Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Trial & Error


I am not a fan of nonstick pans.  The coating eventually chips off or wears away, and I can only imagine that we are eating that stuff.  Can't be good for you.  I am, however, a huge fan of cast iron.  It is the best nonstick pan I have found.  It's great for searing steaks or chicken.  

My trial and error here is we wanted to make Potstickers. Now, I have a favorite stainless steel pan that I use almost every day.  So I got my trusty pan out and started browning said Potstickers.  When it came time to add in the water to steam them, that's when it all went wrong.  They stuck to the pot.  And I've made Potstickers in that same pan before!  So my husband suggested the cast iron skillet.  Ding ding ding! We have a winner!  Not only did they not stick, the bottoms were nicely browned and crispy.  Success!  

These are pretty easy Potstickers to make.  They are a tiny bit time consuming because you have to brush the edges with water and crimp them up.  But the filling was darn tasty and we ate them all.

POTSTICKERS
1 lb ground pork
1 head Napa cabbage, mostly tops, chopped
One 8-ounce can water chestnuts, chopped
1 T sesame oil
Olive oil
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 C soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fish sauce (optional)
Wonton wrappers

Heat a skillet to medium high heat and drizzle in some olive oil and the sesame oil.  Brown the ground pork and cook until almost done.  Add in the cabbage, soy sauce, garlic, chili paste, fish sauce and green onions.  Cook until the cabbage is wilted down but still firm.  Remove from heat.

Put about a tablespoon of the filling in the center of the wonton.  Brush two sides with water and seal up the wonton, ruffling the edges if you like (Martin Yan has a good video for this on YouTube), making sure there are no gaps and no filling leaking out.  Put them fat side down onto a board until they are all done.

In a cast iron skillet (or the dreaded nonstick if you don't have cast iron), drizzle in some olive oil and heat to medium high. Put the fat side of the potstickers down in the oil.  Cook until they have loosened on their own.  Pour about 1/3 C water into the pan and cover it.  Cook until most of the water has evaporated and the wontons are soft.  Serve with soy sauce or chili sauce.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Menu Musings


Way, way back a long time ago, my mother used to collect restaurant menus.  And she had an entire trunk full of them.  I guess she ate out a lot.  Anywho, most of the time she would just ask a waiter if she could have the menu and they would say yes.  However, there were a few strange occasions where she would find the menu in her purse or, even stranger, under her shirt.  She would get to the car and realize, "Hey, there's a menu stuffed under my shirt.  How the heck did that get there?"  Being too embarrassed for having no explanation, she did not return to the restaurant and tell them about it.  But, since her house burned down in the Black Forest, Colorado, fire, there's no menus left, therefore, no evidence.  Please don't get me wrong.  My mother is a very nice person and an upstanding citizen.  She just likes menus.

Lately I've been perusing restaurant menus online for inspiration.  This creation comes from a Saltgrass Steakhouse menu and is called Chicken Laredo.  It's another smothered chicken dish, but this time it has roasted poblanos, tomatoes, almost crispy grilled onions (yum!), and Pepper Jack cheese.  It was so darn tasty!  Those onions made the dish for me.  And it's pretty easy to do and cooks in about 30 minutes.  I think you'll enjoy this one.

Does your mother have any strange collections?

CHICKEN LAREDO
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
Garlic powder
Black pepper
2 poblanos, roasted, skins and seeds removed, and chopped (see instructions after the recipe)
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1/2 red onion, sliced
Olive oil
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
Half a wheel of cotija cheese, crumbled (or a salty crumbling cheese)
Pepper Jack cheese slices

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Season both sides of the chicken breasts with the seasoned salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.  Cook for about 16 minutes on one side.

Meanwhile, preheat a pan with some olive oil in it to medium heat.  Cook the onions, stirring constantly, until they are very caramelized and some slightly crispy.  Remove from heat.

After cooking the chicken the first 16 minutes, pull the pan out and flip the breasts over.  Put some onions, tomatoes, and cheese slices on each chicken breast.  Return to the oven and cook an additional 12-14 minutes or until the chicken is done through.  Remove from the oven and garnish with the avocadoes, cilantro and cotija cheese.

