Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes

January 31, 2013

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Good ole Sloppy Joes. I’m sure all of the Americans reading this have fond childhood memories of this dish. For those of you unfamiliar with this American kid-friendly classic, it was originally invented by a cook named Joe in a Sioux City Iowa cafe. It is essentially a “loose meat” sandwich which consists of browned ground beef (mince) onions, spices and tomato sauce served on a hamburger bun. I swear, my elementary school cafeteria served them every single week. Unfortunately, I do not have fond memories of Sloppy Joes since some cook in my school thought it would be great to put beans into the mix. Beans?! Bleck! At least that is what 6-year-old me would have said. It totally ruined the whole Sloppy Joe experience for me. There was no picking around the beans. I mean, I ask you, who in the world would want to put beans in a Sloppy Joe! At that point, it became a peanut butter & jelly day without a doubt! The good news is that I think my discovery of these Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes has taken some of the tarnish off of my childhood Sloppy Joe trauma. Rather than the regular ground beef, these Joes use ground pork and have really kicked up the spice factor with the addition of  chipotle chilis, chorizo sausage, green chilis and cilantro into the mix. I served the spicy meat mixture up on my home-made Jalapeño Cheddar Rolls and topped it with a big old dollop of guacamole, crumbled mexican cheese and freshly chopped cilantro. Notice there is not a bean in sight! Comfort food perfection! I have completely revised my opinion of Sloppy Joes at this point. They can be utterly delicious! Revamp your childhood memories and serve up a batch of these bad boys up soon!

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Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes

Recipe Adapted from: Smells like Home

Yield: 15-16 servings (depending on the size of hamburger bun you serve)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14.5 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 chipotle chiles en adobo (or 1/4 tsp chipotle powder)
  • 2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb. chorizo sausage, removed from casings
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz beer, such as a light ale or lager
  • 1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chili’s
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • hamburger buns, guacamole, chopped cilantro, mexican cheese, diced red onions to serve

Directions:

Brown ground pork and chorizo sausage in large skillet. Drain all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat. Set meat aside.

Saute the onion and garlic in reserved fat until onions are tender. Set aside.

Place tomato sauce, chipotle chilis, spices, and Worcestershire sauce in food processor and pulse until smooth.

Put browned meats, onion and garlic mixture, and tomato sauce mixture in slow cooker. Add beer, chopped green chilis, cilantro and lime juice. Stir to combine. (if you don’t have  slow cooker, just keep in on the stove top)

Cook in slow cooker set on medium high for 25 minutes and then keep warm until ready to serve.

Just prior to serving add salt and black pepper to taste.

Serve on hamburger buns (see my recipe for Jalapeño Cheddar rolls), with guacamole, cheese and more cilantro for toppings.

Enjoy!

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Biscoff Brown Sugar Bars

January 28, 2013

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Biscoff you say? Yum! I’m sure everyone is familiar with Biscoff cookies by now, but just in case you’ve gone totally hermit and don’t know what Biscoff is, Biscoff cookies were originally made by the Lotus Bakery in Belgium in 1932. Overseas they are referred to as Speculoos Biscuits. These cookies are really delicious and have a caramelized cinnamony taste. You may have eaten one if you’ve flown anywhere recently, because many airlines have been serving them as a snack since 1984. I really love them, completely unadorned, just all on their own. But they dress up nicely as well. A little over a year ago I blogged about Biscoff Crunch White Chocolate Chip cookies, which are deee-lish! Definitely check those out if you haven’t done so. And now I’m thrilled to report that you can not only get the cookies here in the good old US of A. But you can get the spread!

