December 13, 2008

Fried Chicken

Okay, now this would have made any of my country friends very happy. I have never made fried chicken before and had always been scared to make it. It seems like it is always tricky. But this was so easy. Ruben brought home a whole chicken all cut up. I rinsed the chicken and set it in a bowl of milk. At my mother's suggestion I would have used buttermilk, but as is a typical situation, I do not have buttermilk and I am not even sure if they have it at the store. I doubt it. In another bowl I threw in a bunch of flour, salt, pepper, a good amount of paprika and just because I had it some Mexican oregano. This was so simple I could not believe it was so tasty. I just rolled the chicken in the flour and gently put them into a large pan of hot oil. I thought that it would splatter a lot more then it did but it was very easy. The chicken fried for about 7-8 min and then I flipped it over. I did about 3 batches in the pan and let each batch drain on a towel.

I served it with some mashed potatoes that I cut up and boiled in some stock that I had saved from when I last made chicken soup. The broth was so flavorful that I did not add anything after mashing the potatoes. I did try to make a little gravy. This did not turn out great because I do not have a whisk so the flour was a little clumpy, but it was still good.

For the gravy we emptied almost all of the oil that had cooked the chicken, threw in about 2 cups of stock that I had saved, added a little butter and some flour. I would have added milk if I had it but I was out. So anyway... there you go.

Good old fashioned fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Needles to say, this took less effort then going to KFC. I cannot wait to make it again. And as usual, it was great cold the next morning.

December 9, 2008

Speghetti with bacon and peas

This dish was very easy to make and looked great. When I get my camera up and going I will make it again and take pictures. The recipe calls for a cup and a half of parmesan cheese. We did not have that but it would have made the dish much better. Once again I prepared everything. I think this makes the difference in my enjoying cooking. I even start to enjoy the prep. My hands have been having a very hard time keeping up with all of the things that they need to continually do here so prep takes a while- but hey... time is what I have.

I chopped up the rest of the bacon slices that I had (after making a much needed BLT) and set in 1 bowl, thawed the frozen peas in another bowl and in a 3rd bowl I had 3 eggs, milk, salt and pepper. On the back burner I started the noodles while in my skillet I cooked the bacon on medium (mostly as to not burn the shit out of my arms.) Once crispy, I set it aside and got rid of most of the drippings. I threw in some garlic to soften and drained my noodles. I used a little of the hot water (about 1/2 cup) to temper the egg/milk mixture. I then threw the noodles, tempered egg/ milk situation and the peas into the saute pan to heat through.

This was my first time tempering eggs and I did not do it that well so they did harden up in the pan. That was okay though, it was still very good. At the end I threw in the bacon and if I had it this is when I would have added the cheese as well.

It was a very good dish, easy to make and the kids loved it. I wish there was a picture. It was nice looking. And I like pretty food.

December 8, 2008

Well... problems

We have made some great dishes lately but I do not have a camera that is working. From what I have heard the humidity is a big problem. I will update with some upcoming dishes but I am sorry that there will not be pictures. and that is my favorite part.

November 29, 2008

Shrimp Tostada

This is one of those dishes that you see on a menu and it seems so easy, with such simple ingredients. Well, one thing that I have learned about cooking fresh and frugal - especially in Mexican cuisine, is that the separate ingredients, if done right, each take their own bit of time and effort. This was a typical tostada stacked with wonderful layers. The first, a fresh fried tortilla, black beans, "Spanish rice", lettuce, tomatoes, shrimp, avocado, salsa and queso fresco.

First I started with the shrimp in a pan of water with bay leaves, salt, pepper, Mexican oregano, chopped onion, garlic, a little left over green pepper and carrot. I have heard that making your own stocks makes a big difference in the taste of the food. And while I do not do it on a large scale so that I have stock ready on hand, I do cook it during a meal and usually have enough for left overs. Or the left overs will make a perfect stock. I am going to play more with stocks and do a whole entry on them. Anyway...

