Sunday, June 29, 2014

Beautiful Broth


I haven't eaten at a Macaroni Grill in years, since I rarely eat out.  But the other day I remember a dish they had called Shrimp Portofino.  I wasn't sure if they still had it, so I looked at their menu and there it was!  It's a beautiful dish with shrimp, pine nuts, fresh spinach and pasta with a delightful brothy, lemony kind of sauce.  I decided I must make this immediately! Okay, I had to go to the store first for some shrimp.

And what I came up with turned out so good that I could drink the broth all by itself.  It was beautiful!  The shrimp were tender.  The mushrooms were perfectly browned.  The squeeze of lemon juice gave the sauce a fresh taste.  My family and I were sopping that sauce up with the homemade breadsticks I made to go with it.  It was truly divine.  This is not a thick sauce.  It's somewhere between broth and sauce. Don't be worried if it's not thick.  That's the way it's supposed to be.

If you're a shrimp fan, this broth is for you!

SHRIMP PORTOFINO
12 ounces shrimp, deveined and peeled
12 ounces angel hair pasta (I used the little nests)
One 2-ounce bag pine nuts
2 T butter
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 C fresh spinach leaves
2 C chicken stock
1/2 C white wine
2 T flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of one lemon
1/4 C Italian parsley, chopped
Salt & pepper, to taste
Olive oil

Cook the pasta according to directions.

In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts for a couple of minutes over low heat.  Watch them carefully because they burn fast. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat a large skillet to medium high heat.  Add in the butter and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the mushrooms until tender. Remember not to salt mushrooms until they are browned or they will come out gray and never brown.  When the mushrooms are tender, deglaze the pan with the wine. Cook until most of the liquid is cooked out.  Stir in the flour and whisk.  Add in the chicken stock and garlic. Cook until slightly thickened and reduced.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.  Add in the lemon juice and shrimp. Cook and stir for a few minutes until the shrimp are cooked through. Stir in the spinach, pine nuts, and parsley.  Stir until the spinach wilts slightly.  Serve the sauce and the shrimp over the pasta.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Salt on the Rim


For most of my adult life, I have always, so I thought, not liked margaritas.  They were sour and not sweet enough and just ick.  But the other day my husband and I were out and we had a few drinks.  I ordered a swirl, which is a combination of frozen sangria and frozen margarita.  I tasted each one separately first, and they were both tart, a little sour and a little sweet.  Then came the magical question.  "Would you like salt on the rim?"  Hmmm...deep thoughts.  I love salt, so why not.  I took a sip.  I tasted the sweet and sour.  And then I got salt.  And I absolutely loved it!  I licked every bit of the salt off the rim as I drank that swirl.  It was fabulous!  I am now going to consider myself a margarita convert.  Divine!

Recently I was perusing different restaurant menus, and I came across Margarita Chicken.  I have had it in the past, and, now that I have a new-found love for margaritas, I had to have it again.  I marinated chicken overnight in some liquid margarita mix and some spices.  The next day, I put a batch of black beans in the crockpot (Try making your own Black Beans.  Click for the recipe.  They are so much better than from a can).  I then made cilantro rice and fried a few tortilla strips.  I made a fresh Pico de Gallo.  And then I grilled the chicken.  WOW!  The combination of all of those flavors was fantabulous!  The whole family loved it.  Even my picky son claimed the one last chicken breast for lunch the next day.  In my rush to get dinner on the table, I forgot to put the Pico de Gallo on the picture plate.  Just pretend that you see it.  Don't you see those fresh tomatoes and onion and jalapenos?  

Go grab a margarita (don't forget the salt) and let's get dinner going!

MARGARITA CHICKEN
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
MARINADE:
About 1 1/2 C liquid margarita mix
1 T cumin
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 T olive oil

FOR THE RICE:
1 C long-grain rice
2 C chicken stock
Juice of 1-2 limes (depends on how limey you want it)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 C fresh chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T cumin
1/2 C frozen corn kernels

FOR PICO DE GALLO:
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 C red onion, diced
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
3 T jalapeno, chopped (fresh or the jarred slices work)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
Juice of 1 lime
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR SERVING:
Sliced avocados
Black Beans (click for recipe)
Cotija cheese (or shredded Cheddar)
Fried tortilla strips (see note below)

For the chicken, mix the marinade ingredients together in a large zipper bag.  Add in the chicken and marinate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.  