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That’s right…Biscoff Spread! And just like peanut butter, you can get a smooth version or a crunchy version which actually has little bits of the Biscoff biscuits crumbled up in there. Heaven! Recently I found a recipe that calls for the spread. Not that I’m not happy to just eat it directly out of the jar with a spoon, or my fingers if said spoon is unavailable. Or, you know, if I can’t reach a spoon fast enough….Anyway….Biscoff Brown Sugar Bars are fantastic! You get all of that lovely, gooey cinnamony Biscoff spread filling cradled in a buttery shortbread crust. I particularly like how the top of the bars bake up all crinkly and crackly. And of course, I used the crunchy spread, so the occasional bit of the gooey filling in my bars had a little extra crunch to it.These little devils are pure bliss with a cup of tea or coffee. Make yourself some soon!

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Biscoff Brown Sugar Bars

Recipe from: Handle the Heat

yield: 16 bars

Ingredients:

For the crust:

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt

For the filling:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff spread, or other cookie spread
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

For the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper or foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the butter, sugar, flour, and salt until mixture is well combined and moistened. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Let cool.

For the filling:
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine the eggs, sugar, Biscoff, and flour until well combined and smooth.

Pour the mixture over the cooled crust and bake for 30 minutes, or until the middle is just set. Let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into 16 bars to serve. Bars can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and stored at room temperature in an airtight container.

Enjoy!


Cock-a-leekie

January 24, 2013

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Some hae meat and canna eat,

And some wad eat that want it;

But we hae meat, and we can eat,

And sae let the Lord be thankit.

*The Selkirk Grace *

as delivered by Robert Burns

This Friday, January 25th, is Robert Burns’ birthday. Throughout the world, though especially in Scotland, folks will be celebrating with a Burns Night Supper to mark the occasion. Robert Burns was born in 1759 and is regarded as the National Poet of Scotland. I’m quite a Burns fan myself and will certainly be raising my glass to The Bard this weekend. I wanted to give you a nice Scottish recipe in case you were planning on holding such a celebration as well. My first inclination was to make Haggis, that great chieftain o’ the puddin-race, as Burns put it.  But I quickly realized that it would likely be difficult to come across the ingredients. Since I couldn’t even find lard around here, I think sourcing out a sheep’s heart, lungs and stomach would be quite the challenge! So, I decided on Cock-a-leekie soup, a standard starter at many a Burn’s Night Supper. And an easy choice for me because my husband is absolutely mad for anything with a leek in it. (Must be that Welsh blood in him.)

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This soup is very easy to make and delicious to boot! The first time that I made it, I was a bit nervous about adding in the prunes. I thought a fruit would taste quite odd in a chicken soup. But although you see bits of prunes in the mix, you don’t get a sweet, fruit taste when you eat them. They add to the overall flavour of the dish and I think they would definitely be missed if they were omitted. You’ll have to trust me on that. I served my Cock-a-leekie soup up with some toasted Struan bread.

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Struan, also known as Celtic Harvest Bread, is thought to have taken its name from a town in Western Scotland called Struanmoor, on the Isle of Skye. It was originally enjoyed once a year as a harvest bread, using whatever grains were available from the previous day’s harvest. This is my absolute favourite bread, so it is almost always available in my house. It toasts up particularly brilliantly. Click here for the Struan recipe that I use. If you are looking for some other dishes to serve at your Burns Supper, take a look at my Scotch Eggs, ( a hard boiled egg encased in sausage and then deep fried.)

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Deviled Scotch Eggs (the eggs as described above, but with the yolk part “deviled”.)

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and Chranachan for dessert. (My Chranachan recipe has a more Irish bent, but that is easy to change. Just use a good Scottish Malt Whiskey rather than the Jamesons and skip the Bailey’s drizzle. This dessert is typically served in a tall glass, though I served it in little chocolate cordial glasses topped with raspberries once, which was quite fun.)

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I hope I’ve managed to inspire you with these lovely Scottish dishes. If so, whip some of them up and raise a wee dram and drink a toast to Scotland’s Favourite Son this Friday.

