Thursday, March 26, 2009


many of you know i've traveled a rather bumpy road...all because of choices that i made. those are decisions that i own. despite traveling uphill both ways in 8 inches of snow to many destinations, i'm in a pretty good spot now. much of that i owe to some dear pals...

for almost 7 years, another woman has taken care of my kids while i finished school and worked, because i refuse to be a freeloader. (no offense to any of you freeloaders out there. it's just not for me.) anyway...this wonderful lady has given my kids a second home and she's a good cook. she's also married to a hispanic dude and so she cooks up some awesome mexican food. she introduced me to pasole, which is a mexican soup made with pork and hominy.

i've had a couple of different versions of pasole, but this recipe i developed on my own... my kids love this and will chow down on it, even though it IS a little spicy. i've made it with canned chicken, too, but it's much better with pork, so if you make it, use pork. :) at least the first time. think of this like a mexican version of chicken noodle soup, without chicken or noodles. LOL.

pasole (PAH-soul-ay)

*1 1/2 - 3 lbs pork (you can use tenderloin, chops, whatever)
*2 28-oz cans of white hominy (found in the mexican section of your grocery store)
*1 large onion, diced
*2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
*12-14 cups of broth, any kind (more on this later)
*1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
*1 or 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
*2 tsp. dried oregano
*finely shredded cabbage
*salt and pepper to taste
*1 T bacon fat or vegetable oil

ok, ok, so i know i use cabbage alot. i apologize, especially if you don't like cabbage. i also use a buttload of chicken broth. believe me when i say i love to buy it when it's on sale. also, don't forget the better than bouillion. you could then use water and a couple of spoonfuls of that stuff and be good to go.

first, a quick note. this recipe takes TIME to cook, but the prep time is next to nothing. i like to roast a pork loin in the oven the night before. place the pork loin in deep baking dish, and season well with salt and pepper. i like to cook the pork loin with 1 can of beef broth and i roast it on 275 degrees F for about 2-3 hours. i let it cool off and put the whole thing in the fridge before i go to bed.

ok, now you are ready to cook. and dinner will be ready in no time at all. in a large pot, melt the bacon fat. dice the onion nicely and cook it in the hot fat, seasoning with salt and pepper. mince the garlic and toss it in with the onion. i like to let this cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until everyone in the house is really complaining that i'm stinking up the house or that their eyes are watering from the onion.

i'm awesome.

open the cans of hominy and drain them in a colander. rinse the hominy off several times and let it drain. have you ever eaten corn nuts? if yes, then you've eaten hominy. you'll LOVE it in soup. it tastes nothing like's much more like barley.

let's talk about that broth. 12-14 cups is about 8 14-oz cans of chicken broth. you can use vegetable or beef broth if that is what you have. you can also substitute some of that broth for water. that's the beauty of can really do what you want. this soup will still have lots of flavor if you replace some of the broth with water. this might be important to you as some broths can be very salty.

this is where you add the broth. put it all in there, baby. toss in the drained hominy and the oregano. stir and taste the broth for seasoning. add salt if you need to...but not too much. make sure the soup is simmering....mmmkay? add the tomato sauce, too.

chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. are you scared? you'll find these little guys in the mexican food aisle at your grocery store, too. probably close to the hominy. it seems kind of lame to buy a can of them to only use one or two peppers. however, i put mine in a gladware container and find they keep in the fridge for at least three weeks. they are good in chili and i have another soup recipe somewhere that i use them in. and somewhere, someone will cringe, but sometimes i have to throw the unused ones away.

start with ONE pepper. trust me on this. these are hot little bastards babies. slice it up into very small pieces and put it into the soup. i use the seeds and everything...but if you want, you could try to remove the seeds, as that is where most of the heat is. stir the soup well and continue to simmer.

take that pork out of the fridge and skim all the fat off the top of the broth. the broth that the pork was cooked in will probably be gelled; this is ok. remove the pork loin to a cutting board and put the broth the pork loin was roasted in into the soup. you can slice, dice or shred the pork, it's completely up to you. add the pork to the soup, bring back up to a simmer temperature.

taste the broth. chances are it is spicy enough, but if you want more heat, add another chipotle pepper. i once made this so freaking spicy that we could barely eat it! i had to serve it with TONS of sour cream...and it was good, but it was SO. HOT. make sure it has the flavor you can add a little bit of salt and pepper if you want.

