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oneplumtree

and two sisters who used to have one

The house we grew up in had a big stone fireplace.  The kind with a stoop in front of it that you can sit on or use as a stage, as my sister and I so often did. Living in Austin, Texas, we didn’t build fires so much for warmth…more for ambiance.  If it was fall and hit below 60 degrees  outside, you better believe it was fire time. We’d grab some wood off the porch, stick it in the fireplace, light one of those really long matches, turn the little iron key which opened the gas underneath, held the fire to it and POOF…fire. I never really thought about where the wood came from. It just seemed mom would make a phone call and it would magically appear stacked on our back porch. Might I add, the back porch with the bright green indoor/outdoor carpet. (Think astroturf.) We had green carpet in the living room too; and green countertops in the kitchen…. the kitchen that had green wallpaper. I am sensing a theme here.

Fast forward 30 years or so and I’m married, with 4 kids, living in our first house to have a working fireplace.  Only, we are not in Texas, we are in southern Colorado. It’s October and temperatures dip into the 20’s at night. Come morning, you need a fire, you need firewood…but,not so much for ambiance. It is cold . Repeat. Cold.

My  husband and I had a conversation about the need for firewood. Later that day I came home with the phone number of a guy with a truck, we’ll call him Chuck. Chuck had a truck bed full of chopped wood that he would conveniently deliver to our porch and stack neatly for our immediate use. Sounded familiar. Sounded good.

My husband came home that same day with some pink slips of paper. Apparently he had spoken to some locals in the town…the locals cut their own wood. “Ok….” I say with a severe lack of excitement.”Have you ever done that before?” I added.  He didn’t answer directly but rather pulled out a brochure from the forest service with his pink permits for a couple cords of wood. I have no clue what type of cord he is referring to at this point. My mind wanders. I picture a tree falling on our truck or one of our kids. It’s terrible. “It’ll be an adventure.”, he says.”The kids will love it.”

I smiled at him in a way that conveyed a sort of sarcastic response like, “For real?” To which he silently replied with an affirmative,yet mischievous, smile meaning “for real.”

The next day was Saturday. We packed water bottles, egg salad sandwiches, buffalo bleu chips, fruit and chocolate. Chocolate makes everything better. I have no idea how long this deal is going to take so I pack more snackie snack type stuff. We are about to venture up a mountain with a chainsaw, 3 axes, and 4 young children.

I pray.

We load up, pull out our map, and hit the road…The kids are all pumped up. They have no clue we have no clue what we are doing and that’s how we like to keep it, usually.

We read the rules. You can’t just cut down any old tree. There are only certain areas where you can go to collect “fuel wood” as the forest service calls it. Then after you find the right area, you have to find the right kind of tree, the right species, the right diameter, etc. We are winding into the mountain wilderness of 50 plus foot trees and I ask, “How do you know how to cut one of these down, and,then, which way it will fall.?” I can tell by his delayed response he doesn’t know. “I’ll Google it.” I say scrambling for my phone, praying we have service. We do. A diagram sets us straight. Three cuts is all it takes and you can select what direction you want the tree to fall by where you make the cuts. Easy.

We spot our tree. It stands 60-70 feet tall and has been a victim of some crazy vicious beetle killing trees all over the area. Dead trees equal dry wood. Dry wood burns well. He winds up the chainsaw….I’m taking pics of this momentous occasion. The kids are all huddling together behind some other huge trees in the distance anticipating something earth shattering. The two year old is crying. The chainsaw scares him.  “This is great”, I reluctantly think to myself.

As my husband gets to his third and final cut, we decide to rally the kids back to the truck up the hill. We know which way the tree “should” fall but we are not absolutely positive it will. So we took the safe route. My daughter carries the baby of the family. He’s calmed down. Who knows what he’s thinking. Atop the hill we watched as the completion of the third cut sent the tree crackling to the ground. The echoes thundered through the canyon and the mammoth tree took down another smaller tree as it hit the ground with a booming rebound. I’m oohing and ahhhing as I film and the kids are going crazy cheering like we do when our son scores a touchdown or our daughter nails her gymnastics routine. It’s a rush. A proud rush. My husband hops up on the fallen tree raising his chainsaw in conquest.  Success.

