Monday, May 31, 2010

Take-Out Fake-Out, Mexican-style numero dos.

I did it again.

I won't take total credit because I had help. And it wasn't
originally MY recipe. But I did make a few changes and now it's
mine all mine.

We'll, no. Not really. I'll share it with you. Because what's
the point of making great food and not blabbing all over about
how good it is?

How did I not know about Carne Adovada? Ohmaigawd. So good.
And really, easier than it looks. When I read over the recipe
I was stumped by two things. What in the heck is New Mexico chili
powder and do I have to not only marinade the meat but do I have
to roast it in the oven? (Okay. My secret's out. I'm always
looking for the easy way out. If I can find a shortcut somewhere
......GREAT. I know there's more like me so why not
just say it flat out so we can all celebrate shortcutters everywhere!)

Anyway. I have a point.

The original recipe wants you to marinate the meat for at
least twelve hours or overnight. Pshaw. Right. Like I'm going to
remember to do this. Please. My house is chaos. (And if I'm telling
you the truth, I read that in the recipe and seriously meant to
marinate it. I DID. But I forgot. You know how you forget?
I forgot.) And I was all sideways about the kind of chili powder
it called for. When I was growing up and first started cooking
on my own, I knew of only one chili powder and if you use too
much of it, it blew your socks off. This recipe called for New
Mexico chili and FOUR TABLESPOONS worth. Oh lord. I was
concerned if my husband and I would be able to eat it, forget
the two kids. I did ask around and eventually found out that
New Mexico chili is much tamer than the regular hot chili that
you buy and it's really not an issue. Phew. And for all you
wondering where to find New Mexico chili, you can find it hanging
from a j-hook in the "ethnic" or "mexican" part of your grocery store.
It didn't cost me any more than about 60 cents and it's the
perfect amount for the recipe. If not four tablespoons exactly,
it's danged close.

So, this is what I did. I followed the recipe as close as I
could, only adding sauteed onions in with the garlic and using
tomato juice instead of water. I took another reviewers advice
and adapted it to the crockpot. I braised the pork stew meat
in the oil, added it to the crockpot, then sauteed the onion and
garlic and layered it over the pork meat, then added
the tomato juice (think V-8) to the hot pan and scraped all
those good bits off the pan before adding the spices. After
pouring the sauce over the pork meat, I cooked this meat on
high for most of the morning. By dinner time, it was perfect.
Nicely flavored with quite a kick. We ate these wrapped up in
soft taco tortillas with all the fixin's. Good stuff! It's
kind of like eating chili, but it's not chili.

And you know, everyone loved it. We'll, almost everyone. My
littlest projectile vomited all over the kitchen table but he's
a stubborn child. He did that on purpose, only because he
didn't like the looks of dinner from the start. (He's got an
thing against most food wrapped in tortillas, unless it's coated
in peanut butter and wrapped around a banana. He's not my
child, I swear.) My oldest boy raved about it all night and
how good it was and he couldn't wait to have it again. I want
to believe him only because 1) it was that good and 2) I
hope against all hope that he wasn't kissing my behind over
his temper tantrum that lasted all day.

Projectile vomiting and behind-kissing children aside, it was
off the charts good. Like something you'd get from a mexican
restaurant. My husband actually suggested that the sauce that
I made for this recipe would be good as an enchilada sauce or
even a taco meat sauce, if you are so inclined. I urge you to
try it for yourself. Because it's awesome. Either with my own version
of Mexican Rice or my Cilantro-Lime Rice, that's a little tamer
and a good mouth-cooler-offer against the Carne Adovada.

Give it a go. You'll love it!

Carne Adovada

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt/pepper to taste
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
One large onion, cut in half and sliced
4 tablespoons New Mexico red chile powder
12 ounces tomato juice, like V-8
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin
3 pounds cubed pork stew meat

1.In a skillet or deep frying pan, heat two tbsp. oil over
medium heat. Toss pork stew meat with flour, salt and pepper
in a large bowl and brown in hot oil until light golden brown.
Layer in the bottom of your crockpot. Add the remaining two
tbsp. of oil to hot skillet and saute onion and garlic in
oil until translucent. Layer over pork meat in crockpot.
In the hot skillet, add tomato juice making sure to scrape
up all browned bits off of the bottom and edges of the skillet.
Blend in chile powder, stirring until lumps are removed,
then add oregano and cumin. Simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and pour over pork meat and onions/garlic in
crockpot. Cook on HIGH for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender.
Serve with tortillas and all your taco/burrito fixings.

