Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Darling Dumplings


Have you ever heard of Pierogies?  They are Polish dumplings that are usually filled with mashed potatoes or sauerkraut and boiled and then browned in butter.  While my Pierogies above aren't the best looking, I can assure you that they are the best tasting.  My son ate 6 (and they were big) at one time and finished off all the leftovers the next day (you will get about 20-25 Pierogies, depending on what you cut the dough out with).  These are pretty easy.  There is a little rolling with a rolling pin involved, but it still didn't take that long to fill and cook.  Enjoy!

PIEROGIES
FOR THE DOUGH:
3 eggs
1 C sour cream
3 1/2 C flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 T baking powder

FOR THE FILLING:
2 C cooked mashed potatoes (I peeled and boiled about 6 small potatoes)
2 T butter
2 teaspoons dried minced onions
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons garlic powder

FOR THE SAUCE:
12 ounces bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 C shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T butter
Olive oil
1/4 C flour
3 C half & half
1/4 C white wine
1 1/2 C fresh spinach
(You will need additional butter for browning the Pierogies)


Prepare the filling first.  I peeled and diced about 6 small potatoes until tender.  After draining, I mashed them smooth with the butter, minced onions, garlic powder and salt & pepper.  Let it cool to room temperature.

For the dough, mix all of the dough ingredients together in a mixer or in a food processor.  The dough shouldn't be sticky, so add a little flour if necessary.  On a floured board, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness.  Using a 3-inch glass or cookie cutter, cut out circles in the dough.  The scraps can be gathered back up and rolled out again.  Put about 1 1/2 T of the potato filling in the center of each dough circle.  Fold them over into a half moon and use a fork to seal the edges down. Lay them in a single layer until ready to boil.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add in some salt.  Boil the Pierogies in batches for about 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally, until they float.  Remove them from the pot and continue boiling the rest. 

While boiling the Pierogies, in a large skillet over medium high heat, melt the butter for the sauce and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the mushrooms until tender and browned. Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook until most of the liquid is cooked out.  Whisk in the flour.  Add in the half & half and the garlic.  Cook and whisk until thickened.  Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted.  Add in the Monterey Jack cheese and remove from the heat.  Stir until the cheese is melted and then add in the cooked bacon.

Melt about 3 T butter in another skillet over medium high heat.  Brown the Pierogies on each side in batches.  Serve the Pierogies with the sauce.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Getting Fresh



Sometimes it's good to get a little fresh with our food.  Get your mind out of the gutter.  I mean fresh ingredients!  Like this Pico Chicken.  This healthy dish is baked chicken, Monterey Jack cheese, and fresh pico de gallo.  The only "bad stuff" here comes from a little fat in the Monterey Jack cheese and in the Cotija cheese.  But what's a little cheese in such a healthy dish!  And this pico de gallo is great on anything, like tacos, eggs, or even with chips.  You should try this quick and healthy dinner tonight!  I know you're hungry...

PICO CHICKEN
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices Monterey Jack cheese
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
Garlic powder
Black pepper
About 2 C chopped Roma tomatoes
1-2 serrano (or jalapeno) peppers, chopped (leave in the seeds if you like it hot)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 C finely chopped red onion
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juiced
Salt & pepper, to taste
Crumbled Cotija cheese, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Season the chicken on both sides with the seasoned salt, some garlic powder, and black pepper.  Place them on a sheet pan and bake for around 16 minutes.  

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, serranos, onion, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice and season with salt and pepper.  Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

Flip the chicken pieces over and cook an additional 14-16 minutes, depending on how thick they are.  You can use a meat thermometer to check their doneness.  They should be at 165 degrees in the thickest part.  During the last five minutes or so of cooking, place a slice of Monterey Jack cheese over each chicken breasts to melt and slightly brown. Serve the chicken with pico de gallo over it and some Cotija cheese, if desired.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Ultimate Meatball


So I set out last week to create an ultimate meatball, one that's tender and moist, full of flavor, and easy to make.  I did some research on lots of different recipes for meatballs, and I think I hit the nail on the head with this one.  These are my Ultimate Stuffed Meatballs.  They are browned in a skillet and then simmered in homemade Marinara Sauce.  