For the rice, put all of the rice ingredients into a pot and cook the rice according to the package directions.

For the Pico de Gallo, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and chill until ready to use.

For tortilla strips, cut about 6 corn tortillas into strips.  Fry them quickly in some peanut oil until browned and crispy. Drain on a paper towel and season as desired.  I used a little salt and a little chipotle powder.

For the chicken, pat the chicken dry.  You can bake the chicken at 350 for about 14-16 minutes per side.  You can also grill them outside or on a grill pan inside for more or less the same amount of time.  Just keep watch and use a thermometer.  Chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees. Slice the chicken after it rests about 5-8 minutes.

To serve, ladle some black beans on a plate.  Spoon some rice over the beans.  Then add the chicken strips, some Pico de Gallo, some avocado slices, some tortilla strips, and cheese.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Coco Loco


So I'm not quite a fan of coconut.  I love the flavor of it, but I don't really like the texture of it.  I guess I'm really a texture person since I don't really like the texture of raw tomatoes either.  But, for some odd reason, I really love Coconut Shrimp.  When I set out to make these shrimp, I wanted the coconut flavor but without so much flaked coconut texture.  I did a little research and saw where other people ground up the coconut flakes in the food processor before coating the shrimp.  Bam!  Problem solved!  And the use of Panko breadcrumbs on these shrimp gave them a very delightful crunchy texture.  

When I called the family to dinner, they were like vultures attacking the shrimp.  Wait, I said.  Leave me some!  Well, they did.  I got three whole shrimp.  Ha ha.  Oh, well.  I take great pleasure in feeding my family great food, so it's okay. These are easy to make and the Spicy Orange Dipping Sauce was great too.  And darn tasty!

COCONUT SHRIMP
12 ounces jumbo shrimp, peeled & deveined, tails left on
1 C Panko breadcrumbs
1/2 C shredded flake coconut
1/2 C flour
2 eggs
Splash of water
Salt & pepper, to taste
Peanut oil, for frying

FOR THE SAUCE:
18 ounces orange marmalade
1/2 C water
2 serrano peppers, chopped (jalapenos will work too)
1 T vinegar

For the shrimp, put the coconut flakes in a food processor and pulse to make a fine powder.  Mix the coconut with the Panko breadcrumbs and season with salt & pepper.  Put the flour in a separate bowl.  Break the eggs into a third bowl and add in a splash of water and whisk.  Dip the shrimp into the flour, then into the egg mixture, then into the Panko mixture, pressing lightly to coat the shrimp evenly all over.  Place the shrimp in a single layer on a sheet pan.  Freeze them for about 30 minutes to set the coating.

Meanwhile, mix together the sauce ingredients in a small pot. Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5-8 minutes or until thickened and reduced.  You can chill it or serve it warm.

Preheat some peanut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Fry the shrimp in the oil for about 2-3 minutes per side or until done through and crispy outside.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve the shrimp with the sauce.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sweet Home Alabama


Remember that scene from the movie "Forrest Gump" where he is dancing to the song "Sweet Home Alabama"?  I love that scene.  Carefree, uninhibited, happy.  What a great feeling.  He danced in front of the window without a care in the world, without being judged, without being critiqued.  Just a great feel-good moment.  We should all have a few moments like that.  

So what does that moment have to do with a recipe? Probably not much.  My thoughts tend to wander when I write, and the fact that this Grilled Chicken with White BBQ Sauce is something generally only found in Northern Alabama led my wandering mind to that movie.  This BBQ sauce is something completely different than what you would expect for BBQ sauce.  It's a mayonnaise based sauce and very tangy.  We were pleasantly surprised at how good this tasted. It's truly finger-licking good.  So, after you cook and eat this chicken, dance like no one is watching.  Throw your hands in the air like you just don't care.  Be happy!