Pan 1- the soon to be shrimp stock- had all the things listed above and about 50 pesos worth of shrimp. 50 pesos of meat is what we average for our family to stay on budget and it has worked out well. I mean, we want more meat and less pasta and rice but you also have to meet the frugal of the "fresh and frugal" ideology. So Pan 1 is going and
in... Pan 2- we have some black beans, onion, and a touch of green pepper, salt - I think that was it. I have gotten used to the idea of simply adding on hand. That has been fun.

In a 3rd pan I made some simple white rice. And fried my tortillas in my favorite only non-stick pan. Once I was done with the tortilla, I set them aside and sautéed some tomatoes, a little onion, salt and pepper and threw in some of the shrimp stock that I had sitting on the back burner. I am sure that there is a lot that goes into Spanish rice.
That is why mine had quotes! Mine was pretty simple. Anyway.
After I set the rice aside I shelled and deveined the shrimp. I threw the shells back into the stock to draw some more flavors from them.
I threw the shrimp in to my favorite non stick skillet and watched them curl like they do so nicely in the restaurants. Then it came time to refry the beans. I was not sure if I had cooked them long enough so I re fried them with some of the stock. Then it was just a matter of assembly. 1st... the tortilla, then the beans, the rice, the lettuce, tomatoes, shrimp then topped with a little avocado and queso fresco. I knew Ruben needed some heat so I added to his some salsa and some pickled veggies that were part of a to-go plate the other day. All-in -all... a very good lunch.

November 28, 2008

Now this was a smart left over re-creation

I have never been good about left overs. I always just reheated the same dish. But I have been trying not to throw anything away. But the kids too are picky about left overs. So when we had some of the pasta in garlic cream sauce left, I figured... I used a lot of good ingredients for that dish, and there is a lot left (except shrimp... Akilean LOVES shrimp) I knew that I had to use it all. But the kids did not want the same pasta- they wanted a meat sandwich. So I said, well "I'll put meat in your pasta." I simply fried up some sliced ham and threw in the pasta. The oil from the ham coated the pasta- which already had great flavor from the veggies and sauce from the last dish. One of my more successful left over dishes.

At this rate, we will be able to stay very close to our 700 peso a week budget.

Ham , eggs and veggies- Our perfect breakfast

It is no surprise with how many eggs my family eats that we are trying to acquire a few hens as quickly as possible. My almost 4 year old son eats about 4 eggs to himself. And these eggs are full of healthy fresh veggies as well. It is so hard to get kids to eat their veggies and the morning is a perfect time. They are so hungry that it is easier to get food into them. At least, that is the case with my kids. So I have been working on finding ways to add vegetables to their meals, and ours for that matter. Fruit and especially citrus grow very well around here. So here is one of our staple breakfasts.
First, once again, I prep everything. It is so much easier, and enjoyable, to cook when everything is ready. So I start with cutting/ dicing 1/4 green pepper, good chunk on onion, 1/4 of a calabasa, 1 large roma tomato and a bunch of diced ham. In a small bowl I mix 7-8 eggs, milk, salt and pepper. The milk helps use less eggs and adds calcium. And of course, since my husband is wonderful, he surprised me one morning with a coffee maker... we can add a cup of coffee.

First sauté the pepper and onion in oil, when they are soft add the calabasa and ham. I think it makes a big difference when the ham is fried with the veggies first. After the ham has a nice brown color, add the egg mixture.
Gently pull the eggs from the edges of the pan towards the center allowing the runnier eggs to fill in. This will give you evenly cooked (and flavored) eggs. Do not constantly mess with the eggs but tend to them. When they are almost cooked as hard as you like, throw in the tomatoes and turn off stove. Gently fold the eggs over the tomatoes just to heat them through.

