8.25.2009

Stovetop Enchiladas

So I would never recommend making enchiladas on the stovetop, but when you've got a pan of enchiladas all ready to go and you turn on the oven in your new house and realize that it doesn't work, it's good to have a backup plan!

I was lucky enough to have last Saturday off work, so I was able to make it to the downtown farmer's market where I bought a ton of these beautiful tomatillos (from a real Mexican farmer to boot!) We had some leftover hot coals on the grill on Sunday, so we roasted them along with some poblano and jalapeno peppers I bought from the same. We had no use for them on Sunday, so they went in the fridge overnight. On Monday (also a day off for me!) I pulled them out and decided to make enchiladas verdes, one of my favorite things in all the world.

Here are the roasted peppers - nice wrinkles huh? The verde sauce is incredibly simple - all you do is blend up tomatillos and peppers with a little lime juice and salt. I probably could have gotten crazier with herbs and spices, but the peppers and tomatillos were so good and fresh and roasty, that I wanted to let the flavors stand on their own. I didn't use all these peppers, just two poblanos and one jalapeno.

Enchiladas just aren't right without beans and rice. These are still some of the dry beans I brought with me from California - I need to use them up before the beans in my gardens are done! I had started them soaking early in the day, and they were almost done cooking by the time I started with the enchiladas. I also made Spanish rice.... I've added a recipe for that below - it's really easy!

We had some leftover grilled chicken and pork, and some pork sausage. I cooked the sausage and cut up the leftover meat to use as a filling.

So the sauce was made, the filling was ready to go, and I started the oven only to find that it wasn't working! It was the first time I'd tried turning it on in out new house. The ignition for the stove wasn't working (the landlord had ordered a part) so we had to light the burners with a lighter. It hadn't occurred to me that that might affect the oven as well.... Dave and I looked at it for a while to see if it was possible to light the oven with a match, but it didn't seem that it was. I'd be damned if I was going to let all the enchilada fixings go to waste, so I rolled them up in the cast iron skillet, topped them with sauce and queso fresco, put a lid on it, and cooked it on low.

It wasn't perfect. The cheese of course didn't brown, but it did melt. The bottom of the tortillas burnt a little to the pan, and they didn't really come out in enchilada form at all - it was more of a enchiladas verdes casserole, but who cares? It was just as delicious as any "real" enchiladas, and I had the satisfaction of not letting a broken oven get the better of me!



Enchiladas Verdes
If your oven happens to be broken, you can make these on the stovetop, otherwise I recommend baking them.

For the sauce:
Tomatillos, roasted on the grill
Poblano and jalapeno peppers, roasted on the grill
Fresh lime juice
Salt to taste

For the enchiladas:
Corn tortillas
Filling (whatever you like, cooked chicken or pork, cheese, beans, etc. etc.)
Queso Fresco
Sour Cream

Make the sauce by blending all of the ingredients until smooth. Use mostly tomatillos, adding peppers to taste. Put a little sauce in the bottom of a baking pan. Coat each tortilla in sauce, add a little filling, and roll it up. Fill the pan with rolled up tortillas. Cover with lots of sauce and queso fresco. Bake at 375 until bubbling hot. Serve with refried beans (hopefully not from a can) and Spanish rice, topped with sour cream.



Spanish Rice
1 small can tomato sauce
Rice (I use brown, but traditionally you'd use white rice)
Butter (or better yet, lard!)

Melt a little butter in a large heavy bottomed pan. Add rice and tomato sauce. Cook for 5-10 minutes over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Add enough water and cook the rice. That's it!
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The New House

I can't believe we've already been here for two weeks and I haven't gotten around to blogging about the new house yet! Most of that is due to the fact that we still don't have a good Internet connection (damn you AT&T!). I've finally managed to upload some pictures - they're a bit dated now, but better late than never!

