Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Crock Pot Ropa Vieja

Mexican is defiantly my favorite type of food. This Ropa Vieja can be eaten as a stew or with soft shell tacos and the sides. For seconds we served it over mashed potatoes. The flank steak is a tougher cut of meat and in the end comes out looking like little ropes or ropa.  For additional hotness, add a roasted, seeded Poblano chili and potatoes may also be added along with root veggies for more of a stew.

1 1/2 lbs flank steak
1 can diced tomatoes drained
1 can tomato sauce
1 green pepper diced
1 medium onion cut into rings
2 minced garlic cloves
Adobo seasoning
5-6 capers
10 green olives
1 TBSP cumin
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 TBSP  Italian seasoning

Season the steak on both sides with the Adobo seasoning. Place in a crock pot with the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-6. Remove the steak and shred with two forks. Return to the meat back to the crock pot and serve with tortillas or over rice.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mini Caramel Apples Drove Me Insane!

I saw this on Pinterest and it looked so easy and cute. This is one of those projects that drove me insane! It would seem simple enough to poke Popsicle sticks through some melon balled apples. More often than not the sticks broke the apples. I had made about 60 balls and only came out with about 50 good ones.

Make this in small batches! It is helpful to have someone helping you. The caramel sets up really fast. I used 5 caramels at a time in a coffee mug. I microwaved it for 30 seconds at a time. It took about one minute and some mixing to make it smooth. The caramel WON'T stick if the apples are wet. You have to dry them about 3-5 times. I had them soaking in lemon juice but they will turn brown. Immediately after dipping they need to go in the freezer for the caramel to set. I recommend using two cookie sheets if making different flavors. Mine got stuck together on the try. Hence separating the flavors.

1 bag apples like Fuji or Granny Smith
2 pkgs Kraft Caramels unwrapped
A melon baller
1 coffee cup
a spoon 
popsicle sticks
2 boxes theater candy or cookies crushed
lots of patience!

Use a melon baller to remove the melon shape from the apple. Soak in lemon juice and water. Poke the sticks through at least 5 apple pieces at a time. Dry them with a paper towel about three times. Melt the caramels in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and place in for another 30 seconds. Stir until melted.  Tip the coffee cup sideways and dip the apple in caramel. Quickly move it to the topping and then into the freezer on a cookie sheet. Repeat this process a bunch more
times! If the topping doesn't stick, dry with a paper towel,  or use a spoon to pour over the apples. If the caramel isn't soft enough put back in the microwave for 10 seconds. Stir and try again. I went through the whole two bags of caramels.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Baba Ganoush or Eggplant Dip

If you love hummus, you will love this Baba Ganoush. No special tools needed here but a food
processor is helpful! I used only one large eggplant for this recipe. You can easily double it and make it for a party. It is low in calories and great with homemade pita chips. This is one snack you don't have to feel guilty about. A touch of plain yogurt adds a extra zip. The garlic can be roasted or added fresh. I have a garlic mincer which comes in handy. If roasting the garlic add double. I didn't have a paper bag handy and used a covered Tupperware bowl to get the skin to easily peel off.

Baba Ganoush (Eggplant Dip)

1 lg. eggplant
2 cloves garlic
1-2 TBSP lemon juice
2 TBSP Tahini
2 TBSP plain yogurt
1/2 to 1 tsp. Kosher salt
2 TBSP olive oil

Pierce the eggplant all over with a fork. Use your stove top burners to char the eggplant. It may crackle or catch fire at times. This is part of the process. This takes some time. Use tongs if it becomes too hot to handle.  Pre heat your broiler and put eggplant on a cookie sheet. Broil for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and place in a paper bag or a covered Tupperware bowl. Peel
off the eggplant skin. A paper towel can be used to get the remaining char off. Cut off the bottom of the eggplant. Then cut it in half. You will see the seeds in channels on the bottom of the eggplant. Cut slits upwards and use the knife to get the seeds out. The seeds won't kill you, but they may be bitter. Roughly chop the eggplant and place in a food processor. Add the Tahini, yogurt, salt and olive oil.  You may add more olive oil if you think it's too thick. Pulse until smooth. Add more salt to taste and the lemon. Pulse a few more times until smooth. Place in the fridge to completely cool. Top with cilantro and enjoy with pita chips.

