Mayocoba beans and chicken red chili

I was shopping in Hattiesburg, in the bean aisle.  Usually, there is nothing surprising or unusual to be found–I am reasonably certain that we have tried about every bean sold in Southern Mississippi at least once.  Beans are cheap, easy to prepare, and pretty tasty too.

It’s not really bean season yet, but since I’m working on a new cookbook project that uses some, I was going to be cooking more beans than usual for this still-too-hot-for-soup weather.  I’m certain, just like my neighbors, that cooler weather is just around the corner.  After all, they have already gotten some snow in the northern tier of the country.  Surely our long, hot, and humid summer is about to draw to a close as well!

There, on the bottom shelf though, I found a bean that I didn’t remember ever seeing before.  It was labeled “Mayocoba” beans, and there were three or four different brands offered of this mystery bean.

Sized and shaped similar to a pinto bean, it looked like a natural for chili, and since I am naturally curious…I bought a pound to take home with me.  In the Southwest, there are many beans offered commercially for sale that never make it to Mississippi, such as pink beans and Anasazi beans.  I suspected that this was a variety not unlike them, and much more common in other areas of the country, if I did my research.

It turns out that they are a relatively “new” variety, although their type has been around for a millenia or more.  It’s a “yellow” bean–although I don’t see a hint of yellow in their color as a dried bean.  More like a pale tan or murky cream colored, darker than navy and Great Northern, but far paler than pink or pinto beans.

Once home, I could search for information about the mystery bean.  It seems to have popped up in the coastal region of Mexico, and may or may not have been a local variety crossbred with imported Peruvian yellow beans.  It’s supposed to hold its shape better than pinto beans for chili, but have a very similar flavor and nutritional content.  It’s also cooked identically to pinto beans.

So what does that mean?  It means you should soak them, but if you are like me, 9 out of 10 times, you don’t bother.  They just take a bit longer to cook then.  Don’t even dream of trying to cook these beans to make Creole style creamy beans though–they will NOT break down into that familiar near-puree texture.

For chili, they are fantastic.  It means you can simmer that pot of chili overnight in your slow cooker, then let it simmer all day too, without it turning into a chili paste.  Of course, you can also opt to do it the way many members of my family swear by as well.  For this, the “chili” part is cooked separately, using meat, stock, chili powder and other seasonings, until there is a thick red chili without beans.  (Be warned, if you see my uncle doing it, it WILL be blistering spicy-hot!)  The beans are cooked separately, typically with a ham hock or some salt pork, and seasoned with nothing more exotic than salt and pepper.  The individual diner then can combine the red chili and beans in their own bowl, to their own personal tastes.

Chili is something that almost everyone makes, with as many variations on the dish as there are cooks that make it.  From Cincinatti chili, served with spaghetti, to chili made with kidney beans and tomatoes, and even my step-mother’s chili with mushrooms in it…there is a version sure to please.

Here is a recipe for Chicken Red Chili that is economical, tasty, and good to warm up with. It’s a recipe typical of Arizona and New Mexico.  If you want more heat, don’t use cayenne! Instead, add some hot or chipotle chili powder for a more authentic taste.  This makes a big pot of chili, but it freezes well for up to three months. This rather large recipe is also great to take to church suppers and potlucks.

Chicken Red Chili

  • 5 lbs. chicken hindquarters
  • 3 lbs. pinto or mayocobo beans, picked of debris and rinsed
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c. chili powder (use one without salt)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • water

Heat oil in large stockpot over medium high heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until onions are soft.  Add chicken, beans, spices, and water to cover.  Bring mixture just to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover.  Simmer for about 2 hours or until chicken is tender.

Using a slotted spoon, remove cooked chicken from stock pot and place in a deep dish to cool.  Cover and continue cooking beans until tender, about 2-3 hours.  When chicken is cool, remove and discard bones and skin.  Break meat into small pieces and refrigerate until beans are tender and broth begins to thicken slightly.

Taste and adjust seasonings in chili.  Add cooked chicken to mixture, and cook for about 15 minutes.  Serve with sopapillas, fry bread, tortillas, crackers or corn bread.

 

 

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Sugar Coma-No Bake Cookie Cheesecake

I make things up as I go, and I do the same thing with food often.  I don’t wake up in the morning, and think to myself, “Today, I must invent a new recipe for a no-bake cheesecake.”

Not me, there’s not that much planning involved.  Of course, it had been boiling in my mind to MAKE one–it’s hot, and nobody wants to bake.  We’re barely cooking.

I did plan ahead for the upcoming sweet tooth.  I should have prevented it from going to sugar coma levels, but…it’s really good.  (Insert an evil laugh)

Besides the normal pantry sort of things (peanut butter and milk in this case) I did have a graham cracker crust, mini-chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, some instant cheesecake flavored pudding, some knock-off brand Oreos, and an 8 oz. package of cream cheese.

I’ve had a craving for peanut butter and chocolate lately, but often, the chocolate is overbearing or else it is absent entirely from the flavor combo.  The chocolate cookies…along with tiny chocolate chips, oh yeah.