This is the kitchen. It's quite small (the whole house is small), but really functional. The house itself was built in the 20s, but according to my carpenter brother the kitchen was redone in the 50s. I really like all the woodwork, it gives the feeling of a cabin in the woods. The best part is the window - it overlooks the backyard garden and chicken coop, and a beautiful maple tree. The house backs up to a neighborhood park, so you'd never know you were in the city from looking out the window. I just love having a nice view when I do dishes!

I'm cooking with gas for the first time in over three years - yay! There's a real lack of drawer space (we've even had to put the silverware in a canister on the counter!) but there's a ton of cabinet space, and deep counters. It seems to be all about thinking vertically instead of horizontally......

Now to the exciting part!.... the coop!


I can't take any credit for this beautiful chicken coop. Our new landlords built it, and in fact it was the major draw for me with this house. I took these pictures when it was empty - there are chickens there now, as you'll see in posts to come.

This is the side of the coop that's viewable from the kitchen window. It's hard to see in this pictures, but on the bottom left there are drawers that are located under the perches that pull out for easy poo cleaning. There's an electric cord running from the garage to the coop. It connects to a heat lamp that we can use in the winter to keep their water from freezing. On the right are doors that give easy access to the laying boxes.

When the chickens start laying, we should be able to walk out in the morning and easily collect our breakfast!

Here's the other side that gives you the chickens' view of their house. They've got a nice little door that latches securely at night. The door on the left is usually closed, but makes for easy cleaning and human access to that side of the coop. There's also a big access door around the corner to the right. The run is pretty large, giving them lots of space to roam around during the day without doing damage to the lawn or garden.

This is the view looking into the coop from the access door on the left in the picture above. You can see the perches with the screens below them. They sleep on the perches at night, so most of the poo in the coop is dropped through the screens and onto the surface below that then pulls out from the other side and is easily cleaned. Genius! You can also see their feeder, the heat light, and the other access door. It's all set up really well. I've since gotten a waterer that hangs over by the light.

This is looking straight forward from the same access door at the nesting boxes. I can't wait till we have eggs!

You'll get to meet the new chickens soon!
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A Never Ending Meal

You may find this post to be lacking in quality pictures - indeed it's not up to my usual standard. But I just love meals like this that seamlessly flow into one another creating one more delicious dish after another. This one is a good story, and I did get a few pictures, so I couldn't resist.

It started off with me coming home from work on a Friday night in August, tired, and not really wanting to cook. I'd caught a summer cold which I was mostly over, but I was still pretty low on energy. I pulled myself together, deciding that I could come up with something simple. This eggplant from the back yard garden and cherry pepper from the Main Street garden seemed like a good place to start. Since I was eating alone, I decided to just make something up - if it flopped, I was the only one who would have to eat it.

I chopped up the eggplant and the pepper along with some red potatoes freshly dug from our plot at Quann Garden. We've dug all the potatoes now, yielding somewhere around 20 or 30 pounds total. I sauteed all this in olive oil.

Now's when things get interesting. I pulled this leftover soup out of the fridge and added it to the veggies, making a kind of stew. This soup was delicious, and the product of many other delicious meals. I had made it a few days before when I was really feeling sick - sick enough to want chicken soup in August..... it consisted of chicken broth from a chicken we had cooked in Dave's new smoker a few weeks before, tomatoes and hot peppers from the garden, plus pesto from the garden that we made for another meal, plus some "white trash BBQ sauce" that I had made from a recipe of Dave's for yet another grilling adventure we had earlier in the week.

The BBQ sauce recipe comes from a book he got for his birthday, King of the Q's Blue Plate BBQ, by Ted Reader. It's food porn at it's best - lots of crazy BBQ recipes, most of which involve wrapping something in bacon or other such deliciously decadent additions. Anyway, Dave went all out and made a recipe called "Beer-Can Chicken With My Soon To Be Famous White Trash BBQ Sauce" along with cheesy grilled mashed potatoes and a kale salad (I insisted on the kale, cause' a meal like that simply needs something green to balance it out!) Anyway, I made the White Trash BBQ Sauce, mostly following the recipe, or at least adding the right ingredients but in my own proportions. It included: ranch dressing, mayo, whipping cream, lemon juice, fresh herbs from the garden, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, salt, garlic, and Parmesan cheese. Did I mention it was a rich? There was quite a bit of it left over, along with basil pesto from another meal, so we mixed to two to create a dipping sauce for yet a third meal - a sauce that ended up being even more delicious than either of the delicious sauces that went into them. The leftover dipping sauce went into the soup..... it was just too got not to use up!

