Grilled Jerk Chicken

Grilled Jerk Chicken is a recent addition to our repertoire, but I think it is worth posting. Normally, I exercise what I call the “Third Time’s a Charm” rule. What this means is that sometimes we will enjoy a recipe the first time we make it, but the second or third time we’ll change our minds and decide it’s actually underwhelming and not worth continuing to hold on to. If a recipe can get past the third try, it has a tendency to stick for years.

Nevertheless, we have been looking for a good, basic jerk recipe for years and haven’t been able to find one until now, and I’m happy to share it. Many recipes that we have tried included too many dried spices that ultimately tasted gritty on the tongue. We tried this one recently for a barbecue and it was definitely a hit. The taste is fresh with a bit of spice on the end, but not too much. How much spice you get can easily be controlled by how many scotch bonnet or habanero peppers you use. We used orange habaneros because I rarely see scotch bonnets here. We followed the recipe exactly and threw the habaneros, whole, into the blender with everything else.

The original recipe calls for chicken breasts, but we used wings, legs and thighs instead. We also have not tried the accompanying watermelon salsa. We weren’t sure if the Coleman’s mustard called for meant the dried or the prepared, but all we could find was the dried so we used that. It seems to have worked.

Turkey Meatloaf

Turkey Meatloaf is my husband’s invention. It includes grated veggies in the loaf that help to combat the dryness that sometimes accompany dishes made with turkey. If, like me, you use a food processor to grate the veggies, you will find that some larger pieces of veggie will find their way into the mix. I used to take these and mince them up, but I experimented with the large pieces and found that the occasional larger piece of potato or zucchini in the loaf actually provides a nice textural contrast. Now, I just toss them in with the perfectly grated veggies. I have also grated the veggies by hand when I didn’t feel like washing the food processor, and that works too; it just takes a bit longer.

The type of veggies used is fairly flexible. Depending on what you have, you can use extra zucchini and leave out the carrots, or use extra carrots instead of the bell pepper. A bit of celery might also be nice. I think the only thing I wouldn’t consider taking out would be the onion. Overall, you want to try to keep the ratio of meat to veggies consistent, or the resulting loaf will either be too dry, or it won’t hold together like a proper meatloaf should.

As the recipe stands now, it calls for two packages of McCormick meatloaf seasoning. Sometime in the future, we hope to create a spice mix that will mimic the taste of the packaged meatloaf seasoning. For now however, we use the spice mix.

Over time, grocery store packages of ground turkey have changed. I used to only be able to get ground turkey in 1 1/4 pound packages, but now they all seem to be exactly 1 pound. I’ve made this recipe with both 2 1/2 pounds and with exactly 2 pounds, and it doesn’t affect the result significantly, either way. Use what you have available to you.

Turkey Meatloaf — Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

1 sweet bell pepper, sliced away from stem, ribs and seeds removed
1 1/2 large carrots, peeled, ends cut off
1/2 small yellow onion, peeled, ends cut off
1 russet potato, peeled
1 small zucchini, ends cut off
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp salt (for vegetables)
1 1/2 tsp salt (for meatloaf)
2 lbs. ground turkey
2 packets McCormick meatloaf seasoning
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 C bread crumbs
1 C oats
3/4 C ketchup + more for topping

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Chop veggies into pieces that will fit in the mouth of a food processor, then grate. In a large saute’ pan coated with the vegetable oil, combine the grated veggies with the first teaspoon of salt. Cook down until the veggies are limp and most of the water has cooked out of them. (When it’s ready, the mixture will start to stick, and what sticks will begin browning) Turn into a bowl and set aside to cool. When the veggies are cool enough to handle with bare hands, add the ground turkey. Mix in meatloaf seasoning, the second 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, eggs, the 3/4 cup of ketchup, bread crumbs and oats until completely incorporated. Turn out into two loaf pans. If you don’t plan to eat both loaves immediately, use a disposable aluminum foil loaf pan for one loaf, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and foil, and freeze.

Top the loaf with additional ketchup and then bake at 375 degrees for one hour.

