Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fried Frog Eyes

Mmm. Frog Eyes. Okay, these aren't really frog eyes. If you can't tell from the photo, they don't even look like a frog eye. Truth be know, I had a room-mate in college named Tara (ironically not Evil Tara who we have met on several occasion here on the blog) whose family used to make a sweet dessert jello and whip cream salad that hosted this pasta, and they called it "frog eye salad". If you make frog eye salad, I would love the recipe. I've heard it is really something delightful. Y'all know I'm an all American girlie raised in Utah that is known as the Jello Capital of the USA. Yes, more jello per-ca pita than any other state in the union. I don't make it very often. I think we made it every Sunday dinner at my grandma's house. Always orange jello with shredded carrots and covered in Dream Whip. Dang. Who makes Dream Whip? As for the "frog eyes", somehow that name stuck in my head for the pasta. We don't make the salad. Our family favorite is in fact a savory side dish. Tell two boys that you are having frog eyes for dinner and watch them do a full dance of joy. You might not get that reaction from a house full of girls.
Meet my lovely Kermit peepers.

I have discovered I love it as a side dish cooked very similar to rice pilaf with some good broth, herbs and spices.
Kermit Peeper Pilaf
1 lb Acini di pepe pasta, uncooked
2T butter
1T minced garlic
2tsp Chef Tess all purpose seasoning
32 0z (4 cups) beef or vegetable broth

In a 2 quart skillet with a tight fitting lid, saute the pasta in the butter until very well browned, about 7 minutes, stir frequently. Add garlic and seasoning the last minute or so. Carefully pour in the broth, cover and simmer 8-10 minutes until pasta is tender and absorbs all the liquid. Serve hot.

I serve it with lovely Sweet and Sour Polynesian style red beans. They make a lovely dish that my family really enjoys. Shhh. Don't tell them how budget friendly it is...they may not want to eat it any more.

Bean recipe coming up later this week. There you go my flying Kermit-peeper eaters.
*No frogs where harmed in the making of this blog post.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Homemade Cracker Jacks for Bakeroose

In case you didn't hear about my newest adventure, my little guys started a cooking blog just for kids. It is on it's way to becoming a fun place for younglings to go and find ideas about cooking as well as parents, grandparents, caregivers, and "beginning cooks". If you like what you see and want to have your kids send their cooking adventures our way, we are very open to posting them on the blog. Today was it! Yes IT.

We officially had our first Bakeroose cooking class today with all the kid chefs and moms. It was outstanding! I, Chef Tess, was exceptionally pleased with how much our Bakeroose have already learned! Measuring and kitchen math are coming along. We got in some science as well. Not bad for a quick one hour class, right? What a great way to kick off our grandest of grand adventures in kid cooking. Would you like to join us? Here's your chance...( a direct copy of what is over there right now...and yes it is written for kids to understand.)

Have you ever had Cracker Jacks from the store? They come in a box. We sing a song about them at baseball games. Did you ever think in a million years that you could make them at home with your mom or dad? This one has to be made with an adult who's responsible and won't let you get burned. Find one first before you start this recipe. I think you will have a lot of fun. The first thing all good chefs do is gather their ingredients all to one place so they don't forget anything when they are cooking. Get everything in it's place and measured before you cook, and you will have a lot more fun...since you won't forget a very important ingredient! We can't have that happen, right?

Homemade Cracker Jacks
("Cracker Jacks" is a registered TM of Frito Lay, by offering this recipe I am in no way saying that I am affiliated with Frito Lay or any of it's company recipes. This recipe is merely a representation of the flavors I find in their product.)
you will need:
2o cups of popped popcorn (measure after popping should be 20 cups...use microwave popcorn or homemade)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
3 cups peanuts (unsalted)
Measuring cups, spoons, large one gallon pot, 2 large cookie sheets with edges to hold the popcorn, 3 gallon size metal or heat proof mixing bowl, 1 large wooden spoon, 2 large paper grocery bags (unused) or 5-6 paper lunch bags.

Do you want to know a random fact? Popcorn explodes and becomes the fluffy stuff we like to eat when the small amount of moisture inside the seed kernel gets hot enough to explode out of the shell. I bet you didn't know you where eating exploded seeds when you ate popcorn.

Have an adult Turn your oven on to 350 degrees.
If you are allowed to use the stove, carefully put the butter, sugar and molasses in the pot. Turn on the heat to medium and once the butter is melted and the stuff starts to boil, turn on a timer for 4 minutes. Do not stir it. While it cooks, get the popcorn in the 3 gallon mixing bowl.

