Friday, February 28, 2014

Clean Kitchen...

This has been a pothole of my life.  I can clean the kitchen up perfect...I scrub the sink, the stove and the counters and than within minutes a tornado has gone through and thrown food and bits of debris everywhere.  I don't want to cook in that mess!!!!  Nor do I want to take an hour to clean it all up then to cook and mess it all again only to clean it again!!!!!!!!!  This is a war and I have lost the battle.  I am too tired, hurt too much and have fallen into the pothole and can not get out.  I think I will lay down and just give up.  Only I can't give up can I????  People want to eat and have cooked food...why?????????

So two weekends ago, a miracle happened, my daughter Clare...(who by the way just won a scholarship competition and has a full ride to John Brown University, Thank you God), attacked and cleaned the kitchen, I mean cleaned it.

Ignore the floor it has issues

There is a table!!!

We have now kept it clean for 14 days!  It is work for everyone...but everyone likes the results so maybe we can fill this pothole in and keep this up.  Clare, myself and Kent have been working hard on keeping this going.  I am hoping that once we are use to it we can then move to another part of the living area.  

Last nights dinner turned out really well.  

 It came form a Papered Chef cookbook called Grill it Quick, and this was a quick recipe and turned out really well.  We all had seconds.

Greek Islands Steak Salad

The Steak- 1 1/2 lb beef flank steak or two flat iron steaks
1 T. olive oil ans 1 T. of kosher salt and 1 T. of fresh cracked pepper

Rub this well into the steak.  You can grill this out when the weather permits, I did it under the broiler.  You can do it on the stovetop as well.  But under the broiler leaves next to no mess to clean up, cooking it on the stove top leaves grease splatters everywhere.
Line a sheet pan with foil, lay your well seasoned steaks on there and cook them for 14 minutes on the first side (or heat your boiler up for 15 minutes then you start with 7 seven minutes a side).  Turn and broil for 4 minutes or until your level of doneness.  We like our steak very pink, but either end is a bit more done for those we like shoe leather.

The Dressing-this plays a big role in the over all flavor
3/4 c good olive oil
1/3 c red wine vinegar
2 large cloves of garlic, pressed
zest from one lemon
1-2 t. of dried oregano
1/2 c of pitted kalamata olives (the purple ones)- rough chopped
1/4 c of chopped pepperoncini peppers-these are a mild yellow pepper that add a lot of flavor
Mix this well, taste for seasoning add salt and pepper to your taste.  Set aside

The Salad-I mixed this in a large bowl, then laid it out on to a large platter
6 or more cups of spinach-it will wilt down when you dress it.  I used closer to 10 cups
1 c of diced cucumber-use the ones that are wrapped in plastic.  They are called hot house, English, or seedless cucumbers.  They taste better, don't need to be peeled and allow you to have good manners since they are also called burpless cucumbers.
Mix 1/2 the dressing with the above mixture. Set the remaining aside for the moment.

1 large brick of feta cheese broken into bite size pieces- hold this back, don't mix it with the spinach.

The assembly-
On a large platter lay out the dressed spinach.  Top with the bite size feta.
Remove your meat when it is done and allow it to rest for ten minutes covered with foil.  Slice the meat thin against the grain.  Lay the meat on top of the spinach salad.  Drizzle more of the dressing over the top of the meat.  Serve!!!!

 This recipe was a nod towards spring, I think it will be here, right?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Cooking Class

Many of you know that I teach a Middle School Cooking Class here at CCA.  I have been doing this for about four years now, and I love it.  This year I have been blessed with students who value the things I am teaching and who want to learn.  They are to have around and to teach.  I am so lucky.

Cooking class is far more than just cooking; it teaches kids life lessons.  And being a middle school aged kid is hard. They are trying to find an identity and figuring out where they fit in. In cooking class it is a level playing field.  Many of the limiting aspects of their lives outside the kitchen vanish. Each student has the ability to shine;  they interact with peers who are all in the same boat.  A couple of my students are familiar with cooking.  They have been in the kitchen with a parent and understand some of the basics.  They get to be the first team leaders at first, share their knowledge, then step back and let another student be a team leader.  Often the boys and girls have to work on the same team.  This really challenges them.  Sometimes I will let them have friends and many times I switch them all around.  They figure out social standings, cooperation, and the over-used term of team building.  Then each student goes home, and shows their parents and siblings what they have really is the only class that they can demonstrate for their family.

