John B.’s Chicken Fajitas and the Weekly Menu for 3-30-14

Pork and cranberry stew was supposed to be on this weeks menu. Its been on the let’s make list for ages now. It seems like we never have all the ingredients, this week was the lack of oranges. It shall just have to wait for ye another week.
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In the next month or so we are getting half a cow so eating out of the freezer for prepared foods is a priority, plus it gives me two low maintenance cooking nights. I also ended up with two jars of salsa open so the fajitas will kill one of them. Dad requested Beef and Barley that got put on the menu this week. Its nice when someone else has an idea besides me.

Sunday – Spaghetti (freezer) and garlic bread
Monday – Chicken Fajitas
Tuesday – Pizza
Wednesday – Sweet and sour chick thighs with carrots. Orzo or basmati
Thursday – Beef and Barley soup
Friday – Easy night, thinking burgers
Saturday – Freezer meal, Unstuffed Cabbage

This weeks recipe comes from John B. who was my boyfriend in the early 20’s. Originally it was salsa, beer, and Lawry’s seasoning salt. The seasoning salt got swapped out for spices and a lower salt content. It’s not a traditional fajita recipe but that’s what he called them and I kept the name. I made these for a couple of friends who were on a speaking tour in the 90’s with the African National Congress Youth Tour and they were so excited. Clayton exclaimed, “They had not had food like this in the U.S.” It was a big hit.
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You want to use a good quality salsa in this recipe as it is one of the layers of flavors. Mushrooms may seem a bit odd but they help make the recipe. Vegetarians can easily make the fajita recipe using a mix of mushrooms and have it be satisfying meal. The recipe also works well with steak but you will need to add the juice of half a lime. The steak variation needs the lime juice or it just tastes flat.

John B.’s Chicken Fajitas
2 -3 cups salsa (I used Kirkland’s and used to use La Victoria)
1 12 oz bottle beer (Corona is what’s on hand)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 packet (a pound) chicken breasts or tenders, cut up
5 to 10 mushrooms washed and sliced
1 -2 teaspoon Coriander, ground
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste.
Olive oil

Sautee chopped onion in the olive oil until soft and add half the beer, half the salsa and all of the chicken. Cook for a few minutes and add coriander and cumin. Cook until chicken is not pink and add the mushrooms and the rest of the beer and salsa. At this point it will seem like there is a lot of liquid. Put the heat on high if it isn’t already and let it reduce. When the sauce has thickened you know its done, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Extra salsa
hot sauce
grated cheddar cheese
shredded lettuce
avocado slices
or anything else that sounds yummy.


Weekly Menu for 3-2-14 and Chicken and Dumpling Recipe

Not much to say this week, the cooking dinner slump is starting to resolve itself which is nice. Tried a new recipe it was the pork shoulder with tomatoes, not a favorite. It had a bitter taste to it from all the paprika and it was just okay. If a recipe is just alright I know we don’t really love it enough to make again. Often the second time round got it a no. Life is too short for mediocre food.

Sunday – Stuffed Shells & garlic bread
Monday – Steak baked potato, veg
Tuesday -Turkey Tacos
Wednesday – Chicken and Dumplings
Thursday- Pork shoulder with tomatoes, noodles, green beans
Friday – Easy
Saturday- Stove top Mac-n-Cheese, spinach

This week recipe is a family favorite. The soup part is improvised depending on mood and what I have on hand. We are out of celery, used the last of it in the spaghetti sauce I made last week. So I subbed celery seed in this to give it more flavour. The dumpling recipe is originally from Fanny Farmer but I’ve modified. I also double the dumpling recipe. This recipe will freeze fine if you do not expect to have actual dumplings intact. They disintegrate and create a pleasantly thick soup. Dumplings are also an easy way to perk up leftover soup. Just make sure you have enough liquid.
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Chicken and Dumplings

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 packet chicken breast or tenders (about a pound), cut up
2 cups carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped or 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 pound greens (I used collards)
2 quarts stock

Saute onion until translucent add garlic celery, and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes and add chicken, let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add stock and greens, bring it to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes meanwhile get the dumplings ready. Turn heat down before adding dumplings. You want it simmering.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (1 slice bread)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, well beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup milk or milk substitute

To make the bread crumbs use your immersion blender and use the bowl for the dumplings for blitzing. The immersion blender works like a dream. Otherwise use your blender. I use our everyday bread from Wheat Montana.

