Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Afternoon Conversations


My son is quite a character.  He likes to joke around a lot.  I pick him up from school every day, and we have some interesting conversations.  Some days he'll get in the car and only speak in a British accent.  Some days he'll jog laps slowly around the car until I roll down the window and tell him to get in.  One day he repeatedly offered to pay me $1 for every time I made him lemonade so that he wouldn't have to do it.  He even tried to convince me that the profit was so good that I couldn't turn him down.  He still made his own lemonade.  

Yesterday I asked him not to lean on the center console.  He said, "can I put my hand here," which was on the back of my seat.  I said no.  He said, "then where should I put my hands?"  I told him in his lap.  He said, "but I don't want my arms and hands flailing around with nowhere for them to rest."  He cracks me up a lot.

Anywho, I make meals that sometimes he doesn't like or won't eat.  He's not nearly as picky as he used to be, but he still has some maturing of the taste buds to do.  But I made this meal with him in mind, even though I wasn't sure if he would eat the chili.  This is my Chili Dog Casserole with a quick homemade skillet chili.  And he loved it!  Even the chili. My husband and I loved it too, although we only eat hot dogs once or twice a year.  My daughter wouldn't go near it since she won't touch a hot dog.  But I made homemade mac and cheese to go with it, and she loved that.  We all ate good.

CHILI DOG CASSEROLE
10 bun-length hot dogs (I used all beef)
10 flour tortillas
1 lb ground beef
2 C beef broth
1 small onion, chopped
Olive oil
2 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1 T garlic powder
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1-2 T masa harina (corn flour)
1 C shredded Cheddar cheese
One 14-ounce can kidney beans, drained
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  In a large skillet, cook the onion and jalapeno over medium high heat until they are tender.  Add in the ground beef and cook, breaking it up, until it is done.  Sprinkle the masa harina over the meat.  Add in the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, beans, beef broth, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Cook and stir until the chili is thickened and bubbly.  Remove from the heat. 

Pour half of the chili in a 9 x 13 pan.  Roll each hot dog up in a flour tortilla and place them down in the chili.  Cover the hot dogs with the remaining chili.  Sprinkle the cheese all over the top.  Cover the pan with foil and and bake 20-25 minutes or until the edges of the tortillas get slightly crispy and the cheese is melted and the casserole is hot all the way through.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

French Toast Sandwiches


If McDonald's can have their McGriddle sandwich, why can't we have a sweet & savory breakfast sandwich too?  Well, we sure can!  These are French Toast Sandwiches.  And they're a lot better than anything McDonald's has!  Enjoy!

FRENCH TOAST SANDWICHES
FOR THE FRENCH TOAST:
4 eggs
1 C milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
10 1-inch slices French bread
Butter

FOR THE SANDWICH:
5 eggs
Butter
5 slices American cheese
1/2 lb breakfast sausage, cut into 5 patties
Syrup

Cook the sausage patties in a skillet until they are well browned and cooked through.  Keep them warm.

Mix together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon with a whisk.  Melt some butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Dip the bread slices in the egg mixture and place them in the skillet.  Cook them for about 3-5 minutes per side or until they are browned.  Keep them warm.

Fry the eggs in butter until they are done the way you like them.  To assemble the sandwiches, lay a slice of cheese on one piece of toast.  Top with one sausage patty and one fried egg.  Top with a second piece of toast and serve with syrup. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hashbrown Cups


These cheesy Hashbrown Cups with Ranch are so easy to make and so good!

HASHBROWN CUPS
One 26-ounce bag shredded hashbrowns
1 packet Ranch dip mix
1 C shredded cheese (I used Cheddar, but any will work)
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Red chili flakes, to taste
3 T melted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place the hashbrowns in a towel and squeeze out as much water as you can.  Put them in a bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients.  Spray 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.  Fill each cup to the top with the filling.  I only had enough to fill 11 of the cups.  Bake the cups for 30-40 minutes or until the hashbrowns are well browned and fork tender.

I'm Calling it a Gyro


Ever since I learned how to make pita bread recently, I'm kind of obsessed with it.  It's like a miracle bread that STAYS SOFT for more than just the day you make it.  I've made it more than a couple of times.  I have taken the leftover pitas to work, and the girls heat them up and eat them with butter. So good!  

