Slow Cooker Tikka Masala

My slow cookers are, by far, the hardest working appliances in my kitchen.

Well, aside from the wine opener, that is …..

Seriously though, my love for these amazing gadgets is well documented and very well known. Sabrina has stopped me on several occasions from purchasing yet another crock pot/slow cooker, because each time we are in a store I always come across a “new and improved” version of a model I already own. These versions usually have a totally cool upgrade, like an LED timer or something nifty like that.

And I get caught up in the moment, because I am so technologically hip, you know….

stop laughing Dad.

Anyway, with school starting this week, and J’s erratic work schedule, I will be relying on these babies more than ever.

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Suffice to say, this version of Tikka Masala will become my go-to recipe from now on. The only change I will make next time will be to add more chicken, as the sauce/meat ratio was a bit off for my liking.

Slow Cooker Tikka Masala – adapted from dinners, dishes and desserts

  • 3 lbs. boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 (29 oz) can tomato puree
  • 1½ cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tbs. Garam Masala
  • 1 tbs. cumin
  • ½ tbs. paprika
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Chopped cilantro

In the medium bowl mix together onion, garlic, ginger, tomato puree, yogurt, olive oil, Garam Masala, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, pepper, and cayenne. Once well combined and smooth, add chicken and toss to coat.

Pour into the slow cooker, and add bay leaves. Cover and cook for 6 hours on low, or 3 hours on high.

Garnish with cilantro, and serve with flatbread or rice.

Cheesy Grits

Update: Thanks to my eagle eyed proofreader (aka Dad), I have corrected the grammatical errors and have hopefully fixed the YouTube link…..

I will tell you, right off the bat, that grits are NOT something I was familiar with until I moved to Texas. Previously, whenever I heard the term grits, I would think of the old TV show “Alice”…. and yes I’m dating myself here, as that show aired from 1976 to 1985…

Which was last week, right?

riiiight…..

Anyway, one of the waitresses, Flo – she was the one with the beehive hairdo – her favorite expression, while snapping her chewing gum, was “Kiss my grits!”

And while kissing grits does not sound very appealing, eating them certainly is. I realized, after a few bites, that they are strikingly similar to polenta, just in a much more coarse texture. And made all that much better with the addition of cheese.

Because isn’t everything better with cheese?

Cheesy Grits – adapted very liberally from serious eats

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water, plus more as necessary
  • 1 cup coarse ground grits
  • 4 tbs. unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Bring milk and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir in grits and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until grits are thick and creamy, about 25 minutes. When done, turn off the heat, stir in 4 tablespoons butter and the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Season with pepper, and thin with water if the grits have become too thick.

 

Our favorite Meatloaf

Meatloaf seems to incite very strong feelings within my family.

And by that statement, I mean they either love it (Dad, J and Alexander), thoroughly dislike it (Mom), or are completely neutral about it (Sabrina and I).

Because when meatloaf is good, it’s really, really good. And when it’s bad, it’s….. inedible. And believe me, I’ve made my share of inedible meatloaves.

Let’s not talk about it those versions …..

However, after much trial and error, I think I’ve finally nailed it. And even though I don’t have a picture, suffice to say this is the recipe I will keep coming back to again and again.

Our Favorite Meatloaf – adapted from Ina Garten

3 tbs olive oil
3 cups chopped yellow onions
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup milk
2 tbs. ketchup
2 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup ketchup
5-6 slices thick cut bacon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the onions, thyme, and pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent but not brown. Off the heat, add the Worcestershire sauce, milk, and ketchup. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, onion mixture, bread crumbs, and eggs, and mix lightly with a fork. Don’t mash or the meat loaf will be dense. Shape the mixture into a rectangular loaf on a sheet pan covered with foil. Spread the ketchup evenly on top, and lay the bacon slices on top of the ketchup. Bake for 45 minutes, until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F and the meat loaf is cooked through.

Chicken Chilaquiles Casserole

Happy Friday and holy smokes today is August 1! School starts in three weeks – how thrilling is that? The posse get so mad at me every time I say that… but it’s an especially exciting year for them – Sabrina will be a senior and Alexander will be a sophomore!