the longer you simmer this, the better it is, but if you want, you can serve it as soon as it's heated through.

i know you're dying to know what to do with that cabbage. slice it up real thin, right? you can also use that shredded coleslaw mix that you find in the premade salad section at your grocery store. put a handful of cabbage in the bottom of a bowl, and ladle the pasole over the top. you can garnish with fresh squeezed lime juice if you like.

my kids love this. if you get it too spicy, calm the heat down with some sour cream.

this makes enough to serve a small army, so we always have it for two meals. it's usually weekend food, so sometimes we eat it for lunch AND dinner. cook once, eat twice.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

oatmeal wheat bread

several months ago, i asked my dear pals for bread recipes. i got several and i have tried most of them. i need to go back and see which ones i have not tried and give them a go.

this one is my absolute favorite - because it's easy. it uses honey instead of white sugar. it has oatmeal, which i love and wheat flour, which makes it semi healthy, right?

did i mention it's really hard to screw this up? this recipe came to me from my friend bob, who got it from HIS friend's wife.

oatmeal wheat bread

* 2 C. whole wheat flour
*4-6 C. white flour (i use 4, tops)
*1 C. oatmeal (regular or quick cooking)
*2 pkg. yeast (4 1/2 tsp.)
*1 tsp. salt
*1 C. water
*1 C. sour milk (1 T vinegar in 1 cup milk)
*1/2 C. honey
*1/3 C. melted butter
*2 eggs, beaten

of course, i use my kitchenaid for this. combine wheat flour, 1 c. flour, oats, yeast and salt. in a separate bowl, mix together water, milk, honey, and butter. warm the liquids until the temperature is between 110-120 degrees. (i warm the milk in the microwave and get warm water from the tap.) stir into flour mixture and beat until smooth. add eggs. add enough flour to form a soft dough. Add the flour 1 cup at a time. you want the dough to just pull away from the bowl and stick to the dough hook (i got this tip from my friend brenda). knead for 10 minutes. let rise until doubled (if using rapid rise yeast, just let dough sit for 10 minutes). punch down and shape into 2 loaves. cover and let rise until doubled. bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

on kneading: who actually kneads bread now? let the dough hook do the work for you. five to seven minutes is sufficient.

another tip: warm the bowl with hot water before you start. i hope this is obvious, but dump the water out of the bowl before you use it. :)

i've also found that for my oven, if i bake this at 375 for 30 mins, it's much too dark. i like to bake it at 350 for about 20-25 minutes. it depends on the weather that day and the flour.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

meal plan

i've just spent most of the morning doing a bunch of spring cleaning. oh, baseboards! how i love thee! how i enjoy washing thee! and windows, i love you too. as i've been mopping, scrubbing, sweeping, dusting, etc., i've been thinking about dinner this week.

last week i did pretty darn good with the meal plan. i got my feelings hurt on tuesday because i went out of my way to make corned beef and cabbage for st. patrick's day, but then no one wanted to eat what i had made. and even if you don't like corned beef and cabbage, my family does. they just chose not to eat that day. i felt bad, but hey, whatever. the philly pockets were a HUGE hit (i will post the recipe, because i did change it a little bit...and it was super yummy.) the baked ziti was also a crushing home run. i will never make lasagna again. the ziti was easier AND i used whole wheat pasta, so it was kinda healthy. HA HA.

this week, i'm really struggling with what i should make. i know i have to come up with SOMETHING, because it really does make the week easier. however, i just don't know what to try. so this week's plan is probably going to be lame.

monday: reuben sandwiches (my kids won't eat these, i am sure. so they'll have to have cereal or something...)

tuesday: grilled cheese and campbell's tomato soup

wednesday: sweet and sour meatballs with rice

thursday: frozen pizza (paul is cooking. he doesn't know yet.)

friday: mixed green salad with citrus balsamic dressing, feta, almonds and craisins (i'll post my recipe on friday)

next week i hope i have some better ideas. i need to go grocery shopping, so a good meal plan will help me with that, too. do you have a meal plan? i'd love to see yours so i can steal your ideas.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

lime rickey for a crowd

i don't know how universal the lime rickey is. i think it's called different things in different states and in some places it's made with grape syrup and in others it's made with cherry. basically, it's a carbonated drink with grape or cherry syrup, fresh limes and lemon-lime soda.

i wish i could take the credit for this recipe, but i can't. i got it from a co-worker - a dude, a STRAIGHT dude no less - and it was a giant hit at the luncheon i served after jenna got baptized two weeks ago.