Pita Chips

1 bag Kangaroo brand pita pockets
PAM or olive oil
a cookie sheet

Turn the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the pitas into 4-6 pieces each pita half. Spray with Pam or toss in some olive oil to coat. Top with Kosher salt. Bake for 5-7 minutes per side. Remove and let cool.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Crock Pot Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwiches

If you've ever been to Chicago's A-1 roast beef, you'll love this easy crock pot version of Italian Beef Sandwiches! The only thing I had to do stove top was reduce the wine to cook the alcohol out. I also opted for a lean chuck roast. (only $6.00) Not only was it more economical than a blade roast, the small amount of fat added flavor. Serve on bollilo or hoagie rolls. The house will smell amazing all day. It basically turned into a delicious pot roast sandwich.

Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwiches

1 green pepper cut into 1/4" pieces (red pepper diced optional)
1 medium onion cut into large pieces
2 bay leaves
2 cups beef stock
2 cloves garlic minced 
1 cup red wine reduced for 5 minutes
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 lean 3 lb beef chuck roast or blade roast

Season the beef on both sides with the salt and pepper. Reduce the wine on stove top until alcohol is cooked out (5 minutes or so) Add the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, pepper flakes, onions, and green pepper into the crock pot. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8. Use an electric knife to cut the beef into thin slices. Season the broth with more salt if necessary.  Return the meat to the crock pot. Serve on the rolls with a bowl of the Au Jus.

Note: to defat the broth you can either cool it down by sticking it in the fridge when you are cutting the beef and then skim the fat off or use a fat separating measuring cup. I also used the old spoon method by skimming the broth with a big spoon and discarding the fat.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Auditioning for Master Chef: Chicago What's it Like?

I have been a fan of Fox's "Master Chef "since day one. My hubby always tells me that he thinks I can win. I love him! This is the first time I have tried out for the show. My family and I traveled to Chicago via the Metra on Friday and  stayed at the Homewood Suites.  They have a  kitchen in the suites. (Which I later found out didn't have a oven) The auditions were held at the hotel we had our honeymoon at 17 years ago, the Congress. The Congress lobby is beautiful but the rooms need work. There is no place to heat up your food either at the audition..They tell you to bring something that will travel well and not to worry about the temperature of your food. I purchased a insulated bag from Walgreens that I stocked up with goodies. We got in from the Metra and a pretty good walk to the Homewood Suites and then headed off to Whole Foods which was a few blocks away.
chicken roulade with spinach and sun dried tomatoes

I got back to the hotel and could hardly sleep. I ended up getting up at 5:30AM to prepare my dish. One problem, there was no oven to bake my dish  like I practiced. I ended up  poaching my Chicken Roulade wrapped in Saran Wrap. Don't worry! I researched what plastic wraps were BPA free. I put all of my ingredients in Zip loc tubs and into a hot bag and then into the thermal bag.

I was running late!  By the time we got to the Congress, it was 8AM. The line was down the hall but not as bad as I expected. I had to finish my application again because I left the one I had filled out back home. I printed one out at the Business center in my hotel.  Next step was a table where they look over your application and then into a large room to sit and wait. My number was 172. Our group was called to go down to some waiting busses. We weren't sure where we were going. At first I thought the auditions were being held somewhere else. We were being chauffeured to Grant Park right across the street. The crew shot some outside shots where we marched chanting "Master Chef" and held up signs. There were also some chosen people that got to shout out what their professions were. That was judged on unusual looks. There was a paratrooper in a kilt and others with bright colored hair. I was close to the camera and hope to get in some shots. Seriously I was sweating buckets and getting sun burned. I am very fair skinned.

Then back to the auditions. We had to wait again. Our group was about 24 people. I somehow got in the first spot in our group. When our group got called  we waited on a ramp for the room doors to open. The nervousness was palatable. There was much fidgeting and moving around. Finally after a 25 minute or so wait, we were let in the doors.

It was in a beautiful ball room. There were tables in a rectangle and we had to race around to find our spots. I had secured the number one spot. We weren't allowed to take any pictures at all. I did set up my dish again at the hotel so you could see what it looked like. We were given hand sanitizer and told we had three minutes to plate our dish. We were allowed to set up all of our ingredients on the table first. I had forgot my plate and knife back home so I was using hotel borrowed plates. My heart was pounding really hard and then the time was up. A chef came around to taste my food. I couldn't hear him. I think because my heart was pounding in my ears.  He asked me to describe my dish and tasted it. He asked me what methods I used too. Then a casting director, Kristen came around and talked to us. Alas, my number was not called at the end. My number was 172 and they called 171. Another person won for making brownies. I think they were looking more for stories and certain looks. Finally I got to leave around 2PM.