Now, I know I have urged you to make your own Marinara Sauce before, but I'm going to politely request again that you try it at least once.  My recipe makes a big batch.  It's easy to do with a little chopping.  You throw it all into a pot, let it simmer, and you have a ginormous batch ready to freeze in smaller portions.  When you want Marinara Sauce, just pull a container out of the freezer and defrost it.  It tastes great, and you know exactly what goes in it.  I hope you enjoy these meatballs!

ULTIMATE STUFFED MEATBALLS
1 1/2 lb Italian sausage (casings removed if buying links)
1 C ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste
Red chili flakes, to taste
1/4 C Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 to 3/4 C breadcrumbs (Italian flavored or plain will work)
Mozzarella cubes
3 cloves garlic, minced
Peanut oil or vegetable oil
4 C Marinara Sauce

Mix together the sausage, ricotta, egg, Parmesan, salt & pepper, parsley, red chili flakes, garlic and 1/2 C breadcrumbs.  If the mixture seems too wet, add in the additional breadcrumbs.  Grab about a golf ball size amount of meat and wrap it around a Mozzarella cube, being sure to seal in the cheese.  You will get about 15-20 meatballs, depending on how big they are.

Preheat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides.  In another large skillet, pour in the Marinara Sauce and add in the meatballs.  Cover and bring to a slight boil.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the meatballs are done through.  Some of the cheese will leak out, but that's okay.  It tastes good in the sauce too.  Serve the meatballs with pasta mixed with butter and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sandwich Perfection


I adore sandwiches.  But not the white bread and bologna sandwiches.  I want a big, beautiful, fancy sandwich.  Like this Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich.  This one has chicken that tastes like Chick Fil A chicken.  It has Muenster cheese, ham, honey mustard sauce, and pickles.  Sure, the pickles can be optional.  But the chicken is marinated in pickle juice, so it's only fitting to add pickle slices.  No, the chicken doesn't taste like pickles.  It kind of acts as a tenderizer.  I think this sandwich is perfection.

CHICKEN CORDON BLEU SANDWICH
FOR THE CHICKEN:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 C pickle juice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
Peanut oil, for frying

FOR THE DREDGE:
1 egg
1/2 C milk
3/4 C flour
1/4 C whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 T powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 teaspoons seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 T malted milk powder
1 teaspoon mustard powder

FOR THE HONEY MUSTARD:
2 T yellow mustard
2 T honey
1/2 C mayonnaise
A pinch of black pepper

FOR THE SANDWICH:
6 Muenster cheese slices (or your favorite cheese)
Pickle slices
6 slices ham
6 sandwich buns
Leaf lettuce

Butterfly the chicken breasts all the way through to have six thin chicken breasts.  Place them in a zipper bag and add in the pickle juice, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, and 1 teaspoon seasoned salt.  Squish the bag around to mix and coat the chicken.  Marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Whisk the honey mustard ingredients together and put in the fridge until ready to use.  Mix together the egg and milk for the dredge.  Whisk together the remaining dredge ingredients in a separate bowl.

Preheat some peanut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Dip the chicken in the egg/milk mixture and then into the dry dredge mixture coating both sides.  Shake off any excess.  Fry for about 4-6 minutes on each side or until the chicken is done through.  Place them on a sheet pan and place a slice of ham and a slice of cheese over each piece of chicken.

Preheat the broiler.  Slice the buns.  You can butter the buns and toast them if you'd like.  Put the sheet pan with the chicken on it in the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and ham is warm.  Serve the chicken on the buns with the leaf lettuce, pickle slices, and honey mustard.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Buffalo Ranch Potato Salad


If you're looking for a new twist on potato salad, this Buffalo Ranch Potato Salad is the bomb!  Seriously good!  I probably used a full cup of buffalo sauce, but you can start with 1/4 C and adjust from there.

