Friday, April 27, 2012

Make Ahead Enchilades

This is another staple recipe that I like to make in big batches, then freeze in smaller (individual or small group) containers to finish baking when needed.  Basically, I designed it so that while it might take an hour or two to put it all together on a Sunday, next Wednesday it should take all of 20 minutes to heat.  As always with basic recipes, variations are encouraged. For instance, sometimes I throw in a tablespoon of chopped cilantro to the chicken mixture.


3 ancho chiles shredded

1 medium onion, peeled & quartered
3 tbs minced garlic
2 tbs cumin
1 1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp oregano
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups canned tomato sauce (20 ounces)
3 tbp tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced (3 cups)
4 cups shredded cooked chicken (I recommend the cheap supermarket varietyJ)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3/4 pound cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
 Vegetable oil for frying
16 tortillas
(Chopped onion, hot sauce and/orsour cream optional for serving.)


Add Chile, quartered onion, garlic, 1 tbs of the cumin, coriander, oregano, tomato sauce and paste, and 2 tsp of the olive oil to a blender; season with salt and fresh pepper.  Puree until smooth.  Spoon about 3/4 cup of the sauce into the bottom of each of two shallow baking dishes.


Preheat the oven to 350°. In a skillet, heat the remaining 1 tbs of olive oil. Add the diced onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Stir in the chicken, remaining cumin, cilantro and half of the shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add the tortillas 1 at a time and fry over low heat just until pliable. Transfer to a paper towel–lined platet and pat dry. Spoon 1/4 cup of the chicken filling into each tortilla then roll up. Place the doobies in the baking dishes, seam side down. Spoon the remaining chili sauce on top, spreading it to cover the enchiladas. Dust with remaining cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, until bubbling.  I typically remove the foil halfway through cooking to brown the cheese a bit. Let the enchiladas cool about 10 minutes. Can be served with chopped onion, hot sauce and/or sour cream, if you want to look all fancy.

This can be frozen prior to baking and thawed out as need.  Or popped into individual portions & put in the fridge for quick lunches. Just tack on a extra 10 minutes to the bake time if freezing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Recently, a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, did the whole chemo and surgery thing, and was recovering at home.  I made a couple of dishes that are super easy, super basic a very re-heatable.  The types of things that can be portioned individually, frozen or put into the fridge, and whipped back out as needed.  They aren’t staggering, life changing versions of classic dishes, just good templates to start with, so feel free to play around.

Basic Lasagna:

1/2 pound ground beef chuck

1/2 pound ground sirloin4 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
32 oz crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pounds fresh ricotta
1 tbs parsley
1 tbs basil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound whole-milk mozzarella, shredded (3 cups)
1 large egg, beaten
12 No-boil (or fresh) lasagna noodles

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat a TINY amount of olive oil until shimmering. Add the chuck and sirloin and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up meat, until no pink remains. Add the garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper then cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes, add stock and season with salt and pepper then bring to a boil.  Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to approximately 8 cups (about an hour.)
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta with the parsley, basil and 1/4 cup of the parmesan.  Add two-thirds of the shredded mozzarella and season with salt and pepper.  Fold in the egg.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Spread 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Line the dish with 4 overlapping noodles. Spread one-half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, and then top with one-half of the meat sauce. Repeat the layering with the remaining noodles, ricotta, and 1 ½ cup of the sauce. Top with 4 noodles and cover with remaining sauce. Toss the last cup of mozzarella with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan and sprinkle over the lasagna.
Bake the lasagna for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and crisp around the edges and the filling is bubbling. Let the lasagna rest for 20 minutes before serving.

The lasagna can be refrigerated overnight (or frozen) before baking, or it can be baked ahead and then reheated in a 325° oven.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Veggie Spaghetti

This is my basic, quick and dirty on a week night, recipe.  I never tell people about the anchovies replacing salt, (and they never notice) but it deepens the flavor so very much.  I make mine vegetarian, but beef or sausage is a great addition as well.