When your timer goes off, add the condensed milk, vanilla and peanuts to the pot of cooked stuff. Stir just until combined. Set your timer for 2 minutes and keep cooking on medium heat. When the 2 minutes is up...have an adult pour the sugar peanut mixture over the cooked popcorn in a large bowl.

Mix well to coat.

Divide the popcorn onto the two cookie sheets...again, this is hot so let an adult do this part.
Have an adult put the cookie sheets in the oven. Set the timer for 7 minutes. When the timer goes off, have an adult stir the popcorn. Set the timer for 8 minutes. Close the oven. When the timer goes off, have an adult take the cookie sheets out of the oven.

When popcorn is still hot, have an adult scoop popcorn into the grocery bags or divide it between the lunch sacks. Let them sit for 3 minutes. carefully fold over the top of the bag and begin to shake. Adults, make sure it is cool enough to touch the bags!! Shaking helps the cracker jacks from sticking together.
It is also really fun!
After you have shaken the bag for about 2 minutes, the popcorn should be cool enough to touch. Have an adult check for you to see if it's ready.
Try to run around the back yard a few times after you eat this to burn off all the sugar. Your mom will be glad you did.

There you go. Oh...and here's a little clip of what we did...not even a minute, but a good glimpse.

Raspberry Glazed Chicken Breasts

It's Freezer Meal Friday again. Boy these are fun days! It's a quick one today without a lot of fluffy introduction. I hope everyone is okay with that. We are starting kids cooking classes today with a wonderful group of youn-lings and it's going to be a busy day. I'm so glad we have freezer meals ready to go! This is one of my favorites...but honestly, I use blackberry jam almost as often as I use the raspberry. You can use almost any kind of jam too, so get creative. Plum, orange marmalade, green tomato marmalade, apricot, and apple are all excellent. So far, the only one I haven't gotten excited about has been strawberry. Go figure. Try it garnished with some spiced chopped nuts (either homemade or packaged) for some added kick.
My Raspberry glazed Chicken Breasts

3 lbs chicken breast (about 12 medium breasts)
2 T Chef Tess All Purpose Seasoning
Place chicken on a large sheet pan and season generously with all purpose seasoning. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Remove from Sheet pan and divide between three plates. Apply the sauce (recipe below) divided also between the 3 plates. Bag in Gallon size freezer bags , remove air, label and cool laying flat in the fridge. When chilled, freeze flat.
Raspberry sauce
1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup high grade balsamic vinegar,
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam,
1T Dijon mustard.
In a large skillet, saute onions in olive oil until clear, add minced garlic and cook two to three more minutes. Add vinegar, jam and mustard. Stir until smooth. Divide sauce over the three plates of chicken.
To prepare:
Always defrost chicken either in the fridge or in the microwave (out of bag if microwaving). Do not thaw chicken on the kitchen counter at room temperature. You're asking for food born illness. When chicken is defrosted, you can reheat on the stove in a skillet 5-7 minutes on medium heat, or in the microwave 3-5 minutes. When chicken reaches internal temperature of 170 or higher, it is ready.
Serve with homemade rice-y-roni, potatoes. We love it.

There you go.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Frozen Bread Dough Success with Ceri

I receive a lot of great email and I try to answer everyone. Sometimes life as a wife and mother gets crazy. It's taken me a couple of weeks since this letter to finally post our grand adventure. This was a letter from a gal named Ceri. As I had been working on freezer rolls and bread, this letter came in perfect timing. I had to join forces with Ceri on her quest for freezer to oven bread dough that wouldn't require a rise before she baked it. I'd been working on a recipe that I had found success with, and shared it with her. I think her letter was pretty cool. It read, "Dear Chef Tess,I love your blog (and consequently your Facebook page), and hope you can help me with my current quest:
it is my turn to provide snack for my daughter's 4th grade class this week and I thought it would be fun to bring fresh baked bread. It's not fun enough to get up at 4am, though, so I am wondering about the best way to make the dough the night before and refrigerate it.
Some background: I've tried no-knead bread and even thought that would be a solution I am not crazy about the consistency of that bread and the dough is finicky to handle. I do not have a heave duty mixer. I have a new, heave duty 14c Cuisinart food processor and make my bread in that. I've tweaked a recipe that came with it to now include whole wheat and rye flour.
So: do I make the dough, let it rise, then just put int the fridge until morning, shape and transfer to rising baskets then? Rise and punch down, then put in the fridge? Rise, shape, put in the rising baskets then put int the fridge? I'm stumped and don't have the time to do a bunch of tests.
Hope you can help me and thanks in advance,
Ceri "
To Ceri, I wrote:
Well, perhaps we can help each other. I need a home testing outside of myself to see if my results are accurate. I have some dough I'm working on today that is transferable straight from the freezer to the oven to bake. No defrosting or raising required. I have had a good amount of success just taking it after it is formed into loaves and raised, and letting it go about 20 minutes less of a final proof. Instead of baking, place in the freezer. Then when ready to bake, transfer into baking pans and bake 375 degrees 45-50 minutes. Not defrosting, just baking. The recipe is very similar to the one I use for the freezer to oven dinner rolls, but using whole wheat, so it's very healthy. You can do the kneading by hand and increase the kneading time as you would for bread, 600 strokes by hand or 3-4 minutes in your food processor, as that is less time than a mixer.
Here's my recipe. Let me know what you think:

2 1/2-3 cups water (no hotter than 110 degrees)
4tsp yeast (2 packet) rapid rise
1/4 cup sugar (2T honey)
8 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour
1T salt
1T baking powder
1/2 cup oil
3 egg

Combine the honey and 1 cup water with the yeast, to be sure the yeast is alive. Then, combine everything in one large bowl or mixer. I like that. Knead 600 strokes by hand or 3 minutes in a food processor. You may need more or less liquid depending on the moisture content of the flour. Form into a ball and place in a bowl covered with plastic or a lid for 1 1/2 hour (dough at 90 degrees), or until doubled in size. Form into 3 loaves and place in parchment lined loaf pans ( 8 inch by 4 inch silicone loaf pans have a great use here...though I don't like baking in them. Freezing in them is cool, because they peel right off when the dough is frozen.) Allow to raise 40-45 minutes until just rising above the top of the loaf pan. Freeze immediately (about 2 hours until solid). Dough will be good up to one month. When ready to bake, transfer frozen dough from freezer to oven ready pans that have been lightly oiled. Bake without defrosting 375 degrees 45-50 minutes.

This is what I got back from Ceri. Some great pictures and some great response!

success all the way around! I am so excited! Can't wait to hear how the kids liked it.
So: your recipe I mixed, 1st rise, punched down, short rest, shaped, 2nd rise (but only about 20 min since it was going well over the edge of the pan), in freezer. Once frozen I took it out of the pan, took off parchment paper, wrapped in plastic and back in freezer. This morning I prepped pan by buttering and coating with semolina flour, put frozen dough in and baked for 45 min. You can see in the picture called "sliced" how nice the texture was.

This is the bread before the rise in the pan.
This is the frozen dough, ready to bake.
Here it is after baking.
Ceri is an artisan baker and shared a great recipe for artisan bread with me. Our next quest was to see if she could bake her artisan bread using the similar technique of letting it raise in the artisan baskets, freezing and then baking. Ceri said, "For my dough I got scared that the ice block of dough would crack my stone so I put it from the freezer in the fridge last night to thaw (still in baskets, but it came out of the basket easy, even when frozen), then took it out of the baskets this morning onto parchment paper to come to room temp while yours were baking. Then upped the heat and baked mine on the stone. "
Here's how they looked baked. Not bad at all, don't you think?
Her final email gave me great joy, "No problem at all. And between 19 kids and two teachers there was not a crumb left. The kids told me (unprompted) how much they liked it as soon as I walked in, and Cloe told me how much they loved it. One teacher asked me for the recipes, too (-:
Thanks again for making this possible

Ceri (-:"
Ceri, Thank YOU! I had so much fun on our little project via email, and once again, find so much joy in helping others find success. Best wishes always. To everyone else...
There you go.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Homemade Hard Candy Lollies

" Oooo-da-lollie, Oooo-da-loolie, gollie what a day." Does anyone else remember that song? It was on the old Robin Hood Disney movie and every time I ever think of lollies, that's the song that pops in my head. It then stays there for forty-seven days. It may be the sign of a very simple mind, or, I hope some unprecedented sign of unfathomable genius. I'm going with genius until further notice.

My grandma used to make hard candy suckers with her eight grandchildren in a cozy little kitchen in the seventies. We'd dawn gingham and flour sack homemade aprons and gather around her gas stove as she showed us how to boil the syrup. Last week when my sons where in a heated debate over the question, "Can you make candy at home?" I had to interject my know-it-all chefie attitude and tell them about my grandma. Aside from thinking I was just spouting off old stories, they got really quiet. Any chance to keep my prattle mouths quite is well received. So...we headed out to the craft store and quickly picked up a few items needed for homemade candy making. Not because I thought my kids needed more sugar, but because they had a hole in their "fabric of knowledge" when it came to all things foodie related. We most definitely can't have that!