Put flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl with bread crumbs and stir. Add the egg, butter, and milk. Stir until blended. You can do the dry ahead of time if you want to and add the liquid before cooking.

Use a spoon and plop dumplings into soup. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Do not check, do not take lid off, its hard not to look. Put heat on low and let cook undisturbed.

Monthly Groove: Recipes

The wether has been crappy here and as a result I have been in the kitchen more often. Because who wants to go out in over a foot of snow in bitter cold weather. Not me. A few weeks ago I said I wasn’t trying new recipes and well I didn’t do that I kept on trying new recipes. I’d had a string of disappointments that was offset by the amazing success of a new coffee cake recipe.
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Which leads us to this month groove and no its not coffee cake. Its recipes!. Old favorites, new favorites, food that just sounds good and you want to try it out. Having a stash of recipes that you can rely on to feed you and/or your family and friends makes cooking easy. Remember good doesn’t have to be complicated some of the simplest recipes are the best.

Here’s some of my favorites that I’ve highlight on this blog.

Berry, Cherry, and Kale Green Smoothie

Basic Marinara Sauce (big batch)

Roasted Tomatoes

Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Chicken, Avocado, Spinach, and Mushroom Sandwiches

Multi-Grain Bread

Weekly Menu for 2-16-14 and Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe

You might have noticed last week didn’t really follow the plan very much as we didn’t have a couple of things. That’s just part of life and you just have to deal with it and modify your plan. Believe me its a bummer when one of those items is the recipe you are using for a blog. We survived.

This week will hopefully be better. I’ve been still trying a lot of new recipes lately and that’s not always the case. I go in streaks with trying new stuff. Don’t go crazy and make everything you are cooking new, you will freak out at some point and end up not doing it. One new recipe a week is plenty.

Sunday – Sweet and Sour Chicken, zucchini, and rice
Monday – Freezer soup, bread
Tuesday – Hopefully Costco as we are running out of veg.
Wednesday – White Enchiladas (finally)
Thursday – Onion Beef, spaetzle veg,
Friday – Easy night
Saturday – Salisbury Steak, mashed taters, veg

This weeks recipe is a new one for us. I usually don’t make sweet and sour anything if we have stir fry its usually soy and ginger based so this is a nice variation. I don’t have any peppers but I do have zucchini that needs to be ate so we are having that on the side. Don’t let convention hold you back if you lack an ingredient that is not integral to the recipe.

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The results were stellar, everyone loved it and wants to have it again in the future. The recipe was easy to make and super delicious. The lack of peppers made it visually made it look a bit blonde but did not impinge on the flavour of it. Its a nice lighter alternative to restaurant style sweet and sour chicken.

Two notes: I used all the juice from my can of pineapple and next time will add the whole 14 oz. can of pineapple bits. We like sauce and two of found we really wanted more pineapple bits. Make that 3 the White Enchilada picture is finally up!

Sweet and Sour Chicken adapted from Food Network.
1 packet chicken tenders or breast, cut up into chunk
2 tablespoons neutral oil

Saute breast until cooked while this is happening assemble sauce.

1/2 cup or all your Pineapple juice
1 cup or the whole can of pineapple chunks
4 teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

Mix in bowl and set aside for when chicken is cooked.

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup red pepper, chopped

add when chicken is done cook for one minute. Stir the sauce and pour into pan. Bring sauce to a boil and turn down, let cook for about 5 minutes.

Weekly Menu for 2-9-14 and White Enchiladas plus a bonus Polenta Recipe

Last week kind of saw much of what I planned get dumped for other ideas. Sometimes what sounds good on Sunday doesn’t sound good on Thursday, so it gets changed. What I like to do is those weeks is roll all those changes over into the next week. Half my menu was planned because of this. Which was awesome!
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By the way if you see a item you want the recipe for let me know so I can make sure to write it up for a blog one week. Or even if you are looking for a recipe let me know, I might have one or know of one. Everyone needs resources beyond cookbooks. Let me know. I shall respond.

Sunday Mom’s Birthday – Orange and maple game hens, wild rice, and roasted asparagus, Cherry pie.
Monday – Oops fell asleep…. Turkey for enchiladas and leftovers
Tuesday – Balsamic beef, mashed potatoes, and roasted asparagus
Wednesday -Turkey Enchiladas
Thursday – Costco
Friday – Easy night, thinking turkey burgers
Saturday – Polenta and sausage casserole

This enchilada recipe came from Pinterest and is still very popular on that site. Its easy to make and makes good use of leftover chicken or turkey. If using leftover meat you don’t have to cook anything but the actual enchiladas. This is in the regular rotation and is on Dad’s favorite list. And right about this time is when I find out we do not have any tortillas. Um yeah…..Its been one of those week. I shut a cupboard and went to latch it and the latch came off.