BUFFALO RANCH POTATO SALAD
2 lbs red potatoes, cubed
1/2 C red onion, chopped
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 packet Ranch dip mix
1/4 C (or more to taste) buffalo wing sauce (I like Frank's)
1 C shredded Cheddar or Pepper Jack cheese
1 C mayonnaise
1 C sour cream
4 boiled eggs, chopped

Boil the potatoes until tender and drain.  Mix together the Ranch, mayo, sour cream, and buffalo sauce (add more if you want it spicier) with a whisk. Combine the sauce with the potatoes and remaining ingredients and chill.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

OTB


One of my husband's favorite restaurants is On the Border, which my husband calls OTB.  This recipe is a copycat version of their Ranchiladas.

Now, this is a dish that you can really be creative with the skirt steak.  I'm not sure what marinade or seasonings OTB uses on their steak.  I know a lot of restaurant marinades use soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce.  You could go that direction, or you could even just use salt and pepper and keep it simple.  But I chose a different route.  

For years, my husband and I have gone to a store called Michoacana for what they call Fajita Marinada, which is their seasoned skirt steak for fajitas.  Now, Michoacana is not a place for the squeamish.  They aren't the nicest looking stores around.  But their meat quality is good and you can find all sorts of Mexican style foods there that you can't get elsewhere.  

My friend from work, Lupe, told me about a seasoning that acts as a tenderizer that she said was the same thing that Michoacana uses.  She brought me a bottle of it and told me to season the skirt steak well the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight so the meat gets really tender.  And she was right!  The flavor was spot on and the meat was ridiculously tender.  If you have a Michoacana near you, the seasoning/tenderizer is called El Venado Fajita Sazon Rojo. Their website says they supply to Michoacana grocery stores.  If you can't find this particular brand, that's okay. There are plenty of good fajita seasonings out there.  Or you can go simple with salt and pepper for this dish.  

One other thing about this meat.  I used a different style of cooking method.  You can certainly do this on the grill if you want.  But I seared mine in a cast iron pan in butter.  The charred bits were amazing!  If you like Ranchiladas, you should give this a try.

RANCHILADAS
FOR THE MEAT:
2 lbs skirt steak
Fajita Sazon Rojo (or other fajita seasoning mix)
3 T butter
Olive oil

FOR THE RED SAUCE:
4 dried guajillo chiles
4 New Mexico chiles
1 T garlic powder
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
2 teaspoon beef bouillon
4 C water
1/4 C vegetable oil
1/4 C flour

FOR THE ENCHILADAS:
10-12 corn tortillas
1 1/2 to 2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
Chopped onions (if desired)
1/4 C lard or vegetable oil
1/4 C flour
2 C chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 T cumin
2 T chili powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano

FOR SERVING:
Refried beans
Mexican rice
Sour cream
Guacamole
Pico de gallo

Liberally season the skirt steak on both sides with the fajita seasoning.  Cover and place in the fridge for about 24 hours.

For the red sauce for the skirt steak, remove the stems and seeds of the dried chiles and put them in a pot with about 4 C water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until they are soft.  Reserve 3 C of the liquid from the chiles.  Place the chiles and 1 C of the cooking liquid along with the garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin into a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Put the vegetable oil and flour into a large skillet over medium high heat.  Whisk until smooth.  Stir the beef bouillon into the remaining 2 C cooking liquid.  Whisk the liquid into the flour.  Whisk in the chile mixture and cook until thickened and bubbly.  Set aside and keep warm.

For the enchiladas, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Soften the tortillas in a damp towel in the microwave.  Place some cheese down the center of each tortilla.  (Add some chopped onions to them if you'd like.)  Roll them up and place them seam side down in a casserole pan.  Melt the lard in a skillet and whisk in the flour until smooth.  Whisk in the chicken stock, black pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, and oregano.  Cook until bubbly and thickened.  Pour this mixture all over the top of the enchiladas.  Sprinkle additional cheese over the top.  Bake them for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted all the way through.