GRILLED WHITE BBQ CHICKEN
4 bone-in chicken breasts
1 C mayonnaise
1/3 C apple cider vinegar
1/4 C lemon juice
1 T minced garlic
1 T prepared horseradish
1 T black pepper
1 T spicy brown mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix together all of the sauce ingredients with a whisk.  Divide the sauce in half.  Prepare your grill, either charcoal or gas. Brush half of the sauce on both sides of each chicken breast. Cook over direct heat for 10 minutes on each side.  Then cook over indirect heat for 10-15 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees.  Let it rest for about five minutes.  Serve with the remaining sauce.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dinner on the Fly


So the other day I wanted to try a recipe for Garlic Noodles (which is now my most favorite thing to eat ever), but I wanted to do something meaty for the boys in my house. They both (son and husband) love anything Asian.  Since the noodles are Vietnamese inspired, I thought I'd throw together a quick Teriyaki Chicken.  I did a little recipe research, and I found that making teriyaki sauce from scratch isn't hard at all. The chicken has a light dusting of cornstarch, a quick fry in peanut oil, and then gets dipped in this very yummy sauce. While three of us in the house only got a few pieces each of this, my son happily devoured every last bit of chicken. Quick, easy, and darn tasty!

TERIYAKI CHICKEN
3 large bonless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
About 1 C cornstarch
Peanut oil, for frying

FOR THE SAUCE:
2 T cornstarch
1/2 C soy sauce
1/4 C water
2 T rice wine vinegar
1 C brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons grated ginger

GARNISH:
Sesame seeds
Sliced green onions

For the sauce, put all of the ingredients into a small pot and whisk.  Cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from the heat.

Put the chicken pieces into a large zipper bag.  Pour in about 1 C cornstarch.  Close the bag and shake to coat the chicken.  Preheat some peanut oil in a large skillet.  Fry the chicken in batches for about 5 minutes per batch or until the chicken is done through.  Drain them on a paper towel.  Put the chicken into a large bowl and pour the sauce over the chicken.  Gently stir to coat.  Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions, if desired.

Garlic Noodles


If you are a garlic fan, then you will LOVE these Garlic Noodles.  They are out of this world!  These were made popular by the Crustacean Restaurant in California.  And I can absolutely see why.  The sauce on these noodles is so good that I would have drank it if my husband weren't in the kitchen with me.  This recipe calls for something called Maggi Seasoning sauce, which may be hard for you to find.  I found it in a specialty food store called Specs.  You can substitute Bragg's Liquid Aminos for the Maggi if you can find that.  If not, you can substitute soy sauce for the Maggi.  But, if you can find the Maggi, it's well worth the search.  Enjoy!

GARLIC NOODLES
1 lb noodles (I used fusili lunghi, but any long noodles will do, even spaghetti)
1 stick butter
1 T shredded Parmesan cheese
3 T fresh minced garlic
1 T Maggi Seasoning sauce
1 T oyster sauce
1 T fish sauce
Sliced green onions, if desired

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pot over medium heat.  Add in the garlic, Maggi, oyster sauce, and fish sauce.  Bring to a simmer and simmer for about 5 minutes, watching to make sure the garlic doesn't burn.  Drain the noodles and stir the sauce and the Parmesan cheese into the noodles.  Garnish with green onions, if desired.

As adapted from Rasa Malaysia

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Nothing Beats a Pork Chop!


It's no secret that I love bacon.  I could eat bacon with my bacon.  And a side of bacon.  But I also love a good pork chop, a thick cut, juicy, flavorful pork chop.  We usually grill pork chops, but I wanted to try something different.  A Roasted Garlic Parmesan Pork Chop.

My husband is a big fan of brines.  What is a brine, you ask? A brine is a salty water solution used for soaking meats in for awhile to make them become very juicy.  It also eliminates a need for a lot of salt or other seasonings on the meat.  He brines whole turkeys for like two days, and it is truly the juiciest, moistest turkey I've ever had.  So, when I suggested making these pork chops, he wanted to brine them first. 

Now to cook these beatifully brined chops.  We didn't feel like grilling, so I wanted to sear them in a pan and then finish them off in the oven.  And you can add as much or as little cheese as you want.  As you can see in the picture, I went completely overboard with the cheese.  But that's the way I like it.  They were spectacular!  The combination of roasted garlic smeared on the top of the chops with some Parmesan cheese was really awesome. And darn tasty!

