Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Taste of Argentina: Empanadas Mendocinas & Chimichurri Sauce

I first heard about discos on Lydia's blog, The Perfect Pantry. The very next day (last week, as a matter of fact) I went to the Ranch Market in Redlands where I get my tortillas and tortilla chips, and found that they carried them. All you do is thaw them out, put a filling in the center, stretch them just a little while you fold them over, use an egg white wash to help seal the edges, and press the folded-over edges with the tines of a fork. Bake. Eat.

Oh, the possibilities! I have rhubarb and strawberries in the freezer - I'll roast them with a little sugar and make dessert turnovers. I have apples and raisins. I have blueberries and lemon curd. But first, I needed to make a main dish empanada, and I needed to make them with ingredients I had in the house. So, after a little exploration in blogland, I decided to make Empanadas Mendocinas, or Empanadas Mendoza. These were simple to make - took a little time because of the need to work each one, but well worth it.

Empanadas Mendocinas are traditionally Argentinian, and with the chimichurri sauce we had a nice sample of some flavors of Argentina.

Empanadas Mendocinas

1 package (10-count) Goya Discos
1/2 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
3/4 lb. lean ground beef
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano flakes
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced (including green part)
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
5 green olives, halved
1 egg, divided (yolk in one bowl, white in another)

Preheat oven to 400˚. Sauté the onion in the oil over medium heat about 8 minutes or until tender. Add ground beef, smoked paprika, chile powder, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook and crumble meat until all is evenly browned. Cool slightly.

Place discos out on a large work surface 5 at a time (they dry quickly). Distribute meat filling evenly among each one, topping with some chopped hard-boiled egg and half of a green olive. Lightly whisk the egg white, and then brush the edges of the pastry. Pick up the pastry, stretching it lightly in each direction (you form sort of a bowl when you do this) and then fold it over. Press the edges together, and fold them over a second time to seal. Use a fork to crimp the edges. Lightly whisk the egg yolk, and brush the tops of each empanada. Bake 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot or warm with chimichurri sauce (below).

I heard about chimichurri sauce a few years ago - it's often served over steak. This sauce makes barely enough for the 10 empanadas, so you may want to double it.

Chimichurri Sauce

1 small bunch fresh parsley, stems removed
4-5 fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano (I never have fresh!)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chile powder
salt and pepper

Blend all ingredients together in a blender until fine and it looks like the photo above.
Note: I tried this in my full-sized blender, but there wasn't enough of it to work down into the blades. It kept sticking to the sides. I transferred it to my little rocket blender, and it worked beautifully.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Word of Warning: Don't Throw Cooked Turnips in the Trash

We are still working on getting the stench to go away.

I cooked a turnip gratin on Saturday; put the leftovers in the fridge for Don to eat. By Tuesday, he still hadn't eaten it, so we dumped it in the trash in the kitchen. We don't have a garbage disposal. The kitchen trash can is covered, which might explain why we didn't notice a smell until yesterday.

By dinnertime yesterday, I told Don it smelled like cabbage in the house, but we didn't have any cabbage. After doing the dishes, the noxious smell had permeated the whole house, and both of us realized at about the same time that it was the turnips, who by now had gotten so rotten there in the bottom of the bag that the smell was just gross. Don took the trash out, sprayed the inside of the trash can, and then we lit three cinnamon-apple candles. If you went outside and then came back in, you noticed the smell immediately. Last night we slept with the bedroom door shut - and came out this morning to the smell - somewhat dimmed, but still there. Our next treatment was the linen-scented spray we use in the bathroom.

I think it's gone now - except for the little bit you catch as you walk in from the outside. Maybe tomorrow it will be totally gone.

Kitchen Stashbusting Update #2

I've been able to make good use of leftovers - there was more fried chicken left from Wednesday, so we had that as our main course Thursday night. I pulled a bag of cooked brown rice from the freezer, and spiced it up: I added a couple tablespoons of orange juice concentrate, a little water, a handful of raisins, and a teaspoon of curry powder. I heated that up, threw together a salad, and there was a nice dinner.

Friday night we had the next-to-last bag of calico bass that Don caught in September. I made Crispy Oven-Fried Fish, along with a few fried potatoes (yeah, I know, I shouldn't - but it was just a few).

Last night, Theresa was here for dinner, and requested pasta and salad. I was glad to oblige -- I had the ingredients for Spaghetti with Ham, Peas, and Swiss Cheese, using Dreamfields spaghetti. There went the last of the frozen peas.

I've made breakfast and lunch this weekend out of the freezer, since it's so full I can't really find anything or put anything else in it! I have a lot of what I call "condiments" in it - list below - and they take up a lot of room.

