Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Leftovers and Fusion


So you've heard of fusion food, right?  Where they mix Mexican food and Asian food together or French and Asian?  If you've watched shows that feature food trucks, you've seen fusion food before.  My husband loves those shows and often will say, "I want that!"  So then I have to figure out how to make it.  But I really enjoy the outside-the-box meals, so I'm usually game.

On an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives that my husband watched, he saw something called Cajun BBQ Potstickers.  He texted me to tell me he wanted that, since I wasn't home.  So I agreed and did my research. We didn't have any BBQ meat in the house, so he went and picked up some assorted meat from a local restaurant.  So here's where the leftover part comes in.  If you cooked a really large pork butt for pulled pork and don't know what to do with the abundant leftovers, make this.  And the coleslaw recipe here makes a lot, so you may want to cut it in half.  I just made a lot because he wanted extra coleslaw for later.  And the dipping sauce for these leftovers?  So good you could drink it.  If you want to watch a video on how to seal up the potstickers, watch this video by Martin Yan of Yan Can Cook.  These potstickers were amazing, and, if you're game, I think you'll think so too.

Cook them right, and they really don't stick to the pot.

CAJUN BBQ POTSTICKERS
FOR THE POTSTICKERS:
3/4 lb leftover BBQ (like pulled pork, brisket, BBQ chicken, or sausage)
1 package of wonton wrappers (48 count)
4 T butter
2 C water

FOR THE COLESLAW:
1 lb bag coleslaw mix (without dressing)
1/4 C red onion, chopped
2-3 T chopped jalapeno slices (the kind from the jar)
1/3 C apple cider vinegar
1 C mayonnaise
2 T Cajun or Creole seasoning
2 T brown sugar
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1-2 T Tabasco sauce (or other hot pepper sauce)

FOR THE SAUCE:
2 C brown sugar
2 C ketchup
1/4 C butter
1/4 C lemon juice
2 T mustard
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2-4 T Tabasco (or other hot pepper sauce)
2 C apple cider vinegar

For the coleslaw, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients and then add in the coleslaw mix, onions, and jalapenos.  Chill for at least an hour.

For the sauce, put all of the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, about 15 minutes or until the sauce is thickened and bubbly.

For the wontons, chop the meat into small pieces if necessary.  Put a pinch of coleslaw and about 1 1/2 teaspoons of meat in the center of the wonton.  Brush the sides with water and seal up the wonton (watch the video.  It's not as hard as you think).  In a large skillet, you will be able to cook half of the wontons at a time.  Melt in 2 T of the butter over medium high heat.  Place the wontons, bottom side down, in the skillet. Cook them until they are well browned on the bottom.  You don't need to move them around, but they will release from the pan when they are fully browned.  Add in 1 C of the water and cover the skillet.  Cook and steam until almost all of the water is gone.  Repeat with the second batch. Serve with the dipping sauce.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Food Inspirations


Sometimes I eat things in restaurants that I love so much that I think, how can I use these flavors in something else.  I love Chili's Southwestern Egg Rolls, and the authentic recipe exists on the internet all over the place. I've made them, and they are exactly like the real deal.  My husband loves those egg rolls so much that, when I make them, I double the batch and save some in the freezer before frying them so that he can have them from time to time.  We don't fry that much, but they are a treat when we do.

So I wanted to use the filling for these egg rolls except I wanted to make a pasta.  And, let me tell you, this was a good idea.  No, a great idea.  This pasta was delectable.  The only changes I made to the filling ingredients is to add Velveeta (who doesn't love that!) and mixing it with pasta instead of fried up in a tortilla.  And I didn't chop the jalapeno slices because I wanted them to show in the picture, plus we love eating jalapenos anyway.  This was spicy, cheesy, darn tasty.  I think you and your family will love it too.

The Chili's theme song makes me want to watch Austin Powers.

SOUTHWEST CHICKEN PASTA
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 lb cooked, shredded chicken
2 green onions, chopped
2 T Italian parsley, chopped
2-4 T jalapeno slices (the kind in the jar)
1 lb Velveeta, cubed
One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C frozen corn kernels
One 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
1/2 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1 C water
1 lb penne pasta

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Cook the bell pepper, green onions, and jalapeno slices in olive oil in a large skillet until tender.  Add in the chicken, garlic, cumin and chili powder.  Stir in the black beans, spinach and corn.  Add in the water, parsley, Velveeta, and Pepper Jack cheese.  Cook and stir until the cheese has melted.  Toss with the pasta and serve.

Cheesy Biscuit Bombs


I found these on Pinterest.  As far as I can tell, the origin of this recipe comes from ohbiteit.com.  These are freakin' amazing!  I don't usually buy canned biscuits, but I did and they truly are out of this world.  Here's my adapted version.

