Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tacos in England with Taco Seasoning

Life in England is far cry from the US, let along Vegas.  There are so many things that way different!  Rain, cell phone service, stores and restaurants not open past 7 or on Sundays, trees and grass... just about everything.  I had my first encounter with a plumber last week.  We had a pin hole in our en-suite bathroom tap, as they call it here.  After calling the first plumber to come look at it to confirm for our landlords, it took 2 weeks for the next one to come fix it.  It then took 3 hours for him to replace the faucet.  Not a fancy faucet, just a typical run of the mill faucet.  Crazy!  The hubs just kept asking me how it took so long and I honestly didn't have an answer.  Besides the 15 minute personal call he made half way into it, the guy seemed to be working the whole time.  Oh well, I guess we can all slow down from time to time.  Right? 
My kids have discovered the wonderment of snails since we've been here.  They think they are the coolest things ever.  We see snail slime all over the place while we walk to the bus stop and sometimes after a rain will catch a little guy on his way or hanging out.  They try to collect empty shells when they can and some are pretty neat.  But even the snails, I swear, are slower! 
Here's a little guy we saw this morning :)
With everything changing and new and different to get to used to and figure out we try to keep at least some normalcy.  We all love Mexican food and learned to love it even more in Vegas.  We typically have "Taco Tuesday" that isn't necessarily always tacos, or always on Tuesday for that matter, but at least Mexican.  We'll have quesadillas, Chicken Tacos and Red Rice, tortilla soup or just regular ground beef tacos or taco salad.  We don't discriminate with our Mexican foods.  :)  As I have said though, everything is slower here, even the avocados take weeks to ripen.  I had never seen such a green avocado until coming here, not even in Ohio!  So, guacamole isn't made quite as easily or as often, but we make due. 
This is my favorite basic Taco Seasoning recipe.  I like to make my own because then then I know what's in it, it tastes better and then I can add it to whatever I'm making too. 

Taco Seasoning

Mix Altogether:
1 cup minced dried onion
1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 cup garlic powder
1/4 cup cumin
2 T oregano
2 T salt
1 T paprika
2-3 T red pepper flake (optional)
2-3 T cornstarch (optional) I like to add this to give it a thickener when it is cooked with the beef.  It helps give it that thicker sauciness that you get from the packets at the store if you like that. 

Store in an airtight jar or container.

Directions:  Cook 1lb ground beef.  Add 1-2 T taco seasoning to taste and 1/2 cup water, stir and let simmer 5-10 minutes.  Fill your taco and eat!

Mason jars are great for storing stuff like this!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sausage Calzones with Freezer Friendly Pizza Dough

Almost every family has a pizza night or that night that they need a quick grab and go meal or it's mom's night off or whatever your reasons are, you have it.  We don't tend to order pizza out much, we either buy the good old frozen ones or make our own.  But even my kids get tired of the same old pizza every now and then.  In steps Calzones!  I don't know what Italian momma came up with these babies, but she is one of my heroes!  (I don't know if it was an Italian mom, just figured because they are an Italian food and genius. :) )We've done the make your own pizza style ones, but my favorite are sausage and cheese filled.  Yum! 
In making our pizzas or calzones I usually make our own dough.  You can buy premade dough to roll out in the can or even fresh sometimes, but homemade is so simple and really only uses a few ingredients that save you a butt ton of money.  Plus, it tastes better!  I love this recipe because you can mix up a bunch and even freeze the dough to keep for later.  Again, genius!

2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F.)
1 Tablespoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoons oil (vegetable, Canola, or olive oil)
5 cups flour (can use all whole-wheat, half white/half whole-wheat, or all white) (plus more for rolling out if use right away)
(I reduced the amounts of a few ingredients from the original and we tend to like the taste a little bit better.)
Pour the warm water into a bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir to dissolve.
Add the remaining ingredients and mix.
Dump onto a floured surface and knead dough for two to five minutes until smooth and no longer sticky.

To freeze: Cut lump of dough in half and place each half in an airtight freezer bag. Freeze for up to 4-6 weeks.
To bake: Place frozen dough in a greased bowl and thaw at room temperature for at least 3-4 hours. Roll out and shape onto a greased pizza pan.
Add pizza toppings of your choice. Bake at 450 degrees for around 15 minutes (until the crust looks crispy and lightly browned).
If you don’t want to mess with freezing the dough, take the kneaded dough and roll out and shape onto a greased pizza pan. Add pizza toppings and bake as directed above.

Now for the filling....

Sausage Calzone Filling

1 large Ricotta cheese
2 cups Mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 eggs
1 lb sausage
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves,  minced
1 T olive oil
1-2 recipes of Pizza Dough

Heat oil in a skillet and cook onion and garlic until they are soft.  Add in sausage and cook and crumble until lightly browned.  Drain meat.  Let cool about 20-30 minutes.
While sausage is browning, mix in a large bowl: cheeses, eggs and Italian seasoning.  Stir in slightly cooled meat mixture and mix well. 
Roll out pizza dough and cut into small portions.  (I get about 12 out of 1 dough recipe, but this makes a lot of filling so I usually do a double dough recipe.)
Spoon filling into 1 half of rolled out dough potion, fold over other half and pinch to seal shut.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes or until browned.
**You can bake, cool and freeze these too.  They are really good! 

