Chile Relleno Egg Rolls

I have always liked Mexican food but it was never something you had more than once a month.  That all changed when I moved to Pueblo Colorado.  There is a Mexican restaurant on every corner just like in Massachusetts there is a Dunkin Donuts on every corner.  Side note:  Dunkin Donuts is a MUST!!!  Maybe because I grew up on it but that is another story.

Whenever I go to a restaurant I always like to try different foods as I want to be adventurous, but I really love trying the chile rellenos at any Mexican restaurant.  I have found that many people make this simple dish different.  So you may be asking what exactly is a chile relleno?  In simple terms it is a stuffed chile.  Usually a roasted poblano chile is stuffed with a Mexican cheese covered with an egg batter and fried. The popular pepper in Pueblo was the Hatch green chile.  My husband and I still go to Pueblo to get these or buy them whenever we see them.  You will see coming up a recipe for Green Chile using Hatch Green Chilies and the assembly of a “SLOPPER”.  I know it is  a teaser to make sure you come back.  In the meantime, if you find yourself in Pueblo Colorado you MUST have a slopper.  Anyone from Pueblo will know exactly what that is.

Okay now that I have gotten side tracked back to chile rellenos.  I have had them with a thick egg batter versus a thin batter.  My preference is the thin.  The relleno is then covered with either a red or green sauce.  I prefer a pork green sauce but either one is complimentary. I also make a chile relleno casserole but I want to focus this recipe on one I adapted from my mother-in law.  She came to visit us and was going to make chile rellenos.  Usually I buy whole chilies and then have to roast and peel them.  She bypasses all of this by buying canned whole green chilies.  The other major difference:  she uses egg roll wrappers to wrap the stuffed chile in before frying.  I had never heard of this before but after she did it I researched it and it seems this is the Colorado or Denver “trick”.

Now I can never follow a recipe without adding my own twist so I am adding hominy to my stuffing.

INGREDIENTS

Olive oil

1 small (12 oz) can of hominy, drained

1 small onion, diced

1 large (28 oz) can whole green chilies

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp pepper

4 oz grated Monterey Jack

5 oz grated Mexican cheese (about half of the round package such as Oaxaca, Queso Fresca, Cotija, or Quesadilla)

12 egg roll wrappers

Oil for frying

  1. In sauté pan with oil add the onions and sauté until translucent.  Add the garlic, hominy, and spices. Continue sautéing until fragrant.  You can adjust the seasonings to your taste then take off of heat.
  2. Take the whole chilies out of the can and drain.
  3. Now time for assembling!!!!
  4. Start heating your oil for frying
  5. I found it best to have a large cutting board or work area.  I had the cheeses mixed in one bowl, the hominy mix in another, the whole green chilies, egg roll wrappers and a little bit of water in a cup (you can also use an egg mixed with water).  The water is just to seal the seams of your wrapper.
  6. This next step can be done two ways.  Either stuff the chilies whole or split in half (lengthwise).  I find splitting in half is easier as they are fragile.  So I will explain how I do it.
  7. Place your egg roll wrapper on your work area with one of the points in front of you.  Place half of the chile lengthwise in the same direction of the two points on the side (horizontal).
  8. On the chile put some cheese and hominy mix.
  9. Now for the wrapping….Take the sides and fold into the center so they overlap or meet.
  10. Now either take the top or bottom…I work from the bottom since it is closet to me and roll up….fold over the chile and roll.  You can use a little water or egg wash on your fingertips to seal all the seams if you like.
  11. Depending how big your deep fryer is or if you are pan frying, I find it easier to fry as I roll.  In my case I have a mini deep fryer I use so only one will fit at a time.  So I roll, drop into the fryer and start rolling the next.
  12. When they are golden brown take out of fryer and place on paper towels.
  13. Enjoy alone or with your favorite sauce overtop.

Tricks and lessons learned: 

The first time I did these I was all excited as all my “bundles” came out looking great.  They were nice and tight and looked like egg rolls.  In a large can of whole chilies they are about 12.  As I was rolling I placed them on top of each of each other.  I was very upset that on some that were touching it tore the wrapper.  Maybe someone who makes egg rolls and uses the wrappers all the time can tell me what I did wrong.  I am thinking maybe may fingers were too wet from sealing edges making the wrapper doughy.  Anyways, now I just fry as I go and make sure I don’t let them touch.