Take-Out Fake-Out Mexican Rice

3 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. minced onion
2 tbsp. sofrito sauce
1 1/2 cup long grain rice

1.In medium sized skillet, melt butter and saute onion in
butter until translucent. Add chicken broth and wisk in
sofrito sauce. Bring ingredients up to boil, stir in rice.
Briefly stir rice and cover, reducing heat to low. Cook rice
over low heat for 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Take Out-Fake Out, Mexican style numero uno.

My birthday was last week.

The ONE thing I wanted to do for my birthday, other than have
a drama-free family day was go out for mexican food. Even though
I hoped, I knew this wouldn't happen for two reasons.

1)Even if we did have the money to go out, I wouldn't do it
anyway. I'm cheap. And honestly, I have a hard time paying someone
to make something for me when I could make it cheaper and
pretty close to the real deal. Sure, it's nice to have someone
to cook for you once in a blue moon. BUT, I just can't get past
that I spent all this money when it could have paid a bill or bought
groceries. (Sometimes, I wish I could just tie up the penny pincher
inside of me and just boot her off a cliff. She's a real pain in
my backside and no fun at all.)

2)I share my life with three boys, one of which is my husband.
All of them possess little to no table manners and they are loud
and obnoxious and generally make me want to spork myself
whenever I take them out. If I'm spending money on a dinner
for me, you best behave. Otherwise, I feel no different than
when I'm at home, disgusted with their record-breaking burps/
farts and the bickering back and forth. I feel like I'm running
defense. And my husband has no freaking patience for two boys
in a restaurant. So, if we do go out, even if it is my freaking
birthday, I'm still the main parent in charge. So, I either
wolf down my food because I stress eat, then get a huge
bellyache and feel sick for the rest of the night
or I pick at my food and it gets cold which means I won't eat it.

So, anyway. My favorite place to go out for a "me" meal is Mazatlan.
Other than the best freaking Cadillac Margarita I've ever had,
they make this Pollo Con Crema that is to die for. Don't ask me
what else is on the menu, I couldn't tell you. Every time, I order
the same danged thing. And it's always SO good. And it's a gazillion
calories. And I eat myself silly and complain about how much I ate
but it was SO good......

And then I get the bill. And it's fifty bucks. And I want to cry.

I decided I wasn't going to do that this year. That I would
save the money I really didn't have and make Pollo Con Crema myself.
I've done it before and it wasn't quite right. Close, but not
quite there for me. (Props to the people before me who attempted
their own personal versions, if they hadn't given me a
jumping off point, I would have NEVER made my own.) I played
with the ingredients and what I thought would be right and just
kind of went balls out and just did it. I also made a mexican rice
that is pretty close to what Mazatlan serves on the side of
their platters. I found this wonderful sauce called sofrito sauce.
Why had I not heard of this before? It's like my new BFF condiment.
Freaking wonderful. Just wisk a couple tbsp. into your rice water
and cook like normal and wa-la, mexican rice. Seriously made of
win. I found mine at Fred Meyer for just a couple bucks
but you can order it online, too. I will warn you that it
does contain MSG, so if you are sensitive,
you can find copycat sofrito sauce recipes if you google.
Really looks easy to make.

Oh. Em. Gee. Words can not express how freaking good it was.
Like a religious experiance. And I was just beside myself
because I freaking did it. I made it myself and it was perfect.
And it cost me well under twenty bucks to make a whole pot of it!
I was riding that high all night. And this morning, if you want to
know the truth.

Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to try it,
too. And be happy with me that food like this exists. And,
honestly, you owe me a birthday present anyway......;) Go make
it and celebrate with me, though a little late.

It is seriously SO good. You'll thank me later. I know you will.

4 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 (8 ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms
2 large red bell peppers, cut into chunks
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons ketchup, or to taste
2 dashes hot pepper sauce (such as Frank's RedHot®), or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground dried Anaheim or California chiles (optional)
12 (6 inch) flour tortillas

1.Sprinkle chicken cubes with salt and pepper. Heat 1
tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat,
and cook and stir the chicken until the juices run clear,
5 to 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a bowl, and heat
1 more tablespoon olive oil in skillet over medium heat.
Cook and stir the mushrooms, bell peppers, onion, and garlic
until the vegetables are beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the vegetables into the bowl with the chicken.
2.Melt butter over medium-high heat in the same skillet,
and whisk in the flour. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly,
until the roux is lightly browned and gives off a toasted fragrance,
about 2 minutes. Whisk in the broth, bring to a simmer, and whisk
until thickened. Reduce heat to low, and whisk in the cream,
sour cream, ketchup, hot sauce, cumin, and ground dried chiles.
Cover the skillet, and simmer until thick and the flavors
have blended, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Gently stir in the chicken and vegetables. Serve rolled in
flour tortillas.

