Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sun Chip bag composting

Today marks Day 1 of the Sun Chip bag in the composter. I believe the commercial showed it taking 14 weeks to compost. According to the handy dandy date calculator in Excel, this will be February 6, 2011. Add in a couple extra weeks because of the cold weather, and by lettuce and pea planting season of next year, the bag should be gone.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Crockpot Chicken Stuffing

A couple years ago for Christmas, Aunt Lisa gave us a slow cooker book called "Fix it and Forget it Big Cookbook" because I mentioned to her that we use the crockpot a lot. It's easier for us to make dinners like this since the Hubs and I work different shifts. I work 8-5 and he works 3:30 to midnight, and sometimes later.

Chicken, Corn and Stuffing

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 oz box chicken stuffing (like Stove top)
16 oz package frozen corn
1/2 stick butter, melted
2 c water

Place chicken in bottom of bowl. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.
Cook, covered, for 2 1/2 hours on high.

1. Spray the cooker with non-stick spray before putting the chicken in, or the stuffing will stick to the sides.
2. Check the chicken for done-ness after 2 1/2 hours. I had to cook it a little longer because the inside was still pink. Next time, I will probably cut the chicken breast in half so they cook faster, or use chicken tenderloins instead.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Merlot #1

Switching gears from Chardonnay to Merlot... The first merlot I purchased was Lindemans Bin 40 Merlot.
While not bad chilled, it definitely tastes better closer to room temperature.
What I like most is that right on the bottle it tells you the timeframe in which to drink it: three years past bottling. The bottle I purchased was a 2009, so if I purchase more I should drink it before 2012. I'd purchase this again.
This wine (the first two glasses of the bottle anyway) were drank after two long nights of studying for my upcoming structures exam.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tamale adventure

Yesterday I decided to make tamales. What an adventure. Everytime I make Mexican food, it turns into an all day ordeal. Which is probably why it always tastes so good.
After much searching yesterday, I found a tamale recipe. The only one I could find that was a reasonable size was on, which I was trying to avoid for authenticity sake, but all the other recipes called for nearly 10 pounds of pork, and for just the two of us, that's way too much meat. (Even though sometimes I feel like a carnivore and not an omnivore in this house!)

The first task yesterday was finding a steamer. Part of the reason I'd been putting off making tamales was because I didn't have a steamer. Well, yesterday I got a killer deal on one, unintentionally. I did a little online searching, and then decided to hit up several stores: Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Marshall's and the JC Penney Home Store. Turns out the last place I went had the best deal. Target's was $40. Bed Bath and Beyond ranged from $100 to $200, so even with my $5 off coupon, well you get the idea of the price. Marshall's didn't have one (although I did purchase a new bread knife!). Penney's had one online on sale for $40, but it wasn't in the store. What they did have in the store was $60 regular price, which was half off. Then I had a 20% off coupon. And unknown to me, there was a $20 mail in rebate. So after I get the rebate back, I'll have purchased a $60 item for about the price of tax: $5-ish!

Here's a link to the original recipe:

Here's how I tweaked it:

3 lbs boston butt pork, trimmed of fat
1 head of garlic, sliced crosswise into 2
palmful white peppercorns (didn't have any black ones on hand)
4 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
Water to cover pork in stock pot by 3 inches.

Masa: (ended up doubling this, and could have tripled it, but we decided to eat tacos while waiting on the tamales to cook)
1 1/2 c masa harina
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
3 Tbsp softened butter
1/3 c shortening
3/4 c broth from pork, enough to make the masa spreadable, about the consistency of play-doh

Chile Sauce
2 dried ancho chiles
3 fresh anaheim chiles, diced finely
1 qt tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin
3 tsp salt
2 c broth from pork
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp flour

Corn husks, softened in a bowl of warm water at least 30 minutes prior to assembly

Pork preparation: 
Bring the pork to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 1-1/2 hours, until it falls off the bone easily. Add water if needed. Turn off heat, and pull the pork apart with forks in a bowl.

Chile Sauce:
In a nonstick skillet, cook the chiles and tomatoes until the anchos are softened. Take the dried chiles (now rehydrated) out of the skillet and rinse the seeds out under running water. If you want more heat, you could leave the seeds in. Transfer all the chiles and the tomatoes to a food processor and process until smooth. Add the salt, garlic, cumin and salt to processor. In the nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil and add the flour. Then transfer the chile sauce to the skillet and simmer to reduce the liquid.
Once the liquid is reduced, add the shredded pork.

Tamale dough: 
Mix the ingredients. I used a wooden spoon, until I remembered I had a pastry blender that worked even better. The dough was sticking to the spoon.

Spread about 2 Tbsp tamale dough on a corn husk. Spoon about 1-2 Tbsp (depending on size of corn husk) pork mixture into dough. Wrap the tamale and tie with a string of corn husk. Place on end in the steamer basket.

Steam for about 1 hour, adding more water if necessary.

