Sunday, January 31, 2010

Loaded Nachos are Super for the Super Bowl

With the Super Bowl just around the corner, you're going to need lots of yummy snacks.

Nachos are as important to Super Bowl dining as the mushroom soup - green bean casserole is to Thanksgiving.

Everyone has a favorite nacho recipe but here's one more to add to your collection.

It's extra easy and you can mix or match the ingredients however you like. Start by putting a layer of restaurant style tortilla chips in the bottom of your pan then the sky's the limit!

Think nachos are fattening?

Well, they are but you can minimumize the damage by using baked tortilla chips instead of the traditional fried kind. With all the toppings, your taste buds will never know the difference.

Other tricks:

Skip the refried beans (they're loaded with fat) and use plain, mashed beans.

Instead of prepared guacamole, mash fresh, ripe avocados and mix with lemon juice until you reach the consistency you like.

Use real sour cream - not fat free or reduced fat. OK, real sour cream has a lot of fat but a little goes a long way in adding good taste and creamy-ness that the fat free or reduced fat can't match. Also, fat free or reduced fat sour cream are higher in carbs.

Pump up the volume of your nachos by adding a low cal vegetable to the mix - like lightly steamed broccoli, zucchini, carrots, corn or yellow squash. Shredded lettuce works well, too, to lighten the caloric load.

Love cheese? 
Use an easy melting cheese like Velveeta. It melts better so it goes farther and tastes cheesy-ier than cheddar which means you'll actually need less for the same taste effect.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Loaded Nachos

All ingredients are approximate. Add more or less according to your taste.
Don't like a particular ingredient?  Leave it out.

Make sure you have plates and forks for these nachos.

Makes 1 (9 X 13 inch) pan

Base

1/2 (13.5 oz) bag restaurant style tortilla chips

1/2 pound ground beef (or vegetarian ground beef - cooked, drained and crumbled) or sausage

1 (16 oz) jar marinated artichokes (drained, reserving juice)

2 (15 to 16 oz) can light red kidney beans (drained, rinsed and drained again)

1 cup corn (fresh and cut from the cob, frozen and thawed or canned and drained)

1 (28 oz) can petite diced tomatoes (drained)

1/4 cup pickled jalapeno pepper rings and 2 tablespoons juice (to taste - optional)

8 oz sour cream (reduced fat or fat free not recommended)

3 to 4 oz easy melting cheese (like Velveeta - cut into 3/8 inch cubes)


Topping

2 ripe avocados

1/4 cup lemon juice (bottled is OK)

2 cups shredded ice berg lettuce

1/2 cup ranch dressing (or to taste)

1 (2 .25) can sliced black olives (drained)


Position oven rack so nachos will bake in center. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat pan with cooking spray.
Place a layer of tortilla chips into the pan. Top with ground beef.

Mash beans and mix with juice from the marinated artichokes until it makes a consistency similar to refried beans. Dollop mixture over beef.

Top with artichokes (and any remaining juice), corn, drained tomatoes, and if desired, optional pickled jalapeno rings with juice.

Dollop sour cream over all. Sprinkle cheese over top. Bake in a preheated oven about 20 minutes or until mixture is hot. (Chips will not feel hot.)

While nachos are heating, cut avocado. Remove pit and scoop out pulp. Mash pulp with a fork and mix with lemon juice.

When nachos are hot, remove from oven. Dollop with avocado mixture and sprinkle with lettuce. Drizzle rach dressing over all and sprinkle with olives. Serve hot.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Soup Is Good Food

Monday Morning Post  for 1-18-10


Making a Roux


A roux (pronounced roo) is a flour and butter paste that's used for thickening soups, sauces and gravies.

By mixing the flour and butter together, the butter is able to surround the flour particles preventing them from forming lumps when liquid is added. A roux is most often made with butter but can also be made with oil, bacon fat, beef drippings, chicken fat or a combination.

Not all soups are made with a roux but many are and using a roux as the basis of a soup is one of the easiest ways to turn plain milk or broth into cream of what-ever-you-like soup.

You'll use this same technique to make cream sauces and cheese sauces, too. Using a roux as a thickener is a much nicer tasting method of thickening than just mixing flour or cornstarch into water.



Carrot - Ginger Soup

For a bistro touch, spoon 1 tablespoon cream into the center of each portion. Insert the tip of a knife into cream and gently swirl to create a pattern on top of the soup.

Serves 4 -6

3 carrots (each about 6 inches long X 1 inch in diameter - peeled and cut into 1/2 inch circles)

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or to taste)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour (all purpose or whole wheat)

3/4 cup milk (whole or 2%)

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1/4 cup orange juice

Salt and pepper (to taste)

Garnish - finely shredded zest of 1 orange


Simmer carrots in broth (partially cover the pot) until soft - about 10 minutes. Cool slightly then puree carrots and broth together. Set aside.