SO…I got out the cream cheese and didn’t even bother to let it warm up before sort of whipping it.  It will NOT get fluffy, just so you know, if it is not at room temperature.  I had decided that my rush was okay, it wouldn’t matter if it got fluffy.  So I wanted a bit of peanut butter flavor, but not overwhelmingly peanuttish, and in went the last of the jar of creamy peanut butter…

Now I have a faintly tan almost-smooth stuff in my bowl, and added a cup of milk.

I should have thought that bit out further.  The bowl wasn’t quite big enough to contain the splashing, so adding it slowly MIGHT be a really good idea if you don’t have a really deep bowl to beat it in.  I ended up spattered, along with half an acre of kitchen, including dishes that had just been washed.

I really resented THAT part.  Washing dishes is hard work!

Okay, now I have a sloppy but not very creamy mess in my bowl, it must be time to add the instant pudding, right?

But first…make sure your cookies are crumbled.

I massacred 8 Oreos into a fine crumb in the blender.  I also got out the peanut butter chips and the mini-chips.  You’ll need about a half cup of each to stir into half of the filling later, and since the stuff gets stiff fast, having them ready is a really good idea.

Okay, so NOW you can get your pudding mix out, dump it in and beat the mixture.  Stop and scrape the bowl after about 30 seconds, piling it all in the center.  At this point, you are trying to ensure its somewhat smooth and creamy.  Beat the mixture on high for about 1 minute.

Pour half of the filling into the bottom of the graham cracker crust.  Spread it out, and dump the crumbled cookies onto that layer and spread THOSE out.

Now, back to the half of the filling in the bowl…

Add your chocolate chips and peanut butter chips, stirring to blend them evenly.  Put the filling into a heap in the center of the pie, then spread it outward over the cookie crumbs.  Don’t worry about a perfect edge, Martha Stewart won’t be dropping  by before this is all gone, guaranteed!

Now, take another 6 Oreo cookies and pulverize them in your blender.  Sprinkle them onto the top, spreading them around.  (This is also where the not-so-perfect edge, etc. gets hidden.)  Sprinkle about 1/4 c. each of the 2 kinds of chips on top  of that…cover with the lid, and refrigerate for as long as you can stand it.

See, I know you licked the beaters & spatula…because I did.  That means you already KNOW how good this is going to taste…

100_1186

I will never be a great food stylist or photographer, but believe me, it’s good.  Really good.  Even if the photo isn’t pretty.

This isn’t a cheesecake that will keep for 4-5 days because of its uncooked nature and the nature of the instant pudding.  It’s best to use within about a day and a half, so you have an excellent excuse to have a second piece…

This is a fast recipe to make, and a great one for taking to church suppers and potluck dinners because of how easy and fast it is to make.  It’s also going to be very popular and you’ll never have leftovers on it!

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Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 pkg. Jello brand instant pudding, cheesecake flavor
  • 14 Oreo (or generic version) cookies, divided and finely crumbled
  • 3/4 c. peanut butter chips
  • 3/4 c. mini-chocolate chips
  • 1 c. milk
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (you can use non-fat too, if you like)
  • 3/4 c. peanut butter
  • 1 graham cracker or cookie crust

Cream peanut butter and cream cheese together.  Slowly add milk, beating on slow.  Add instant pudding mix and beat for 30 seconds.  Scrape bowl, mounding mixture into center.  Beat on high speed for 1 minute.

Put half of mixture into center of pie crust and spread to outer edge.  Top with 8 crumbled Oreo cookies.

Stir 1/2 c. each peanut butter and miniature chocolate chips into remaining half of filling mixture.  Mound mixture onto top of cookie crumbs and spread outward towards the edges.

Top with remaining crumbled 6 Oreo cookies, along with remaining 1/4 c. each of miniature chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.

Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.  Best used within 36 hours.

Posted in Budget, Cakes, Desserts, Easy, Make-Ahead, Potlucks & church suppers, Quick, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bacon Ritz crackers?

This time of year, I’m not enthusiastic about cooking.  We still get hungry though.  We’re just more inclined to seek cool, no-cooking-required foods.

Peanut butter, cheese, tuna, chicken, turkey, and cold cuts are all favorites.  We even cooked a turkey breast just to have it for sandwiches & salads last week.

This week, on our shopping expedition, we bought something new.

Every time we went through the cracker aisle in recent months, my husband would say “mmmm, bacon Ritz” and I would ignore him.  I thought he was making some kind of joke.

This past week, I finally asked him if he was making it up and he had to show me the bacon Ritz crackers on the shelf.  I was in a bacon mood (grocery shopping when you are hungry is NEVER a good idea, btw!)

We bought a box.

Today, the box got opened.  Late last night, my husband had suggested that I had hidden the crackers to keep him from binge eating them.  I denied it, but you know how that goes.

I was found guilty of hiding the Bacon Ritz crackers anyhow.

Today, he hunted them down.  They were exactly where I said they were, and in plain sight, but I was already sentenced to grumbling husband despite my innocence.

So, with excited fear, we tried them.

All bacon lovers know that anything labeled “artificially flavored” and bacon on the same package is usually a recipe for disaster.  “Fake-y Bac-y” is not a pleasant taste usually.   That’s why the fear level as we slowly moved a cracker towards our mouths, waiting for a sign.