i guarantee if you make this you'll be wildly popular and there will probably be none left over.

lime rickey

*1 2-liter bottle of grape soda (if you can find diet, i'd recommmend it)
*1 12-oz can frozen limeade, thawed

seriously, that is ALL of the ingredients. in a large punchbowl, combine the limeade and the grape soda. don't stir too much or the soda may go flat. this is why it's important that the limeade be thawed first. i like to add ice to the punchbowl and it's even better if you can get crushed ice. did you know you can buy a bag of crushed ice from sonic drive ins? they will sell it to you and it's fairly inexpensive.

this recipe makes about 1/2 gallon and serves 8-12 people. i haven't tried this, but i think it would be good with black cherry soda, too.

Monday, March 16, 2009

meal plan

if you are wondering whether creating a meal plan is worth it, let me save you some time: it's worth it. i haven't posted one for several weeks, but i have had a basic idea of what i was going to make for dinner most weeknights.

the thing i like about posting it is that i feel i need to adhere to it a bit....and i like to share what i'm cooking with teh interwebz.

a couple of disclaimers:

1. just because i write a menu plan doesn't mean i have to stick to it. it's a living document.

2. stuff happens, stuff like pack meeting. extra dance practice. one of the dogs vomiting all over the carpet and completely ruining my appetite.

so...without further adieu, here's my menu plan for this week:

monday: turkey barley soup (i'll post the recipe for this later. it's good.)

tuesday: corned beef and cabbage (traditional st. patrick's day food.)

wednesday: leftovers and/or cereal

thursday: philly dinner in a pocket from tales from the fridge (no fungus, tyvm)

friday: baked ziti (also from tales from the fridge!) (minor recipe correction, use 4% fat cottage cheese, not 1%)

if there is anything i love, it's cheese and it's pasta, so i'm really looking forward to friday night. i mean seriously. and the baked ziti is meatless, so i'm kinda excited to see how mine turns out. connie, from tales from the fridge (see link above) described it as orgasmic, so i'm really feeling the pressure here to perform.

here's to a good week. don't forget to wear green on tuesday!

Saturday, March 14, 2009


so last week i was wasting time watching food network, as i often do on weekends while waiting for my laundry to fold itself. bobby flay did a throwdown on chinese dumplings, or potstickers as we white folk like to call them.

i've been craving them ever since. like, dying for them. since i love to cook, i thought to myself, "self, you can probably make those. yeah, it looks like it will be a pain in the ass, but i still think you can do it."

so i went out to teh interwebz in search of a recipe and i found quite a few, but none that i loved and was dying to make. here was some of my criteria:

1. i didn't want to make the wrappers from scratch. that seemed like a giant PITA (pain in the you-know-what)and i didn't want to deal with it.

2. i wanted the recipe to include cabbage, because i love cabbage.

3. i only wanted to use pork as the filling inside. i knew my kids wouldn't be hip on shrimp or other weird crap. when introducing new stuff to them, i know the limits.

4. i didn't want to have to buy tons of expensive ingredients that i might only use one time. what if the recipe didn't turn out? or if my family didn't like it? i don't want to be stuck with a bottle of expensive seasoning i'll never use.

i took a few recipes i found and came up with the version below. i created the dipping sauce all on my own...and you'll just have to trust me when i tell you that it's good, because it does kinda sound weird.


*1 package round dumpling wrappers, approx. 60 count
*1 pound lean ground pork
*1 head napa cabbage (use napa, not regular)
*1-2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced finely (ginger is not for everyone...)
*5 green onions, thinly sliced, including the green tops
*1 T cornstarch
*1 T soy sauce
*black pepper
*kosher salt
*vegetable oil for frying

*1 T cornstarch
*1/4 cup cold water

dipping sauce:

*1/2 cup soy sauce
*1 tsp. sugar
*1-2 t. brown sugar

begin by preparing the napa cabbage. wash, remove the core and the outside leaves. slice very thin and place into a large bowl. salt with 2-3 tsp kosher salt, mix well. let the cabbage sit for about 10-15 mins. this will draw out the water and the cabbage will become limp. this is an important step and cannot be skipped - or you will have soggy dumplings. after 10-15 mins, place the cabbage into some cheesecloth or into a clean dishtowel and wring all the water out. again, this sounds like a pain in the butt (and it is, this whole recipe is. just do it.)

