Monday, April 29, 2013

Mother's Day Brunch


My mother is the reason why I cook.  She is always in the kitchen, cooking.  But she does so much more than that.  She keeps the house. She has her own jewelry business.  (Gratuitous plug:  Her site is www.etsy.com/shop/BlingbyDonna.)  She takes care of two four-legged children.  She is a Mother.

When I was growing up, for the most part, it was just me and my mom.  She worked a full-time job, but the laundry and grocery shopping and bill-paying were all taken care of.  Of course, I had chores too.  I am about to say the strangest thing you've ever heard.  Seriously.  When I was a kid, I liked doing chores.  Now, pick yourself up off of the floor and stop laughing.  I was that one-in-a-million kid that actually kept their room clean.  I kept the whole house clean.  I even cleaned my mother's room.  I did these things because she worked hard for me and we survived on her paycheck alone.

Now that I'm an adult, my ethics towards the house haven't changed.  My husband tells me all the time that I "school" the house, meaning that I handle everything quickly and efficiently.  I work six days a week, cook almost every night, blog regularly, and still manage to keep a tight schedule around the house.  And, yes, our children have chores too.  But I wouldn't be this person if it weren't for my mom.  She sacrificed a lot for me, and I learned great lessons on how to be a great mom.  And a great cook, since she's a great cook.  I used to hang around in the kitchen, cleaning up after her and taking her spatula or spoon or whatever she was using before she was done with it.  But I was watching and learning.

My mother taught me to be strong.  She taught me to be independent. She showed me how to be responsible and conscientious.  She taught me to be proud, to stand on my own two feet, and not take crap from anyone.  I learned respect, gratitude, perseverance.  I learned to never quit, never give up.  I learned that other people's negative opinions of you don't matter.  I also learned to walk really fast, sing really loud in parking lots, talk like you're talking through a megaphone, and to laugh at myself. But the very most important thing I learned from my mother is how to be a mom.  Now, I can't be with my mother this Mother's Day since we live in different states, but I want to say to my mother, Happy Mother's Day, and I love you.  In honor of my mother, here is a very special brunch meal that's sure to please any mother.  Enjoy.

I hope your mother is as wonderful as mine.

PUFF PASTRY BREAKFAST TART
1 package of puff pasty, thawed
One 8-ounce package of cream cheese, cubed
3/4 C shredded cheddar cheese
1 Roma tomato, sliced
3/4 C chopped ham (or cooked bacon or cooked sausage)
4 mushrooms, sliced
1 green onion, sliced
6 eggs
2 T butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Press the shorter edges of the puff pastry together and roll out to the size of a large sheet pan.  Place it on a sheet pan and roll the edges in to create a border.  Put the cream cheese cubes randomly over the puff pastry.  Sprinkle on the cheddar cheese. Sprinkle on the ham.  Crack the eggs onto the top, being careful not to break the yolks.  Lay on the mushrooms and tomatoes and sprinkle the green onions all over.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the eggs are set.  Brush the edges with the melted butter and broil until the edges are browned, the pastry has puffed, and eggs are desired consistency.



The measurements of the ingredients of this salad depend upon the size of your bowl.  I will give my measurements for a rather large bowl.  If your see-through bowl is smaller, use your best judgment on the quantities.

LAYERED SALAD
One 10-ounce bag of spinach, stems removed
2 C shredded carrots
8 boiled eggs, sliced
2 C frozen peas
2 C frozen corn kernels
One 8-ounce package of mushrooms, sliced
2 heads fresh broccoli, stems removed and cut into florets
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 C shredded cheddar cheese (reserve some for garnish)
3 C dressing (I used my Jalapeno Ranch Sauce with a little extra mayo to thicken, but use any flavor)
2 green onions, sliced, for garnish
Salt & pepper

Layer each part of the salad in a clear bowl in the order given, seasoning each layer of vegetables with salt and pepper.  Cover the top with the dressing, reserved cheese, and green onion, and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours before serving.



STUFFED ZUCCHINI & SQUASH
3 zucchini
3 yellow squash
One 8-ounce package of mushrooms, chopped
2 T butter
Olive oil
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cloves garlic, minced
10-ounce bag of spinach, stems removed
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1/4 C shredded parmesan cheese
1 C shredded mozzarella cheese

Trim one side of the squash and zucchini off.  Scrape out the seeds.  Set aside.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the mushrooms until tender.  Add in the garlic and all of the spinach and cook until it's reduced and tender.  Remove from heat. Stir in the bacon and the parmesan cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Drizzle the squash and zucchini with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Stuff each one with the bacon, spinach and mushroom mixture.  Put the shredded mozzarella and the sliced tomatoes over the tops of the squash.  Cook 25-30 minutes or until the squash and zucchini are tender, the tomatoes are browned and the cheese is melted.



STUFFED CHERRY PEPPERS
One 16-ounce jar of cherry peppers, stems and seeds removed
One 6.5-ounce container of Boursin cheese (any flavor...I used spinach & artichoke)
1/4 C chopped ham, salame, or proscuitto
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 T shredded parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Mix the Boursin, salame, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese together.  Using a pastry bag or a zipper bag, fill each pepper and chill.



CREME BRULEE
2 C heavy cream
7 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 C sugar
4 T sugar

In a pot, whisk together the egg yolks and the 3/4 C sugar.  Whisk in the cream.  Cook over medium heat until frothy but not boiling.  Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Pour the creme brulee mixture into four to six small ramekins, depending on how deep they are.  Place them in a 9 x 13 pan.  Put the pan on the oven rack.  Pour hot water into the 9 x 13 pan at least halfway up.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until set. Refrigerate at least two hours.

Sprinkle the 4 T sugar over the tops of the brulees.  Brown with a kitchen torch or broil carefully until desired browness on top.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Remoulade Sauce


REMOULADE SAUCE
1 1/2 C mayo
1 T lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 T brown mustard
1 C ketchup
Cayenne pepper, to taste
3 T green onions, rough chopped
3-4 pepperoncini peppers, stems removed
1/4 C red onion, rough chopped
Salt & pepper to taste

Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.  Serve with fish tacos, crab cakes, or even eggs benedict.

Creme Brulee


CREME BRULEE
2 C heavy cream
7 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 C sugar
4 T sugar

In a pot, whisk together the egg yolks and the 3/4 C sugar.  Whisk in the cream.  Cook over medium heat until frothy but not boiling.  Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Pour the creme brulee mixture into four to six small ramekins, depending on how deep they are.  Place them in a 9 x 13 pan.  Put the pan on the oven rack.  Pour hot water into the 9 x 13 pan at least halfway up.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until set. Refrigerate at least two hours.