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Cock-a-leekie

recipe from: Martha Stewart

yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 pounds skinless chicken thighs (on the bone; 4 pieces)
  • 1 1/4 pounds skinless chicken breast halves (on the bone; 3 pieces)
  • Four 14 1/2-ounce cans low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
  • 2 cups white wine or water
  • 2 large celery ribs, halved crosswise
  • 1 large carrot, peeled
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 6 leeks, white and light-green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 12 pitted prunes, quartered (2/3 cup packed)
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Heat a 6-quart Dutch oven on medium-high until hot. Add thighs; cook until browned, turning once, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with breasts.

Add broth, wine, celery, carrot, and garlic to Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; scrape any browned bits from pot; return chicken to pot, reduce heat, and simmer, skimming as necessary, for 1 hour. Transfer chicken to a plate; let cool. Transfer vegetables to another plate; reserve.

Add leeks, prunes, and barley to broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until thick, about 40 minutes more. Once chicken has cooled, shred meat. Finely dice carrot and celery. Stir chicken, carrot, celery, and parsley into soup, heat through, and serve.

Enjoy!

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Spicy Ham & Black Bean Soup

January 17, 2013

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I’m so excited! I was actually able to use the ham bone that was left over from our Christmas ham this past year. I always have great intentions of using the ham bone, but always seem to be busy with post-holiday stuff at the time it makes itself available to me. So, I wrap it up ever so carefully and put it in the freezer, confident I will make some sort of delicious soup or stew. Well, of course, I sort of forget it is in there until we have an extended power outage and I’m sitting on the floor performing triage on all of my rapidly melting frozen goodies. (Falls Church seems to lose power all of the time! I grew up way out in the country, on a little island and I used to think we lost power there a lot. HAH! Falls Church definitely takes the cake in that department!) At that moment, the old Christmas ham bone does not warrant a place in the Coleman cooler. So it is either flung into the trash or it is given to a very lucky fox who goes running about the neighborhood with it like he won the lottery. This year, my refrigerator outsmarted me and promptly died a couple of days past Christmas. Quite considerate when you think it could have just given up the ghost right before our big Holiday meal. So there was no freezing of the ham bone, oh no. I had to act right away! Luckily I had just received a slow cooker. I took a quick peek online and found a great recipe, which I did adapt a bit. I just popped all of the ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning and didn’t think about it again until it was dinner time. Well, that’s not really true. Since it was my maiden voyage with a slow cooker I was looking at it constantly, but next time I’m sure I will pay it no mind and just let it do its thing. I’m happy to report that the soup was a huge success. We’ve eaten it simply ladled into bowls as well as over rice,  though always sprinkled with gooey melted cheddar cheese and fresh cilantro with a hunk of cornbread, slathered in butter on the side. Delicious!  Nice and spicy. It will really warm you up on a damp and rainy day. I’m very pleased with it and I’m not really that much of a “bean person”. My husband LOVES beans. All of them. Even those lima beans, which he calls “butter beans”, which I call “chalk beans”. Boo! You won’t catch me making any kind of lima bean concoction any time soon. But these black beans are winners. And let me tell you, my husband is in bean heaven! Tonight, for this recipe’s next incarnation, I’m thinking I’m going to mix some rice in with it to thicken it up a bit, roll it up in some tortillas and serve them smothered with cheese, guacamole, salsa and a bit of chopped lettuce and tomatoes. (This recipe does make a whole heck of a lot of soup, so if it’s just two of you, you might need to get a bit creative with how you present it…) All in all a big win! Yay ham bone & yay slow cooker!

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Spicy Ham & Black Bean Soup

recipe adapted from: andreasrecipes.com

yield: approximately 10-12 servings (a whole mess of soup!)

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces dry black beans
  • 2 quarts water
  • bone from a large ham
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili powder
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground Chipotle pepper
  • water, enough to cover all of the ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • cheese and more cilantro to garnish

Instructions:

The night before you make the soup, pick through the beans and remove any bad beans or other debris. Put the beans into the pot and add 2 quarts water. Remove the beans that float. Soak beans overnight.