I tried hard to not think about recent disasters on flavor tasting fronts, like the horribly vile “chicken and waffle” potato chips I got conned into tasting.  (That was so awful that I had to spit them out immediately, without anything more than a nominal effort to chew.)  My taste buds were cringing in fear.

I took a bite.

I started to chew.

My taste buds started to party.

These crackers are seriously GOOD!  We paired them with some cheese and peanut butter (separate crackers, I don’t like cheese and peanut butter together).  Still delicious.  Good bacon-y flavor without going overboard and tasting more fake-y than bac-y.

These crackers are actually going to the top five crackers to have in the house list.  They will also be the only flavored cracker to be on the list, which says something about how good they really do taste.  Flavored crackers, for us, are usually novelty items that we occasionally may buy, but do not buy regularly.

I love it when my taste buds get to party, don’t you?

No “fake-y bac-y” arrived, instead, it was delicious!

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Skippy peanut spread with dark chocolate taste test

After trying whipped peanut butter with s’mores flavoring recently, and because we’re huge peanut-butter-and-chocolate fans here, we tried Skippy peanut spread with dark chocolate.  It sounded great, right?

This time, the taste test was on our own dime too.  It looked really good on the grocery shelf.  So, a jar landed in the basket, and away we went to take it home with us.  (After the checkout routine, of course!)

I’ll confess, it was a day or two before we tried it.  We were busy, what can I say?

Then, the craving for peanut butter and chocolate hit one evening, and it was that time…

Skippy hit the mark with a rich roasted peanut flavor, whether it was peanut spread or butter, but unfortunately, it totally missed the chocolate part of its name, dark or milk or even faintly hot-cocoa-ish in chocolate flavoring.  Sure, I liked less sugar and lower fat, but at what cost?

It was dark brown chocolate looking paste with no chocolate flavor at all.

I was hugely disappointed, and the peanut butter was set aside to make a trip to our granddaughter for a preschool taste test.  She had her choice–Jif whipped peanut butter with s’mores or Skippy peanut spread with dark chocolate.  She’s 3, okay? She doesn’t care what name is on the container, although after that initial taste test, she knew which one SHE wanted.

Sorry, Skippy, not even the three year old liked you better, despite getting served your product first.  Without trying the whipped kind.  After the whipped kind, she wasn’t willing to even try you again.

In the classic words of a three year old who doesn’t know anything about diplomacy yet, she announced it was “poop”.  Apparently, dark brown peanut butter looks gross to her, despite her love of chocolate (one of her first multi-syllable words).

So, if you are looking for Skippy peanut butter with chocolate, you can read more about it here.  Just don’t expect much along the lines of chocolate other than the coloring of the thick paste.

And for the record, she was right.  It isn’t an attractive color, especially since the only things chocolate about it is its color and the name on the jar.

If you’d like to read the review of Jif Whipped Peanut Butter & S’mores, find it right here.

 

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New Product-Jif Whips Whipped Peanut Butter & S’mores

I was recently asked to try & review Jif Whips Whipped Peanut Butter & S’mores.  I’ll confess, I had completely missed its debut on the market, and I guess it had been out a while.  The whole idea of whipped peanut butter was mystifying, and the idea of s’mores flavored peanut butter was mind boggling.

So, the tub of Jif Whipped Peanut Butter & S’mores arrived in due course.  It’s a seriously cute package too.

Jif Whips S'mores 15 9 oz  Tub_FrontSo we have to open it, right? Why wait?

With my husband as my dutiful (and chocoholic) assistant, the seal is broken and the contents are now accessible.  My first taste was via a spoon–I wanted to try it without anything else distorting its flavor.

Okay, whipped peanut butter does have a very different texture.  Remember how regular peanut butter sort of sticks to the inside of your mouth?  It has some serious sticking power too–it was long used to get dogs & horses to look like they were talking for movies and television shows.  I’ve used it to dupe innocent dogs into swallowing their pills many times too.  Whipped peanut butter has a whole new texture, and it actually feels rather silky in your mouth.

I’m one of those people that really can hate something just because of its “mouth feel”, also known as texture.  I despise anything that feels greasy or leaves a coating in your mouth too.  Right after texture, there is flavor, but then there is always the after-taste effect that can ruin many a great idea that has a poor finish.

Whipped peanut butter is silky, but does not have a greasy feel in your mouth.  It’s actually kind of fluffy, not dense at all.

Then, there’s the appearance.  It looks a bit like mousse, I suppose, definitely not the typical peanut butter spread.  The s’more flavor is also chocolate-y looking, and it’s really a yummy look.

The next thing to come to mind was Nutella.  Face it, we’ve all tried it.  It’s a great break up food, it’s a great I-got-fired food too.  It is also chocolate-y, sweet…and becomes decidedly cloying relatively quickly.  How did Jiff Whipped Peanut Butter and S’more fare against this comparison?

It isn’t nearly as sweet, which means we can skip the whole cloying sweetness issue.  You can taste the chocolate, the peanut butter…and something else, which I blame on the marshmallow & graham crackers in a regular s’more.  Somehow, they’ve managed to capture the combination in this smooth, fluffy spread.

Yeah, it isn’t peanut butter, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t GOOD!