Sprinkle the 4 T sugar over the tops of the brulees.  Brown with a kitchen torch or broil carefully until desired browness on top.

Stuffed Zucchini & Squash


STUFFED ZUCCHINI & SQUASH
3 zucchini
3 yellow squash
One 8-ounce package of mushrooms, chopped
2 T butter
Olive oil
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cloves garlic, minced
10-ounce bag of spinach, stems removed
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1/4 C shredded parmesan cheese
1 C shredded mozzarella cheese

Trim one side of the squash and zucchini off.  Scrape out the seeds.  Set aside.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the mushrooms until tender.  Add in the garlic and all of the spinach and cook until it's reduced and tender.  Remove from heat. Stir in the bacon and the parmesan cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Drizzle the squash and zucchini with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Stuff each one with the bacon, spinach and mushroom mixture.  Put the shredded mozzarella and the sliced tomatoes over the tops of the squash.  Cook 25-30 minutes or until the squash and zucchini are tender, the tomatoes are browned and the cheese is melted.

Stuffed Cherry Peppers


STUFFED CHERRY PEPPERS
One 16-ounce jar of cherry peppers, stems and seeds removed
One 6.5-ounce container of Boursin cheese (any flavor...I used spinach & artichoke)
1/4 C chopped ham, salame, or proscuitto
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 T shredded parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Mix the Boursin, salame, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese together.  Using a pastry bag or a zipper bag, fill each pepper and chill.

Going Cajun


My husband is a pasta freak.  Next to fried chicken, it's his second most requested thing to eat.  He also likes things spicy, too.  One time, when he asked for fried chicken, he told me he wanted it spicy.  Really spicy.  So I went in the kitchen and made an injection with every kind of pepper sauce and pepper spices I could find.  I think I combined at least nine different kinds of tabasco, cayenne pepper, Cholua pepper sauce, etc.  I injected his chicken and fried it up.  While eating it, he broke out into a sweat and his lips were afire.  Flames were shooting out of his ears, and I had to get the water hose to extinguish him.  He said maybe he doesn't really want spicy fried chicken again.

I really love Cajun food.  I got my first taste of it a really, really long time ago when I went to Mardi Gras.  I do like to make my own versions of things, so here's my take on lasagna Cajun style.  This Cajun Chicken Alfredo Lasagna has a kick to it, but I didn't inject it with a deadly concoction of heat.  It just has a mild to medium heat, depending on your taste, that comes from the Creole seasoning, which I use Emeril Lagasse's recipe for Creole seasoning.  You can even leave the Creole seasoning out.  The creamy alfredo sauce is dreamy, and the melted cheese on top makes it darn near perfect.

Laissez le bon temps rouler!

CAJUN CHICKEN ALFREDO LASAGNA
1 onion, chopped
1 lb andouille sausage, diced
1 lb cooked, shredded chicken
4 cloves garlic, minced
Cajun seasoning, to taste (recipe follows)
1/2 stick butter
Olive oil
1/2 C chicken stock
1 lb lasagna noodles
1 1/2 C shredded monterrey jack cheese

FOR THE SAUCE:
1/4 C butter
1/4 C flour
2 C heavy cream
1/2 to 1 C shredded parmesan cheese

Cook the lasagna noodles according to directions.

Preheat a large skillet to medium high heat.  Melt the butter in the skilet and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the onion until tender.  Add in the sausage and cook, browning slightly.  Add in the chicken, Creole seasoning (as much or as little as you like), chicken stock, and garlic. Cook to heat through.

For the sauce, melt the butter in a pot.  Whisk in the flour.  When combined, quickly whisk in the cream to avoid lumps.  Cook until it's thickened and bubbly.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the parmesan cheese  (as much or as little as you like depending on how thick you want the sauce) until it's melted.  You can add additional Creole seasoning to the sauce if desired.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  To assemble, layer the lasagna in a 9 x 13 pan.  Then ladle on some sauce and repeat, ending with lasagna noodles.  Put the monterrey jack cheese over the top.  Bake about 20-25 minutes or until heated through and the cheese on top is melted and lightly browned.

EMERIL LAGASSE'S CREOLE SEASONING
2 1/2 T paprika
2 T salt
2 T garlic powder
1 T black pepper
1 T onion powder
1 T cayenne
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried thyme

Mix together and store in an airtight container.

Friday, April 26, 2013

I Love Tomatoes


I have a penchant for wanting to combine flavors and concepts and doing something whimsical sometimes, and that's what leads me to the creation of most of my recipes.  I see something I like, and I twist it, turn it, reshape it, recreate it.  It's apparently in my nature.  Sure, I could just do a recipe as it's intended, but why do that.  We are all individual, and I, for some reason, have the need to show my individuality in the kitchen.  It is truly my most favorite room in the house. Unless it's Wednesday night and Survivor is on.  Then my favorite room is the living room.

I remember the first time I had bruschetta.  I don't remember what restaurant I was at, but I sure do remember the bright, tart taste of the tomatoes.  I remember the herby, fresh taste of the basil.  I remember the slightly spicy garlic.  I remember the gooeyness of the melted Mozzarella.  (Gooeyness is too a word.  I looked it up.)  With the crunch of the bread, the flavor was bomb diggity.  Did you know there's a restaurant in Riverton, Utah named Bombdiggitys?  Thanks, Google.

Sorry, got distracted.  Back to the bruschetta.  You know, I never even liked raw tomatoes until I ate that bruschetta.  But I do now.  So how do I create this beautiful bruschetta into a meal?  Put it on top of chicken!  That seems to be a favorite of mine as well as my family's.  From the tender, juicy chicken to the crunch of croutons on the top, it's a crowd pleaser.  And, of course, what would it be without a cream sauce like mine over the top?  Not nearly as good as this one.

