Philly Cheese Quesadilla

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Like a lot of people I love a really good Philly Cheese-steak sandwich and have a favorite place to get one. I also like to cook and come up with new recipes and share those with people.  So this weekend I was looking though the fridge to see what I had and my “mad scientist” brain kicked into effect. I wanted a cheese-steak but didn’t want all of the bread. I started pulling stuff out of the fridge and setting in on the counter to see what I could come up with and so the Philly cheese-steak quesadilla was born. Here is what I did.

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Ingredients

1 lb 93% fat free ground beef
4 oz Philadelphia cream cheese
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 chopped jalapeno
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 to 4oz of fat free shredded cheddar
1 pack of small flour tortillas

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Cooking

Start browning the ground beef over medium high heat and when it gets mostly brown (not quite all of the way) add in the onions and peppers and continue to cook until the beef gets brown and the onions and peppers soften up. Now reduce the heat to low add in the seasonings (salt, pepper and garlic powder) and stir together and simmer for a couple more minutes.
Once that is done remove the mixture from the pan and put it into a bowl. Now add both cheeses and stir together into a thick paste.

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Take one of the tortillas and spread the paste out on top covering it in a nice even layer to about a 1/4″ from the ends. Then place another tortilla on top.
You will want to have a pan heated to medium high heat ready to cook these. You can use the same one you cooked the meat in or a different one, its up to you. Place the quesadilla in the pan and let it brown (about 30 to 40 seconds. Press it with a spatula to get a nice even browning. Now carefully flip it over and do the other side. You will notice that the mixture inside will start to ooze slightly. This is a good and yummy thing. Once that other side has browned remove it from the pan and place on a plate and cut in half. You can repeat this process as many times as you need to feed everyone, or at least until you run out of tortillas.

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All that is left now is to sit back and enjoy. This is a relatively low fat enjoyable little meal. I hope you all like it.

Thanks for reading
JMW

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A new Year after a Holiday Scramble

Hello everyone. I am back for another great year of fun and food. I hope that you all had a great holiday season and are ready to get back into the swing of things.

I was on vacation over the Christmas break and I was faced with an unusual challenge while staying with my In-laws. What kind of challenge could this be you ask? No, it’s not the usual challenges people face when staying with In-laws because mine are great people and easy to get along with. I am very lucky in that respect.  It would instead be what to make for breakfast in a kitchen that is not really set up to be functional but more decorative and does not really have any two items that go together in the fridge. I love my in laws to death but they live very different lives in regards to food and don’t really have the variety in the fridge that I am used to. So like a contestant on Top Chef heading into a difficult quick fire challenge I started scouring the kitchen to see what I might be able to come up with. Trust me on this, it was no easy task.

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After digging through the fridge, pantry, cabinets and drawers and looking under several rocks, here is what I was able to come up with.

Ingredients

Eggs

Frozen Tater Tots

Frozen chopped onion

Sliced vegetarian cheese

Frozen Italian Meatballs

Black Pepper

Salt

Rubbed sage

Butter

I know that you just read that I thought to yourself “Maybe a couple of those items work together but certainly not all of them”. Well my brain made sense out of them and came up with something that was filling and quite delicious. Everyone involved was pleasantly surprised.

I started out by melting butter in a non stick pan and adding in the frozen onions and tater tots. My plan was to make a rough version of home fries/hashbrowns. While those were heating up I thawed out a couple of meatballs to test and see if I could do anything with them. They ended up being quite bland and I was about to toss the idea of using them when I remembered seeing rubbed sage in the pantry. Now is where the brain juices kicked in. I decided to thaw out a few more meatballs and chop them up into small pieces and toss them into the pan to brown. I started adding black pepper, salt and rubbed sage and to my surprise it started smelling like breakfast sausage. I know that some of you probably saw this coming, seeing as how sage is a component of most breakfast sausages but I was still very happy at how it was all coming together. By now the “sausage” has started to brown and crisp up and the tater tots have broken into smaller hashbrown like pieces. I added a little more sage and then stirred in the eggs that I had whisked up and ready to scramble. When the eggs were about done I added a piece of the vegetarian cheese and melted it through the entire scramble, just for a little extra consistency.

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I will admit to being pretty skeptical about trying this but I am so glad I did. The meal turned out great and if you had not known what was in it you would have sworn it was a breakfast sausage and egg scramble.  Keep this in mind that next time you are looking in your fridge and think to yourself that you have nothing to make. With a little thought and maybe even a little inspiration from MacGyver you never know what you can come up with.

Thanks for Reading

JMW

Cooking with the CIA

The Culinary Institute of America that is.

I was recently given the wonderfully great anniversary gift of classes at the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio. I have been a home cook for as long as I have been able to see over the top of the stove and try to come up with new dishes that everyone will love. That being said, I have never had any type of formal or professional training when it came to cooking and kitchen techniques so going to a class at the CIA was a little intimidating to say the least.  I had no idea what to expect or how this was going to work so I I will admit to being a little nervous going in. Trying to decide which class to take was a pretty tough decision as they offer a wide range of classes ranging from basic knife skills to several different types of cuisines including Latin, Chinese, Italian and a course in Everyday Grilling. Since I love grilling and that was the next available class to take I decided to go with the Everyday Grilling class.

When I arrived at the CIA located next to the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio I was greeted by one of the assistant Chefs and given my welcome pack which included a CIA apron, a CIA cookbook filled with many Grilling recipes, a name tag, a print out of several recipes that we would be cooking that day and a bar of dark chocolate flavored with sea salt. I was then directed to a dining area off of the main kitchen where the rest of my fellow enthusiasts were waiting. This class ended up being a smaller group of ten instead of the usual 20 to 25 which ended up being a great thing but I will get into why a little bit later. The class started off with a tour of the building and grounds and some brief history of the CIA. We then did an introduction and meet and greet with our Chef instructor followed by a power point presentation about grilling essentials and techniques. Once that was over we split into three teams and headed down to the kitchen to start cooking.

