Monday, April 28, 2014

Taco Chili and Beans

We eat a lot of chili and beans and I always make it the same way.  After trying the Ortega Skillet Sauces I decided that I wanted to try a Mexican Chili and Beans and thought the Ortega Taco Skillet Sauce would be a nice base for my Taco Chili and Beans.

I started reminiscing of when I was in Girl Scouts and on our over-night camping trips we would fix chili and take the individual Fritos Corn Chips bags, pour chili in the bag for a hand held chili in a bag.  I really like the flavor and crunchy-ness of the Chili and Fritos together but instead I think I would rather use a bowl.   So here is my version of an old Girl Scout Classic.

Taco Chili and Beans

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 jalapeños, minced (can substitute green bell pepper for the jalapeño)
1 pound extra lean ground beef (I used bison)
4 tablespoons Fiesta Quick Chili Mix (found in the Spice or Mexican section of the market)
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 package of Ortega Taco Skillet Sauce
1/2 cup water
1 32oz can crush tomatoes
1 27oz can red kidney beans
1 27oz can chili beans
2 3.8 oz cans of sliced black olives
Fritos Corn Chips

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven, add onions and jalapeños (or green bell pepper), sauté for 5 minutes on a low heat.  Add ground beef, use a wooden spoon to break up, cook until browned. (If you use a lean ground beef you will not have to drain the fat, there will be just enough fat for flavor)

Add the Fiesta Quick Chili Mix and the Ortega Taco Skillet Sauce.  Put the water inside the Ortega pouch to get all that yummy sauce out of the bag and put in with the meat mixture.  Stir to mix everything together, cover and simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes, both beans and black olives.  Cover and simmer for 1 hour.  Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Fritos Corn Chips in a bowl top with the Taco Chili and Beans.  Serve with extra Fritos Corn Chips and your favorite chili toppings.

Chili Toppings:  Cheddar cheese, Mexico Fresco cheese, sour cream, fresh diced onions, salsa and guacamole.

For a thicker chili take 4 tablespoons of masa and almost a 1/4 cup of water mix together to make a slurry, add to chili after everything has been mixed together.

Note:  This is my own recipe I did not receive a "free" sample of the Ortega Taco Skillet Sauce from Ortega,  I purchased it myself from my local market. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Italian Red Sauce

I thought it was about time I posted my Italian Red Sauce I have already posted my Meat Sauce which can be found here.  I made sure I measured everything out for this recipe.  When I cook Italian I don't measure, I add and I taste.

When I make red sauce I don't use it for at least 3 days I like the flavors to marry in the fridge.  Use this sauce in your favorite Italian dish, over spaghetti or as a dipping sauce.  This sauce also freezes very well.

Italian Red Sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I like my sauce spicy I added 3+ teaspoons)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 to 3 teaspoons sugar (see Note)
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 - 32oz cans Italian whole tomatoes
1 bunch fresh basil leaves, chiffonade chopped

In a dutch oven heat olive oil on medium high heat, add onions, salt and pepper, stir.  Put flame on low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add garlic and simmer for 3 minutes. (watch the garlic so it doesn't brown)  Add tomato paste, red pepper flakes, bay leaves and oregano, stir for 1 minutes then add red wine and sugar, simmer for 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes using your hands to gently break them up.  Cover and simmer for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir the chiffonade basil leaves into the sauce, turn off heat and sit covered for 20 minutes.  Adjust seasoning to your taste.  Pour into mason jars and refrigerate until ready to use (at least 3 days).  If you are going to freeze, do not freeze in mason jars but in freezer containers.

Note: I like my sauce more on the non sweet side, I start with 1 teaspoon sugar and taste and adjust until I find my liking.

Something tells me Grandma Concetta would approve

Sharing the love at The Country Cook: Weekend Potluck #115,  Jam Hands: Recipe Sharing Monday #92 and Treasure Box Tuesday 17

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tuesday Cooking For Two

I'm trying something new Tuesday Cooking for Two.  I have always been the type of cook that cooks for an army.  At Thanksgiving and Christmas if I have 12 people over there was enough food for 30.  No one was going home hungry that was my motto.

Now that we have an empty nest I am trying to scale down some recipes and it is not easy.  Even though this is Tuesday Cooking for Two this recipe for Scalloped Potatoes is enough for 4 people or two nights of scalloped potatoes.  Don't get me wrong I love leftovers.  When I make chili, enchiladas, soup just to name a few dishes that I make in large quantities,  I make enough to freeze or have for the next 4 days.

This will be a learning experience for me and that is why I am only doing this once a week.