BRUSCHETTA CHICKEN
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Seasoned salt, like Lawry's
Garlic powder, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 small package basil leaves
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
8 slices of Mozzarella (off of a block), 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick, depending on your preference
2 shallots, chopped
Olive oil
1 1/2 C heavy cream
1/2 C white wine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C flour
Croutons, any flavor, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lay the chicken breasts on a sheet pan.  Sprinkle the seasoned salt, black pepper, and garlic powder on both sides of the chicken.  Cook for 16 minutes, then flip them over and cook an additional 12-16 minutes until done at an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, drizzle some olive oil into a skillet and cook the shallots over medium high heat until tender. Deglaze the pan with the wine.  Cook for a couple of minutes to reduce.  Quickly whisk in the flour.  Whisk in the cream and garlic and cook until thickened and bubbly.  Remove from heat.  Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

To assemble the chicken, lay one to two leaves of basil over each piece of chicken.  Pile the tomatoes on top of each piece of chicken.  Lay two slices of Mozzarella over the chicken and secure with toothpicks so the cheese doesn't slide off.  Cook under the broiler, watching carefully, until the cheese is melted and browned.  Serve with the cream sauce over the top and garnish with croutons.



Florentine Stuffed Mushrooms



FLORENTINE STUFFED MUSHROOMS
One 8-ounce package of mushrooms, the larger the better
2 C fresh spinach leaves
2 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 T garlic powder
2 T bread crumbs
Olive oil, for drizzling

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and scrape out the gills.  In a food processor, combine the spinach leaves, bacon, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, pepper jack cheese, and garlic powder.  Pulse until well combined.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the mushrooms in a casserole pan. With a spoon, fill each mushroom cap, being sure not to overfill or they will leak out.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the tops.  Drizzle olive oil over the tops of the mushrooms.  Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the tops are browned and mushrooms are tender.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Get Out of the Box



When I was pregnant with my daughter, I remember standing in the kitchen, bawling because I was making Hamburger Helper and the noodles weren't cooking.  Now, I haven't cooked Hamburger Helper in probably close to 15 years, but I'm pretty sure some of the directions tell you to cook the meat, pour in the sauce packet and noodles and some amount of water and simmer.  But it didn't work that night, and there I stood, barefoot and pregnant (not really barefoot) and crying.  It's really funny when you look back and remember the things that made you cry when you were pregnant.  Like the time I was Christmas shopping at the mall.  I came out of the mall in the dark, 7 months pregnant, and a van was parked way too close to the driver door of my car.  I dropped my packages on the ground and stood there bawling.  Eventually I had to heft my big belly through the passenger door and into the seat.  Oh, the memories.

But, back to the Hamburger Helper, that was a quick meal I used to make all the time.  Used to.  A long time ago I quit buying those dinners in a box and started cooking everything from scratch.  It's not that I have anything against those products, it's just that I think home-cooked food tastes better and is better for you.  But my husband and kids love those things.  So, for this meal, I tried to come up with a compromise. Homemade Hamburger Helper.  I don't know your family's favorite flavor, but around here it's Cheeseburger Mac.  I can give them the same concept but with real ingredients.  And I think this was a winner.  Loaded with all of the bacon cheeseburger flavors we love, this pasta packed a punch.  It was very reminiscent of a hamburger but made into a pasta. Sure, you can leave off the pickle garnish, but, for me, it was like the icing on a cake or the sour punch on a burger.  This is a crowd-pleasing meal that is sure to satisfy everyone's Hamburger Helper craving and/or cheeseburger craving.  It encompasses all of the condiments of a hamburger, drenched in a really cheesy sauce, and that sour pickle that makes a hamburger complete.

What's your favorite flavor of Hamburger Helper?

CHEESEBURGER MAC
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C ketchup
1 T mustard
1/4 C mayonnaise
1 T Worcestershire sauce
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 lb pasta (I used cavatappi)
2 C milk
1/4 C flour
1/4 C butter
6 slices American cheese
2 C shredded cheddar, divided in half
Sliced pickles, for garnish, if desired
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to directions.

Cook the onion in a large skillet in olive oil over medium heat until tender.  Add in the ground beef and garlic and brown and cook until the meat is done.  Drain if necessary.  Add in the ketchup, mustard, mayo, Worcestershire sauce, and bacon.  Heat through and remove from heat.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.

For the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a sauce pot.  Whisk in the flour and cook about a minute.  Whisk in the milk and continue whisking until it is thickened and bubbly.  Turn the heat off and add in the sliced cheese and 1 C shredded cheese.  Whisk until the cheese is completely melted.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the meat, pasta, and cheese sauce.  Pour this into a 9 x 13 pan. Top with remaining cheese and bake until heated through and the cheese on top is melted and slightly browned, about 10-15 minutes.  Garnish with pickle slices, if desired.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Back Ribs, Hold the Baby


Being from Texas, I believe I am a rib connoisseur.  No, I haven't judged any rib cookoffs, but I sure have eaten plenty of ribs in my lifetime.  Sure, I know that Texas is known for brisket and beef, but, trust me, we eat plenty of ribs here too.  My husband has grilled ribs for us plenty of times.  But, as the kids and I have always told him how good they were, he has always said he didn't like them...until now.  He spent the day doing research on cooking methods, brining vs. not brining, rub recipes, indirect heat vs. direct heat.  And he did his research well.  If I am sure about one thing, I am sure of this.  These were the BEST DARN RIBS I have ever eaten in my life.  Seriously, the best.  They were fall-off-the bone tender.  They were moist and juicy.  With my Chipotle Barbecue Sauce, they were spicy enough to make your lips swell!  I ate six of them, which I have never eaten more than two ribs at a time.  And my daughter, who is quickly on her way to becoming a vegetarian, ate a heaping pile of ribs as well.

Now, the ribs I bought were labeled "Back Ribs."  Apparently, they're still considered "baby back."  However, if you know baby back ribs, you're expecting flavorful, yet small amounts of meat.  I implore you to try to find "back ribs" if you can.  They were a wonderful balance between the scarce meat of a baby back and the abundance of meat on a spare rib or a country-style rib.  The perfect amount of meat along with my husband's barbecuology made this an amazing treat.

I want my baby back, baby back, baby back...ribs.  Don't you?





PORK RIBS
FOR THE RUB:
2 1/2 C brown sugar
2 T mustard powder
1 T paprika
2 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T salt
1 T black pepper
Squeeze bottle of butter
Peanut oil

FOR THE RIBS:
A spray bottle filled with apple cider vinegar
A disposable 9 x 13 aluminum tin
Hickory wood chips, soaked in water for 20 minutes
1 recipe of my Chipotle BBQ sauce, warmed (under the Sauces/Relishes tab)
3 pork back rack of ribs

Remove the membrane from the bone side of the ribs.  Lightly brush the peanut oil over all surfaces.  Mix the rub ingredients together and spread generous amounts (waste not, want not) evenly over all surfaces of the ribs.  Let the ribs sit at room temperature covered for at least an hour.

