Serves 8 to 10
If you can’t find Ro-Tel tomatoes, substitute 1¼ cups of diced tomatoes plus an additional jalapeño. Monterey Jack cheese may be substituted for the colby-Jack. Serve with sour cream, chopped scallions, and lime wedges.
|20||(6-inch) corn tortillas|
|1 1/2||cups low-sodium beef broth|
|1||(10-ounce) can Ro-Tel tomatoes (see note)|
|2||pounds 85 percent lean ground beef|
|2||tablespoons vegetable oil|
|2||onions , chopped fine|
|8||garlic cloves , minced|
|2||tablespoons chili powder|
|1||teaspoon ground cumin|
|3||(15-ounce) cans tomato sauce|
|4||cups shredded colby-Jack cheese (see note)|
|3||jalapeño chiles , seeded and minced|
|1||tablespoon hot sauce|
|Salt and pepper|
1. TOAST TORTILLAS Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Grease 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Toast 3 tortillas in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until they bubble and turn spotty brown, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and repeat with remaining tortillas.
2. PROCESS TORTILLAS Tear 8 toasted tortillas into rough pieces and transfer to food processor. Add ¾ cup broth and Ro-Tel tomatoes (with juice) and process until smooth; transfer to large bowl. Add beef to empty skillet and cook over medium-high heat until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain beef in colander, then transfer to bowl with tortilla mixture.
3. MAKE FILLING Add oil and onion to empty skillet and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chili powder, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce and remaining broth to skillet and simmer until slightly thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir half of tomato sauce mixture, 1½ cups cheese, 1 minced jalapeño, cilantro, and hot sauce into bowl with tortilla mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
4. ASSEMBLE AND BAKE Arrange 6 toasted tortillas in bottom of baking dish. Spread filling evenly over tortillas. Arrange remaining tortillas over filling and top with remaining tomato sauce mixture. Bake until filling is bubbling around edges, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese and remaining minced jalapeño evenly over casserole. Bake until cheese is browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes. Serve.
We found this guacamole salad was a nice compliment to the casserole. Beware, though, the lime flavor is pretty potent. It can be made while the casserole is baking. Also from Cook's Country:
Serves 4 to 6
If you can't find poblano peppers, substitute an equal number of Anaheim chiles, or a large green bell pepper mixed with up to 2 tablespoons of minced jalopeño chile.
|1||pint grape tomatoes , halved|
|Salt and pepper|
|4||scallions , sliced thin|
|1||garlic clove , minced|
|1||tablespoon grated lime zest|
|1/3||cup fresh lime juice|
|1/4||cup olive oil|
|2||poblano chiles , seeded and sliced into 2-inch matchsticks|
|2||ripe avocados , pitted, skinned, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (see related Dicing Avocado tip)|
|1/4||cup finely chopped fresh cilantro|
1. SALT TOMATOES Toss tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Transfer to paper towel-lined baking sheet and let drain 15 minutes.
2. MAKE DRESSING Combine scallions, garlic, lime zest, lime juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in large bowl. Let sit 5 minutes, then slowly whisk in oil.
3. TOSS SALAD Add chiles, avocados, cilantro, and drained tomatoes to bowl with dressing and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.
Lissie and Lily used NO food coloring in these lemon bars. The yellow is due to the number of yolks in these bars and I use the free-range eggs which have especially rich, yellow yolks.
These bars are tart, tangy and sweet, just the way lemon bars should be, with a crisp, bright taste. As always seems to be the case these days, this recipe comes courtesy Cook's Illustrated.
Makes about two dozen 1 1/2- to 2-inch squares. Published May 1, 1998.
The lemon filling must be added to a warm crust. The 30-minute chilling and 20-minute baking of the crust should allow plenty of time to prepare the filling. If not, make the filling first and stir to blend just before pouring it into the crust. Any leftover bars can be sealed in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to two days.
|1 3/4||cups unbleached all-purpose flour|
|2/3||cup confectioners' sugar , plus extra to decorate finished bars|
|3/4||teaspoon table salt|
|12||tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at very cool room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus extra for greasing pan|
|4||large eggs , beaten lightly|
|1 1/3||cups granulated sugar|
|3||tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour|
|2||teaspoons grated lemon zest from 2 large lemons|
|2/3||cup lemon juice from 3 to 4 large lemons, strained|
|1/3||cup whole milk|
|1/8||teaspoon table salt|
1. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and line with one sheet parchment or wax paper. Dot paper with butter, then lay second sheet crosswise over it (see illustration 1, below).
2. Pulse flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade. Add butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second bursts. (To do this by hand, mix flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl. Freeze butter and grate it on large holes of box grater into flour mixture. Toss butter pieces to coat. Rub pieces between your fingers for a minute, until flour turns pale yellow and coarse.) Sprinkle mixture into lined pan and, following illustration 2, press firmly with fingers into even, 1/4-inch layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/2-inch up sides. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
3. For the filling: Meanwhile, whisk eggs, sugar, and flour in medium bowl, then stir in lemon zest, juice, milk, and salt to blend well.
