Thursday, January 27, 2011

Western Omelet For One (with a side of fried potatoes!)

I was by myself this evening so I decided to make an omelet and some fried potatoes for my dinner. I like a Western Omelet, which usually contains ham, bell peppers and onion and maybe some cheese. Well, I had no ham, so bacon took it's place very nicely. From what I've read, this omelet may also be called a Denver Omelet, or a Southwestern Omelet. Which ever name you call it, it is really delicious and so easy to make. The veggies can be sauteed until they are soft, or you can add them to the egg uncooked, which is what I did this time. Either way it's good.
Pour the eggs in the skillet, top with the veggies and cheese. Add the bacon and fold over. Add more cheese if desired. And I love it served with salsa. Here's what I did.

from Lynda's Recipe Box
2 large eggs, well beaten
about 1/2 tablespoon half and half, or milk
about 1 tablespoon or so of diced bell pepper
1 small green onion, sliced
2 strips of bacon, cooked crisp (or diced, cooked ham)
Monterrey Jack Cheese, shredded (or cheddar)
salt and pepper to taste
Beat the eggs and half and half, or milk, together and pour into a nonstick skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Stir in the onion, bell pepper and bacon (or ham); add salt and pepper. Loosen the edges of the omelet and tilt the skillet, letting the uncooked egg run to the sides. Add the bacon and the shredded cheese and fold the omelet in half when the eggs are still a bit wet looking. Take the skillet off the burner, add more cheese to the top on the omelet if desired. Place a lid over the pan to let the eggs finish setting and the cheese melt. Slide your delicious omelet onto a plate, add salsa and devour. This is my favorite way to make an omelet. How do you like yours?
NOTE: For the fried potatoes, I partially cooked 3 small Yukon Gold potatoes in the microwave. Then I sliced them thin and cooked in a little butter in a small skillet. Seasoned with only salt and pepper, they were golden, crisp and delicious.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chicken Fried Steak with Creamy Gravy

I'm still on my comfort food kick, so Chicken Fried Steak was on my menu last week. This meal was one of my favorite dishes that my Mother made when I was a kid, and I still love it. I don't make it much any more, but I still love this crispy, breaded steak served with mashed potatoes and lots of creamy gravy. Mmmmm, it doesn't get much better than this, if you are craving comfort food. Mom also made steak by dipping it in just flour only and then frying it, which is also tasty. But real Chicken Fried Steak has a nice crispy coating from dipping it in flour, then a milk mixture and the flour again. I don't usually use a recipe for this meal, but I've written out directions for those of you who maybe haven't tried making this before. You can use round steak and tenderize it yourself, or you can buy individual steaks that have already been tenderized at the store. Here's my method.

from Lynda's Recipe Box

1 1/2 pounds bottom round steak, cut into serving pieces and pounded about 1/2 inch thick with a meat mallet
about 1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 - 1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, optional
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
canola oil for frying

1. Pound steaks with a meat tenderizer until thin, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
2. Season steak with salt and pepper.
3. Place flour, salt, pepper, garlic and paprika in a plate and mix. Pour beaten egg and milk in another bowl that is wide enough to dip the meat into.
4. Heat a skillet, and about 1/2 cup canola oil, to medium or medium high heat
5. With a fork, or your hand, dip each steak into flour mixture, and then shake off the excess.
6. Then dip steak into the egg/milk mixture and then back into the flour. Lay on a clean plate.
7. Place each steak into a frying pan in the hot oil. Do not crowd the steak. Fry 2-3 minutes until golden and then turn the steaks over and cook until golden, another 2-3 minutes.
8. Remove steaks to a paper towel lined plate to drain. While making the gravy, I place the steaks in the oven, which is heated to the lowest heat setting. Place the steaks on a wire rack on a baking sheet, just to stay warm and crispy while making the gravy.
GRAVY: Drain all but about 3 tablespoons of oil from the skillet. Leave all the brown crispy stuff in the skillet. Add 3 tablespoons of flour to the oil and stir until combined and creamy. Cook this roux until it is lightly golden, a couple of minutes. Turn heat down, if needed. If the roux looks oily, add a bit more flour. Stir in 2 cups of milk, whisking until it bubbles and there are no lumps. Cook gravy until thick and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste. If needed add more milk. I ended up using about 2 1/2 cups of milk total, but it depends on how thick you like your gravy. Now ladle gravy over hot mashed potatoes and Chicken Fried Steak. At this point I like to add more black pepper. I like this gravy well peppered, but go by your own tastes for this. Groan and enjoy!
NOTE: Start the mashed potatoes first, so they can cook while you make the steak and gravy.
Also, in these photos, the steak appears a bit darker than it really was.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars Warning: May be Habit Forming!