White Enchiladas
Cooked chicken or turkey
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 small can chilis about 2 ounces, more if you want
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 clove garlic chopped
Cheese Monterrey jack or cheddar or pepper jack or any combo of.(I use whatever I have around.)

Mix Broth, sour cream, chilis, and garlic in bowl. Pour a 1/2 of it into a baking pan. Dip tortillas in sauce fill with turkey and some cheese, roll and place in baking dish. Repeat until done. Pour rest of sauce on top. Pop into a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Put rest of cheese on top and bake for 15 minutes, Serve with shredded lettuce and tomatoes.

Bonus recipe with picture. Polenta is an easy side dish. We have it soft the first time and baked for side later in the week. I made a huge batch so I can make polenta casserole.
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6 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups polenta
1 to 2 cups grated parmesan (optional)
2 to 4 tablespoons butter
Bring water to boil and whisk in polenta. Turn down heat before it spits at you. Stir regularly and cook for 20 minutes. Add Butter in the last 5 minutes. In the last two minutes add cheese and stir in. If it keeps spitting lower the heat. I cook this on low heat.

When I acquire some tortillas and make this I’ll get a picture of those yummy enchiladas up.

Weekly Menu 1-26-14 and Chicken Divan Recipe

I knew we were going to have chicken divan sometime this week. Here’s the thing with casseroles they use a ton of pans. If you start from the beginning you have to cook chicken, broccoli and make your sauce than you put it in a baking dish. That’s a ton of dishes for so little.
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Most casseroles I make a big batch and freeze half of of it, so I get two dinners and leftovers for lunch. You feel better with your pile of pots and pans knowing at least one night you don’t have to dirty what feels like a billion dishes.

My other strategy is to make extra food for the casserole. For the Chicken Divan I cooked the chicken on Monday when we had chicken and gravy. I made two packets instead of one. Saturday we had broccoli and made double what I needed for dinner. Since two of my components are already cooked all I need to do is make the sauce and put it in a baking dish which makes it easy peasy.

Sunday – Porcupine Meatballs, potatoes and carrots
Monday – Chicken, gravy, mashed taters, green beans
Tuesday – Pork Chili Verde, hominy, tortillas Pork Quesadillas & hominy
Wednesday – Freezer Soup, rolls
Thursday – Chicken Divan and rice
Friday – Easy night
Saturday – Stuffed pork chops and spinach

Chicken Divan adapted from Savuer. I love this stuff, the almonds on top are so good we like to eat it with rice. We like things saucy so I use 2 cups broth if you like things not as saucy use 1 cup.

1 pound cooked chicken, cut up
2 cups cooked broccoli

Put in 9×13 baking dish and set aside while making sauce.

1-2 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk or milk substitute
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons wine
pinch nutmeg
1/4 cup parmesan (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup Sliced almonds

Melt butter and add flour cook for a two minutes. Whisk in stock and add milk or milk substitute making sure there are no lumps. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and add wine (I use what’s open, sherry works too) and nutmeg. Stir occasionally cook until thickened about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and add cheese if using. Pour over chicken and broccoli. Sprinkle almonds on top.

Weekly Menu for 1-19-14 and Chicken, Avocado, Mushroom, Spinach Sandwiches

Pizza is always a favorite with the family we make it about once a month and at the moment its been about two months since we have had it. Competition for pizza leftovers is stiff so I make two of them. One is a veggie pie and the other a meat and veg pie. The veggie one is made first for two reasons. One it tends to be more moist and doesn’t hold up as well and two we hit the first pie the hardest. I’ve tried adding a salad or carrot sticks, no one eat them so I gave up on that.

Tried another new recipe for Asian style meatballs that was lack luster and am kind of over new recipes for a bit. Going to stick to some of our standards and favorites for now. We have avocados and am going to make a chicken sandwiches with them this week. This particular sandwich is a hybrid of two different sandwiches.

It started out as a duplicate to a Village Inn sandwich it was chicken, avocado and mushroom. Than I came across a recipe in Bon Appetit for chicken, mushroom, and spinach sandwiches. I decided to combine them and come up with my own sandwich. They are really good, If you don’t do bread they are good just as a regular entree. If you do, do bread make sure to use a high quality roll.

