Pork and Poblano Pepper Tamale Pie

Now that the posse are back in school and life has resumed a bit of normalcy, I have found the time to get back into my exercise groove. Let’s be honest here, I just didn’t make the time over the past 6 weeks.

Honestly.

After completing my 30 day workout challenge to myself (and succeeding!), I took a break and enjoyed myself immensely over the holidays. Now, however, with a wedding to plan (sweet!), a house to build (yay for a spacious abode!), and three (count’em, THREE!) epic birthdays coming up in less than 6 months, I need want must have my exercise time to sort everything out in my head and plan accordingly.

And while I might not be able to micro-plan every event, I can at least figure out dinners a bit ahead of time.

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Pork and Poblano Tamale Pie – adapted from Epicurious

  • 2 ounces fresh poblano chiles* (about 4 large)
  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen corn kernels, thawed (or 1 15 oz can, drained)
  • 2 tbs. vegetable oil or olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 pounds trimmed boneless country-style pork ribs, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups chopped white onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup purchased salsa verde (tomatillo salsa)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

Cornbread topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups (packed) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream

For pie filling:  

Char poblano chiles and bell pepper directly over flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Transfer chiles and bell pepper to large bowl; cover and let steam 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop chiles and bell pepper.

Coarsely puree corn kernels in processor and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork with pepper. Working in batches, add pork to pot and sauté until brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pork to medium bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pot, then add chopped onions and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add ground spices, garlic, and oregano; stir 1 minute. Return pork and any accumulated juices to pot. Add salsa verde and bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover partially and simmer 30 minutes. Add chopped chiles, chopped bell pepper, and corn puree to pork mixture; cover partially and simmer until pork is very tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 15 minutes longer. Season pie filling to taste with coarse salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Pie filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm pie filling, stirring over medium heat, before continuing.Transfer pie filling to 10-inch-diameter 2 1/2-inch-deep ovenproof skillet (preferably cast-iron). Stir in chopped cilantro.

For cornbread topping:  

Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk flour, yellow cornmeal, baking powder, and chili powder in large bowl to blend. Whisk milk, melted butter, and egg in medium bowl to blend.  Stir in shredded cheese and drop cornbread batter by large spoonfuls atop pie filling. Spread cornbread batter evenly to cover pie filling completely.

Bake tamale pie until cornbread topping is deep golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve tamale pie hot, passing sour cream alongside.

Spinach Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese

This project is proving to be a bit more challenging than I previously imagined. Challenging is a much shorter term than oh-lord-I-really-need-to-put-more-brainpower-into-this. You might think I’m referencing my goal of taking better pictures this year. Well, yes……… and no.

Yes that’s a goal, but not here, not today, not this minute.

What I’m actually referring to is the design on the Ranch house. J and I spent some time yesterday to redo  the kitchen and utility room layout. Holy smokes – ‘redo’ is an understatement – ‘completely redesigned’ is more like it. As I may have mentioned before, being in this rental house for the past 8 months was probably one of the best ideas we’ve had, because now we have a clear understanding of how we work together in the kitchen (exceptionally well!) and what we need/want to have at the Ranch. And we have determined that we need a lot more counter space, storage space, and (for him) workshop space.

And J has come up with a design for the posse’s bedrooms that is simply genius. That’s why he’s the brains of this operation :)

So while it’s safe to say that my photography skills have not improved thus far, we are only two days into the new year, and that means there’s plenty of time for improvement.

Seriously though, this was one of those recipes that was so good, and so easy – and based on the fact that there weren’t any leftovers, I do believe that it is a keeper.

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Spinach Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese – adapted from Food Network

12 oz pasta
4 tbs. unsalted butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 tbs. all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
3 cups lightly packed shredded white cheddar cheese
1 generous cup shredded mozzarella cheese
One 10 -ounce bag baby spinach
One 15 oz can artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Position an oven rack at the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta half of the recommended cooking time. Drain and set the pasta aside.

Meanwhile, in a separate pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, and whisk constantly until it begins to toast, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk, and stir constantly until the mixture is thick like gravy, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar cheese. Once the cheese has melted, add the spinach, and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute. Stir in the artichoke hearts, pasta, and pepper. Transfer to a greased 2-quart baking dish.

Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the pasta. Bake until golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce

Christmas Eve is two weeks away.

Two weeks!

I don’t know ’bout y’all, but I’m sitting here drinking wine, perusing the latest Sur La Table catalog and making lists for our Christmas holiday feast. And I’m in a bit of a quandary…… so perhaps you can help. Do I stay with the “it’s the holidays and I should make the traditional dishes”? Or…. branch out into something new and different?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not going to serve this beef stew for Christmas Dinner, as wonderful as that sounds. I’m thinking more along the lines of our usual Italian favorites for Christmas Eve, and then venture into the English territory for Prime Rib with popovers on Christmas Day.

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Well, I guess I just answered my own question….

