Chicken Soup with Vegetables and Orzo

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I baked a roasting chicken one night and used the rest of the chicken for soup the next.   You could also shred half of a grocery store rotisserie chicken.  In less than an hour you will have a perfect comfort food that is hearty and full of vegetables and chicken.  And it can be easily modified based on your personal preferences and/or what you have in your refrigerator.  We all know that chicken soup cures what ails you no matter what’s in it.

Ingredients:

1 cup of onion rough chopped

1 cup of celery rough chopped

1 poblano pepper diced (seeded if you want to keep the heat down)

1 cup of carrots sliced

2 cloves of garlic minced

2 T olive oil

6 cups of chicken broth

1 can hominy drained and rinsed

2 cups baby spinach

1/2 cup each of fresh parsley and fresh cilantro

zest and juice of one lemon

1/2 cup uncooked orzo

salt and pepper to taste

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In a heavy kettle or dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium high heat and sweat the celery, onion, carrots and pepper for about 5 minutes.  Add the minced garlic.  Reduce the heat, partially cover the kettle and cook until the carrots are tender.

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While the vegetables are cooking bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the orzo according to package instructions.

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Drain and rinse the hominy.

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Add the broth to the vegetables and bring it to a boil.  Cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

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Drain the orzo reserving some of the pasta water.  Add the orzo, chicken and hominy to the soup.  Simmer until the chicken is heated through.

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Stir in the lemon zest and juice, parsley and cilantro and the spinach.

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Stir until the spinach is wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  If the soup needs more liquid add in some of the pasta water.

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Ladle into bowls and serve with toasted tortilla strips.

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Enjoy!!

NOTE:  I love the lemon in this soup but it’s really a matter of personal taste.  You could substitute peas and mushroom for the pepper and hominy.  Serve with a good crusty bread or your favorite crackers.  Cooking the pasta (or rice) prior to adding it to the soup helps to avoid pasta that is overcooked and absorbs all of the broth.

 

Pizza Sauce

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Last year when I was canning tomatoes I decided to make salsa.  As usual, I did more than necessary and have plenty of salsa left for this year.  This season I made some of my tomatoes into pizza sauce.  There is no pizza delivery anywhere remotely close to where we live so when we are craving pizza I need to make it myself.  The sauce is relatively easy to make.  Cooking down the tomatoes is the most time consuming part so you need to be patient or you will end up with watery sauce.  The kitchen smells so good when this sauce is cooking.

Ingredients:

Tomatoes , approximately 4 quarts peeled and diced

2 T olive oil

1 Large Onion diced

6 or more cloves of garlic (I used more)

2 T oregano

2 T basil

2 T celery seed

4 T chopped fresh parsley

2 T salt

2 T granulated sugar

cracked pepper to taste

1/4 tsp citric acid per pint of sauce

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Core, peel and dice the tomatoes.  Bring a large kettle of water to a boil and drop a few tomatoes in for a minute or so until you see the skins start to break.  Remove the tomatoes to an ice water bath and slide the skins off.  Dice and put the tomatoes into a large, non aluminum, kettle.

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Begin cooking the tomatoes over medium heat.  In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is tender and translucent but not brown.  Add the onion and garlic to the tomatoes.

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Bring the tomatoes to a simmer stirring frequently.  Add the sugar, herbs and spices, and salt and pepper.  Once the tomatoes begin to break down use an immersion blender to get a nice, smooth sauce.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes have reduced by approximately 50% and you have a nice sauce that clings to the spoon.

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Ladle the sauce into sterilized jars (I used pints).  Add 1/4 tsp of citric acid just before sealing the jars.  Process the sauce in a hot water bath for 45 minutes.  Once you remove the jars from the water bath allow them to cool completely before storing.

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That is not ALL pizza sauce…better than half the jars are diced tomatoes.  Now, all you need to do is whip up a crust and get a pizza in the oven.  I made one with the sauce that was left over after filling my jars and some of our favorite toppings.

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NOTE. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a regular blender or food processor and process in small batches.  Also feel free to add other spices or increase/decrease some of the ones that I used.  If you like your sauce kicked up a little add some red pepper flakes.

I put my garlic cloves in the tomatoes without dicing.  Once the sauce simmered for awhile the immersion blender took care of  them.