CHEESY BISCUIT BOMBS
1 16-ounce can Grands Butter Flake biscuits
8 ounce block Pepper Jack cheese (you won't use it all)
4 T butter
1 clove garlic
1 T chopped Italian parsley
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Oregano

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the Pepper Jack into about 1 x 1 inch cubes.  Separate the biscuits so you have 8 biscuits.  Place a cube of the cheese in the middle of each biscuit.  Wrap the biscuit around the cheese, sealing the cheese in.  You will have a ball now.  Place the balls seam side down on a sheet pan.  Melt the butter and add in the garlic and parsley and a sprinkle of oregano.  Brush the melted butter mixture over the biscuits and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese over the tops.  Bake at least 15 minutes and continue baking until the biscuits are browned and done.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Kitchen Shenanigans


It's no secret that I like to do things a little differently.  I'm living in my own little Cindyland.  And I like it here.  It's a fun place to be.  I think I'm having trouble owning up to the fact that I'm a grownup.  In our house, we carry on and act silly and, well, like we're all kids.  Well, half of us are kids.  The other two just want to be Toys R Us kids.

So why not play with your food.  I know, we were all raised not to.  But I just can't help myself.  So here's my newest crazy recipe.  Ever heard of chicken and waffles?  Sounds crazy, huh.  But what if I told you I made a chicken and waffle sandwich?  I sure did.  With Pepper Jack cheese and brown sugar bacon and a spicy honey mustard sauce.  Yep.  Sounds a little out there, but it was darn tasty.  We were all a little skeptical about it, but that first bite let us know I was right on the money.  Go ahead.  Have your own kitchen shenanigans.  You won't be sorry.

Are you a Toys R Us kid?

CHICKEN & WAFFLES SANDWICH
FOR THE CHICKEN:
1 lb chicken tenders
Buttermilk
Flour
Creole seasoning (recipe to follow)
Peanut oil

FOR THE WAFFLES:
1 3/4 C flour
3 eggs
1 3/4 C milk
2 T pancake syrup
1 T baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

FOR THE SPICY HONEY MUSTARD:
1/2 C mayonnaise
2 T dijon mustard
1 T yellow mustard
3 T honey
Cayenne pepper (to taste)


FOR THE SANDWICH:
Butter lettuce
8 slices bacon
Brown sugar
Pepper Jack cheese slices

Put the chicken tenders in a casserole pan and cover with buttermilk. Add in creole seasoning to taste.  Cover and refrigerate at least an hour. Whisk the honey mustard ingredients together and chill.

For the bacon, sprinkle some brown sugar in lines on a sheet pan.  Place the slices of bacon over the lines.  Sprinkle more brown sugar on the top side of the bacon.  Bake at 350 for about 28-30 minutes.

Mix together some flour and more creole seasoning to taste.  Dredge the chicken in the flour, back into the pan with buttermilk, and back into the flour again.  Fry the chicken in batches until they are golden brown and done.  Keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until they are all done.

Whisk the waffle ingredients together and pour about 2/3 C onto the waffle iron.  Cook about 3 minutes or until done.

Place some Pepper Jack cheese slices over the chicken in the oven to melt. Assemble the sandwiches with the waffles, chicken, butter lettuce, honey mustard, and bacon.

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 all the ingredients together and store in a sealed container.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Childhood Favorites


So my husband's most favorite meal from childhood is something they call Chicken & Noodles.  It's the meal they have on special occasions.  It's the meals they have when someone comes home to visit.  It's that one special meal that Mom makes that feels like home.  When my husband came home from the Army, they had Chicken & Noodles.  When his sister brought the new baby for the first time, they had Chicken & Noodles.  When his other sister came home from the Army, they had Chicken & Noodles.  It's that one memory that you take with you for a lifetime.

I grew up, on the other hand, with Chicken & Dumplings.  That was my comfort food as a kid.  My mother would make it, and I couldn't get enough.  I have those same memories of home when I make Chicken & Dumplings.  When I would come home from school in the wintertime, we had Chicken & Dumplings.  It's the meal that makes me feel like I'm at home.

So, if you picked up on my foreshadowing, I had a little conundrum on my hands.  Does this make us a house divided?  Will my husband and I draw a line in the sand over Dumplings vs. Noodles?  This is the part of the story where you're on the edge of your seat.  You just can't wait to see what happens next!

For a long time, I would not make Chicken & Noodles.  I didn't want my husband to have to pick which one he liked better.  That wouldn't be fair to either his mother or me.  So I avoided it.  I avoided it like the plague.  I only made Chicken & Dumplings.  But then one day I decided that I would make Chicken & Noodles, but I would make my own recipe and not his mother's.  That way, they can't be compared.  And the result? Now my husband has two favorites.  He gets to keep his favorite childhood meal memories, and he gets to enjoy my version too.  Don't you just love happy endings?

