Monday, January 28, 2013

Easy Mexican Torta Frijoles

Tonight was a super quick cook night. Hubby and I went into town to pick my middle step daughter up from the airport. She has spent the last week and a half up in Fairbanks working a quick construction job and tomorow she will be flying back down to Washington to get back to school. (She'd worked for this company when she was up for the summer and they had a job come up that they needed more people for so asked her if she'd be available to come up. She missed about a week of school, but, it's the kind of money you just can't say no to when you are 18/19 years old. Or ever really. It was _really_ good money and she might not have to work the rest of the semester if she's careful..)

So we were kinda late getting back home. Hubby had requested one of his favorite meals, pirogies. Because of the time crunch, we cheated and he and the kids were given the option of prepackaged frozen pirogies. I do have a recipe that we all love and can have, but it requires more time and energy then I had by the time we got home. So they had pirogies, and I had this:

 We'd had tacos over the weekend and I had some left over taco meat. I also remembered a recipe I'd seen on the back of a can of refried beans. I couldn't remember it in it's entirety, and I really can't even remember what they called it. (I'm terrible, I know.. *sigh*) So I'm calling it Torta Frijoles. Anyway, I decided to give it a try. I didn't have quite everything I could remember and I'm sure I am missing a few of the things that were used in that recipe, but, hey, that means this one is all mine.
Since it was a long day and I've been in pain all weekend on top of everything, I didn't have a lot of energy and the goal was to make something quick that would taste good and at least be reasonably healthy, if at all possible.

So here's what I used:
 1 can refried beans
 @1 cup or so of chicken broth (I tend to go with low sodium, or home made. Tonight I used canned because I already had an open can in the fridge)
 @1/3-1/2 jar of double cheddar cheese sauce
 @1/2 left over taco meat
 a few dashes of taco sauce
 Corn tortillas

 For Garnish you can use any of the following:
Shredded cheese (I had mozzarella, so that's what I used)
Sour Cream
Black Olives

This was mostly a case of using up left overs I had in the fridge. Everything except the beans was left over from other things done in the last week. I combined the beans, beef, broth and cheese sauce and taco sauce in a deep skillet and whisked together to combine. Let this heat up while you steam your tortillas. (You can just steam them in the same pan, but it goes faster if done separately.)
Place your steamed and softened tortillas into the mix, and swirl around to coat well. Fold them into quarters as you pull them out, they should be well coated with the mix. Place on your plate and repeat with how ever many you are doing. 3-4 seems to be enough to fill an adult pretty well.
Once you have them plated, spoon more of the bean mixture over them and sprinkle with shredded cheese and any other toppings you have to hand.

I will most likely try doing a completely from scratch version (well, cept for tortillas.. I'm not ready to start making those myself just yet..) here one of these days when I have time and energy, I have plenty of broth in the pantry already, just need to make some beans.

(** For those wondering why I am using canned/boxed broth right now, when I've got bottles of home made stuff in my basement, the answer is Willow. We have an 11 year old dog who is on her death bed. She is suffering from lymphoma and while we are doing everything we can for her, she doesn't have much longer and right now, she is starting to refuse food. Right now, the only thing she will eat is broth and ground meat. So, she gets what she wants right now, but my home made broth has onions and garlic in it, and even though it certainly wouldn't be the thing that will kill her, I don't want anyone getting into bad habits..)

Our Willow in her younger and healthier days.

Friday, January 25, 2013

10th Anniversary dinner

Ok, so as promised, recipes from last night’s dinner and a bit about my history leading up to all of this. 11 years ago I was living in Salt Lake City, Utah. right smack in the middle of the Olympics. All normal activity had ground to a halt because of the games, so I had gone online to look for some new friends to chat with or meet up with, whatever. Something to help pass the time. Then one night, I got a message from some guy in Alaska. It was July 24th, 2002 and I was having a very bad night. Exactly one year prior, I’d been victim of a break in and my local friends had all forgotten that they’d promised to check in with me that night, because I was still having minor panic attacks. Anyway, long story short, we began chatting after that and soon found that we had quite a bit in common. Soon we had our first phone call, and by September I was headed up for a long weekend to visit in person and we officially got engaged.
Things kept moving at a crazy pace and the opportunity to move me and my things up to Alaska came in January, so, we quickly planned a wedding and were married 6 months to the day of our first online chatter. Up I came to Alaska and suddenly I was step mom to 4 kids, ages 15 to 4. There were a lot of adjustments as the kids came in and out for visits. My step son lived with us for a few years in there, and right now the youngest daughter (now 14) is living with us. I’ve had a few health problems pop up over the years. Mysterious ailments and the like. We learned in 2006 that I have PCOS and would likely never be able to have children of my own (at least not without lots of money for doctors and some out of state travel..) Then in 2007 I was in a rather nasty car accident which, honestly, probably should have left me crippled, and certainly left me in a lot of pain and took most of a year to recover from. I was still dealing with a lot of pain and problems after I was “recovered” but it was more or less assumed it was going to be a lingering permanent pain due to damage.
And then Hubby was deployed at the end of 2008 and he was gone for a year, during which I had more medical problems and test after test and we discovered I was severely anemic, had super high blood pressure, some other heart problems and severe sleep apnea. We got all of that sorted and Hubby got home (yay!!) Then in February 2011 I went on an elimination diet. Was the first time in absolute ages I was able to loose any weight at all and, miracle of miracles, most of that pain I was suffering, the headaches I’d had for years, and so many other of my “odd little problems” that I’d had for years and years, went away. They were either gone completely or greatly reduced. This was proof for me that there was something wrong with the foods I’d been eating that was making me sick; was, in fact, slowly killing me. As I started adding foods back in, one by one, gluten was my big problem food. I would have a severe migraine within half an hour of ingesting even the tiniest bite of bread, or something with barley malt. So, I started doing some very hasty research into what all it would mean to be gluten free. I will leave that long story for another long post. But for now, on to last night’s 10th Anniversary dinner.