Monday, May 17, 2010

My bigger master really.

(I'm a little more scatterbrained than usual today.
Please bear with me and perhaps
pretend that I make sense today.)

This weekend was really great. Weather was perfect, we had a
lot of good quality family time and really packed a lot into
two days.

Including the weekly grocery shopping.

Now, it's Monday. And I'm like my littlest boy all fit-tastic
and am just not wanting to make my weekly menu. And it's nagging
at me because I didn't make one last week. I made it work
but it was a lot more work than it should have been because
I'm flighty and would think that I had my meal planned out
and it was the one area of my life that was settled for the day
but at the last minute, I'd look at the blueprint I made for o
ur dinner and decide that I wanted a bigger master bathroom.

Lemme explain.

Picture yourself on a pasture and you're looking at blueprints
for your house and seeing how the plans for your house work to
fit your pasture. It's got all the typical rooms for your home
all mapped out and it's just a basic family home. But, then you
get that nagging in the back of your mind thinking that you want
to change it just a bit. Like you'd like more closet space and
a bigger master bathroom and a skylight in the kitchen.
So, you start erasing and drawing in new plans and the house
just keeps getting bigger and you get excited with the new additions
you make on your blueprints. Then you get to work on the finished
product you had all worked out on paper and you didn't add in all
the extra work, materials and time it'd take when you were making
all these plans on paper.

I have a point.

I have a basic family. No frills. My boys are pretty cut and
dry when it comes to food. But me? I have all these lofty ideas
to how to make a recipe better and to just take your typical
menu for a dinner and just turn up the flash just a bit.
Sometimes this works, most of the time my boys look at me like
I'm growing an extra nose on my face. So, without a meal plan and
a SET recipe for every day, I do this every day. And it's tiring.
And sometimes it works out and you feel accomplished, but most
of the time you're just disappointed with yourself because you
just couldn't keep it simple, stupid. Sometimes, you need the
house built already so you can just be done with it.

So.....I know I went the long way around but honestly, that's
how I roll. So, from now on, I'm sticking with blueprints written
in permanent ink unless it's a special occasion. Because all
these lofty plans are just wearing me out. No need to imagine you
can build a mansion on a single wide trailer budget.

I mean, REALLY. How's that for a mental picture?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Relating lasagna to my personal life.

I'm having a bumpy week.

Just rough weekend heading into stormy weather, personal-life
wise. Ah, we all get there, don't we? Have some personal
tribulations and just kind of mope. I hate to admit that I do
this myself, but.....I pout worse than my own kids some days.
And to make this week my own shiny penny, my husband is thrilled
because my emo-ness comes with treats.

(I love my husband. I do. But, he's just like a big kid.
Awwww, I'm sorry you're sad. Oooooh, cookies! God bless him, the twit.)

So far this week, my cooking has been really good. I don't know
about you but when I'm stewing something over, I really hone in
on what I'm doing and work it out in my food. My husband will tell
you that is the god honest truth. And it always seems to me that
I pick the recipes with as many steps as I can. Like.....lasagna.

Now, I can relate lasagna to my life. Don't you walk off in a snit
thinking I'm an idiot. I've got a point. In the beginning of my life,
I viewed everything as too much bother. I didn't want kids or to
be married, I just wanted to be young and dumb and fart around.
Anyone who is a beginning cook will look at lasagna and just
kind of pshaw and pass it off as too much work.
Once I found the man who would eventually become my husband,
I could see myself having kids and being a wife and mother and
perhaps I could handle it. But, LORD, was it difficult.
I fumbled around our first few years together and really
struggled with my first child. And it's the SAME with making
lasagna. You take on the recipe thinking that it really won't be
all that difficult and all the steps will be a piece of cake.....
and then you over cook the noodles and the sauce is too runny and
when you go to cut pieces out of the pan, they flop all over
and look like a big ol' plate of throw-up on your plate. And
your family dosen't want to eat it. And you feel like crying
because you thought it was gonna be SO easy and you feel like
you failed.

Now that I've been married for quite some time and my kids are
getting older and more dependant on themselves and you get
into a routine, life gets a little easier. It's not as hard
as it was when you first started. Sure, you stumble here and
there. Everyone stumbles. But the bumps and bruises don't hurt
as bad as they did before. Just like making lasagna. I've
made more since my first disaster and they always get better.
You learn what works. You don't add as much to your sauce so
it won't be so runny. You don't overcook your noodles.
You add your own personal touches to make it your own. And what
used to take hours in the past now really only takes an hour.
And you feel better because you've accomplished
something that really was so daunting before.

I really DO have a point.