Luscious. Awesome. Addictive. Words are not enough to explain these delicious Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars. The graham cracker crust is loaded with butter and cinnamon and baked until golden. The sweet creamy filling is silky smooth; rich, but not too rich to want more than one piece. The topping, oh the topping-pure Dulce de Leche thinned with cream and spread over the bars. The crowning glory. Major addiction going on here!
This is my first time using Dulce de Leche in a recipe because it is hard to find here, so I made my own. It is very thick, but velvety to the tongue. It made me want more and more. I may have eaten some from the can!
Dulce de Leche is a Latin American form of caramel, glorious caramel. I have seen it in several forms (on the web, not in my town). It can be found in the Hispanic section of many grocery stores, or in Hispanic markets. Here are some links for recipes to make your own dulce de leche. I made mine in the crock pot. To do this, remove the paper from cans of sweetened condensed milk, and lay them down in the crock pot. Add water to cover the cans to about an inch over the cans. Turn the crock pot on low setting and cook for 8 hours. You will have deliciously thick Dulce de Leche! Carefully remove cans from the crock pot and let them cool completely before trying to open. Here's a stove top recipe from Recipe Girl and various recipes from another source.
Here's the recipe I used for these bars. You must try these! DULCE de LECHE CHEESECAKE BARS
2 1/4 cups finely crushed graham crackers
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
10 tablespoons unsalted, melted butter
3 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup dulce de leche
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup dulce de leche
3 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream- I used 4 tablespoons of half and half
Fleur de sel to sprinkle on top- (I did not use this; not found in my town)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 9x13 inch metal baking dish. Mix graham crackers crumbs, butter, sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Pour crumb mixture into the baking pan and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crust is golden. Cool completely on a rack.
Blend cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy with a mixer or food processor. Add eggs, one at a time, blending well between additions. Add dulce de leche and vanilla and blend well. Spread the batter evenly over the cooled crust. Bake until the center is set and the edges are puffed and slightly cracked. The middle should not jiggle when you shake the pan. Bake about 38 minutes. Mine were done in 32 minutes, so start checking your pan at about 30 minutes to be safe. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Heat duce de leche and 3 tablespoons cream in a microwave safe bowl. Heat at about 10 second intervals until melted. Stir well, and add more cream if needed. I used half and half, because I was out of cream and it worked perfect. I needed 1 more T. cream than called for. The amount of cream you need will depend on the brand of dulce de leche you use. Pour glaze over the cooled cheesecake and spread evenly. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Cut into bars and enjoy!
NOTE: Bars can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Homemade French Bread

Don't you just love the aroma of homemade bread bread baking in the oven? Last week when the weather was cold and snowy, I had the urge to bake this French Bread to go with a big pot of soup. It's been quite awhile since I have made this, but this tasty bread is one of my family's favorites. Chewy and deliciously crusty on the outside, and soft, but yet dense on the inside, this bread is perfect with soups and stews or used to make garlic toast. I've been working on this post for several days and happy to finally have it posted as Blogger has been giving me fits. But we've been savoring our French Bread. If you like to bake your own bread, I think you will enjoy this one. Let me show you how.
After the dough is all stirred up it will be rather sticky looking, but will smooth out as it is kneaded. I like kneading the dough; I find it very therapeutic!

After a few minutes of kneading it should be a nice smooth, elastic ball. Then it needs to rise.

Isn't it pretty? It will double in size in about an hour.

After it has risen you "punch it down", which deflates the air out of the dough. Then It has to rise a second time, only about 30 minutes this time around. Deflate it again and divide the dough into three equal pieces.