Here's the end product - an easy stew for a Friday night. I realised when it was done that almost everything in here is grown in my own garden. It's the culmination of at least 4 other meals.....I needn't have worried about it flopping - with such good ingredients, it's really hard to go wrong.



August Garden Stew
This is one of those recipes that totally depended on the meals leading up to it. I'll try to approximate it as best I can in a real recipe.

Chicken Broth
Fresh Tomatoes
Hot Peppers
Eggplant
Potatoes
Basil Pesto (hopefully homemade)
White Trash BBQ Sauce (see ingredients listed below)

Heat the chicken broth to a simmer. Add the tomatoes and cook for about a half hour, until they are tender. Meanwhile, saute the vegetables in olive oil, adding potatoes to the pan first, then when they are starting to get tender, add the eggplant, and then the peppers. When the veggies are almost cooked, add them to the broth. Add the pesto and BBQ sauce to taste.


White Trash BBQ Sauce
From 'King of the Q's Blue Plate BBQ' by Ted Reader. I suggest adding everything in amounts to taste. You'll never use all of this in the stew above, but it's a good sauce for almost anything, so I guarantee you'll use it up!

1 cup ranch dressing
1 cup mayo
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup mixed chopped fresh herbs
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
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8.23.2009

Apologies

I want to apologize for the lack of postings recently. Not only has life been full to the brim with work, gardens, chickens, and moving, but we're also living without a good internet for a few weeks (the Internet provider was slammed with all the people moving in Madison in August, and they aren't able to hook us up till next Friday). We have a VERY slow connection, thanks to some neighbors who generously kept their wireless network unsecured, but it's just not fast enough to attempt uploading pictures here, and I just can't post any of my recent adventures without pictures!

So stay tuned. As soon as I have an internet connection and a little bit of time I'll be posting like crazy - catching up on all that's gone on in the past few weeks. A new house, some amazing meals, garden updates, chicken updates.....they're all on the way!
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8.11.2009

Chicks on Film, Episode I

video

This was taken almost a week ago now - I finally figured out how to upload video tonight (thanks Stanley!). It's not the most exciting chick video you'll find on the web, but it'll do for now.

Three Spot is the bigger of the two, with three spots on his beak. He's by far the more outgoing one. Puff is the smaller, fluffier chick. She was quite frightened of life at first, but she's slowly gaining her confidence.

The chicks are much bigger now - more video to come soon!
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8.03.2009

The Good Food Muse Goes Camping

Stanley and I went on a quick one-night camping trip this weekend, the highlight of which was the food......

One of my favorite things to cook and eat when camping is kebabs. They're exceptionally easy - food on a stick always is I suppose. In the morning before we left I prepared the ingredients: red potatoes from our Quann Community Garden (we've got tons of them!), my very first eggplant from the Marquette Street Garden, and zucchini from Tipi produce near Madison (purchased at Willy Street Co-op).

I sliced all the veggies into shish kebab sized pieces and prepared a quick marinade of these herbs from the garden (parsley, oregano, and thyme) with olive oil, minced farmer's market garlic, and lemon juice.

I mixed the vegetables and marinade in a big Tupperware, which I put on ice in a cooler. I love how gourmet you can get with the shish kebab ingredients, yet it's all easily packable in a single Tupperware.

For dessert, I decided to grill some of these Missouri peaches. These are seriously incredible peaches, and I say that as someone who knows her peaches. They're for sale right now at Jennifer Street Market on the East Side, and I've made several trips to that little market just to stock up on these luscious beauties. It's rare to find a real, tree ripened peach around here - all Willy Street has is organic California peaches, which are good, but too far traveled to be really amazing. Once I found these, it's been really hard for me to stop eating them. I think I've had at least three or four a day for the past week..... the season is just so short, I feel like I should take advantage while they're here. If you live in Madison and enjoy peaches, I highly encourage you to go pick some up!