To prep the grill, fill the 9 x 13 pan with water.  Place it in the center of the bottom of the grill.  Spread charcoal around the pan of water.  Wrap the soaked wood chips in two pieces of foil and pierce the foil.  Place foil packages of wood chips on top of the coals.  Light the charcoal.  When the coals are gray, put the ribs in a rib rack or directly on the grill grate in the center over the water.  Set a timer for 15 minutes.  When the timer goes off, spray the ribs with the apple cider vinegar.  Repeat this spraying process for about 2 1/2 hours.  (Time consuming, yes, but it breaks down the meat and makes it super tender.)  At about one hour, add more charcoal to keep the temperature steady.

After 2 1/2 hours, remove the ribs from the grate and place them on top of a large piece of heavy-duty foil.  Generously squeeze the squeeze butter over all surfaces of the ribs.  Remove the water tin from the coals.  Spread the coals around evenly to cover the bottom of the grill.  Wrap the ribs tightly in the foil, return to the grill, and grill an additional 30 minutes on direct heat, rotating every 10 minutes.  Remove from the grill and let rest at least 10 minutes in the foil.  Brush on the BBQ sauce as desired and enjoy.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Wafflewiches


Fast-food chains like McDonald's are changing breakfast up and doing things like the McGriddle breakfast sandwiches. They're okay, but I really prefer homemade food to fast food. When my family asked for breakfast for dinner, I decided to put my spin on a different kind of breakfast sandwich, a Wafflewich.  But not just any waffle, a waffle with bacon in it. Loaded with an over-easy egg, a sausage patty, melted cheese, butter, and syrup, it was a breakfast for dinner masterpiece.

WAFFLEWICHES
FOR THE WAFFLES:
1 3/4 C flour
1 T baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 C milk
1/2 vegetable oil
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

FOR THE SANDWICH:
4 eggs
4 slices roll sausage, like Jimmy Dean's
8 slices American cheese
Butter
Syrup

Preheat a waffle iron.  Mix all of the waffle ingredients together except the bacon with a whisk.  Stir in the bacon. Pour about 1/2 C of the batter onto the waffle iron.  Cook the waffles about 3-4 minutes or until browned and slip off of the waffle iron easily.  If your waffle iron is like mine and separates the waffles into four sections, you will have 12-16 sections.  If you only want one section per Wafflewich, you can freeze the leftover waffles.

Fry the eggs to desired doneness.  (I like over easy.)  Fry the sausage patties until done and browned on both sides.

To assemble, take two sections of waffles and put the sliced cheese on each half.  You can microwave the halves or put them under a broiler quickly to melt the cheese. Top one half with the hot egg and sausage. Put the other half on top of the egg and sausage.  Serve with butter and syrup.

And a Bag of Chips


When I was a kid, I think I must have eaten Doritos every single day. Okay, not really.  My mom didn't really buy junk food, so we rarely had any in the house.  But, if I had enough spare change to buy a bag, you can bet I did.  And that was back when there were only two flavors of Doritos, the plain corn chips and the nacho cheese.  It's amazing how many different flavors there are now.  I once bought my kids a bag of cheeseburger flavored Doritos.  The kids liked them, but it was a little strange for me.  My husband likes the salsa verde flavor, I like the buffalo wings and ranch flavor, and our kids will eat any of them.  But, alas, like my mother, I rarely buy junk food so they don't get Doritos very often.

You can imagine the sheer excitement when I announced to the family that I was going to make chicken coated with Doritos!  And, of course, I had to do one of my favorites things to chicken...stuff it with cheese.  I just can't help myself.  Top it all off with some Cadillac Queso, and it is Doritos heaven.

What's your favorite flavor of Doritos?

CHEESE-STUFFED DORITOS CRUSTED CHICKEN
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded thin
8 1/4 inch slices of pepper jack cheese (off of an 8-ounce block)
One 11-ounce bag of Doritos, any flavor
2 eggs
Cadillac Queso

Crush the Doritos in a food processor or coffee grinder until very fine. Mix the eggs with a splash of water.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place two slices of cheese inside the chicken and secure with three toothpicks, making sure no cheese shows through.  Dredge the chicken in the egg wash first, then in the crushed Doritos.  Bake for 20-30 minutes (depends on how big the chicken is) or until chicken is done.  Serve with Cadillac Queso on top of the chicken.

**NOTE:  Be sure to tell your diners to remove the three toothpicks.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons


CAESAR SALAD WITH HOMEMADE CROUTONS
FOR THE DRESSING:

1 1/2 C mayonnaise
1/2 C olive oil
3 T lemon juice
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoon anchiovy paste (optional, but sure is good!)
4 cloves garlic
Salt & pepper to taste

FOR THE CROUTONS:
3 C cubed bread, like Italian or French bread
1 stick butter, melted
1 T onion powder
1 T dried parsley
1 T garlic powder
Salt & pepper to taste

1 head of Romaine lettuce, stems removed and rough chopped
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the dressing ingredients together in a blender or food processor.

Mix all of the crouton ingredients together in a bowl, making sure to coat the bread well with the butter.  Bake on a single layer on a sheet pan for 13-20 minutes, depending on the size of the cubes.  (After 13 minutes, bake five minutes at a time until all of the croutons are completely dry.)

Toss the Romaine with the dressing and top with croutons and fresh grated Parmesan cheese.

Garlic Parmesan Caesar Dressing


GARLIC PARMESAN CAESAR DRESSING
1 1/2 C mayonnaise
1/2 C olive oil
3 T lemon juice
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoon anchiovy paste (optional)
4 cloves garlic
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until well combined.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Everything-Crusted Parmesan Knots


EVERYTHING-CRUSTED PARMESAN KNOTS
1 1/4 C 110-115 degree water
3 C flour
1/2 C parmesan cheese
1 packet yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 T olive oil
1 T garlic flakes
1 T dried minced onions
1 T poppy seeds
1 T sesame seeds
2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 to 1 T salt (to taste)
Olive oil

Put the yeast, water, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Let sit about five minutes or until it starts foaming.  Add in the salt, flour, parmesan cheese, and olive oil.  Knead until well mixed and the dough becomes a ball.  Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover, and let rise until tripled, at least 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.

While the dough is rising, combine the garlic flakes, minced onions, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, black pepper, and salt.