Spectacular served with mashed potatoes and corn!

Campbell’s Tomato Soup Spaghetti

Campbell’s Tomato Soup Spaghetti is the spaghetti sauce of my childhood. Less acidic, more sweet than most, it wasn’t the only spaghetti sauce that I liked, but it was special. The only time spaghetti had this taste was at my grandma’s house. I couldn’t have told you when I was a child that she used canned tomato soup. Even though I rarely use processed ingredients in my recipes, one bite of this spaghetti and I’m eight years old again, eating spaghetti on Grandma’s blue and white china plates.

Of course, Grandma didn’t really hand me the recipe, so what I’ve written here is my interpretation of her description of making the dish. She started out, “Well, first you fry up your celery and your onion . . .” Enough said. She told me that she uses Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil and garlic powder for the seasonings, but I found similar recipes online that suggested the oregano and basil in place of the Mrs. Dash.

Ingredients

1 Tbs olive oil
1 large celery rib, finely chopped
1/2 a large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, fresh ground
1 pound hamburger
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
2 cans Campbell’s Tomato Soup
1 Tbs Worchestershire Sauce
1/2 C of the pasta water, reserved
1 pound of dry spaghetti noodles

Directions

Fill a large pasta pot with water and place on the stove, covered, on high heat.

Put olive oil in a large, wide skillet, turning to coat, and put on another burner on medium. When the olive oil is heated through, add the celery, onion and fresh garlic, and sprinkle with kosher salt. Cook for a few minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the hamburger and a bit more salt and some fresh ground black pepper and continue cooking. When the hamburger is cooked through, add the garlic powder, oregano and basil.

Keep the sauce covered on low heat while you finish the pasta. The sauce should always wait for the pasta; the pasta should never wait for the sauce. When the pasta water is boiling, add kosher salt until the water tastes like the ocean. Then add the dry spaghetti noodles. Cook according to package directions. When finished, reserve 1/2 cup of the water before you drain the noodles.

Once the noodles are drained, return them to the now empty pasta pot, without the pasta insert. Add the Worchestershire Sauce and the 1/2 cup of pasta water to the sauce. Taste, and add salt or black pepper as needed. Pour all of the sauce over the pasta in the pasta pot and toss with tongs to combine.

Serve immediately. Makes about 6 servings.

Garlic Prawns in Hot Sauce

Garlic Prawns in Hot Sauce is a recipe that comes from a cookbook that I no longer have. I love this recipe, and yet, I didn’t want to make any of the other recipes in the book. When this happens, I make a copy of the recipe(s) that I want to keep, and give away the cookbook to make more room on my bookshelf. My copy of the book called for 2 pounds of shrimp, 1/3 cup of bamboo shoots, and the cornflour was listed as cornstarch, but everything else is the same. If I don’t have any fresh basil already growing in my garden, then I just leave it out; this recipe doesn’t really need it. We do love, however, to add asparagus: one bunch cut into 2 inch pieces and stir fried w/ the rest of the veggies is a fabulous addition.

Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Pudding is one of those recipes that make me wonder at the existence of mixes. The ingredients are everything I have on hand anyway, and it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes from start to finish. I usually make this dairy-free, using vanilla almond milk, but you could totally just use regular milk if that’s what you prefer. It does call for a bit of margarine or butter, but if you are eating dairy-free, chances are you have some dairy-free margarine already on hand. The pudding just needs an extra bit of fat to make it creamy. For vanilla pudding, just leave out the cocoa and add an extra teaspoon of vanilla.

Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients

1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C cocoa powder
4 C milk (vanilla almond milk works well)
4 Tbs margarine or butter
2 tsp vanilla

Directions

Combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt and cocoa powder in a medium-sized saucepan. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the milk as one continuous stream. Place over medium heat, continue whisking and cook until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the margarine and vanilla.

Chill before serving. Makes 8 servings.

