Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chili thats not really Chili at all....

Not a huge fan of Chili but a long time ago in a place far, far away my friend, Gaylene made this side dish and we make it occasionally in our house and call it chili.  Now, yes, I know how to make the real deal and have posted a recipe for Chili Colorado that uses reconstituted peppers even but this is definitely not that.  Just a nice mellow  mix of beans and burger that comforts and allows me to consume mass quantities of yellow corn bread.

So this recipe (originally called Calico Beans) is our house "Chili" recipe.

1 pound of ground beef browned
1 onion chopped (added to the pan after the beef till translucent)
garlic cloves minced (I used a lot) added the last few minutes of the onions
1 can of butter beans (drained, reserve if you need more liquid though)
2 cans of Mixed Beans (black, pinto, navy etc.) not drained
1 can of Pork and Beans
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 T vinegar

1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
1 t Chipotle Chili powder (heat)
S & P to taste

I just threw everything in the crock pot and walked away for 6 hours or so. If its too thin I use a bit of corn meal to thicken it up. 

A dollop of sour cream and a slice of corn bread makes this a tasty meal.  I asked the kids to come over but they did not so their loss.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Runza Casserole

Now, seriously, I am not a big casserole fan but the other day one of my co workers brought this for lunch and got me to thinking.  So thought all the rest of the afternoon and then stopped at the store on the way home to pick up what I might need to accomplish this not so pretty but tasty feast for the soul.

Runza Casserole

1 pkg of shredded slaw
1 pound ground beef
1 med onion diced
2 cloves garlic minced
8 oz mushrooms sliced
4-8 ounces of you favorite cheese (cheddar or Swiss)
a bit of cream (1/4 cup)  (the original recipe calls for a can of soup but that's too much)
Wondra if need for thickening.

The bread:

2 teaspoons of yeast
1 1/2 c flour
2 T butter softened
1 t salt
1/2 + warm water

I use a food processor with a bread blade for my bread so everything went in and buzzed to make a soft dough adding more water if needed but just start with 1/2 c.   Let this rise for a hour while you make the filling.

The filling

Brown the ground beef and drain well and set aside. Add the onions to the pan and saute till clear then add the garlic and mushrooms. Let that cook till the mushrooms give up some liquid and add the coleslaw and cook covered or uncovered till it wilts a bit.

Check the amount of fluid in the pan, you may have  to pour some off and then add a bit of cream to moisten. Add the drained ground beef back into he pan and mix it all up well. Season with salt and pepper. Set this aside and work on the dough.

Divide the dough in half. Roll out thinly to cover a 8 x 8 pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Fit 1/2 the rolled out dough into the bottom of the pan letting the sides over hang a bit. Add the filling, top with cheese. Place the rolled out top and seal the edges with the bottom. Bake at 350 till the top is golden and the filling is bubbly hot. Let sit for 20 minutes to gel up a bit before cutting.

This is not my image but this is what it looks like. Tasty!

George Saunder's Speech to the Syracuse University Class of 2013

I was reading my niece's blog this a.m. as I do from time to time. She lives in Chicago and writes some terrific things but we are estranged for reasons that are not particularly important and yesterday she posted an excerpt from this speech which included a link to the whole speech. I read the whole speech which was inspiring, insightful, funny and thought provoking.  It goes as follows:

Down through the ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you).
And I intend to respect that tradition.
Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?”  And they’ll tell you.  Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked.  Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.
So: What do I regret?  Being poor from time to time?  Not really.  Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?”  (And don’t even ASK what that entails.)  No.  I don’t regret that.  Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked?  And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months?  Not so much.  Do I regret the occasional humiliation?  Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl?  No.  I don’t even regret that.
But here’s something I do regret:
In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class.  In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be “ELLEN.”  ELLEN was small, shy.  She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore.  When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.
So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (“Your hair taste good?” – that sort of thing).  I could see this hurt her.  I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear.  After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth.  At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: “How was your day, sweetie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.”  And her mother would say, “Making any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”
Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.
And then – they moved.  That was it.  No tragedy, no big final hazing.
One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.
End of story.
Now, why do I regret that?  Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it?  Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her.  I never said an unkind word to her.  In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.
But still.  It bothers me.