For the skirt steak, going with the grain of the meat, cut the skirt steak into about 2-inch steaks.  Melt the butter over high heat in a large cast iron skillet (or any skillet) and drizzle in some  olive oil.  You want this screaming hot so the steaks will sear.  (Be careful.  The steaks will spatter.)  Cook the steaks in the butter until your desired doneness.  Let the steaks rest about 10 minutes and then slice against the grain. Pour the red sauce over the sliced steaks.  Serve with the enchiladas, refried beans, rice, and garnish with guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gallo.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bundles of Joy


So the stork visited me yesterday and brought me a beautiful bundle of joy.  My family was so excited about the arrival. Everyone was busy prepping for this big day.  The house was cleaned.  Laundry was done.  And the table was set.  We were all prepared to eat our bundle of joy!  Ha ha, no, not a baby.  A Chicken Wellington!  All swaddled up in a delicate puff pastry.  

I've tried my hand at Chicken Wellington in the past, and it was a big failure.  I didn't cook them long enough, and the pastry on the bottom was still raw.  The filling was boring with a capital B.  But I wanted to try again, and I'm so glad I did. These Chicken Wellingtons have a sauteed onion and mushroom mixture, a very tasty cream cheese layer, and perfectly cooked chicken.  And my most favorite part of this dish was the amazing creamy mustard sauce I made to serve with it.  I could eat this mustard sauce on anything, sandwiches, eggs, you name it.  If you're a mustard fan, you're going to love this sauce.  And you're for sure going to love these bundles of joy!

CHICKEN WELLINGTONS
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
Garlic powder
Black pepper
3 T butter
Olive oil
1 puff pastry sheet
8 ounces cream cheese, very soft
1 packet Italian dressing mix (I like Good Seasons Zesty Italian)
One 8-ounce package mushrooms, chopped
1/4 C chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 C white wine
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T spicy brown mustard
1/2 C half & half
1/2 C chicken stock
1 T flour
Additional melted butter for brushing the tops

Melt the 3 T butter in a large skillet and drizzle in some olive oil over medium high heat.  Season the chicken breasts on both sides with some seasoned salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.  Sear the chicken breasts in the butter for about 4 minutes per side.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, cook the mushrooms, onion, and garlic until tender.  (Drizzle in a little more olive oil if necessary.) Remove them from the pan and set aside.  (Save the pan to make the mustard sauce in.)  Mix the softened cream cheese together with the packet of Italian dressing mix.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out the puff pastry to roughly about a 14-inch square.  Cut it into four equal pieces. Spread 1/4 of the cream cheese mixture down the center of each piece of pastry.  Spoon on 1/4 of the mushroom mixture on top of the cream cheese.  Lay one chicken breast over each pastry.  Fold the ends and sides up over the pastry and seal it shut.  Place them seam side down on a sheet pan. Bake them for 25-30 minutes or until they are well browned and the chicken inside is at 165 degrees.  Brush on some melted butter during the last five minutes to help with the browning.

In the same pan, pour in the white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits.  Whisk in the 1 T flour.  Add in the chicken stock and whisk to combine.  Add in the Dijon and spicy brown mustard and the cream.  Cook and whisk until bubbly.  Serve the mustard sauce with the Wellingtons.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dim Sum Party


Dim Sum is a Chinese term for food that is served in small bites.  There are usually steamed and fried things served in baskets or small plates.  Here are a few suggestions for your own Dim Sum party.  Enjoy!



These are Asian stuffed mushrooms.  They are delicious! Find the recipe here.



Sui Mai Dumplings are a type of open-faced dumpling. These are filled with a savory ground pork filling and shrimp. This recipe is here.



These Chinese Spareribs taste just as good as the ones you get at a good Chinese buffet.  My recipe is found here.