**To roast poblanos, put them on a sheet pan and roast them at 400 degrees, turning occasionally, until they are black and charred all over.  Remove from the oven.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel as much of the skin off as you can.  Remove the stem, cut them open, and scrape out the seeds.  Then chop them as you would other veggies.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Eggplant, Squash & Zucchini Parmesan


This is a pretty classic dish that can be eaten as a meatless meal or a side dish.  And the panko breadcrumbs stay crispy while the veggies are tender.

EGGPLANT, SQUASH & ZUCCHINI PARMESAN
1 eggplant, sliced
1 large yellow squash, sliced
1 large zucchini, sliced
4 C panko breadcrumbs
1 packet Zesty Italian dressing mix
1/2 C shredded Parmesan
1 C flour
1/4 C butter, melted
4 eggs
Splash of water
Olive oil
2 C Basic Marinara
1/2 C shredded Mozzarella cheese

Drizzle a sheet pan with some olive oil.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the eggs with the splash of water.  Mix the panko, flour, butter, and Italian dressing mix together in a bowl. Dredge the veggie slices in the egg and then into the panko mixture and coat both sides.  Lay them on the sheet pan in a single layer.  Bake them, turning once, until the veggies are tender and the coating is browned.

Put the marinara sauce into a casserole pan.  Lay the veggies down onto the sauce (you may have to overlap them a bit).  Sprinkle on the Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the sauce is warmed through and the cheese is melted.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Seafood Bonanza


I've told you before how I can't send my husband to the store without expecting some extras to show up in the grocery bags.  This particular day, he hit the seafood counter.  And hit it hard.  He brought home lobster tails, scallops, shrimp, crab legs, and some really awful cherry habanero glazed salmon.  We didn't eat the salmon.

So I put my thinking cap on.  Oh, what do I do with this bounty of seafood?  Make a scampi, of course.  And it turned out fabulous.  If you happen to have some fresh seafood or your husband can't be trusted when he goes to the store, this dish is for you!

SEAFOOD SCAMPI
1 lb mixed seafood, shelled and deveined
1 shallot
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C white wine
1/2 C seafood or chicken stock
Salt & pepper
2 T butter
Juice of 1 lemon

Drizzle some olive oil into a large skillet.  Cook the shallots over medium high heat until tender.  Deglaze the pan with the wine and stock and cook to reduce, about 5 minutes.  Add in the seafood and cook a few minutes until it's all done.  Stir in the butter and squeeze the lemon juice over the top.  Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.  Great with pasta!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Shrimp Poppers


A new spin on Jalapeno Poppers...stuff a shrimp into them! Great for game day!

SHRIMP POPPERS
15 jumbo jalapenos
15 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese
2 teaspoons seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 T dried minced onion
1/2 C cornmeal
1 C flour
2 T cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 C water
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (Like Lawry's)
Peanut oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roast the jalapenos for about 15-20 minutes on a sheet pan or until they soften up. Remove from the oven.  When they are cool enough to handle, make a small slit down one side.  Remove the seeds and ribs.  

Mix the cream cheese, shredded cheese, 2 teaspoons seasoned salt, garlic, and minced onions in a food processor. Divide this filling among the 15 peppers.  Place one shrimp into each pepper.  Close them up and freeze in a single layer for at least an hour.

Mix the flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, eggs, 1 teaspoon seasoned salt, baking powder, and water together with a whisk.  

Preheat the peanut oil to 350 degrees.  Dip the peppers in the batter and shallow fry them in batches until golden brown and the shrimp is cooked through.  Keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until they are all fried. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Food Misconceptions


Have you ever had baklava?  It's a honey and nut dessert with layers of phyllo dough.  I always thought baklava was a Greek invention, but it turns out it's Turkish.  Who would have thought that!  Don't know what phyllo dough is?  It's paper thin sheets of dough that are usually buttered and layered and filled.  You can find phyllo dough in the freezer section near the pie crusts and puff pastry.

Now, this isn't a baklava recipe or a dessert recipe.  These are Mexican Chicken Rolls.  I made a delectable filling of chicken, cream cheese, salsa, and more cheese and rolled it up in the dough.  It was a snap to make and they bake up crispy and buttery.  Good for a meal or as an appetizer!