Stuffed Pepper Soup

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Earlier this week I made stuffed peppers and there were a few left over.  While we love leftovers, and truthfully, sometimes leftovers taste even better than they did the first time around, this time I decided to repurpose them.  We have had some pretty chilly May days and soup sounded perfect so I turned the peppers into soup.  Definitely an easy dish.  Earlier this year I posted my recipe for stuffed peppers.  I use ground pork and rice, lots of onion and garlic, and tomatoes.  Any recipe that you use for peppers would work in this soup.

Ingredients:

2-3 leftover stuffed peppers

1 pint of diced tomatoes

2 cups of beef broth (I use Better than Boullion)

2 T olive oil

1 cup rough diced sweet onion

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

basil and oregano

1 T brown sugar

1 pint green beans

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Heat olive oil in a heavy kettle or Dutch oven and add the diced onion.  Cook for two to three minutes stirring occasionally until the onion are tender but not brown.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

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Rough chop the peppers and add them to the pot.

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Add the tomatoes, brown sugar and broth.

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Stir in the green beans and fresh herbs.

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Bring to a gentle boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  All of the ingredients have already been cooked.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with a little shredded cheese.  I used Asiago but you can use any of your favorites.  Perfect on a chilly evening with some good, crusty bread.

NOTE:  You can substitute corn, diced zucchini, or frozen peas for the green beans.  If you have more leftover peppers increase the broth and tomato portions.  Enjoy your leftovers!

Tomato Bisque

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This is a rich, tomatoey soup that is a big hit with almost everyone I’ve served it to.  We all grew up eating Campbell’s tomato soup.  When I was a kid, long long ago, on Saturday nights we often had tomato soup with popcorn in it.  It’s actually a very good combo.  I saw a recipe a while back for tomato popcorn soup in an issue of  Food Network magazine.  Of course they used popcorn with truffle oil and grated truffle percorino cheese but even so,  they must have channeled my mother.  I think our family had this because it was a very inexpensive dinner that went a long way.  Truffle oil and truffle percorino would have defeated the purpose.  Plus the little general store in my hometown carried neither.  This soup recipe also uses a little Campbell’s but it’s the add-ins that make it so amazing.  The recipe originated from a bar-restaurant in Jackson Michigan.  I’ve modified it a bit by adding red or orange bell pepper, fresh garlic, and fresh basil.  I also use my home canned stewed tomatoes but good store bought stewed tomatoes work great.

Ingredients:

4 T butter

1 large sweet onion diced

1 red or orange bell pepper diced

4-5 garlic cloves sliced

3 pints stewed tomatoes

1 large family size can Campbell’s tomato soup

8 oz cream cheese

1 T dried basil

3 cups half-n-half

salt and pepper to taste

fresh basil and  Asiago cheese for garnish

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Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or heavy kettle over medium high heat and add the onions and peppers.  Cook until they are tender, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook an additional minute or two until the garlic is fragrant.

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Reduce the heat.  Stir in the tomatoes and tomato soup.  Cube the cream cheese and add that to the tomatoes.

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Cook over low heat until heated through.  Stir in the dried basil and salt and pepper to taste.  Use an immersion blender and purée the soup.  If you don’t have an immersion blender you can add the soup, in batches, to your food processor or blender.  Stir in the half-n-half.  Continue to cook over low heat until the soup comes to a simmer.  Serve it up garnished with fresh chiffonaded basil, shredded cheese and croutons.  I used Asiago cheese and croutons made from swirl rye.  Enjoy!

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NOTE:  You can add some diced oven dried tomatoes, diced green onion, or another favorite cheese like sharp cheddar or smoked Gouda.  This soup can also double as an awesome sauce for vegetable crepes or pasta dishes.  This soup  freezes beautifully.

 

Poached Cod with Tomato and White Beans

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I haven’t been blogging for a few days but I have been cooking.  A couple of nights ago I made poached cod.  We love fish and tomato dishes and this fits the bill for both.  Cod is a mild fish available in most grocery stores.  In the fish counter or the freezer.  Either will work fine for this dish.  Unless I have fish that was just caught, cleaned and ready for cooking I soak my fish in milk for at least 30 minutes.

