Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cooking School Day 6: Meat

Although I intended to take one class per day, following the schedule TheKitchn had set up, I ended up getting busy with a temporary full time decorating gig and got sidetracked. But I'm back to finish my cooking lessons.

I have to admit, meat intimidates me. I never quite know which cut is good for what. So I rely on my butcher or what's called out in recipes to know what to buy and how long to cook. This lesson was somewhat helpful, but for me, I'd have to spend a lot more time on this subject to really learn more about the different cuts of meat...and I will. Just not now.

What I took away from this lesson were two very cool tips:

1) Cook perfectly tasty meat, pork chops or chicken everytime with a quick brine.
2) How to make sauces

Quick Brine in 6 easy steps:
1) Mix 4 tablespoons of any type of salt with 4 cups of water.
2) Place your meat in a shallow dish.
3) Pour the brine over your meat until it's submerged completely.
4) Add aromatics like peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme.
5) Let it sit for 15 minutes up to 4 hours. If you're going to let it sit for more than 30 minutes, place it in the refrigerator.
6) Pour out the brine, pat dry and cook as per your recipe.

I tried this last night and I must say it worked. Tasty and moist grilled chicken. I used basil leaves, peppercorn and fresh rosemary from my garden :-) I love saying that...or typing it! One day I will have a good sized herb and vegetable garden. For now, it's basil and rosemary...but it's a garden and it's I get to say "fresh from my garden" :-)
Brining my chicken for 30 minutes

Making Quick Sauces:
You know when you go to a restaurant they always have these delicious sauces over meat that just makes the dish even more boyfriend loves these! They're actually very easy to make.
1) Clear the pan you cooked your meat in, but don't clean it! Pour out all fat or cooking oil except for 1 tablespoon.
2) Saute a minced shallot in the fat for about 3 minutes. You can skip this if you don't like shallots, or substitute with mushrooms.
3) Pour in 1/4 cup of wine, beer, bourbon, or alcohol of your choice and let it come to a quick simmer, scraping the bits from the pan.
4) Reduce the alcohol by half.
5) Pour in 3/4 cup of vegetable, beef or chicken stock and let it come to a rapid simmer.
6) Reduce by about half, 3-5 minutes.
7) Pour in 2 tablespoons of butter or a splash of cream and whisk until dissolved.
8) For a thicker creamier sauce, whisk in 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch pre-whisked in 2 tablespoons of water. Let it simmer for a few seconds until thickened.
9) Pour the sauce over your meat and presto!! 
I intended to make a sauce last night to, but since I grilled the chicken on the barbeque grill outside I didn't have a pan with bits stuck on it to use. I thought maybe I'd scrape the grill grates and use that, but it was dark and cold outside and just didn't want to take the time to do that. But when I do try it, I will come back and update this post.

Now go impress your guests with a quick and delicious sauce and tell me all about it please, either here or on our Facebook page!

Until next time!


PS: I guess this isn't much of a Meat lesson recap...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cooking Class Day 5: Chicken & Poultry

Today's lesson was all about poultry which includes chicken, quail, turkey and other winged birds. Apparently chicken is now the most popular animal protein in American beating out beef in 2012. That's good news for health.

My take away from today's lesson is that a chicken is cooked when it reaches 165 degrees F. 

Chicken is one of those foods that can be cooked right out of the package, with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. I liked to add spices ranging from spicy chili, to lemon and herbs, and sometimes even marinade it in different sauces.

Just a couple days before this lesson I decided to slow cook an entire chicken. Wow! Super delicious, easy and no fuss. I just spread butter all over the chicken, stuffed it with chopped onions, and sprinkled dried thyme, salt and pepper all over. I then squeezed an entire lemon over it, covered it and let it cook for five hours. Once, done I just let it sit in the slow cooker until the rest of the meal was ready. I cut it up and served it with mashed potatoes and gravy. Oh, and I used the juices from the chicken to make the gravy with some butter, flour, salt and pepper. Yum. The chicken was so tender it was falling right off the bone and it was perfectly delicious, and healthy.

Take a look at the lesson. They included a recipe for roasting a chicken which is very similar to my slow cooker method, just throw it in the oven and cook for an hour. You can use your chicken in salads, quesadillas, tacos, tostadas, etc.

I'm really enjoying The Kitchn's Cooking School and really feel that I learn something daily I can put to use immediately. Have you checked it out?

Good cooking!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Best QUESO FRESCO this side of the border

I love my cheese and one of the foods I miss the most from my days living in Mexico City is queso fresco. You can now find queso fresco in just about every grocery store packaged up in a round bag from various different food manufacturers. 