Place the ham bone in the bottom of a 6 quart slow cooker pot. Add the drained soaked beans, the peppers onion, tomatoes (with liquid) chili powder, garlic and spices. Add enough water to the pot to cover everything. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 6-7 hours, until the beans are tender.

About 1 hour before serving, add the salt, pepper and chopped cilantro. Stir to incorporate. Place the lid back.

Just prior to serving, remove the ham bone. If any meat is still clinging to it, remove it and add it back to the soup. Ladle it into bowls or serve over rice, garnished with cheddar cheese and additional fresh cilantro.

Enjoy!


Kanilsnúðar (Cinnamon Snails) & Iceland in December

January 8, 2013

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Happy New Year Everyone! The busy holiday season is finally over and I guess everyone is starting to get back into their old routines. Our holiday season was made particularly hectic due to our decision to go on a spur of the moment trip to Iceland. We had always wanted to visit Iceland and had briefly looked into flights, hotels etc., but it had always been a bit on the pricey side. When we arrived back from our October Ireland trip, I had read an article which claimed that this winter, visitors to Iceland would be much more likely to see the Northern Lights due to the current cycle of increased solar flare activity. That’s when I checked flights on a lark and found that not only were flights cheaper, but all of the hotels seemed to be running off-season special rates. I must admit, a few times I did think “Who the heck goes to Iceland in December?! Are we nuts?!”

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But I’ve got to tell you, it is fantastic!. We LOVED it! Actually, I probably should tell you it’s dreadful, cause we are definitely going back and I don’t want to let too many folks in on the secret. Sure, it is chilly, though not awfully so. It hovers right around freezing but the temperatures are often accompanied and shall we say enhanced by ever-present, kicking winds. There is also not a great deal of daylight. Although you will find 24 hours of daylight if you visit in July, in December it got light around 10:45 a.m. and was dark again around 4 p.m. Such limited daylight definitely forced us to plan out what we wanted to do during  the day and get to doing it before it was dark again. And we did get in quite a few adventures. We went horseback riding at Hestheimar Horse Farm.

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Icelandic Horses were initially introduced to the country by Norwegian Viking settlers and the breed has remained pure for about 1000 years. These sturdy and hardy horses are very friendly and personable. They have an extra gait called a tölt which is essentially a fast walk. Tölting is a pleasure! Very smooth, much more comfortable for the rider than a trot.

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Super Jeep next to a crater created when Eyafjallajökull volcano erupted a couple of years ago.

We went on a Super Jeep tour of Þórsmörk (Thor’s Forest) with South Iceland Adventure Company (Thanks so much to Magnus, our guide) and saw waterfalls, and hiked through gorges, mountain passes and around on a glacier.

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Inside a glacial ice formation.

We chilled out at the Blue Lagoon. Not the one from the 80’s with Brooke Shields, but a surreal geothermal pool and Spa located in a lava field in Grindavík about 40 minutes from Reykjavik. No description from me will do it justice. It really is other worldly. But let me just say… imagine a huge hot tub in the middle of a lava field with a swim up to wine/beer bar located in the center. Are you getting the picture?

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We went Snowmobiling with Mountaineers of Iceland on Langjökull glacier, the second largest glacier in Iceland. Very exciting, but even with the copious layers of thermals I was wearing, it was the absolute coldest I’ve ever been in my entire life! Though what would you expect, we were traipsing about on a huge slab of ice!

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We stayed at Hotel Rangá. This gorgeous, cozy hotel, which is located out in the country (hence no light pollution), about two hours from Reykjavik, caters to folks hoping to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights and will give you a wake up call should you desire if the elusive lights do make an appearance. (seems like they mostly show up around midnight to 2 a.m.) We were actually lucky enough to see the Aurora put on a great show.

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Northern Lights and a meteor from the Geminid meteor shower which was happening on the same night!