Each piece of dough is rolled out a bit and then rolled up into individual loaves, and placed on baking sheets that have been greased and dusted with corn meal.

Cover each loaf with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubles again. This is the last rising. Preheat your oven at this time.

When the dough has doubled, take a sharp knife and gently score each loaf of bread. don't cut too deeply. Then brush each loaf with beaten egg white. Bake in the oven till golden and you will have some fantastic looking bread! Try not to cut it right away and let it cool-yea, right! When my kids were all home everyone was standing around like vultures waiting for a hot slice to slather with butter. The first loaf was gone in a matter of minutes! It's a good thing this recipe makes 3 loaves. Or sometimes I make two larger loaves. Here's the recipe.

from a Family Circle cookbook
1 envelope active dry yeast- 2 1/4 teaspoons
2 cups very warm water
6 cups sifted all purpose flour-you may not use all of it
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt-Recipe calls for 3 tea.
2 tablespoons shortening-I sometimes use olive oil
cornmeal for dusting the pans
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cold water
1. Pour the very warm water in a large bowl. (The water should feel comfortably warm when dropped on your wrist). Sprinkle the yeast into the water. Stir until the yeast dissolves.
2. Stir in 3 cups of the flour, the sugar, shortening and salt; beat until smooth. Slowly beat in enough of the remaining 3 cups of flour to make a stiff dough. It will still be somewhat sticky in appearance.
3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead for about 5 minutes. I find this rather therapeutic! Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, using only as much of the remaining flour to keep dough from sticking. Like I said, you may not end up using all the flour.
4. Place the dough in a large greased bowl and turn to coat all over with the shortening. Or, brush very lightly with oil. Cover with a clean towel and place in a warm place to rise. It should double in 45-60 minutes.
5. When dough has doubled, punch it down (deflate it), and cover and let it rise a second time, until doubled in size. This will take around 30 minutes.
6. Punch down the dough again and knead 1 minute on a lightly floured surface. cut the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into about a 12x9 inch rectangle. Roll up jelly roll fashion and pinch the seam together. Tuck the ends underneath. Grease baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal.
7. Place the bread on the prepared baking sheets: cover and let rise until doubles again, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. at least 15 minutes before loaves are ready to bake.
8. Make several evenly placed diagonal cuts on top of each loaf. Beat together the egg white and the 1 tablespoon of cold water: brush over each loaf of bread gently with a pastry brush.
9. Place a pan of hot water on bottom shelf of the oven. Place baking sheet with loaves on shelf above the water.
10. Bake in a hot 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from baking pans and cool on wire racks. Enjoy!
NOTE: If your baking sheet is very large you may be able to bake all three loaves on 1 sheet. But you don't want the loaves too close together. Since I made one round loaf, I baked it on a second baking pan.
Another NOTE: I usually freeze 1 or 2 loaves of this bread. Double wrap it in plastic wrap and then in foil or a heavy freezer bag. It will keep for a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ham and Pinto Beans

Comfort food. That's what comes to mind when I think of my Mother's Ham and Pinto Beans. I guess I was a strange kid, but I loved Ham and Beans and everything else Mom made, even Liver and Onions (gasp). Mom almost always fried potatoes to go with the beans, along with some biscuits or corn bread. It was a feast to me!
I still love a meal like this, so for New Years my husband I had Ham and Beans, accompanied by the Cheese and Jalapeno Corn Bread of my last post. This was great meal and it's not hard to do.
If you have not cooked dried pinto beans before, you have to soak them in water overnight, or give them a quick soak the day of cooking. The beans cooked in less than 2 hours. However, if you live in a high altitude, it will take longer for dried beans to get done. My mother used a pressure cooker for beans when we lived in Colorado, as they cooked much quicker. I used 1 pound of dried Pinto Beans this time and that made 2 meals for my husband and I. When my kids were still all home, I cooked 2 pounds of beans.
I saved the ham bone from our Christmas dinner to use in our beans. It still had a good amount of meat on it, so that made for some really tasty beans. When cooking a ham bone with beans, I don't add salt until after the beans are done, because the ham bone will add some salt flavor as it cooks. So it's better to add salt after the beans are done. I remove the bone from the pot and separate the meat from the bone and add it back to the soup. Then I season it. Here's my method.