place the ground pork in a large bowl. add the minced ginger, and sliced green onions, including the green tops. add about 1/4 tsp pepper. by now, you should know that i really don't measure...i just eyeball it. add the sliced, drained cabbage. i wish i had sliced mine thinner and chopped it a bit more. mix well. you'll probably just want to use your hands, like you would mix meatloaf, but a spatula works nicely, too. i didn't add salt to the meat mixture, because i thought the cabbage was salty enough, and the dipping sauce's main ingredient is soy sauce, which is salty on its own.

now, let the fun begin. in a small dish, prepare the slurry. this is what you'll use to make the wrappers stick together. take 1 wrapper and moisten the edges with the slurry. place about 1/2 T of filling in the wrapper and fold the wrapper around the filling, rolling the filling out slightly inside. pinch the wrapper in the middle to seal. then, seal the sides, pleating only ONE side of the wrapper, and do either the right OR the left side first. make sure the bottom is flat. the finished potsticker should look like a purse. kinda. here's a link to show you with pictures how to fold them: if you scroll down a bit you can see photos of how they fold them.

trust me, it's not easy. in fact, it really is a PITA (see above). thankfully, i had jake to help me. i entertained him by talking to him with my asian voice:

me: sirry boy. you suck at making potsticker. it take you four hour to make 2 potsticker. you so razy and slow!

jake: (laughing) four hour! hahahah! razy! mom, you're funny.

me: risten, get working. you have lots of potsticker to make.

jake: mom, you are funny. you sound just like a chinese lady.

(dear internet, if you know me at all, you know i am not racist. i'm not making fun of asians. i worked with asians for many years and i love them with all my heart. i'd give my left leg to cook like they can.)

a few things here. first of all, it IS worth your time to make these, even though they are way time consuming and a giant PITA. it looks like you have too much filling for 60 wrappers, but you should turn out ok. we did, and i know my kids ate at least a few plain wrappers along the way.

after you've finished about half of the potstickers, it's time to think about cooking them. i have a large 12-inch skillet with a lid. you need a pan that has a lid. if you don't have a 12-inch skillet, you'll have to fry them in smaller batches. pour enough vegetable oil into the pan to just coat the bottom. i used about 1/3 of a cup. heat the oil over medium heat for several minutes. you don't want to put the potstickers in cold oil or they will get greasy. place about 1/2 of the folded and sealed potstickers into the hot oil. carefully. i burned myself and swore no fewer than 12 times and jake laughed every time. fry the potstickers for about 2-3 minutes, until you can see the edges of the dumplings getting very dark brown. you can lift one up to see if they are the right color.

this is where it gets scary, unless you have an apron made of steel and a face mask. measure about 1/2 cup water into a measuring cup. VERY CAREFULLY pout it into the skillet and immediately cover with a lid. steam the potstickers for about 5-7 minutes. even our fattest potstickers were cooked all the way through after about 6 minutes. you can remove one from the pan and cut it in half to be sure.

while your slave helper continues to fold the potstickers and the first batch cooks, make the dipping sauce. in a microwave-safe bowl, combine the soy sauce and the sugar. cook on high for approximately 2 minutes. you want it to boil and for all the sugar to dissolve. stir well.

keep folding the second batch of potstickers. at this point you'll be so sick of it you want to die. but your family is salivating over the first batch and you'll really want to be able to eat at least a couple, so keep making them. it won't seem like it, but you will finish.

remove the first batch from the pan with tongs, let cool slightly, and serve with dipping sauce.for the second batch, you may need to add a bit of oil and reheat it. i did not need to do this, but you may. steam them and cook them like you did with the first batch.

total PITA and totally worth it. i'd make them again.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

sweet and sour meatballs. casa de elana style

so i've never made this, but i'm going to tonight. the biggest reason i'm posting it is b/c i got the recipe in an IM and i need to get it written down before i do something stupid like close the IM window and then POOF! it's gone forever.

i'm going to serve this with rice, but elana (and really, you've got to head over there and see her "daft hands" post anyway...) says it's good with funeral potatoes (if you seriously need this recipe, let me know and i'll post it, but really??? you don't already have it???)

mmm...sweet n sour meatballs. from my sister's IM to your kitchen.

1 lb (or so, she claims to eyeball it. i find this weird, b/c it makes it sound like she has a giant pot of ground meat and she just scoops out whatever and uses it for these meatballs.)

let me start over.