The sealing of edges:  you don’t need a lot of water or egg wash.  Just enough on your fingertips and rub over the fold edges and the wrapper will seal.  You just don’t want your filling to come out.

I like using the whole chilies but another variation is to chop the chilies and mix into your filling and cheese.  Then you just have to place about a 1-2 tablespoons of the mixture in the middle of the wrapper. 

If you want to forgo the hominy and just use cheese, cut the cheese into sticks big enough to stick into the whole chilie. 

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Portuguese Chicken Spaghetti

I learned this recipe from my stepfather’s mother, Natalia.  It is a great one pot Portuguese dish that is so comforting and flavorful you just keep wanting to eat more.  Whenever I go to Massachusetts to visit family I have to go to a Portuguese restaurant.  Typical Portuguese food is very hearty.  Flavor is definitely achieved through the bold spices used and the Mediterranean influences.

 Ingredients

One whole chicken cut into 8 pieces*

1 Cup white wine

1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Olive oil

2 Tablespoons Butter

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 package of Goya seasoning

1 can diced or stewed tomatoes*

Chicken broth

Spaghetti

1.  Marinate the chicken with approximately 2 Tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, 1 garlic clove minced and white wine.

2.  Heat 1/4 cup olive oil and the butter over medium heat in a dutch oven or large pot.  Sautee the onions until translucent.

3.  Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and the 2 bay leaves sauté another 2 minutes.

4.  Add the tomatoes, Goya seasoning and chicken pieces.  Allow chicken to brown then turn heat to low and simmer about 30 minutes stirring occasionally.

5.  Turn up heat to medium fill with enough broth to just cover the chicken pieces and add uncooked spaghetti.

6.  Simmer about 10-12 minutes until spaghetti is done.

You can also use just thighs, drumsticks or whole leg pieces if you don’t want to use a whole chicken.  If you don’t have a can of diced or stewed tomatoes you can use fresh tomatoes.  I don’t usually add any other spices to this however you can certainly add oregano or basil if you like.  Sometimes I may add sliced carrots at step 2 to make it more like a stew.

Enjoy!!

Harvest Cafe

Harvest Café is a restaurant that like to serve local fresh ingredients and supports local farms.  The menu isn’t extensive but does offer something for everyone and you can be assured that the ingredients are fresh.  Harvest’s lunch menu has fresh salads and sandwiches.  I had lunch here on two previous occasions trying their Blackened Salmon and Pear Salad ($13) and the Roast Beef Panini ($9) which brought me back for dinner.   The homemade citrus salad dressing with caramelized orange is very refreshing.  But onto my review of dinner at Harvest.

Since it was a Friday evening and everyone goes out to eat in Omaha, I decided to make a reservation to ensure we were able to sit by the fireplace.  I was surprised when we arrived at 6:30 pm that the restaurant only had a few tables occupied.  It really didn’t get busy until around 7:30 pm.  The restaurant has a simple elegance that welcomes you with a fireplace that adds to the ambience.

Our server was very friendly and attentive.  We brought our 6 year old son with us but I should let you know that this restaurant is not kid friendly.  I should expand on that as the staff was very friendly and in fact by the time we left several families had children of all ages.  There is no kid menu but we were able to order the 6 oz Kobe beef burger ($10) off the lunch menu for Brendan.  The side options were chips or a side salad.  A kids menu isn’t necessary at every restaurant but it would be nice for some other “kid-friendly” options at a “kid-friendly” price.  I wouldn’t hold this against them though as they are not going for the family friendly concept but an intimate fine dining but not overly stuffy atmosphere.

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We didn’t opt for any appetizers however the Bacon Wrapped Dates stuffed with Blue Cheese ($7) were something you don’t see often.  A few tables around us ordered them and I overheard rave reviews. Paul ordered the Beef Medallions with Balsamic Peppercorn Reduction ($18) and I choose the Shrimp & Bacon Risotto ($18).  Our server suggested a customer favorite, the Three Pears Pinot Grigio from Napa, to compliment the risotto.  The wine was fruity up front and crisp.  The wine list had some nice options but be prepared to spend some money.  Bottles were approximately $38-$168 and wines by the glass around $9.