Sunday- Pizza, one veg, one meat.
Monday – Asian meatballs, rice, broccoli
Tuesday – Mom’s Chicken and Noodles
Wednesday – Tuff Pork, risotto cakes, and spinach (risotto was frozen)
Thursday – Chicken, avocado, spinach mushroom sandwich and oven fries.
Friday – Easy Day
Saturday – Turkey tetrazini

Chicken, Spinach, Mushroom, Avocado Sandwiches
I love these sandwiches, love them. Don’t let the steps put you off you only use two pans and the chicken takes the longest to cook. I make my own rolls for this. They are so good.
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Makes 4 sandwiches.

2 chicken breasts cooked and cut in half
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
2 to 3 handfuls Spinach, sautéed
Avocado, sliced or mashed.
salt and pepper
olive oil

1.Take chicken breast and cut them in half. If they are small you will need more breast, tenders also work well. Season with salt and pepper, dust with paprika. Heat pan, add teaspoon of olive oil, and sauté chicken until done. Set aside..

2.To make the mushrooms, slice and in the same pan you cooked the chicken, pour in about 1/2 cup wine and deglaze pan. Add tablespoon butter, toss in your mushrooms, sprinkle with paprika, and sauté mushrooms until soft. Add a little more wine if you need to, you can also add some garlic.

3. Cook the spinach while you make the mushrooms. Heat a pan and sauté up your spinach. About 5 minutes.

4. Melt cheese on chicken.

5. Let folks assemble their sandwiches.

How to Strain a Stock

Now that your stock is cooled you are ready to strain it. There are several ways to go about straining stock. If you want or need an extremely clear stock I suggest using a chinois. A chinois is a very fine sieve and will keep any bits out of your final product. I have only done that when I worked in a restaurant, at home I don’t care if there are some tiny particles in my stock.

Go grab your colander that you use for straining pasta and get a big bowl with a wide mouth. If you lack that you can use a smaller mouth bowl but your colander will also have to be smaller. Set your big bowl in the sink and put your colander in it. My counters are too high for me to pour the stock out, so my bowl goes in the sink. No one ones several quarts of stock everywhere because you lost control of the pot.

Now that you have done that you can start pouring I do about two quarts at a time. Get what you are going to store or freeze your stock in. I like ziplock bags. Take a measuring cup, scoop, and than pour into the bag. Decide how much stock you want in each bag. I do quarts and than some two cup bags. I lie the bags flat to freeze they stack well.

Not a lot of fat on top so no need for me to skim.
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The sink set up I use.
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Getting ready to scoop into bags
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Where I put my colander while scooping.
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Ready to go in the freezer.
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How to make a stock.

When I cut out dairy I had to read labels and once you start reading them, that’s when you realize all the weird stuff that is in your food. One stock I looked at had yeast in it, I didn’t buy that one. This is how you end up in the organic/health food aisle buying stock. In Salt Lake I had access to inexpensive stock it was two bucks a quart and it often went on sale. When I moved up to Montana that changed. The stock I used to buy for cheap is four dollars a quart up here and rarely goes on sale.
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I started making my own stock at that point in time. It sounds hard and you do need to be around the house, but you don’t have to stare at it all day while it simmers. The easiest way I have found is to freeze poultry carcasses and your excess vegetables for it. Floating about my freezer at the moment are several chicken carcasses, one turkey carcass, parsley stems, carrot and celery bits, and onion skins. I save it all up and when I am ready or in need of stock, its all there and I just need to dump it in a pot.
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Poultry Stock
1 Turkey carcass or 1 or more chicken carcasses, they can be raw or cooked.
4 or more Carrots, halved if big
3 or more Celery
2 to 4 Onions with skin, quartered
several cloves garlic whole
handful parsley or parsley stems
1 teaspoon thyme, dried or fresh
1 tables spoon whole peppercorns
2 to 4 bay leaf

Get a coffee or tea filter and put the thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaves in the filter and tie it up.
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Put it all in the pot and make sure that water covers everything thing you put in sock pot.

Bring to a boil and than turn on low to medium low and let simmer for an hour or longer. Everything in your pot will be mushy and well cooked when it is done. Turn off the heat and let it cool a bit and pop it into the fridge and let it sit over night to cool. This does two things let’s you know if you need to skim the fat and do it easily and makes pouring more easy as it is not hot potentially scalding you.  Tune in tomorrow for a How to Strain Your Stock.