MEXICAN CHICKEN ROLLS
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 C cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 C salsa (your favorite)
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
1 T garlic powder
1/2 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1/2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
2-3 T jalapeno slices (the kind from a jar)
1 stick butter, melted
1 sleeve phyllo dough (they come two to a package)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the cream cheese, salsa, cumin, chili powder, jalapenos, Cheddar and Pepper Jack in a food processor.  Stir in the chicken.  Put this mixture into a pastry bag or a large zipper bag (cut the corner off).

Take a sheet of phyllo dough and lay it flat.  Brush it all over with butter.  Lay another sheet on top of the first sheet and brush with butter.  Repeat this until you have four sheets stacked up.  Squeeze out about 1/4 of the chicken filling down the center of the phyllo.  Wrap the edges over the filling and roll it up lengthwise.  Put it seam side down on a sheet pan.  Repeat this process until you have four rolls.

Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes or until they are browned and the filling inside is hot.  Serve with more salsa or even Ranch dressing.

I'm on a Roll


I know, I've given you quite a few One Pot Wonders.  But I just can't help myself.  This is the easiest, quickest method for a weeknight meal.  And they turn out awesome every time!  This is One Pot Asian Pasta.  Pasta, chicken, some veggies, and Hoisin sauce all cooked together to create a masterpiece!  My kids loved this dish and ate all of the leftovers, which is a hard thing to get kids to eat.  



ONE POT ASIAN PASTA
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 lb linguine 
1 head bok choy cabbage, chopped (mostly the green parts)
One 8-ounce can water chestnuts, chopped
One 15-ounce can baby corn
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fish sauce (optional)
1 T oyster sauce (optional)
3 green onions, sliced
1/4 C soy sauce
1 T chili paste
1 T sesame seeds
One 7-ounce jar Hoisin sauce
1/2 to 3/4 C brown sugar
7 C chicken stock

Put all of the ingredients into a large pot or dutch oven.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat slightly to where it's still bubbling but not a rapid boil.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20-25 minutes or until pasta is done and the sauce is thickened and reduced.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Rue to Roux


Sure, I could have said, "The Road to Roux," but what fun would that be!  After all, I was a court reporter for 14 years and words are what we do!  Plus, the mischievous side of me compels me to play with words.  My family won't play Scrabble with me.  They are just no fun.  Why wouldn't they all want to play a game with someone who inevitably will win? Wouldn't you?

Anywho, this isn't about Scrabble.  No, my friends, this is about Gumbo.  And the road to getting it right.  Now, this isn't a throw it all in the pot kind of dish and dinner is ready.  This is a carefully planned and thought out dish.  This is a wait all day for dish.  This, my friends, is a masterpiece and so worth the wait.  This is something you want to take your time with, something you want to nuture, something you need to make.

So what is the rue to roux?  More importantly, do you know the way to San Jose?  Oh, wait.  Wrong state.  You need to take a mental trip to Louisiana.  Where seafood is fresh. Where culture is abundant.  Where longstanding traditions rich in a varied culture abound.  You see, you need to make your own stock.  You need to blend your own seasonings. You need to make your own roux.  What is roux, you ask? It's a thickener.  It's a slow process of cooking flour in oil until it turns a rich, dark coppery color.  It then thickens and flavors the dish.  Some people use what's called gumbo file (pronouned fee-lay), which are ground sassafras leaves, to thicken their gumbo.  I've personally never used it.  I've always made a roux and used okra, which when cooked becomes a thickener in and of itself.

The key here for the stock is to save shrimp shells.  Throw them in a bag in the freezer and save them for when you want to make seafood stock.  It really adds a flavor element that is needed for gumbo.  And use a good quality sausage. Andouille is generally what is used for gumbo, so find a good one.  You will be amazed at how a little extra work makes such a spectacular dish.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

GUMBO
FOR THE STOCK:
Shrimp shells from 1 lb shrimp
10 C water
1 onion, rough chopped (you can even leave the skins on)
2 carrots, rough chopped
2 stalks celery, rough chopped
1 bulb garlic, smashed (skins are okay)
1 green bell pepper, rough chopped
1 T Creole Seasoning
4 bay leaves

FOR THE ROUX:
1 C vegetable oil
1 1/4 C flour

FOR THE GUMBO:
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (use the shells for the stock above)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 lb crawfish tails
1 lb andouille sausage, sliced (or your favorite)
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 lb fresh or frozen okra, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T tomato paste
8 C seafood stock
Roux
Salt & pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Cooked rice, for serving

Bring all of the stock ingredients to a boil.  Reduce heat slightly and cook, while still bubbling, for at least 30 minutes to an hour.  Strain and reserve the liquid.