When the dough has risen, roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick.  Divide the dough into about 8 equal strips.  Twist the ends of the dough around on itself, resembling a knot.  Lightly brush each knot with olive oil and sprinkle the seasonings on each knot.  Place on a sheet pan, cover, and let rise until they have risen quite well, at least an hour, maybe an hour and a half.

Bake the rolls at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through.

Now, That's a Sandwich


It's no secret how much I love deli sandwiches.  When I was in high school, I had the pleasure to taste my first Schlotzsky's Original sandwich. I thought at the time that I died and went to heaven.  (Hopefully you're a Schlotzsky's fan.)  From the olive spread to the layers of meat and the melted cheese, I was in love.

Many years later, my tastebuds have moved up in the world.  Yes, I still like Schlotzsky's, but I really prefer homemade food to eating out, especially fast food.  The Schlotzsky's Original is a type of muffuletta sandwich, which originated in the home of our Southern cousins, New Orleans.  Some versions of the Schlotzsky's sandwich has a garlic caesar dressing, which I think is divine.  The olive salad consists of, yes, olives, but also the giardiniera which is usually marinated celery, carrots and cauliflower, and also olive oil.  The meat is piled high and layered on thick with ham and assorted salamis.  Top all of that with red onion, tomato slices, sourdough buns, and melted cheese, and you have a French Quarter meal fit for any Mardi Gras king.

Now, me being me, I have to do things my way.  While this version is close to a traditional muffuletta, it is my spin on things.  And I made the bread homemade.  Just cause.

Go grab some Mardi Gras beads and a plastic baby.  Sandwich is on!

MUFFULETTA

FOR THE SOURDOUGH:
1/2 C sourdough starter
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 C flour
1 packet yeast
1 T sugar
1 1/4 C 110-115 degree water

FOR THE OLIVE SALAD:
1 green onion
1 C green olives
One 14-ounce can black olives, drained
1/2 C olive oil
1/4 C pepperoncini peppers
1/4 C red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 C Italian parsley
2 cloves garlic
Salt & pepper to taste
Red chili flake to taste

FOR THE SANDWICH:
1 C shredded mozzarella
1/2 C shredded parmesan cheese
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
Assorted Salami (like Genoa, Sopressata, Calabrese, etc)
Sliced deli ham
Tomato slices
Red onion slices
Shredded lettuce

GARLIC PARMESAN CAESAR DRESSING:
1 1/2 C mayonnaise
1/2 C olive oil
1/4 C shredded parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 T lemon juice
2 teaspoons anchiovy paste (optional)
1 T Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper to taste

For the bread, mix all of the bread ingredients together in a stand mixer. Knead until well combined.  Place it in a large greased bowl.  Cover it and let it rest until it has tripled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Divide the dough into four equal balls.  Cover again and let rest until it is well risen, about 1 more hour.  Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned and done, about 20-25 minutes.  Cool completely.

For the olive salad, you can either process all of the ingredients in a food processor or chop all of the veggies and then stir in the rest of the ingredients.

For the Garlic Caesar Dressing, mix all of the ingredients together in a blender.

To assemble the sandwiches, split the buns and divide the mozzarella and the parmesan to the bottom half of each sandwich and divide the cheddar cheese among the four top halves.  Melt under a broiler.

Next, spread some of the olive salad on the bottom buns.  Layer the ham and salamis, tomato slices, red onion slices, and lettuce.  Drizzle on some Garlic Caesar Dressing and enjoy!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I Like it Sweet & Spicy


I am usually a creature of habit when it comes to frying chicken.  It's either Buttermilk Fried Chicken or Boneless Buffalo Wings.  But I cook three meals a week for another family, and, quite frankly, I was starting to run out of ideas.  So I went in the kitchen the other day to check out the situation.  I found chicken, brown sugar, and chipotle peppers.

Anytime I ask my husband what he wants for dinner, he says fried chicken.  That popped into my head when I saw the chicken.  So I thought to myself, what the heck, let's get crazy up in here!  Chicken tenders glazed in a brown sugar and chipotle sauce.  My goodness gracious, what a genius thought that was.  This combination, paired with a hint of lime, was a delight on the tastebuds.  My husband ate the majority of these before the rest of dinner was ready.  I did manage to snatch a couple before he ate them all.

So, if you're looking for a sweet and spicy, slightly tangy new way to cook chicken, this is it.

BROWN SUGAR & CHIPOTLE GLAZED CHICKEN TENDERS
FOR THE SAUCE:
1 T onion powder
1 C brown sugar
2 chipotles in adobo, chopped
1 T dijon mustard
Salt & pepper to taste
3/4 C ketchup
1 T garlic powder
3 T lime juice
2 C water

FOR THE CHICKEN:
1 lb chicken tenders
2-3 C flour
3 T cajun seasoning, divided (I like Emeril's homemade Creole Seasoning recipe)
Buttermilk, to cover the chicken
Peanut oil, for frying

Put the chicken tenders in a 9 x 13 casserole pan.  Cover them with buttermilk and sprinlke 2 T cajun seasoning over the tenders.  Mix to combine.  Marinate for at least one hour.

For the sauce, combine the sauce ingredients in a pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low.  Simmer about 45 minutes or until thickened and reduced.  Remove from heat.

Mix the flour and 1 T cajun seasoning together.  Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, back into the buttermilk, and back into the flour. When all of the chicken is dredged, lay it on a sheet pan and cover it with plastic wrap.  Let it sit about 30 minutes so that the coating forms a paste.

Preheat the peanut oil to 350 degrees.  Fry the chicken tenders about 5-7 minutes or until browned and cooked through, then drain on paper towels.  When all the tenders are cooked, pour the sauce over them and stir to coat.

Broccoli is Good for You


Do you know any picky kids that won't eat their veggies?  I, surprisingly, don't.  That's right.  My kids eat and love veggies.  Now, I'm not saying that they aren't picky.  My 12-year-old son, Trevor, doesn't drink soda (of any kind) and has only just recently started eating nuts and Ranch dip. But he has eaten and loved vegetables since the first time he ate solid food.  My 15-year-old daughter, Taylor, has recently decided that she's a choose-atarian because she only eats good cuts of meat by choice.  She is increasingly afraid of sausages or hot dogs or any questionable blended meat.  The girl even eats sushi!  She still eats chicken, though, so we're safe.

So I wanted to make, yes, another pasta, this time with broccoli, artichokes, and chicken.  With a creamy bechamel sauce and, of course, cheese, it's sure to be a big hit for your veggie-eating family.

