Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Meat and Veggie Soup

When I got home today, I realized that I was going to have to get creative since it's almost the end of the month, and the household is starting to run a little low on food. Ransacking the kitchen, I found a bunch of random items and bits of leftover meat in the freezer and refrigerator, so I threw everything into a pot with some water and spices. (My roommate found the bacon and insisted that it be included.) And you know what? It was really, REALLY good.

I'm not sure if these are the exact amounts, but feel free to taste as you go to make sure this works for you. Your ingredients will probably vary anyway. Also, bear in mind that the water level will drop as it cooks. So keep an eye on it--the last thing you want is for this to burn.

Bacon, Turkey, Steak and Veggie Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups baby carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 slices bacon, diced
1 thin steak, diced
4 turkey breakfast sausages, diced
1 small chunk corned beef, diced
2 cups pinto beans
Water to cover
Seasoned salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Saute carrots, onion, garlic, steak and breakfast sausages in olive oil in the bottom of a large pot until meat is browned and vegetables are soft. Add 2 cups pinto beans and cover with water. Add bacon and cook for 1 1/2-2 hours, until beans are done. Add seasoned salt and pepper to taste. Serve as is or over rice.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Erin Go Bragh! St. Patrick's Day

Here's a fun fact: my first name is actually Gaelic. And so is my middle name. I often joke that I should have married a nice Irish boy and been done with it (I didn't, but my married name is Welsh, of all things). Because of this, St. Patrick's Day is my second favorite holiday, right next to Christmas. I decided to make corned beef and cabbage, as I do every year, but this time, I was going to make soda bread as well.

St. Patrick was originally born in England as a pagan, but converted to Christianity courtesy of an Irish marauder, who captured him and brought him to Ireland. He eventually escaped and made his way back to England, where he became a bishop. At that point, he returned to Ireland, and converted many of the people there to Christianity as well. He built schools, churches and monasteries, many of which still bear his name.

Originally, St. Patrick's Day was, and still is, a Catholic feast day. (In certain dioceses, if the day falls during a Friday in Lent, a special dispensation is given so the celebrants can eat a traditional meal.) Now, of course, it's celebrated by everyone, regardless of religious background or lack thereof.

Here's two other fun facts: St. Patrick never chased snakes out of Ireland. In fact, he couldn't have even if he wanted to, because snakes never existed in Ireland. Also, the reason corned beef got its name is because the brisket it was made from was cured with corn shaped kernels of salt.

Making corned beef and cabbage is as easy as following the instructions on the bag of corned beef. I put the beef in my slow cooker, added water, cabbage and carrots, and turned it on low before I went to bed that night. Everything was ready by the time I got home from school the next day. To make my meat last a little longer, I cut it in half and will make barbecued beef sandwiches with the rest. (That recipe may come later.)

The tricky part was making soda bread. I'd only made it once before, but it was so long ago I couldn't remember how I'd done it. Instead, I looked up a recipe in Gourmet magazine and used that instead. Hey, if actor Andrew McCarthy thinks it's great, then it has to be tasty. I didn't realize, however, that I was going to have to knead it as much as I did to make it look decent. With a workout like that, I won't need free weights.

The corned beef and cabbage turned out well. My husband and I ate nearly all of it at once; I do feel a bit guilty that we left our roommate a piece of corned beef the size of half a deck of cards. The soda bread was much denser than I'd anticipated--I didn't really like it, but it was wasn't bad hot and with butter. My search for Guinness or a Finnegan's to drink was in vain, so we finished our dinner off with Twisted Thistle, a good Scottish beer.

Don't be afraid of good old fashioned corned beef, cabbage and soda bread. Save your money next year and make your own Irish dinner on St. Patrick's Day. The leftovers (if you have any) will taste even better the next day.

Crockpot Corned Beef and Cabbage

2-3 pounds corned beef
1 small cabbage, shredded
4 carrots, chopped
Pickling spices (often, these come in the package)
Water to cover

Put everything in a crockpot and cook on lowest setting for 12-14 hours, or turn it up higher and cook for 2-3 hours minimum. Corned beef may fall apart when done.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's Lent again! Cheater's Gumbo

So my dad, as I may have mentioned before, is from the South. He knows how to make things like hog's head cheese and a few other specialties. One thing he also makes is gumbo. Now, his gumbo isn't a traditional one--he uses canned soup, which is absolute heresy to gumbo enthusiasts--but it's still really, really good.

Tuesday was Mardi Gras, so I decided to make a batch for myself and the household. I had to keep everyone's tastes and issues in mind--the roomie can't handle a lot of spice, and my husband is allergic to crab. With a pot of rice, this filled us up for a couple of days. Don't get turned off by the chicken gizzards, by the way. They add to the flavor and they taste like (what else?) chicken. :)

Cheater's Gumbo

3 cans cream of chicken soup
4-8 Louisiana hot links, sliced into rounds
1 whole chicken, cut up into parts
1-2 crabs, washed and cut up into quarters, legs removed and set aside
1 package chicken gizzards (no hearts)
Water to cover
1 pot of cooked rice

Put all ingredients except rice into a large stockpot. Cook slowly for four to five hours until gizzards are tender, and chicken is falling off the bone. Serve with a pot of rice.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Happy birthday Deka, or the Fried Pickle Extravaganza

A dear friend of mine celebrated her birthday last weekend. She's from Texas, and one of her culinary addictions is fried pickles. Sure, you can get them from your local Hooters, but as good as they are, they're just not the same unless they're homemade.

I brought the pickles to her birthday party, and they were a big hit. I think all the guests tried at least one, and with the ranch dressing, they were awesome. Even the cup of pickles I didn't fry disappeared. They say everything's big in Texas, and I guess fried pickles are no exception.

This recipe was originally found on Foodily. I took out the cayenne, but feel free to add as much (or as little) as you like. Enjoy!

Fried Pickles

2 cups dill pickle chips
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper plus more to taste
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups finely crushed saltines
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

In a large plastic food-storage bag, mix together the flour, salt and black pepper. Place the pickle chips in the bag and shake until they are well coated.

Mix together the eggs with the buttermilk. Place the crushed saltines on a plate and mix in the cayenne and dill weed. In batches, dip the flour-coated pickles into the eggs and then lightly dredge in the saltines. Place cracker-coated pickles on a large plate or sheet. Repeat until all the pickles are coated.

In a large, heavy skillet heat 1/2 inch of oil on medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees. Cook the pickles for one minute or until golden brown, turning once. Depending on the size of your skillet will probably have to do in several batches. Drain on paper towels.

Serve immediately with your favorite ranch dressing.