In another pot, make a roux by melting the butter and whisking in the flour. Cook, whisking, 1 minute. Whisk in pureed carrot broth then milk, ginger and orange juice. Thin, if desired, with additional broth. Heat to steaming. Do not boil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve garnished with finely shredded orange zest.

Cook's tip: Boiling the soup may cause it to curdle. If this happens, just puree soup again.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It Only Takes A Minute To Make A Fancy Schmancy Mousse




Monday Morning Post for 1-11-10


White chocolate is a scrumptious thing. It should start to melt the instant it meets your tongue, leaving, perhaps a bit of melted chocolate on your finger tips.  As the flavor begins to explode, your eyes will gently close and the sound of "mmm" will be heard as your head gently tilts to one side.  You may also sigh as your chest ever so briefly collapses.

Don't waste your calories on white chocolate that is not scrumptious.

Minute Mousse

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Makes 4 (1/4 cup) servings
(Just enough to tease the palate.   Add a few home made, plain butter cookies if you'd like.)
PS. Don't waste this on the kiddies.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

3 ozs. white chocolate (chips, bar or blocks)
3/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream (divided)


Put white chocolate and 1 tablespoon cream into a heat safe bowl. Microwave in 30 second intervals until almost melted. Remove from microwave and stir to finish melting. Do not over heat. Cool to room temperature. Do not allow it to set or harden.

Beat remaining cream until soft peaks form. Do not over beat.

Take a dollop of the whipped cream and whisk it into the cooled chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining cream being careful not to deflate the cream.

Spoon into dessert dishes or demi tasse cups. Refrigerate at least an hour to completely chill and set. Longer is better.

Karla's tips:
Always heat white chocolate for less time than you think. If it's over heated, it will suddenly thicken, get grainy and burn without warning. Over heated white chocolate can not be repaired or salvaged. It must be thrown out.

Over beating heavy cream turns it into butter - but you knew that.



Friday, January 1, 2010

Kick Your Cuisine Up A Notch With Easy, Vegetarian Stock





Monday Morning Post for 1-04-10


Good Morning and Happy New Year!


Having watched Julie & Julia for the umpteen-th time (is that a word?) this past week (and loving every minute of it!), I've begun wondering, like Julie, if anyone is actually reading my blog. I'm hoping you are!

In this past week between Christmas and New Years, I've been in the kitchen cooking up old recipes I once thought too complicated to make. To my surprise, my taste buds exploded with the results. I was in heaven!

Spending a whole day making a French Apple Tart (heavy with cream and butter) is not a recipe I'll make very often but for that brief moment between Christmas and New Years, it was like being a child again in the kitchen with grandma - all warm and snuggly and safe from the world.

On the lighter side, one of the things I discovered is a very delicious, very easy and relatively quick, vegetarian stock.

So, if you've been using vegetable bouillon cubes and water when ever a recipe calls for broth or stock, kick your cuisine up a notch with home made.

It's easier (and cheaper) than you think. Just 3 vegetables and some salt yield great flavor.

12 cups tap water
2 cups peeled, diced fresh parsnips (white carrots)
2 cups peeled, diced yellow onion (regular cooking onion)
2 cups peeled, diced potato (any type)
1 tablespoon Kosher salt (don't skimp on the salt or use a substitute)

Put all the ingredients into a large pot. Cover. Bring to a boil on high. Remove cover. Reduce heat to simmer. Simmer, uncovered, 40 minutes. Remove from heat and cool with the veggies still in the broth.

Remove veggies from cooled broth and save for another use or discard.

Refrigerate stock until needed for a recipe - up to 3 days.

For longer storage, freeze in recipe size portions - generally 1 to 2 cups or whatever size you use most often. Stock keeps frozen up to 6 months.

Use this wonderful vegetable stock whenever stock or broth is called for in a recipe - even if they call for meat, chicken or fish stock.

Makes a great base for soup, too.

PS. This stock does not gel when refrigerated like animal or fish stocks do. If you need a stock that gels (like if you're making aspic), add vegetarian gelatin to it according to package directions.

PPS. Don't delete or use less salt. The salt draws the flavor out of the vegetables and, besides, this is way less salt than you're getting from veggie cubes or commercially prepared broth or stock. And be sure to use Kosher salt. It is pure salt and has no additives so the broth with have a fresh, true taste and a clear, lovely color.

PPSS. What's the difference between stock & broth?
Broth is lighter in taste. Stock is heavier and richer. But for all practical purposes, they are basically the same and are used interchangeably.