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I am convinced that this takes away the fishy smell that turns some people off to eating fish.  Making sure you don’t over cook your fish also keeps the fish odors to a minimum.  I know people who absolutely refuse to cook fish at home because of the smell.  When I make this dish people walking into my house are more likely to say they smell onion and garlic.  Everyone loves the smell of onion and garlic!

Ingredients:

1 cod filet (approximately one pound)

2 T olive oil

1 medium yellow onion diced

3 or 4 cloves of garlic sliced

1 pint diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

1 can tomato sauce

1/4 cup capers drained

1/4 cup kalamata olives sliced

1 can cannelloni beans

salt and pepper to taste

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Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat.  Cook the onions until they are tender but not browned.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute until the garlic is fragrant.

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Reduce the heat and stir in the tomatoes and the chicken broth.  Add the tomato sauce and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

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Stir in the capers and olives.  Drain and rinse the beans and add those.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.

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Pat the fish that you’ve soaked in milk dry. Cut it into serving size pieces and immerse the fish in the tomato broth.  Cover the pan and allow it to simmer for 5-10 minutes until the fish is cooked through and flakes.  Remove from the heat.  Serve the fish, along with the broth and beans, over rice.

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One of my favorite fish dishes.

NOTE:  You could also add the cooked rice to the tomato broth, break up the fish pieces and serve this as a soup.  However you choose to serve it I think you will find it homey and very satisfying.

If you like kicked up favors you could add some red pepper flakes and/or cayenne pepper when you add the olives and capers.

Matzo Balls with Chicken Soup

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This post is more about the matzo balls and less about the soup.  I make a decent chicken soup.  I fill a heavy kettle with about 6 to 8 cups of water and add a whole chicken cut up, several carrots, stalks of celery and a large sweet onion.  And salt of course.  I bring the pot to a boil, skim the top occasionally, and simmer for a couple of hours.  I take the breast piece out after about 30 minutes and set that meat aside to add back to the soup before serving.

My mother-in-law made the most beautiful chicken soup.  Her broth was a perfect golden color and was so clear.  It was amazing.  I wish I had pictures of her chicken soup.  Maybe it was the Kosher chickens she used.  Maybe it was because she’d been cooking it up 70 plus years and practice makes perfect.  (She lived to nearly 102.)   I wish I had paid more attention.  I wish I had learned how to make her chicken soup.  I wish I had learned her matzo ball recipe as well.  They were light and airy and took on the flavor of the broth.

It’s all about the matzo ball.  When my sister-in-law calls me, a picture of a giant matzo ball from a Jewish deli in the Chicago area comes up on my phone.

Matzo is an unleavened bread, much like a cracker, traditionally eaten during the Jewish celebration of Passover.  Matzo meal is made by finely grinding the matzo bread into a breadcrumb consistency.  And matzo balls are made using matzo meal.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups matzo meal

2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

5 large eggs, 3 separated

1/4 cup chicken broth or water

1/4 cup schmaltz melted

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Separate three of the eggs and whisk together two whole eggs and three egg yolks.

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Beat the egg whites until peaks form and set aside.  Whisk together all of the dry ingredients.  Add the egg yolk mixture, broth, and melted schmaltz to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

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Stir in about 1/2 of the egg whites.  Gently fold in the remaining egg whites until the whites are no longer visible.

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Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more.  Scoop up about a tablespoon of the matzo and gently form into balls.  Do not overhandle.  If you find the matzo sticking to your fingers dip your fingers into a bowl of water with a little canola or olive oil.  This recipe makes 12-14 matzo balls.

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Bring your broth to a boil and gently drop in the matzo balls,  Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 20-25 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

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Serve  with broth and enjoy!  It’s all about the  matzo ball.

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NOTE:  Schmaltz is chicken fat.  My daughter brought some to use on our turkey when she came from Chicago for Thanksgiving.  There was leftover schmaltz so I used my cookie scoop, made schmaltz balls and froze them.  You can google schmaltz and make your own if you don’t have a deli nearby that carries it.  Or you can substitute canola oil in this recipe.

If your parent or grandparent or aunt or uncle makes a dish that you adore eating, pay attention.  Ask them to show you how to make it.  Write it down.  Make a video.  They will be so proud and happy that you asked.  And one day, when they are no longer with us, you will be able to replicate that favorite dish.