I've been following Chef Marcela Valladolid from Tijuana. She had a show on The Food Network by the name of Mexican Made Easy and a cookbook by the same name. As of late, her Food Network show is The Kitchen, which I love to watch. She recently introduced a line of foods at Vons and it's affiliated stores and I have not been disappointed by one yet. These foods include the most delicious tortillas, marinated meats, chips and my latest buy....QUESOS! This is by far the best queso fresco I've had this side of the border. Try it and check her out on Instagram under @chemarcela

I can eat it straight out of the package! Provecho!!


Cooking School Day 4: Eggs

Today's lesson was eggs. They're used in so many recipes and meals. They can be cooked for breakfast and sometimes even make dinner. They're used for baking and holding ingredients together as in meatloaf and meatballs.

My biggest takeaways is that you can separate an egg easiest when it's still cold. So if a recipe calls for separating the egg white from the yolk, but use it at room temperature in the recipe, separate them when they're cold, and then let the rest to room temperature separately.

We also learned how to crack an egg with one hand, and this is what I did for homework! I managed to do it right on the firs try. 

One of the homework options was for those of us who want to improve our skills, and it was to make a souffle. I don't think I've ever even had one of these, but I definitely want to make one just for kicks. Heck, the purpose of this challenge is to become a better cook so why not make this the first time I have a souffle. 

Happy cooking!


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cooking School Day 3: Vegetables

Today's lesson was about vegetables, which I use a lot of in my cooking. Basically, vegetables will take longer to cook the larger the piece of vegetable is. That's why when I cook potatoes even if I'm going to make mashed potatoes, I cut them into cubes so I can get them to cook quicker.

My biggest take away tip from this lesson is that to best cut a piece of vegetable, or even fruit, cut off one end to create a flat surface. Then turn the vegetable on that end to slice or cut the rest of it, so it has a surface to sit on and it's not rolling around. This seems like a completely logically, duh kind of moment, but I just hadn't thought about it before!!

For homework I chose to cut up a butternut squash and roast it at 450 degrees. I cut it into two separate pieces, where the shape obviously changes. Then I sliced off one end on each and cut off the skin slicing from top to bottom, and cut the piece in half. I seeded it with a spoon, then sliced into strips, and diced into cubes. After I diced it I spritzed it with olive oil, and sprinkled with sea salt and pepper, placed it in a baking dish and into the oven. I checked on it every 5 minutes until it reached a point of tenderness I was  happy with. I used my toaster oven and not the oven on my stove because it's over 90 degrees today and I didn't want to heat up the entire house. So it took a little longer than it would usually take in my big oven, but no big deal. 20 to 25 minutes of roasting and voila! Delicioso!

I sauteed some kale in a bit of melted butter, sprinkled some salt and pepper over it and tossed it around for about 3-4 minutes. I added in the cooked squashed and gently tossed together. Made the perfect side dish for my pesto chicken topped with the caramelized onions from yesterday's lesson. Seriously delicious! Hope my boys like it as much as I did!

Buen provecho and happy cooking!


Cooking School Day 2: Onions & Garlic

Yes, this was yesterday's lesson, and although I did take my lesson yesterday, I only had time to blog about my experience today cause I had a Tom Petty concert to get to!!! More on the Tom Petty concert at the end of today's don't want to miss it...!!

Onions and garlic are so largely used in cooking that The Kitchn School dedicated a whole day to them instead of lumping them with vegetables. I learned so much from watching all the videos. They explained how to peel a garlic, how to mince them, how to dice and slice onions and how to caramelize onions. 

Wow! Great info here. I dislike using store bought minced garlic, and opt for mincing my own. However, I have been using a garlic press for years. So I was glad to see their instructions on how to mince them with a knife...super easy! Did you know there are 3 ways to peel a garlic? There's flattening a clove with the side of your knife, there's squeezing it like a lemon, and then there's shaking it in a cocktail shaker where you can actually peel a whole garlic head at once. And you don't ever have to use fancy tools again!! I have several garlic dicing, mincing and peeling tools I now feel silly of owning and having spent money on. And they're such a pain to look for in my drawer of handy tools I probably would be better off without. And then there's the washing of the little tools and their accessories to scrape out the garlic, etc. So with one good, sharp, handy knife I can accomplish all! 

Don't need these anymore

Also covered was chopping, dicing, slicing an onion....never really knew if I was doing it correctly. So another great lesson for me. Watch here How to Properly Dice an Onion.
Now I am one of these people that owns a chopper and I used to use it all the time for chopping onions but it's just a pain again to find in my cupboards when needed and to wash, specially when you're only chopping one or two onions which is usually my case. Now if I'm chopping a bunch  like when I entertain, then the chopper is definitely the way to go. Now if I can just find a way to stop crying when handling onions...not covered in the lesson today, but I wear my glasses in an effort to decrease the amount of crying I do.