It’s great on crackers–we tried it with graham crackers, Ritz crackers, and Townhouse crackers.  All great combinations that went well with the flavor of the Jif Whipped Peanut Butter and S’mores.  It comes with a recipe on the lid (at least our container did) for ice cream sandwiches using it, but we deemed that way too much work for our tastes.  (Summer is our too lazy to cook much, even ice cream sandwiches, season.)

But, that didn’t mean my mind wasn’t working on overdrive!

I make a cake to mimic the flavors of a peanut butter cup.  The problem there is to get the peanut butter flavor in the filling without it being too dense, as well as not loading a slice with so much fat and so many calories that we have to “save” a week’s worth of indulgence to have one small slice.  I can see the Jif Whipped Peanut Butter & S’mores coming into play as a fast solution to filling a cake–it’s got great flavor, and is fluffy enough to spread on a cake.  No more trying to whip peanut butter with butter and cream cheese to make a filling!  It would also make a great fast frosting for any cupcake or cake, as well as spreading on a muffin.  I can see a lot of places that I’d prefer whipped peanut butter over the traditional one in baking.

So how does it compare in terms of nutrition and ingredients?

I grabbed the containers from the kitchen, and here I have to confess, it’s a generic peanut butter.

For the peanut butter, serving size is 2 tbsp., delivering 180 calories, with 140 of those calories coming from fat.  That’s 15 grams of fat, 130 mg of sodium, 190 mg of potassium, 8 grams of carbohydrates, and 7 grams of protein in generic peanut butter.  It’s ingredients were: peanuts, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oil, dextrose, salt, molasses, and monoglycerides.

Jif Whips Whipped Peanut Butter & S’mores has a 2 tbsp. serving size, with 150 calories per serving, and 100 calories come from fat.  Whipped Peanut Butter & S’mores has 11 grams of fat, 60 mg of sodium, 10 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of protein.  Apparently, it has negligible amounds of potassium–it wasn’t listed on the panel.  The ingredients were more complex, including peanut butter (made from roasted peanuts and sugar with molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, mono and diglycerides, salt) S’mores flavored spread (sugar, peanut oil, cocoa, with natural and artificial flavors, corn starch, polyglycerol, esters of fatty acids) fully hydrogenated vegetable oils.

The suggested retail price for Jif Whips Whipped Peanut Butter & S’mores is $3.49 and has 15.9 oz. per container.  It’s also a limited edition, for the month of August.  I suppose that’s natural–August is also the traditional month of s’mores as summer winds down through most of America and the calendar is rushing headlong towards Labor Day and the inevitable change of seasons to fall and football.

Don’t wait–I know I saw Jif Whips Whipped Peanut Butter & S’mores at Walmart in Hattiesburg, and I am sure that it is gracing grocery shelves throughout the Gulf Coast as well.  It’s easy to spread, a delight to eat, and only here for a little while!

 

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Healthy Venezuelan Cooking by the Nomad Cook

In my other incarnation, I’m also a radio program host.  I interview a lot of authors, but it’s still a rare occasion to have an opportunity to interview the author of a cookbook.  On August 12th, I get to do just that when the Nomad Cook will join me to talk about writing her cookbook, Healthy Venezuelan Cooking.  You can listen to the program, Gia Scott’s Dawn of Shades, right here from 8-10 p.m. Central on Tuesdays.

I’m no expert on the cuisine of Central or South America.  I’m also not a Latin American cuisine expert.  The closest I come is a strong connection to the cuisine of Southwestern America, with its strong influences from indigenous Americans, as well as a heavy influence of immigrants from Europe and Asia.  I know a lot more about Sonoran style cooking than I do about anything further south in its origins.

With that said, the recipes and photos in Healthy Venezuelan Cooking were appealing.

The cookbook advocates a lighter, healthier style of preparation using healthier ingredients than more modern ones, even if I don’t necessarily agree with some of the ones advocated.  (I’m not a fan of canola oil, which is from rapeseeds…and I’ve also done entire programs on GMOs that included a lot of canola seed oil information.) Finding healthier oils is a real problem, and my best solution so far has been to simply use as little as possible, along with a heavy preference for olive oil whenever possible, which is also recommended for use in Healthy Venezuelan Cooking. It also focuses on low gluten and gluten free recipes, which is fantastic for those with celiac disease.

With that said, while I really like the cookbook, for those in the Gulf Coast region, there will be one serious problem in making most of the recipes.

We don’t have access to many of the ingredients.

There are far too few health food stores that carry organic groceries, and farmer’s markets are often our best sources.  That means that grass fed or range meats are nearly impossible to get without mail ordering them or raising them ourselves.  It also means that we are limited in access to a lot of the other ingredients, from seafood to fruit.

Granted, the Gulf Coast has access to fresh seafood galore, but…what is found here is not the same as that available in Venezuela.  I’ve never seen octopus or squid sold fresh here.  We also don’t see clams or mussels.

Then, there are the meats.  While I used to live where seeing chevon (goat meat) and mutton (adult sheep meat) were commonly found in grocery stores, it is not common here.  My family typically would roast goats in a pit for large family gatherings, and when telling someone about these events, they were horrified.  For some reason, they assumed that cooking a goat was some kind of satanic ritual, a connection that still mystifies me.  Goat meat is slightly stringy, usually lean, and has a mild flavor that I regard as somewhat similar to that of elk meat.  We also always ate either does or males that had been castrated at least 90 days prior to slaughter—I was always told that male goats (bucks) had a strong, unpleasantly gamey flavor if they were not castrated and fed for this period before slaughter, but I can’t swear that this statement is true.