For the roux, combine the oil and flour in a large pot or dutch oven.  Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, about 15 to 20 minutes and until the mixture is about the color of a copper penny or caramel.  You can do this in advance and remove it from the heat.

In a large skillet, cook the onion, bell pepper, and celery in vegetable oil until tender.  Add in the chicken and cook until almost done, 4-5 minutes.  Add in the sliced sausage and brown.  Remove this from the heat.

If you cooked your roux in advance, bring it back up to medium high heat and add the chicken, veggie and sausage mixture to the roux.  Add in the 8 cups of seafood stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat slightly and add in the okra and garlic.  When the broth starts thickening, add in the tomato paste and the shrimp.  Cook for a few minutes until shrimp is pink all the way through and done.  Stir in the crawfish tails to heat.  Adjust seasonings with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste.  Remove from heat and serve over rice.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chile Rellenos Grilled Cheese


This sandwich is great for any time of the day!  Roasted poblanos, Pepper Jack cheese, bacon and a fried egg make this a darn tasty sandwich!  This recipe made four large sandwiches, but make as many or as few as you like!

CHILE RELLENOS GRILLED CHEESE
One loaf of bread, sliced thick (I used a loaf of cheesy bread)
2 large poblano peppers
8 eggs
8 slices Pepper Jack cheese
8 slices bacon, cooked

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roast the peppers on a sheet pan, turning occasionally, until blackened and charred on all sides.  Remove from oven.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel the skins off and remove the stem and seeds. Slice into pieces the same size as your bread.

Preheat a flat skillet (I prefer cast iron) to medium high heat. You will be grilling the sandwiches at the same time as cooking your eggs, so prepare another pan to fry an egg. Butter one side of two pieces of bread and put them butter side down on the flat skillet.  Place a slice of Pepper Jack on each slice of bread.  Grill until the bread is browned and the cheese is melted.  At the same time, fry your egg to desired consistency.  Assemble the sandwich by placing some chile pieces on the cheese, the egg, and some slices of bacon on top of the egg.  Place the other half of the sandwich on top and enjoy!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Western Potato Rounds


I found this recipe in an old Pampered Chef Stoneware cookbook.  It's an easy and darn tasty side dish for any meal!

WESTERN POTATO ROUNDS
4 large potatoes, sliced
3 green onions, sliced
1 C Chipotle Barbecue Sauce (or your favorite BBQ sauce)
1/2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 C shredded Monterey Jack cheese
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Scatter the potatoes onto a large sheet pan.  Drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Toss them around to coat and arrange them again into a single layer.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. 

Remove the potatoes from the oven and turn the broiler on. Brush the potatoes generously on both sides with the BBQ sauce.  Sprinkle on the bacon and cheeses.  Return to the oven and broil a couple of minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and garnish with the green onions.

They Grow So Fast


If you have kids, you are going to relate to this post, especially if those kids are teenagers.  We have two of said teenagers, both of whom we are very proud of.  But, as I reflect back on my time with them, I wonder where the time went.  Our daughter is almost 16 years old and is about to be driving.  If I weren't so blonde, I would probably have a head of gray hair right now.  Our son is 13 and tall.  Very tall.  Not freakishy tall, but, for a 13 year old to be 5'7" tall, that's tall. He's almost 2 inches taller than me.  I have the smallest feet in the house.  I am the shortest person in the house.  It's a rather strange feeling to look up to a child to scold them. And his voice?  Wow...I come home and some strange man with a really deep voice says, "hey, Mom."  

I look at them both and wonder what happened to those two little curious, trusting, loving, imaginative little children and realize those days are gone.  I have near adults on my hands.  While I look forward to my days with my husband and being able to do what we want with reckless abandon, like get crazy and stay up til 11:00 watching a movie (ha ha), I do feel nostalgic about those early days with the kids and know I will forever miss that time.

