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    Monday
    Nov102014

    Ban the Can!

    What do I have against canned cranberry sauce?  Well, in this case, I think a picture really is worth a thousand words. 

    Yep, there it is, in all its jiggly, slimy glory.  Lovely ribbed can shape and all.  Why are our standards so low when it comes to cranberry sauce?  I mean, would you eat anything else shaped like a tin can?  And considering how easy it is to make your own, there are really no excuses for substituting such a disgrace.  You can even make it a day or two in advance so that it’s ready to serve on the big day without having to fuss over it.  Impress your guests this year and serve a bowl of delicious, beautiful, homemade cranberry sauce. 

    You’ll only need a few ingredients.

     

     

     

    3 cups fresh cranberries
    ¾ - 1 cup sugar
    2 Tablespoons orange zest
    ⅔ cup orange juice
    ⅓ cup water  
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    ½ teaspoon cinnamon

     

     

     

     

    First thing you need to do is zest an orange.  If you have a microplane, it’ll make short work of that task for you. 

    If you don’t have one, Seeley showed how to do it with a knife here.  The other advantage to using a microplane is that you can take off only the very outside layer, not getting any of the pith (white part). 

    Don’t forget to get the zest off of the back of your grater, though. 

    Cut your bald orange in half and juice it along with a second orange. 

    Put the juice in a measuring cup and fill the rest of the way to the 1 cup line with water. 

    Now, set that aside and give your cranberries a nice rinse, checking the berries over in the process. 

    Pour orange juice and sugar into a pan over medium heat.  ¾ of a cup of sugar will make a sauce that’s slightly on the tart side.  If you prefer yours to be sweeter, add a cup.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Throw in the orange zest.

    Stir it in and pour in the cranberries. 

    Bring the mixture just to a boil.  You’ll hear little hisses and pops as the berries heat up.  It’s just their skins beginning to split open, like this:

    When you’ve reached a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover tightly.  Allow it to simmer for 20 – 25 minutes, stirring frequently along the way.  After about 10 minutes, you’ll see the berries have really started to break down and the mixture begins to thicken. 

    Continue to stir the mixture frequently, keeping it covered in between.  Once everything has really broken down and the mixture becomes about the consistency of lumpy ketchup, (ok, that doesn't sound very appetizing, but you get the idea) turn off the heat and add the vanilla. 

    Stir well then place the lid on and just leave it for 20 minutes.  When you return, you have fabulous orange cranberry sauce.  How easy was that? 

    You don’t like your cranberry sauce lumpy?  Simple.  Just press the mixture through a sieve using a spoon or rubber spatula.

    Is that cool or what?  A delicious, smooth cranberry sauce that really does have the consistency of a sauce.  No jiggle factor, no can shape, and no artificial anything.  Ban the can this year.  You’ll be glad you did.   

    *Don’t use your cranberry sauce just for Thanksgiving dinner.  Add it to yogurt, spread it on toast, glaze chicken or pork, or even use it as a filling in a cake.       

    Wednesday
    Sep102014

    Tacos In Pasta Shells

    I'm am happy to say that after crossing the country and spending more than 3 months in a hotel, we have finally found a house to settle into!

    During the hotel time, we didn't exactly have a kitchen. A fridge, a microwave, and a dishwasher, along with a sink with a disposer. Not really suitable for cooking much of anything. As you can imagine, we have been more than dying for a home cooked meal. In fact, I imagine it will be awhile before I have the desire to eat another French fry. So I asked Hubby what he wanted for his first home cooked meal in the new place, and he instantly blurted out tacos in pasta shells. Who was I to argue? So although I posted this years ago, I think it deserves a revisit.  Enjoy!

    Ok, let’s be honest here, this isn’t the prettiest food ever made.  What it lacks in beauty, however, it more than makes up for in flavor.  I don’t know if I can say for certain that this is my husband’s favorite meal I make, but it’s definitely top three. 

    Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for this fabulous creation, and I have no idea who to give credit to for it.  I got the recipe from my sister-in-law, who got it from a church cookbook, I believe.  I have made very few changes to the original I was given, so a big thanks to whomever the original creator may have been. 

    Alright, let’s get started.  Here’s what you’ll need: 

    • 1.25 Pounds lean ground beef
    • 8 oz. cream cheese
    • 5-6 green onions
    • 1 Large bottle of Taco Sauce
    • 3 cups grated cheese (I used Colby jack and extra sharp cheddar)
    • 1 box Jumbo Shells Pasta
    • 3 cups broken corn chips 

      

    I forgot to include the ground beef in the picture of ingredients (I'll probably do that a lot), but here it is. 

     

    Chop the green onions and throw them into a bowl with the cream cheese.  Set them aside for now. 

     

    Brown the ground beef, draining excess oil if necessary, and pour the hot meat over the cream cheese.  Yes, that is diced onion you see in my ground beef, and no, I didn’t include it in the list of ingredients.  It’s not strictly necessary, but pretty much, if I’m using ground meat, there is going to be diced onion cooked in with it.  Not only does it add flavor, but when you’re buying organic meat, it can get pretty expensive, and adding onion makes it go a bit further.

     

    Cover the bowl and leave it while you work on the pasta.  Basically just follow the directions on the package.  When it’s cooked, drain it and rinse it with cold water to cool the shells down.  Stir together the meat mixture.  My husband said I couldn’t post a picture of the filling by itself.  He says it looks like brains.  So, let’s just get to the stuffing part.  

    First, this is probably a good time to preheat your oven to 350°.  Also, you’ll need to drizzle the bottom of your pan/pans with taco sauce.  Just enough to keep the shells from sticking.  This recipe makes 24 shells.  I like to separate them into two pans, because with only two of us in the house, that easily feeds us twice.  I just put one pan in the fridge uncooked.  You can plan on about 4-6 shells per person, depending on how hungry everyone is.  

    Ok, stuffing… Gently open a shell and allow the excess water to run off. 

     

    Using a spoon, fill it with meat mixture, but not so full that it can’t close.  I like to overfill them slightly, then squeeze them shut (gentle, they split easily) and wipe any excess off, back into the bowl.

     

    Line them all up in the pan and drizzle them with taco sauce.  Don’t skimp here.

     

    Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.  Now for the fun part.  Break up your corn chips and sprinkle them over the top.  Looking better by the minute, isn't it? 

     

    Next comes the cheese.  When it comes to cheese, I rarely think a little is sufficient. 

     

    Now pop it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.  It’s amazing what a little heat does to a pile of shredded cheese.  It has now transformed into bubbly, golden, deliciousness. 

     

    Ok, so it kind of looks like nachos in that shot, but it is so much more.  Scoop out the desired number of shells and sprinkle with a few more green onions. 

     

    **Disclaimer**  

    Authors Kitchen is not responsible for discomfort or missing buttons caused from eating “just one more shell”.