We usually eat these eggs with half a grapefruit for the adults and some other fruit for the kids. It is a really good meal and a great way to add veggies to meals that your kids will eat.

Baking for the first time- Mandarin Bars

Okay. So part of this whole adventure is working with the fresh fruits and veggies around me and working within the parameters that are simply parts of living in this area in Mexico as well as the limited amount that we have rebuilt our household with. So when I decided for some reason that it would be a good idea to bake something, the follow through was not thought through. SO yesterday was Thanksgiving in the USA. And I did not really notice or miss it (probably because it is 85 degrees and sunny- it does not seem like late November to me.) Anyway. The day before and the day of I started to get a lot of emails about Happy Thanksgiving and what everyone was doing with their families. And then I really started to miss it. For several of the past many years I have cooked the vast majority of the food for Thanksgiving. SO it was very strange not to cook this year. So I set off to try to find the things that I would need to bake lemon bars and pecan squares.

Well, okay, no brown sugar- just standard (sort of brown) and super refined (white) But the brown sugar is more like sugar cane or sugar in the raw then the brown sugar I am used to. Then there was no powdered sugar, no baking soda, oh yeah... and no lemons.

So here is what I came with.
First I had to "powder" the sugar myself by putting it in my little food chopper. - That did not work that well. Then I had to sub mandarins for lemons. When it came time to zest the lemon... I realized... I do not have a zester. Luckily I have a lot of time and a serrated steak knife. To say the least, that took a while.

When it came time to make the dough for the bottom, I started by using my little chopper in place of an electric mixer. That might have worked if my mixer could hold more then 4 cups. So I just mixed it with my hands. They say that you can really put your emotions into food and I guess it makes sense that you have to get your hands on it.

At the end, I still did not have powdered sugar so I caramelized a little sugar to put on top--- well that was just a bit burnt so I will not do that again.

After the whole adventure there was no way that I was about to make the pecan squares. I still had to clean the kitchen. This is not an area that you can leave any thing sugary out and about. Oh, I forgot, I do not have my baking dishes here so I baked this in an omelet pan. Hehehe. We use what we have.

November 26, 2008

Shrimp and Pasta in a Garlic Cream Sauce and Veggies

Okay, this dish was inspired by a killer fettuccini and salmon cream dish that we had on Lena's birthday and this cute little place in Tulum called 2 lum. First let me say that my cooking experience is made so much better since I decided to start prepping my food when I cook. For this dish, a shelled & deveined about 1/2 a kilo of shrimp and separated the meat and the shells. And my typical assortment of veggies, (onion, calabasa, broccoli, carrot, and TONS of garlic)

In one pan I heated heavy cream, a pinch of salt and pepper, a little garlic and the shells from the shrimp. ***Ruben made a good point... he suggested that I sauté the garlic for a moment before adding the cream. I think that I will do that next time. *** After allowing the shells to simmer in the cream, I removed the shells and the added the shrimp meat to cook in the sauce.

In another pan, I sautéed my veggie combo is some simple chicken stock that I had made.

In the last pan I boiled water and cooked spaghetti noodles with a touch of oil and salt until tender.

It was my intention to serve the veggies mixed with the pasta and shrimp but in the end I thought that the pasta would be better by itself in the garlic cream sauce and shrimp and the veggies had a punch of their own flavor. It was very good.

November 17, 2008

Veggie Fried Rice

Okay, so armed with the same things as yesterday I was off to create something new. I thought, well, I just did pasta. So I should switch to the other cheap eat staple... rice. I made fried rice. Simply made some rice and set aside, chopped the veggies and started to sauté. I only have oil and white vinegar so I used those and a touch of chicken stock.

In a second pan I gave the rice a quick re-fry with some of the drippings from the other pan. I threw that into the veggies and scrambled up some eggs and topped with a cut sweet orange. I served it in a bowl of lettuce since the head of lettuce was HUGE!!!!

So far, so good!

