of days, where dinner time comes around and I am too worked over to even think about lifting a finger. Or I’m up against a deadline and can barely stop to eat let alone cook. Or Bear is working late and then planning a seminary lesson and I’ve got Atti by myself for his whole waking day. Dinner is one of the first things to go when I’m evaluating my ever shifting priority list. That and laundry. And sweeping. And basically cleaning anything in my house that doesn’t create smells.

So to try and set myself up for success I knew I had to have something prepared and handy for those days when I couldn’t scrounge something together. Whether it’s for our health or for our budget, whenever we set the goal of eating at home I always blow it when I’m too tired to make dinner and the call of In N Out is too strong. I had to have something ready to beat back that temptation.

My love of canning comes in handy again. I bought a pressure canner years ago once I realized that I was ready to commit to canning as a way of life, but the only time I’ve used the pressure feature is when I canned tomatoes earlier this summer. Pressure canning is no harder than water bath canning, but there is a bit of a learning curve.

I put up my homemade vegetable soup, my garlic cilantro chicken soup, and a curried split pea and ham soup, and the process was not entirely successful. I started with the chicken soup, and it was there that I learned you need to give yourself a lot more headroom in the jars. Like, an inch and a half. The high pressure gets the soup boiling hard and high and I had a LOT of lids that didn’t seal because the broth was bubbling out. I refused to learn my lesson and had to process a bunch of the jars so many times that I basically have vegetable mush in chicken broth.

Canning the split pea soup I learned that the long canning process REALLY intensifies the seasoning. Of course, I didn’t realize this until all the canning was done and I cracked open a jar to discover that the soup was basically inedible because of the amount of salt and curry flavor that overpowered everything else. Go easy on the salt. The liquid reduces during canning and you’re left with a whole lot more salt flavor than you had going in.

By the time I canned the vegetable soup I figured out what I was doing and had nothing but success. This round of chicken soup and split pea soup might all end up in the compost and chalked up to a lesson learned, but at least I’ll have a whole bunch of vegetable soup to rely on as the weather turns cold and I’d rather curl up with a blanket and a cat instead of cooking a meal from scratch.

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Spicy Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers
With how many variations of meat and carbs Bear insists on eating, I’m amazed I haven’t gotten around to trying my hand at stuffed peppers until now. To him it’s just not dinner without a meat and a heaping pile of white stuff – potatoes, or rice, typically, but he’ll make do with egg noodles in a pinch. And since I was actually a vegetarian when we got together, that has meant 14 years of complicated meals. I gave up vegetarianism quickly, mainly because I knew that one of us was going to starve if I kept at it and I was really only doing it because I was poor and it was the 90′s.

If you can believe it, he was still resistant to this. It didn’t matter that the pepper is essentially a bowl for meat and carbs, the fact that a vegetable played such a prominent role was enough for him to wrinkle his nose at me. Bear feels about food the way Mr. Darcy feels about people. His good opinion, once lost, is lost forever. And unfortunately for me his opinion of vegetables was made in childhood.

Once he actually tasted it, however, he was a convert. He ate two helpings, which equaled an entire pepper. Probably the first entire vegetable he’s ever eaten in his life. A few more recipes like this, and I might just be able to get him to eat a tomato.

Stuffed Peppers

Tresa’s Spicy Stuffed Peppers

Sauce
2 large cans of tomatoes, blended
3 small dried peppers
2 tsp salt
1 tsp diced garlic
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano

Filling
2 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 lb ground beef
2 C cooked rice
2 eggs

3 large red peppers
Mozzarella cheese

Cut the peppers in half vertically and remove the stems and seeds. Place in a pot of heavily salted boiling water until the peppers are tender. Don’t rush this step! Raw peppers won’t be nearly as tasty.

Blend the sauce ingredients together and place in a saucepot. Simmer.

Add the olive oil to a saute pan and sweat the onions on low until they are translucent. When ready, add to a bowl with the beef, rice, and eggs, and half of the sauce. Mix well with your hands.

When the peppers are tender, remove from the boiling water and place, cavity side up, in a casserole dish. Stuff the peppers with the meat filling, then pour the remaining sauce all over the top. Top with grated mozzarella cheese and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

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Happy Canning Accidents

Canned Pear Goods

I’ve loved canning for years, but since making the goal to eat from scratch I have been canning non-stop, whenever I’ve been well enough to stand. The bounty of produce in this region is just ridiculous, and I’ve been going nuts with apples and pears.

But I’ve also been trying a bunch of new recipes. I’ve made Peach Pepper Jelly a bunch in the past, so I decided to try a Pear Pepper Jelly, but no matter what I did I couldn’t get it to set up. After a ton of pectin and loads of cook time, it just refused to be jelly. So that means I just made a great pear pepper sauce. Even easier to use, when you think about it. It would mix easier into cream cheese for a great dip, and pour right over meat for a marinade or sauce. I might just do it this way intentionally next time.

I also made pear butter, but my giant pot is a cheap pile of tin and I always end up burning my fruit butters. Luckily this time I caught it early enough that it just added a nice smoky taste. I accidently made caramelized pear butter.

That’s how all my favorite recipes are made – through screwing up, I mean experimenting.

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Year of Pleasures: Apple peeler

Apple Peeler, Corer, Slicer

It peels, it slices, it cores, it basically does in 15 seconds what it used to take me 5 minutes to do. It suctions to my counter and all I have to do is turn the crank to go from fresh off the tree apple to perfect slices ready for baking. Living so close to Apple Hill, I’ve been making a whole lot with apples lately, and so has Bear. I don’t know which of us is more in love with this little baby, but since it’s the first time I’ve ever gotten Bear to help me with my canning, I think it’s probably me.

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Year of Pleasures: Pear Upside Down Cake

Pear Upside Down Cake
Bear made this from the giant box of pears we bought our last time up to Apple Hill. I’ve had pineapple upside down cake a few times and haven’t really been a fan, but this? Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh! It was heaven. Pineapple is to acidic for a simple cake and brown sugar glaze. But with pears? It SINGS! (I ate the whole thing.)

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