I mentioned in my last post about the oil based flavors.( ) These are what we use exclusively for hard candy making. I like a fire invoking cinnamon, but the kiddos prefer butterscotch, grape, apple, and English Toffee (to name a few).

Shameless product plug here...but I love it in frosting too. I can't live without it in fudge. My truffles...well, they are well acquainted. It doesn't change the consistency of a frosting, but adds a huge dimension of flavor, since it bonds with the fat. Same with fat in chocolate. I dare say the fat on my patootie probably has a nice infusion. Orson H. Gygi's in Utah has a huge display of them and I almost died when I visited my parents and saw my ol' favorite cooking store full of such a shocking display (in a good patootie was not included on the display rack). Remember the name. Stock up. We use them all the time.
On the back of the package there was a nice little recipe for old fashioned hard candy. Do I really need to type it out or can y'all just read the box? Okay. I'll type it out.

You can find the recipe here:
(Using 1-dram (.125oz) bottles)
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
¾ cup water
1 dram LorAnn flavoring oil (1tsp.*) (or as desired)
LorAnn liquid food coloring (as desired)
Powdered sugar (optional)
Sucker bags (optional)
Twist ties (optional)
Use of a candy thermometer is recommended

*Please note that LorAnn Cinnamon, Clove and Peppermint flavors are particularly potent. You may wish to reduce the amount used for these flavors. I like my cinnamon really hot. My kids go cross eyed and start to spray flame out their ears when they eat my cinnamon-berry pops. This is of course how I keep them from eating too much sugar.

Before you begin, I recommend reading LorAnn's suggestions on candy making found in the "Tips" section of Gourmet Recipes on their website. Hard candy making requires the use of very high cooking temperatures. Caution should be used at all times to avoid being burned. Don't let the kids pour the syrup or stir the pot. Be smart here. Really.
Have all ingredients and tools assembled and within easy reach of the stove. The use of metal spoons and measuring utensils is recommended. Lightly spray cookie sheet* or the cavities of clean, dry candy molds with cooking spray (LorAnn recommend PAM). Insert sucker sticks. (If using two-piece plastic or aluminum molds, insert sticks after candy has been poured into molds.) If using molds, you may also want to spray a piece of aluminum foil with cooking spray. If after pouring the candy into the molds you have excess candy, you can pour it onto the foil. We do that almost every time...and end up putting some "free form" circles of candy on the foil and popping in some sticks for suckers without molds. They look really artsy and almost make me homesick.
In a 2-quart kettle or large saucepan, mix together sugar, corn syrup and water. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Insert candy thermometer if using, making certain it does not touch the bottom of the pan. Bring mixture to a boil, without stirring.
No stirring. I did maybe once, but that was it...and it was just at the beginning. NO stirring after that. Don't do it. You'll get really gritty grainy candy.
Clamp your candy thermometer onto the side of the pan, into the syrup but not touching the bottom of the pan. You want to read the syrup temperature, not the pan temperature, right?
Early in the cooking process, you can "wash down" any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. I use a silicone brush so I don't get any loose hair in there too. Continue to cook the syrup until the temperature reaches 260º F; add color. Do not stir; boiling action will incorporate color into syrup.

Remove from heat precisely at 300° F (temperature will continue rising), or until drops of syrup form hard, brittle threads in cold water. After boiling action has ceased, add flavor and stir. USE CAUTION WHEN ADDING FLAVORING TO AVOID RISING STEAM.

Pour candy into prepared molds. I lightly spoon it into individual lollie molds. Do not refrigerate.

Cool completely. Remove from molds. Place in sucker bags and secure with twist ties.

There you go. Oooo-da-lollie!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chocolate Toffee Buttermilk Cake Mix

I've been experimenting quite a bit with chocolate cake mix and making one to equal a box of mix one could purchase from a store. The stipulation being that it has natural ingredients, from scratch and things most people have access to. You will need powdered buttermilk to make this cake, it can be purchased at most grocery stores in the baking section. You can use regular non-fat milk powder or even soy milk powder in place of the buttermilk. Mind you, you can't call it buttermilk cake without the buttermilk. No cheating allowed. You will also need some very high quality vanilla, rum extract and some oil based toffee flavor. If you don't want to use the artificial flavors, go with just vanilla. It will still make a very impressive cake.