Spaghetti with Chorizo Meat Sauce & Chorizo and Veggie Strata

Okay, so we are going to see what we can get out of these 300 pesos. Part of my whole goal is enjoy the process of preparing food and well, shit... I have nothing else to do! So I might as well take my time. My hands go through spells of severe pain so 1 of them is usually performing at about 30% its normal ability. And when you consider that the doctors gave up on me after loosing 25% of the ability that I used to have in the first place, the hand that is having a bad day pretty much helps the potato not to roll.

Having said that, there are a few things that I have come to really appreciate in a kitchen. The first 1 is a good set of knives, cutting boards and my mini chopper. I love that mini chopper. Plus it is a perfect way to make veggies small enough that the kids cannot pick them out.

So here is a recipe that actually makes 2 meals. The first is great pasta with meat sauce and the 2nd is a great strata for a hot cooked breakfast with NO effort.

This is actually a combination meal with a girlfriend of mine. I make this chorizo pasta dish a lot for my family and then she showed me a great recipe for the next day. It is amazing.

So with my chopped onion, garlic, 1 carrot, 1 large chunk of calabasa, large handful of broccoli florets, 6 chopped tomatoes, some chopped green pepper and 1 lb chorizo we were off to cook. This is what I got at the tienda that day but you can use just about any veggies that you have.

Simply sauté all veggies, add chorizo and season to taste with anything you have or want (I always use salt, pepper, Pappy's and cinnamon) and serve over spaghetti or other pasta and garlic bread. For my garlic bread I just mini-chopper some garlic- let stand with butter and melt, spread over bread and toast.

And there is meal #1. For the 2nd meal.... read the strata recipe.

With the 2nd roll, layer bread (this recipe can be done with old stale bread as a way to use it up) and chorizo sauce and cheese (if you want) into a casserole dish. In the picture is one of my oven proof pots, I do not yet have a casserole dish. Bread, sauce, cheese, bread, sauce, cheese, bread sauce cheese, bread. End with a layer of bread on top and pat down lightly. Then beat up a couple eggs and some milk, salt and pepper and pour evenly over the bread layers.

Cover the strata and leave in the fridge over night. In the morning, start the coffee and bake at 350 or so for an hour or so and you have a hot yummy breakfast. This is so filling and substantial that it can also be made for a dinner dish served with salad instead of fruit.

300 Pesos & a new a new tienda!!!

I just discovered a new little tienda in town. They had great prices on all of the things that we need, mostly fruits and veggies. We are trying to figure out what the cost of food that we need really is. So for this first trip we bought, 1 L milk, spaghetti noodles, sandwich bread, tiny jelly, 2 chorizo links, 6 small bananas, 1 grapefruit, 2 oranges, 1 calabaza, 3 carrots, 1 head lettuce, 1 head broccoli, 8 roma tomatoes. 1 avocado, 1 lime, 1 onion, I head garlic, 1 green pepper, 8 eggs and 2 rolls. All of this came to 300 pesos. (abt $30 usd)

The Start...

Well, I had this idea to document my quest to get into a new life here in Mexico. Everything here is different and there has been so much to learn. We are dealing with some interesting obstacles. My hands for the past 5-6 years have had very serious problems. Once that, as the days and weeks go on, gets worse and worse. Couple that with the wonderful simplicities that come from living in Mexico and it can be hard.

What I mean by this is that we do not have a dishwasher, a dryer, a microwave. We do have a washing machine, but so many people wash by hand. And it is really nice. You begin to enjoy the time you get when you take your laundry out to the sun to hang it up. You really start to enjoy all of the little things that are special to here.

The downside to that is that my hands do now work very well. We go through spells when one of them is completely useless. I have had hand problems for almost 6 years. So I am learning to take the time to do things at a comfortable speed. Being a domestic goddess is fun when you can enjoy the process.

So this blog is my detailed account of my quest to become a diosa doméstica. The Mexican way.

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