This is a new favorite Asian treat of mine.  I've never made bread so soft before.  These Steamed BBQ Pork Buns will be a hit at your next Dim Sum party.  Find the recipe here.

Asian Stuffed Mushrooms



These Asian Stuffed Mushrooms are little delightful jewels! Easy to make and so very good!

ASIAN STUFFED MUSHROOMS
16 ounces whole mushrooms
1/2 lb ground pork
2 T chopped water chestnuts
1/4 C soy sauce
1 green onion, chopped
1 egg
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
Sesame oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Scoop the stems and gills out of the mushrooms.  Mix together all of the remaining ingredients (not the sesame oil).  Stuff the mushrooms with the filling.  You can overstuff them and have a lot of filling on top (see the picture).  Place them in a casserole pan and drizzle a little sesame oil over each mushroom.  Cook for about 25-30 minutes or until the filling is cooked through.

Sui Mai Dumplings


Sui Mai Dumplings are an Asian type of dumpling that is sort of open faced.  This is my interpretation of Sui Mai with a ground pork filling and a whole shrimp.  These were so darn tasty and not too hard either!  You do need a steamer basket for these, but they are pretty cheap.

SUI MAI DUMPLINGS
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 green onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 lb ground pork
1 T oyster sauce
1 teaspoon red wine
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 T soy sauce
One small can water chestnuts, chopped
1/2 C Panko breadcrumbs
About 18 wontons

Mix together the green onion, ginger, pork, oyster sauce, red wine, sesame oil, soy sauce, water chestnuts, and Panko. Take a wonton and put about 1 T of the filling into the center. Push a shrimp down into the filling.  Gather up the sides of the wonton around the filling, leaving the top open.  Place the wontons in a greased mini muffin tin.  Refrigerate until slightly firm and ready to steam.

Line the steamer basket with parchment paper.  Place the wontons in the baskets, being careful that they don't touch. Steam over a pot of boiling water until the wontons are soft and the filling is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Steamed Pork Buns


These are something I've never eaten before, let alone made before.  These Chinese Steamed Pork Buns are amazing! Not only was the BBQ pork inside tender and delicious, the bread on these steamed buns was the softest bread I've ever made.  Huge hit!  You do need a steamer basket for this, but they are pretty cheap.  Enjoy!

STEAMED PORK BUNS
FOR THE BUNS:
1 packet highly active yeast
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 C warm water, about 110 to 115 degrees
4 1/2 C flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 C warm milk
1 teaspoon salt

FOR THE BBQ PORK:
1 lb pork (like boneless chops), sliced thin or diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T soy sauce
2 T oyster sauce
1 T cornstarch
2 T water
2 T Hoisin sauce
2 T brown sugar
1 teaspoon ginger
Sesame oil
1 green onion, sliced

For the dough, put the sugar, yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and let it sit about five minutes to get frothy or bubbly.  Add in the remaining ingredients and knead until it forms a ball.  Add in the extra 1/4 C water if it doesn't come together well.  Place the dough in a large greased bowl and cover.  Let it rise about an hour.

Meanwhile, for the pork, drizzle a little sesame oil into a wok or nonstick skillet.  Cook the pork for about 5 minutes (or until done) in the sesame oil.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients (not the green onions) and pour into the skillet with the pork.  Let it boil and thicken slightly.  Stir in the green onions and let it cool.

When the dough is ready, pull off approximately golf ball size pieces.  Roll them into balls.  To fill them, flatten them out into a disk.  Place about 1 1/2 T of the BBQ pork in the center. Wrap the disk up around the filling and pinch to close.  Line the steamer basket with pieces of parchment paper.  Place the buns in the baskets, being careful not to put them too close together because they will get bigger as they steam. Steam over a pot of boiling water for about 15-20 minutes or until done.

Chinese Spareribs


Ever go to a Chinese buffet and see things like these Chinese Spareribs there?  Well, these tasted just like those ribs!  And I cooked them in the oven, so it was really easy. Enjoy!