I've found this company called Lorann gourmet that sells flavor oils that are 4 times the strength of regular alcohol based flavors. You can find them in the craft stores, near the candy making equipment. We even have it at Wal-Mart here in Arizona, so it's good one to use. I use the English Toffee flavor in this mix. It makes a nice buttery base and adds a ton of great flavor. One little dram is enough flavor for 4 cakes. I have a picture of the cinnamon oil. Why oh why don't I have one of the English toffee?! Lorann also makes a ton of other flavors. Feel free to look them up.
Chef Tess' Chocolate Toffee Buttermilk Cake Mix
yield 18 cups mix (4 1/2 mixes total)
1 cup (8 oz) butter
6 cups (1 lb 11 oz) all purpose flour
3 cups (11.5 oz) baking cocoa
1 cup ( 4.5 oz) buttermilk powder
5 cups(2 lb) granulated sugar
4 tsp salt
1/3 cup baking powder (2 oz)
1 tsp (1 oz) English Toffee flavored oil
1T double strength vanilla ( I use Watkins)
1 tsp rum extract
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
To prepare mix: In a large 3 gallon or larger bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, buttermilk
sugar, baking powder and salt very well. You may use an electric mixer if you have one with a large enough bowl. Cut the butter into chunks and along with the flavor extracts incorporate into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles sand. Take the mix and a couple of cup fulls at a time, run through a flour sifter. I use a hand flour sifter that works very well to help the mix become smooth and homogeneous. ( Need a picture tutorial on the mix making process? See: .
Divide into quart size bags. 2o oz of mix equals one cake mix. This is almost exactly 4 cups of measured mix.
To bake:
Combine with 3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 cup water
200 strokes by hand or 3 minutes medium speed.

Bake time 350 degrees:
Pan size: 2 8 inch 33-35 minutes
2 9 inch 28-31 minutes
13 by 9 inch 32-35 minutes
bunt 38-43 minutes
24 cupcakes 18-21 minutes
High altitude: stir 1/4 cup all purpose flour into mix. Mix as directed.

We had some unusually wonderful guests show up for a mid-afternoon visit yesterday. Among them was my father in law's cousin Julia. A sweet soul if you ever met one who took a particular liking to this chocolate buttermilk cake drizzled with ganache and topped with a maraschino cherry. I promised her I would post this recipe. So here is the recipe for the ganache:

Ganache Glaze:
1 cup cream
1 lb chopped high quality chocolate (we used Guitard)
1/4 tsp hazelnut oil
1/4 tsp fresh ground cinnamon
Boil one cup of cream in a sauce pan and pour over the chocolate. I added 1/4 tsp hazelnut oil, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/8th tsp ancho chile powder...and blended until smooth. When chocolate is melted completely and the glaze is smooth, drizzle over one inch squares of baked cake.
These where double layers of cake with peanut butter filling...
There you go.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Whittle Spoons

"Mom, do you know how to whittle a spoon from a log? I mean can you carve one?" I thought it was a random question until I sat down with my son Face and watched about the life of Richard Pronneke...the man who lived alone in the wilderness of Alaska for thirty-plus years and lived off the land in a cabin he constructed with his own hands. I saw what my son was talking about. Richard took a piece of wood... and from it, carved a spoon right in front of our eyes. I was amazed to see it. I wanted one! The scoop he said, " was just the right size for pancake". Seemed simple to watch. After the movie we ran outside to the wood stump of what had once been a trusted orange tree. Face got out his saw and began vigorously sawing. 2 hours later we had a spoon. I whittle. Yes I do. This is it.
Only, it may be made out of something a lot softer...and smaller. We gave up on the wood, as I realized for a beginning project, it was maybe a little too much for a seven year old. He ran to the storage room and brought back 2 bars of soap. Yes my friends. This is a soap spoon. Seriously not to be confused with a soup spoon.