1. You must go through the beans by hand first. To do this, pour a small amount of beans on your counter and go through them looking for any tiny pebbles, dirt or bad beans. Throw those away and scoop the good beans into a colander. Rinse beans with water. Pour beans into a soup pot, and pour water over them to cover a couple of inches. Place lid on pot and let soak overnight.

2. When ready to cook, drain off all the water from the beans. Place the ham bone in the soup pot. Pour the drained beans into the pot. Then refill the pan with enough water to cover the beans at least an inch. At this time, add a small chopped onion. Bring soup to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, covered until beans are tender. Check the beans fairly often as they really can use up the water, so you may need to add more water during cooking. So make sure the pan does not get dry and cause the beans to burn. Burned beans do not taste good! (I learned this from experience too!) Beans are done when you can easily smash them with a fork, or taste them to check tenderness. In my altitude, the beans are done in less than 2 hours.

3. Carefully remove the ham bone from the soup. When cool enough to handle, remove the ham from the bone and take off any fat that may be still attached. Add the ham pieces back to the soup. I then taste them to see how much salt and pepper to add.

4. As you can see, this is a very basic method. If you like beans with a kick, add some seeded hot peppers while cooking. My Mother sometime added a dried Bay leaf to the pot. It just depends on what you like. My husband and I love to eat our Ham and Pinto Beans with a spoonful of spicy salsa added. Delicious! If you haven't cooked dried beans before, I hope you'll give these a try. They are not only tasty, but healthy as well. Enjoy!

NOTE: IF the beans are almost done and there happens to be more liquid than you want in the pot, just remove the lid and let the broth cook down some.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cheese and Jalapeno Corn Bread

My first meal of the New Year happened to be Ham and Beans, so I made my Cheese and Jalapeno Corn Bread to go with it. This particular recipe, which I've been making about 30 years, came from one of my old church cookbooks. This moist, cheesy, spicy corn bread is a favorite of ours and it has always been a hit served with beans, chili and soups. And it makes a great snack too. I hope you'll give it a try.
1 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 heaping tablespoon flour
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk- or sour milk; see note 2 below
1/2 cup vegetable oil-I use canola
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup canned, cream style corn
3-6 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced- I only use 2-3 peppers, depending on the size
1/2 of a large green bell pepper, diced
4-5 green onions,white and green parts, chopped
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the corn meal, flour, salt and soda. Add the buttermilk, oil, eggs and corn and mix. Stir in the jalapenos, green pepper, onions and cheese. ( The original recipe says to pour half of corn meal mixture into pan, then the cheese, then the rest of batter. I just mix it all together.)
Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan and place in the hot oven until heated, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven and pour in the batter. Place back in the oven and bake for about 35 minutes until done. Cool for a couple of minutes before serving. Enjoy!
NOTE: Please wear gloves when working with jalapeno peppers. With a knife, split the pepper in half length wise. Using your knife, scrape out the seeds and membrane of the peppers. Not wearing gloves can cause intense burning of your skin. I speak from experience here, unfortunately. Sigh~
NOTE 2 : To Sour Milk: You can sub sour milk for the butter milk. Put 1 tablespoon white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar, into a measuring cup. Fill up to the 1 cup line with milk. Let it sit a minute or so. Then use it in the recipe like buttermilk.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My Top Posts of 2010!

I have enjoyed reading other blogs top ten posts for the year, so here are mine.
Number 10: Peanut Butter Fudge
Number 9: Steakhouse Potato Salad

Number 8: Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce

Number 7: Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Filling

Number 6: Corn, Black Bean and Tomato Salsa
Number 5: Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream Sauce

Number 4: Barbecued Buffalo Chicken Wings

Number 2: Crock Pot Pulled Pork

And Number 1: Classic Green Beans Almondine! I wasn't surprised as these green beans were also last years most popular post.
Thank you to all of you wonderful readers and followers. I truly enjoy everyone stopping by my blog and taking time out of your very busy lives to read my blog be my blogging buddies. God bless you this New Year!