Thursday, October 30, 2008

Soup's on... it's not cold outside but let them eat soup.

In the early Fall once the days grow shorter I am ready for soup. I could easily eat soup 365 days a year. Yes, even in Mexico! How well I remember the "Soup Nazi" of the old Seinfeld episodes. I can truly appreciate his love of the fine art of Soup making! There is something very comforting, communal & almost primitive in 2008 about throwing everything into a pot. Soups also are a way of stretching a dollar & feeding the masses. My mother used to make this soup & serve it with hot cornbread. It is wonderful way of using up the obligatory "holiday ham".
It matters not what the temperatures are when a yearning for a favorite warm & nourishing meals hits. These simple ingredients are a welcome change from the hot & spicy flavors we dine on South of the Border. Generally it's just like Mom used to make but on occasion I do mix this recipe it up a bit! Bon Appetite~

Mom's Ham & Cabbage Soup
4 tbsp. butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/4 c. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
6 c. hot water
4 c. shredded cabbage
1 bay leaf
4 c. diced cooked ham
3/4 c. sour cream
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Melt butter in 4 quart Dutch oven, add onion and celery and cook until tender. Blend in flour, salt and pepper. Gradually stir in hot water. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Add cabbage and bay leaf. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes, or until cabbage is tender. Stir in ham and cook 4 minutes more. Remove bay leaf. Stir some of the hot mixture into sour cream. Then stir sour cream mixture into hot mixture. Serve with chopped parsley. Makes 10 cups.
**For a decadent change: add wild rice on occasion & garnish with toasted slivered almonds.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cinnamon Rolls-Scents from heaven~~~~

My mother has always been my kitchen inspiration, I recently asked her for a recipe she used to make when our family lived in Alaska. In my memories there will never be a more sensual & wonderful experience than the rich spicy cinnamon scents drifting from Mom's kitchen. Whether it was the warm home cure of cinnamon stick tea or her cinnamon rolls the scents will always be heavenly. As the days here in Mexico grow shorter & the heat seems to lessen I am more nostalgic about baking & things "Fall-like" even when the temperatures still seem tropical. Mom used a batter bread recipe for her rolls which makes up fast & delivers great cinnamon bread or cinnamon rolls. My variation uses dried cranberries & raw mascobado sugar. With the wide variety of dried fruit & nuts available truly any flavor or variation would be nice. Experiment, enjoy & share!

Cinnamon Rolls

* 1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast
* 1 1/3 cups warm water
* 3 1/4 cups flour
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1 teaspoons salt
* 1 tablespoons shortening, softened
* Cinnamon, 2 Tbsp (more if needed)
* 1/2 Brown Sugar or Mascobado (raw) Sugar
* 1/2 Pecans, chopped
* 1/4 Dried Cranberries

Dissolve yeast in water, in a large bowl.
Add half the flour, and the sugar, salt,and shortening.
Blend at low speed, then beat 2 minutes at med speed.
Mix in remaining flour by hand.
Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Stir the batter hard for 30 seconds.
Spread onto floured board into a rectangle(batter will be sticky). Use enough flour to work into smooth dough. On the center of the rectangle dot with dried cranberries, chopped pecans, sprinkle with cinnamon & brown or mascobado sugar & 2 Tbsp. melted butter. Roll lengthwise into long log shape. Cut into 2 to 2/1/2 inch cinnamon rolls. Place upright, exposing sliced end upward into a prepared baking dish (9X13)*Prepare the pan by spraying with baking spray, sprinkle with 3 Tbsp. pecans, 1/4 c. brown or mascobado sugar. Lay the cinnamon rolls inside the pan. Bake at 350* for 30 min. or till the cinnamon rolls are golden brown & brown sugar is bubbling around the edge of the pan. Turn the cinnamon rolls out onto platter after the pan is cool enough to touch but still warm. Rearrange any of the "topping" so the glaze is evenly distributed onto the cinnamon rolls. Serve warm.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tuna casserole~not!

He's out of what do I make???
Tuna casserole is one of the foods my husband & I had to agree to disagree upon years ago. He has never wanted to darken that door again as an adult. I don't know how he was worn out on the classic Tuna Noodle delight but he truly dislikes every part of the creamy,gooey pasta & crunchy topping we all grew up with. Apparently it occupies some dark epicurious cavern within my his childhood. He doesn't want tuna casserole, warm tuna or really much of anything tuna!! We now live in a country where tuna dishes seem to pop up where one least expects it. I've witnessed tuna stuffed peppers, tuna empanadas, aspics & oceans of tuna products that are too off the wall to mention. Mexico has gone upscale in the Tuna world as well. I routinely see $75.00 Jars of Spanish Tuna packed in oil. *Yes, that is 75 American dollars!! Tuna is both gourmet & pedestrian at the same time in Mexico.
Tuna Casserole is the dish I've made over the years if & only if the Mister isn't in town. On that note I've found a rather grown up, lightened up version which while it's not a casserole is certainly a pleasing substitute for the old worn & tired Tuna Casserole.