Our entrees didn’t come with a soup or salad option which surprised me, unless our server just forgot to ask. On the appetizer menu you could order a side salad or a tomato bisque for $4.00 each. The Beef Medallions were served over mashed potatoes with a mixed medley of seasoned vegetables.  Paul said that the vegetables were a little salty but could just be his preference.  The medallions were cooked to medium rare as ordered and melted in your mouth.  The reduction was bold and very peppery, a tad close to being too peppery with a lot of whole peppercorns.  The risotto was very filling, rich, and cheesy.  Definitely a comfort dish with a lot of flavor, but for me it was too thick for a proper risotto.  If you ever made risotto you know it can be tricky to get the right consistency.  I was disappointed with their choice for shrimp as I would have opted for larger grilled or blackened shrimp to bring this dish together.  All in all both dishes would being us back.

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Harvest is worth a try and is located at 16909 Lakeside Hills Plaza in Omaha.  You can check out their menu and hours at http://www.omahaharvest.com.  It should be noted it appears the website isn’t up to date as the summer menu is still posted and the wine list is different and less extensive than posted on the internet.

How to enjoy new restaurants on a budget

If you are like me you are living on a budget that doesn’t necessarily allow you the luxury to eat out a lot.  This is even compounded when you have children and either have to bring them with you or find a babysitter.  When I first moved to Omaha a friend turned me onto some sites where you can get great deals on restaurants and more.  If you haven’t heard of them or haven’t checked them out yet then do it now!!!

www.dailydealomaha.com (maybe there is a local version near you)

www.groupon.com

www.livingsocial.com

All three sites will give you deals around your area.  I have enjoyed many discounts and have given them to others.  This is a great way to try that new trendy place that you may otherwise pass up.  It is an added bonus when one of my favorite places show up with a discount deal.

Going on vacation?  Look to see if any deals are happening wherever you are going.

Always be courteous and remember to tip your server on the full value.  I also like to give my server my voucher before the ticket arrives.  One last tip..if you have any questions as to what the voucher entails please ask your server before the meal.

I am off to find my newest deal so hubby and I can enjoy a meal without cooking!!

 

Country Sausage Gravy (aka Sawmill Gravy)

Sausage gravy and biscuits with over easy eggs is perfect for a blustery day.  I have not mastered the homemade biscuits yet so I will stick with Pillsbury flaky homestyle biscuits.  Sausage gravy is very simple and easy to make.  My daughter has noticed that although we are using the same ingredients the gravy is different between my husband and I or even between the batches I make.  The minor adjustments can change the taste and consistency slightly so feel free to experiment.  I will include my basic recipe and then give you ideas to mix it up.

Ingredients

1 lb ground pork sausage (ie Jimmy Dean)*

1/4 Cup flour

2-3 Cups whole milk*

1 Tablespoon butter (opti0nal)

Salt and Pepper (to taste)

  1. Brown the sausage in a sauté pan.
  2. Drain the fat all but 1-2 Tablespoons.
  3. This next step can be done one of two ways.  I usually do the first way but I am sure some will disagree and say you have to it the second way.  There is no right or wrong way as I have prepared it both ways with the same success.

    Leave the sausage in the pan after draining.  Sprinkle the flour on the sausage.  I never measure it so the 1/4 Cup is an   approximate.  I add enough flour and stir it so the sausage looks like “puppy chow” mix.  I know some of you are either laughing or saying she didn’t just mention dog food.  When I first learned how to make this someone used that analogy with me and it has stuck and never did me wrong.

    OR

    Remove the sausage from the pan and stir in the flour into the drippings and mix.  You are making a Roux.