4. To finish the bars: Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Stir filling mixture to reblend; pour into warm crust. Bake until filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Following illustrations 3 and 4, below, transfer to cutting board, fold paper down, and cut into serving-size bars, wiping knife or pizza cutter clean between cuts, as necessary. Sieve confectioners’ sugar over bars, if desired.
Making "grass soup":
Even though we are moving in a couple months I decided I couldn't stand it and I headed out today with some lettuce and greens seeds and put them in the ground. Most of it should be mature and ready to eat right before we have to move and hopefully we will get to enjoy some of it. I also put in radishes, and I bought a very early variety this year and they should be mature in only a month. I will make successive plantings for the next few weeks so we have a few harvests of those before we leave. Today I put out in the garden boxes two different loose leaf stir fry mixes, Black Seeded Simpson lettuce, Arugula, Komatsuma Tendergreen (oriental), spinach, Broccoli Raab, Ching Chang Bok Choy, Lolla Rosa lettuce, De Morgest Braun lettuce, Garden Cress, and Petit Dejeuner radishes. We'll see what happens in the next week or so with seedlings popping up.
In other areas of the yard I am seeing hollyhocks, clematis, salvia, strawberries and dianthus peeking up through the soil. I am hoping that the hollyhocks, which are a biennial, will blossom early enough for me to see them. I bought purple/black hollyhocks last year thinking they sounded very unusual and have looked forward since then to seeing them in bloom. To think that I may miss it! I will have to get my dear neighbor to pop over a take a photo or two to email to me if they aren't in full swing by June when we leave Kansas. Last year Ella accidentally "planted" some beans when she was playing with a bag of dried beans on the deck and this year she has been sneaking pinto beans out of the pantry and leaving them all over the yard and in all my large planters on the deck. I have no idea what is going to happen with those beans but she is hopeful every single day and asks to go check and see if they've sprouted each morning when we are eating our breakfast. I am not sure whether to hope they all sprout or hope they don't - it could potentially be an enormous mess of bean vines around the yard and in those pots. Then again, she is so excited and hopeful and what is better than having your kids be really actively engaged in something that is so tangible, educational and fun!
I bought a sewing machine several months ago and I've been a little afraid of it since then. I've completed a few projects here and there but nothing that has justified the expense of the machine. I had intended to take some formal sewing classes at a local fabric shop but having a nursing babe, a busy toddler and a husband who travels a lot for work has made that more challenging to get away then I had previously realized. I discovered Pattern Review, an excellent sewing website, about a year ago and I've finally taken the plunge and enrolled in an online class. Only three lessons in and I have learned so much about sewing from a pattern! All those weird symbols are no longer so mysterious. The pattern directions seem sensical now too. I am working on the Oliver + S Tea Party Sundress pattern for my daughter for my first class project. Hopefully I'll have a finished project to post about in a few weeks.
I am also busy, busy crocheting a baby blanket for a friend's baby girl. It is a very simple double crochet stitch, one color, blanket, but it still looks pretty and comfortable - at least I think so! I intended to lay the knitting down for now because my life is very hectic and I just don't have the patience to really struggle to figure out a new skill. But then I keep seeing the best patterns that I want to knit! My friend has helped me get the basics and I've checked out Learn To Knit from the library to keep me going in the meantime.
And they are not from a box! First of all, I have never before frosted a cake this beautifully. I'm stunned, quite frankly. Second, the cake and frosting are both amazing. The cake is a bit complicated to make, but absolutely worth it. The frosting is a fool proof breeze. Both recipes courtesy Cook's Illustrated.
Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake:
Makes two 9-inch cake layers. Published March 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.
Nonstick cooking spray can be used for greasing the pans (proceed with flouring as directed). Bring all ingredients to room temperature before beginning. Frost the cake with our Foolproof Chocolate Frosting (see related recipe) or your favorite topping.
|2 1/2||cups cake flour , plus extra for dusting pans|
|1 1/4||teaspoons baking powder|
|1/4||teaspoon baking soda|
|3/4||teaspoon table salt|
|1 3/4||cups sugar (12 1/4 ounces)|
|10||tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly|
|1||cup buttermilk , room temperature|
|3||tablespoons vegetable oil|
|2||teaspoons vanilla extract|
|6||large egg yolks , room temperature|
|3||large egg whites , room temperature|
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch-wide by 2-inch-high round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. Grease paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out excess. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 1/2 cups sugar together in large bowl. In 4-cup liquid measuring cup or medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and yolks.
2. In clean bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 60 seconds (whites should hold peak but mixture should appear moist). Transfer to bowl and set aside.
3. Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment. With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.
4. Using rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Lightly tap pans against counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.
5. Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with small knife, then invert onto greased wire rack and peel off parchment. Invert cakes again and cool completely on rack, about 1 1/2 hours.