I'm sharing this with you because I know I'm not alone. And
I want you to know that you aren't alone. We're all entitled
to have our bad days and work it out in our minds to make
sense of it all. And we ALL have to eat. So......


Monday, May 3, 2010

Savingmoneylicious. (Hey, I made up my own word!)

You all like to know what other people are buying at
the store. This is a guarantee.

You know why I know this?

Because half of America (and other countries included) are
Reality TV junkies. Sure, you make scoff and say that it's
not really an issue. You can quit at any time. You aren't
REALLY that dependant on the drama of others. And if it's not
drama, you want to know what all the current It person is
wearing, buying, eating, wiping their behind with. Hey,
don't shoot the messenger. If it wasn't true, all the checkout
mags would be making zilch off all us daily.

I say, let your freak flag fly. If that's what makes you happy,
shoot....who's it hurting? There are worse habits you could be
trying to kick. Reality television, low on the radar.
(If it makes you feel better, I have a new fascination with this show, Jerseylicious. YES, I know that's not typical behavior and it's
not really truth, but that doesn't make it any less
entertaining.) Honestly, aren't we a little glad that
it's their drama and not ours?

I have a point.

I'm not your next It girl. Believe me. BUT, I know you all
want to know how I save money every week and still be able to
say that I have a "Double Wide Skillet, Single Wide Budget".
It really does all work out. And you get your fix for reality,
because what's more real than having fifty bucks to feed your
whole family for one week. And I'm going to give you a
look-see into my wallet and show you how I did it. Just
leave my change where it is and don't be snooping at my
driver's license. You REALLY don't need to know my age and
weight.(Disclaimer: This does not count for small stops at
the store for small items, like bags of flour. This week, my
kids want to make cookies with Mom and has a couple more
homemade flour-using items than usual. I usually will buy a huge
bag of flour on my big grocery trip but with all the kids'
birthday expenses and homemade cakes for both boys, I don't have
extra for a big grocery trip.)

I know you can handle it. Hike up your big girl (or big boy) panties.

This week, I was able to buy all this for fifty dollars
(with a couple odds and ends):

Two loaves bread
One pkg. hoagie rolls
Two pkgs. salad mix
Really big bag broccoli
Four packages off brand "Buddig" beef
7 pounds bananas
4 pounds tomatoes
2 meals worth ground beef
2 meals worth fresh chicken breasts
4 cartons XL eggs
2 packs off brand soda (husband's lunch)
4# carton strawberries
Fresh mushrooms
Couple cans Campbell's double-strength beef broth
Couple three packages of yeast

Really not super fabulous, but with my pantry ingredients,
I can make this work to my advantage. How? I'll show you.
Keep in mind that if I don't show a vegetable side, that
we're most likely doing a vegetable platter with a low-calorie,
homemade dressing. Also it's safe to assume that for the pasta,
I'm using a whole wheat pasta I've bought on sale and for the
baked items, I'll either use half or mostly whole wheat flour
when I can.

This week's menu plan:

Carnation Swedish Meatballs
Mashed Potatoes
Steamed broccoli

Snooty Chicken, White Trash Style (made into sandwiches)
Buenisimo Garlic Fries
Vegetable platter

From-Scratch Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Buttermilk Parmesan Ranch Bread

Creamed Eggs on Toast (with the "Buddig" beef)
Homemade biscuits
Sunday Best Fruit Salad (with low-sugar peaches instead of peach filling)

Harwood Family Salisbury Steak
Onion Rice
Creamy Green Beans Parmesan, lightened up

Simple-spiced Fried Pork Chops
Penne, Tomato and Mozzerella Salad
Harwood Family Favorite Cornbread

Buffet Night aka Clean Out the Fridge Night aka Mom's Night Off.

Now, I know it really dosen't look like much. But to me, with
the pantry items I have and the pork chops I buy when they're
marked down and stick them in the freezer really helps out on tight
weeks when I really don't have a lot of breathing room.

And you have to realize that I get to the store EARLY, like
when they open. I've been known to get all Springer-like and
knock another person down for marked down meat and bread. I
have three boys living in my house that like to eat! There's
no shame here. I find that if I plan ahead and make menu's
and outline everything I'll need for the week (and fill in
the gaps at my favorite Grocery Outlet store.....NO, they
are NOT paying me to hock their merchandise.....I just
love their business.), everything will be taken care of.
Both the boys' bellies and my wallet. Even if I got to
strong arm someone now and then.

Between you and me, you can get all Jerseylicious in your
head that you're the scary beeyotch that saved money while
you're eyeing the woman next to you and the items
in her cart who's paying twice what you did.

Aw. Come on, now. We ALL do it.