Cooking

The Kitchen is one of my favorite places to be; I can let go, create, be messy and it serves as a healthy does of therapy along with some sumptuous eats

Picadillo & Yellow Rice

My first taste of Cuban food was in 1982 when I moved to Cayo Hueso aka Key West, Florida.  I immediately fell in love with not only the town and people but the food which was heavily influenced by the large Cuban population. Although I had nothing to compare it with the locals assured me it was authentic.

In late 84′ I moved to Tampa which still had a good share of authentic Cuban food.  Over the last 2 decades there seemed to be a steady decline of authenticity and quality food for reasons I contribute to the slow but steady decline of traditional society and values. In order to have this delicious food more often I decided to learn to cook it myself.

While I am sure somewhere someone’s grandmother would beg to differ with how authentic my version is I get no complaints from my Cracker husband.  This lovely version of picadillo is my first and it is easy and quick enough for a weeknight treat!  I opt to not use pre packaged yellow rice and Adobo seasoning and make my own because it’s healthier and doesn’t take much time.

However I don’t judge so feel free to take any shortcuts that you want to.  It will still taste homemade and be better for you than most restaurant fare.

Ingredients

Picadillo
1 tablespoon beef tallow, lard or coconut oil
1 pound grass fed 90/10 ground beef
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
6 large green pimiento stuffed olives, sliced
1 tablespoon capers
8 oz can tomato sauce* (no crap added)
2.8 oz homemade “Goya Adobo”**
sea salt to taste

Yellow rice
1 cup organic basmati rice
2 cups chicken stock (can substitute)
1 teaspoon turmeric
pinch of coriander
2 teaspoons grass fed butter
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup frozen organic peas, thawed

Homemade seasoning
1 tbs coriander
1 tbs cumin
1 tbs turmeric
1 tbs garlic powder
1 tbs sea salt
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

*my favorite is Muir Glen
**contains msg, make your own

Preparation

Picadillo
In a large cast iron skillet melt the fat over medium heat.  Add the onions and green peppers and saute until slightly tender about 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes longer.

Add the ground beef and saute until browned about 5 – 7 minutes.  Add in the raisins, capers, tomato sauce and seasonings and stir well.  Cover the skillet, reduce to low and cook until heated through about 5 to 7 minutes.

At the same time prepare the rice. . .

Yellow rice
In a small saucepan heat the turmeric and coriander for a few seconds over medium high heat to release the fragrance.  Add the stock, sea salt and butter and bring to a boil.  Add the rice, stir well, cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook covered without stirring until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 15 – 20 minutes.

Add the peas, stir then re cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Homemade seasoning
Mix spices together well; measure out 2.8 oz and store remainder for future use.

 

Rack of Lamb

It doesn’t have to be a holiday or special occasion to serve up a rack of lamb.  An easy and delicious cut of meat to prepare and eat; it can be baked in the oven or prepared on the grill. Either way it will wow your guests or impress your other half.

Quality counts.  Lamb can be overly fatty if it is not raised right. Conventional sheep are fed a grain based diet and kept in pens.  Not natural. Not healthy.  Don’t eat it.

Sheep are herbivores.  That means they eat grass, clover, forbs and other pasture plants and are allowed to roam around.  Find a quality source; well worth the extra time and coin.

Ingredients

2-3 organic, grass fed racks of lamb
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons raw honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Combine olive oil, honey, mustard and spices in a large ziploc bag.  Squeeze the air out of the bag and mix the honey in well by rubbing together with your hands.

Add the racks to the bag and marinate for 4 to 6 hours.  Before cooking allow the meat to set in the marinade at room temp for at least an hour.

In the oven:  in a large cast iron skillet sear the meat on both sides over medium high heat.  Place in a 350 degree preheated oven and cook for 15 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.  15 minutes is generally rare, so cook longer if you prefer medium rare or medium.

On the grill:  my preferred way. . .

Especially when hubby is grilling.  Place the racks on the grill over direct heat.  Cover and cook for approximately 15 minutes for rare – medium rare.  Cook a little longer if you prefer your meat medium.  Let racks sit about 10 minutes for serving.

Serve with your choice of sides, enjoy!

Escargot

An easy yet very elegant appetizer to serve with a variety of entrees.  Don’t be shy about making them; they look far more impressive than one would expect due to the simple preparation.  I saw some in the case at my local grocers and they wanted $12 for a dozen.  They were stuffed in shells with a parsleyed garlic butter.

