Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Let's talk about...Swedish Meatballs



There are many different kinds of meatballs, but today I want to focus on Swedish Meatballs. Have you ever been in a restaurant that had Swedish Meatballs on the menu? You don't see that often around here. Maybe at a cafeteria. Well, one day I was at a restaurant and I decided to order their "Swedish Meatballs." Talk about disappointment! They brought out a bowl of what could only be described as meatball soup. Meatball soup IS a thing in different cuisines. But Swedish Meatballs are not meatball soup.

Granted, it's not the fanciest place in the world, but the food is usually passable (for the most part), and resembles its menu description. Not so with the Swedish Meatballs. What ended up at our table was nothing but meatball soup. Bland meatballs...not much flavor at all, plus some large pieces of bell pepper, and there were a few waterlogged tomato pieces in it too. I ate it, because I don't like to waste food, but it took a very long time to get over it. Plus, since I was really busy at the time, I didn't have time to make any at home to help erase that terrible meatball experience for at least 6 months.

Anyway, I had to have a rant about that. I've been meaning to rant about it for a while on this blog but  I didn't have time. Well, here it is...finally. (I won't call out the name of the establishment that has the non-Swedish Meatballs. If you want to know, I can reveal the name privately.)

I like my Swedish Meatballs with cream sauce. Some enjoy them with a little ligonberry jam or sauce on the side, but it's not a requirement for me as long as the cream sauce is available, along with some egg noodles.

Here is a batch I made recently, paired with spaetzle and sautéed asparagus. A lot of work but well worth it. I'll have to post the recipe. I got it from a Swedish friend, and of course I did some tweaking...not to change the recipe, but to enhance the texture of the meatballs.

So, until next time...Happy Eating! :)



Monday, May 4, 2020

Hassle-Free Cheese Enchiladas with Homemade Chili Gravy



Fast & Hassle-Free Cheese Enchiladas


A cheese enchilada dinner in under an hour. Works for me. The homemade chili gravy is a MUST though. The canned stuff totally sucks.

Use your favorite cheese. I used American cheese in brick form, (Velveeta or the like), and cut the cheese (ha ha) into sticks after it had some time in the fridge so it would be easier to cut. The enchiladas were topped with grated cheddar cheese, plus diced onions (truck-stop style, back in the day).

The best thing about these hassle-free enchiladas is skipping the PITA oil procedure. I don't like using the microwave method, (and we don't have a microwave in the house anyway), so this is what I do:

Heat up a comal, or cast-iron frying pan, (I have also used a non-stick pan and it worked just fine), spray lightly with oil spray, take the corn tortillas out of the package and put all of them in a stack in the middle of the pan. I used 10 the last time, so all 10 were stacked on top of each other in the pan.

After the bottom tortilla is heated, (and lightly toasted), spray the tortilla on the top of the stack, and flip the whole stack. Flip the tortilla that was on the bottom, spray it, then flip the whole stack over again. When the first tortilla is lightly toasted, remove it from the stack and place it in a container with a lid. (I don't have a tortilla holder so I use a wide, shallow bowl and put a pot lid that fits the bowl on top. The key is having enough space so the entire stack is covered when you're finished toasting the tortillas.) Keep going with the stack until all are lightly toasted. (And hey...you can do this one tortilla at a time, but by keeping them in a stack, the weight of the other tortillas hastens the toasting. Besides, it's fun to do it this way. lol)

I don't spray each tortilla every time, it just depends on how much oil is still on the bottom of the pan.  If there is still a sheen on the bottom of the pan, I don't use the oil spray. When you are ready to assemble your enchiladas, flip the stack over and start with the tortilla that's on the bottom.

You get more flavor this way than you would with the microwave method, and you don't have to deal with the PITA method and get oil everywhere and have the oil odor lingering in the house all night long. It's a win-win.

Hassle-Free Cheese Enchiladas

For the chili gravy: 

1/4  cup oil or butter
1/4  cup A/P flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 to 1 tsp. ground cumin (to your taste)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp. paprika
1-2 Tbsps. chili powder (to your taste)
1 pinch of red pepper (or more if you like more heat)
2 cups of water, chicken stock, beef stock, or vegetable stock)
S&P to your taste
1 Tbsp. tomato paste (optional)

1. Using a 10-inch frying pan, make a roux with the flour & oil (or butter). Cook at least 3 minutes to eliminate the raw taste of the flour -- letting it cook until it is slightly golden is optional, but preferred. 