Now, my son is a huge fan of BBQ.  It's his favorite wing flavor.  He loves it on chicken.  He loves ribs.  I think he could put BBQ sauce on his cereal and be happy.  This is a recipe that I recreated with him in mind.  It's a copycat recipe, and I'm sure you've seen it on Pinterest.  If not, there are a lot of copycat recipes out there for Chili's Monterey Chicken.  It's a grilled chicken smothered with BBQ sauce, three cheeses, tomatoes, and bacon.  Now, I didn't grill mine because it's cold outside.  I baked it instead.  And, if you know me, you know I have to put my spin on everything.  So I added my Avocado & Jalapeno Ranch Sauce.  And, to me, this chicken was screaming for some jalapeno slices, so I added that too.  The result?  My giant son loved it.  And that strange voice from some man said, "hey, Mom, this is really good."

MONTEREY CHICKEN
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 C Chipotle BBQ Sauce (or your favorite)
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1/2 C shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
2-3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
Jalapeno slices (the kind from a jar)
Avocado & Jalapeno Ranch Sauce

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lay the chicken breasts on a sheet pan.  Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper, as desired.  Bake for about 16 minutes.  Remove them from the oven and brush the BBQ sauce generously on both sides of the chicken.  Turn the chicken over and cook for an additional 12-14 minutes or until done.  During the last five minutes of cooking, sprinkle the bacon, cheese, tomatoes, and jalapeno slices over each piece of chicken.  Return to the oven to finish cooking the chicken and melt the cheese. Garnish with the green onions and Avocado & Jalapeno Ranch Sauce.

Avocado & Jalapeno Ranch Sauce


This stuff is soooo good!  It's great on sandwiches, wraps, burgers, or even just with tortilla chips!  And it's highly addictive!

AVOCADO & JALAPENO RANCH SAUCE
1 C mayo
1/2 C buttermilk
1 C sour cream
1 packet Ranch dip mix
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1-3 T diced jalapeno slices (from a jar)
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 avocados

Mix all ingredients together in a blender and refrigerate.  This keeps about a week!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Not so Traditional Spaghetti alla Carbonara


Who doesn't love pasta?  (Okay, don't answer that...rhetorical question.)  My family loves it, and that includes me.  And what better than a pasta that includes three of my favorite foods!  Sorry butter, you were left out this time.  Catch you later.

So what is Spaghetti Carbonara?  It's referred to as bacon and eggs pasta, which are two main components of the dish.  Interesting fact:  Carbonara actually means coal miner's wife!  Nice lady she was, fixed such a hearty meal for her hard-working man after a long, dirty day's work.  They must have raised and slaughtered their own pigs...have you seen the price of bacon???  If I had a pet pig, I would name it Bacon.  I know, that's not very nice.  I'm just saying.

The traditional version of carbonara is made with pancetta (a bacon that is cured with spices and peppercorns but is not smoked), pasta, egg yolks, and parmesan cheese.  It is definitely not a highly-sauced creamy dish that one would expect.  Rather, it is a sticky, gooey dish meant to focus on the individually lovely flavors of the meaty bacon, salty cheese, and golden tender egg yolks.  If you're looking for an alfredo-type cream sauce, you're barking at the wrong fence.  (I know the saying is barking up the wrong tree.  My dogs just like to bark at the fence.)

"So, do pray tell, Cindy, why your Spaghetti alla Carbonara isn't traditional."  Glad you asked!  Number one, I'm not Italian.  And, B, (ha ha) my kitchen is my own private wonderland and artist studio and laboratory where I can create and cook, quite frankly, whatever the heck I want to.  No rules here.  I like to make carbonara with smoked bacon. (No offense, pancetta, I love you too and promise to play nice with you later.)  I also like yummy browned mushrooms and sweet green peas and a little splash of cream (not too much; this isn't alfredo).  Top it off with some sliced green onions and more cheese and, voila, a star is born!!

Now, before I share this tasty treat with you, there are a couple of things I need to divulge about my style of cooking.  I see recipes as guidelines, open for interpretation.  Change or add what you like.  You're the one eating it, not me.  It's your moment to shine.  Additionally, I never ever measure unless I'm baking.  The measurements I give are approximate.  Use more cheese if you like, less garlic, more bacon, whatever.  Just understand the basics of my recipes and wing it your way.  Lastly, I have an abusive relationship with salt.  Therefore, unless it's absolutely necessary, I will just tell you to season with salt and pepper to taste.  That way, your faces don't swell up from the sodium overload.  My family is going to soon institute a salt intervention, I just know it.

