...*a glimse into the daily life of a chef*...

...this blog is a place for me to record and reflect the passion that i put into my everyday life.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

a busy Mom's guide to Dinner at 5***

-day two and going strong! its amazing what some time to myself ca lead me to do!

I typed all this to help a friend out that is having trouble getting dinner ready for her family, getting her house cleaned, getting ready for work and still finding time to play with her gorgeous daughters, but I realize that i am sure there are a TON of other people out there having the same issues, so here are some easy recipes that will help you out- they are customizable to what you like to eat and they are simple so you can get home cooked meals and not spare one second of time with your children!

Taco Pie

1# ground beef
1 can fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles
1 small can tomato sauce or salsa of any kind
1 small yellow onion
1 can corn or 1/2 bag frozen
1 pkg. taco seasoning (i love the chi chi's brand, but whatever you like will be just fine *or my blend 1/2 tbsp cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp onion powder*)
1 package corn tortillas
2 c. cheddar cheese (or your favorite melting cheese)

1. cook ground beef and onions until done then add corn, taco seasoning and tomatoes, mix well

2. in cake pan start with a small amount of sauce and meat on the bottom to keep from sticking, then layer tortilla, meat, cheese for 3 layers of tortilla and end with cheese.

At this point you can freeze it, double the recipe and make 2 if you want, or make more and give it to a friend, its a simple dish that bakes up in like 35 minutes and take just minutes to prepare top it with lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, sour cream and salsa you have a great well rounded meal, for added protein you could add black beans to the meat if you wanted, even use ground turkey for less fat.

(I like to use a pyrex baking dish because they generally have lids and can go from freezer to oven or you can use the aluminum pans, whatever works best for you, i guess that way no dishes, win win!)


Lasagna, Aly-Style

1 box no cook lasagna sheets
1# meat (you can use ground turkey, beef, or sausage of your liking, whatever works best for you)
1 onion
1 jar of pasta sauce, whatever you like (I like the brailla sauce with roast garlic, or go crazy and get a vodka sauce, that works too.)
2 c. mozzarella
1 c. Parmesan
1 12oz. pkg cream cheese or ricotta if you like
(the thing i love about lasagna is you can hide veggies in it and almost no one will care. You can use: shredded carrots, zucchini, mushrooms....whatever you like and want to put in there just cook it with the meat so it takes on some of its flavor)

then layer just the same way as above noodles, sauce, meat, cheese (i just dollop the cream cheese throughout just for added creamy-ness you can leave it out if you like) save the parmesan for the very top because it makes a great crust, then cover and freeze or back at 350 for 40-45 minutes until hot.

You could easily make this recipe 3X or 4X and freeze them for days when you just don't have an extra minute...we can't be super mom every day, but that doesn't mean you can't cook a hot meal if you just thinks ahead.

Quick and Easy, for days you have a few minutes to spare!


Baked Chicken & Potatoes

Enough chicken for your family, we are dark meat people but if you prefer breasts that works too, whatever you like. Season liberally with Salt and pepper, and any seasoning mix you like herbs and such there are tons of great poultry seasoning out there, just find one that sounds good!

1 lg. idaho potatoes
1 lg. sweet potato
1 onion
2 carrots

Cut them all into about 1" pieces just make sure they are all about the same size, then toss them in 3 tbsp oil and french onion seasoning packet (trader joes has one that isn't full of lots of crap!)

Put them in the bottom of a baking dish and then layer the chicken on top and 2 Tbsp butter cut into pieces.

Put in a 375 oven for 35 minutes or until chicken is done.

I love to serve this with a yogurt or sour cream dipping sauce that i load up with all the favorite fresh herbs...but honestly it tastes great on its own and it makes the house smell de-lish!


Fried Rice (We call if Spence Fried Rice because my husband makes it even better then me!)

Either cook some chicken ahead or use whatever you have from left overs beef, chicken, turkey...anything you like will work.

1 c. rice, cooked according to pkg. generally 1 rice to 2 water & salt

Get a large sautee pan hot, add 3 tbsp Oil
then add rice (it's best if you cook the rice and let it cool, but it will work hot too you just have to work faster!)
STIR frequently!
add 1/4 c. soy sauce or teryaki sauce I love Soy-Vay
2 eggs scarambled
1/2 c. peas
1/4 c. shredded carrots
and your meat of choice cut up
stir till everything is hot, then remove from heat!

WE like to then top if with, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, green onions & cashews....but use whatever you like. or nothing at all....it really easy and fast if you prepare ahead.

When you make dinner with about cooking extra to make into another meal, or cooking pieces a day in advance so you can spend less time cooking and more time with those BEAUTIFUL girls!