**To make gluten free ones I make my dough like this....
Mix together:
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup oil
2-3 cups of gluten free flour or gluten free Bisquick.
Gluten free pizza dough is much wetter and stickier than regular dough.  I always add more flour to make it a little easier to roll out in some way.  It will crack if you add too much flour.  You have to play with it a bit to get it how you like it.  Just remember that it is not going to look or work the same as other dough.  I got 4 calzone out of this 1 recipe.  Bake them the same as the others at 450 for 15-20 minute or until browned.  If you prefer or have a better GF pizza crust recipe you like, then by all means use that!  Then tell me what it is!  I'm still searching for that one that I love. 

Pretty little calzones all in a row!

Gluten Free Calzone for me!

Now, I did 1 recipe of gluten free crust and got about 4 of those and then did a double recipe of regular dough and got about 18 calzones and still had some dough left over.  This is what happened with the leftover dough...  Cinnamon Rolls! Yes, I could have frozen it, or even just baked it like a free form bread to have, but no.  My family needed breakfast in the morning.  :)

Cinnamon Rolls

On a floured surface roll out your dough to make a thin rectangle.
Melt 4-6 T of butter and pour over dough.  Spread evenly.
Mix together 3/4 cup sugar and 2 T cinnamon (or just sprinkle it all on separate) and get dirty and spread it all together over dough to the edges.  Mix more if you need more.
Start at one end and carefully roll until you get a log. 
Slice in 1-2 inch disks and place in a baking dish to fit your rolls.
Refrigerate over night or bake on the spot.  (If you refrigerate, let sit at room temp for about 1 hour before baking.)
Bake at 425 for about 30-40 minutes or until browned and bubbly.
Pour icing on and eat!

**For the icing I just mixed 2-3 cups powdered sugar with 3-4 T milk and a little vanilla.  Use a can or make your own, whatever you like. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Homemade Chicken Stock from a Cooked Rotisseri Chicken

Not a surprise that I love to cook and that I love soups.  So many recipes call for chicken broth or stock, and I would much rather add that than some powdered stuff or water.  The flavor of a good chicken stock can add so much to a recipe.  Heck, even just to plain rice!  You can easily find a good stock in box, but anymore they keep getting more and more expensive.  And to make your own, the price of whole fryer chickens is getting more and more expensive too.  Then I remembered reading about using a rotisserie chicken.  Boom!  You know, the ones at the grocery store that usually cost $5-6?  Again, how that makes sense that it's cheaper to buy a cooked one compared to a raw one is beyond me.  Nonetheless, it is.  Rotisserie chickens are great for just eating as is, for a quick meal, using to make chicken salad, add to casseroles or soups.  Tons of things!  The meat is good and usually always quite flavorful.  Sometimes they even come in different flavors.  Ooo, fancy! 
Ok, back on track....  I read a blog before about someone using rotisserie chicken bones (or carcass) to make homemade stock.  So you can use the meat for whatever and then make your own stock, all for $5.  Yes, please!  Here's what I did. 
Step 1:
Removed all the meat from the carcass of the bird.  Get down and dirty with it!  Save everything, skin and all.  You'll get roughly 4 or more cups of shredded to chicken.  Eat it, use it, freeze it. 

Step 2:
Take the whole carcass, and anything else you got and put it into a large pot. 
Cut up any veggies you have laying around.  Onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, even a lemon or whatever else.  You'll want about 4-6 cups worth of cut up veggies.  (I used a small onion, 2 carrots, 1 zucchini, and very small amount of cauliflower including it's leaves) 
Also, add in a clove or two or three of garlic.  Smash it or cut it in half to make sure you get all the flavor out of it. 
Next, add in some herbs.  If you have fresh ones, throw in a few leaves or sprigs of whatever you have.  If you have dried, like I did, add in what you got.  Sprinkle on some Rosemary, Thyme, Parsley, pepper, salt, whatever you like.
Lastly, fill with water.  You want to fill it to just about covering all the veggies.
Step 3:
Put on the lid and let it come to boil, then lower to simmer.  Simmer for about 3-4 hours.  Your house will small amazing while it simmers!  You want to let it cook until the bones are soft and will bend.  Maybe not a leg bone, but a smaller rib bone will be able to bend in half.  

Step 4:
Use a large colander or strainer and drain OVER A LARGE BOWL to strain everything out.  Please don't forget the bowl and lose all the beautiful stock you just made.  If some of your spices go with the broth that's ok.  If you want it without, then use a fine mesh strainer after you strain all the bones and veggies.
Step 5:
Marvel at the beautiful rich stock you just made and how simple that was.  **Angels sing**

Step 6:
You can use it right away, store in the refrigerator for a up to a week or freeze it for later use.  With one chicken and recipe you should get about 4 cups of stock.  Remember that it is going to be richer than store bought broth, so you may even want to dilute it a touch with some recipes or leave it as is.  It is your preference, your kitchen, your stock. 

I hope you enjoy it!!  How are you using your stock??