Anyway, my son asks for fried chicken strips at least once a week.  I usually tell him no, but he got me on a good day.  I wanted to make a wrap with his favorite chicken.  So I looked around for some ideas, and I came up with these Baja Chicken Wraps.  I will tell you up front that there are a lot of parts to this wrap, but each part contributes a flavor punch that will make you want to slap your grandma.  Well, don't do that.  If you plan ahead, the Pico de Gallo and the Avocado Jalapeno Ranch can be made the day before.  The pitas can be made a day or two in advance.  I've also given you some shortcuts under the ingredients that will still make a successful wrap.

When my daughter came home and asked what's for dinner, I told her.  She said, "what's that?"  When I said it's chicken, bacon, etc., in a pita, she said, "oh, so it's a gyro."  I said, no, not really, just a wrap in pita bread.  She said, "I'm calling it a gyro!"  We had a good laugh, and then we had a good dinner.  Enjoy!

BAJA CHICKEN WRAPS
FOR THE PITAS:
1 1/4 C warm water, about 110 to 115 degrees
1 packet highly active yeast
2 1/2 to 3 C flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 T olive oil

FOR THE AVOCADO JALAPENO RANCH:
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

FOR THE 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

FOR THE CHICKEN:
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into long strips
1 packet chipotle marinade
1/4 C olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 C water

FOR THE CHICKEN DREDGE:
3 C flour
1 T garlic powder
1 T paprika
1 T onion powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
Seasoned salt, to taste (like Lawry's)
1 quart buttermilk (you won't need it all, just enough to coat the chicken)
Peanut oil, for frying

FOR THE WRAP:
1/2 lb peppered bacon, cut in half, cooked & drained
1 C shredded Cheddar cheese
1 avocado, thin sliced
1 C shredded purple cabbage

NOTES:  This recipe has a lot of parts, so let me give you some shortcuts if you don't want to do all of the parts.  Use store-bought pocketless pita bread if you don't want to make homemade.  You can use jar salsa if you don't want to make the Pico de Gallo.  You can skip the chicken marinade and just use the dredge and fry the chicken, and it will still be very good.  You can use store-bought ranch if you like.  Just throw it in the blender with an avocado and some jalapeno slices and blend.  This wrap can be very easy and still quite tasty with these shortcuts.

For the pitas, put the yeast, warm water and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Let it sit about five minutes to get frothy.  Add in the remaining ingredients and knead with the dough hook until it forms a ball, adding in the extra 1/2 C of flour if the dough is sticky.  Put the dough into a large greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise for about an hour. 

Meanwhile, for the Pico de Gallo, mix all of the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. 

For the Avocado Jalapeno Ranch, mix all of the ingredients together in a blender.  Store in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

For the chicken, put the chicken strips and all of the marinade ingredients together in a large zipper bag. Marinade at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

When the dough has risen, divide the dough into 8 equal balls.  Roll each ball out to about an 8-inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick.  Preheat a cast iron skillet (or other skillet) to medium high heat.  Cook them about 30 seconds on one side until they begin to puff up a lot.  Flip them over and cook another 30-45 seconds on the other side or until you get browned spots.  Flip them back over and cook about 30 more seconds to brown the first side.  Stack them in a tortilla warmer or in a covered dish to keep warm.

Mix all of the dredge ingredients together except the peanut oil and the buttermilk.  Put some buttermilk into a bowl. Preheat the peanut oil over medium high heat in a large skillet.  Dip the chicken first in the buttermilk and then into the dredge mixture.  Fry in batches until the chicken is golden brown and done through.  Keep them warm in a 200 degree oven until all of the chicken strips are fried.

Assemble the wrap by placing some chicken strips down the center of a pita and garnish with the bacon, cabbage, avocado slices, shredded cheese, Pico de Gallo, and Avocado Jalapeno Ranch.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hot Stuff


I cook with a lot of fresh peppers of all kinds...jalapenos, serranos, poblanos, bell peppers, fresno peppers, you name it.  We are Texans, so we're supposed to do that, you know. Everyone in my house likes spicy food, so we eat it a lot.  

There is a very tiny, petite woman that I work with who eats whole raw jalapenos a lot.  She also loves the pickled jalapenos from a jar.  She seriously loves them, the hotter the better.  I told my husband about her eating raw peppers, seeds and all, and he decided that, if she could do it, so could he.  My husband usually sits at the counter on a bar stool when I'm cooking and we talk while I cook.  If I happen to have jalapenos or serranos out on the cutting board, his new habit is to take a bite of one.  Sometimes they are mild, but sometimes I can see from the watering of his eyes that the dang pepper was hot!  Oh, well.  I think it's cute.