What's your favorite childhood meal?

CHICKEN & NOODLES
1 whole chicken
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 1/4 gallon water
1/4 C chicken bouillon powder
1 T poultry seasoning
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR THE NOODLES:
3 C flour
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 C milk

Put the water in a large stock pot and add in the chicken, onion, carrots, celery, chicken bouillon, poultry seasoning, garlic, and salt and pepper. Boil for about an hour or until the chicken is cooked all the way through. Remove the chicken from the stock and reserve the stock.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the chicken off the bone and shred. Add the chicken back to the pot.

While the chicken is cooking, make the noodles.  Add the noodle ingredients to a stand mixer and knead with a dough hook until it forms a ball.  (You can knead it by hand if you don't have a stand mixer.)  Let the dough rest about 10 minutes.  Generously flour a countertop.  (Yes, you'll need a countertop.  It makes a lot.)  Divide the dough into three balls.  Roll each ball into 1/8 inch thick rectangle.  Cut the dough with a pizza cutter into 1/2 inch by 3 inch strips.  Toss the strips with more flour as you move them aside to roll out the other two balls.  The extra flour is needed to thicken your broth.  Roll out remaining dough and cut into strips and toss those with additional flour.

Add the noodles back to the stock (separate them as you drop them in) and cook, stirring occasionally, until noodles are done, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Manicotti or Cannelloni?


This recipe will WOW you.  It will knock your shoes and socks off.  You are going to start a fight in your house when you make this.  No one will want to share it.  Want to know what it is?  Chicken, Spinach & Artichoke Manelloni with Cream Cheese Bechamel.  It's to die for.  The sauce is so good that my family were all in the kitchen with their tongues in the skillet at the same time!  Okay, that sounds gross. They really didn't do that.

So what the heck is the difference between manicotti and cannelloni? Well, as far as I can tell, there really isn't much difference.  I think traditional Italian cannelloni are handmade pastas that are filled and then rolled up.  But really both can be stuffed with the same things.  But guess what.  I used pasta labeled "manicotti."  But I wanted it to be called "cannelloni," so I improvised.  World, I give to you Manelloni. Okay, so I can't take credit for the word.  There's actually Manelloni out there in cyberspace.  But this Manelloni is so good, you won't care about what to call it.  You'll just call it good.

Or maybe it should be a Cannellotti...

CHICKEN, SPINACH & ARTICHOKE MANELLONI
FOR THE FILLING:
2 C cooked, shredded chicken
5-6 ounces fresh spinach
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C white wine
One 14-ounce can artichokes, drained and chopped
One 15-ounce container of Ricotta
1 egg
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese

FOR THE BECHAMEL SAUCE:
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, cubed
1/4 C flour
1/4 C Parmesan cheese
2 T fresh parsley
2 1/2 C half and half
1/2 C chicken stock
1/4 C butter

One 8-ounce package manicotti
Shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, as much or as little as you like.

Cook the manicotti according to package directions.

For the filling, drizzle some olive oil into a skillet.  Cook the onion until tender.  Deglaze the pan with the wine.  Add in the spinach and garlic and cook until the spinach is wilted and most of the liquid is cooked out. Remove from heat.  Mix together the Ricotta, spinach mixture, chicken, artichokes, and the egg and 1/4 C of the Parmesan cheese.

For the bechamel sauce, using the same skillet, melt the butter and then whisk in the flour.  Add in the chicken stock and half and half.  Continue cooking and whisking until the sauce is thickened and bubbly.  Add in the remaining 1/4 C Parmesan cheese and the cream cheese.  Continue whisking until the cheese is melted and incorporated.  Season with salt and pepper as desired.  Remove from heat and stir in the parsley.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Using either a pastry bag or a zipper bag with the corner cut off, fill each tube of manicotti with the filling.  Place them in a 9 x 13 casserole pan.  Pour the bechamel sauce over the top. Sprinkle the Monterrey Jack cheese all over the top.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until the filling is hot and the cheese on top is melted and lightly browned.

Hot Ham Sliders


I'm sure you've seen recipes for "Funeral Sandwiches" or "Hawaiian Bread Ham Sliders" before.  This is my take on the recipe.  My husband wanted the bread to be crispy, so we used a French baguette instead of the Hawaiian rolls.  We also used Pepper Jack cheese and pepperoncini peppers.  Piled on thick, they were delicious.

HOT HAM SLIDERS
1 long French baguette
1/2 to 3/4 deli ham, sliced
10 slices Pepper Jack cheese
Pepperoncini pepper rings
1/4 C onion, chopped fine
1 stick butter
3 T Dijon mustard
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1-2 T poppy seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
Mayonnaise

Slice the baguette in half lengthwise (like to have a top bun and a bottom bun), then slice them into about 1 1/2 inch lengths.  They will look like slider buns now.  Lay the bottom pieces in a casserole pan and spread mayo on them.  Spread the mayo on the top halves, but leave them off for now.