My team ended up with 4 team members which were all great people to work with and just a really nice group of individuals. We assigned our menu items out to each other and got started picking our ingredients. It was pretty nice as they had everything laid out for us and we got free reign of the kitchen and all of the supplies and seasonings. At first I was a little hesitant being in a new kitchen and environment but quickly got accustomed to the work flow and even started helping some of the others identify there ingredients and find stuff.

My team was assigned Cedar plank salmon with an incredible sauce (that the name happens to escape me at this time), Grilled Fennel salad with orange slices and red onion, and grilled pineapple with a honey tequila glaze. My dish was the grilled fennel salad. One of the reasons I went with this is that I wanted a little bit of a challenge. I do not care for the taste of fennel or olives which is a big ingredient in this salad and I am also not that experienced when it comes to grilling veggies. Its just not something I do much of other than peppers. So this dish was something a little our of my comfort zone and something I wanted to do to stretch myself a little. Everyone was given a printed out version of the recipes that come straight from one of the CIA cookbooks. The recipes are laid out step by step with all you will need to know to make a great dish. While we were cooking the Chef instructor would come over and check on everyone and would also take opportunities to call everyone in for demonstrations of different techniques and tips. This part to me was invaluable. A little over half way through the class the chef called us together and said that since they already had several other ingredients prepped and did not want to waste anything he would like volunteers to take on a couple of extra items. One of my team mates took the Mahi Mahi and set out to marinade and grill it and I snapped up a nice piece of Salmon belly.  The Chef gave me the choice of coming up with my own rub or asked if I wanted suggestions. I of course went with my own as I already had something in mind. I came up with a dry rub of chipotle chili powder, black pepper, salt, coriander and a touch of cayenne pepper. After everything was done cooking we set out all of the dishes buffet style so we could try each recipe. This was quite a feast. I will try and remember everything that we had but I am sure I will leave  something off because there was just so much.

There was:

Grilled New York strip

Grilled Mahi Mahi

Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon

Grilled Salmon belly

Grilled Pineapple with honey tequila glaze

Ratatouie

Bell Pepper salad

Grilled Fennel Salad

Grilled radicchio salad

Grilled Lamb patties

Grilled potatoes with curry mustard sauce

Hummus and flat bread
Like I said I am sure that I forgot something but everything turned out great, even the fennel salad which I was a little hesitant to try came out great and is something I would make again. We all got to sit down together with the Chef and his Student Chefs assistants and enjoy everything we made. One of the greatest parts of the day was when the Chef asked everyone what was one of their favorite stand outs of the day and my grilled salmon belly got a mention as a favorite. That was a pretty great experience.

The day started out a little iffy with me not knowing what to expect but quickly turned into a great experience and something that I plan to do again. The staff were all very professional and friendly and everyone seemed genuinely happy to help us students out. This is definitely something I would recommend to anyone that loves cooking and would like to learn a little more and have fun doing it.  Now the hard part for me is going to be picking the subject matter for the next class. Wish me luck.

Thanks for reading

JMW

Lazy Day Recipe Help #1

I am sure that everyone out there has come home from work and had that feeling of dread when it comes to thinking of what to make for dinner. Well I hope to help you all out with some suggestions and tips that I have come up with over the years. I got home from work last night and was not really in the mood to make an elaborate meal but also did not want to do take out or order in food. So I did what I have done on many occasions and stared into my fridge hoping that something would jump out ready to go on a plate. While that thankfully did not happen (because that would have meant there was something living in my fridge) I was able to look around at a few things I had and like MacGyver came up with a quick idea that while it involved some cooking it did not take long at all.

Tip: When you buy fresh veggies at the market take them home, rinse them off and cut them up and put them into containers right away. That way you will have them ready to use throughout the week.

See, cooking does not have to be an elaborate event every time you want to make something tasty. Looking in the fridge I saw a container of left over spaghetti noodles (no sauce), soy sauce, a little bit of General Tso’s sauce left in a bottle and some veggies that I cut up earlier in the week. So now all that was left was figuring out what meat I wanted to add. As I was thinking a light bulb went off over my head. I have a small bag of shrimp in the freezer.

Tip: It is always good to keep small single portions of a protein that can thaw out quickly in the freezer just for those lazy days.
So with a clear plan in mind I dumped the shrimp in the sink and covered them with hot water and put a medium frying pan on the stove to start heating up (to medium high heat).  I added in about 2 tbsp of olive oil and tossed in a handful of the pre cut onions and peppers.  While those started to sizzle I took the thawed shrimp (it does not take long at all for them to thaw) and placed them on a paper towel covered plate to get the excess water off and then dumped them in the pan with the veggies. I then poured in about a tbsp  of olive oil and sprinkled in some garlic powder from the pantry and gave a good stir. As soon as all of the shrimp had turned pink I added the left over noodles and poured in the General Tso’s sauce (about 1/4 cup). I then stirred it all together stirring it for about 2 minutes until the sauce started to reduce and then poured it out onto a plate.

That’s it. The whole process took about 15 minutes from start to finish and turned out fantastic. Keep in mind that you don’t have to use shrimp either. This can be done with a piece of left over chicken breast or steak from the a couple of nights before. Just chop it up and go.

Tip: Try and keep a variety of sauces in the door of your fridge for Lazy days like this. It can go a long way in throwing something together quickly.

I plan to do more of these lazy day recipe helpers from time to time. So keep your eyes on my blog for more tips.

Thanks for reading

JMW