Anywho, I made this Spicy One-Pot Chili Mac for him and my son.  Our daughter works after school, so she misses a lot of meals now.  My son loved it, but he had to have a water bottle handy to cool his mouth off.  My husband and I thought it was the right amount of heat.  I used two cans of RoTel and one chipotle in adobo.  But, as I always say, use my recipes as a guideline.  Leave out the heat if you like.  Just replace the RoTel with a chopped tomato, and you're good to go. And it's darn tasty!

ONE-POT SPICY CHILI MAC
1 lb ground beef
2 cans RoTel
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 chipotle in adobo, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 C macaroni noodles
3 C chicken stock
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 1/2 to 2 C shredded Cheddar cheese (I used Jalapeno Cheddar)

Drizzle some olive oil in a large skillet and heat it to medium high heat.  Cook the onion until it is tender.  Add in the ground beef and brown it.  Drain the grease, if necessary. Add in the remaining ingredients except the cheese and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat slightly and cook, stirring occasionally, until the macaroni noodles are done.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until it's melted. 

As adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cousins


Do you like Sloppy Joe's?  When I was growing up, we ate a lot of Manwich, you know, that Sloppy Joe sauce in a can.  It was an easy meal, and it made a pound of hamburger meat stretch a little farther.  Back then I thought it was good, and my mother thought it was economical.  Now I really don't eat things like that out of a can, and I try to do as much as I can from scratch.

There is a legend behind the Sloppy Joe and its creation. The State of Iowa is kind of known for their "loose meat" sandwiches, which is sort of like a burger except the meat isn't shaped into a patty.  Supposedly, in 1930, a cook named Joe in a restaurant in Sioux City, Iowa, developed these sandwiches by adding tomato sauce to it, hence the name "Sloppy Joe."  There is also a restaurant in Key West called Sloppy Joe's that claims the fame to the sandwich.  

So what if Joe had a Tex-Mex cousin that wanted a sandwich like a Sloppy Joe but with more Tex-Mex flavors?  What if his cousin was named Jose, which means Joseph in English and is shortened to Joe?  See where I'm going with this?  Sloppy Joses.

These sandwiches are easy to make and have fantastic Tex-Mex flavors and a little heat.  I used beer in mine, Corona, but you can skip that part.  I also used a lot of spicy elements, but feel free to leave those out too.  I took the leftovers to work and everyone there loved them as well. Enjoy!

SLOPPY JOSES
FOR THE MEAT:
1 lb ground beef
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1 serrano pepper, chopped
1 chipotle in adobo, chopped
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 onion, chopped
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 T masa harina (corn flour)
3/4 C beer
1 T soy sauce
2 teaspoons lime juice

FOR THE GARNISHES:
Sliced jalapenos
Crumbled Cotija cheese
Pico de Gallo (click for my recipe)
Sandwich buns

Drizzle a little olive oil into a skillet and cook the onions over medium high heat until tender.  Add in the ground beef and cook and brown until the meat is done.  Drain the meat, if necessary.  Add in the beer and let it cook off a little bit.  Add in the remaining ingredients and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Turn the heat down and simmer covered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve the sandwiches on buns with sliced jalapenos, Cotija cheese, and Pico de Gallo.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Borrowing Styles


I haven't always been a fan of Ramen, so I haven't really done a lot with it.  My husband and son both love it.  We have even gone to the Asian market to get authentic Ramen for them.

While I was on Pinterest the other day, I saw something called a Ramen egg.  It's a Japanese method of soft boiling an egg, peeling it, and marinating it for several hours to overnight.  What an interesting concept!  I was fascinated by it and definitely wanted to try it.  So I started looking at different Ramen recipes, and I found that a lot of them use crispy pork in them.  Crispy pork...that seemed oh so familiar to me.  One of my most favorite things to eat is Carnitas which is a pork roast that is boiled until it's tender and then it fries in the oven in its own fat making the edges so crispy and tasty.  My lightbulb moment was why can't I make Asian flavored crispy pork the same way I make Carnitas!  

This soup was by far the best thing I've made in a while.  I used a few things here that may be a little challenging to find. If you have an Asian market near you, you should be able to find white miso paste there.  Some upscale grocery stores like Whole Foods or Central Market may have it as well.  It is a refrigerated or frozen item. 

Something else I used is called Japanese 7 spice, or Nanami Togarashi.  If you can't find the 7 spice, it is a blend of chili pepper, orange peel, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, black pepper, ginger, and seaweed, most of which are available in most grocery stores and you can play with to make your own spice.  I have seen some Asian blends of spices in the Asian section, so you could also use that.  I used chili paste as well, which is called sambal oelek.  You should be able to find that in the Asian section of the grocery store.