  4. Slowly add the milk while continuing stirring (medium heat).  Either way above your gravy will be getting thicker.  Make sure you get the little bits from the bottom of the pan.  If you removed the sausage from the pan to make the roux you can add the sausage back once it has gotten to the desired consistency.
  5. Add a little bit of salt and a lot black pepper.  Just when you thought you added too much pepper you will be adding more.  This is where I keep testing until it is where I like it.
  6. Once the gravy is starting to thicken I turn down the heat to low-medium.
  7. If the gravy is too thick add more milk.  If it is too thin you can take some of the gravy out into a separate bowl mix in some flour (I recommend 1 Tablespoon at a time) mix and then add back into gravy.
  8. As the gravy is cooking it will get thicker and a deeper color.  You will notice it going from the white to a nice light brown.  Some people like making a darker roux..it is all personal choice.
  9. Before serving stir in the 1 Tablespoon of butter and serve over biscuits with eggs on the side.

Substitutions you can try….

*Feel free to try any of any the ground pork sausage products.  I have made sausage gravy using the original, country, sage, and maple flavored.  If you aren’t a pork person then try ground turkey.  The turkey is milder however for the non-pork person they can still enjoy biscuits and gravy.

*You don’t have whole milk now what?  I have used non-whole milk just realize using 2% or less will make your gravy thinner.  We normally buy 1-2% so I mix it with half and half or heavy cream.  Really you can use any of those in any combination and even evaporated milk.  Just this weekend, I used 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, 1 cup of half and half, then thinned it out a bit with a couple splashes of 2% milk.  Sometimes, I may even add a little condensed milk which will add a touch of sweetness.

Gingered Sweet & Sour Kielbasa

 

Tonight I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner.  I wanted something relatively easy and didn’t want to have to go to the store.  In the fridge was some garlic kielbasa we had bought from Costco and some green peppers.  Maybe a stir-fry?  Nah I always do that for a quick meal. I was enjoying a glass of my pineapple wine (will save that for another post) when inspiration hit me.

Let’s see if I have everything:

1-2 lbs Kielbasa, cut into rounds

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (eyeball it)

1 Onion, sliced in spirals

1 Green Pepper, cut into chunks

Small can pineapple chunks, drained

2 cloves garlic minced

Fresh ginger, minced…I think I used about a teaspoon or two

1 Cup brown sugar ( I used dark brown sugar but you can use light brown sugar)

1/3 Cup vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)

1/2 Cup Ketchup

Rice

I rarely use precise measurements unless I am baking so I tried putting the approximate amounts.  I usually just keep tasting and add as I need something.

  1. Start your rice if using regular rice or brown rice first and cook according to directions.
  2. Heat the Olive Oil in a sauté pan or wok.  Caramelize the onions.
  3. Add the pineapple and green pepper and stir about 5-7 minutes.  I see if they have a bit of charring.
  4. Add the Kielbasa, garlic and ginger.  Sauté until the Kielbasa is browned.
  5. While the Kielbasa is cooking mix together the brown sugar, vinegar and ketchup.
  6. Add the sauce to the pan and heat with all the ingredients.
  7. Once warmed serve over the rice.

I know I forgot to take pictures.  I will get better the longer I do this.  This would be good with pork or chicken too, although I probably would go with the light brown sugar if I was using pork or chicken. You can obviously tweak this recipe to suit your tastes.  Some quick tweaks I would recommend are adding different color peppers and/ or quartered baby bella mushrooms.

Hope you enjoy and yes the pineapple wine (Maui Blanc) went great with this recipe!!

Louie’s Wine Dive- Omaha

This is my first official restaurant review:  Louie’s Wine Dive located at 16920 Wright Plaza in Omaha.  I was excited when I first saw Louie’s open near my house.  It looked like a fun place and with a name containing wine and dive I was intrigued.  At the time, I wasn’t aware it was a chain.  Louie’s has other locations in Des Moines, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Waukee.  The décor on the outside really does get your attention as it is bold and colorful and draw you in.  Once inside you are met by bold accents and a mix of elegance and a dive theme with mismatched chairs and tables.  I wasn’t sure if the food was going to be more refined or home cooking.  The menu has something for everyone and features flatbreads, burgers,  salads, and pastas.

I have been here one time before today so I will include a little on that experience too. I believe in trying restaurants at least 2-3 times before I make a final decision on the food and service in case someone is having an off day.  After all, we all are human (at least I think so) and many things can go wrong in the service industry on any given day even when you try to make sure you are delivering consistent food and great service.