Ok, everyone is safe….at least for now. We have to chop this sucker into logs. The chainsaw’s going again. Three of my children have axes in their hands. I’m thinking, “this is really great parenting.” My mama bear skills are in full effect setting guidelines and boundaries.  I try to let them enjoy the adrenaline rush of chopping of the small branches while not simultaneously chopping off something else.

They were little mountain barbarians. Yelling with every small swing of the ax.  We were all sucking air laughing in the elevation.

The cuts of wood smelled amazing…. like a Christmas tree on steroids. But no breath was as sweet as the sigh of relief I breathed when the day was done and we loaded up in the truck, covered in saw  dust. We had chopped a truck bed full, or half a cord, of wood. My 7 year old son, basking in accomplishment, smiles and out of no where says, “I wish mom was pregnant.”

What?Where do those thoughts come from. Four kids is a nice size brood but apparently not enough for my first born son. I can tell you this….If I was pregnant there is no way we would have been out in the wilderness chopping down trees with 4 kids. That’s crazy talk. More than likely, I would have been cozied up on the couch suffering from the type of morning sickness that lasts all day. I would probably be popping a Zofran as I pick up the phone to call Chuck.

Chocolate Cake… for Breakfast?

“Dad is great. Gives us the chocolate cake.” According to our childhood favorite, Bill Cosby, its got eggs, its got milk, its a well rounded breakfast. Right? We know better than that, but serve it on top of a well rounded special plate and you’ve got a treat that goes straight to the heart of your stomach. Here, we share the way to the homemade chocolate cake goodness we have been having for years. Everyone loves them a Texas Sheet Cake. The 1886 Texas Sheet Cake recipe comes from our loving Hancock family and their beloved Meme. The woman could put on a spread!

While it’s doubtful Meme ever plays a little MJ while beating, or rather slightly beating eggs, we demonstrate that a test kitchen should know no boundaries. Cooking is fun. You wanna be tough. Better do what you can. Just beat it.  WARNING: Dumb video ahead with really bad lighting.

Nothing wrong with busting something like that out. You, too , can learn these fancy moves in the privacy of your own home via this you tube tutorial. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to show off at your next party or potluck where you not only arrive with a chocolate cake but also a smooth dance. For now, let us cook.

For the cake you’ll need
1 cup of butter (we use salted)
4 T cocoa powder (not hot cocoa….pay attention…don’t be like us)
1 cup water
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 t vanilla

Boil together butter, cocoa and water.

We do not recommend tasting this mixture…There is no sweetness to it at this point…It is not wonderful yet

Sift together dry ingredients. Pour boiling mixture over dry ingredients, beating constantly.

Stir in buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla; mix well.

Pour into greased and floured (or Baker’s Joy’d) 9×13 pan. Bake 25-30 minutes on 375. (Optional: Pour into greased and floured cookie sheet and cook for 15-20 minutes on 350.)

For the icing you’ll need
1/2 c of butter
4 T cocoa powder
6 T milk
1 box (16 oz) of powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c chopped pecans (this is so optional…we are not “nuts in our cake” people so we opt out every time.)

Boil together butter, cocoa and milk. Remove from heat and add powdered sugar, vanilla, and pecans (if you are a “pecan in a cake” person which, as previously stated, we are not).

Beat until thick and then spread over hot cake. (Tip: if you use a fork to poke holes in the cake prior to icing, the icing will go all through the cake resulting in chocolate blissfulness)

Now this is the part where you lick the icing bowl.

Serve with a pretty fork you bought a set of off etsy….and don’t forget your special plate if its someone’s special day!!

Thanks Meme!! Call your grandma or your best friends grandma or the sweet lady across the street and tell her you love her…She can probably teach you something…She may even have her own cookbook.