ROASTED GARLIC PARMESAN PORK CHOPS
4 very thick bone-in center cut pork chops
2 C apple cider vinegar
1/2 C salt
1/2 C brown sugar
1 T black pepper
1 T mustard powder
4 C ice
1 whole bulb garlic
Olive oil
Shredded Parmesan cheese (a lot or a little, up to you)
1 stick butter

In a pot, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, salt, brown sugar, black pepper, and mustard powder.  Bring this mixture to a boil.  Remove from the heat and add in the ice to cool. When the ice is melted, soak the pork chops in the brine for about two hours.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the top of the whole bulb of garlic off.  Place it on a piece of foil and drizzle the exposed garlic with olive oil.  Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper over the top.  Wrap the foil up and roast for about 30-40 minutes or until the garlic cloves are tender.  Let cool.  When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic cloves out of the skins and place in a small bowl.  Mash them with a fork.  Set aside.

Melt the stick of butter over high heat in a large skillet.  Pat the chops dry with a paper towel.  Sear the chops in the butter for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until well browned.  Put them on a sheet pan.  Bake them at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Turn the chops over and spread 1/4 of the mashed garlic over the tops of each chop. Sprinkle on your desired amount of shredded Parmesan cheese and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the chops are at 145 degrees internally.  Remove them from the oven and cover them with foil.  Let them rest about 3-5 minutes. 

English Roast Potatoes


Here's a new twist on what can be boring old potatoes as a side dish.  These are called English Roast Potatoes. Partially boiled potatoes are then cooked and sort of fried in the oven in bacon grease.  They are divine!

ENGLISH ROAST POTATOES
2 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 C (or more) chicken stock
3/4 C bacon grease
Salt & pepper, to taste

Put the potatoes in a pot and cover them with chicken stock. Bring them to a boil.  After they are at a full boil, cook an additional 3-5 minutes.  Drain them completely.  While they are still in the collander or strainer, shake them around to rough up the edges.  

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Melt the bacon grease (you can use butter or lard also) in a large casserole pan. Toss the potatoes around in the bacon grease and season with salt and pepper.  Roast at 15 minute intervals, turning them every 15 minutes.  Cook them until the outsides are golden brown and crispy, which can take 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Serve hot!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Double Crunch Delicious


Y'all know I'm a fan of Pinterest.  I get a lot of inspiration there.  Recently I came across a recipe for Double Crunch Honey Garlic Chicken over at Rock Recipes.  It seems it is their most popular recipe.  I had to try it!  But I had to make a few changes to make this recipe work for me.

First off, they use an egg wash to dip their chicken in before battering.  Well, being from the South, we always dip chicken in buttermilk before frying, sometimes even soaking it for a while in the buttermilk first.  So that was the first change.  The second change I made was the glaze.  I followed the directions for their honey/soy/garlic glaze, but something strange happened.  I made the glaze as directed, but as it cooled slightly while it waited on the chicken to fry, it turned almost a candy-like solid.  So I had to redo the glaze and added water to thin it out and cooked it way less time.  I also didn't use some of the seasonings they suggested since, for me, ginger and nutmeg with sage just don't go together. 

The result?  My son ate the majority of four whole chicken breasts!  It was pretty darn tasty.  I hope you enjoy my version!

DOUBLE CRUNCH HONEY GARLIC CHICKEN TENDERS
As adapted from Rock Recipes
FOR THE CHICKEN:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
2 1/2 C flour
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
Black pepper
Garlic powder
About 1 C buttermilk
Peanut oil, for frying

FOR THE GLAZE:
4 cloves garlic, minced
12-ounce jar of honey
1/4 C soy sauce
Red chili flake, to taste
1/2 C water

For the chicken, mix together the flour, some seasoned salt, black pepper, and some garlic powder.  Preheat some peanut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Pour about 1 C of buttermilk into a bowl.  Dip the chicken strips into the buttermilk, into the flour mixture, back into the buttermilk, and back into the flour mixture.  Fry the chicken in batches until crispy and golden brown and done through.  Keep them warm on a sheet pan in a 200 degree oven until they are all fried.

Meanwhile, put all of the glaze ingredients into a small pot and bring to a rolling boil.  Cook for about 5 minutes longer to thicken.  When the chicken is done, place the chicken in a bowl and pour the glaze over and stir or shake to coat.