CHINESE SPARERIBS
1 rack spareribs or baby back ribs
1/2 C Hoisin sauce
1/4 C red wine
2 T soy sauce
1/4 C honey
1 teaspoon fennel, ground
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ginger

Put the ribs in a large zipper bag (cut them in half if necessary).  Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour them into the bag.  Close the bag and turn and squeeze the bag around to coat the ribs.  Place them in the fridge for at least 4 hours and up to overnight, turning over occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a large sheet pan with foil.  Place a rack on the foil.  Place the ribs on the rack (don't throw out the marinade) and cover the entire thing with foil.  Cook covered for 1 hour.  Keep the marinade in  the fridge for now.

After 1 hour, turn the oven up to 450 degrees.  Brush some of the marinade on both sides of the ribs and cook for 10 minutes.  Brush them again with the marinade and cook again for about 10 minutes.  After the 10 minutes is up, slice the ribs to make sure they are done.  If they aren't done, brush any remaining marinade on the cut sides of the ribs and cook until they are done.  This last step took my ribs an additional 10 minutes.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Southern Comfort Twist



This crazy concoction is something my husband came up with.  After watching an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives where the restaurant made fried grits covered in chili, this was born.  This is his Fried Grits with Carnitas Chili.  He always does the frying here, and he made these Carnitas too. I've never had Carnitas Chili before then, but I'm glad I tried it because it was fantastic!  If you have a lot of carnitas leftovers, this is a great way to use them up.  Or you can click here for my recipe for Carnitas.  Enjoy!

FRIED GRITS WITH CARNITAS CHILI
FOR THE GRITS:
5 C water
1 1/2 C grits
2 T butter
1 C shredded cheese, your choice (I used Monterey Jack)
Peanut oil (for frying)

FOR THE CHILI:
3 C Carnitas, shredded
One 12-ounce beer (your favorite)
1 onion, chopped
2-3 jalapenos, chopped
1/2 C chili powder
2 T cumin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T paprika
8 C beef stock
3 T masa harina (corn tortilla flour)
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce

For the grits, bring the water to a boil.  Stir in the grits.  Cover and reduce the heat to low and cook until thick and most of the water is absorbed and it is thick.  Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and cheese.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Pour the grits into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Put the pan in the freezer and freeze the grits.

Meanwhile, for the chili, put the beer, onion, jalapenos, chili powder, cumin, garlic, and paprika into a pot.  Bring to a boil and boil a couple of minutes.  Next add in the beef stock, carnitas, and tomato sauce.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  Put the masa harina into a bowl and add in a ladle or two of the liquid from the chili. Whisk until smooth and then add it back into the chili.  Cook until thick.  (You can repeat the masa harina step if you want thicker chili.)

Turn the grits out of the pan onto a cutting board.  Cut them into strips a little bigger than fish sticks.  Preheat the peanut oil in a shallow pan.  Fry the grits on both sides until golden brown.  Serve the chili over the grits.  I garnished mine with Cotija cheese and sliced green onions. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Pico de Gallo


If you've never had Pico de Gallo, it's a fresh little salsa or condiment for any Mexican or Tex-Mex cuisine.  It goes great with chips, on tacos, over eggs, burritos, you name it!  I think it tastes even better the next day when the flavors are more combined.  It's quick and darn tasty!

PICO DE GALLO
About 2 C chopped Roma tomatoes
1-2 serrano (or jalapeno) peppers, chopped (leave in the seeds if you like it hot)
1/2 C finely chopped red onion
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
Salt & pepper, to taste

Mix all of the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Store in the refrigerator.  

Sunday, July 6, 2014

My Apologies to Ricky Bobby


(This is a post intended to be funny.  It's about a fictional character from the movie "Talladega Nights."

Let me start out by saying I am Patriotic.  I love my country and my great State of Texas.  I love football, Nascar, barbecues and fireworks.  I love country music.  I love the song "God Bless the USA."  But...I may have offended someone, and that someone is Ricky Bobby.