Black Beans with Sofrito

There was a nutrition professor at Texas A&M oddly obsessed with the health benefits of black beans…and rightly so.  The little guys are packed with nutrients.  Top them with sofrito and they enter a whole other arena. Sofrito??? You might ask. And then we might say, “Yes please!” Sofrito is any combination of aromatics like onions, peppers, garlic, herbs, spices sautéed until soft and amazing.  We like to serve it on top a nice steaming bowl of black beans and call it meal. Such deliciousness requires chopping an onion and onion chopping almost always equals tears.  How is this to be avoided???  This is something we did not learn at A&M.  By chewing gum? Lighting a candle? Spraying cutting board with vinegar?  Watching (or reading) The Help? Oh yes, The Help. Aibileen and Minnie are full of tips in the kitchen. One of which is to hold a matchstick between your teeth while you are doing your chopping (but don’t light it!!). We’ve tried it. It seems to help but not as much as chilling the onion prior to cutting it or wearing googles if you are in to that..  Aibileen is full of wisdom and taught us much more than the ‘ol matchstick trick….

Thanks Aibileen. Now.. on to the recipe!!

For these black beans you will need:

2 1/2 cups dry black beans (rinse and sort beans… put in a pot)
Then add…
1/2 a green bell pepper cut in a few large strips
1/2 a yellow onion cut in large chunks
2 garlic cloves cut in big slices
1/2 a lime cut in rounds
2 bay leaves
1 serrano pepper

Add 6 cups of water and soak overnight if you want to cook them the next morning. Alternatively you could soak them all day if you want to cook the next evening.  Beans don’t sleep so it doesn’t really matter to them.

Drain presoaked beans and vegetables. Discard lime slices but leave the bay leaves, onion, bell pepper, garlic, and serrano. Add 8 cups of water with:
1 t of cumin
1 t of salt
1/2 t of pepper
2 fresh bay leaves
1 T of fresh lime juice (just the juice, not the whole lime)
1 T Apple Cider Vinegar (if you don’t have this then just double the lime juice)

……..And get cookin’. Bring beans up to a boil then partially cover pot and reduce to a low simmer on low for 2 – 2  1/2 hours or until tender. Be aware of your water level. While “beans don’t burn on the grill” they most certainly will if they get dry. So, add more water if needed.

As they cook you can whip up your sofrito. You will need:
1 T of olive oil
1/2 yellow onion (diced)
1/2 bell pepper (diced)
1 clove of fresh garlic (minced)
2 serrano peppers (seeded and chopped)

……..Heat olive oil in a skillet and sauté onions, bell pepper, garlic and seranos for 15-20 minutes or until soft and delicious..salt and pepper to taste.

This is just enough to be a little topping for your beans…If you want more, by all means, double or triple this amount…Your call. Sofrito is ready. Set aside.

As beans are finished remove bay leaves and cooked serrano. At this point they are good enough to eat…but to make them even better we do THIS:
To a blender, add the large chunks of cooked vegetables along with 1 cup of cooked black beans. (Beware! Too much hot stuff in a blender results in an explosion of said hot stuff)  Hold the lid of your blender and pulse, releasing steam as needed.

Add the mixture back to your pot of black beans and stir. Now its official. They are ready and will taste even better the next day…Seems like a lot of steps just for a pot of beans but believe us, they are delicious and they will feed a crowd!!

Serve topped with sofrito and maybe some crumbled cotija cheese….Add a green salad or a crusty piece of bread on the side and you’ve got a meal.

Also would be awesome with our Enchildas Muy Asombroso.

Continue reading “Black Beans with Sofrito”

Enchiladas Muy Asombroso!!!

Why go out for Mexican…when you can stay in & skip the wait? We’re not talkin’ tacos people. We are talkin’ enchiladas like your mama would of made. No can opener involved here. A fresh, key word “fresh,” creamy green sauce over chicken filled corn tortillas. Tomatillo sauce that is. And since tomatillos are one of the Seven Latin Power Foods, you can feel good about this one!!

First, we like to set all our needed ingredients outside on a pretty table and take a picture. Feel free to skip this step if you are short on daylight.

Lets get cookin’…

(Disclaimer: These steps are not near as daunting as they may appear….bear with us as we do our best to walk you through this process and make sense…SOOO new to this “writing a recipe” thing!!)