Sweet Pea & Tuna Salad

4 cups short pasta, such as shells or orecchiette
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 6-ounce cans tuna, drained
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and rinse under cold running water.
In a large bowl, combine the pasta, peas, celery, onion, parsley, and tuna. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, salt, mustard, and pepper. Pour over the salad and gently toss. Serve at room temperature or chilled
~Gleaned from the pages of Real Simple magazine. (One of my favorite American magazine I export back South of the Border with me!)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Like strawberry wine...

Did you know strawberries are a member of the rose family? The Romans revered the strawberry for medicinal qualities, hardly surprising considering the concentration of vitamin C, A, Potassium & Antioxidants. In the United States the annual per capita consumption of fresh and frozen strawberries is 4.85 pounds. Americans eat 3.4 pounds of fresh strawberries each year plus another 1.8 pounds frozen per capita...I don't know if we quite come up to those numbers here in Mexico but we are able to find fresh strawberries almost 365 days a year.
The most recent Fall kitchen caper yielded a vintage crop of preserves combining Cabernet Sauvignon & Fresh Strawberries~that's actually 2 ingredients high in antioxidants.

Strawberry Cabernet Sauvignon Preserves
1 1/2 Quart firm, ripe strawberries, hulled & cleaned
1 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup Cabernet Sauvignon wine
4 cups Mascobado or raw sugar
1 packet Sure Jell fruit pectin
4 half pint canning jars & lids, sterilized
Place strawberries & vinegar in large kettle or dutch oven. Bring to a medium boil for 5 minutes then add sugar & wine. Return to a low boil 15 to 20 minutes, stirring constantly. Strawberries will become clear & syrup will thicken. Skim off any foam, also adding 1 teaspoon of butter at this point into the pot will lessen any foam forming. Add Pectin, remove from heat, ladle into prepared jars filling within 1/8 inch of tops. Place in water bath, water must cover jars, process for 10 minutes in boiling water. Remove jars, cool & store.
Preserves are preserved fruits so they can contain whole or chunky pieces of preserved fruits.
Buen Provecho!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sopa de Tortilla~perfect for a rainy day or any day?

When the rains keep falling we make soup in Mexico.
Mexico has many traditional sopas, guiso & caldos but our all time favorite is Tortilla soup. I love soup when cooler temperatures hit but in Mexico that's not always the case. When our recent flooding & rains continued I used it as an excuse for cooking up a pot of Sopa. Lord knows, at the end of a day of rain & navigating flooded roadways it really hits the spot.

When it rains in Mexico it pours. Last week's downpours did bring cooler temperatures but the roads in Santiago were difficult at best to navigate for several days. Our entrance to our Colonia was completely flooded out & of the 2 alternate routes only 1 was was open. The flood control arms we are used to seeing in the states are non existent here. My driver had to be enlightened on the amount of water it takes to move a car off of a flooded spillway. He seemed prepared to fearlessly head into the high water at one point. I told him in the Texas public service announcement format: "Turn around, don't drown", "Two feet of water can lift approx. 3000 lbs"!!! Under no circumstances would I sit in the back seat quietly with flood waters hitting the underside of the Audi! (Fearless Latin driving has no place on a flooded roadway.) After arriving back at our house I knew it was soup weather if not temperatures in Mexico.

Sopa de Tortilla
12 small corn tortillas, cut into strips
6 cups Chicken stock
2 large chicken breasts with skin & bones
3 chiles pasilla, lightly fried & crumbled*(see below!)
6 Tbsp. Grated Queso Chihuahua or Monterrey Jack
3 large tomatoes, broiled (can substitute 13 oz can, drained)
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2/3 cups chopped carrots
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
Avocado, diced onion for garnish

Cook chicken breasts in stock, pull off meat,skin & chop & reserve stock leaving 6 cups of original stock along with the meat. Set this mixture aside.
In a large dutch oven heat 6 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil. Fry tortilla strips till crisp & drain on paper towels. There should be a remaining 2-3 Tbsp. oil. Use a blender to blend tomatoes, onion & garlic to rough puree. Cook this mixture 5 min. in oil, Add Cumin, black pepper, carrots, 3 Tbsp. Cilantro, add in the Chicken stock & chicken. Simmer soup 15 min.
Serve Soup with garnish of tortilla strips, avocado, onion, cilantro & cheese.
*Frying the dried chiles pasilla for the first time was a dangerous undertaking, I didn't realize they tend to explode, make certain to fry the peppers at low to med. heat & very quickly. These peppers add a wonderful flavor, don't omit them altogether. Enjoy!