Goat meat isn’t the most exotic meat included though.  There is a recipe using chiguire, which we know as capybara.  For those who are unfamiliar with the animal, it is the world’s largest rodent and is semi-aquatic.  I have never seen this for sale anywhere I have lived in the U.S.A.  Probably the closest thing available in the Gulf Coast region is the nutria, although since I’ve never eaten either one, I couldn’t swear to it being a good substitute either.  They are just similar animals, with the nutria being much smaller and more aquatic in its habits than the capybara is.  Even for nutria, to obtain it for cooking would require either hunting it yourself or getting someone else to do it for you—you won’t find it at the farmer’s market!

There are a lot of other foods that are completely unfamiliar to me, such as tostones, arepas, and corn flour P.A.N.  Other foods, while I have seen them in the grocery store or may have tried them a few times, are still not frequent stars in my own kitchen, such as plantains.

Overall, I found the cookbook fascinating, and I particularly like the personal touch of the accompanying stories putting the dishes into the context of life for the writer as anecdotes are shared.  This is something that few cookbooks do, but it can bring the foods to life for the reader.  While many of the recipes may be difficult to put together as written, with some adaptation, the overall feel of the recipe can be maintained as the style of cooking is adapted to available ingredients.  There are also numerous photos showing the dishes, and the directions included with the recipes are clear and easy-to-understand.  It is definitely a book that any serious foodie would enjoy, despite the difficulty in creating the dishes in many regions of the USA.

Healthy Venezuelan Cooking is currently available as a paperback through Amazon for $26.12 right here.  It’s a great idea for a gift for the foodie in your life as well.

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Fast green chili with carne picada

Everybody likes fast meals, if they are tasty.  This one might be a bit different than is commonly found on the Gulf Coast though, as it takes on a lot of Southwestern influence along the way.

It starts with the popular and convenient carne picada.  For those who are not familiar with it, it’s thinly sliced strips of meat commonly found in the meat coolers.  While it’s not top-of-the-line steak, it does work very well with a number of dishes, and this is one of those.  This comes together with cans and frozen vegetables to make a fast stew or filling for green chili burritos.

I happen to love green chili burritos that are stuffed with the thickened green chili and meat mixture, then covered with red enchilada sauce.  For speedy preparation while staying homemade as much as possible, this recipe uses a mixture of canned green enchilada sauce with homemade red enchilada sauce, sparing me from roasting chilies, preparing tomatillos, and slow cooking for an hour or more.

Green Chili (for burrito filling)

  • 3 tbsp plus 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 c. frozen fajita mix (peppers and onions)
  • 1 1/2 c. (roughly 1 lb.) carne picada (beef strips)
  • 1 lg. can green enchilada sauce
  • 2 cans chopped green chilies
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. instant beef stock (the paste kind)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano, crumbled (preferably Mexican oregano)

In large, heavy skillet, heat 2 tbsp. oil.  Add meat and fajita mix, cook, while stirring often until vegetables are tender.  Remove from skillet.

Heat 3 tbsp. vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add flour, stirring and cooking to make a roux.  Cook roux just until it is golden brown.  Add enchilada sauce all at once and whisk to create a smooth, thick sauce.  Reduce heat to low, and stir in instant beef stock, cumin and oregano.  Add meat mixture back into sauce.  Cook over low heat for 15-30 minutes, stirring often, until meat is tender.  Taste & adjust salt, if necessary.

Red Chili Enchilada Sauce

  • 1/4 c. red chili powder (without salt)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. instant beef stock (the paste kind)
  • 1 1/2 c. water

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.  Stir in flour, cumin, oregano, and chili powder.  Stirring constantly, cook for 1-2 minutes, ensuring that everything is a smooth paste.  Add water, whisking constantly to make a smooth sauce.  Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 3-4 minutes, continuing to whisk often.  Remove from heat.  Taste & adjust salt, if necessary.  Keep warm until served.

To assemble burritos: Spoon mixture into center of tortillas, folding ends towards the middle over the filling.  Starting on one side, fold and roll tortilla around filling to make a neat package.  Place burrito on plate and ladle enchilada sauce over burrito to cover entirely.  Sprinkle with finely shredded cheese.

To duplicate restaurant experience: accompany burrito with about 1 c. finely shredded lettuce, topped with about 2-3 tbsp. of diced tomato.  Top lettuce with 1 heaping spoon full of sour cream and about the same amount of prepared guacamole or sliced avocado.  Serve salsa on the side.  Refried beans and Spanish rice may also accompany burritos.

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Newly released on Smashwords!

There’s a new release on Smashwords, although it was previously released on Amazon, but it marks its debut into other formats besides that of Kindle.  It’s 56+ Marvelous Homemade Mixes.

I’m every bit as excited as I was when it was first released, and just as nervous.  This is a new format, and although I had help reformatting the content for Smashwords, it’s always nerve wracking as I wonder if something was overlooked in ensuring that it was in an easy-to-read format without errors.

To celebrate its new release, I’m offering a 50% off coupon to all of the blog readers.  That translates to $1.99 off, making the book cost just $2.

