Friday, February 18, 2011

Family Favorites

I love to make food that is "stick to your ribs" and still very company friendly.  I also think its a good idea to practice a recipe before you actually make it for company.  You can tweak the recipe changing it to suit your families' tastes and have a good idea if you even want to serve it to your Mother-in-law beforehand.

Tweaking recipes is really very easy as most experienced cooks will tell you.  First you have to identify what you don't can't do that from looking at the recipe ingredients.  Let's say you hate-hate-hate onions.  Your recipe calls for 1/2 cup of onions, 1 cup chopped celery, 1 cup chopped carrots and the rest of the ingredients are all OK with you.  If you leave out the onions it may change the recipe too much  it and it would throw off the balance of the recipe.  It will not taste the same and you may need to change the rest of the ingredients to make up for the missing onion. 

One of the amazing things about recipe contents is that it is very likely that even though you hate a particular thing in a recipe, once it's all cooked together with other items you can no longer identify that particular food.  For example can you single out the taste of onions in spaghetti sauce?  No because it has married with the other ingredients to form a new taste combination.  Now, if I hated onions (I don't) I certainly wouldn't order French Onion Soup which is an example of a high flavor recipe.   

OK, so you have made the recipe and tasted it and while it looked great it doesn't taste as good as it looked.  So change it and try it again!  Be aware that some spices are stronger than others and while some taste good strong (garlic) and others don't (juniper berry) so you really need to know the strengths of the spices you do like.  It's all trial and error.  

I have substituted a tablespoon of grated ginger instead of 3 cloves of minced garlic.  It makes for a whole new dynamic in the recipe.  Do remember to change your side dishes or starches to reflect the new taste sensation.  Ginger goes better with rice than mashed potatoes...

So I have a recipe here for you that has a lot of possibilities.  You can change the meat in it from beef shanks to country style spare ribs to chicken. 


3 pounds beef shanks

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 bay leaves

2 1/2 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Pat the shanks dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and brown the shanks on all sides, working in batches if needed. Remove the shanks and set aside. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the Dutch oven and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions, carrots, celery, salt, and pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, to remove the raw flavor, about 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar, and then add the red pepper flakes and bay leaves.

Add the shanks back to the pan and add enough stock to reach halfway up the sides of the ribs. Bring the pan to a simmer, cover, and place in the oven. Braise until the meat is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. During the last half hour, uncover to allow the liquid to reduce and the shanks to brown.

Here are some substitutes I have tried with this recipe and LOVED:  Instead of stock add a good red wine in the same amount.  Instead of vinegar use apple juice or cider.  Instead of tomato paste use ketchup.  I have made these substitutions separately and used them all together, its good any way you do it. 

I serve the above recipe with creamy polenta but if I used pork I would substitute it with mashed potatoes or rice.  Chicken would be good with either side.

Please don't forget to visit my sponsors and leave comments if you have tried these recipes.  I would love to hear your comments good or bad!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Dawson's Delight

The first time I ever had Banana Pudding was when I was 21 years old.  I have half sisters in Bakersfield, CA and hadn't seen them since I was about 14.  I was invited to attend a Dawson Family Reunion by my sister Shirley.  We are closest in age and had renewed our relationship in recent months prior to the reunion.  I lived about 4 hours north of Bakersfield but it was worth the trip to get to meet a lot of relatives of my deceased father for the first time and maybe learn more about the rich history of the Dawson Family. 

I ate this "banana puddin' " someone had brought to the reunion and was in instant heaven!  I immediately set out to make this my recipe.  I tweeked it and changed it a bit here and there but it's still good ole' banana puddin'...!  I named it Dawson's Delight for the reunion and my delight at eating it!

1 (14 oz.) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 (4-serving) package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups heavy cream, whipped
36 vanilla wafers
3 medium bananas, sliced (toss with lemon juice to keep from turning brown)
Whisk sweetened condensed milk and water in large bowl. Add pudding mix. Whisk 2 minutes or until well blended. Chill 5 minutes. Fold in whipped cream.

SPOON 1 cup pudding mixture into 2 1/2-quart glass serving bowl. Top with one-third each of the vanilla wafers, bananas and remaining pudding. Repeat layering twice, ending with pudding mixture.
CHILL thoroughly. Garnish as directed below. 
2 cups heavy cream, whipped with 1/4 cup sugar,1 teaspoon vanilla
sliced almonds 
chocolate syrup
Before serving pudding, put dollops of whipped cream in a pattern on the top of the pudding, sprinkle with the sliced almonds then drizzle the chocolate syrup in a thin stream over the entire pudding. 
OPTIONAL:  I like to put a maraschino cherry with stem on top of each dollop of whipped cream, it just adds color to the dish making it more festive looking. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Goooood Eats!

Alright, today is recipe day.  We're going to start with some easy ones that I love and so does my family.  Today we are going to do a Mexican "Stylerecipe.  It's super easy and it's great for company. 

Grandma's Mexican Pork

1 pork shoulder roast, bone in or out, any size that will fit in your crock pot
1 medium sized jar of Pace Picante, whatever heat you like.  We like the medium hot with garden vegetables.
1 15 oz can chicken stock
Salt, Pepper, Garlic powder

Season your pork roast with salt, pepper and garlic powder
Put the pork roast into the crock pot and put about half a can of the chicken stock in on the side and 1/2 jar of Pace over the top of the roast .
Set the crock pot for 10  hours.

After 8 hours put the other half of the Pace over the roast.  Continue to cook until the time is up.
About an hour before the time is up on the slow cooker cook about 3 cups of rice and keep warm.

When the roast is done, remove it and set it on a platter, cover with foil.  Pour the drippings in the crock pot into a sauce pan and put over medium heat on the stove.  Add about one heaping tablespoon of cornstarch in a small bowl or cup and add about 1/4 cup of water and mix well. 
When the drippings come to a boil add the cornstarch mixture and stir until slightly thickened, taste for seasoning.

You can serve the pork sliced or shredded, over rice or on the side.  My family likes to put the gravy over the rice and put the meat into a tortilla with a bit of cheese and sour cream topped with a sprinkling of cilantro.

You can serve it anyway you like and its a recipe meant to be played with.  I have done this same recipe with chicken and just cooked it less time. 
Please leave your comments if you try this recipe, I would love to know if you like it.

Remove the roast from the cooker and place on a platter.