If he lives that long…..

Anyway, I only have one thing to say about the month of July…. it was quiet. Quiet because it was just Sabrina and I for 90% of the time (unless you count the dogs, but aside from barking, they really don’t talk too much, thank goodness)…. J has been traveling nonstop, Alexander is in Vegas, so she and I have had a lot of time together.

A lot.

As in, I’m quite confident she’s ready for a break from me.

But no matter, we did all sorts of productive things, and most importantly she finally obtained her learners’ permit!

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I’m so happy! However, given the fact that most of the roads here have 65-80 mph speed limits (which I love!), we have been taking drives out by the ranch, where it’s less…… congested…. with people anyway….

The bovine population is another story entirely.

Chicken Chilaquiles – adapted from The Wanderlust Kitchen

  • 2 dried ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed, torn into pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup mild beer
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of whole tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 (7.5 ounce) bag white corn tortilla chips (I made my own!)
  • 2 cups cooked shredded chicken
  • ½ lb. cheddar/jack cheese blend, shredded
  • ½ c. chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, sliced (optional)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add chile pieces and toast for a few minutes until fragrant. Set aside in a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes.

Puree with garlic, beer, and ½ cup soaking liquid in a blender. Add in the whole tomatoes and continue to puree. Run through a fine sieve and return to the pan. Stir in cumin and coriander. Simmer over medium-low for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Layer a 9 x 13 baking dish with half a bag of corn tortilla chips, using your hands to press the chips down and break into pieces. Add half of the shredded chicken, then half of the sauce. Layer the remaining chips, chicken, and sauce, then top with shredded cheese.

Bake, covered with well-greased foil, for 25 minutes. Remove foil, bake another 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly.

Let sit for 15 minutes to cool and set, then garnish with cilantro, cherry tomatoes, green onions, and jalapeno (if using).

 

Tex Mex Cheese Enchiladas

So remember yesterday, when I talked about posting recipes with/without photos?
Well…… here we have a classic example of my hesitancy to publish this, since the photo I was able to take was/is not……very good.
At all.
See?
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These enchiladas, though, were worth the time to find the chiles (c’mon – this is Texas….. it wasn’t like they were hard to find!) and every minute of time spent on them – they were so good, and although a bit spicy, definitely will be made again.
Tex Mex Cheese Enchiladas – adapted from Serious Eats2 ounces dried Ancho chilies, stems and seeds removed
2 ounces dried Guajillo chilies, stems and seeds removed
2 dried Arbol chilies, stems and seeds removed
Hot water, for soaking
1/2 pound ground beef
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth (I used beer, with outstanding results)
2 tbs. vegetable oil
2 tbs. all-purpose flour

For the Cheese Enchiladas:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
12 corn tortillas
1 pound cheddar cheese, grated, divided

For the Chili Gravy:  Heat a heavy 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Cut all the chilies open along one side, so that they can be laid flat. Working in batches, cook chilies in the skillet, pressing down with a spatula, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 5 seconds on each side; be careful not to let chilies burn. Transfer to a large bowl and cover chilies with hot water, setting a small plate on top to keep them submerged. Let stand 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, add ground beef to cast-iron skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer beef to a medium bowl and set aside. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of beef fat from skillet; if there isn’t enough fat leftover in the skillet, add enough oil to make up the difference. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in minced garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer onion and garlic to a blender.
Drain chilies, discarding all of the soaking liquid. Transfer chilies to the blender with onions and garlic, and add cumin, oregano, black pepper, and 1 cup chicken stock. Blend mixture until smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula occasionally, about 1 to 2 minutes on high. If the mixture won’t blend, add another 1/2 cup of stock.
Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, press chili mixture through a mesh strainer set over a large bow until only chili skins remain in strainer. Discard skins.Heat oil in cast-iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add flour and stir immediately with a wire whisk. Continue to stir until roux turns light golden brown. Add chili mixture and stir in remaining broth and ground beef. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a slow and steady simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is dark red and thick like a gravy, about 30 minutes. If too thick, add a little water to thin it out.
Meanwhile, For the Cheese Enchiladas: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 375°F. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Working 1 tortilla at a time, carefully slide tortillas into oil and cook, turning once, until just starting to look leathery, about 5 to 10 seconds per side; avoid frying too long, as overly crisp tortillas will crack when folded. Transfer the fried tortilla to a paper towel-line plate to drain.