While this is a bit time consuming to make, the flavors of the pork, the soft egg yolk, the crunchy carrots and jalapeno along with the soup makes this dish something I will make again and again.  And there are quite a few ingredients in this dish (most of which are things I usually have on hand), but it's really not difficult to make.  Enjoy!

CRISPY PORK RAMEN
FOR THE RAMEN EGGS:
6 eggs
1/2 C soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 C mirin
1 C water
1 teaspoon ginger
2 T brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili paste

FOR THE PORK:
One 4-5 lb pork butt or shoulder
1 T fresh ginger (or 2 teaspoons powder)
1 T chili paste, or to taste
8 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 T bacon grease (or shortening)
Juice of 1 lime
1 T Japanese 7 spice (or your favorite Asian blend)
1 T white miso paste
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 T sesame oil
1/4 C brown sugar
3 T fish sauce
4 C chicken stock
1/2 C soy sauce
1/4 C rice wine vinegar

FOR THE SOUP:
6 packets ramen
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 T vegetable oil
Reserved grease from the pork
1 zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
1 T miso paste
8 C water

FOR THE GARNISH:
2 large carrots, thinly sliced into matchsticks 
2 fresh jalapenos, sliced
Chopped fresh cilantro
Green onion slices

NOTE:  This recipe makes a lot, so you may want to scale it back a bit.  I have two HUGE ramen fans in my house, so I wanted to give them a lot.  Also, this soup has the tendency to be overly salty.  You may want to use low sodium chicken stock, low sodium soy sauce, and maybe 3 of the ramen seasoning packets instead of all 6.  You will need to taste the meat when it's cooked and taste your soup broth and adjust accordingly.  I am a salt addict, so I cooked it per the recipe.

For the ramen eggs, whisk together the marinade ingredients and set aside.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Using a needle or a safety pin, poke a hole in the bottom of each egg. This will make peeling them a lot easier.  Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat slightly and carefully lower the eggs into the water with a spoon and boil for exactly 6 minutes. Put the pot into the sink and run cold water in the pot until the eggs are cooled.  This stops the cooking process and gives you a nice soft yolk.  Peel the eggs and put them in the marinade.  Marinade at least four hours and up to overnight.

For the pork, cut the meat into 2-inch pieces.  Put all of the pork ingredients into a large dutch oven or ovenproof pot with a lid.  Make sure the liquid covers the meat.  If it doesn't, add a little water.  Bring the pot to a boil.  Continue boiling the meat uncovered, stirring occasionally, for around 2 hours or until most of the liquid has cooked out.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Cover the pot and put the pot in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes or until the pork is crispy and well browned.  Reserve the grease from the pot.  When the pork is cool enough to handle, shred the meat.  NOTE:  This process makes a mess in the pot, but a good soak in hot water should lift most of the mess off.  If the pot isn't too bad, you can use the same one to make the soup in. 

For the soup, put the 2 T vegetable oil and the reserved grease into another large pot (or the same pot if you can). Cook the mushrooms over medium high heat until they are tender.  Add in the zucchini, squash, water, and the ramen seasoning packets.  Bring the water to a boil.  Add in the ramen and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until it's tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded pork.  Garnish the soup with carrot slices, jalapeno slices, cilantro, green onions, and ramen eggs sliced in half.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Superbowl 2015


Here is my Man Food collection of recipes for Superbowl 2015!  Although my husband is disappointed that the Cowboys won't be there, he will still enjoy the food.  Some of this is new stuff, and some is old favorites.  Click on the recipe titles to get to the recipes.  Enjoy!


These are called Shrimp Poppers.  It's like a jalapeno popper but with a jumbo shrimp inside!  They're yummy!


Next up is a warm layered Enchilada Dip.  This is great with tortilla chips and is darn tasty!


Handheld foods are always great for parties.  How about these Mini Taco Cups!  When people are cheering on their team, they can still eat a taco!


Sliders are common snacks at parties.  Let these spicy Hawaiian Roll Roast Beef Sliders be the hit at yours.


These Buffalo Cheese Fries are a favorite at my house.  Why not make them a favorite at yours!



Even more handheld food.  These Pizza Eggrolls are shamefully easy to make, but taste so good!


My husband asks for these Firecracker Shrimp all the time. They are easy to make, and they taste awesome!


