Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chicken ranch stew

This was yet another experiment in soup over the fire, and while it didn't turn out the way we had hoped, it was still pretty good. Bacon helped, as always! And so did a packet of ranch dressing mix. Who knew?

So, there are a lot of vegetables in this, and this time, I did cook the chicken ahead of time. The combination of vegetables was mostly a result of what was in the fridge. You could easily sub out the yellow squash for zucchini, and so on.

In hindsight, I might have added more ranch seasoning, or topped it with some dressing when it was done, but all in all, it tasted pretty good!

Chicken Ranch stew

1 large yellow squash, seeded and cubed
1/2 package baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 cup frozen corn
3 leaves kale, washed and torn
2 large red potatoes, diced
1 chicken breast
4 slices thick-cut bacon
4 cups water
1 cup white wine or light beer
1 packet ranch dressing mix
4-5 t. chicken boullion base

Heat up the fire, or have your fire-expert partner handle that part for you!

Prep all vegetables, set aside.

Cook bacon, and set aside to drain. Drain grease from pan, but leave dregs of meat. Pour in wine or beer, and deglaze pan, stirring to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add chicken and cook a few minutes on each side.

Add bacon, chicken and juices to Dutch oven. Add vegetables, boullion, dressing packet and water.

Cook over the fire for about an hour. Serve with crackers or bread — enjoy!

Friday, November 8, 2013


Jules would be 15 today.

Jules, our Yorkie, died last November. It seems rather late in the game to talk about this now, but it took us about six months before we could look at photos and videos of him, and laugh. It's a bit hard even now.

People say this all the time about their pets, but Juli (pronounced "July") wasn't really a dog. He was, at the least, an old wise soul in dog form, and, I believe, a true kindred spirit.

I had never met such a particular little creature until I met him. For some time — years, really — he wasn't entirely sure about my presence. The counts against me were, in truth, rather high — I was female, I had a cat, I treaded on his territory without invitation (his master's preference notwithstanding).

And yet, after dating and marrying my husband, this dog — his best friend — grudgingly accepted me in the best way he knew how. He barked loudly whenever I came home, just in case I was an intruder, and if I ever punched D in the arm in jest, he let me know that was not acceptable, thank you very much.

As he aged, he spent more time on the couch with me, gnawing his bone or sleeping. We had a mutual respect at the least. D was still his person, though, and could do no wrong. Juli knew him better than anyone, and defended him to the last. Dedication like that is rare at best.

We had to put him to sleep, after a brain tumor caused him to fall ill, and the decline was much more rapid than either of us expected. The night before, he couldn't walk, and medicine did the opposite of helping. We were up all night with him, trying to make him comfortable, and eventually that meant holding him in a towel without moving too much. When morning finally came, we called and then took him in.

And then, we came home. The house, though still at maximum capacity with a small puppy and two cats, felt unbearably empty.

D posted this on Facebook later that day:

"I want to thank my best friend, my dog Juli (pronounced like the month), for 14 loyal years and for being the best little companion anyone could ever ask for. We had to put Juli to sleep this morning after a brain tumor caused him to fall ill earlier this week. It was a very rapid decline and he was ready to go before I was really ready, not that I could ever be. Anyway, some of you knew him, or at least knew of him, so I wanted to take a moment to honor his memory here.

Goodbye, Jules. You were with me from the moment I arrived here and I already feel strange and out of place here without you. I already know I'll never have another pet that will be able to share a bond as strong and unique as the one we had. I will always love and remember you buddy!"

It was a long winter. We didn't celebrate Christmas at home. Neither of us felt up to a tree, or decorations. Charlie, our cat, who Jules had befriended since kittenhood, was lost. He took to sleeping a lot, and eventually made friends with Augie, the puppy, in desperation. Augie never understood what happened. To this day, when he sees a Yorkie, he perks up, perhaps thinking Jules is home at last.

We didn't really talk about it with anyone, but it was shockingly hard, the loss. Reading Rainbow Bridge or watching Marley & Me were out of the question (note to anyone who goes through this: avoid!), and life was just... harder, somehow, in ways we didn't expect. Making dinner, coming home to no barking — it was the oddball things that were reminders of his absence.

A few months ago, we looked at some photos and videos of Jules that we took when Augie arrived. He was his usual snorting self, and just hilarious with the whole puppy thing in general. We laughed and then I think we were a bit sad again. It's not that we'll forget, or that we won't have a Yorkie again, but really, we just want Jules back, with his annoying habits and all.

So, Jules, happy 15 in spirit. I wish I could make you a carrot, apple and bacon salad and watch you go ape over it. Instead, we'll probably have a glass of beer, and remember when. We love you, buddy.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Sweet potato quesadillas and homemade enchilada sauce

I've made this recipe roughly four times in the last month, which is extremely unusual. To boot, I find myself craving this particular dish, even right after I've had it.