So, without further delay and chatty nonsense, here goes nothing!  


SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA
1 lb spaghetti
8 ounce-package of button mushrooms
1/2 C heavy cream
1 C frozen peas
1 T chopped fresh Italian parsley
8 slices of bacon, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
5 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
Sliced green onions for garnish
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese

Start the spaghetti boiling.  

Fry the bacon up crisp and brown, then drain.  Drain all but about 1/4 C of the bacon grease and add the mushrooms to the bacon grease.  Cook them over medium high heat. Don't salt them yet!  The browning process comes to a screeching halt as the salt draws out moisture in the mushrooms.  You'll end up with gray ones instead of pretty browned mushrooms.

Then add the garlic and the peas and cook until peas are heated through.  Turn the heat off and stir in the cream. Add in the bacon and parsley.  Season with some salt and black pepper.

Drain the spaghetti and then immediately put it back in the hot pot.  Working quickly, pour the eggs yolks into the pasta while at the same time using tongs to stir it around.  The eggs will cook from the carried-over heat and stick to the pasta.

Stir the bacon and mushroom mixture into the noodles along with the Cheddar cheese and Parmesan cheese.  Garnish with the green onions.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Baked Cheese


This isn't really a recipe, just sort of a method.  But, if you're craving ooey, gooey, warm cheese on tortilla chips, this Baked Cheese is for you!  Delish!

BAKED CHEESE
2 C shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
2 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1 C shredded 3-Pepper (Habanero, Jalapeno, and Chipotle) OR shredded Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
Tortilla chips

Mix the cheeses and seasonings together in a bowl.  Put them into a shallow oven safe dish, like a pie plate.  Place under the broiler for about 6-7 minutes or until melted and browned.  Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls


Here's a great twist on eggrolls...Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls! Make them spicy or tame.  Either way, they're a hit, especially for Football Playoffs!

BUFFALO CHICKEN EGGROLLS
3 C cooked, shredded chicken
1 lb bag coleslaw mix (white and purple cabbage and carrots)
12 ounces Buffalo Wing Sauce (we used Hooter's)
Pepper Jack cheese slices (about 12-15)
12 to 15 eggroll wrappers
Vegetable oil, for the filling
Peanut oil, for frying
Ranch dip or Blue Cheese dressing, for serving

Drizzle a generous amount of vegetable oil into a large skillet. Add in the chicken and the coleslaw mix and cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until the cabbage cooks down and shrinks, making sure it's still slightly crunchy and not soggy.  Remove from the heat and stir in the wing sauce.


Following the diagram above, fold a piece of Pepper Jack cheese in half and place on the eggroll wrapper. Spoon about 1 1/2 T filling over the cheese.  Brush the edges of the eggroll wrapper with water and fold according to diagram. Place them on a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze at least an hour.

Heat the peanut oil to 350 in a large skillet.  Fry the eggrolls about 3-4 at a time, seam side down first, until they are all golden brown and delicious.  Keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until they are all fried and ready and warmed through (you may want to leave the last batch in about 5 minutes to make sure the filling is warm).  Serve with Ranch dip or Blue Cheese dressing.

Classic 7-Layer Dip


What makes my 7-Layer Dip different than anyone else's? Well, I used homemade refried beans, homemade guacamole, and a few twists, like mixing taco seasoning in the beans and RoTel in the sour cream.  Great for parties and always disappears fast!