Applesauce

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It’s apple season and this  weekend was applesauce Sunday.  I like cranberry sauce with most of my chicken or turkey dishes and applesauce with pork dishes and now I’m stocked up for the winter.  Applesauce also makes a nice addition to a bowl of oatmeal or just as a snack.  One of my sister-in-laws thinks my applesauce is the best and she wanted my secret recipe.  There is no secret recipe.  No secret ingredients.  No sugar.  No spice.  My applesauce is just apples.  A variety of apples.  The variety is the only secret and there is no hard and fast rule.  Just combine some tart, some sweet.  Some that cook down more quickly, some that remain firmer.

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Peel, core, and slice the apples.  A peeler, corer, slicer machine is very handy.  A friend with two extra hands to peel, core, and slice and keep you company while they work is great too.

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Put the prepared apples into a large, heavy kettle and add about 1 cup of water.  Cover and cook over medium heat opening the lid and stirring occasionally.  Once the apples cook down a bit, uncover, and use your wooden spoon or a potato masher to get the apples to the consistency you prefer.  We like chunky applesauce.  Once it’s reached the desired “chunkiness” turn the heat to low,

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Sterilize your jars and lids in a hot water bath.  Put the hot applesauce into the hot jars leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean cloth to make sure there is nothing to interfer with the seal.  Put the lid and ring on the jar.

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Process the jars in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.  Remove the jars and place on a heavy towel and allow them to cool completely.

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Store the jars in a cool place.  Remove the rings from the jars before storing them.  Making applesauce is a little time consuming but simple process.  This winter you’ll  be happy you did it.

NOTE:  One bushel of apples made 35 pints of sauce with a little extra left for dinner that night.  Last year I added 20-25 red hot candies to a couple of my batches of sauce.  It gave the sauce a nice pink tint and added a little cinnamon flavor.

 

Mango and Red Bean Salsa

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This is a quick and easy salsa to make and one that we enjoy with fish.  My father loved to fish. To him it was one of life’s greatest pleasures. He can tell you a lot of fish stories. We ate a lot of fresh water fish, never ocean fish, and we enjoyed our fish pan fried or occasionally made into fish soup. Friday nights were fish fry nights. But we would have never considered eating salsa with fish.  Especially not one made with mango.  I never tasted a mango until I was an adult. My dad would look at this salsa and say, “what is that?  I don’t think I’d care for that.”  But that’s okay. I think if you try it, you’ll like it.

Ingredients:

2 ripe mangos

1 can small red beans or black beans

1/2 cup diced red onion

bunch of cilantro rough chopped

Juice of one lime (1/4 cup)

3 T olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

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Peel and dice the mangos. Dice red onion.  Drain and rinse the beans.

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Rough chop the cilantro.

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Put the beans, onion, mango and cilantro into a bowl and toss. Squeeze the lime, add the olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.   Toss again.

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Ready to serve.

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We had the salsa tonight with grilled walleye and asparagus. It was a perfect dinner.

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If you like things a little kicked up add a diced jalapeño pepper.  You can also serve this with corn chips.  Or with fish tacos.

Enjoy.

 

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

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Some of my favorite recipes are from my Knit Wit girl friends. We have the most incredible pot lucks!  All of us love to cook and bake and feed people. This recipe showed up at one of our feasts and I make it often.  It’s a great side dish but last night it was my entree with a piece of crusty bread I made a couple nights ago.

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked orzo (prepared per package instructions)

2 cups baby spinach chopped

5 oz jar sun dried tomatoes in oil

3 T red onion chopped

1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives

6 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts undrained

14 oz can small artichoke hearts chopped

3 oz feta cheese

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NOTE:  I used sweet white onion because I didn’t have red. And I was out of feta cheese…which is really a good addition.   But the salad still tasted really good even without the cheese. 😊

Bring two cups of salted water to a boil, add the orzo and cook for about 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

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Rough chop both artichokes and put them in a salad bowl.  Set the marinade aside.

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Rough chop the tomatoes (reserve the oil) and dice the onion.

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Add the tomatoes, onion, and sliced olives to the salad bowl.

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Add the orzo to the salad bowl. I like to do it when the orzo is still warm. I think the orzo observes the flavors of the marinade and oil better.

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Rough chop the spinach and add it to the salad bowl.