Ok one last recipe that i got from my mom:

Sadie Soup

1# ground beef
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1pkg. onion soup mix
1 lrg. can crushed tomatoes
1 1/2 can of water after you dump the tomatoes
1 potato, chopped
2 tbsp sweet dried basil
salt & pepper
1/2 c. barley

you really can put this all but the barley in a crock pot and let it cook for hours just break up the meat and stir occasionally to make sure it is cooked through, add the barely 15 minutes before serving....

Enjoy, hope any of it helps.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

HoW DiD ThEy Do That?!?!

....i feel like the servers come into the kitchen all the time and ask us how we do things or a customer wants to know how things are done. I've been away from my blog for far too long, its a little disheartening and a little embarrassing, but i figure after a year it was time to return, swallow my pride and keep on trudging through.

so i sit here trying to think of what people always want to know, but i find myself stumped and at a loss for words, but i know there have to be things out there. so i a going to start with a few basics that will help you thins holiday season and if you find yourself thinking, "how do they do that?!?!" then don't be shy, ask and i promise to tell you the best that I can.....because folks, i'm back or at least i'm trying to be!

first things first- if you are going to cook a turkey you need to know 2 things:

#1) BRINE that bird, it tastes WAY better
#2) DO NOT over cook it, take it out when the juices run clear or use a thermometer you should take it out around 165 and let it rest to 180, don't slice it right away, let it rest so the juices stay inside and don't end up on the kitchen floor!
#3) ok i have a few more things, you can stuff the bird, you won't kill anyone, you just have to temp the stuffing to make sure it is 165 degrees too, believe you me, its worth it!
#4) to get GREAT flavor in your turkey, rub it down with butter- take 1 stick of butter and your favorite fresh herbs (mine you ask- thyme, tarragon, cilantro & oregano) and some salt & pepper, mix it all up then get your hands dirty lift the skin away from the meat, GENTLY and rub the butter down in there as far as you can. This does 2 things, helps to crisp the skin, and flavors the meat....nothing wrong with ANY of that!

basic brine:

1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
½ cup granulated sugar
5 ea. black peppercorn
1 ea. dry bay leaf
2 ea. sprig thyme

can brine over night, for a normal turkey you may need 2 gallons worth

Herb Butter:

1/2 c butter, softened
1 sprig thyme, chopped
2 sprigs oregano, chopped
1 sprig tarragon, chopped
3 sprigs cilantro, chopped
1 glove garlic, choped
black pepper

mix it all up!
Really good for garlic bread too!!

Part 2- Tricks to a GOOD gravy!

#1) Use the juices from the turkey, do whatever you can to save as much of the juices as you can! 
#2) use roux not cornstarch (what is roux you ask, oh i will tell you!)
#3) save some potato water (don't worry i'll get there)
#4) don't be afraid to use herbs and SALT, and my fav, black pepper!

What is a Roux (pronounced Ra-OO) 

Well it is a beautiful mixture of fat and flour that can be used to thicken sauces, soups, stews....
just about anything! 

1# butter
1# flour

that is the basics, but if you really want to make it taste good, you get FANCY!
cooking bacon or sausage for something, save the fat ad a little bacon fat to the roux, WAY better.

so here is how it goes
put your cold butter in a pan, let it melt
then stir in your flour until it is the consistency or wet sand 
(you will know it when you see it)

once you put in the flour you need to keep stirring so it doesn't burn, you want to cook it for a few minutes just to make sure that the fat &strach and bound and won't break, but don't let it get color.
(*** SIDE NOTE: if you want to make creole food and need to thicken your sauce, they use a DARK roux which is made by cooking your roux for a while so the flour can toast...
it would be the color of milk chocolate..just and FYi***)

The important thing about using roux is you need to know that when you add it to your liquid it needs to come to a complete boil and then simmer for 5-10 minutes just to ensure there is no flour taste left.

How to make the gravy:

Collect all the turkey juices you can, put them in a pot
if you need more gravy you can use chicken stock 
(what you need to do is, but in double the amount you think you will need and then let it reduce so you can get a better flavor!)
Also add the 1 cup of potato water you saved because the potato starch will give your gravy a silky texture.
then add 2 tbsp. butter
some fresh herbs like thyme and oregano if you have some left
fresh black pepper to your liking
and salt, bring to a boil
and whisk in the roux
add it a Tbsp at a time until it is the thickness you like
it will need to boil before it begins to thicken
and stir regularly so the bottom doesn't burn...

Hope that makes sense!

Hope this helps all of you on your Holiday cooking Adventure!

I know its 2011 and people these days seem to be going out more and more, but honestly cooking with the family is some of my fondest memories....you will remember them for a life time. No better time to learn to cook than now, but by all means if you want to go out and make people work on there holiday, be my guest, but me (its my birthday) so i will be celebrating our freedom, my birth, and playing games till i can't take it anymore...i love the food, the way it smells and even when its not great i love the laughs...so do my a favor and just try, and if you fail have a back up plan, but cooking is only as scary as you make it!