1 pound spaghetti
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 small sweet onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 fillets of anchovy
24oz crushed tomatoes
freshly ground pepper
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp rosemary
2 tbp capers
1/2 cup black olives, chopped
1 tbs fresh basil

Bring a pot of well salted water to boil, add 1tbs of olive oil to pot. Toss in the spaghetti and cook until al dente; drain, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.  Add the onion, garlic and anchovies and cook over medium heat until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, pepper, oregano, rosemary, capers, and olives and heat until just shy of boiling.
Add the pasta to the skillet along with the reserved cooking water and toss. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a large bowl. Sprinkle with the basil and serve (Hopefully with garlic bread :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lime Cream Tart with Blackberries

Ah, fresh blackberries.  Nothing in the world is better.  But if you've decided that you can't just stuff them in your mouth until it turns deep plum anymore, this is a fantastic way to impress the crap out of people with surprisingly little labour.

Lime Cream:

1 cup sugar
Zest of 3 limes
4 eggs
¾ cup lime juice
2 sticks + 5 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a large saucepan, rub zest into sugar until sugar is moist and aromatic.  Whisk in eggs, then lime juice.

Over medium heat CONTINUE WHISKING.  Cook until lime curd reaches 180 degrees by candy thermometer.   Don’t pretend you’re cool and leave this alone; it will die—WHISK constantly as it thickens.  It can take as long as 10 min.  Remove from heat.

Strain mixture into blender (heat proof is a must on this one.)  Discard zest.  Let cream stand until it cools to 140 degrees.  Turn on high and add the butter 5 pieces at a time, scrapping as needed.  Once the butter is all in, keep going for about 3 minutes.   If your blender starts to stink like burning, go in intervals.

Put cream in container and cover with cling film flat to cream surface.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hrs or overnight.  When ready to use, whisk lightly and spoon into tart shell.

Tart Shell:

1 ½ cups flour
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp candied ginger
¼ salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon frozen butter in tiny pieces
1 egg yolk

Chuck flour, sugar, ginger, and salt into a food processor and pulse to stir.  Scatter butter over dry ingredients and pulse until butter in cut in—like looks a little like oatmeal with peas in.  Stir yolk to break apart and pour into machine, then pulse.  Pulse in 10 second intervals until dough starts to clump up (the machine will change noise, and as soon as it does, stop.)  Turn dough onto counter and knead gently.

PAM a 9 inch tart pan.  Press dough into pan, paying attention to edges.  It shrinks during baking, so I go up over the top a bit.  Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes prior to baking.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  PAM a piece of aluminum foil and fit it against the crust.  Put tart onto baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil.  If it puffed up, press it down gently and cool on rack.


1 pound blackberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp ground ginger

I used frozen, put them in a dish with a bit of sugar and ginger and let them warm up on the counter.

To complete:

Spoon cream into shell.  Smooth cream.  Toss on blackberries.  Serve.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Great Book Back-Log, Part I

So, I may have been bad and super AWOL for a while.  So sorry, scuzi, scuzi.  But I'm back! So let's catch up!  First up on the roster: BOOKS, and coming soon: More Books!
To Begin:

Sin and Shadows

by Lyn Benedict


This is an intriguing blend of Maltese Falcon style noir and paranormal elements, and I was generally pleased with the brisk plot, interesting characters, and reasonably surprising ending.  I wasn’t totally prepared for how dark the tone was, and the mis en scene start caught me a bit flat footed, but once the ground settled I was drawn in and will certainly pick up the next in the series.  Really, the only drawback was a tendency to whine on the part of the lead.  But this is a complaint that can be leveled at 99.9% of Urban Fantasy.  And this flaw was more than accounted for by the fact that our heroine had all of no superpowers that magically downloaded while her enemies swarmed her-unless you count being willing and able to kill things/people.  Basically, the possible demi-god of justice hires/blackmails our lead Sylvie into helping him hunt his missing lover.  Along the way the plot smacks into the story of Lilith and exile from Eden.  All sorts of supernatural creatures pop up and no one, from Sylvie to any of the extras is wholly good or evil.  Which gets a gold star from me.   There are some unwelcome Angels in the Outfield bits, but I enjoy that, like in Supernatural, they’re dicks.   

