Wednesday, October 22, 2008

If You Can't Post Something Nice, Don't Post Anything at All


Like I said last week;I have been struggling the photography of my dishes lately. I blame this mostly on the dishes themselves. They just don't lend themselves to being aesthetically pleasing which has nothing to do with the taste of them. But when I made "Rack of Lamb" (for the first time) last week and my pictures came out at best "boring and lacking interest" I had to admit that I have gotten lazy complacent about photographing my food.

In my defense, the food I blog about is the actual meals I am cooking for my family. It's hard enough to find the time to get a meal on the table, let alone set up a photography studio everytime I cook. I know it will shock you but, dinner at our house does not always mean a nicely set table. Not to mention good lighting.

I also do not own (much to my dismay) a fancy camera. I use a point and shoot type which is great for natural light but pictures that require flash have harsh lighting and a yellowish cast. If you look closely at my pictures (the good ones) you will often notice my backyard and/or deck in them.

It's getting to be the time of year when natural light at dinner time would mean eating at 4pm. Last year I constructed a "light box" and bought a mini tripod to try to combat this and they work pretty well. But, this means dragging it out everytime (again, that time thing) and often results cold food by the time I am done. Not to mention the rolling eyes of my family while they sit at the table waiting for me to finish.

I know, "Excuses, Excuses!" So I was determined today to post something with a nice picture. I have a bunch of good recipes I want you to try but this one is the only one for awhile that I have decent shots of .

This is a recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup. I saw a recipe for it on that had lime ....mmm, lime! I made a couple of changes to it and came up with a killer soup that my co-workers gobbled up last week. I love the zing that the lime adds to this and my replacement of the jalapenos with Chipolte Peppers in Adobo gave it just the right amount of heat. I hope you enjoy this as much as my co-workers did!

Chicken Tortilla Soup with Lime


1 1/2 cups diced onion
2 Tbs minced garlic
2-4 chipolte peppers in Adobo sauce
1 Tbs olive oil
1 cup crushed Tortilla chips
1 quart chicken broth
1 Tbs cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp dried oregano
1 14 oz can "fire roasted" tomatoes
1-14oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cups frozen corn
1 can black beans

4Tbs lime juice

zest of one lime

1/4 cup chopped cilantro


Heat olive oil in a heavy stock pot or dutch oven (I love my cast iron) over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until softened. Add garlic and saute 1 minute more. Add the crushed tortilla chips, toss and toast lightly. Chop up Chipoltes(they will be very soft and sort of like mush)and add, along with a couple TBS of the sauce

Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, spices,corn,beans(with juices)and shredded chicken and simmer for about 5 minutes. .

Reduce the heat and stir in the shredded cheese and Half and Half. Add lime juice, lime zest and cilantro. Stir gently until cheese is melted and well distributed.

Ladle soup into serving bowls add a couple of crushed tortilla chips sprinkle with with additional cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

Notes: Tortilla chips with "a hint of lime" go great with this. Chipolte peppers in Adobo can be found canned in the hispanic foods isle.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Finding Time for Family

Swiss steak in Crockpot

Over the past several years family dinners have been harder and harder to come by. Trying to find a time when no one is working,going to school, playing sports or any other of the many activities one or more of us participate is darn near impossible. This became even harder as of August when my oldest moved out and also started attending college (whohoo).

I attempt to have at least one dinner a week with everyone but often we fall short and sometimes its 1 1/2 to 2 weeks. I usually manage to have dinner with my daughter a couple of times a week though that does not mean I actually cook both of those dinners. There are other times when I do cook but we don't get to eat together. I feel a lot of pressure right now to spend more time together knowing that next year she will be off at college and I will be limited to a few times a month (hopefully that often).

The pressure does not end at finding the time to have dinner but also includes finding something that EVERYONE likes.( I still am not convinced my children were not switched at birth! What? You say they look JUST like me?) For Ryan, nothing "green" this includes herbs and spices in any identifiable amount along with vegetables. Kristen, well she is not as picky as Ryan but nothing the least bit spicy (and her definition of spicy is MUCH less spicy than mine). I am not sure about Laura (Ryan's girlfriend) yet. So far she has been too polite to tell me she does not like something. Her answer when I ask her what she likes is always, "Potatoes are always good!"

Ryan is usually pretty good with any meat. Kristen (along with Laura) loves mashed potatoes. Of course I like most anything and some tomatoey gravy over potatoes is sounding really yummy. I think some good ole Swiss steak is in order.

I have been in the "comfort food" mode which for the most part is pretty safe in the "Will they eat it?" category. The only thing is ...most of it does not photograph well. It's not meant to look pretty it is meant to be satisfying, tasty meal. I have several recipes that I have made lately that I have been dragging my feet about posting for that reason. This recipe is one of them. It may not be pretty but your stomach is not going to care!

I found this recipe on Recipezaar. I made some minor modifications to it to include using cube steak. You can use round steak and pound it out if you like. This can be made either on the stove, in the oven or in the crockpot. I went with the crockpot method.

Swiss Steak


1 1/2 lbs cube steak

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 teaspoons garlic powder

1tablespoon vegetable oil

1 28oz crushed tomatoes

1 small onion thinly sliced

1/2 cup diced celery

2 cups baby carrots

2 Tablespoons worchestshire sauce

1/2 cup red wind

1/4 cup water

Combine flour, salt, mustard, pepper, and garlic powder. Dredge meat in flour mixture

Heat oil in large skillet and brown meat on both sides.Remove meat from skillet and place in crockpot. Whisk remaining flour into pan drippings.Stir in remaining ingredients and cook on med heat until it begins to thicken. Pour over meat in crock pot. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Serve over mashed potatoes (rice or noodles if you prefer).


See, I told you it wasn't pretty.