Avocado Mango Chicken

Avocado Mango Chicken is a recipe that doesn’t seem like it should work. With Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce in the marinade, you wouldn’t think that it would go well with an avocado mango salsa, but it is delicious. Rather than serving a corn tortilla on the side, like the recipe suggests, I like to serve the cooked chicken chopped, on the tortillas like tacos, with the salsa on top. We use slightly more salt than is called for, but otherwise we do this as written. I also like to use just the salsa by itself on No Waste Tacos de Carnitas. Unfortunately, the salsa doesn’t keep well, so we try not to make more than we think we can consume in a single meal.

Introducing an avocado into any meal can make meal planning challenging, since the avocado has a fairly narrow window of perfect eating. One trick we have learned, is that uncut avocados can be placed in the refrigerator when they are ready to eat. This will slow the ripening process and give you a couple more days’ worth of potential perfect eating. When you buy groceries exactly once a week like I do, this is a bonus. I can grocery shop on Sunday or Monday and I can still plan this recipe on a Friday and not have to worry that the avocado will be brown and yucky by the time I need it.

No Waste Tacos de Carnitas

When I find an on-line recipe that I want to use, I print a hard copy, put the copy into a page protector and file it in a 3″ binder. I now have 11 binders, all full of recipes. This recipe is a perfect example of why I do this. No Waste Tacos de Carnitas has changed since I originally printed it and put it in my recipe binder. The author has added a salsa verde to the recipe, but the ingredient list and the directions are now mixed together, just assuming that you are going to want to do both. However, any number of accompaniments are appropriate, such as a mango salsa like the one from Avocado Mango Chicken. All that said, this recipe is a great weekend or holiday dish. It calls for boneless pork butt, which tends to be a pretty affordable cut of meat, to say nothing of tasty! We have also done this method with boneless skinless chicken thighs for friends of ours who don’t eat pork, and it worked really well.

Because the recipe has changed from how I know it, I am going to reprint the recipe that I use here. I have linked to the page of the original author. Everything that follows were the author’s original words. If you are interested in a salsa verde, by all means, click on the link. Based on how much I like this recipe, I’m betting the salsa verde is delicious as well.

No Waste Tacos de Carnitas
by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Carnitas can be prepared through step 3 up to three days in advance. Pork can be crisped up straight from the refrigerator.

Serves 4 – 6, active time 45 minutes, total time 4 1/2 hours.

Ingredients

1 small onion, quartered
3 pounds boneless pork butt (shoulder), rind removed, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt
1 medium orange (or a lime)
4 cloves garlic, split in half
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick, broken into three or four pieces
1/4 C vegetable oil
24 corn tortillas

Directions

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 275 degrees. Season pork chunks with salt and place in a 9 by 13 glass casserole or large Corning Ware dish. The pork should fill the dish with no spaces. Split orange into quarters and squeeze juice over pork. Nestle squeezed orange pieces into casserole. Add onion, garlic, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick to casserole. Nestle everything into an even layer. Pour vegetable oil over surface. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven. Cook until pork is pull-apart tender, about 3 1/2 hours.

Set a large fine-meshed strainer over a bowl. Using tongs, remove orange peel, onion, garlic, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves from pork and discard. Transfer pork and liquid to strainer. Let drain for 10 minutes. Transfer pork back to casserole. Using a flat spoon or de-fatter, skim fat from surface. You should end up with about 1/2 cup of fat. Shred pork into large chunks with fingers or two forks. Add fat back to the pork, and season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Liquid can be reserved for another purpose.

To serve, place casserole dish with pork 4-inches under a high broiler and broil until brown and crisp on surface, about 6 minutes. Remove pork, stir with a spoon to expose new bits to heat, and broil again for 6 more minutes until crisp. Tent with foil to keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat tortillas. Preheat an 8-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Working with one tortilla at a time, dip tortilla in a bowl filled with water. Transfer to hot skillet and cook until water evaporates from first side and tortilla is browned in spots, about 30 seconds. Flip and cook until dry, about 15 seconds longer. Transfer tortilla to a tortilla warmer, or wrap in a clean dish towel. Repeat with remaining tortillas