Cut the ham to fit the buns and layer the ham all over.  Cut the cheese the same way and layer all over.  Next add pepperonci pepper rings, as desired.  Now put the top buns back on.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the butter in a small skillet and cook the onion until tender.  Stir in the Dijon, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and poppy seeds.  Remove from heat.  Pour this mixture all over the sandwiches.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the bun tops are crispy.

Spaghetti Westerns


We are a pasta family, and we love Chicken Spaghetti.  There are so many Chicken Spaghetti versions out there, and they are all good.  But I wanted to change it up a bit.  I wanted to get crazy in the kitchen.  I wanted to blow your minds!  So I made it with ground beef.  I know, right?  You're shocked.  Sit down and take a deep breath.  It's gonna be okay.  My husband loved this spaghetti and even took the leftovers to work for lunch.  He rarely ever eats lunch.  I felt special.

This spaghetti gives a nod to the Southwest.  It has black beans, corn, roasted poblanos, and Rotel.  And what would a Southwestern Spaghetti be without Velveeta.  I do live in Texas, and we love Velveeta around these parts.  If you aren't a Velveeta fan or can't get it where you live, you could make a white sauce and stir in some shredded cheese.  I'm sure that would be equally as good.  You could even use sliced American cheese if you are a fan of Velveeta but can't get it.  Go ahead.  Get crazy with it. Cooking is more fun when you shake things up, right?

Maybe you should watch a Spaghetti Western like The Good, The Bad & The Ugly while eating this.

SOUTHWESTERN SPAGHETTI
1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 poblanos
2 serranos, chopped
1 lb Velveeta, cubed
1 C frozen corn
1 can Rotel
One 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1/2 C heavy cream
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
1 T garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb spaghetti

Cook the spaghetti according to directions.

To roast the poblanos, put them on a sheet pan and roast them at 400 degrees, turning occasionally, until they are charred on all sides.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel as much of the skin off as you can. Then remove the stem and seeds and chop.

Cook the onion and serranos in a large skillet in a drizzle of olive oil.  Add in the ground beef, garlic cloves, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne, salt and pepper.  Cook and brown until the beef is done.  Drain if necessary.  Add in the poblanos, corn, black beans and Rotel.  Next add in the Velveeta and Pepper Jack cheese.  Stir in the cream and continue stirring until the cheese is melted and combined.  Mix with the spaghetti and serve.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fancy Pants Chicken


I am a huge artichoke fan.  I love them with everything.  My husband, however, is not a fan.  Usually, if I make something with artichokes, I have to leave them off/out of his.  But I've been working on that.  I devised a devious little plan to trick him into eating them, hoping he would love them.  I put on my invisible suit and snuck into the kitchen.  I made a stuffed chicken and disguised it as Smothered Chicken.  I left it on a plate in the kitchen.  Lo and behold, he took the bait.  He went in the kitchen and saw this chicken.  And he ate every bite!  He even asked for more.  I laughed a hearty menacing laugh and told him I had conquered him and he will now be my slave!  Okay.  It didn't really go down like that at all.  I asked him if I could put artichokes in his, and he said yes. And he did really love it.

So I'm calling this recipe Italian Chicken.  Why?  Mostly because I coated the chicken with Italian dressing mix, you know, the powdered stuff.  I stuffed the chicken with Roma tomatoes, artichokes, pepperoncini peppers, mushrooms and basil.  And then I did my most favoritest thing ever.  I smothered it with cheese.  And it was good.  I had to go put my fancy pants on to eat it, though, because it seemed so special.  And then I spilled it on my fancy pants and left a stain.  Oh, well.  I prefer shorts and flip-flops anyway.

What color are your fancy pants?

We love browned cheese!


ITALIAN CHICKEN
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2-3 Roma tomatoes, diced
One 14-ounce can artichokes, drained and chopped
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 T butter
Olive oil
1/4 C white wine
2 T fresh basil, chopped
2 cloves garlic
One packet of Italian dressing mix
2 T pepperoncini slices
Mozzarella cheese slices

Preheat a small skillet to medium high heat.  Melt in the butter and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the mushrooms until tender.  Deglaze the pan with the wine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until most of the wine is cooked out.

Next, butterfly the chicken breasts.  If you don't know how to do that, watch this video on how to butterfly chicken breasts.  Mix the tomatoes, mushrooms, artichokes, pepperoncini peppers, basil and garlic in a bowl. Divide equally among the chicken breasts.  Secure the ends of the chicken with toothpicks.  To coat the chicken with the Italian seasoning, cover the filling with your hand and flip the chicken over.  Sprinkle 1/4 of the package over the meat side of the chicken breasts.  Place the chicken, filling side up, on a sheet pan.  Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until done.  During the last five minutes of cooking, lay the Mozzarella slices over the cheese.  Return to the oven and cook until the cheese is melted and browned.  Remember to warn your diners about the toothpicks.