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Toss the salad along with the marinade from the jar of artichokes and some of the oil from the sun dried tomatoes. Add 3 oz of cubed feta cheese (remember, I was out of feta) and salt and pepper to taste. I prefer this salad at room temperature but it’s also good chilled. Either way, I’m sure you will enjoy it.

This salad is great served with lamb chops, fish or even a good burger. This afternoon we had left over salad with tuna melts.

Chili Rellenos with Tomato-Pepper Sauce and Refried Beans

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One of our favorite vacation destinations is Santa Fe New Mexico. We love all of the arts, the people, the beautiful scenery and the food. Chili Rellenos are one of our favorites. We first had really good rellenos at the La Fonda, a hotel restaurant on the square in Santa Fe, and we loved them. I have tried a few different ingredient combinations and this one has become my make at home favorite. I’d rather go to Santa Fe and order them but mine are the next best thing. It’s a fairly time consuming process so I don’t make them very often.

The first thing I made today were the refried beans.

Ingredients:

1 48-oz jar pre-cooked Randall’s pinto beans

1 large onion, rough chopped

2 T bacon fat or crisco shortening

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1 jalapeño seeded and in a small dice

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves chopped

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Heat the grease or shortening in a large heavy skillet and add the onion.

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Cook the onions over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are caramelized. About 20 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. You want them to be golden and sweet.

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Drain and rinse the beans. Add the beans and broth to the caramelized onions and cook about 10 minutes over low heat.

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My bean smashing implement of choice is an old fashioned potato masher. Smash the beans and onions together. Add a little extra broth if the beans seem too dry. Dice the jalapeño and chop the cilantro.

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Stir the pepper and cilantro into the beans. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the beans to an oven safe dish and cover with Saran Wrap until you’re ready to heat them in the oven.

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I sprinkle a little cheese on top of the beans before pitting them in the oven. (Queso fresco, queso Oaxaca, goat cheese or Monterey Jack.). When you’re ready heat in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the beans are heated through.  If you want the beans to be vegetarian use crisco and vegetable broth.

Next I roast my peppers and prepare the Tomato-Pepper Sauce.

I line a large baking sheet with foil, preheat my oven to 425, spread the peppers out and roast them until they have a nice char on each side.

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Turn the peppers at least once. It takes about 30 minutes total. Once the peppers are done put them in a covered bowl to steam and cool before peeling.

Sauce Ingredients:

2 or 3 large red or yellow bell peppers roasted or a jar of roasted peppers

1 large onion rough chopped

5-6 cloves of garlic rough chopped

2 T canola or olive oil

1 pint tomatoes in their juices

1/4 cup cilantro

2 T honey

salt and pepper to taste

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Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions, roasted and diced peppers, and garlic together. Cook until tender, 15 minutes or so.

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Stir in the tomatoes and cook until thickened and reduced by half.

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Once the sauce is thickened and reduced transfer it to your food processor. Add the cilantro and honey and pulse until smooth.

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Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until you’re ready to serve the Rellenos. The sauce is served at room temperature.

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Last, but not least, we prepare the peppers and the filling.

Poblano Peppers and Filling Ingredients:

4 poblano peppers roasted and peeled

3/4 to 1 cup goat cheese

1 1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese shredded

1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

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Peel the roasted peppers and, using a sharp knife make a slit the length of the pepper and remove the seeds and membranes. Lay the peppers on paper towel until you’re ready to stuff them. Put the chickpeas, cheeses, and cilantro in the food processor and pulse until well blended.

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Divide the filling into 4 equal parts and shape into ovals.

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Put one of the ovals into each of the poblano peppers and, using your hands, gently close the pepper around the filling.

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Heat peanut oil in a deep fryer or a heavy Dutch oven to 385 degrees.

Coating Ingredients:

2 large eggs whisked

1 cup beer

flour

cornmeal

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Whisk the egg and beer together. Roll the pepper in flour, dip it into the egg mixture, and roll in the cornmeal.

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Gently lower a couple peppers into the hot oil.

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Fry until the peppers are golden brown turning once while they are frying. Remove peppers to paper towel to drain. Fry the remaining two peppers.

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Serve hot with the refried beans and a generous serving of the tomato-pepper sauce.

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Mexican rice and chips and guacamole are both excellent sides with this dish. Garnish with lime wedges if you’d like. Excellent with a nice cold beer or a tequila drink. You might feel transported to Santa Fe.