Thursday, October 18, 2012

Loaded Nachos

Something like a taco. Layered like a lasagna. Smothered in toppings. An almost one-dish, tex-mex meal.

This particular meal started with browning some ground beef in a cast iron skillet with minced onions, garlic, and Serrano chili. Add salt, ground pepper and dried chipotle to taste. Drain liquid fats, if necessary to keep the nachos from getting soggy.

Layer a handful of tortilla chips in a microwave or ovenproof dish, or several handfuls if you are feeding a crowd and using a big dish. Top with half the meat, some finely diced tomatoes, chopped green onions and more chilies if desired. Cover amply with shredded mixed cheeses, I use the Kirkland brand Mexican Style End shredded cheese from Costco. Repeat with another layer of chips and toppings.

Microwave or cook in a medium-hot oven until the cheese is melted and toppings are heated through. Remove from oven and dot with sour cream and some reserved scallions. If I'd had any avocado, that would have gone on at the end as well.

I usually only make enough for myself so I just dig in and eat from the dish but serving to a plate is possible with tongs, two spoons, or hands.

Other good additions would include salsa at serving, and diced sweet peppers either added to the browning meat (as I think I did in this picture) or layered in with the tomatoes.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Stove-top Peach and Pear Crumble

Stove-top Peach and Pear Crumble

Start with a handful of whole pecans and knob of butter in a hot skillet. Season liberally with sea salt and a bit of nutmeg. When their color darkens and they have absorbed the butter, ten them out on a paper towel.

Into the hot pan, add more butter, one rough chopped pear (slightly under-ripe) and one chopped peach. Sweeten to taste with a combination of sweeteners; I used maple syrup and agave. Sprinkle with cinnamon, maybe half or three-quarters of a teaspoon. Add a couple handfuls of rolled oats and stir occasionally. Cook until the fruit is soft and the oats are candied.

Add the reserved pecans back to the pan to heat through. Serve on a bed of plain whole milk yogurt and top with a scoop of premium vanilla ice cream.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Feel Better Soup

I’m maniacally chewing Vitamin C tablets and slurping my Feel Better Chicken Soup, while propped in bed on my pile of pillows, and watching endless old cartoons from the 60’s and 70’s.  So it only seems appropriate to post a recipe for the Feel Better Soup.

Believe it or not, it is pretty simple to make your own chicken stock and doesn’t add that much time to the process, although admittedly I did skip this step last night and used a box of organic broth.  My excuse is that I didn’t use the whole rotisserie chicken and thus didn’t liberate all enough bones.  Okay, it was really that I was a tiny bit feverish and a whole lot headachy and just didn’t want to think about it.

Seriously, though, start with a roasted chicken—buy one from the grocery or roast your own or use leftover bones and scraps frozen after some previous chicken dinner.  Pick off the meat and set aside.  Toss into a large pot all the bones, cartilage, skin, fat, the juices or jelly-like stuff that accumulated at the bottom of the roasting pan or plastic tub from the store, and any of the weird bits that you don’t really know what they are.  Cover with water by a couple inches, add the juice of half a lemon or a couple tablespoons of vinegar (helps to release the minerals from the bones and emulsify the fats and gelatins), and cook at just off the boil with the lid on.  As you prep the vegetables, add the scraps to the stock pot—carrot peels and ends, celery ends, onion and garlic peels, and whatever other veg you are going to cook with the soup except the “gassy” ones like peppers, cabbage, broccoli, or cauliflower.  You can also put a teaspoon or so of whole peppercorns or several grinds of the pepper-grinder.

Prep some veggies into your favorite shape and size. Yesterday’s soup had some fairly good-sized slices because I didn’t want to cut more than necessary; I was a bit worried about catching a finger under the knife.  When I use to make soup for the kids, I diced everything pretty small or at least very thin because it was more likely to disappear into little mouths than bigger pieces.  Standard chicken soup veggies are carrot, celery and onion (I used shallot, scallions are also really nice).  Peas are common. Mushrooms are also delicious and healthy. But really, just about any vegetable is a good addition—whatever you have, find, think your sick person will eat. Don’t forget to put the “trash” into the stockpot as you go. Throw all the soup veg into the big soup pot—I use a Dutch oven—over medium heat, add a splash of oil, stir to coat and add a teaspoon or so of unrefined salt.  Don’t skimp on the salt, you need all the minerals you can get and the sodium is beneficial for the adrenals when you are stressed. Cover and sweat the veg.

Now to prep the “healing stuff” that sets this apart from just any old chicken soup.  Finely dice or grate as much garlic as you can stand (3-5cloves for us), a Serrano chili or jalapeno or half a scotch bonnet (seeded if you prefer), and a small knob of fresh ginger or horseradish.  This sounds pretty spicy but I find that the heat factor isn’t all that much when it is all diced up itty-bitty.  Also, sick people generally tolerate a lot more heat than not-sick people, whether because they are so stuffy in the nose they can’t taste it or because it is so good for them that their taste buds welcome more heat, I don’t know. Throw all the diced aromatics into the soup pot and stir. 

Add a pinch of caraway seeds at this point.  Or any other dried herbs that you enjoy. If you like fresh herbs, prep them and add the clippings to the stockpot but don’t add the herbs to the soup yet. Chop or shred the reserved chicken meat and add to the soup. Julienne some kale or spinach or other hearty greens and add to the soup pot and stir.

By now (or at least in the next five minutes), the veggies should all be getting soft and soup-like. Fish out the bones and big stuff from the stockpot and discard.  Strain the rest through a sieve directly into the soup pot.  Don’t wait for it to cool or skim off the fat. You want the fats to nourish the patient so keep them in—unless you’re feeding a nauseous person. Then you’d want to make the whole soup as a stock so that all the vitamins and minerals and proteins are extracted into the liquids, strain the whole thing and cool enough to pour off most of the fat and give just the broth with no chunky stuff to your sickie. 

Simmer the whole soup for at least five minutes or as long as you want to let the flavors marry well.  If you don’t have any problems with grains, add some noodles of some kind—noodles are especially important for getting children to eat a soup.  I put kelp noodles in my soup yesterday.  Note that rice pasta has no staying power in a soup.  They are okay for immediate consumption but will disintegrate into mush before the next meal if you are planning this soup to last for several meals (which I recommend highly, at least three or four meals worth is our standard “sick time”, more if it is something that gets passed around the family).

Anything that you want to add fresh, like herbs or the cabbage I used in the pictured soup, I add during plating. (Should you call it bowling since it’s soup?) I also add a tablespoon of coconut oil to each bowl and several droppersful of my homemade Nasty Juice—a cure all remedy that tastes truly horrible but adds a nice piquancy to the soup.  Hmm, maybe that should be my next recipe to share?