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What is the food like you might ask. As you can imagine, the seafood is really outstanding! My husband, who is allergic to seafood, was not left wanting. There were plenty of non-seafood options available for him to choose from. One of his favourite meals of the trip was reindeer meatballs. All that being said, one of the most popular “restaurants” in Reykjavik, really isn’t a restaurant at all. It is a hot dog stand called Bæjarins Beztu which has been selling hot dogs or pylsur to Icelanders and tourists alike since 1935. Apparently Icelanders LOVE hot dogs and claim that theirs are the best in the world. Indeed, The Guardian designated Bæjarins Beztu as the “best hot dog stand in Europe”. Of course we made a beeline for the place as soon as we arrived in the city (as well as paying it a couple more visits while we were there). We weren’t disappointed! They serve some excellent hot dogs. These dogs have lamb added to the usual pork and beef and are smothered with ketchup, mustard, raw onion, crispy onion and a spicy remoulade. Delicious!

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We are already planning our trip back this year and yup, in December! I’m sure at this point you are wondering if we are ever going to talk about the Kanilsnúðar recipe I’ve dangled so temptingly before you. So I’ll get right to it. Icelanders are really into Christmas. Christmas music plays non-stop. All the houses are completely decked out with lights. Everywhere we went, shops, bars, you name it, had Christmas cookies out for all to enjoy. I think I first tasted a Kanilsnúðar at the Heistheimar riding stables. It reminded me of a Snickerdoodle, but better, much more exotic and with a fun shape. Then I was able to find a bag of these darling little snails, the first of many bags consumed on the trip, in a local market and my obsession began.

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Once I got home, I looked about online and was able to find a couple of recipes. The one I really wanted to make called for the ingredient “Hartshorn” which I had never heard of. Further internet research revealed that Hartshorn is a rather old-fashioned leavener also known as Baker’s Ammonia. It is supposed to make baked goods rise higher than baking powder and make them extra crispy. I read that it was available in most Scandinavian shops. These establishments are a bit thin on the ground in Virginia, so I checked the King Arthur Flour site and sure enough they had it, so I placed my order. (If you would like to make these cookies without the Hartshorn, you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for the 1/2 teaspoon Hartshorn called for. This is said to yield similar results, but I did not try it.) For those of you who do manage to procure some Hartshorn, don’t freak out when you mix the cookie dough up. It will have quite a whiff of ammonia about it, but it goes away once baking is complete. I was quite happy with my little “cinnamon snails”.

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They are great with a cup of coffee or tea in the morning or as an afternoon snack. My husband likes them because they are not overly sweet, a quality which he seems to prefer in a cookie. I’m sure they have secured a permanent place in our Christmas cookie repertoire because they will always be a pleasant reminder of our dreamy first trip to Iceland.

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Kanilsnúðar (Cinnamon Snails)

recipe adapted from: Jo’s Icelandic Recipes

yield: approx. 12  cookies

Ingredients:

  • 175 grams flour
  • 100 grams  unsalted butter  plus 1 Tablespoon salted butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp hartshorn powder (baker’s ammonia) * or 1/2 tsp. baking powder and baking soda
  • 60 grams sugar
  • 1 egg
  • healthy pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cinnamon Sugar:

  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon (or extra if you’re really into cinnamon)

Directions:

Mix cinnamon and sugar together until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Place flour and hartshorn, sugar and salt in food processor. Pulse to mix. Cut cold butter into 1″ cubes and scatter over  the flour mixture. Pulse a few times until mixture resembles coarse little pebbles. Remove flour/butter mixture from food processor and place in bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and knead mixture until it just comes together to form dough. Pat dough into square shape and wrap with plastic wrap.

Place wrapped dough in the refrigerator for a couple of hours at least.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Flatten the dough quite thin and roll out evenly. Try to keep it an approximately square or rectangular shape.

Brush dough with melted butter.

Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture evenly over top of dough.

Roll the dough up into a roll, then slice into approx. 1 cm thick slices.

Arrange slices on a cookie sheet and bake at about 200°C (392 ° F) until golden brown.

Enjoy!

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