Red Potatoes with Mustard Vinaigrette


RED POTATOES WITH MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE
3 lbs red potatoes, halved or quartered
1 T brown mustard
1/2 C olive oil
3 T vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T Italian parsley, chopped
Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lay the potatoes on a sheet pan in a single layer.  Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until fork tender.

Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients together with a whisk.  Pour the dressing over the potatoes and toss.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Smoked Gouda, Pancetta & Mushroom Bruschetta


This bruschetta is heavenly.  We couldn't stop eating it.  I dare you to try to stop.

SMOKED GOUDA, PANCETTA & MUSHROOM BRUSCHETTA
One 1-lb loaf of ciabatta (I used an Asiago cheese ciabatta)
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/4 C white wine
2 T butter
Olive oil
1/4 lb pancetta, diced
8 ounces smoked Gouda, shredded
More butter
Garlic powder
2 T fresh basil, chopped

Drizzle some olive oil into a small skillet.  Melt in the 2 T butter and cook the mushrooms until browned.  Remember not to salt mushrooms until they are cooked or you won't get browned mushrooms, just gray ones. Deglaze the pan with the white wine.  Cook until most of the wine is cooked out.  Remove the mushrooms from the skillet and add in the pancetta.  Cook until the pancetta is crispy and then drain.

Turn the broiler of your oven on.  Slice the bread either in half lengthwise or into slices.  Spread the "more butter" on the bread and sprinkle garlic powder all over.  Sprinkle the cheese all over the bread.  Then sprinkle the mushrooms and pancetta on top of the cheese.  Broil until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.  Remove from the oven and garnish with the basil.

Peanut Butter Cup Layered Brownies


So I've seen these ridiculous brownies on Pinterest, only using Rice Krispies instead of Peanut Butter Captain Crunch.  They are known on Pinterest as Crack Brownies.  I've searched high and low for the original owner of the recipe, and all I could come up with is Better Homes & Gardens.  However, I couldn't find the recipe on their site.  So, if I'm wrong on my credit, I stand corrected.  You are going to love these! Make a double batch and take them to your next cookout or family gathering. And I don't usually use box mixes, but I was pressed for time and I cheated and used one.  I'm sorry.  Please forgive me.

PEANUT BUTTER CUP LAYERED BROWNIES
One chewy brownie mix (not the 9 x 13 family size...the smaller one)
1/2 C chopped peanuts
18 mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, rough chopped
2 C milk chocolate chips
1 T butter
1 1/4 C creamy peanut butter
2 C Peanut Butter Captain Crunch cereal

Line a 9 x 9 pan with foil.  (I used a 7 x 11 pan, so either works.)  Mix the brownie mix according to directions on the box and pour into the foil.  Bake as directed.

During the last five minutes of baking, sprinkle on the peanut butter cups and chopped peanuts and return to the oven.  When you take them out, spread the peanut butter cups with a spatula.  Let it cool.

Melt the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter together in the microwave.  Stir in the cereal.  Spread this over the peanut butter cup layer.  Refrigerate (or freeze) until set and then cut into bars.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Let's Go Nuts


We are a nuts kind of family, as in we love eating nuts and we are a little nuts.  We spend our weekends doing goofy things at home, like the kids trying to pick my husband up and carry him or the kids doing goofy, nerdy things on the trampoline or trying to learn to do the Dougie or the Twerk or the Pin Drop.  You should see the four of us in the living room trying to do those dance moves.  One of my favorite things to do is have the "most annoying noise ever" contest.  I usually win at that, although our son comes in at a close second.

But the real reason for this post is to actually talk about eating nuts.  In this case, cashews.  My family loves Chinese food and it is requested often.  So I wanted to make Cashew Chicken.  It's an American Chinese dish found pretty much everywhere.  But (here it goes again) I wanted to change it up a little.  It's usually made with soy sauce, chicken stock, and oyster sauce.  But we love Hoisin sauce around here, so I decided to try my hand at homemade Hoisin.  And my Texas tastebuds urged me to throw in a couple of serrano peppers to add some heat.  I served it over my husband's new favorite pasta, rice noodles.  And we all even ate it with chopsticks.  That's just how we roll.

Can you do the Dougie?  I know Blake Shelton can't.