So how do you get your discount for being a loyal reader?

Just enter this coupon code when checking out on Smashwords: CY77U

That’s it.  Nothing to download.  No list to sign up for, no page on Facebook to like, and you don’t even have to follow me on Twitter!

(Although if you would LIKE to follow me on Twitter, you can.  I’m @giascott there!  My author page on Facebook is www.facebook.com/giascottblogs and I’d be thrilled to get a like there as well!  It’s not required though.)

You can find the book right here on Smashwords.

56+ Marvelous Homemade Mixes cover

56+ Marvelous Homemade Mixes cover

Smashwords blurb:

56+ Marvelous Homemade Mixes presents 56 different mixes, plus variations on many mixes,that can be made at home.

Take control of your family’s foods while keeping all of the convenience and speedy preparation we all love in our home kitchens by simply mixing these mixes in the comfort of your own kitchen. Whether you are the pioneering sort that loves doing it all yourself or the budget minded mother, there are recipes here to speed food preparation, as well as save your hard earned money.

Homemade mixes are good for the environment too, as far less packaging is used when you do it yourself. Making the mixes yourself means you have the option of using locally produced ingredients as well as homegrown ones.

Nothing is more appreciated as a gift than a homemade food gift too, and any of these mixes can be packaged into a thoughtful and tasty gift, ideal for hostess and holiday gifts.

Available formats: epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb

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At my house

I’m a really good cook, not a fancy cook.  I can be very creative at cooking.  I write about food, cooking, and recipes, and have done so for years now.

That doesn’t mean that every meal is a gourmet experience at our house.

Usually, it’s just the two of us here.  That means that if I’m working on a new cookbook, we’re apt to have a bit of experimenting going on in the kitchen, which gets to feeling more like a laboratory than a home kitchen during those experiments.  Sometimes, they are wonderful.  Other times, they can be so-so or even absolutely awful.

We do dine on those experiments, unless they are so awful we can’t.  Thankfully, experience means that the really awful rarely happens.

But just like any household, stuff happens.

Maybe at our house, stuff happens more often than not though.  We bought an old house, in serious need of renovations of all kinds.  We’re living the renovation experience on a shoe string.  That means they don’t always happen as fast as I would like or maybe even as fast as we need them to.  That results in frequent crisis management.

Current crisis management has us only cooling one room of the house.  That leaves the kitchen almost unbearably hot during the afternoon and early evening, that time of day when most of us are doing the major cooking of the day.  Add in the fact that I am now disabled, very intolerant of heat, and that shifts to absolutely miserable.

Then, there is the cooktop.  It died.  I turn it on, but nothing happens.  That isn’t all that convenient either.  Thankfully, I am an avid camper, which means that over the years, I have obtained numerous portable stoves.  I simply brought in a burner, and I’m an expert at one burner preparation of meals.  It doesn’t mean that it is convenient or desirable though!

So we all know what the Gulf Coast and southern Mississippi is like in late July.  It’s not exactly invigorating out there, and the only term that I can find that fits the mood the weather gives me is languid.  Languid is not inspiring for meal preparation.

It’s Sunday.  That traditionally means a big dinner, or at least a more elaborate one than most days of the week.  So what are we having?

We have a selection of ramen noodles or the option of peanut butter and a selection of jellies.

I’m not cooking.  

Sure, my husband can complain.  That’s fair enough.  I have an answer to the complaints too.  He knows how to cook, and he knows where everything is.  He can go cook dinner.  I am not going to cook!

Is it fair?

I think so.  It’s hot.  It’s miserable in the kitchen.  I don’t like being hot and miserable.  If he doesn’t like the solution to hot & miserable, he can wave HIS magic wand and complete the renovations, add air conditioning, and repair the cook top.  Mine’s broken!

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Grandchildren & the Cool Grandparent Badge

Being a grandparent is a lot different than it was being a parent.  Parts of it are a lot more fun, some things are a lot more frustrating, but it is just as much an adventure as it was being a parent.

While I tell my daughter that being a grandma means I’m a mom with experience, rather than the mom who was winging it, it’s only half true.  I haven’t seen a kid yet that comes with an owner’s manual, so it’s always a case of winging it.

There is one huge difference though.

As a grandparent, in general we aren’t responsible for the day to day routines or rules.  We are allowed to take their side, be their buddies, forget discipline, and just have fun.  That’s part of the reason that kids adore their grandparents too.

We can’t just spoil them with total abandon, however.  As grandparents, just like kids, we’re stuck with parental rules about some things, and sometimes, that includes food.  Sometimes, it’s for good reason, as when a child has a serious health problem or food allergies.  Sometimes, it’s a case of “mom knows best” or whatever the latest food fad regarding childhood nutrition is.  Then, it can get touchy.  Parents are potentially very unhappy when their rules are blatantly ignored.  That unhappiness can result in some serious family disputes, and even include exclusion of the grandparent from the child’s life.

Every grandparent wants their grandchildren to be healthy and happy.  That’s a given, and that’s the whole point to spoiling a grandchild on the occasions we can do so.  Sometimes, that means we can bend the rules a bit, or even push the limits on occasion.  So what does the modern grandchild want or like?