In all seriousness though, I do have a few new ideas on the agenda, most notably the Kouigns Amann from this book (which I gave myself as an early Christmas present)… and the Creme Brûlée tart from this book. Aside from that, I think it’s going to be the traditional route all the way!

Oh…. one more thing…. this stew? Definitely on the menu when Mom and Dad arrive. They will love it. Although I served it over polenta for us, I’m thinking they’ll appreciate it on a bed of mashed potatoes a bit more.

A bed of mashed potatoes sounds quite nice right about now……

Beef Stew in Red Wine Sauce – adapted from Jacques Pepin

  • 1 tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds trimmed beef flatiron steak or chuck, cut into 8 pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tbs. finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbs. all-purpose flour
  • One 750-milliliter bottle dry red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 8 slices thick cut bacon
  • 15 pearl or small cipollini onions, peeled
  • 15 cremini mushrooms
  • 15 baby carrots, peeled
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, melt the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Arrange the meat in the casserole in a single layer and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, 8 minutes. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir to coat the meat with it. Add the wine, bay leaves and thyme, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.

Cover the casserole and transfer it to the oven. Cook the stew for 1 1/2 hours, until the meat is very tender and the sauce is flavorful.

In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Add the pearl onions, mushrooms and carrots. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and cook over high heat, tossing, until the vegetables are tender and nicely browned, about 4 minutes.

To serve, stir some of the vegetables into the stew and scatter the rest on top as a garnish. Top with a little chopped parsley and serve.

Potato and Cheese Pierogi

True story: up until last week, I have never tried a Pierogi, much less attempted to make one. So how, inquiring minds want to know, did I find myself making 10 dozen of them last Sunday evening?

The answer, believe it or not, is surprising simple – J and I were inspired after catching an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”, and when I casually mentioned that I’d never had them, he suggested that we make some.

And oh-by-the-way he could then have a few dozen to take to work for the Holiday party they were having the next day.

Am I imagining things, or did he have an ulterior motive? Hmmmmm.

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A word from the wise: this is a time-consuming project, albeit a very tasty one. The recipe states that it takes an hour and a half  – which it might, if you’re a professional pierogi-maker… I, however, am not. Allow several hours, and recruit other suckers friends to assist, it will go much more quickly.

Potato and Cheese Pierogi – adapted from Food Network
Pierogi Dough:
4 pounds all-purpose flour
1 tbs. olive oil
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
Nonstick cooking spray

Mashed Potato Filling:
2 pounds red potatoes (I used russets)
Kosher salt
4 oz butter
4 oz cream cheese
3 oz sour cream
1 tbs granulated garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 pound soft European farmer’s cheese
Milk to thin, if necessary
Nonstick cooking spray

For the pierogi dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, olive oil, eggs, salt and 2 1/2 cups warm water. Start the mixer on slow for a minute, and then switch to high for another couple of minutes until the dough pulls away from the bowl. Then slow the mixer down to medium speed and slowly add the remaining 1 cup warm water. Once the water is absorbed, return the mixer to high and let the dough beat for 10 minutes.

Remove from the bowl. Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Form into balls, spray with nonstick spray, wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in a warmer area for 20 minutes.

Spray the counter or large cutting board with the nonstick spray and begin to roll the dough with a rolling pin. Roll until a consistent thickness of 1/4-inch. Then spray with nonstick spray. (If it gets too thin, that’s ok as you can re-ball and roll out again.) Use about a 3-inch circle cutter and press down hard and give a slight twist to completely separate from the rest of the dough, continue this throughout the entire piece.

Remove the scraps and in-betweens, save, re-ball and re-roll. Then flip the circle cut-outs; they are ready to be stuffed.

For the mashed potato filling: Boil the red potatoes, leaving the skin on, in a stock pot with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Once the potatoes are soft, drain off the water and place in the mixer bowl with the dough hook or paddle attachment. Add the butter right away so it will start to melt. Then add the cream cheese, sour cream, granulated garlic, onion powder and black and white peppers into the bowl and mix on a medium speed. Mix until smooth and free of all lumps. Now add the farmer’s cheese and mix on high for a couple minutes until a little fluffy. Season with kosher salt. Loosen with milk if necessary. Let cool.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray (so the delicate dough doesn’t stick. Place about 1 teaspoon of the potato and cheese filling in the center of all the cut-outs. (I like to use a bamboo skewer or large toothpick to remove the filling from the spoon to keep your hands clean.) Then pick up the dough with two hands and fold over the filling. Slightly pull out both sides at the base of the fold, then continue to pull, then pinch, and form and seal as you continue around the half moon. Double check for any areas that aren’t smooth or completely sealed. Repeat. Place on the prepared baking sheet.

In a large saucepan bring three-quarters of a gallon of water to a rapid boil. One by one, drop in the pierogis. Par-boil them until they float, about 5 minutes. Then place them back on a greased baking sheet to let cool.

