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09/18/2014

~ My All-Purpose Tex-Mex (Texican) Veggie Saute ~

IMG_3757It is a wise man who stops to ask for directions.  Every recipe in our food world has a purpose and every recipe I post has a reason for posting it. One  of my favorite things about writing a cooking blog is:  the questions that come my way.  As my grandmother always said, "where there is smoke there is fire", which in the world of food writing should be interpreted to mean:  "if one person asks a question, there is a big chance a lot of other people are asking the same".

More importantly:  never hesitate to ask about the basics!

IMG_8131Q.  Timothy says & asks:  I'm a 61-year old computer analyst that has been tragically placed in the position of cooking for myself.  I am not competent in the kitchen and I don't like to cook, but, I can follow directions.  Thanks to Kitchen Encounters and Category 20 (Just Plain Easy), I've made a few home-cooked meals that taste really good. I bought a bigger stockpot and made chicken-vegetable soup and sugar-crusted corned beef.  I made sweet potato & beef chile in my wife's crockpot twice.  In the roasting pan she used to make turkey, your IMG_8665roasted chicken gets made often.  Thank-you Melanie.

Today I bought a grill pan.  I plan to buy a flank steak, boneless chicken breast and shrimp.  I'll season with bought fajita seasoning then grill one for dinner over 3 nights.  I'll cook a boxed Spanish rice mix too. Can you suggest a quick vegetable dish that will make enough for 3-4 nights?  I read your recipe for chicken fajitas, but you cook the chicken and vegetables together in a skillet.  I want them properly cooked and seasoned separately.

PICT2619Note to Readers:  You can find ~ Grandma Ann's Easy Chicken Vegetable Soup ~, ~ My Braised & Brown Sugar Glazed Corned Beef ~, and, ~"Winner Winner Crockpot Dinner": A Scrumptious, Slow-Cooked, Sweet Potato & Ground Beed Chile ~ in Category 20:  Just Plain Easy never tasted so good!  

Click on the Related Article links below to learn ~ This Woman's Way to Roast the Perfect Chicken ~ and cook some of my  favorite Tex-Mex food, including the Stovetop Chicken and Tequila-Lime Skirt Steak Fajitas (pictured above)!

PICT1997A.  Kitchen Enounters:  Timothy, I am so sorry to hear about your circumstances, but, am pleased you are finding KE helpful.  Perhaps, over time, I can get you to enjoy cooking too -- for now, we'll just take it one step at a time.  I like your plan for a weeks worth of quickly-prepared Tex-Mex meals.  Here is exactly what you'll need to do to cook the vegetables separately:

1  pound 1/4"-thick, half-moon sliced yellow or sweet onions (about 2 large onions)

IMG_36908-10 ounces green bell pepper strips (about 2 large green peppers)

8-10 ounces red bell pepper strips (about 2 large bell peppers)

1/4  cup corn or vegetable oil

3-4  tablespoons fajita seasoning, preferably ~ Mel's Homemade Tex-Mex-Style Fajita Seasoning ~

IMG_3699~ Step 1.  In a 12" skillet, heat the oil over low heat.  Add the onions and 2 tablespoons of fajita seasoning.  

IMG_3710Increase heat to medium-high and saute, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.

Note:  Fajita seasonings vary quite a bit in salt content so It's wise not to IMG_3714add all of it at once.

IMG_3721~ Step 2. Add the bell peppers. Stir to combine. Taste and add more fajita seasoning. Continue to saute, stirring constantly, adding additional seasoning, to taste, until vegetables are cooked to desired degree of doneness 3-4 more minutes.

IMG_3726Note:  When making this to reheat in small amounts, undercook the vegetables. Saute until "crunch tender".  Cover and refrigerate. Reheat in desired quantities.

IMG_3742Step 3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to food storage container and refrigerate for up to one week (do not freeze).

Serve with any Tex-Mex-style chicken, beef, pork or seafood! 

IMG_3731Nice things really do happen in the "blog-o-spere"!

IMG_3746My All-Purpose Tex-Mex (Texican) Veggie Saute:  Recipe yields 6 cups or 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; slotted spoon

PICT1312Cook's Note:  For a variation on the same theme, click into Categories 4, 13 or 20 to get my recipe for ~ Mel's All-Purpose Asian-Style Vegetable Saute ~!  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

09/15/2014

~Orange Cinnamon & Vanilla Bean Breakfast Butter~

IMG_3634When I was a busy mom raising three boys, making a fancy-schmancy compound butter for their bagels, English muffins, pancakes or waffles wasn't high on my list of weekday things to do.  I made breakfast every day, but when it came to the condiments, it was every man for himself:  the peanut butter, preserves, maple syrup and butter went out on the table commando-style. 