Here are what I call "condiments" that are in my freezer:
1. bag of chopped bell peppers
2. 4 bags of chopped celery
3. bag of chopped onion
4. 5 chipotle chilies, each in separate small bags
5. 5 lumps of tomato past, each in separate small bags
6. walnuts
7. almonds
8. pecans
9. pistachios
10. pine nuts
11. orange juice concentrate
12. lemon juice ice cubes
13. orange zest
14. lemon zest
15. basil cubes (from Trader Joe's)
16. flour tortillas
17. corn tortillas
18. discos (for making empanadas)
19. shredded cheddar
20. shredded pepper jack
21. shredded mozzarella
22. almond flour
23. mixed vegetables
24. blueberries
25. rhubarb
26. strawberries
27. raspberries
28. Cool Whip

And that's just the upstairs freezer, which is part of the refrigerator. The downstairs freezer is full of beef, chicken, pork, sausage, bacon, fish, bread, rolls, corn dogs, and Don's Klondike bars (they were on sale).

Now for an update on my Ten in 10 challenge. So far I've done fairly well on the eating front - with the exception of the fried potatoes Friday night. It's continuing to be a challenge to eat both low-carb and low-calorie at the same time - usually my low-carb go-to foods are high in fat. Take the almonds I got last weekend, for example. They're a great snack, but high-calorie. They do have the good kind of fat in them, so I'll continue to eat those when I want something savory (there are no potato chips in the house any more!).

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Kitchen Stashbusting Update #1

I really haven't used a whole lot out of my kitchen yet. The night I made the first post about this (Tuesday), I made Cheesy Broccoli-Potato Soup, and served it with some homemade wheat toast I'd made in the bread machine.

Cheesy Broccoli-Potato Soup

1 small head broccoli, stems removed
2 cups water
1 medium potato (the size of an orange), peeled and diced
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup cubed Velveeta (yes, Velveeta - I use it all the time)
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper (you can use black if you don't have the white)
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard powder

Cut the broccoli into small pieces, and bring to a boil in the water. Cook for 10 minutes, then mash with a potato masher. Do not drain. While the broccoli is cooking, sauté the potato and onion in the oil until potato is tender. It doesn't need to brown much. Add to broccoli and water. Put Velveeta, flour and milk in a blender, and pulse until the cheese is in small bits. Add to broccoli-potato mixture, along with the pepper and mustard powder. Simmer over low heat until cheese has melted and soup has thickened. Serves 4.

On Wednesday, breakfast was a leftover Spinach-Artichoke Bread Soufflé, and lunch was leftover soup. My afternoon snack was a slice of the Breakfast Bundt Bread. I had a Rep Council meeting in the afternoon, and we had some fried chicken and vegetables - so that was dinner.

This morning was more of the Breakfast Bundt Bread, and lunch will be a canned pasta from my lunch stash here at the office. I haven't decided what to fix for dinner - I need to use up some lettuce, so there will be a salad, but I will decide on the main course later.

I took a little time yesterday to take an inventory, and I'm embarrassed about how much food I really do have. With the exception of milk, eggs, lettuce and tomatoes, I could probably feed us for 2 months. No kidding. Right now it's ridiculously easy since there's so much in the pantry, the fridge, and the freezer, but I know that eventually it will get a little more challenging. But stick with me.

Here are a few rules I've had to give myself for my challenge:
1. I can buy milk, eggs, and butter/margarine when I run out.
2. I can buy the significant condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc.) when I run out, unless it's something I can make from scratch. And no, I'm not going to make ketchup from scratch. : )
3. I can buy lettuce, tomatoes, and other salad-related produce when needed. But I need to use up a lot of frozen and canned veggies, so no immediate purchases of other vegetables.
4. When the side dishes get very slim, I can purchase FRESH vegetables only.
5. I get to make up my own rules as I go along, since this is my challenge.
6. I will try to make healthy foods. TRY.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Challenge: Stashbusting in my Kitchen

As many of my friends and family know, I'm a quilter, who used to be a cross-stitcher, who used to scrapbook and rubber stamp. In those crafty worlds, "stash" means all the supplies you have in order to create whatever it is you create. I often find "stashbusting" challenges going on in the quilting world, but have had no desire to participate since I like obtaining new fabric whenever I can.

But this evening I saw a piece on the local news about impulse shopping, and it focused on a mom who was challenged to go a whole week without ever going to the grocery store. I told Don that I'd often thought about doing something like that, because, honestly, I have an overstuffed pantry and freezer. He said, "So why don't you do it? You've got plenty already."

So here goes. I'm going to see how long it will take me to feed the two of us with only what I have in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. I think if I have to "cheat" at all, it will be next week, and I'll be wanting some fresh produce. But until then, I have a LOT, as my post below shows.

Anyone want to join me?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Fun Cooking Weekend (and back to work tomorrow!)