Ricky Bobby was the Number 1 Nascar driver.  He was so beloved by Nascar fans all around.  He had a happy life with his wife, kids, and his best friend, Carl.  Everything was going great for Ricky Bobby, until a French Formula One driver named Jean Girard came along and spoiled Ricky Bobby's American dream.  Their feud was hostile.  So hostile, in fact, that Jean Girard broke Ricky Bobby's arm trying to force him to say, "I love crepes."  And there, my friends, is where I owe him the apology.  

I have only eaten crepes once in my life...until now.  I saw some crepes somewhere or other on line, and I wanted to try them.  I made a delicious filling of chicken, broccoli, and mushrooms.  I made a decadent cheese sauce to top the crepes.  And then I made said offensive crepes.  They were really easy to make.  They were quick.  They tasted oh so yummy.  And, at the moment when I tasted the crepes, I said, "oh, how I love crepes."  I know you are all in shock and awe of this revelation.  How could I have said such a thing!  Would Ricky Bobby be angry with me?  Would I be shamed by Carl? Would he tell me, "We're American because you're in America?"  All thoughts I have pondered since I made these said crepes.  

But, in the end, Ricky Bobby did hint at liking crepes.  He just wouldn't admit to loving them.  Maybe he'll come around. Until then, my apologies, Ricky Bobby.

CHICKEN & BROCCOLI CREPES
FOR THE CREPES:
1 C flour
2 eggs
1 C milk
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 T butter, melted
1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs, your choice
Additional cold butter, for the pan

FOR THE FILLING:
Olive oil
2 T butter
2 C cooked, shredded chicken
1 1/2 C broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/4 C finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C white wine
1 C water

FOR THE SAUCE:
1/4 C flour
1/4 C butter
2 C half & half
1 to 1 1/2 C shredded white cheese (I used Monterey Jack)
Pinch nutmeg
Salt & pepper, to taste

Make the cheese sauce first by melting the butter in a small pot and whisking in the flour until smooth.  Whisk in the half and half and let it start to bubble, whisking continuously. When it starts thickening up, turn the heat off.  Whisk in the cheese in small handfuls until smooth after each addition. Add in enough cheese to your desired consistency.  Season with the nutmeg and salt and pepper, if desired.  Set aside.

For the crepes, I used a nonstick wok-like pan with high sides.  Whisk together all of the crepe ingredients.  Rub the cold butter on the sides and bottom of the pan. Heat the pan over medium low heat.  Pour 1/4 C of the crepe batter into the pan, then turn and tilt the pan to spread the filling out thin. Using a thin rubber spatula or scraper, run the spatula around under the edges of the crepe.  After about a minute, you should be able to pick the crepe up and flip it over.  Cook for about another minute.  Butter the sides and bottom of the pan and repeat with remaining crepes.  Place the cooked crepes on a sheet pan lined with wax paper, being careful not to overlap them.  You can spread a second layer of wax paper over the crepes and continue stacking them that way.

For the chicken filling, melt the butter in a large skillet and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the mushrooms and onions until tender.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine.  Add in the chicken, garlic, and the broccoli.  Cook for a few minutes or until the broccoli is desired tenderness.  Add in the water and about 3/4 C of the cheese sauce.  Stir to combine and remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spread about 2 T of the chicken filling down the center of each crepe.  Roll them up and put them seam side down in a 9 x 13 casserole pan. Spread the remaining cheese sauce over the tops of the crepes and bake for about 10 minutes to heat through.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Philly Cheesesteak Sliders


These Philly Cheesesteak Sliders are so good!  With homemade pretzel slider buns and a homemade Cheese Whiz, they are sure to be a hit!