As unique as our children are, our grandchildren are just as unique.  What pleases one child may totally be refused by even their own sibling.  So how do we know what to get at the grocery store for that all-snacks-included-movie-marathon-weekend?

If  you don’t get to play the doting grandparent often, this can be a daunting goal with the approach of the coveted weekend with the grandchild or grandchildren.  Even with our one-and-only living just over an hour away, we don’t often have the opportunity to have her come spend a few days with us.  Everything from our own schedules, her schedule and her parents’ schedules can interfere with such lofty plans.  That makes knowing what is going to please her a challenge.

Start with asking the parents what the food rules are.  This is important if its a rare occasion and they may have food restrictions that you are not familiar with.  In my case, our granddaughter is sensitive to cinnamon, and we have to be careful with anything containing that as an ingredient or flavoring.

Next, find out what the favorite drinks and foods are, along with any particular dislikes.  We’re fortunate–our granddaughter loves broccoli and greens, and isn’t particularly picky about her foods overall.  With that said, her day to day preferences are as whimsical as her tastes in movies can be.  What pleases her today may be something she wants no part of tomorrow.

Then, there’s the packaging.  As parents, we’re always much more focused on nutrition and value than we are on the packaging, at least officially.  As grandparents, we are more interested in pleasing the child than using common sense.  After all, we have them a handful of days, not every day.  So, the cute packages of beverages may be a yes from a grandma, while mom may frown at the expense of purchasing that drink.

One clue as to what is apt to appeal is to find out what channel(s) they watch on television, then tune in on those channels yourself and watch some of their favorite programs.  You don’t have to enjoy the characters & plots–you are there to watch the commercials!  Those commercials are going to be the same ones that your beloved grandchild is getting day in and day out, and that’s usually going to show you what they are apt to want for snacks, treats, and beverages.  It’s also going to show you what they are apt to have on their wish list for Santa or upcoming birthday.

Then, the most effective way with most children is to simply plan the grocery store as the first outing specifically to acquire the desired foods.  Decide how much is reasonable, both in terms of cost and quantity, prior to going to the store.  Keeping excess on hand after the child goes home is fine, if it is a product that you will use or if the child is coming back within the shelf life of the food item.  Otherwise, any leftover items will need to be sent home with the child, and will surely advertise the spoil status with the parents!

Remember items that were a hit with  your kids when they were young or even from your own youth too.  Here is some that remain perennially popular because of their nature.

Jiffy Pop Popcorn–maybe it isn’t as amazing in 2014 as it was in 1970, but it is still going to thrill the younger crowd, and popcorn in general isn’t a totally unhealthy treat.  They love seeing the foil expand as the popcorn pops, and this is also a treat that works well over the campfire or on the kitchen stove.

Pigs in a blanket–yes, the hot dogs wrapped in dough and baked.  We called them wiener winks when they were wrapped in bread dough, or pigs in a blanket when crescent roll dough was used.  My kids loved them just as much, and for the hot dog crowd, they are always a sure bet.

Smoothies–frozen fruit, ice cold milk, a little sweetener, and your blender turns it into an almost-milkshake that pleases the kids, tastes good to adults too, and isn’t going to alienate the parents.  It’s also amazingly easy.  One of our favorites is blueberry or blueberry-banana, but ice cold pumpkin puree (from a can) along with some spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, a dash of allspice and a touch of vanilla) and brown sugar makes a delicious pumpkin pie flavored smoothie.  If cow’s milk is on the no-no list, choose an alternative such as soy, almond, or rice milk.  If its vanilla flavored, be careful about adding more.  Sweeteners may also need adjusting, as some of the non-dairy milk alternatives taste sweeter.

Pie Irons–whether it’s just a grilled cheese or something fancier, anything made in a pie iron is going to be a hit.  In my own childhood, we made fruit pies with buttered bread and any fruit pie filling from a can, and I was as delighted as if my grandmother had spent all day making a real pie from scratch, but it was much easier & quicker with the pie iron. They also work well on the campfire, and I used them with my own children for grilled cheese sandwiches as well as the fruit pies.  If you are buying a pie iron, they are not all made from cast iron these days, so read reviews for the brand–some pie irons are prone to becoming heat damaged.  Cast iron ones, while a bit more expensive, are much more durable.  These irons also usually come with a small recipe book to enable you to quickly become a pie iron expert (at least in the grandchildren’s eyes.)

Pasta–it’s cheap, easy, and comes in a large variety of sizes and shapes.  It also can be combined with other things to become pasta-and-cheese, as well as a long list of other favored foods.  Most children prefer foods on the bland side, so opt for less seasoning and fewer ingredients to stay kid-friendly.  For some strange reason, they also really like the boxed mac & cheese, which is usually simple to make as well.  If it isn’t favored by the grandparents themselves, make the boxed mac & cheese, and serve it alongside something more appealing to the adults, letting the child sample the adult friendly food while appeasing their desire for the familiar with the mac & cheese.  Who knows, they may soon discover that they love your balsamic roasted veggies or your rosemary chicken recipe!