IMG_3073Now that it's just Joe and me (a more relaxed morning schedule), the bread, muffins, pancakes and waffles are made from scratch, and, I have the time to take pleasure in and put thought into "the small stuff" too:  like making the butter taste extra-special.  For my homemade cinnamon-raisin bread, a simple concoction of 2 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons of Cinnamon 'n Sugar turns my homemade cinnamon-raisin bread into a totally delightful toast experience.

Click into the Related Article link below, for everything you need to know about:

IMG_3151~ The Savory-Sweet Simplicity of Compound Butter ~

OrangesWhen it comes to breakfast, everyone will agree that oranges are the premier citrus fruit:  orange juice, orange marmalade, orange segments, etc.  The bright taste of orange is simply a refreshing way to start the day.  The combination of orange and cinnamon is a long-established one, meaning:  I did not invent it, I just love it.  It was only natural for me to stir some orange flavor to my Cinnamon 'n Sugar butter, and, marmalade came before the oily zest because it's nicely-sweetened and ready to use.

Time out to talk about the vanilla bean:

IMG_3531It was, however, the day it occured to me to add some vanilla to the mixure, in the form of actual vanilla beans (not liquid extract) that I stopped tweeking this recipe.  It was perfect!

6a0120a8551282970b015437fdf8df970cThe inside of a vanilla bean is filled with thousands of flavorful seeds. To remove the seeds from pod:  

Using kitchen shears, cut the bean in two down its entire length.  I find this easier to do if I cut the bean in half (into 2 shorter pieces) first.  Or, you can use the tip of a paring knife to split the bean open down its entire length. Holding onto the bean, run the knife blade down the length of the exposed center to scrape out all of the seeds.

IMG_35298  tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)

2  large, soft, fresh vanilla beans, split open as directed above, seeds removed

1  teaspoon Cinnamon 'n Sugar

1/4  teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/2-2  tablespoons orange zest, 1 large orange works out right

2  tablespoons orange marmalade, at room temperature

IMG_3559 IMG_3550~ Step 1. Place butter in a medium bowl and thoroughly stir in the vanilla bean seeds.  Allow mixture to rest 5 minutes then stir again.

IMG_3564Step 2.  Stir in the Cinnamon 'n Sugar and the sea salt.

IMG_3568~ Step 3.  Using a microplane grater add the orange zest.  Do not zest the orange in advance or it will lose its bright color and begin to stick together (get clumpy) instead of being light, loose and airy.

IMG_3582~ Step 4. Stir in the orange marmalade.

Tip:  Don't bring the entire jar of marmalade to room temperature, just 2 tablespoonsful.

IMG_3593 IMG_3585~ Step 5. Transfer butter to a food storage container and cover.

If serving free-form, to slather on bread, refrigerate 2 hours or overnight, to give flavors time to marry.  Overnight is best.  Return to room temperature prior to serving.

If scooping it into small portions or shaping it into a log, refrigerate 20-30 minutes, or unti it is just firm enough to shape.

IMG_3602Once scooped onto a parchment lined baking pan or rolled into log and wrapped in plastic, refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.  Use small scoops of compound butter as directed, cold or at room temperature.  Logs must be sliced cold, then used as directed, cold or at room temperature.

Note:  I always scoop this particular butter because it's easy to place a dollop on a hot pancake or waffle. (PS: It's delicious on a fish fillet too!)

IMG_3614Place a dollop or two on a "hot stack" (short or a tall)...

IMG_3622... and when it gets all melty, drizzle on the warm maple syrup...

IMG_3636... then tell me you love me!

IMG_3682Orange Cinnamon & Vanilla Bean Breakfast Butter:  Recipe yields 8 tablespoons equivalent to 1 stick of butter or 1/2 cup.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; kitchen shears; paring knife; spoon; microplane grater; 1/2 cup food storage container w/lid; small ice-cream scoop; baking pan; parchment paper

IMG_3391Cook's Note:  To get a recipe for one of my favorite savory compound butters, which is great slathered on toasted bread, dolloped onto a grilled steak or roasted chicken breast, or, tossed into pasta for a luscious side-dish, just click into Categories 4, 12, 20 or 22 for ~ Italian Basil, Tomato, Garlic, Parm & Pepper Butter ~ !