Layered Salad


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, like my Green Goddess (see below)
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.



Parisien herb blend is a mixture of tarragon, dried chives, chervil, dill weed and basil.  Any green dried herb mixture will work here.

GREEN GODDESS DRESSING
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 C green onions, rough chopped
1 avocado
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons anchovy paste (optional)
1/2 C mayonnaise
1/4 C Italian parsley
1 heaping teaspoon Parisien blend herbs (see note above)

For the dressing, add all ingredients into a blender and process until smooth.  Chill until ready to use.



Sunday, June 15, 2014

Crazy Concoctions


Rememer the easy Carnitas recipe I posted the other day? And you're wondering what to do with the leftovers.  Here is your answer, my friends.  A Cubano Sandwich.  It's a delicious grilled sandwich filled with Carnitas, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles.  May sound like a weird combination, but you're going to love it.  Just give it a try!  I used a panini press for my sandwiches, but you can just wrap a brick in foil and press your sandwich on a skillet.  Easy. And darn tasty!

CUBANO SANDWICH
2 C Carnitas (or other shredded pork)
4 Telera bread rolls or Bollilos (or Hoagies will work too)
8 Swiss cheese slices
1 lb sliced deli ham
Mustard
Pickle slices

Split the rolls open.  Spread on some mustard and then lay a slice of Swiss cheese over each half.  Top with 1/4 of the Carnitas, some ham slices, and some pickles slices.  Press and grill in a panini press or press down with a foil-wrapped brick and grill on a skillet.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ridiculously Easy and Amazing Carnitas


Carnitas means "little meats."  It is a large piece of pork roast that is braised and then fried in its own fat.  It's amazing.  The first time I ever tried this recipe, I really had no faith that it would work out.  When cooking a large piece of meat, like a roast, it should cook all day to become tender, like 10 to 12 hours.  But not this recipe.  Somehow, like magic, this recipe is done in two-and-a-half hours.  If you could hit the rewind button right now, you probably would.  There's no way to cook a roast and have it tender in that short of time, right? Wrong.

So here's how the first time I made carnitas went.  I bought the ingredients.  I went home and got my trusty dutch oven out.  I added the seasonings and onions and garlic, covered it with water, set it to boil, and then doubted.  My husband kept telling me to believe in it, which I didn't.  I followed the recipe exactly, and I still kept doubting.  After the first two hours, you're supposed to place the dutch oven, covered, in a 450 degree oven to fry in its own fat.  More doubt.  There's no way this is going to be tender.  30 minutes later......unbelievably tender.  Magic.  And the onions and garlic melt away in this further flavoring this super tender meat.  More magic.  Abracadabra.

Now, I'm no scientist or foodologist (it is too a word), but I know that this recipe works.  The meat is full of flavor and falls apart.  You can leave it in chunks or easily pull it apart with a fork as in the picture above.  Your choice.  I like it best in a corn tortilla with a little fresh squeezed lime, fresh pico de gallo, and a bit of cotija cheese.  And, if you've never heard of carnitas, please try this.  It's so darn tasty and so easy!  I hope you like it.  Yum, Carnitas...

EASY AND AMAZING CARNITAS

One 3-4 lb untrimmed (keep the fat) pork shoulder roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
Juice of two limes
1 onion, chopped
1 whole bulb of garlic, smashed and peeled
4 bay leaves
1/4 C soy sauce
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
2 T bacon grease (or lard or shortening)
2 teaspoons salt

TO SERVE:
Corn tortillas
Fresh squeezed lime juice
Fresh pico de gallo
Crumbled cotija cheese

Put the bacon grease in the bottom of a dutch oven or large heavy pot (ovenproof pot with ovenproof lid).  Put onions and garlic in next.  Add in meat and remaining ingredients, and cover with water 1/2 inch over the top of the meat.  Turn on high and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium high and continue cooking, uncovered, until most of the water is cooked out.

Cover the pot and remove from heat.  Place it in a 450 degree oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until browned and tender.  Remove the bay leaves.