Fried stuff–okay, I know that almost everyone over the age of 50 has been told to stay away from this type of food, but I’m not advocating eating it regularly.  The truth is, kids love fried foods, and most of us grandparents secretly do too.  Why not have a simultaneous satisfying experience as we all ignore the rules once in a while?  Vegetables, such as summer squash, onion rings or wedges, cauliflower, etc. are delicious when dipped in fritter batter and fried, typically served with ranch dressing as a dip.  Even fritters made with cubed chunks of pork, beef, or chicken becomes delicious when fried.  Many vegetables are available pre-breaded and ready to fry, including okra and summer squash.  French fries are also an option, but don’t forget the sweet potato fries!  We also like batter dipped potato wedges, eggplant, peppers, etc.  It’s a fun way to experiment too, and often children will sample vegetables this way that they would normally resist eating.

Fast food–this is something else that kids adore and parents typically don’t.  It also means easy meal prep for the grandparents as we opt for the kid’s meal or fast food.  It’s also appealing to the most difficult ages of all to please–the preteens and teens.  Let them choose the restaurant and either dine in or take it home to eat.

Pizza, whether homemade, frozen or delivered, is a sure fire hit if you get the right flavor.  Consult with the kid to find out what they want, whether it is pepperoni and extra cheese, plain cheese, spinach alfredo, or pineapple and Canadian bacon.  Cold pizza can also be reheated or eaten cold, so buying a whole pizza of a flavor that does not appeal to the adults is not a ridiculous waste.  It was also a favored breakfast food when I was a child, as well as with my own children.

Cold cereal can also be a delicious treat for dinner or even dessert.  There is no set in stone rule that says you can only eat it before noon!  If that’s what the kids like, why not? It’s easy, not expensive, and only dirties up a bowl & spoon too.  Some people also like it with ice cream as a dessert.

Frozen dinners come in a variety of types, and there are some that are marketed specifically to children.  Letting them choose their own meal is easy, and most are designed for heating in the microwave.  This is a great choice if your own meal is going to be something that isn’t necessarily favored by your grandchildren, as well as when you are going to opt for a frozen dinner as well.

Cold cuts-sandwiches are easy, most kids like them, and there are even pre-assembled kits designed for kids with immense appeal.  Often, these kits are not purchased by parents, and that makes them highly coveted treats.  Their purchase can make you the hero of the hour and qualify you as a cool grandparent.

Getting your “cool grandparent” badge isn’t hard.  It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t mean giving in to every little whim either.  Most kids desire just a short list of things, such as:

Listen to them.  Whether its their complaints, their hopes, their dreams, or even just a wild story, kids want someone who honestly is paying full attention to them, not just giving attention as lip service.  Listen to what they have to say and interact with them without passing judgement on everything.  That’s the cool part–you are not responsible for rule enforcement!

Treat them like they are intelligent and what they want does matter to you.  It may sound like it’s a silly thing to NOT do, but most kids don’t feel as though their opinions and desires are not taken seriously.  This was something that meant a lot to me as a child, to have grandparents that actually listened and thought I was intelligent.  Don’t treat them like they are silly or stupid or immature.  Treat them like their thoughts are just as important as anyone else’s are.

Be there for them, physically and emotionally.  That does not mean giving in to every demand and acting as their servants.  It means engaging them, getting them to participate and help in daily activities as well as special ones, and paying attention to them rather than your social network page or the soap opera  or whatever. They are important to you, so act like it!  Play with them, as in actually getting the toys in your hands and playing, not merely supervising the play.  Have tea parties, even if it’s fruit flavored drink instead of tea, and imaginary cookies.  Have grand expeditions in your backyard to some exotic land where there are cannibals and magical creatures.  Be a pirate, then a pirate princess.  Dress up with them.  Go fishing.  Have a picnic.  Lay on your back and find shapes in the clouds.  Make pancakes with smiley faces in them.  Have some mud pie fun.

Set boundaries and expect them to abide by those boundaries.  None of us like having to have rules or be a disciplinarian.  We’ve done that already, but all children need to know that certain things are not allowed.  Whether it is certain objects or areas are off limits or that certain words are off limits, knowing what is and what isn’t allowed when with the grandparents is important to kids too.  These rules have nothing to do with home or their parents either–they are strictly to make your interaction with your grandchild pleasant for both of you.  These might include things like leaving tools alone, not getting into Grandma’s jewelry box, no hitting, and no calling anyone names.  Be clear about what the punishment will be for violating rules as well, whether or not warnings are issued before punishment is inflicted, etc.

What happens at your house, stays at your house.  That means not snitching on minor misbehavior to the parents, keeping conversations confidential, and in general inspiring the child to believe that you are a safety valve for them.  It’s all about trust, and just like any other relationship built on trust, it may be easily given but not so easily regained if that trust is ever violated.  Treat it like a treasured gift, because it is.

Be honest with your grandchild.  If you can’t afford a desired item, just say so!  Don’t make plans that you can’t carry out, and when the occasions happen that do put a damper on plans, explain the situation honestly, whether its health related, budget related, or job related.  Many children feel as though adults hide things from them, making them uneasy and suspicious, as well as prone to imagining things as worse than they really are.  Stick to the truth, even if you don’t tell all!

Above all, enjoy the grandkids.  We only have them for short periods of time, usually, and then they go home to school, childcare, and parental rules.  We’re not part of the daily loop, and as such, we’re like a treat in itself to the child and we should look on time with them the same way–it’s a treat.

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