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

09/12/2014

~Italian Basil, Tomato, Garlic, Parm & Pepper Butter~

IMG_3368Historically, the French and the Italians agree to disagree often over "who invented what" culinarily.  While writing Tuesday's post ~ The Savory-Sweet Simplicity of Compound Butter ~ (click on the Related Article link below to read it), I told you the French word for it is "beurre compose".  Try as I did, research didn't turn up any historical references to what the formal Italian name for compound butter is.  This surprised me, so, I asked my Facebook friend (an authority on authentic Italian regional cooking). "As far as I know, in general Italian cooking, there is no use of compound butter", was his reply.  If Peter said it, that was good enough for me. 

IMG_3339"Well, that's gotta change", said I to me.  You see, I am only Italian by osmosis -- I married one. This has benefits and provides me with a bit of much-appreciated freedom too.

Benefits:  I get to learn from the Italian women in Joe's family, and, I am respectful of their recipes and traditions.  Who knew that risotto must be stirred counterclockwise?  

Freedom:  When pretending to be Italian in my American kitchen, I get to adlib a bit, and, make my own rules.  Today, I'm making: burro comporre, or, comporre di burro?

Italian Compound Butter?  Italiano Burro Comporre?    

IMG_3460Authentic?  No.  Delicious?  Absolutely.  You be the judge!

IMG_33078  tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)

1  teaspoon granulated garlic powder

1  teaspoon organic tomato powder, no additives no preservatives*

1/4  teaspoon fine sea salt

1  teaspoon red pepper flakes

6  tablesoons very-thin chiffonade of fresh basil leeaves

4  tablespoons finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

6a0120a8551282970b015432779207970c-320wiNote:  Tomato powder is powdered dehydrated tomatoes. I've come to love it over the past few years and I recommend you add it to your tomato-loving pantry.  It adds the flavor and acid of fresh or canned tomatoes without any liquid!

~ Step 1.  Remove butter from refrigerator and set aside to get very soft.  While butter is softening, use a microplane grater to finely-grate the cheese.  When the butter is soft:

IMG_3274 IMG_3283 IMG_3301~ Step 2.  Stack about 15-20 large basil leaves on top of each other.  Choose leaves with little discoloration and as few spots as possible.  Roll them up "cigar style", then, using a sharp chef's knife, slice through the cigar, to cut them into little "rags or ribbons".  If you don't have 6 tablespoons of basil chiffonade, slice a few more. Rough chop through the chiffonade, to make the ribbons smaller yet.

IMG_3317 IMG_3324 IMG_3328 IMG_3330~Step 3.  In a medium bowl, place the butter, garlic powder, tomato powder, sea salt and red pepper flakes.  Using any spoon, stir vigorously and often until mixture is uniform in color.  Taste.  If you think it needs a pinch of salt, add it.  More garlic powder? Go for it.  Don't look back.

IMG_3333~ Step 4.  Transfer butter to a food storage container and cover.  

If serving free-form, to slather on bread, refrigerate 2 hours or overnight, to give flavors time to marry.  Overnight is best.  Return to room temperature prior to serving.  

IMG_3151If scooping it into small portions or shaping it into a log, refrigerate 20-30 minutes, or until it is just firm enough to shape.

IMG_3126 IMG_3098Once scooped onto a parchment lined baking pan or rolled into log and wrapped in plastic, refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.  Use small scoops of compound butter as directed, cold or at room temperature.  Logs must be sliced cold, then used as directed, cold or at room temperature:

IMG_3485Allow me to slather my "Italian Butter"  on my French Bread: 

IMG_3363... and enjoy a taste while I cook some pasta:

IMG_3441Italian Basil, Tomato, Garlic, Parm & Pepper Butter:  Recipe yields 8 tablespoons equivalent to 1 stick of butter or 1/2 cup.

Special Equipment List:  microplane grater; cutting board; chef's knife; spoon; 1/2-cup food storage container w/lid; small ice-cream scoop, baking pan and parchment paper (optional), or; plastic wrap and kitchen twine (optional)

IMG_2459Cook's Note:  For another non-authentic but really delicious way to enjoy a slice of bread, ~ My E-Z Big Fat Greek Lemon-Pepper Garlic Bread ~, found in Categories 2, 4, 5 or 20, compliments ~ My Big Fat Greek Lemony-Garlic Layered Shrimp Salad ~ perfectly!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)