CASHEW CHICKEN
1 lb boneless chicken, cubed
2 T butter
1 C cashews
1 bell pepper, chopped (I used red, but any color will do)
1 head fresh broccoli (use the florets only)
2 green onions, sliced in 2-inch pieces
One 8-ounce can water chestnuts, chopped
2 serranos, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sesame seeds

FOR THE SAUCE:
1/2 C soy sauce
1 T smooth peanut butter
1 T garlic powder
1 T molasses
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 C ketchup
A few drops of oyster sauce
1/2 to 1 C brown sugar (to taste)
Chili paste (to taste)

For the sauce, put all of the ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until it's thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

For the chicken, melt the butter into a dutch oven or a large skillet.  Cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes or until done.  Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with foil.  Add the broccoli, garlic, green onions and water chestnuts into the same dutch oven.  Cook and stir until the broccoli is tender.  Add the chicken back into the dutch oven and add in about 1 to 1 1/2 C of the Hoisin, as desired.  Serve over cooked rice noodles or rice.

A Twist on Enchiladas


Sometimes we just have to shake it up, right?  Okay, so I shake things up a lot in the kitchen.  I wanted enchiladas (yes, again), but I've already shared several enchilada recipes with you.  So why not put it in a sandwich?  No reason not to.  So this sandwich kinda messes with your head a little.  You look at it and think, I'm eating a sandwich. But then you taste it, and you're like, wow, this is an enchilada.  Best of both worlds.  It's like having portable enchiladas.  You could take a walk with it.  You could go shopping with it.  You could show it off to your friends who would be so jealous and try to steal your portable enchilada. Maybe you should bring two with you just in case.

So this sandwich has meatballs filled with cheese, salsa and ground up corn tortillas.  It's covered in red enchilada sauce and, of course, cheese, lots and lots of cheese.  Oh, and there's some green onions too.  You could even put black olives on it.  I put it in a Bolillo (say bo-lee-yo), which is a Mexican bread.  But, if you can't find those, any kind of sandwich bun will do.  I think you'll enjoy this one.  And your friends too.

Let's get cooking...somebody is hungry at your house!

ENCHILADA MEATBALL SANDWICHES
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
1 lb ground beef
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 T garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 egg
Enough corn tortillas to grind up and get half a cup (about 2-3 I think)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C salsa (your favorite brand)
1/4 C shredded Quesadilla cheese (or Monterey Jack)

FOR THE SAUCE:
4 dried Guajillo chiles (or 4 dried red chiles)
1 T garlic powder
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1 teaspoon beef bouillon
3 C water
1/4 C lard or vegetable oil
1/4 C flour

FOR THE SANDWICHES:
Bolillo buns (or other sandwich rolls)
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Sliced green onions

To start the meatballs, mix the cumin, garlic power, chili powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne together in a bowl.  Mix that with the remaining meatball ingredients and form into meatballs.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until done.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, remove the stems and seeds from the chiles. Put them in a pot and cover with the water.  Boil about 10 minutes or until they have softened.  Reserve 2 cups of the liquid that you boiled the chiles in.  Put the chiles, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, beef bouillon and the reserved 2 cups of liquid into a blender or a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Put the lard and the flour into a large skillet and whisk over medium high heat to combine.  Pour in the chile mixture and whisk.  Cook and whisk until the sauce is thickened and bubbly.

Slice the rolls open lengthwise and fill it with the meatballs. Top the meatballs with the sauce and some cheese.  Put the sandwiches under the broiler to melt the cheese.  Garnish with the green onions.

Bold Flavors


I haven't delved too far into German cuisine, even though I am mostly German.  But I decided that I wanted to try some German dishes out.  I've made a Rouladen before, but not a traditional German Rouladen.  A Rouladen is a round steak or similar large cheap cut of steak filled with something, rolled up, and baked long and slow.  I've made them filled with cornbread stuffing and cooked in a tomato sauce.  I've also heard of people filling them with spinach and cheese, which sounds amazing.  But the traditional way is to fill them with onions, bacon, mustard and pickles.  Yes, pickles.

If you know me, you know that I have a really hard time sticking strictly to tradition.  I did use the traditional ingredients, but I also added sauerkraut.  And I cooked it in the crockpot with mushrooms and beer and covered it with Swiss cheese when it was done cooking (you can see the cheese stringing across the spaetzle).  And I served it with traditional Spaetzle.  Now, you may be a little worried since I used the words pickles, mustard, and sauerkraut.  I was a little worried too.  I told my husband this would either be an amazing meal or give us food poisoning.  Since I'm here blogging about it, you have probably concluded by now that we didn't get food poisoning.  It's amazing how mellow the pickles and the sauerkraut got.  And the sauce was divine, full of bold hearty flavor.  Trust me, it was really good.

Achtung:  It's time to eat!

ROULADEN
3 lb round steak (flank would work too)
1 1/2 C sauerkraut
Sliced pickles
One 8-ounce package of mushrooms, sliced
4 C beef stock
1 T paprika
1/4 C brown mustard
1 lb bacon, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 dark beer, any flavor
Swiss cheese slices
Peanut oil
Cornstarch

Cut the steak into four equal portions.  Spread the sauerkraut onto each piece of steak.  Lay a few pickle slices on top of the sauerkraut.  Roll the beef up and secure with toothpicks, making sure no filling is showing. Put some cornstarch into a zipper bag and add in the beef rolls.  Shake to coat.