One of my favorite lessons from today was How to Caramelize Onions. I've caramelized onions before for burgers and oh my what a difference it makes. So delish!! But I just kinda did it by instinct and base on what I saw a chef do once at a party. But didn't really know the ins and outs and The Kitchn really explained what happens to the flavors and the fond (the stuff that gets stuck on the bottom of the  pan) and how you want the fond is not the enemy but definitely something you want. Caramelized onions does take about an hour to do if you're cooking 3-4. So it's recommended you caramelize a bunch at once even if you don't need them right away. They keep in the fridge for a week, and they keep well in the freezer. The can be used on sandwiches, burgers, over a baguette, in soups and stews, in other recipes...yummmm. Oh the possibilities!

So for homework I opted to practice slicing an onion, yay me!, and caramelizing it!! I tasted it every 5 minutes as recommended to learn the difference in taste at each stage.  i added balsamic vinegar and salt once they were done and only cooked for 40 minutes since I only used one onion. It's amazing how the taste starts changing as it's getting cooked and the smell of the house is divine.

I'll be using my caramelized onion (I only had one in the house) for dinner tonight. But will definitely make it a habit to have some in my freezer from time to time. I'll save it in small batches so I can use just what I need.

Did you try today's lesson?

And regarding the Tom Petty concert....wait for it....I missed it!!! Can you believe it???? I wasn't feeling well all day, took some meds, took a nap in the afternoon as I so desperately wanted to feel better for the concert. We get picked up in a limo, go to a nice dinner where I had the most fabulous lobster tacos and head to the concert. On the ride there I felt worse by the minute. Arriving at the concert I spent the first 30 minutes in the bathroom getting rid of my wonderful lobster tacos (eeewww, I know sorry), the lights and the music were pounding on my head and finally decided to go sleep it off in the limo so as to not ruin my boyfriend's and our friends night. Waaaaahhh, waaaahhh, boo for headaches and feeling sick :-( I woke up after 2 hours feeling better and thinking I can head back into the concert, only to find everyone was already walking out of the venue. On the way back home we were all planning on going back for the Stevie Knicks concert in a couple months and someone asked "so should we only purchase 7 tickets instead of 8?"...didn't take long for the jokes so start and I'm not going to live this down for a long time!


Monday, October 6, 2014

Cooking School Day 1: Knife Skills

So The Kitchn Cooking School kicked off today and I couldn't be more excited. One of my friends signed up so we can do it together. She read through all the classes being offered and told me that she once took a local cooking class that covered all the same subjects, but for a cost of $300!!! So a big THANK YOU to The Kitchn for this wonderful treat.

 Today's lesson was Knife Skills.These are my take away points:

1. Stabilize your cutting board with a towel or rubber.

2. Hold your knife with a full grip or with your thumb and index finger where the blade and the handle meet.

3. Claw your hand to hold the food being cut.

4. And make sure your knife is sharp!

They provided 3 options for homework, so I decided to Practice my use of The Claw for tonight's dinner. I've seen chefs do it on TV when they hold their knives at the front of the handle. It does feel odd, but I can see how this offers more control over my cuts.

Another homework option is to have our knives sharpened as we will be using them a ton through this cooking course. So I decided to tackle that one too. I've looked up a Knife Sharpening service and found one on yelp with great reviews about 30 miles from my house so I'll have to make a trip out there sometime this week. If anybody knows of a good knife sharpening service in the Chino Hills surrounding area, please let me know!! I've so desperately been in need of sharpening my knife. It's my favorite by Pampered Chef (pictured above), I love the way it feels on my hand, and it just seems to work so well for me...except that it has lost that sharpness of cutting right through a tomato as if it was warm butter.

So as I make my taco bar tonight and chop my rotisserie chicken, onions and avocado, I will continue practicing my knife skills.

Did you take today's class? Have you done your homework?


Sunday, October 5, 2014

20 Days, 20 Lessons to Become a Better Cook

Hello friends!

I've been MIA for a while and I'm not quite sure why. I love to cook and I cook quite a bit for my boys at home. Fresh, homemade meals are always healthiest and most economical. And when you've got to feed the Mr. plus up to 3 teenage boys on any given day, home cooking is the way to go for our family. But I guess taking care of these boys has made life busy and the blog has been neglected.