Well, that would be enough for me but what about hubby — I didn’t want to spend $24 for the appetizer.  The nice butcher hinted that I could buy a can of 24 for $4 and whip up some garlic butter.  I’m all about a bargain. . .

Ingredients

1 can escargot (approximately 24), drained
6 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons shallots, finely minced
2 teaspoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Splash of brandy or Madeira (optional)

Preparation

Let the butter soften at room temperature until easy enough to handle.  Drain the escargot.  Mix the softened butter with the garlic, shallots and parsley stirring well to combine.  Add the splash of brandy or Madeira if using.

Places the escargot in the dish (they make special pans for the little guys)*.  Bake at 400 degrees until the butter is bubbly — about 10 minutes.

I served with an Udi’s gluten free baguette which I sliced and heated the last 5 minutes of baking the escargot to lightly ‘toast’.

*you can pick these up at Bed Bath & Beyond any culinary stores or online.

It’s Pumpkin Time!

It’s almost time.  It’s getting close. I can smell the pumpkin pies, can you?  If you haven’t prepped your pumpkins you’d best get started.  I have been making homemade pumpkin pies from scratch for my family Thanksgiving dinner since 1987.  Yep, that’s almost 30 years, 3 decades.  Wow, time flies when you’re having fun.

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I’ve a little process I go through. Around the start of October when I first spot the pretty pumpkins in the grocery store I bring them home.  They will last at least 2 or 3 weeks before you have to cook them.

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They set the festive stage for the holiday season by dressing up the table prior to Halloween.

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By mid to late October they’ve been cooked, pureed, bagged and frozen to await there use in the season’s culinary delights — from pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin brownies, pumpkin loaf and the ultimate Turkey Day favorite. . .

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Autumn Pumpkin Pie!  The filling is pure pumpkin and it’s topped pecan nutty, butter, sugar and flour mixture all baked in a crispy homemade crust. You know, I think I just better do a test run this weekend. It has been a year…

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulders

Pork shoulder, also known as pork butt is full of flavor and while pulled pork with barbecue sauce is a staple in the warmer months come fall I’m ready to change up the flavor of this very versatile meat.  Pairing it with potatoes, carrots, onions and other root vegetables smothered in gravy makes it completely different yet equally delicious.

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Ingredients

2 small pastured pork shoulder/butts or 1 large (4-5 lb total)
1-2 tablespoons bacon grease or lard
6 carrots, cut in half
1 large onion cut into eights
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups beef stock
2-3 tablespoons non GMO cornstarch

Preparation

Let your meat sit at room temperature for at least one hour before cooking.

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Melt the bacon grease or lard over medium high heat.  Sear the pork on all sides.

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After browning place the meat in your roasting pan

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Surround with the onions, carrots and potatoes.  Sprinkle the garlic and sage over the meat and veggies and season with the salt and pepper.  Add in the beef broth.

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Roast at 300 degrees for approximately 3-4 hours or until fork tender.

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Remove the pork to a platter and keep warm.  Using a slotted spoon transfer the veggies to a bowl and keep warm while you make the gravy.

Place the pan juices in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Stir the cornstarch until dissolved in a couple of tablespoons of cold water.  When the juices begin a slow boil stir in the cornstarch mixture using a wire whisk.  Stir until bubbly and thickened about 1-2 minutes.

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Slice the pork (it will cut like butter) and serve with the veggies spooning the gravy over all.

Enjoy!

Chicken Wheels & Apples

When grocery shopping last weekend I was in awe at the array of apples available. Tis the season and everything just seems to taste better when it’s in season.  Which apple to choose and what to do with them?  I grabbed a bag of Granny Smith for eating and some Braeburns for cooking.

I’d been eating a lot of beef and pork so it was time to put some chicken on the menu and the thighs were just calling out to me from the meat case, and on sale today!  Add in some delightful fall spices along with a side of red cabbage for a incredibly sumptuous dinner.

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Ingredients

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
5 cups Braeburn apples, chopped (not peeled)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/4 fresh chopped sage
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation

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Preheat oven to 475.  Chop apples and toss with lemon juice.  Combine with garlic, next 3 ingredients and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

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Butter a 13″ x 9″ pan and spread the apple mixture evenly.

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Sprinkle the chicken thighs with sea salt and pepper and arrange on top of the apple mixture.

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Bake at 475 for 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and apples are tender. Remove the chicken and keep warm.  Mash the apples with a potato masher and serve with the chicken.

A side of red cabbage sauteed in bacon grease with a few onions rounded out the meal wonderfully. Enjoy!