George Bush, Jr., should eat some broccoli too.  It's good for you.

CHICKEN, BROCCOLI & ARTICHOKE PASTA
2 shallots, chopped
1 head of broccoli, stem removed, separated into small florets
One 15-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained
2 C cooked, shredded chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb pasta (I used penne)
1 C chicken stock
2 C half & half
1/4 C butter
1/2 C flour
2 C shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, divided in half
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to directions.  Steam the broccoli (or boil) until desired consistency.

Cook the shallot in olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until tender.  Add in the garlic, chicken, artichokes, and broccoli.  Stir to heat through and remove from heat.

For the bechamel sauce, in a pot, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Add in the chicken stock and whisk quickly to prevent lumps.  Whisk in the half and half.  Cook and whisk until thickened and bubbly.  Remove from heat and whisk in 1 C of the shredded cheese until it's completely melted.  Mix the sauce with the chicken mixture and the pasta.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the mixture in a 9 x 13 casserole pan.  Top with remaining cheese.  Cook until the cheese is melted and browned and the casserole is heated through.

Hominy Casserole


HOMINY CASSEROLE
2 15-ounce cans of hominy, yellow or white, drained
2 roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped poblano peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 C sour cream
1/2 C heavy cream
2 teaspoons cumin
3 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 C shredded cheese, divided in half

In a small skillet, cook the onion in some olive oil over medium high heat until tender.  Turn off the heat and stir in the garlic.

Combine all ingredients, using half of the cheese, in a bowl.  Add in onions and garlic.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the mixture in an 8 x 8 casserole pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Top with remaining cheese and bake another 15 minutes.

**To roast poblano peppers, put them on a sheet pan and place them in a 400 degree oven.  Cook them, turning occasionally, until all sides are charred.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel the skins off. Remove the stem and scrape out the seeds.

Loaded Hasselback Potatoes


I've seen a few variations of these potatoes on Pinterest.  Here's my spin on it.

LOADED HASSELBACK POTATOES
4 russet potatoes
1/2 stick butter, sliced
1 C shredded Colby Jack cheese
Olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Sour cream
Green onions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Slice thin slices down the potatoes, being very careful not to cut through the bottom.  Stick the pats of butter down in between some of the slices of each potato.  Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake for an hour or until they are cooked and tender.

Sprinkle some cheese in between the slices of potato.  Return the potatoes to the oven and cook just until cheese is melted.  Garnish with the bacon, sour cream, and green onions.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Healthy Obsessions


I have become way too obsessed lately with the combination of Ranch, taco seasoning and cream cheese.  I just can't help myself.  It's so darn tasty together.  So I'll give you this one last recipe with it, and hopefully it will stop for awhile.  I promise to enroll in the RTSCC rehab tomorrow. (Ranch, Taco Seasoning, Cream Cheese)

So, with this obsession, I decided to shake things up a bit, let loose, and do something downright wild!  Okay, maybe it's not wild, but CRAZY! Ha ha.  Really, neither of those.  But this recipe has got an unexpected twist.  It looks like enchiladas, right?  But it's not.  It's lasagna!  A strange but perfect melding of two of my favorite cuisines, Tex-Mex and Italian. When my husband took his first bite, he was really surprised, expecting a tortilla.  But it was so fantastically good!  It combines my new afore-mentioned obsession, and one of my most favoritest Tex-Mex things, chili gravy.

What is chili gravy, you ask?  It's the brown sauce you get in any Mexican restaurant, at least in Texas.  It's that oh-so-familiar thing that graces cheese enchiladas everywhere.  My chili gravy recipe comes from my favorite Tex-Mex cookbook author, Robb Walsh, who wrote "The New Tex-Mex Cookbook."  I first stumbled onto this recipe when my husband challenged me to make enchilada sauce that tastes like restaurant enchilada sauce.  After much research, I came upon a blog called homesicktexan.blogspot.com by Lisa Fain.  She shared this recipe on her blog, and I was hooked.  I am now a huge fan of hers as well as Robb Walsh's.  I also own their cookbooks.

With this Tex-Mex Lasagna recipe, I chose to use chicken.  But it would work equally as well with ground beef, shredded beef, shredded pork, or ground turkey if you're a fan of leaner food.  Any which way you go, your tastebuds will end up in Texas.

I love being a Texan.

TEX-MEX LASAGNA
3 C cooked, shredded chicken
1 onion, chopped
One 8-ounce package of cream cheese
1/2 C sour cream
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet Ranch Dip mix
1/4 C jalapeno slices, chopped (use less if you're spice challenged)
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
1 recipe of chili gravy (recipe to follow)
2 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1 lb lasagna noodles
Green onions, for garnish

Cook lasagna noodles according to directions.

Preheat a large skillet to medium high heat.  Cook the onion and jalapenos in olive oil until tender.  Add in the chicken, cream cheese, garlic, sour cream, taco seasoning, and Ranch mix.  Cook and stir until the cream cheese is melted.  Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro. **NOTE:  If the sauce seems too thick, add in 1/2 to 1 C water to loosen it up.  (I actually made a double batch of this, and I had to add 1 C water.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a 9 x 13 pan, layer lasagna noodles, chicken mixture, chili gravy, and repeat, ending with chili gravy. Sprinkle the shredded cheese all over the top.  Bake about 15 minutes or until heated through and the cheese is melted and browned.  Garnish with green onions.

CHILI GRAVY (as adapted from Robb Walsh)

The reason I say "as adapted from" is that I've found that, when doubling or tripling this recipe, doubling or tripling the spices and seasonings doesn't work for me.  It becomes almost bitter and really salty, which is weird because I'm heavy handed with salt.  This recipe is tripled for the lasagna.

3/4 C lard or vegetable oil
3/4 C flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
2 T chili powder
6 C chicken stock

Heat a skillet to medium high heat and melt the lard.  Whisk in the flour and all of the seasonings and spices.  Slowly pour in the chicken stock and whisk continuously to prevent lumps.  Cook until thickened and bubbly.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Quinoa-Stuffed Tomatoes


QUINOA-STUFFED TOMATOES
4-6 large tomatoes
1 C quinoa
2 C water
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 C Italian parsley, chopped
1 C olive oil
Juice of two lemons
2 cloves garlic, very finely minced
Salt & pepper to taste

Put the quinoa and water in a pot.  Bring to a boil.  When boiling, turn the heat off and cover.  Let it sit for about 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.  Cool completely.