I may not have won but  I feel proud I tried something new. I started cooking at age 12 out of necessity. I, like many, was a latch-key kid.  My first experience cooking something from scratch wasn't a good one. I made green beans. I thought you could us a regular zip loc as a boil bag and I ended up burning my stomach pretty bad. That didn't stop me from cooking though! I moved out when I was 18 and became the cook for my roommates. My grandma was a wonderful cook but very crabby. I learned some of her dishes. My Mom only made about 7 different dishes. I became very adventurous and a food porn addict. I would see something on TV and then try to make it myself. I haven't always been a perfect cook but I never gave up and  keep on learning.  Well, there is always next time! This experience has made me love food even more. I don't need a judge to validate how good my food is. As long as my loved ones and friends love it, that's all that matters!

Tips for Auditioning:

1) Bring something to eat. You will be there 5-8 hours. We only got free water.
2) Show up early. Auditions were at 10AM. Plan on getting there 2-3 hours early. I was told that if you aren't in line by 12 Noon, you won't be seen.
3) Have a story. The guy next to me had a amazing story. I thought mine was amazing too lol
4) Know your food. Don't make something you have never made before. I make mine for about 5 weeks straight. Be sure you know you prepared it.
5) Make some friends. I made a lot of new friends standing in line.
6) Be as perky and bubbly as humanly possible.
7) Have fun! Enjoy the moment. You are lucky to have the chance to audition.
8) Wear comfy clothes. This salesperson was walking in the mud at Grant Park in her heels. She got on TV too! I was smart and wore tennis shoes. You might be standing for a few hours.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Better than Starbucks Iced Coffee

Starbucks is raising their prices again! I am a Starbucks gold card member but had to cut back due to

being out of work with my surgery injury. Here is a very inexpensive way to make the recipe at home. I store my batch of concentrate in the fridge (for up to a week) Use some of the iced  coffee concentrate to make coffee ice cubes. This way your flavor won't get watered down. I save on calories by adding skim milk instead of creamer. You could also make it like an Americano and substitute water for cream. I use 3 packs of Splenda but again use sugar to your liking.

Iced Coffee

12 TBSP  ground coffee
water up to the 8 cup line in your coffee pot

That's it! Easy peasy right? Brew the coffee as normal. Cool down the coffee and store in a picture or mason jar. Add coffee ice cubes to a bar glass. Pour the coffee concentrate halfway up the glass. Add water, creamer, or milk up the glass the rest of the way. Sweeten with your choice of flavorings or sugars. Enjoy!
coffee concentrate

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Korean Beef Tacos and Garlic Spiced Green Beans

I love to experiment and try different foods. This is a combination of a few Korean Spiced Beef that I have researched and combined together. The result was delicious! I had also canned about 10 lbs of green beans. I thought they would be the perfect accompaniment to the delicious taste of the Korean Spiced beef tacos. You could also eat this over rice with some veggies stir fried in if you didn't want to use the tortilla.  We grilled the

Korean Spicy Beef Tacos


1/4 cup sesame seed oil
1 small onion
1 Asian Pear cored
1/2 cup  soy sauce
1 TBSP sesame seeds
5 cloves garlic minced
1 TBSP minced ginger
3 thin cut rib eye steaks cut on the bias

I stuck my rib eye steaks in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This makes them easier to cut. I cut against the grain and make the pieces thin. You could fry these in oil or do what we did. We lined the grill with tin foil and grilled the pieces for 5-10 minutes.

This is probably the most money I spent on dinner all week at $14.00. You could use a tougher cut of meat like round steak or flank steak. In the food processor I added the onion, and Asian Pear and minced it very fine. The Asian Pear adds a different kind of sweetness to the dish. Marinate for 3-24 hours.
Remove thee meat from the marinade and either grill or fry. The meat should not turn gray. Just light brown. Serve over rice or with soft shell tacos, cucumber, radishes, and bib lettuce. I also served Siracha on the side. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before serving.

Garlic Green Beans

1 1/2 lbs green beans
2 TBSP oil
4 cloves garlic minced
2 TBSP soy sauce

Toss the green beans in the oil and stir fry until crispy tender. Add the garlic and soy sauce. Toss to coat.Top with sesame seeds. Season with additional salt if necessary.