These were delicious; I would almost say they were better than any tamales I've ever had, including the ones from the Mexican restaurants.

We made tacos with the extra pork filling. Flour tortillas, refried beans, sour cream, shredded cheese, and homemade guacamole.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Haybaling: A Family Affair

On the way down to the bottoms

A view of the cows through the trees

This is why I love the farm.

Yes, that's the tractor I got married on

Putting on gloves

We had over 170 bales

I had fewer bales than Daniel did on his side, so I took a few moments to photograph Mom.

Dad stacking.

Dad being goofy.

For the second half of the field, Dad and Daniel had me drive the tractor.

My view on the way up the hill.

The tractor I drove up the hill. It didn't like the steep hill, heavy load and gravel.

Moving cows from one pasture to another.

Last weekend I went home to the farm. I was unaware, but Dad cut hay last week. Friday night when I got home, he asked if I would help. Ended up, Mom drove for awhile while my brother Daniel, me, and Dad loaded bales. Then I drove the second tractor, and helped Dad load the bales into the barnloft. Typically this ordeal includes more than  four people but we were a little shorthanded this weekend.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A couple recipes to share

I've started making big dinners twice a week, so the Hubs and I both have leftovers to eat for lunch and dinner throughout the week. I make one on Sunday night, and then one about midweek, or whenever I've gotten tired of the first dinner. I need variety, and if I eat the same thing for lunch and dinner for more than 2 days in a row I get bored with it and tend to eat out at lunch. Eating out costs more (about $10 per lunch rather than $2 or less if I eat leftovers), and it's also not as good on my waistline. Basically, eating out is a lose-lose situation.
Since reading Michael Pollan's Food Rules book, I did self-impose a rule that if I could only eat out for one meal a day, a maximum of twice a week. So if I get coffee on the way to work on Monday, I have to eat leftovers for lunch and dinner that day, and I only have one more meal to "spend". I try to keep one meal for lunch with coworkers toward the end of the week, when I need a break from my desk.

The lunches I made for this week are Jenny's (my favorite engineer coworker) enchilada casserole (not to be confused with my mother-in-law's casserole, which I'll post some other time), and deer roast. 

Jenny's Enchilada Casserole (tweaked a little)
9x9 glass baking dish, greased (I use a Pampered Chef Spritzer that I fill with EVOO) (Jenny uses a pie pan)
Oven set to 350 degrees

About 6-10 tortillas, depending on the number of layers desired. I use corn because the Hubs and I like the texture of corn tortillas better, but flour would work, too.
About 1 lb of hamburger, browned, drained of grease and seasoned with taco seasoning (see note) and 1 can of Rotel
Half a large onion, diced. I use yellow or red onions
Several peppers, diced. I had several banana, anaheim and marconi peppers that were ripe from the garden. If I didn't have fresh from the garden peppers, I probably would omit them. (I don't think Jenny uses peppers)
1 can of refried beans
1 jar of salsa verde (Jenny uses enchilada sauce)
8 oz package of shredded cheddar cheese

After draining and seasoning the ground beef, stir in the onions and peppers and cook until tender, a few minutes.
Cut two tortillas in half and use to edge the bottom of the baking dish. Use a full tortilla to line the middle bottom of the dish.
Spread about half the can of refried beans on the tortillas.
Spread about half the meat/onion/pepper mixture over the beans.
Sprinkle about half the cheese.
Repeat the layers, except spread the salsa on top of the meat, and then sprinkle the top with cheese.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

I don't typically buy taco seasoning in a packet. I use, to taste, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, chili powder (sparingly) and red pepper flakes (sparingly).

I ate this with avocado slices. I'm sure the Hubs had a side of sour cream as well.

Deer Roast
This recipe is a lot simpler, because it all gets thrown in the crockpot and cooked overnight. Which means I wake up starving at 4 am because the house smells so good!

1 deer roast. The one I used tonight was at least 2 pounds if not more
half an onion, diced (the other half of the onion was used in the enchilada casserole)
About half a dozen large mushrooms, cut in half and then in bite-sized chunks. The mushrooms at Dillon's this time were about 3" in diameter
4 Yukon Gold potatoes (fresh from the Farmer's market last weekend!), cut into bite-sized chunks
1 clove of elephant garlic, minced
Salt and pepper

We have a rather large Crockpot, similar to this one. The crock part comes out and goes into the fridge once it cools. Anywho...

Put the thawed deer roast in the bottom of the crockpot. Put the onions, mushrooms, potatoes and garlic on top. Season with salt and pepper, and then put about 1-2 inches of water in. I've discovered the kitchen sink sprayer comes in handy for putting water in the crockpot. I don't have to hunt down the largest measuring cup, I just bring the crockpot within reach of the sprayer!

I cook the roast overnight, on the 10 hour setting. I think by the time the Hubs gets home (it's been cooking for about 4 hours), he is able to stir it and break up the roast a little. He might even re-start the cook timer.
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