Cut the tops off of the tomatoes.  Hollow the tomatoes out with a serrated scoop or spoon.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients in another bowl.  Pour this over the quinoa and stir.  Fill each tomato with the quinoa mixture.  Chill.

Blue Ribbon Pasta


Sometimes I think, I should have trained at Le Cordon Bleu, the French culinary institute.  I could go on shows like Chopped and Next Food Network Star or Top Chef.  I could walk around saying fancy French words like "bonjour" or "comment allez-vous" or "enchante."  I could wear a toque (a chef's hat) and answer my sous chefs "oui, oui."  But I'm not a classically French trained chef.  I'm just Cindy.

So what does "cordon bleu" mean anyway?  Well, I'll tell you.  It means blue ribbon.  It means the best.  It means numero uno.  Oh, sorry.  That's Spanish.  So what does chicken cordon bleu have to do with Le Cordon Bleu?  If you believe Wikipedia, then they have nothing to do with each other.  Supposedly, the dish was created in Switzerland, hence the Swiss cheese.  And it's usually a stuffed meat, breaded and fried, like a schnitzel, which is German.  Are you as confused as I am?

Whatever the origin, it's darn tasty.  I have done it the traditional way before, but I have to stay true to my character and change things up.  So I made it into a pasta with a rich creamy bechamel sauce (that's French, for sure), sauteed mushrooms, and ham.  You can use whatever pasta you like here.  I just happened to have spaghetti in the pantry.  Oh, and I didn't have Swiss cheese so I used Monterrey jack.  I can't seem to behave.  When I tried to throw out the leftover Chicken Cordon Bleu Spaghetti, my husband chained himself to the fridge in protest, citing his inalienable right to pasta.  I let him have his way.

Can you find your English to French dictionary?  You're going to need it.

CHICKEN CORDON BLEU SPAGHETTI
2 C cooked, shredded chicken
One 8-ounce package mushrooms, sliced
1 lb spaghetti
3/4 C diced ham (I used some deli ham)
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil
2 C half and half (suprise!  I didn't use heavy cream)
1/2 C white wine
1/2 C chicken stock
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 C flour
Salt & pepper
1/4 C vegetable oil
2 C shredded cheese, divided in half

Cook the spaghetti according to directions.

Heat a large skillet to medium high heat and drizzle in some olive oil. Cook the onion until tender.  Add in the mushrooms and cook until they are browned.  Throw in the ham and heat through.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine and cook for a minute or two.  Add in the chicken stock and garlic and deglaze the pan once again.  Add in the chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from the heat.

For the bechamel sauce, whisk the flour and the vegetable oil together in a pot.  Cook for a couple of minutes on medium heat to cook the flour. Add in the half and half and whisk and cook until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat.  Stir in the 1 C shredded cheese and the Parmesan cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the cooked chicken mixture with the cooked spaghetti and the sauce.  Put this mixture in a 9 x 13 pan and sprinkle on the remaining cheese.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Cajun Spice Roasted Corn


This corn is my second most favorite way to eat corn.  If I had some Frank's Red Hot sauce to put on top, then it would be my favorite.  I just didn't have any.  Sad day...

The cajun spice I use is Emeril Lagasse's recipe for Creole Seasoning taken from his cookbook, Delmonico.  It makes a lot, so just use as much or little as you like.  I hope you enjoy it.

CAJUN SPICE ROASTED CORN
Ears of corn, husks still on (use as many or as little as you like)
1 recipe of Emeril's Creole Seasoning (to follow)
Butter

Peel the husks back on the corn but don't remove it.  Clean off as much of the silk (the strings) as you can get.  Fold the husks back over the corn. Submerge corn in water (I use the sink) and soak for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lay the corn out on a sheet pan.  Roast about 20 to 25 minutes or until they are tender.  To serve, lather them up with butter and sprinkle on the Creole Seasoning.  If you like Frank's Red Hot, trust me, pour some of that on too.

EMERIL LAGASSE'S CREOLE SEASONING
2 1/2 T paprika
2 T salt
2 T garlic powder
1 T black pepper
1 T onion powder
1 T cayenne powder
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried thyme

Mix all ingredients together well.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Herb-Roasted Red Potatoes


HERB-ROASTED RED POTATOES
2 lbs red potatoes, quartered
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the potatoes on a sheet pan. Generously drizzle olive oil over the top.  Sprinkle on the herbs and seasoning and season with salt and pepper.  Using your hands, mix the potatoes around to coat them.  Lay them in a single layer.  Bake about 40 minutes or until fork tender.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Leftover Makeover


Have you ever looked in your fridge and wondered, what in the heck am I going to do with all this stuff?  I did that the other day and found leftover rice, pinto beans, roasted poblanos, and a half a jar of salsa.  As I pondered this perplexing situation, I decided I should concoct some sort of casserole.  With a lot of doubt, I asked my husband what he thought. He said, "let's do it."

So, with all of that doubt still in my head, I went into the kitchen to cook some chicken breasts and make this said casserole.  As a side note, whenever I need cooked, shredded chicken for something, I always boil it with similar seasonings as I would use in the final dish.  It makes a juicy, more flavorful chicken.

Anywho, I cooked and shredded my chicken.  Then I dumped all of the said ingredients into a bowl, added some cheese, seasonings, and a little chicken stock to make it moist, put it in a casserole pan, topped it with more cheese, and, voila, a masterpiece.  I really truly for goodness' sake didn't think this would be any good.  But it was.  And, if you don't have these kinds of leftovers in your fridge, it's still worth cooking it all from scratch.  Trust me.

Get ready to clean out the fridge.  It's almost dinnertime.

SALSA CHICKEN CASSEROLE
2 roasted, peeled, and chopped poblanos (see note below)
2 C cooked white rice
2 C cooked, shredded chicken
2 C cooked pinto beans with the juice (you can use canned, but drain those)
1 C frozen corn
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
1 C salsa
1 to 1 1/2 C chicken stock
1 T garlic powder
1 T cumin
1 T onion powder
1 T chili powder
One 4ounce can of black olives
Sliced green onions for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
3 C shredded cheese (divided in half) (I used pepper jack)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all of the ingredients above, reserving the other half of the cheese.  Use enough chicken stock to make it moist but not watery.  Put the mixture in a 9 x 13 pan.  Top with remaining cheese and black olives.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until heated through and cheese is browned.  Garnish with green onions.