Heat some peanut oil in a skillet over high heat.  Sear and brown the beef rolls on all sides.  Remove from the heat and set them aside.  Put remaining ingredients (except the Swiss cheese) into a crockpot.  Add in the beef rolls and cook on low, 6-8 hours.  Remove the rolls from the crockpot and put them on a plate.  Lay the Swiss cheese over the rolls and cover with foil until the cheese is melted.  Serve with the gravy from the crockpot over Spaetzle.

Spaetzle


Spaetzle is a type of egg noodle or dumpling found in German cuisine.  I find them delicious!  If you don't have a spaetzle maker, you can use a colander or the large holes of a box grater to push the dumplings into the boiling water.

SPAETZLE
2 C flour
1/2 C milk
4 eggs
Dash of nutmeg
2 T butter
1/2 C shredded Swiss cheese
2 T chopped Italian parsley

Mix the flour, milk and eggs together with a whisk.  Put a pot of water to boil.  Using a colander or the large holes of a box grater, push the batter through the holes with a rubber spatula into the boiling water in batches. Boil for about 2-3 minutes and drain.

Melt the butter into a skillet.  Add in the spaetzle and lightly brown. Turn off the heat and stir in the Swiss cheese and parsley.  Season with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tomatoes on Sale!


I love cooking with the freshest ingredients as possible.  Sure, sometimes you can't find a suitable vegetable in the winter, so canned or frozen will have to do.  But it's summertime, and the veggies are abundant.  I happened to find Roma tomatoes on sale this week, so why not a pasta featuring fresh tomatoes.

Now, if you know me or read my posts, you'll know that my husband is a pasta fanatic.  Eats it as much as he can.  But, alas, when I made this pasta, he was out of town.  I actually did get permission to make a pasta without him here.  I had to talk him through some breathing exercises to stop the hyperventilating while he was crying.  Okay, not really.  He was okay with it.  He's a really amazing man and I'm lucky to have him. But don't worry, I saved him the leftovers.

So back to the pasta...to me, there is nothing better than the combination of tomato and basil.  Except, of course, when you throw in some braised Italian sausages and shredded Mozzarella cheese.  That's a perfect combination.  If you've never braised a brat or another type of sausage, I will tell you the yin and yang of it:  the taste is out of this world and the mess it makes will have you pulling your hair out.  The process of it is plumping up the sausages in a skillet filled with cooking liquid.  Then, when the liquid is almost gone, you drizzle in some olive oil and brown up those plump beauties.  It's during the browning stage that the mess happens.  It looks like you've ruined your pan.  But a good soaking in hot soapy water fixes that.  This recipe uses 2 lbs of sausages and six Roma tomatoes.  If you want to cut the recipe in half, I would still use the six tomatoes.  More tomatoes to go around!

I just remembered a funny story.  One time we wanted brats for dinner with sauerkraut.  I didn't have any spicy brats, so I decided to add red chili flakes to the cooking liquid, beer in that case.  When it got to the point where the liquid was almost gone and I started browning the sausages, I started violently coughing.  My husband, in the next room, starting violently coughing.  My son who was in his room started violently coughing.  Apparently I had figured out the recipe for homemade pepper spray!  It was awful!  We had to all run outside and leave the back door open until the air was clear.  Big mistakes happen so innocently.

Anywho, I think you'll enjoy this pasta.  It's not a saucy pasta, but it sure is darn tasty!

Get your gas mask out and let's get cooking!

TOMATO BASIL PASTA WITH BRAISED SAUSAGES
2 lbs Italian sausage
Water
1/4 C white wine
1 onion, chopped
6 Roma tomatoes, diced
One small package of basil, chopped
Red chili flakes, to taste
1/4 C red wine
1 C shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 lb angel hair pasta
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C Italian parsley, chopped
Olive oil
2 T butter

Cook the pasta according to directions and drain.  Return the pasta to the pot and add in the 2 T butter and drizzle in some olive oil.  Stir with tongs to coat.