The photo here was taken hastily before we devoured the last of this. The last few times, the meal has gone down the hatch before I remembered to take a photo. So this is my husband's plate, which I stole. You're welcome.

Anyway, this entry has a bonus recipe because I forgot to buy enchilada sauce, so I had to make some. I could have gone to the store, but my goal is to shop just once a week, so I thought, why not? Turns out? Pretty easy!

Sweet potato quesadillas

1/2 chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1 T. olive oil
1 large sweet potato, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 in. cubes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 leaves kale, rinsed and torn into small pieces
1 1/2 c. red enchilada sauce, mild
salt and pepper
4 10-in. tortillas
2 cups Monterey Jack and/or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat a large sauce pan to medium high heat and add olive oil. Add sweet potato, and cover, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 15 min. Season with salt and pepper.

Add kale and cover for about five minutes to wilt. Turn heat to low. Add chicken and beans, and stir. Add enchilada sauce, and cover. Let cook to meld flavors.

Remove filling to a bowl, and wipe out pan. Heat and add another glug of olive oil. Add tortilla. On one half of tortilla, sprinkle a thin layer of cheese. Add 1 1/2 c. of filling. Top with more cheese and fold over tortilla.

Brown quesadilla on each side. Serve with additional cheese and sauce.

And now, the enchilada sauce. Which, by the way, was a bit spicy on its own, but it turned out great in the filling.

Enchilada sauce

2/3 of a  can tomato paste
2 t. of chicken boullion base
1 mild red chile pepper, minced
1 cup water
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. cilantro
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch salt

Stir all ingredients together in a small saucepan. Heat to medium high, then simmer on medium low about 25 min., or until thickened.

This makes about a cup and a half of sauce. I used it all in the filling, but you could easily use just half and save the rest, or double it for a large pan of enchiladas.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ham and potato chowder

The soup obsession continues, but thankfully, the fall weather has arrived, making building fires much more logical. 

This was yet another riff on the Leek Soup mix. Knorr's packets are nothing if not adaptable. Actually, this took advantage of the last of the autumn sweet corn, with the hearty addition of ham and bacon. 

Ham and potato chowder

3 slices of cooked ham, cubed
5 slices of thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 lbs. of red potatoes, cubed
2 c. sweet corn, cut off the cob
3 leaves kale
3 carrots, sliced
1/2 package baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 packet Knorr Leek soup mix
4-5 cups water
4 t. chicken boullion base
1/2 c. white wine

Prep all ingredients, putting potatoes in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning. Add meat and vegetables into Dutch oven. Add packet and boullion. Add wine and water.

Prep fire and make sure your tripod is in place. Hang oven over fire.

Cook over fire for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the flame. Enjoy!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Apple tart

I came across this recipe on — where else? — Pinterest. I was looking for something simple and easy, and a way to showcase the fall apples without covering it in a glaze.

This recipe fit the bill. I don't use puff pastry very often, but it's pretty easy to work with.

Originally, this called for all goat cheese, and when I went to the store, my jaw dropped a bit at the price (hello!) so I mixed it with regular cream cheese.

This recipe is for two puff pastry sheets. I used the Pepperidge Farm pastry, which contains two, so go ahead and defrost both!

Apple tart, adapted from MyJerusalemKitchen

Two rolls puff pastry
4 oz. goat cheese
8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese, room temp
1/4 cup honey
juice of 1/2 a lemon
zest of 1 lemon
kosher salt
3 large apples (I used Jonamac) or pears, sliced 1/8 in. thick
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. honey
1/2 stick butter

Thaw the puff pastry in the fridge the day before you want to use it.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. 

Line two cookie sheets with parchment. Unroll one thawed pastry sheet on a lined cookie sheet. With a rolling pin, gently roll in all directions to stretch dough. Let rest. Fold edges of pastry in about 1/4 in. Repeat with remaining pastry.

Mix goat cheese, cream cheese, 1/4 c. honey, lemon juice, pinch of salt and half the lemon zest in a small bowl. Spread half the cheese mixture on each pastry, staying within the confines of the edges.

Take your slices of apple or pear, and begin laying them down in rows, slightly overlapping each slice. Continue until you have created four or so rows of fruit, and the entire cheese area is covered. Repeat on remaining dough.

Melt butter in microwave-safe dish and mix in honey. Brush fruit with mixture. Mix cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle over the fruit. 

Bake at 375 for about a half hour. Brush with more honey butter and garnish with remaining lemon zest.

This was good warm and also, just out of the fridge. You can take this to your holiday party or office potluck!