Leave the meat as is or shred with a fork.  Serve it in tortillas with desired toppings.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Seafood Fondue


So I've been trying to recreate the Seafood Fondue from Saltgrass Steakouse for years now.  It always turned out gritty or grainy and the cheese would never melt.  I had a lightbulb moment the other day, and decided that I should make the cheese sauce separate from the seafood and then mix it together.  Voila!  A total hit!  It tastes just like the real deal.  Enjoy!

SEAFOOD FONDUE
1 shallot, chopped
12 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 lb crawfish tails
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/4 C white wine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T butter
Olive oil
1/4 C flour
1/4 C butter
2 C heavy cream
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for the top
1 C shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Garlic toast, for serving

In a large skillet, over medium hight heat melt the 2 T butter and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the shallots and mushrooms until tender.  Add in the wine and deglaze the pan, about 1-2 minutes.  Add in the garlic, crawfish tails and the shrimp and cook for a few minutes or until the shrimp are done through.  

Meanwhile, melt the 1/4 C butter in a pot.  Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute.  Quickly whisk in the heavy cream.  Either on very low heat or with the heat turned off, whisk in the Parmesan cheese and Monterey Jack cheese in small handfuls at a time, whisking to completely combine and melt the cheese.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Stir the cheese sauce into the seafood mixture.  Pour this into an ovenproof casserole, like a pie plate or an 8 x 8 casserole.  Sprinkle some additional Parmesan cheese over the top.  Put this in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes to heat though and slightly brown the Parmesan cheese on top.  Serve with garlic toast strips or crackers.

Caramelized Onion & Bacon Dip


Talk about a flavor punch!  This Caramelized Onion & Bacon Dip is the bomb!  It was easy and fantastic!

CARAMELIZED ONION & BACON DIP
1 onion, chopped
3 T butter
Pinch sugar
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese (plus more for the top)
1 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pretzel chips, bagel chips, or your favorite crackers

Melt the butter in a skillet or pot that has a lid over medium heat.  Add in the pinch of sugar and onions and cover.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn the heat up slightly and remove the lid.  Continue cooking and stirring the onions until they are well browned, another 5-10 minutes. During the last 30 seconds, add in the minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste and cook quickly.  Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Stir together the softened cream cheese, the bacon, the onions, the Parmesan, salt & pepper to taste, and the Pepper Jack cheese.  Spread this mixture into a small baking dish.  Sprinkle more Parmesan on top, if desired.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes to heat through and slightly brown the Parmesan on top.  Serve with crackers.

NOTE:  Be careful when seasoning this with salt.  The bacon and the cheeses are salty, so you may not even need any salt.  Taste along the way.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mom's Night Off


So one night last week, I had the good fortune (that's questionable) of having the night off.  Both kids were away for the night, and my husband was out of town.  I say that's questionable because, although many moms will think I'm a nut job for saying this, but I really hate being alone.  It's not that I can't entertain myself.  I just really enjoy having my family around me and don't really like silence.  We are a busy and really REALLY loud family, and a silent house just doesn't feel right to me.

Anywho, I thought I'd make the best of my night off and make something for me.  A salad.  Oh, but what kind of salad.  I foraged around the kitchen and found a few tasty items that would be great in a salad.  But what kind of dressing...long pause.  Then it hit me.  Green Goddess dressing.  This was a wildly popular dressing in the '70s (yes, I was a kid in the '70s.  I'm not ashamed of my age).  So I researched it and added a few things.  This was the best darn salad I think I've ever made!  The dressing was spectacular!  The dressing calls for a whopping teaspoon of a dried herb blend called Parisien.  If you can't find that, the herbs in it are tarragon, chervil, dried chives, dill weed, and basil.  I would suggest using 1/4 teaspoon or so of each or substitute it with a similar herb blend mix.

So my night off ended pretty well.  And I turned the TV up really loud to drown out the silence.  So, if you have a Mom's Night Off, try this Green Goddess Chopped Salad.  You'll thank yourself later.



GREEN GODDESS CHOPPED SALAD
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 head leaf lettuce, chopped
1-2 avocados, diced
1 C frozen corn, thawed
1/2 C cotija cheese (or feta if you can't find cotija)
4 boiled eggs, quartered
3 corn tortillas, cut into strips
Peanut oil
Garlic powder
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's)

FOR THE DRESSING:
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 C green onions, rough chopped
1 avocado
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons anchovy paste (optional)
1/2 C mayonnaise
1/4 C Italian parsley
1 heaping teaspoon Parisien blend herbs (see note above)

This salad actually makes enough for about 4 people, so cut it down if you're feeding less.  For the dressing, add all ingredients into a blender and process until smooth.  Chill until ready to use.