Yep.  I sure do have two french fry recipes in this post. These Copycat Jack in the Box Cheesy Potato Wedges are the bomb!

I hope your Superbowl party is fabulous!

Pizza Eggrolls


This recipe is so simple that it's almost embarrasing to post. Almost.  These Pizza Eggrolls are so darn tasty!

PIZZA EGGROLLS
48 slices pepperoni
12 Mozzarella cheese sticks
12 egg roll wrappers
Peanut oil, for frying
Marinara sauce, for serving

Lay four slices of pepperoni down the center of each egg roll wrapper.  Lay one cheese stick down on top of the pepperoni.  Brush all of the edges of the egg roll wrappers with water.  Tuck the small ends down and then roll the wrappers up.  Freeze them for about an hour.

Preheat some peanut oil in a large skillet to medium high heat.  Fry the eggrolls until browned and crisp on all sides. Serve them hot with warm marinara sauce.

Hawaiian Roll Roast Beef Sliders


Have you seen those wildly popular Hawaiian Roll Ham & Swiss Sliders?  Well, what if they were made with Cajun roast beef?  And Pepper Jack cheese?  And a little horseradish?  Then you'd have the most amazing Hawaiian Roll Roast Beef Sliders.  You're welcome.

HAWAIIAN ROLL ROAST BEEF SLIDERS
3/4 lb thin-sliced deli Cajun roast beef
1 package savory butter Hawaiian Rolls
6 slices Pepper Jack cheese
1/2 C mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/2 C butter, melted
1 1/2 T Dijon mustard
1 T onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Separate the tops of the rolls from the bottoms.  Put the bottoms in a glass casserole pan roughly the size of the Hawaiian Rolls package.  Mix together the mayo, garlic powder, and horseradish.  Spread half of the mayo mixture on the roll bottoms.  Pile up some roast beef all along the roll bottoms.  Lay the six slices of cheese, overlapping, over the roast beef.  Spread the rest of the mayo mixture on the roll tops and place them over the cheese.  

Mix together the butter, Dijon, onion powder, Worcestershire, and cayenne pepper.  Pour this mixture over the sandwich tops.  Cover and let it sit 10 minutes.  Cook for 10 minutes covered.  Remove the foil and cook an additional 2-5 minutes or until the rolls are slightly crisped.  Serve warm.

Copycat Jack in the Box Cheesy Potato Wedges


These easy Copycat Jack in the Box Cheesy Potato Wedges are great for a side dish or a snack!

COPYCAT JACK IN THE BOX CHEESY POTATO WEDGES
4 potatoes, cut into wedges
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled very fine
1/2 to 3/4 C shredded cheddar cheese
Sliced green onions, for garnish
Ranch dip, for serving

FOR THE CHEESE SAUCE:
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 C milk
7 American cheese slices
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the potato wedges on a sheet pan.  Drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Mix them around with your hands to coat and spread them in a single layer.  Bake them for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pot.  Whisk in the flour. Whisk in the milk.  Cook until the sauce is thickened and bubbly.  Turn the heat down very low and melt in the cheese slices one at a time, whisking until smooth.  Season the sauce with salt & pepper, if desired.  

Drizzle the cheese sauce over the potatoes and top them with some shredded cheese and green onion slices.  Put the pan under the broiler to slightly melt the shredded cheese. Serve with Ranch dip.

Enchilada Dip


This is a darn tasty hot layered dip that has refried beans, rice, chicken in chili gravy, and cheese!  This Enchilada Dip is great for a crowd!

ENCHILADA DIP
FOR THE CHICKEN:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 packet chipotle marinade (like McCormick's)
1/4 C olive oil
1 C water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder

FOR THE CHILI GRAVY:
1/4 C lard (or vegetable shortening)
1/4 C flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 T chili powder
2 C chicken stock

OTHER LAYERS:
2 C refried beans
1 1/2 C cooked rice (see note)
1 1/2 C shredded Chipotle Cheddar cheese (or Cheddar)
Sliced jalapenos
Tortilla chips, for serving

NOTE:  When I made the rice for this, I added RoTel, chicken stock instead of water, and cumin when I cooked the rice to flavor it.  Your can substitute your favorite Mexican rice or plain white rice.

Mix the chicken marinade ingredients together and put it in a large zipper bag with the chicken.  Marinate at least an hour. After an hour, dump the chicken and the marinade into a pot and cover the chicken with water.  Boil the chicken until it's cooked through.  Cool it until you can handle it and shred it.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the lard in a large skillet and whisk in the flour.  Whisk in the chicken stock and remaining ingredients.  Cook and whisk until the sauce is thick and bubbly.  Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded chicken.  