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. 
Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly.  Reservedly.  Mildly.
Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope:  Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?
Those who were kindest to you, I bet.
It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.
Now, the million-dollar question:  What’s our problem?  Why aren’t we kinder?
Here’s what I think:
Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian.  These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).
Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.
So, the second million-dollar question:  How might we DO this?  How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?
Well, yes, good question.
Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left.
So let me just say this.  There are ways.  You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter.  Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend;  establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition – recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.
Because kindness, it turns out, is hard – it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include…well, everything.
One thing in our favor:  some of this “becoming kinder” happens naturally, with age.  It might be a simple matter of attrition:  as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish – how illogical, really.  We come to love other people and are thereby counter-instructed in our own centrality.  We get our butts kicked by real life, and people come to our defense, and help us, and we learn that we’re not separate, and don’t want to be.  We see people near and dear to us dropping away, and are gradually convinced that maybe we too will drop away (someday, a long time from now).  Most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving.  I think this is true.  The great Syracuse poet, Hayden Carruth, said, in a poem written near the end of his life, that he was “mostly Love, now.”
And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love.  YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE.   If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment.  You really won’t care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit.  That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today.  One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever.
Congratulations, by the way.
When young, we’re anxious – understandably – to find out if we’ve got what it takes.  Can we succeed?  Can we build a viable life for ourselves?  But you – in particular you, of this generation – may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition.  You do well in high-school, in hopes of getting into a good college, so you can do well in the good college, in the hopes of getting a good job, so you can do well in the good job so you can….
And this is actually O.K.  If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers.  We have to do that, to be our best selves.
Still, accomplishment is unreliable.  “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.
So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up.  Speed it along.  Start right now.  There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness.  But there’s also a cure.  So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf – seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.
Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.  Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.  That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been.  Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s.  Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place.  Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.
And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been.  I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.
Congratulations, Class of 2013.
I wish you great happiness, all the luck in the world, and a beautiful summer.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Stuffed Chicken Breast

I had 2 boneless chicken breasts and very few ideas. I brined the birds just in case inspiration hit, then I caught site of the remaining stuffing cubes. Stuffed Chicken Breasts with a Dijon Cream sauce and a side of Sugar Snap Peas fit the bill.

For the stuffing

medium onion chopped fine
1 stalk celery chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 T butter
1/2 c cubed Fontina
1/4 c cream or milk
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t sage
3/4 c dry bread cubes

I sauteed the onion, celery and garlic till transparent careful not to let the garlic burn.
Remove from heat and add the cheese and cream and spices. Mix well. Makes about 1 cup plus.

For the chicken I removed from the brine and cut a deep pocket into the thickest edge. I stuffed the breasts and then dusted with flour. I used a cast iron skillet so I could finish the dish in the oven. I sauteed the top side of the breasts till golden and then turned them. I placed any left over stuffing close the breasts and finished in the oven (350) till juices ran clear (about 30 minutes).

For the sauce
1 c white wine
2 pats of butter
1 T Dijon
1 scant cup chicken broth
Wondra flour

I used the pan form the veggies and added a pat of butter and a good cup of white wine. I let the wine reduce and added 1 T Dijon and about a cup of chicken stock. I brought that to a boil, added a pat of butter, a bit of salt to taste and sprinkled about 1t of Wondra to thicken.

Served with steamed and buttered Sugar Snaps.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The New Year's Feast

We had a dinner party for about 12 on Tuesday night after my meetings and various chores and running amok all over Omaha. When I finally settled down it just a matter of preparation, a quick stop at Trader Joe's and prep work. Lot's of prep work.

The menu was for Steak Pasta since I have a glut of NY Strip roast left from Christmas. I had cut the roast into portions for later as well as this dinner the day after Christmas.

I had cut and roasted about a pint and a half of grape tomatoes, sauteed a good pound of baby Portabella Mushrooms and set everything aside for the main event.

Earlier in the day I had assembled the Caesar Dressing for the salad and had the lettuce washed and drying.

The Caesar Dressing:

1 t salt
2 cloves of garlic chopped
2 t Dijon mustard
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 Anchovy filets or a good squeeze of paste(about 3 inches or more)
3 T Tarragon Vinegar
zest and juice of a Lemon
1 t ground pepper
1 coddled egg ( I used a raw egg)
6 T olive oil
1/2 Parmesan Cheese grated

I used my new little processor for this so it was super easy. I did not cook the egg and I added the oil last after mixing the rest. It made a nice dressing but taste the result to adjust seasoning. You may want to use less salt to start. I poured this over a huge bowl of chopped Romaine and croutons with shaved Parmesan. Seemed to be a hit.

For the Pasta, I have posted this before but here goes again:

I have a large chef's pot (5 quart) that I made this in.

Firstly place water to boil for pasta and cook al dente. I used bow ties (Farfalle)

 Sauteed mushrooms, saute these in butter then set aside when the water is given up and they are browned.
Add to the dirty pot:
2 pounds of rare steak cut into bite size pieces, and brown slightly then place the
Roasted tomatoes and mushrooms back into the pot. Scrape up all the brown stuff.
Cover with  1 Quart of Heavy cream and allow to come to a simmer. It should thicken up a bit after a few minutes.
I had about 1/2 pound of Blue Cheese crumbled and 3/4 c grated fresh Parmesan that I added to flavor the sauce. Check for salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta (I used 3 boxes for this recipe) and pour the sauce over and toss. Top with some additional crumbled Blue Cheese.

We served the salad and pasta with garlic toasts.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...