For the salad, fry the corn tortilla strips in the peanut oil for a few minutes until browned.  Drain on a paper towel and season immediately with garlic powder and seasoned salt. Throw together all of the salad ingredients and dress with the Green Goddess dressing.

Not so Top Secret


So I used to love Taco Bell when I was younger.  Way younger.  I actually don't really eat fast food anymore, and I haven't been in a Taco Bell in about 10 years.  But one of the things I used to love from Taco Bell was the Enchirito.  It's like a cross between an enchilada and a burrito.  

Someone once told me that La Victoria enchilada sauce tastes just like the Taco Bell sauce, so I thought I'd try it.  I have been making my own enchilada sauce for years, and I don't really buy many premade sauces or boxed meals, etc. But I bought it and thought I could whip out my own sauce if the canned version turned out terrible.  And you know what? It was pretty darn good!  I was very surprised.  I did make my own homemade refried beans, but I'm sure the canned version would be fine too.  The Enchiritos tasted exactly how I remember the Taco Bell Enchiritos tasted.  It was a huge hit. So, if you're a Taco Bell fan, give this one a shot.

ENCHIRITOS
1 lb ground beef
1 T dried minced onion
1/4 C masa harina (corn flour)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 T garlic powder
1/2 C water
2 C refried beans, heated
6 to 8 10-inch flour tortillas
One 10-ounce can La Victoria red enchilada sauce (or whatever brand is available)
2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
Sliced black olives, if desired

NOTES:  You can just cook the ground beef and then add a packet of taco seasoning for a quicker version.  Also, I have found that the Hatch brand of red enchilada sauce is a really close version too. 

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet.  Drain the grease, if necessary.  Add in the minced onion, masa, salt & pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and water.  Cook and stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed.  Remove from the heat.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spread some beans down the center of a tortilla.  Spread some ground beef over the beans.  Sprinkle some cheese on top of the beef.  Fold the top and bottom ends of the tortilla over the filling.  Then roll the sides over the filling.  Repeat with remaining tortillas. Place them seam side down on a sheet pan.  Generously ladle some sauce over the tops.  Sprinkle some cheese over the top of the sauce and garnish with black olives, if desired. Put the sheet pan in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes to heat through and melt the cheese.

Adapted from Top Secret Recipes

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Simplicty


There is something to be said for dishes that are simple in nature.  Sure, I love things that are a big to-do and have a lot of ingredients and steps.  But sometimes simple dishes pack the most flavor.  Like this Salt & Pepper Shrimp.  I first learned about this dish at a PF Chang's restaurant a long while ago.  Back then, I wasn't as much of a foodie as I am now, and I saw it only as fried shrimp.  But I recently came across the dish again somewhere while perusing the internet. It's a simple lightly battered shrimp with salt and pepper as its only seasoning.  Then it gets tossed in a bit of a homemade chili oil.  And it's divine.  The shrimp stands on its own here. The salt and pepper are a perfect accompaniment, and the little bit of chili gives it a slight kick. Perfect for date night!

SALT & PEPPER SHRIMP
12 ounces jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
1/2 C flour
1/4 C cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1/2 C water
1 T vegetable oil
2 green onions, sliced
1 jalapeno, sliced
1 red serrano or red chili pepper, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying

Put the shrimp in a bowl and generously salt them.  Cover them with water and soak them for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator.  Then take them out and dry them on a towel.

Drizzle some vegetable oil into a small skillet.  Over medium high heat, cook the peppers until tender, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook about 30 seconds more.  Turn off the heat and set it aside.

Mix together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, egg, water, and the 1 T vegetable oil and season well with salt and pepper.  Preheat some vegetable oil in a large skillet.  Toss the shrimp into the batter mixture.  Fry the shrimp until brown and done through.  Drain them on a paper towel.  When they are all fried, add them to the skillet with the chilies and garlic. Turn the heat on and toss the shrimp around for about 30 seconds in the chilies.  Remove from heat.  Serve with the green onions as a garnish.