I marinated the peaches in rum (a present from Ben and Erica from their recent trip to Costa Rica), fair trade vanilla, raw sugar, and freshly ground nutmeg.

These also went in a Tupperware on ice.

On the way to pick Stanley up, I stopped and got some beef stew meat and two nice big shrimps to add to the veggies. I threw them in and mixed if all up before leaving town.

Wyalusing State Park is about 2 1/2 hours from Madison. It's at the spot where the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers meet. Our camp site was way above the rivers on a bluff with this beautiful view.

Along the way we picked up a dozen ears of sweet corn ($3 per dozen is the going rate at farm stands. I'm really really enjoying the Wisconsin farm stands in this summer. They don't exist in California like they do here.), some early apples from a wild tree we encountered along a country road, and some sumac to make tea with.

We also stopped at a chicken farm along the way to pick out some pullets. I'm going to pick them up after we move to our new house on August 15, but I wanted to figure out what I was getting. The farm we stopped at was really nice, with tons of chickens to chose from. I ended up going with a Welsummer, a Wheaten Maran, a Barnevelder, and a Buff Sussex. These are all rare breeds that lay a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes of eggs. The farmers kindly showed us around their farm and gave us a dozen eggs to take with us. The really dark one on the left comes from the mother of the Wheaten Maran that I'm getting - I really hope I get eggs like that from her!

Anyway, by dinner time, the veggies and meat were very well marinated.

I was especially happy with how soggy the eggplant was. It made it quite easy to spear without breaking the pieces. I grouped all the veggies separately on their own sticks, because they all cook at different rates and I've never had good luck with kebabs that mix a bunch of things together. This way things could cook in their own time and we could take each veggie and type of meat off the fire when it was done.

Mmmmm...... even before they were cooked these kebabs were looking delicious!

The corn went in the coals still in it's husk. The fire was a bit hot for my tastes, but we put the veggies on, and they did very well. The potatoes went on first, followed by the eggplant, then the zucchini, then the beef, then the shrimp.


Here's the finished product. It was WAY too much food for two people, but we ate most of it anyway. Leftovers are too hard to deal with in the woods.

It got dark so I didn't get very good pictures of the peaches grilling. Needless to say, they were delicious. Grilled fruit is an under appreciated thing. You should really do more of it.

Fast forward to this morning. I have this crazy memory from when I was a kid of cooking bacon and eggs over a campfire in a paper bag. I've always wanted to try it again, and this seemed like as good a time as any. The first step is to rub the bacon on the inside of the bags and line the bottom with bacon. The grease keeps the paper from burning, at least in theory. I used uncured bacon from Willow Creek Farm near Madison.

I added the little bit of leftover veggies form the night before....

....then two eggs per bag.

Then you just roll up the bag, poke a stick through, and cook it over the flame.

The whole thing turned into a bit of a catastrophe when Stanley got the top of his bag (which wasn't rubbed with bacon grease), too close to the fire and his whole bag went up in flames. He acted quickly to save his bacon - putting the fire out by whacking the bag with a big stick, then salvaging what he could and cooking it all on tin foil. He's a good sport, and is very good at putting up with me and my crazy ideas. I could have been safe and boring and brought a pan to cook on, but I like to take chances......

Mine turned out awesome! It was a bit runny on the top....

But when I got it all mixed up it was just perfect. I probably won't do the eggs in a bag trick again soon - it's pretty much just a novelty - but it was fun to give it a try.

We roasted two of the little apples we had picked along the road to go with breakfast. They were really good, even though we pretty much forgot about them in the midst of the burning bag fiasco. They cooked perfectly and added a nice touch. The sumac we had collected turned out to be infested with spiders, so that idea went out the window. Ah well, you can't always have everything go right, and we ate incredibly well on this camping trip dispute it all!
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