For the Creamy Roasted Tomatillo Sauce you will need:

1½ lbs. of tomatillos (husks removed & cut into ¼ slices)
1 serrano pepper(seeded & cut in half-length wise)
1 whole yellow onion (peeled & quartered)
3 garlic cloves
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. of garlic powder
1 tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup  half & half

Preheat oven to 400. Toss all of the above ingredients (except for cilantro and half & half) together on a baking sheet.  Use your hands (don’t be scared to get dirty people). Bake for 25 minutes.

Once your done a roastin’ let it cool a bit then puree in a food processor or blender with the cilantro… (cilantro is also one of the Seven Latin Power Foods. Its good for detoxing which is good because we are about to add some cream up in here!)

Once its all nice and blended.. put the sauce in a skillet and add the half & half . (P.S….if you’re trying to be healthy…… don’t be. Simply get up the next day and drink a Glowing Green Smoothie).

Simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Salt & pepper to taste…. and taste again just for fun with a chip.

For the Enchiladas you will need:

2 cups of shredded roasted chicken
1 cup monterey jack
1 cup cotija cheese (and lets just say this stuff is muy asombroso…stick with us we’ll teach you spanish)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 cup of the awesome green sauce from above
12 corn tortillas (flour don’t fly with this dish)
1/2 cup of canola oil (optional, but we recommend this and you’ll see why)

To the shredded chicken, add the garlic, salt, cumin along with half of the monterey cheese, half of the cotija cheese, as well as a 1/2 cup of the creamy tomatillo sauce you’ve just made. Mix well. Set aside. 

Heat the canola oil in a skillet and “soft fry” each corn tortilla for 5 seconds on each side then drain and pat excess oil with a paper towel. Repeat with all 12 tortillas. (you can save some calories here by steaming your tortillas in a wet paper towel in the microwave but we find the soft fry way method gives the best flavor…hot yoga tomorrow right??) 

Now we’re ready to roll ’em up, roll ’em up, throw ’em in the pan. (yes, that’s a patty cake reference)

To Assemble the Dish:

Preheat oven to 350. Put a thin layer of the tomatillo sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Place a heaping tablespoon of the chicken mixture to center of corn tortilla and roll it up placing the seam side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Once you’re done rolling… cover enchiladas with the rest of the tomatillo sauce and top with the rest of the monterey jack and the rest of the cotija cheeses. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

While its baking you can whip up some of this…

Creamy Lime Sauce Especial:

1/2 cup of sour cream
the juice of one lime
1 t cumin
1/2 t chili powder
1/2 t garlic powder
1/4 t salt
1/4 pepper
1/4 t cayenne (optional)

Mix all of above ingredients and store in a restaurant style squeeze bottle.  Get creative with this. We like to do a zig zag pattern, with the sauce, across the enchiladas on each individual plate. Then garnish with a little extra cotija cheese and cilantro. Maybe a lime wedge ’cause your nice.

Guess what, amigo?  Order up. You’re having enchiladas tonight.

Alabama Mac & Cheese Yo!

Black eyed peas may promise luck, but this dish delivers comfort. Its your go to side dish of 2012. A true taste of the south all wrapped up in an iron skillet.  Here, we spoof  the book The Hunger Games (read it!!!).  While you may be surprised at our talented performance, make no mistake, the real star of the show is the Mac & Cheese.  Make it now, thank us later.

Alabama Mac & Cheese Yo!
8 oz large elbow macaroni noodles
1 c ½ & ½
1 c milk
3 eggs
8 oz extra sharp cheddar
4-6 oz good parmesan (grated)
5 slices American cheese

Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Cook macaroni in salted, boiling water for 8 minutes. Butter iron skillet and spread 4 oz cheddar on bottom of pan. Set aside. Mix ½ & 1/2 , eggs, and milk together in separate bowl. Butter cooked noodles and  mix in parmesan cheese. Layer noodles on top of cheese in iron skillet.  Pour egg mixture over noodles and make sure all are coated. Add slices of American cheese and remaining cheddar on top.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes and then at 400 for 10 minutes? Enjoy

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