My Saturday morning started with picking up my organic produce share, along with 5 pounds of raw unpasteurized almonds. Our share this week, and what I have used it or will use it for:
fennel - roasted fennel
blueberries - flash frozen and will go in pancakes or waffles
collard greens - sautéed and served with pinto beans and cornbread
spinach - in spinach-artichoke bread soufflés (below)
celery - will be sliced and frozen
broccoli - we like this steamed and buttered
mushrooms - had these sautéed and served with some chicken last night
cucumbers - cucumber salad and chopped in romaine salad
granny smith apples - out of hand, in the breakfast bundt cake (below), in pancakes
bananas - out of hand
onions - in various recipes
leaf lettuce - salad
oranges - out of hand
parsley - in some spaghetti sauce, maybe
carrots - in the breakfast bundt cake (below)

I had gone to Costco earlier in the month, and got 20 pounds of Eagle Mills Ultragrain All-Purpose Flour. It's made with white wheat instead of red, and has twice as much fiber per serving as regular all-purpose flour. What I really like about it is that it can be used cup-for-cup in place of regular apf. The first thing I did was make a loaf of bread with it in the bread machine. Since I was using up a couple cups of whole wheat flour, I used the whole wheat flour recipe that came with the machine. When that was finished and cooled, I used a couple of slices to throw together some little soufflés - though they're not technically soufflés. They're like the little egg pastries you get at Panera Bread - and I made mine with spinach and artichokes.

Spinach Artichoke Bread Soufflés

3 large slices or 4 regular slices whole grain bread, cut in small cubes
2 cups (about 2 large handfuls) spinach leaves (about 1/2 a small bag, if you buy it at the store), finely chopped
1 14-oz can artichoke hearts (not the marinated ones), drained, chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt

Spray the insides of six 6-ounce ramekins with nonstick cooking spray. Divide the cubed bread evenly among the ramekins. Divide the spinach and artichoke hearts evenly among the ramekins, placing on top of the bread. Sprinkle each ramekin with cheese. In a small bowl, mix together the egg, milk, dry mustard, and salt. Pour evenly over each ramekin. Cover ramekins and refrigerate overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake at 350˚ for 25 minutes. Makes 6

In preparation for returning to work, I made Breakfast Bundt Bread, based on a recipe I saw on Being Cheap Never Tasted So Good. Moni had made hers with spelt flour, agave, carrots, and raisins. I made mine with the ultragrain flour, brown sugar and apple juice, carrots, dates, and apples. Since I used so much more fruit than Moni did, I increased the batter by half - resulting in a larger cake than hers. Don and I will have this for breakfast a few mornings this week.

Breakfast Bundt Bread
adapted from Being Cheap Never Tasted So Good

3 cups flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple juice
2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I used both)
1 medium apple, cored and chopped (no need to peel it)

Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray a bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray (for best results, use the kind mixed with flour). In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, and apple juice. Fold in the dry ingredients. If the batter is dry, add a little more apple juice. Fold in the carrots, dates, nuts, and apple, and spread in bunt pan. Bake approximately 40 minutes. Cake is ready when the top springs back lightly when touched and toothpick tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan; cool another half hour before trying to slice it.

This next recipe is something I've had for years and never tried - and now I'm kicking myself for it since it's wonderful. You can use pecans or walnuts, too - they're all good for you.

Sugar and Spice Almonds

⅓ cup brown sugar
⅔ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pound almonds
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 300˚. In a medium bowl, mix together sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon. Reserve. In a large bowl, beat egg white until frothy but not stiff; add water and stir until combined. Add almonds and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture and stir until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with a Silpat nonstick liner or parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally as needed. Remove from the oven and separate nuts as they cool. Let cool for at least an hour before serving.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year

Note to self: make this again next year!

The soup above was made with the black-eye peas that we were going to just eat out of a can with our BLTs for dinner. (We always have black-eye peas on New Year's Day, don't you?) Kenny mentioned he wanted soup, so I came up with this.

Black-Eye Pea Soup

1 tablespoon bacon grease or oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 medium carrot, chopped (I used 5 baby carrots)
1 15-oz. can black-eye peas, UNdrained
3 cups chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon Spike seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup orzo

In a heavy saucepot, sauté the onion and carrot in the oil until onion is tender. Add black-eye peas, chicken broth, thyme, parsley, Spike, and black pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes (the carrot needs to get tender). Add the orzo, and bring heat up to medium-high. Cook until orzo is tender, about 8-10 minutes. Serves 3.

This is the whole wheat and rye bread we had our BLTs on. I made it in the bread machine with mostly whole wheat flour. I chose to leave the caraway seeds out since we had a bit with our breakfast and I'm just not into caraway seeds for breakfast.

Whole Wheat and Rye Bread
Bread Machine Recipe - makes a 2-pound loaf

1 2/3 cups lukewarm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons dry milk powder
1 1/2 cups rye flour
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast *

Place ingredients in bread machine pan in the order listed. Use "whole wheat" cycle.

* I live at 6,000', so I use only 3 teaspoons yeast. Otherwise I get a "bowling ball."

And what's this? It's the 30-year-old spatter screen that I retired on Christmas day, since Don got me a new one.