Scalloped Potatoes with Smoked Pork Chops and Peas

2 thick cut smoked pork chops, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh sage, minced
1 1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup white wine or pale beer (I used beer)

2 russet potatoes, sliced thin (1/8 inch)


2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
few splashes tabasco (optional)
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (white or orange)
3/4 cup shredded asiago cheese

shredded cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter single serve dishes and set aside.  Heat olive oil in a skillet add diced pork chops, diced onions and sage, cook on medium heat until meat is slightly browned.  Add 1/4 cup of white wine or pale beer to deglaze pan, turn off heat and add peas.

In a medium sauce pan melt butter and add flour, cook stirring for 3 minutes.  Add cream, milk, salt, pepper and tabasco, whisking until it has started to thicken.  Add cheese a small amount at a time until it is incorporated.  Line baking dishes with first layer of thin cut potatoes, add some of the pork chop mixture, top with a layer of the sauce and repeat with potatoes, meat and sauce and another layers of potatoes and sauce.  Sprinkle with cheddar cheese or asiago or a combination of the two.  Bake in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Serve with a side salad.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Johnsonville Italian Sausage Sandwich

If you have been following my blog you know we have water issues.  This is our no water weekend.  Friday's I make dishes for Saturday and Sunday so there is very little cooking and dirty dishes going on.

This weekend I made Johnsonville Italian Sausage Sandwiches, everything cooked up on Friday so all I had to do was heat it up, assemble and put until the broiler for the finishing touches.  This is a very hearty sandwich, which can be served with a side salad.

Johnsonville Italian Sausage Sandwich

2 yellow bell peppers, sliced thin
2 orange bell peppers, sliced thin
1 large onion, sliced thin
2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced thin (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried italian herbs
5 cloves garlic, minced and divided
1 package of Johnsonville Sausages (I used hot sausage and I butterflied the sausages)
1 15oz can artichoke hearts, drained
6 medium crimini mushrooms, stem removed and sliced
additional olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup dry red wine
dijon mustard
fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

In a large skillet heat olive oil, add onions, over a medium low heat sauté for 10 minutes; stirring occasionally.  Add sausages, bell peppers, jalapeños, salt, pepper, italian herbs and half the garlic.  Sauté for 20 to 30 minutes until tender; stirring occasionally and cooking sausages on both sides.

Turn broiler on high; place bell pepper mixture into a baking dish, stir in the drained artichoke hearts, putting the sausages on the top of the mixture and place 6 to 8 inches under broiler.

In the same skillet add mushrooms and additional olive oil if needed, sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, add salt, pepper, garlic and wine; sauté for 10 minutes.  Remove peppers and sausage from oven.

Split rolls (not all the way through) brush both sides of the bread with dijon mustard, add sausage, pepper mixture and mushrooms, top with mozzarella cheese. (I sprinkled the cheese with dried italian herbs and red pepper flakes) Put sandwiches under broiler until cheese melts.

Note:  Sandwiches are also good omitting the sausages and adding salami slices or omitting the meat all together for a fantastic veggie sandwich.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Balsamic Vinegar Bacon Sandwich

One night I was going to roast some vegetables and decided to add bacon to the bottom of the pan and then add the vegetables on top of the bacon.  I drizzled balsamic vinegar over the vegetables and went on to roast the concoction.

Bill asked me what I did different to the bacon he said it was the best bacon he has ever had.  Who knew adding a little balsamic vinegar with take that bacon to the next level.  Since then I always add the balsamic vinegar.

Here is my spin on a BLT the Balsamic Vinegar Bacon Sandwich

Balsamic Vinegar Bacon Sandwich

12 slices bacon
balsamic vinegar
8 slices Italian bread
hearty tomato, sliced (I used a red and yellow heirloom tomatoes)
fresh mozzarella cheese, cut thick
spring lettuce or basil leaves
pesto sauce

Cover a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil, add bacon and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  Using your fingers cover the balsamic vinegar over the bacon.  Place in a cold oven and turn oven on to 350 degrees.  (I think the bacon cooks more evenly when the bacon is cooking slow as the oven comes up to temperature)  After 20 minutes start checking the bacon cook until desired doneness.  Note: Bacon will get very dark from the caramelization of the vinegar.

Spread both slices of bread with the pesto, add cheese, tomato and bacon.  Place in a Panini Press or cook on the stove top like a grilled cheese, until the cheese melts.  Add lettuce or basil leaves and serve.

Linking up the Love at: The Country Cook - Weekend Pot-Luck #112
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