For the sausages, put the sausages in a large skillet and add in enough water to come halfway up the sausages.  Add in the 1/4 C white wine. Cook covered, turning occasionally, until most of the liquid is gone. Remove the lid and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook and turned until they are browned on all sides.  Remove to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

In another skillet, drizzle in some olive oil and cook the onion until tender.  Deglaze the pan with the red wine and cook until the wine is reduced.  Add in the tomatoes, garlic, chili flakes and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook and stir until the tomatoes are softened.  Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley and basil.  Slice the sausages and add them to the tomatoes.  Pour any juice on the sausage plate into the tomatoes.  Stir the tomatoes and sausages into the pasta.  Serve with the shredded Mozzarella on top.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

We Love Tacos


Do you ever watch those shows about food trucks?  My husband and I love watching them and we get a ton of ideas from those trucks.  We've even imagined what our food truck would be like.  We would call it Blondie's Tacos (obviously I'm a blonde and we love tacos), and we would serve all kinds of tacos: pulled pork tacos, Korean short rib tacos, fish tacos, even breakfast tacos.  And they would be those tacos that you have to lean forward to eat because the juice would be running down your arm.  That's when you know you've got a good taco.  I have even pictured in my blonde head about the paint job our truck would have. There would be a cartoon picture of all of us and my hair would be yellow.  We would for sure make our kids work in the truck too. Cheap (free) labor.

So I created another taco that I would most definitely serve from our taco truck.  I have been obsessed with my crockpot this summer since it's so dang hot.  It has been sitting on my kitchen counter pretty much all summer.  I made Shredded Chicken Tacos.  I was a bit skeptical about cooking chicken breasts in the crockpot because I was worried the meat would be dry.  But I knew I had success when I tried to remove the chicken from the cooking liquid and the chicken fell apart.  And, yes, the juice ran down our arms.

You're going to need some napkins.

SHREDDED CHICKEN TACOS
5-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans Rotel (I used one hot, one original)
3 T cilantro, chopped
1 packet Ranch dip mix
1 packet Fajita seasoning
4 C water
2-3 jalapenos, sliced

SERVE WITH:
Flour tortillas
Guacamole
Sour cream
Shredded cheese
Chopped tomatoes
Shredded lettuce

Put all of the ingredients (not the "serve with" ingredients) in the crockpot and cook on low for about 6-8 hours.  Remove the chicken from the liquid and reserve the liquid.  Shred the chicken with a fork or your hands.  Using a ladle, scoop out the tomatoes, onion, and jalapenos from the cooking liquid and add it to the chicken.  I also ladled a couple of ladles of the liquid back into the shredded chicken to keep it juicy. Serve in tortillas with cheese, guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce, and sour cream.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Nachos Remix


Do you ever go in the kitchen and look around at what you have and think, what if...fill in the blanks.  You know that moment.  I have this and that, what if I made such and such.  I have that moment all the time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  But, when it works, it's pretty darn amazing.

Take, for instance, Buffalo Chicken Nachos.  Doesn't sound too weird, right?  But what if you put refried beans on those nachos?  What if you put feta cheese and pepper jack cheese on those nachos?  What if you used Buffalo chicken flavored chips?  What if you put three kinds of peppers?  What if.  Well, I'll tell you what if.  It was SO GOOD! Surprising flavors came together to create a masterpiece!  So you're a little confused about my thinking, right?  Greek and American cheese, Mexican refried beans, Buffalo chicken...s
ounds a little far fetched, I know.  So let me walk you through my thought process.

First off, the Buffalo chips, well, my husband was responsible for that.  He did the grocery shopping for me that week.  The list clearly said tortilla chips, but he came home with Doritos Jacked Ranch Dipped Hot Wings. Okay.  I can work with that.  Next, most nachos that I've eaten that didn't come from a ballpark have had refried beans on them.  So that was a necessity.  Buffalo chicken is one of our favorite things to eat, so I wanted Buffalo chicken instead of chicken fajita meat or beef.  I was skeptical about the beans/Buffalo mixture, but we tasted it before we assembled the nachos and it works really well.  The pepper jack cheese was there because what's a nacho without melted cheese on it?  And why the feta, you ask?  There is a taco joint in town called Fuzzy's Tacos.  They put feta cheese on their nachos, so by gum so will we.  And I can give all of the credit for the peppers to my husband.  Habaneros, fresnos, and jalapenos, all his idea.  These nachos were so good that I ate enough for 10 people. Not really.  They were so filling that I didn't eat much at all.  But I wanted to eat enough for 10 people.

And now a joke.  A guy goes into a store and steals some cheese.  The clerk runs after him and says, "that's nacho cheese."  I crack myself up.

BUFFALO CHICKEN NACHOS
6 ounces wing sauce, your favorite flavor (I used Hooter's)
2 C cooked, shredded chicken
2 C refried beans (homemade preferably)
Doritos flavored chips or tortilla chips
Crumbled feta cheese, any flavor
1 C shredded pepper jack cheese
Sliced peppers, like jalapeno, fresno, habanero

Preheat the broiler.  Spread the chips out on a sheet pan in a single layer. Top with the beans, then the pepper jack cheese, then the feta and the peppers.  Broil for a couple of minutes or until the cheese is melted.  **Be careful if using the flavored chips.  The flavoring on them will tend to burn if you leave it unattended in the oven.