Blueberry Glazed London Broil:
I bought a Top Round London Broil just under 3 pounds and marinated it in blueberry syrup (I pretty much used the recipe on this site for making my syrup. I love this site and reference it all the time when I have questions about canning)
I let it sit in the syrup for 24 hours, flipping it once so that it will get a nice sweet glazing on both sides. To cook I put it put a little salt and pepper on both sides and put it on a rack in a cookie sheet under the broiler and let it go til it got nice and caramelized, then flipped it and let it do the other side as well. Time will depend on the thickness of your meat and how you like yours done. Then let it sit and rest for a few minutes before slicing it up.

I had a partial jar (about 2/3rds of a pint) of beef stock that I’d made last week. (I’ll do another post on stock making one of these days...) So I emptied that into a small pan and added a few spoonfuls of potato starch. Again, no, I didn’t measure. I warned everyone I was terrible about this sort of thing, but they wanted me to do this anyway.. *lol* stirred to combine, added about 2 tablespoons of water, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and a small splash of red cooking wine and then let it sit for about 5 minutes or so (because I was working on other things.. ) before it went over the heat. I let it come to a simmer and heat through and thicken a bit. Honestly, I think I might have added a bit too much starch as it was a bit thicker and “cloudier” then usual, but it tasted just perfect.

Mashed Potatoes:
Uhm.. I took 4 very large bakers, peeled them and boiled them. (Remember to salt your water!) Drained, added some butter and a large dollop or two of sour cream and some pepper. No, I tend not to measure these things.. I just eyeball and adjust to the consistency I want.

Onion Rings:
 I didn’t do my “usual” recipe, but I did like this one. Again, I didn’t measure anything at all.. (I really will have to work on remembering to do that..) But I put about a cup and a half of coconut flour in a bowl with some salt, pepper, garlic, basil and oregano and some Italian seasoned gluten free bread crumbs (Aleia’s brand - I had a few left in the fridge that needed to get used up..) I added an egg and enough milk to make a thick but loose batter. Onions were sliced, dredged in more coconut flour then dipped into the batter and into the fryer until golden.

Bread: Pamela’s bread mix into the bread maker as per directions.
This was my second time using the doughnut maker. Hubby liked the recipe I used last time better, but we’re still experimenting with it and this time I used a pre-packaged gf chocolate cake mix from Gluten Free Cafe. Unlike some gf cake mixes, this one apparently makes a “full” size cake (Regular box cake mixes will do 2 8” rounds but their gf counterpart will only do 1, but still costs $2-3 more.. This one will do the 2 8” pans as well, not just one, so am liking this box mix brand much better for that alone... ) I followed the instructions to make the batter, but instead of baking it in the oven, I poured it by spoonfuls into my little doughnut maker and followed the instructions that came with that. They cook fairly quickly so you need to be right there with it. I will admit that about half way in I decided I was done and just poured the rest into a smaller cake pan and baked the other half of it that way.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Blog in Progress!

Well, as often leads to trouble, I had been posting what I had planned for our dinner tonight and several friends started commenting on it. One thing lead to another, and it was suggested (and not for the first time) that I either needed to come to their houses to cook, or I should create a cookbook.
Not sure about the actual cookbook idea, as, honestly, I'm still getting most of my recipes from other cookbooks or websites, so they aren't all _my_ recipes. But, I discussed it a bit with Hubby over last night's dinner, and he thought I should go ahead with it, so, today, I mark not only our 10th wedding anniversary, but the start of my new food blog!
We are also close to approaching my 2 year mark for being gluten free, which caused a whole lot of change in the way we cook and eat around here. It was a long, complicated story to getting my diagnosis, but that is a long tale for another day. Today I just wanted to start with a big old "Hello, World!"
I don't know how often I will be posting to this blog just yet, I have one or two others that I'm terrible about keeping updated as well, so it may take a bit of time to get things all sorted out on how to proceed with this. I will be posting my own recipes and creations from time to time, and linking to other online recipes that we've liked and enjoyed and use on a regular basis. For now, I will leave you with tonight's menu (which I will do my best to take pictures of and write things down as I go so I can update this tomorrow with that info.) My goal with this page is to show how you can make great meals that everyone will think would take all day, but don't really have to. And they will all be Gluten Free. Some of my "cheats" are due to equipment, or planning, or even occasionally using the available prepackaged options. Though I do tend to make a lot of things from scratch, you certainly don't have to if you're not comfortable with it, and I will indicate when I'm using stuff I've made.. anyway..
10th anniversary dinner: Blueberry glazed Top Round London Broil (made with my homemade Blueberry Syrup) Mashed potatoes with beef gravy (made from home made and bottled beef stock) GF Onion Rings (per Hubby's request..) Homemade bread (thank you bread machine!) Chocolate Doughnuts Will spread some of my baking around today so I have time (and daylight) to take more pictures. Tomorrow I will post about this, and let you know a bit more about myself and my journey to this point.