Working 1 tortilla at a time, dip fried tortilla into sauce, then transfer to a plate. Arrange 1/4 cup of cheese  in a line along center of tortilla, then roll up. Set rolled tortilla, seam-side down, in a 9-by-11-inch baking pan and repeat with remaining tortillas and cheese.

Spoon remaining sauce on top of enchiladas, followed by remaining cheese. Transfer to the oven, and bake until cheese melts and just starts to bubble, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Spinach-Rainbow Chard Lasagna

I’ve become a huge fan of rainbow chard lately, for two very important reasons:

1. It has a nice bitter tang to it, sort of like escarole and rapini,

and

2. The market down the street sells big bags of it already washed and cut up.

Conveniently, I might add.

So when I decided to make this lasagna a few weeks ago, instead of using all spinach, I tuned into my rebel side (stop laughing) and used a bag of chard that I had in the fridge.

And...dun.dun.dun….it was already washed and cut up.

Ready to go.
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Spinach Lasagna – adapted from Martha Stewart

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds baby spinach (I used a combination of rainbow chard and spinach)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 packed cup grated Parmesan (3 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 6 ounces mozzarella, shredded
  • 1/3 packed cup (1 ounce) grated Pecorino Romano
Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in middle position.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add onions  and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 minutes. Add spinach, a few handfuls at a time, and cook, stirring frequently, until all spinach is wilted, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a mesh strainer and press against spinach to remove as much liquid as possible.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter over high heat. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until roux is golden brown, 1 minute. Add milk and continue whisking until milk begins to boil and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Cover surface with plastic wrap.
Spread 1 cup bechamel along the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Place one-third of noodles over bechamel in a single, overlapping layer. Top with 1 cup bechamel and half of spinach. Repeat with a second layer of noodles, bechamel, and spinach. Top with remaining noodles, remaining bechamel, zucchini, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano. Cover with foil and bake 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until cheese is golden in places and lasagna is bubbling along the edges, about 15 minutes. Remove lasagna from oven and let stand 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sausage and Peppers with Creamy Polenta

It’s been said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.

But the way I see it, someone asking for the recipe of something you made is a greater form of flattery.

Which, I suppose, is kind of the same thing, because they’re imitating something you made.

Or recreating.

Or reproducing.

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I think I need to stop talking, because I’m starting to make too much sense to myself, which is usually a clear indicator that I’m not making any sense to anyone but myself.

ahem

Anyway, without further ado, and a whole lot of hullabaloo, here is the recipe for my version of sausage and peppers, provided so that my wonderful friend Lana can recreate/imitate this dinner for her wonderful husband James, who enjoyed this so much at our home last week.

Sausage and Peppers with Creamy Polenta 

  • 2 lbs. hot Italian Sausage
  • 2 large white onions, sliced
  • 3 red peppers, cored and sliced
  • 3 tbs. olive oil

In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, season with black pepper, and sauté , stirring occasionally, until they are tender and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the sausages, and cook, stirring often to prevent sticking, for about 10 minutes. Add the peppers, stir everything together, and cook for about another 10 minutes, or until the sausages are cooked through and the peppers are tender. Serve over creamy polenta.

Creamy Polenta – adapted from Emeril Lagasse

4 cups water, plus more as needed
4 cups milk, plus more as needed
3 tbs. butter
2 cups polenta (or cornmeal)
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a large saucepan, bring the water, milk and butter to a boil, then whisk in the polenta. Whisk constantly for 3 to 4 minutes to prevent lumps. Cook until the polenta is thick, smooth, and creamy, then stir in the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot with the sausage and peppers.