Friday, April 17, 2015

Charro Beans

When we lived in Idaho Falls, one of my favorite things to do was to meet up with a friend for lunch at Garcia's, have lunch and knit while we chatted and caught up with each other. Just good old fashioned girl time. Their gluten free menu is a bit sparse, but my favorite thing on it was the Charro Beans. Best. Thing. Ever. My favorite way to eat them was to have them start with a bowl of beans and then top them with shredded chicken, tomatoes, black olives, cheese, and avocado. Not only was it delicious, but it made for a thick & hearty lunch.  Since moving to Wisconsin, we've found a couple of Mexican restaurants that we really like, but I hadn't found any fabulous Charro Beans. So I took to the internet, asked friends on Facebook, search Pinterest and recipe sites. I couldn't find a recipe that seemed quite the combination I was looking for, so I did what any adventurous cook would do, I made up my own!  The results were fabulous and an instant hit with both me and my teen daughter. 

1 lb. dried pinto beans
1 can diced tomatoes or about 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes*
1 onion, diced
3 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
½ lb. bacon, cut into pieces**
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 ½ quarts chicken broth***

     Rinse beans and soak overnight. 
-       Drain and rinse beans. Fill pot (or crockpot) with beans and water about an   inch over the top of the beans.
-      Cook for a couple of hours over low to medium low heat until beans start to get tender.
-      Drain beans and set aside.
-      In same pan (if using stove top & not crockpot), cook bacon until crisp. Save about 2 TB of the drippings.
-      Add onion and garlic to pan with bacon and drippings and sauté until slightly tender.
-     Add the diced tomatoes, jalapeno, and chicken broth to the pan and then add the beans back in. Cook over low heat until tender.
-     The longer you cook them, the more the broth will cook down and thicken.

*I was out of regular diced tomatoes when I made these & substituted a can of Rotel Tomatoes instead.

**I hate soggy bacon in recipes. Bacon is meant to be crisp. When I cook bacon, I save the drippings in a jar in my fridge. I didn’t use bacon when I made these, only a couple of tablespoons of the bacon fat I had in the fridge.

***Because we’re so short on space, I rarely have chicken broth on hand. Instead I used water with Better than Bouillon Chicken Base.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Cheeseburger Macaroni

This recipe came about because of my desire to have a one dish meal with some sticking power to it that is easy to put together. One of the nice things about this recipe is that unlike a casserole, no baking. It's all done on the stove top and once it's done, it's done. Easy peasy. :)

It basically uses my recipe for Macaroni & Cheese with a few additions and a slight modification.

1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, finely diced
1 TB. dill pickle juice
1 can diced tomatoes
16 oz. bag of Sam Mills Gluten Free Pasta (or any regular pasta if you're not gluten free)
Milk (I use whole milk. I like the richness that it adds.)
**  8 - 10 oz. Velveeta
**1-2 handfuls of shredded cheese of your choice (this is where the fun comes in. I've used cheddar (sharp, medium, mild), Mexican blend, Italian blend, provolone, parmesan, basically whatever shredded cheese I happen to have on hand.

In large pot, cook pasta till al dente, drain, rinse in cold water, set aside. In same pot, brown the ground beef with the onion and add salt & pepper to taste. When the ground beef is done, drain off any excess grease and add the can of diced tomatoes (juice & all), pickle juice, milk, and Velveeta. Because of the juice in the tomatoes, this takes a little less milk than the original mac & cheese recipe. Stir often until Velveeta is melted. Add in shredded cheese and stir until melted. Add in pasta and stir until everything is well mixed. We like to serve it with steamed veggies and fresh fruit.

** If when making the regular mac & cheese you use 6 oz of Velveeta, then only use 8 oz in this recipe. If you use 1 handful of shredded cheese, then use 2 this time. With the addition of extra ingredients, it dilutes the cheesiness of the original recipe, which is one of the things I absolutely love.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Macaroni & Cheese

Macaroni & Cheese has long been not only a staple food in our house as the kids were growing up, but a favorite as well. When I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy nearly 5 years ago, it about killed me to give it up. It took what felt like forever to find a pasta that would hold up to making mac & cheese. I had the sauce perfected long before I found one. We started using Sam Mills Pasta. Not only is delicious, it's one of the more affordable gluten free pastas on the market. It is also non-GMO which is important to me. No, they are not paying me to push their pasta. I simply believe in sharing info when I find a good product that makes life easier. :)  As long as you don't overcook it, this pasta will hold up to being put in casseroles and being reheated as leftovers without turning to mush like brown rice pasta. 

So as I've mentioned before, I'm not always one for measuring when I create a recipe. So think of this recipe as more of a guideline and have fun with it. 

16 oz. bag of Sam Mills Gluten Free Pasta (or any regular pasta if you're not gluten free)
Milk (I use whole milk. I like the richness that it adds.)
6-8 oz. Velveeta
1-2 handfuls of shredded cheese of your choice (this is where the fun comes in. I've used cheddar (sharp, medium, mild), Mexican blend, Italian blend, provolone, parmesan, basically whatever shredded cheese I happen to have on hand.

Cook pasta al dente, drain, run under cold water and set aside.
In same pan pasta was cooked in, add milk (about 1 1/2 cups) and Velveeta. Stir often until Velveeta is melted and mixture is smooth. Add in a large handful or two of shredded cheese and stir until smooth. Season with pepper or seasoning of your choice. Add cooked pasta to sauce, mix well and make sure it is heated through.

If the cheese sauce is too thin, add more shredded cheese. If it's too thick, add more milk until you get the consistency you want. If you like a little spice and aren't making this for little ones, it would be awesome with some pepper jack cheese thrown in. My favorite combination of cheeses for it is sharp cheddar & Italian blend (usually a blend of parmesan, romano, asiago, provolone and mozzarella).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cashew Chicken - version 2.0

Here lately I've felt like I've been in a bit of a cooking rut. This recipe was well liked by the family, but I simply forgot about it. I finally got around to trying an idea I had been toying with for this recipe. I wanted it to taste more authentic, so I subbed sesame oil for the olive oil and chicken broth for the orange juice. It turned out FABULOUS!!! Seriously, it tasted like something that you would get at your favorite Chinese take out place. With those two simple substitutions, it went from being a well liked dinner to being a favorite dinner!  

¾ cup Orange Juice   Chicken Broth
1/3 cup Honey
¼ cup Soy Sauce (make sure it's GF)
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
½ tsp. Pepper
4 boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 1/2 Tbs. Olive Oil  Sesame Oil
1 Tbs. Corn Starch
1 cup Cashews
4 green onion
1 lg, carrot sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
Combine and set aside the OJ  Chicken Broth, Honey, Soy Sauce, Corn Starch, Garlic Powder, Pepper. In a large pan sauté the chicken. In a separate pan cook olive oil  sesame oil, green onions, carrot, and celery until softened. Add veggies, sauce, cashews to chicken and heat through.

After sauteing the chicken, I remove it from the pan and cut into bite size pieces. I then add the carrot, celery, and green onion to the same pan as the chicken. I basically turn it into a one pot meal. I guess I'm just lazy like that. ;)