To serve: Cover the bottom of a saute pan with olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, saute the pierogis; they should sizzle once they hit the oil. After a minute or so, flip them, looking for a golden brown color. Plate with sauteed onions (if desired) and a side of sour cream for dipping. Drizzle with the butter and sprinkle with the parsley. Enjoy!

Potato, Cabbage and Bacon Casserole

I found myself at an impasse the other day. I was in a predicament, a quandary , and completely devoid of intelligent thought.

Translated – I couldn’t think of anything to make for dinner.

I try really hard to come up with something new and somewhat exciting for dinner several times a week. And I just wasn’t feeling anything – I was browsing recipe after recipe, for what felt like hours, but nothing jumped out at me and said, “MAKE ME”.

And then, like the sky clearing after a storm, I found it. I can’t seem to locate the glorious photo I took of this dish, but it was outstanding and the entire family requested it become part of the regular rotation.

Of course, anything with bacon is a surefire hit with J and Sabrina…..

Potato, Cabbage and Bacon Casserole – adapted from Serious Eats

  • 3 medium russet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices (about 4 ounces) thick-cut bacon, diced
  • 1 small but heavy head green cabbage (about 2 pounds), quartered, cored, and sliced into ribbons
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs. apple cider vinegar (I used red wine)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup grated mild white cheese, such as edam or gouda

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Add potatoes to a medium pot and cover with water. Set pot over high heat and bring to a boil, then drop to a simmer. Cook potatoes until they are firm-tender, about 7 minutes. Drain potatoes and set aside.

Add bacon to a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until bacon has rendered most of its fat, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.

If bacon has rendered more than 3 tablespoons of fat, drain fat, reserving 3 tablespoons. Return Dutch oven to medium-high heat and add cabbage, onions, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, and scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, until vegetables have wilted and begun to brown, about 15 minutes. Add apple cider vinegar and deglaze pan, stirring rapidly and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom. Add potatoes to cabbage mixture and stir to combine. Season thoroughly with pepper, then add reserved bacon, parsley, half-and-half and breadcrumbs. Stir to combine.

Lightly coat the bottom of a large casserole dish with cooking spray. Add cabbage mixture and press firmly and evenly into pan. Top casserole with an even layer of grated cheese, then cover pan with a sheet of tin foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake until casserole is bubbling and cheese has browned, about 20 minutes more. Remove from oven, let rest for 10 minutes, and serve.

Cheddar Cheese Grits Casserole

It just dawned on me that Thanksgiving Day is 5 weeks and 1 day away.

Say WHAT?

Whoa. Dare I say I’m ready for it? I truly am, because this holiday season is going to be epic. J and I have a few options this year, as the posse will be away from home again. Oh, it’s ok, don’t feel sad for me, because Thanksgiving, to me, is akin to a Sunday Dinner. Which means, quite frankly, you can do it any day of the year. Everyone comes together, there’s lots of chatter, reminiscing, sharing, love, family, and of course, copious amounts of food and wine.

Wait, that sounded like my birthday week in Vegas…..

Anyway, as I said, it’s not a holiday that has monumental sentiment for me (that would be Christmas, and you can bet your last dollar they will be home with us for that!), but don’t think for one minute that I don’t get sucked into every glossy magazine showing off their finest and most delectable dishes for the season.

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With 98% of my cookbooks/baking magazines still  in storage, I’m having to exercise tremendous self control not to buy each and every one of them. Actually, I told Sabrina this morning that next week, we will break into the storage unit and start pulling out holiday lights and a few boxes of books.

Yes, I’m one of those people that starts decorating in November. Like November 1. 

Cheddar Cheese Grits Casserole – adapted form Southern Living

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Bring milk just to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; gradually whisk in butter and grits. Reduce heat, and simmer, whisking constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until grits are done. Remove from heat.Stir in egg, cheese, and pepper. ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until mixture is set. Serve immediately.

Chicken and Tater Tot Casserole

I think, if my not-always-reliable memory serves me correctly, that this recipe was featured in the “Chopped Dinner Challenge” on the Food Network recently.

Yes, a quick check on their site confirms that my facts (and memory) are indeed correct.

alert the media. 

Anyhoo, tater tots, for the uninitiated, are ground up, formed, seasoned potatoes that are held in very high regard in this house. Very high regard. Very high. Very.

Capiche?

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This was a winner all around and will definitely be made again.

Chicken and Tater Tot Casserole – adapted from Food Network

  • 4 tbs. unsalted butter
    2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
    1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • Fresh ground black pepper
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    2 cups milk
    1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 3 cups frozen tater tots, thawed
    1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the carrots and onions and season with pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 6-7 minutes. Add the peas, and cook for another minute or so. Stir in the flour, and then whisk in the milk and wine and bring to a boil, whisking. Boil until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the chicken. Transfer to a greased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the chicken mixture.

Pulse the tots in a food processor with the thyme until medium ground. Scatter over the top of the casserole and bake until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.