2. Add the chili powder & paprika, stir until combined, keep stirring & cook for 1 to 2 minutes. 

3. Add the stock while stirring to prevent lumps. 

4. Add the rest of the ingredients. Let it simmer for a few minutes before assembling the enchiladas. 

5. You might want to add a little extra water or stock to thin the gravy out a bit more before using. 

For the enchiladas:

10, six inch, white or yellow corn tortillas (homemade or your favorite brand)
16 oz. brick of American cheese or 20 oz. of your favorite cheese, shredded (I used American cheese but I didn't use the entire pound)
1/2 -3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese for the topping
Oil spray (as needed)
Chili gravy (recipe above)
Optional: 1/2 cup white onion (small dice)

1. Heat 10 corn tortillas using your preferred method.

2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

3. Spray a 13x9 inch baking pan with oil spray. Ladle some chili gravy into the baking pan, just enough to cover the bottom.

4. Ladle a scant amount of chili gravy onto a tortilla, (1-2 Tbsps.), then enough shredded or diced cheese for filling (1-2 oz.). ***Alternatively, you can dip the tortilla in the gravy, but ladling it in does the job with less mess.*** Sprinkle in a teaspoon of diced onions if desired.  Roll up the tortilla and place it seam side down into the pan.

5. Keep going until all tortillas are filled, then ladle as much chili gravy as you like over the top of the enchiladas.

6. Cover your pan with a lid or with aluminum foil and place it in the oven.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle shredded cheese on top and sprinkle with the rest of the onions, if desired. Bake for 5 more minutes until the cheese melts.

8. Enjoy with your favorite side dishes.

Feel free to use more cheese. I don't like cheese overkill...(cheesed up to the point where all you taste is cheese and none of the yummy gravy or the corn tortillas), so I don't use an insane amount.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Atrocious Fetor of Celery





Celery
(Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)


I have been away for far too long. I really have no excuse for neglecting this food blog, other than I have been busy working and haven't had a lot of time for fun. Well, I am going to try and remedy that now.

Let's talk about celery. I'm not here to dissect the entire plant or discuss the different varieties and all of the different applications. For this post, I am addressing your ordinary, benign(?!?!), basic celery bunch that you can grab at the market.

I really don't hate celery, even though the title of this post might suggest otherwise. I enjoy using it in many dishes, and those dishes just wouldn't be the same without it.

My issue with celery can best be summed up by this picture that I ran across when I was browsing in Wikimedia Commons:



Stalk of the Celery Monster

Photo Courtesy of Wikimeida Commons


I don't know the history behind the above photo, but I am hoping that the person responsible is a kindred spirit, because I do feel stalked by the Celery Monster after I am in contact with celery. I seem to have a sensitivity to the odor. I know I can't possibly be the only one. I have questioned others about it but so far, they don't have an issue with celery odor. If I touch it, it lingers for an extremely long time...or at least, my nose detects it for an extremely long time. For example: If I buy celery at the market, I can still detect the odor of celery in the car the next day. It is that pervasive, for me, anyway.

I have tried to link it to an experience in the past, and the thing I could recall was an experience with a TV dinner many, many years ago. It was fried rice. I don't recall the brand. But the fried rice was so overloaded with celery that it was ridiculous. I could not even finish it. When I think of it right now it makes me want to gag. So maybe this affliction is linked to that TV dinner.

I don't have any issue with dicing onions or garlic. The lingering odor from either of those does not bother me at all. It is rather pleasant to make a dish with garlic and still detect the heady odor later. But even those odors can't compete with celery. Touching celery is like sticking a toe in "The Bog of Eternal Stench" - except you smell celery forever, (instead of smelling like the noxious odor of the bog).

I try to stay positive about celery. Mirepoix (celery, carrot, and onion) obviously would not work without celery. Mirepoix is essential for a good stock. You can make it without it, but the flavor is not the same. I have even resorted to using celery seeds in stock if there is no celery in the fridge.



Mirepoix

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Similarly, can you imagine gumbo, as well as many other Cajun dishes, without the Cajun Holy Trinity? No way!!!



The Cajun Holy Trinity
(Onion, Bell pepper, and Celery)

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Celery is an aromatic and it just MUST be used in many different dishes, all of which would suffer greatly without it. Stuffing (or dressing) for the Thanksgiving turkey; fried rice (yes, in a reasonable amount); Waldorf Salad (which would simply not be a Waldorf Salad if it didn't contain celery); and even that requisite stalk of celery in your typical Bloody Mary. That's just an extremely tiny sample of the use of celery. I could go on for days about the importance of celery, but it's not necessary. Your palate will tell you that.

But that odor!!! Holy Stench, Batman!

I would love to hear from others who have an issue with "The Stalk of the Celery Monster."

I'm hoping to be a better blog steward, especially with the extra time most of us have on our hands during this time. I have some interesting food adventures to share, so I will make a point of blogging about food as much as possible, when I'm taking a break from working in the garden & growing more food.

See you soon, Food Lovers! ♥️♥️♥️