On my first visit a few months ago we tried 3 of the appetizers; the BLT deviled eggs ($7), the Pig Stix  ($12) ad the Lobster Poutine ($16).  I love deviled eggs something you don’t see very often on a menu and can be interpreted so many ways.  Louie’s makes theirs topped with bacon, arugula, and oven roasted tomatoes.  The presentation was amazing however it was very salty.  In fact, it was so salty that my companion couldn’t even finish one of them. Trying to not count the salt issue I could tell that these deviled eggs showed promise and could be a hit.  The overall flavor (minus the salt!!) and creaminess was right on.  I did tell our waiter but he just dismissed it without even saying sorry or trying to remedy the situation. The Pig Stix, slow roasted pork shanks tossed in honey hoisin glaze, were recommended by our waiter and were a hit.  The meat was very tender and glaze was not too sweet.  This could easily be a light meal.  Lastly, we tried the Lobster Poutine.  Maine Lobster, portobella mushrooms, fontina in a white gravy over fries….what’s not to love?  Well I hate to say it but the SALT!!  This dish is one I can see you either will love it or hate it.  I love all the ingredients separately and it was okay together (minus again the salt) but I am a purest when it comes to Maine Lobster and I don’t even use butter when I have lobster.  Considering we tried three appetizers I settled for the Louie’s wedge salad  with salmon ($9 plus $5 for salmon) to round out the meal.  I love the simplicity of a wedge salad but how it can be so refined.  Louie’s wedge salad comes with green goddess dressing. The salmon was cooked perfectly.  It had a nice crust on it and cooked  a perfect medium- medium rare. Unfortunately, once again the salt content of the dressing was the downfall.  Our server was friendly and attentive even though he didn’t try to make any adjustments for the salt issue.  After leaving, the rest of the day into the evening I could still taste salt and was drinking a lot of water. I wasn’t sure what to think if this was just how they make all their food to encourage drinking or if this was a bad day in the kitchen.

My next visit was a couple days ago for lunch.  It was about 12:30 pm and the restaurant still had a lunch crowd.  The front half of the dining room was about 80% full and I only witnessed one waitress who was seating people and waiting on tables. Today I decided to try something different and opted for the classic 6 ounce angus burger ($9.99) with cheese ($1.19) and bacon ($1.99).  The wine list was extensive but also more pricey than I would like in this type of establishment.  The average price for a glass of wine was $10-$12.00 with very few options below that.  I inquired if they had a house wine.  Our waitress suggested a 3 red blend.  It was a very nice easy to drink red wine, a good table wine that would satisfy most people and could go with many meals.  It wasn’t to bold or too light.  I was surprised when I looked at my bill that my ‘house wine’ was $8.00.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love wine and have no problem paying for a great glass of something I like but their prices are more in line with a fine dining establishment.  Okay onto the burger.  The menu did say a 6 ounce burger but the burger did look quite small with the toppings overwhelming it.  The waitress didn’t ask how we wanted it cook so I am assuming they cook all their burgers to a medium- medium well as that is how it came out.  The burger was not juicy  and it had one piece of bacon on it.  The bacon was a nice thick cut bacon but was a little chewy where it probably could of used another minute.  I tried a piece of the burger itself and it had no seasoning or taste, maybe they are relying on their special dressing they put on the burgers which was just okay. The fries were your basic fries with parsley and did not encourage me to finish eating them. Believe it or not his time there probably was not enough salt on the fries or in the burger itself.  So my bill for a basic bacon cheeseburger and a glass of red wine was $23.13.

 louies wine and dive bar

 Now according to my own rule…I will have to go back at least one last time to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Well now that I think of it maybe 2 more times.  Our waitress raved about the four pork gnocchi and I read great reviews on the gnocchi so I may have to try that.  In addition, Louie’s offers a Sunday brunch from 10 am – 3 pm that I think is only fair to try.  If you decide to venture out and try Louie’s yourself please note that it is not really kid friendly and check the hours as the hours are not consistent.

Online the current posted hours in Omaha are:

Mon 4 pm -1 0 pm

T- TH 11 am – 10 pm

Fri/ Sat 11 am – 11pm

Sunday brunch 10 am – 3 pm and dinner 3 pm- 8 pm