Happy Family


As a woman, I feel the struggles and the challenges of being a wife and a mother.  I know the struggles of holding down a full-time, six-days-a-week job and running my blog. Sometimes I feel like a referee, a teacher, a coach, a disciplinarian, a maid, and a downright crazy woman.  But I also know the joys of being a woman.  I married the most amazing man who is perfect for me.  I had the privilege of giving birth to two pretty wonderful kids who I'm very proud of. I am lucky to have a job that I love.  And I have my blog which has brought me many new friends whom I have come to cherish.  

So, while I may be tired at the end of a long day, it's the kind of tired that makes me feel like I accomplished something.  I have accomplished a happy family.  We really are a happy bunch.  The four of us can act silly and have a good time. We learn and grow together.  We share great food and enjoy each other's company.  I feel like a pretty darn lucky woman.

And what better meal to give to my happy family than a dish called Happy Family!  I find it a struggle to find good Chinese takeout where I live, so I just make it myself.  This is one of my favorite Chinese dishes, and it turned out really good. Another name for it is Triple Delight, since it has beef, chicken, and shrimp.  And lots of veggies.  I hope you and your happy family enjoys it too.

HAPPY FAMILY
1/2 lb beef, sliced into thin strips (like a skirt steak, flank, or small roast)
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
12 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
One 8-ounce can baby corn
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
4 green onions, sliced
1 head of bok choy cabbage, chopped, just use the green parts (Napa will work too)
One small can water chestnuts, drained
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 C fresh broccoli florets

FOR THE SAUCE:
1 T Hoisin sauce
1/4 C soy sauce
2 T cornstarch
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T chili paste (optional)
1 T fish sauce (optional)
1/2 C chicken stock
A few drops sesame oil
A few drops oyster sauce (optional)

Whisk the sauce ingredients together and set aside.  

In a large skillet or dutch oven, drizzle in some oil and heat to medium high heat.  Add in the bell pepper, baby corn, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and green onions.  Cook until the bell peppers are almost tender.  Next add in the chicken and cook until it's done through.  Add in the beef and cook for about 3-4 minutes.  Add in the sauce, the bok choy, the broccoli, and the shrimp.  Cook until the sauce is thickened and the shrimp is done.  Serve with rice, if desired.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Garden Bread Spirals


Wow!  Just wow!  When I set out to make this bread, it was originally supposed to be monkey bread.  But there was so much I wanted to put into it, and I was worried about how to get all this goodness around dough balls.  So then it hit me.  I should roll it out and fill the bread up.  Spinach, sundried tomatoes, bacon, cheese...total yuminess!  I took the leftovers to work and a fight practically broke out over them. And, yes, this is a yeast dough.  Don't be afraid.  It's a lot easier than you think.  If you're really skeptical, try using a pizza dough in the can or even go to a small pizza place and ask to buy one.  You won't be dissapointed in this recipe!

GARDEN BREAD SPIRALS
1 packet highly active yeast
1 1/4 C warm water, about 110 to 115 degrees
2 T olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 packet onion soup mix
3 to 3 1/2 C flour
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 C shredded cheese, any flavor (I used Monterey Jack)
1/4 C green onion, sliced
1/4 C sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained & chopped
1/2 C frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2-3 T chopped jalapeno slices (the kind from a jar)
1/4 C red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 C butter, melted

Mix the yeast with the sugar and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Let sit about five minutes or until frothy.  Add in the flour, olive oil, salt, and onion soup mix.  Knead with the dough hook until the dough becomes a ball. Only add in the extra flour if your dough is sticky.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for an hour.

After the first hour, roll the dough out on a floured board to about an 18 x 14 inch rectangle.  Spread the cheese, sundried tomatoes, jalapenos, spinach, bacon, red bell pepper, and green onions all over the surface of the dough. Roll the dough into a long log.  With a serrated knife, carefully cut the log into about 10 sections.  Place them on a sheet pan, not touching, and cover and let rise for about 20-30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  When the spirals have risen, put them in the oven and cook about 25-30 minutes or until done.  During the last five minutes, brush the melted butter over the tops to help brown.  Serve warm.