But... I just joined a cooking class with The Kitchn and am so excited I wanted to share my experience with you all. It starts tomorrow Monday, October 6 through October 31. It's 20 days, 20 lessons to become a better cook and they will be going over essential cooking topics and explaining what we should know. And there will be tasty homework every day!!! I'm so excited I'm giddy!! I know, I know, I'm a bit of a nerd that way. Anywho, I'll be sharing my experience and homework with you everyday. So if you want to join me in this quest, go to The Kitchn Cooking Class and sign up. You'll get an email everyday. Then come back and share your experience and homework in your comments below, or on our Facebook page at Mexican Family Recipes Facebook Page .
Here is the schedule:
Day 1:  Knife Skills
Day 2: Onions and Garlic
Day 3: Vegetables
Day 4: Eggs
Day 5: Poultry
Day 6: Meat
Day 7: Seafood
Day 8: Tofu & Tempeh
Day 9: Herbs & Spices
Day 10: Rice & Grains
Day 11: Beans
Day 12: Pasta & Noodles
Day 13: Sauces
Day 14: Saute
Day 15: Simmer
Day 16: Steam
Day 17: Roast
Day 18: Braise
Day 19: Broil
Day 20: Bake

I'm personally super excited about Knife Skills because I want to learn how to use them and how to keep them nice and sharp, Herbs & Spices because I'm trying to grow my own herbs and Braise because I had a fabulous Slow Braised Kobe Beef at Geoffrey's in Malibu last night. Which one are you most excited about?

I've invited my friends to join me in the fun and some are traveling, but it won't matter because it's virtual and we can all doing at our leisure from wherever we are in the world. So let's do this together...who's in??


Friday, February 28, 2014

Chicharrones en Salsa Verde

I haven't had these in years...and by years I mean decades!! Mom used to make these when we lived in Mexico City, back in my teens. I'm not sure why she didn't frequent this delectable recipe once we returned to the States. They're delicious and super simple to make. I'm so glad I learned to make these. Here you go!

15 tomatillos, peeled and washed
1/2 onion
1 /2 bunch cilantro
1 chile pasilla (this was not in mom's recipe, but we added it :-) )
2 garlic cloves (mom said 1 but I used 2)
1/2 lb. of chicharrones, broken into small pieces
salt to taste
vegetable oil
*fried pork rinds found in a mexican market

Roast pasilla over open flame on the stove. You'll need to move it around with tongs, to allow the entire pasilla to get black. Once blackened, place in a plastic bag and let it steam, the black skin will loosen. You can either remove the skin using your hands by rubbing the chile over the bag, or rinse the chile with water. Cut the stem off.

Place all tomatillos in a pot, cover with water and boil.

Blend the cooked tomatillos with onion, cilantro, pasilla and garlic.
Take in the smell of the salsa....YUM!


Now I'm thinking this salsa can be used on just about anything...enchiladas maybe??!! I'll try it and let you know later.

Warm oil in a pan. Add the salsa with a little water, not too runny.
Add chicharron a few pieces at a time, they don't all fit in the pan until they soften, stirring frequently. You may not need the entire chicharron. Stop adding it to the pan once you see that you still have some salsa. Add salt to taste.



Serve with refried beans and enjoy!!


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tacos de Crema

These have been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. Most would call these enchiladas, but growing up mom always called them Tacos de Crema, so Tacos de Crema it is!! These are always a hit too!!

2 dozen tortillas
2 chicken breasts, boiled and shredded*
2 pasilla peppers
8 oz. tomato sauce
16 oz. sour cream
16 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
vegetable oil
*can also used store bought roasted chicken, just shred it.

Turn oven to 325 degrees.

Roast the pasilla peppers over the open flame on your stove. Turn them constantly until the entire peppers are black. You may have to use tongs at times to hold pepper over the open flame from time to time to ensure every spot of the pepper is black.  begins to smell delicious now!!!
Once completely roasted, place both peppers in a plastic bag or ziploc bag and let sit for about 10 minutes. The bag will steam up and ease the removal of the black skin. Without opening the bag, with your hands rub the pepper (over the bag) to slip the black skin off. Remove the peppers and dispose of bag. Cut the stem off and place the peppers in a blender.
Add the sour cream and tomato sauce to the blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Take a whiff of the sauce .....and imagine just how delicious these tacos will be. Place the sauce in a shallow bowl for dipping of tortillas in a later step.

Warm oil in a pan over medium heat. Sautee one tortilla at a time for about a minute on each side. They should still be soft and foldable, you don't want them fried. Place them on a plate with paper towel to soak up the oil.

Grease a baking dish or cookie tray, you may need two.
Set up a production line to ease assembly. Dip a tortilla in the cream sauce and place it on the baking dish. Add some chicken and cheese. Roll the tortilla like an enchilada, and align it against the edge of your baking dish with the seam down to prevent it from opening up. Repeat until all tortillas are gone....your fingers will be messy through this process, but it'll be totally worth it! It is best not to layer tacos on top of one another, only side by side, as they will stick to each other during the baking process. 
Pour additional cream sauce and mozzarella over the tacos. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Serve with refried beans to complete the dish.

Just thinking about it is making me crave these, but I'm out of pasillas. Note to self, ALWAYS have pasillas in the pantry!! They can be used to make salsa, in refried beans for added flavor, in potatoe dishes...oh the possibilities. Pasillas are the best!