We start off the unit with knife skills.  They learn to chop onions.  Lots of onions.  And they cry.  With tears running down theirs faces they realize that tears are just that; tears.  They wipe their eyes, finish dicing onions and rinse their faces.  It is a hoot!  But they learn how to chop onions which means,with that skill alone, they can cook a meal for themselves!  Chop a few onions, carrots and celery and you have a base for several dishes....stew, soup, roast, brisket, pork loin and so much more.

My main goal in teaching this class is teaching kids to cook for themselves and not to rely on fast food as they get older and go to college.  That cooking a meal will mean saving money, but it will also mean being healthy.  Sometimes you can eat out cheaper, but the cost to your health is not worth it.  We talk about how the cost will not rear it's head until they hit their 30's.  But doing things correct now will allow them to age with grace and great dignity.

We talk about childhood, and teenage obesity....we talk about how it has to be avoided with this current generation.  We discuss how the commercials they see on TV that are geared for them and fast food well, that those commercials do not have their best interest at heart.  They have their own bottom line agenda.  And Taco Bell will make money at the cost of teenage boys being overweight and they won't raise an eyebrow over it.

Then, there is the entire social world of cooking.  My own children are 18, 20, and 22.  I not only encourage them to cook for themselves but for their friends. Instead of ordering pizza I will cook for their friends and have my children help.  I want to teach them that it is such a treat for their friends to have a home cooked meal instead of another cheese pizza.

Here are two more dishes we did in cooking class.  The students gobbled it up!  Then I went home and made it for my family and it was a hit there as well.

Loaded Carbonara – serves 4- From Cooks Country

Browning the chicken in the bacon fat builds a strong backbone of flavor for this dish.

4        boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 ½ lb)
          Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
6        slices of bacon, chopped
3        large eggs
1 ½ c grated parmesan cheese
3        cloves of garlic, minced
½  c   chicken stock
1         lb of pasta
2    c   of frozen peas, thawed

1.  Bring 4 qts. of water to boil in large pot.  Pat chicken dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes.  Transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate.  Remove 2 T. fat.

2.  Cook chicken in 1 tablespoon fat in now-empty skillet until well browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.  Transfer to cutting board and tent with foil.  Let rest 5 minutes, then slice thin crosswise and reserve.

3.  Whisk eggs and cheese in medium bowl.  Heat remaining fat in now-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Add garlic and 1 teaspoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in chicken stock and simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes.  Slowly whisk chicken stock mixture into egg mixture.

4.  Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.  Reserve ½ c of cooking water.  Place peas in colander, drain pasta through the same colander.  The hot water will thaw the peas.  Transfer the peas and pasta back to the pot and add the chicken, egg-chicken stock mixture and bacon.  Stir; use the reserved pasta water if needed to loosen the mixture up.  Serve with additional parmesan cheese. 

Chipotle-Grilled Pork Tacos Serves 4

Halving the tenderloins lengthwise creates more surface area for the wet rub to develop into a flavorful crust.  Serve these tacos with shredded cheese and lime wedges, if desired.

¼  cup mayonnaise

1  (8-ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice, drained and chopped, ¼ cup      juice reserved.

3       T. minced fresh cilantro

3  garlic cloves, minced

 1 ½   T. minced canned chipotle chilies in adobo

1 (8-ounce) bag coleslaw mix

3 scallions, sliced thin


2 pork tenderloins (1 ½-2 pounds total), sliced in half lengthwise

12 corn tortillas

1.     Whisk mayonnaise, pineapple juice, cilantro, garlic, and chipotle in large bowl; reserve ¼ c mayo mixture, set aside.  Add pineapple chunks, coleslaw mix, scallions, and ½ t. salt to bowl with remaining mayo mixture and toss to combine.
2.     Pat pork dry with paper towels and season with salt.  Rub with reserved mayo mixture.  Heat a large skillet with a couple of T. of vegetable oil.  Brown the meat on all sides about 6-8 minutes.  Remove from heat, tent and allow to rest.
3.     Meanwhile-grill the corn tortillas over an open flame on a gas stove or in a dry skillet till slightly blistered.
4.     Slice pork thin, arrange on tortillas, and top with coleslaw.  Enjoy.