*1 lb. ground meat. i'm using turkey, b/c it's what i have. you can use beef or pork, too.
*2 eggs
*3/4 cup oats
*1/2 cup milk
*minced onions (dried or fresh, eyeball it. she leaves them out, but that should be illegal.)
*1 T worchest-whatever (her words, not mine...)
* salt n pepper

mix together and shape into balls using this thing:

what? you don't have one of these? LAME. making the meat mixture into balls will not be as easy for you, then.

place the meatballs on a cookie sheet in a 9x13 baking dish in a nice little pattern of your choosing.

for the sauce:

*1 c. brown sugar
*1/2 c. vinegar
*1/2 c. bbq sauce
*2 tsp. mustard
*1 T. worchest-whatever

mix ingredients together in a saucepan, heat until boiling. pour sauce over meatballs and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 mins.

here's a little variation i'm going to try out - i'm going to brown the meatballs in a skillet first...and THEN put them in the oven. i have a skillet that is oven proof, so i think they'll be good this way.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

roasted red potatoes

this is the very first thing i made for paul when we started dating. when it was just me, jake and jenna, i didn't really make complete meals. the kids wanted mac n cheese, ramen or waffles. they really like potatoes with ranch and i'd make some hotdogs on the george foreman or grill a chicken breast and call it good.

so, i remember i had made a batch of these potatoes and paul had come over before he went to work (he works nights) and he asked me what smelled so good. i told him i had made roasted potatoes and asked if he wanted some. he did, of course, and he said they were the best potatoes ever.

i share them with you because a monkey could make these potatoes. that is how easy they are. they are totally delicious and you'll love them.

roasted red potatoes

*2-3 pounds red potatoes
*1-2 T olive oil
*mrs. dash

preheat oven to 450 degrees F. i use my pampered chef large bar pans for these potatoes - they have a non-stick surface and the potatoes get really crispy.

wash the potatoes and cut into bite size chunks. do not peel. if you are using baby reds, you can just halve or quarter them... i don't know how many potatoes i actually use, i just fill the pan up.

place the potatoes on the cookie sheet in a single layer. drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle liberally with mrs. dash. you can also slice up an onion and mix in with the potatoes. i've discovered that if you are watching calories, you can spray the potatoes with pam and then sprinkle with them with the mrs. dash.

bake at 450 degrees F for about 30-40 minutes, until potatoes are tender and nicely browned. my kids like to dip them in ranch.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

ham and potato casserole

tonight i wasn't really sure what to make for dinner. i've been too busy to meal plan (really, it's WAY easier if you meal plan, but i've not made it a priority) and life has pretty much been hell on earth since the middle of january.

i stared at the fridge to see what i had on hand. i had a bunch of leftover ham. i knew i had some frozen hash browns on hand. i looked to see if i had some cheese...and all i had were some american singles, white and yellow. one brand claimed to be "swiss," but i really think it's just white american cheese.

so, i whipped up a little ham and potato casserole...and it was a huge hit with tha family, if i do say so myself. don't laugh at the is what i had.

also, take caution with the salt. i thought it turned out a bit salty, probably from the ham. you'll have to adjust based on the cure of the ham and your preference for salt.

ham and potato casserole

*1 32-oz. bag southern style (square cut) frozen hash browns
*2-3 cups diced ham
*1/2 stick of butter (4 T)
*1/4 cup flour
*2 T dried chopped onions (i was way too lazy to just cut up a real onion)
*1 T dried parsley
*1 1/2 cups milk (i wish i could have used 2, but 1 1/2 was all we had!)
*4 slices white american cheese
*2 slices yellow american cheese
*1/2 cup sour cream
*1 can cream of chicken soup
*garlic powder
*salt to taste (be careful!)

preheat oven to 350 degrees F. spray a 9x13 pan with pam. melt butter in a medium saucepan with onions. stir in flour, pepper and garlic powder, whisk until it's thick and bubbly. gradually add the milk, stirring to prevent lumpage. (ha ha! lumpage!) cook until nice and thick. turn heat down to low, add cheese. let the cheese melt, stir occassionally. when the cheese is melted, remove pan from heat, stir in sour cream and cream of chicken soup.

in a large bowl, combine hash browns, ham and parsley. pour sauce over top, stir to combine. spread into the baking pan, cover with foil and bake for 60 mins or until hot and bubbly.

jake LOVED this - he ate three plates.