CLASSIC 7-LAYER DIP
4 C Homemade Refried Beans
1 packet Taco Seasoning
1 recipe (double it) Rockin' Guacamole
16 ounces sour cream
One 14-ounce can RoTel, drained (I used Mexican Lime & Cilantro)
2 C shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 1/4 ounce can sliced black olives, drained
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
4 green onions, sliced
Jalapeno slices from a jar
Tortilla chips

Mix the packet of taco seasoning with the refried beans. Spread this mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.  Mix the sour cream with the RoTel mixture and spread all over the beans.  Spread the guacamole all over the sour cream layer. Sprinkle the cheese next onto the guacamole.  Sprinkle the tomatoes, black olives, and green onions on top of the cheese.  Spread around as many or as little jalapeno slices as you like on top.  Refrigerate about an hour to set.  Serve with tortilla chips.  This will keep a few days in the fridge.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Salt & Vinegar Potatoes


Three of the four family members in my house love Salt & Vinegar chips.  I wanted to try to recreate that flavor but without frying.  So, with a combination of boiling and roasting, I think these hit the nail on the nose.  Okay, maybe that would hurt.  Anywho, they were yummy!

SALT & VINEGAR POTATOES
4 large potatoes, sliced
3 C white vinegar
Garlic powder, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste
6 C water
Vegetable oil

Boil the potatoes in the water and vinegar until tender.   Drain and dry them thoroughly on a towel.  

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spread the potato slices out on a baking sheet.  Drizzle some vegetable oil over the potatoes.  Sprinkle them with salt (generously for that classic taste), pepper, and garlic powder.  Toss them around with your hands and spread them in an even layer.  Roast about 10-15 minutes or until they begin to brown and get slightly crispy.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Presto Pesto


My husband and son are not fans of basil, so this recipe wasn't well received by the boys in my house.  However, I loved it.  I made the pesto fresh and slathered it on some chicken, baked it, added some cheese.  This recipe is really easy, relatively healthy, and tasty.  If you don't have basil haters in your house, it's sure to be a hit.

CHEESY PESTO CHICKEN
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Mozzarella cheese slices
One large package fresh basil
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 C olive oil

Blend all of the ingredients except the Mozzarella and the chicken in a food processor.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spread the pesto all over both sides of each chicken breast.  Bake on a sheet pan for about 16 minutes.  Flip the chicken over and cook an additional 12-14 minutes or until the chicken is completely done.  During the last 4-5 minutes of cooking, lay the Mozzarella slices over each piece of chicken to melt and brown.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mushroom & Bacon Tart


I love the combination of bacon and mushrooms.  What better way to showcase them than on a sheet of puff pastry and with cheese.  Of course there's cheese.  In fact, this bread has all of the "New Four Food Groups."  I love it when that happens.

MUSHROOM & BACON TART
Adapted from MMM is for Mommy
1 sheet puff pastry, rolled out slightly
8 slices bacon
1 large shallot, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped (slice a few for garnish)
8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1 packet of Italian dressing mix
1/4 C white wine
1 teaspoon mixed herbs (I used Parisien)
1 C shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
Black pepper, to taste
2 T butter, melted

Cook the bacon until crisp and drain and crumble.  Cook the mushrooms and shallot in the bacon grease.  When they are tender, deglaze the pan with the white wine.  Add in the Italian dressing mix, black pepper, and the mixed herbs (whatever herbs you like).  Stir in the garlic and the cream cheese and cook until it's melted.  Remove from the heat and stir in the bacon, Mozzarella cheese, and the Parmesan cheese.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spread the cream cheese mixture over the puff pastry.  Place the few sliced mushrooms on top.  Fold or curl the edges of the puff pastry over to create a crust.  Bake about 20 to 25 minutes or until the puff pastry is done all the way through.  During the last five minutes of baking, brush the melted butter over the crust and continue baking to brown.

Dip for Dinner



I sure hope you aren't getting tired of my One Pot Pasta dishes.  They are so easy and they turn out wonderful.  The chicken is tender and so are the veggies.  

One of my favorite dips is Spinach Artichoke Dip, so why not turn that into a meal by adding chicken and pasta.  And it was delish!  If you're a fan of the dip, you'll for sure be a fan of this.   Just a little chopping and throw it into a pot.  Easy.




CHICKEN SPINACH ARTICHOKE DIP PASTA
3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 C fresh spinach leaves
One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 lb pasta, any shape
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, cubed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C red onion, thinly sliced
7 C chicken stock
2 teaspoons chili flakes

Put all of the ingredients into a large pot or dutch oven.  Bring to a boil.  When it starts boiling, reduce the heat slightly, making sure that it's still bubbling.  Stir frequently and cook until the pasta is done and the sauce is reduced and thickened.