**NOTE:  To roast poblanos, put them on a sheet pan and place them in a 400 degree oven.  Roast them, turning occasionally, until all of the surface is charred.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel the skins off.  Next cut off the stem and remove all of the seeds.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Not Quite Like Mom's


Did your mom make Chili Frito Pie for you when you were a kid?  It may be a Southern thing.  But my mom sure did make it for me...a lot.  And I loved it, except...well, she always put raw onions in there which I hated as a kid.  I would sit there and pick every single onion out before I would eat it.  Boy, how things have changed over the years.

Originally, Chili Frito Pie consisted of Fritos (duh), canned Wolf Brand Chili, and some cheese on top.  And, if you're like my mom, some chopped raw onions too.  But, if you've figured me out yet, I can't do things the way they were originally intended.  I don't buy things like chili in a can anymore.  It's okay if you do.  Don't be ashamed.  I just don't because I take a lot of pride and pleasure in making things homemade. Like I've said before, you do you, I'll do me.  A happy world this will be.

So, getting back on track, this isn't really chili" at all.  It's more like a taco meets ranch dressing mix meets enchilada awesomeness!  And, even though I took the time to make a homemade chili sauce to mix in, it really didn't take too long.  All this topped with some cheese, black olives, and my Jalapeno Ranch Sauce, it's a concoction worth dreaming about.  (I actually did dream about it.  Don't judge me.)

So, without further adieu, I give you Chili Frito Pie.


CHILI FRITO PIE
1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
1/4 C jalapeno slices, chopped (reduce it or leave it out if you like)
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet Ranch dip mix
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
A bag of Fritos (you won't need the whole thing...save them for snacking later)
2 C shredded cheese (like cheddar or pepper jack or monterrey jack)
Black olives for garnish
Jalapeno Ranch Sauce (under my Sauces & Relishes tab)

FOR THE CHILI SAUCE:
4 dried guajillo chilies, stems and seeds removed
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 T garlic powder
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
2 C beef stock

1/4 C vegetable oil
1/4 C flour

Make the chili sauce first.  Put the chilies in a small pot and cover with water.  Boil for about 10 minutes.  Remove the chilies from the water and discard the water. Blend the chilies, 1/4 C vegetable oil, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin and beef stock in a blender.  Preheat a skillet to medium high heat.  Add in the additional 1/4 C vegetable oil and whisk in the flour.  When it's combined, pour in the blended chili mixture and whisk. Continue whisking and cooking until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat.

Preheat a large skillet to medium high heat.  Drizzle in some olive oil and cook the onion and jalapenos until tender.  Add in the ground beef and cook until it's browned.  Drain the grease off, if necessary.  Add in the garlic, taco seasoning, Ranch dip mix, and cream cheese.  Cook and stir until the cream cheese is melted and incorporated.  Remove from heat and stir in the chili sauce and cilantro until combined.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  in a 9 x 13 pan, layer the Fritos, meat sauce, and cheese.  Repeat until your pan is full, ending with cheese.  Top with the black olives.  Bake about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and browned.  Serve with some Jalapeno Ranch Sauce over the top.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bolognese Southern Style


My husband has become obsessed with a type of pasta called bucatini. It's like spaghetti, but it's hollow.  That's right.  There's a hole in the pasta down the length of it.  With a sauce not quite as thick as the one in the picture, you get sauce down into the pasta.  Genius!  We have to go to a specialty store where we live because they don't carry it in regular grocery stores here.  But, any time we drive by that specialty grocery store, you can bet my husband will want to go in there and get bucatini.

Now, bolognese is a type of sauce that comes from Bologna, Italy.  (No, it's not pronounced baloney.  It's pronounce balonya.)  Bologna is in the northern part of Italy.  It's a thick meat sauce with the addition of a little milk or cream and bacon or pancetta.  I, of course, had to change it up a little and do it my way, Southern style.  And, as I've told you before, my husband doesn't like soft or chewy bacon added into sauces.  So he came up with a completely out-of-the-box solution for giving the sauce bacon flavor without bacon soggy.  Are you ready???  He put the cooked bacon into a coffee grinder and made bacon dust.  So smart, that man.  And it worked.  All the bacon flavor and no soggy bacon.  You will definitely see that from me again somewhere down the road.

As far as the bucatini, use whatever pasta you like.  I would use a denser pasta that will hold up to this meaty sauce.  And you can use pancetta or bacon or leave it out altogether.  Same with the red wine.  If that's not your thing, leave it out.  And there is one other little surprise in this dish. See if you can find it.

Do you own a coffee grinder?  Better go get one.

PASTA BOLOGNESE
1 lb bucatini (or other dense pasta like penne)
1 lb ground beef
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 C Marinara sauce (homemade is preferrable)
1/2 C red wine
1-3 teaspoons red chili flake
1 T beef bouillon
1 C heavy cream
5 slices bacon, cooked, drained, and ground in a coffee grinder (you can skip the grind if you like)
1/4 C pepperoncini peppers, chopped (surprise!)
1/4 C Italian parsley, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Shredded mozzarella, for garnish

Cook the pasta according to directions.

For the sauce, preheat a large skillet to medium high heat and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the onion until it's tender.  Add in the ground beef and cook until it's done.  Add in the garlic, red chili flake, pepperoncini peppers, and beef bouillon and cook a couple of minutes.  Deglaze the pan with the red wine.  Add in the ground bacon and marinara sauce. Heat through.  Stir in the cream and cook until thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in the parsley.  Taste the sauce for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve the sauce over the pasta and garnish with shredded mozzarella.

Toffee Cream Cheese Pound Cake


TOFFEE CREAM CHEESE POUND CAKE
2 1/2 C brown sugar
1 C butter
One 8-ounce package cream cheese
6 eggs
6 Skor bars (or other toffee bars), chopped (some reserved for garnishing the top)
3 C flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ounces melted chocolate (like chocolate bark)
1/4 C caramel sauce (I used my homemade caramel under the Macadamia Nut Cheesecake recipe)
1/2 C walnuts, chopped

For the cake, cream the cream cheese and butter together.  Add in the eggs and sugar and beat well until creamy.  Add in the flour, baking powder, salt, and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Stir in the chopped up Skor bars and walnuts.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a bundt cake pan. Pour the cake batter into the pan.  Bake for an hour and 20 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.  Cool completely.

Invert the cake onto a plate.  Drizzle the melted chocolate and caramel over the cake and sprinkle on the remaining toffee pieces.