PHILLY CHEESESTEAK SLIDERS
FOR THE PRETZELS:
2 packets highly active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 C warm water, about 110 to 115 degrees
4 to 4 1/2 C flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 T vegetable oil
1/2 C baking soda
Cornmeal
1 egg
Coarse salt

FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE:
6 ounces evaporated milk (about 3/4 cup)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb Velveeta, cubed
1 teaspoon mustard powder

FOR THE SANDWICHES:
1 lb deli roast beef, thin sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
A pinch of sugar
2 T butter
Olive oil

For the pretzel buns, put the yeast, water, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Let it sit about five minutes.  When it looks foamy, add in the flour, salt, and vegetable oil.  Knead until it becomes a ball.  Add in the remaining flour if the dough is sticky.  Cover and let rest one hour.  

After the dough has rested one hour, scrape it out of the bowl.  Pinch off and roll up balls of dough to roughly golf ball size.  You will have about 17 to 20 balls.  Place them on a sheet pan to rise.  Spray a large piece of plastic wrap with nonstick spray and loosely cover the dough balls.  Let them rise another 20 minutes.  

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Bring a large pot of water to boil and add in the baking soda.  Sprinkle the sheet pan with some cornmeal.  Boil the dough balls in batches for about 45 seconds, turning them over in the water halfway. Place the dough on the sheet pan with the cornmeal.  Whisk the egg together with a splash of water.  Brush the tops of each ball with the egg mixture and sprinkle on some coarse salt.  Bake them for about 15 minutes or until well browned and sound hollow when thumped.

Melt the butter in a skillet and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the onion and bell pepper with a pinch of sugar until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

For the cheese sauce, put all of the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in two-minute increments until melted.

Put the roast beef slices into the skillet you cooked the veggies in and cook a couple of minutes to heat through. Slice the pretzel rolls in half and add in some veggies, roast beef, and some cheese sauce.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I Love Bacon (And Thank You, Rachael Ray)


Well, duh.  It's no secret that I love bacon.  It's the first word of the name of my blog.  If they had a Bacon Anonymous, I would probably be forced to attend by my family and coworkers.  At the restaurant where I work, we have lots and lots of bacon available for me to snack on.  And I do...a lot.  A woman I used to work with there would put signs on the bacon that said, "Cindy, keep out!"  But I didn't, and I don't.  

Years ago, when I first started cooking from scratch and not from those awful boxes of premade meals, I started watching Food Network.  I saw people like Rachael Ray cook fast and easy meals from scratch.  I can do that, I thought.  And I watched and I learned and I cooked.  Sure, I cooked before that, but I had to follow a recipe verbatim and couldn't make up my own recipes.  Rachael Ray made it all look so easy. She is also the reason why I cook with and fell in love with garlic and the reason why I now will eat onions.  When I was a kid, I would sit at the table and pick out every single speck of onion in my food.

One of the first things I saw Ms. Ray cook was Pasta All'Amatriciana.  She described it as basically bacon and onion pasta.  I tried it and loved it.  I think I made some every night for a week because it was so good.  At the time, I really wasn't familiar with pancetta (which is Italian bacon that is cured but not smoked), so I used regular bacon, which was darn tasty.  But now I make it with pancetta.  My recipe is equally as speedy as what she cooked, and I have no doubt that it's just as good.  So thank you, Rachael Ray!

PASTA ALL'AMATRICIANA
1 lb pasta, any shape
Olive oil
1/2 lb pancetta, diced (or bacon)
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch sugar
Red chili flakes, to taste
One 8-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
2 T Italian parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon beef bouillon

Cook the pasta according to directions.

Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil in a large skillet and heat to medium high.  Cook the pancetta until crispy and drain on a paper towel.  Cook the onion with the pinch of sugar in the same skillet (add more olive oil if necessary) until tender. Add in the garlic, crushed tomatoes, beef bouillon, and red chili flakes, to taste.  Once it starts bubbling, cover and reduce the heat to medium low.  Once the sauce seems a little thickened, it's ready, about the same time it takes to cook the pasta.  Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.  Stir the pancetta back into the sauce and toss with the pasta. Garnish with the Parmesan cheese and parsley.