Only problem with a soap spoon is that it makes everything taste the same.
So why do I bring this up on the Sunday post? Just a reminder that even the whittle things make lasting memories. Take some time with the ones you love. Try something new. Whittle.
The desire to create is given to you by a Divine Creator...who has confidence in your ability to shape lives and mold characters. It may not be the perfect soap spoon that matters in the end, but the well rounded heart your carve out in the process.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Vegetarian Verde Tamale Cornbread Pie

Has anyone noticed I haven't done anything vegetarian on my blog yet for Freezer meal Friday?! How totally lame is that? My dear husband pointed it out, along with eyebrow raise and look of disgust. So...I'm going to totally redeem myself (at least in the food area) by adding this vegetarian Tamale Pie. Yes, you can make it with meat if you want. I don't because frankly...Ace won't touch it that way. Let's face reality people, shall we? Can I hork down an entire casserole by myself? Not without ending up laying face up with those cartoon "X's" where my eyes once where and my belly the size of a basketball. So, this one is for Ace. Smooches babe. Tamale pie can be debated for it's basic make-up based on the region you grew up and the amount of exposure you really have had to authentic Hispanic cooking. This is not the authentic one with masa dough and highly seasoned meat. This is the "Mormon-Mexican"version, minus the cream of mushroom soup and sour cream. I was raised on "Mexican" casseroles that start that way...and you know who you are. Not that I have anything against that. Don't be offended. I'm just saying this isn't real Hispanic food. It's a lot milder...and a lot more like the cornbread topping that goes on Chili pie. I think you'll like it if you like casseroles like that. My basic upbringing makes it possible for me to eat totally gourmet one day...and down home the other. If you want the authentic Tamale pie, I'll have to do another tutorial. Can you add cooked meat to this recipe. Heck yes. Do it. I'd suggest shredded beef or chicken...or hamburger (if you eat cow). One pound of meat added to this recipe would work perfectly...just be sure to add more seasoning. Can I have a mooo of happiness? Anyone?

As for the Freezer friendly Tamale Cornbread Pie, I always start mine like this...cumin and dried red jalapeno flakes. Crushed to oblivion.

See, there's something kind of gourmet right? Crushing my own spices is that side coming out.

Chile Verde Ingredients:
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove minced garlic
1T vegetable oil
1/4 tsp cumin, ground
1/4 tsp chile pepper, ground (use the variety your family will eat)
1T lime juice
1/2 cup green chile verde salsa
1/4 cup diced green chile
2 cups cooked pinto beans (about one 15 oz can, undrained)

Cornmeal topping ingredients:
1 cup all purpose baking mix (I used my homemade Bisquick made from whole wheat)
1/4 cup tamale masa mix (or if you don't have it local you can use cornmeal)
1/4 cup water
1 egg
1/2 tsp chipolte rub or southwestern seasoning

Directions: In a large family size skillet with lid, saute the onions in the vegetable oil until very well brown. Yes, I brown them for chile verde. Same as I do for fajitas. That adds a lot of flavor. Add the minced garlic and saute a minute more. Add remaining chile ingredients and simmer 5 minutes. Place in an 8 inch by 12 inch casserole for a family of 6, or divide between two loaf pans for a family of 3, (or ones with parents and small kiddos). Allow chile to cool a few minutes while combining the topping ingredients.

For topping:
Combine masa mix,

baking mix,
I really like this rub. It's crazy light smoky flavor along with that good Southwest kick is a quick grab for adding a lot of flavor. Half a teaspoon can totally transform a bland cornbread into something really snazzy. Using snazzy in a sentence means I have spent way to much time with Cussing Granny. Add egg and water. Combine until just mixed. It will be lumpy. Dot on top of the chile verde. I freeze it uncooked. Yikes. That way it is fresh when we eat it.

Spread out the topping to cover the chile mixture. If you make two loaf pans, you will need to divide the topping between the two casseroles.

Cover tightly with foil and freeze with cooking instructions. Or to bake right away, transfer into a 400 degree oven and bake 35 minutes.
About ten minutes before it is done baking I sometimes top ours with 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar and some olives.
Freezer meal directions:
Defrost in fridge 24 hours and transfer to a 400 degree oven. Bake uncovered 35-40 minutes, adding cheese the last 10 minutes if desired.
If I'm feeling really crazy I may add a little crushed tortilla chips.
Serve with salsa, sour cream, shredded lettuce (we add shredded spinach to our lettuce as well) and some crushed tortilla chips.
It looks festive. It tasted festive.

Yeah, I'm goofy, but I do like a fluffy cornbread topping on my tamale pie. Okay, what's not to love.
There you go.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Little J...Random Thought

I'm partial, but I think my nephew is one of the cutest freaky kids I've ever seen. Even after the chocolate doughnut frosting smeared on his face,the way the sunlight hit him right here I think he looks like an angel. (Do you hear the pling, pling, pling of angelic harps) Then again...

Maybe not. Theme from Jaws...
That's all I have to say about that.