Makes 3 cups to frost one 9-inch 2-layer cake. Published March 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.
This frosting may be made with milk, semisweet, or bittersweet chocolate. For our Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake (see related recipe), we prefer a frosting made with milk chocolate. Cool the chocolate to between 85 and 100 degrees before adding it to the butter mixture. The frosting can be made 3 hours in advance. For longer storage, refrigerate the frosting, covered, and let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.
|20||tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter , softened (60 to 65 degrees)|
|1||cup confectioners' sugar (4 ounces)|
|3/4||cup Dutch-processed cocoa|
|Pinch table salt|
|3/4||cup light corn syrup|
|1||teaspoon vanilla extract|
|8||ounces milk chocolate , melted and cooled slightly (see note)|
In food processor, process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add corn syrup and vanilla and process until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl, then add chocolate and pulse until smooth and creamy, 10 to 15 seconds. Frosting can be used immediately or held (see note).
This frosting is incredibly easy to make. This evening, I made the frosting using semi-sweet chocolate and it was delicious.
I'm half in love with Michael Ableman. Really. What a neat person, a human being who has found his niche, his passion and has made a life and career from it. I admire that more than I can express. I think most of us just settle, we find a place in which we grow comfortable, enjoy the income, become dependent on it due to outside responsibilities (i.e. children) and lose our way, lose our passion. And we make excuses for settling and then we stumble across someone who hasn't and we make even more excuses for why it worked out for that person, how they got "lucky" and how it is too late for us to re-route ourselves into a life and a career that are more in tune with our passions.
(In my opinion) To compound the problem, our society is very divided into those who are college bound and those who are not. Vocations that do not require a college degree should be given the same respect and acceptance. Yes, college provides a higher platform of disciplined learning but ultimately, the gift of education and true learning can come from anywhere - YOUR LOCAL FREE LIBRARY - albeit you will learn without acknowledgement of it in a professional sense. What is so funny to me about this is that I've learned more and am more passionate about learning now that I am out of structured education. I know many people who have been content to just stop once they have their coveted degree in hand. Education has been reduced to a means to an end - an adequate paycheck. It isn't that I don't agree with being able to financially support yourself and your family - I do. I just hate that education has been so tied to this goal and that once the desired paycheck is achieved the value of additional education, in any form, plummets. As this tangent suggests, I feel strongly about the weaknesses of our current educational system in our country. It isn't terrible by any stretch but it could certainly be better at really helping children fall in love with learning, to not think it is a total chore, to not think that there is a defined end goal in regards to education as a whole (grade 12 or college degree are typical). Michael Ableman is one of those people who seems to be the exception to the rule, who has clearly continued to learn about gardening, something he is passionate about. He probably did the college degree route (I don't really know) but his career has been a process of continual learning and on the job training. He has traveled extensively to learn about world-wide small farming practices, he has tried new things in his own gardens, he has written and shared his knowledge in such a way to inspire other people. He is a farmer, a small organic farmer to be exact, and an educator about the viability and necessity of urban farming.
I devoured On Good Land and after I was finished I searched my library database for any other material related to his projects or books that he authored. I found Fields of Plenty: A Farmer's Journey In Search Of Real Food And The People Who Grow It, and it is chock full of beautiful photographs of other small farms and farmers, pieces of writing discussing those farms and recipes that he has particularly enjoyed. These people, following their passion as they grow and nurture organic and tasty food for our bellies to consume, are inspirational to me. I also found a video about Fairview Gardens, an urban farm on which he built his career. I am very much looking forward to viewing it as I enjoyed his book about Fairview Gardens so much.
I remember when I was a teenager never once being interested in helping my mother out in her garden. I didn't care about the plant names, the weeds, what needed to be transplanted, dug up and divided and so on. And she asked for help every once in a while because she probably just needed a helping hand. And I never willingly helped. She had a compost system, a beautiful enclosed small garden that was just full of gorgeous plants with a patio and the expected chaise lounger and patio set and I didn't enjoy it or learn from her as I should have when I had the opportunity to do so. It is funny to me looking back on what I liked and thought then to now, 12 years later, being passionate about gardening, urban homesteading, learning useful life skills like sewing, knitting and preserving food because I think it is priceless knowledge that is handy and purposeful and enriches my life. Thank goodness that I had a parent who did encourage reading broadly, experiencing new things and who didn't push me to achieve the standard educational goals via structured higher education. I am a better and more learned person because of her influence and support. I am in love with plants today because I wasn't forced to learn about them when I was 18. Some day I may decide to finish my college degree, to study in a field that I am intensely curious about, but for now I'll stick with the library and hands on learning in my yard, in my kitchen, with my children as they explore and discover the world around them. For now that is enough. And as for Michael Ableman, I will flip through his beautiful books from time to time to once again spark my enthusiasm for organic gardening, fresh produce and eating locally because his love and passion for his life's work is so very contagious.