by Kristen Callihan


This was such a random buy, and boy were my expectations low.  It’s a paranormal regency romance.  It has enormous fun with the tropes of both genres and creates a froth that tastes a bit like syllabub and is just as enjoyable.  The characters are engaging, recognizable as both Regency and Urban archetypes (not a bad thing when done purposefully and with an agenda) and the plot moves swiftly and maintains interest.  A man who’s been cursed with eternal life and a girl who’s a pyro fall in lurv and are stalked by a crazy cultist.  Magic and/or lurv save them. And the heroine is surprisingly kick ass without seeming ridiculous for regency.  Of course, there are a lot of twists that a careful reader will see coming, but I didn’t really feel too irritated by them.  This isn’t fiction to change your life, but strangely, I feel that way too many straight up Urban Fantasy writers should be taking notes on how to craft entertainment without resorting to cheap sex scenes.  Yeah.  The romance novel does it right, how weird is that?

by Diana Rowland


This is an improvement over the first book, make no mistake.  Something is sucking out souls in our tiny Louisiana township and our resident demon summoner and her FBI pals are on the case.  Which involves rich dead folk, an increasing amount of weird from her BFF partner, and the looming threat that her aunt’s comma will become permanent.  The meta-narrative is starting to shape up nicely as well.  There seems to be a lot more going on with her Demonic Lord then just smexy times and snarky small talk. Or even world domination.  I’ll admit to being intrigued.  The plot is still brisk, the characters deeper and their interactions both believable and seemingly related to the plot and each other.  BUT.  We’ve still got a ways to go on making the mystery believable.  The villain is still easily spotted, the mystery not all that compelling.  Hell, even a few of the set piece ‘dangers’ are pretty familiar.  What bothers me most, however, is the weird sense I get that our lead, Kara, is being punished for being sexually active.  Like it’s naughty.  Dunno, maybe that’s all in my head.  However, it’s still interesting enough that I read it fast and wanted to read the next one, so complaints aside, a solid second entry.

by Alison Pang


Wait, you mean I paid the monies for a sequel to A Brush of Darkness?  After slamming it mercilessly?  Well, yes.  And this is one of those rare instances where a crap-tastic first novel is followed by a pretty darned enjoyable second.  So many, many of the problems that I despised in the first are fixed or absent in this one.  And honestly, I can’t even say to pick up the first in discount or used bins though, just skip it and jump straight in with this.  This time we’ve got another round of AWOL Moira, but now it’s complicated with ½ angel babies, imposter regents, the closing of the gates between Faerie and our world, and Abby’s Past with a capitol P.  The snark works, and the dialogue is snippy, fast and really enjoyable-to the point of actually being funny at times.  Once our heroine gets into faerie, things get interesting I enjoyed the depiction of the court system and (maybe intentionally, maybe not) LOL’d lots at the depictions of the demon army as goth rock skater types.  Everyone’s back story gets deeper, murkier, and stronger, and even the succubus ex isn’t entirely irritating.  And the cliffhanger ending, while super convoluted and I’m still not 100% on board with it, did leave me wanting more.  Overall, a pleasant surprise. 

by Christina Henry


On the less pleasant side, the Black Wings novels seem to be heading in the other direction.  While the first book was interesting and novel, the subsequent ones have been less and less so.  This outing, Maddie Black is still dealing with her new role as Lucifer’s favourite, and now ghosts are walking around without an approved and time stamped agent of death to aid in the transition.  And the werewolf pack she befriended last time is in trouble.  The plot moves quickly, but there are few surprises, including  the fact that the two big twist are so obvious that any close reader, or one familiar with genre tropes will see them coming from miles off.  The villains are villainous, mostly just for the sake of being evil, and the good guys are as often annoying as they are brilliant/resourceful/fun.  But what’s most depressing is that this book could function as a master class on why actual human speech, or even emotional head space is NOT THE SAME as well written dialogue or exposition.  Just because I obsess about stupid shit, or have the same conversation six times with my roommate before she gets the point doesn’t mean I want or will enjoy reading that.  Just because it’s real doesn’t mean it’s good.  The fine line between real and realistic was lost here.  A lot.  To the point that one conversation repeated every time our heroes did anything.  And isn’t belaboring the point obnoxious? J  I may have hit the point where I get the next one used and see if there’s any improvement.  Sigh. 

A note on Grading: on my Scale A=I might buy the hardback; B=pay trade cover price; C=get it used or from the bargain bin; D=used if you’re in to self flagellation; F=what, are you stupid?