Spread the beans into a 9 x 13 pan.  Spread the rice over the beans.  Spread the chicken mixture over the rice.  Top with the shredded cheese and the jalapeno slices.  Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until it is heated through and the cheese is melted and slightly browned.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Tex-Mex Breakfast Hash


My husband loves Sunday morning breakfast.  It's the only morning any of us eat together, and it's the only morning we cook breakfast.  He also loves a fried egg and Pico de Gallo on everything.  The kids and I love fried potatoes, so what better thing to do than a hash.  Everyone gets what they want.  Lately we've been a little obsessed with thick-cut peppered bacon, so we used that.  This is a tasty and hearty breakfast fit for everyone.  Enjoy!

TEX-MEX BREAKFAST HASH
4 potatoes, cubed
Peanut oil, for frying
8 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled
At least 4 eggs
Pico de Gallo (click for recipe)
Avocado slices
1/4 C butter
1/4 C flour
2 C milk
1 to 1 1/2 C shredded Cheddar cheese

NOTE:  I said at least four eggs since this makes enough for four people.  However, my son and husband both wanted two eggs, so I used six total.

Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet to medium high heat. Cook the potatoes, stirring occasionally, until they are well browned and crispy.  Drain on paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a small pot and whisk in the flour.  Whisk in the milk and cook until it starts to get thick and bubbly.  Turn the heat off and whisk in the cheese in small handfuls until the cheese is completely smooth, using as much or as little of the cheese to get your desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

Next, fry your eggs in butter until the yolk is the way you like it.  Serve the hash by piling some fried potatoes on the plate, then bacon, then cheese sauce, then your fried egg(s), and top with Pico de Gallo and avocado slices.  

Slightly adapted from Cheeserank

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Buffalo Cheese Fries


I love buffalo anything, so why not Buffalo Cheese Fries! This is a pretty simple recipe, but it got rave reviews!  Enjoy!

BUFFALO CHEESE FRIES
4 potatoes, cut into fries (peeled or not)
Peanut oil, for frying
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 1/2 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese (or Monterrey Jack)
1/2 C buffalo wing sauce, plus more for serving (we like Frank's)
2 green onions, sliced
Ranch dressing

Preheat the peanut oil in a large skillet.  Cook the fries in batches until they are crispy.  Drain them on a paper towel and salt & pepper them while they are still hot.

Preheat the broiler.  Put the fries and the buffalo sauce into a bowl and stir to coat the fries.  Spread them out on a sheet pan.  Top the fries with the shredded cheese.  Put the sheet pan under the broiler and cook until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.  Serve the fries with additional buffalo wing sauce, Ranch dressing, and green onions.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Strange Occurrences


Have you ever had strange occurrences happen at your house that can't be explained?  Did you wonder if you had a ghost?  Well, I can't say for sure that I do or don't believe in ghosts, but we've had some pretty strange things happen in two of the homes we've lived in, one of them being the house we live in now.

Before we moved to West Texas from the small town of Kennedale, we had a few strange things happen that were a little odd.  Once in the middle of the night our TV came on in the bedroom, blaring loudly.  It was quite startling. Another night in that house, two pictures inexplicably fell off the wall in the middle of the night.  And still another night dishes fell off of the dish drainer.  Not enough to be scared, but still concerning.

Since we've moved to West Texas, we've had even stranger things happen.  We cut a tree down, and a large part of the trunk of the tree was sitting on our back porch.  As we went later to let the dogs out, the tree trunk was moved in between the back door and the screen door.  It was daylight.  The dogs never barked at the door like someone was there. Another occurrence was when I went to our bathroom and the door was shut.  I opened the door to find the trash can moved directly behind the door, a feat that couldn't be done unless someone were in the bathroom.  Weird.

One Christmas here, I came home to find all of the stockings hung backwards.  On a side note, I am extremely OCD and can spot if anything has been moved in the house.  If someone comes home during the day and leaves, I can ask them what they were doing home.  When they ask me how I know they were here, I can say, well, you touched this, you moved this, you went in here.  

Anywho, one morning my husband was the only one left in the house.  He was just getting out of the shower.  Our bathroom door rattles when someone closes an exterior door in the house.  He said the door rattled three times while he was in there.  He then proceeded throughout the house in his drawers searching to see who was in there, only to find no one.  The reason I felt like telling you these stories is because this morning I went in the bathroom and both of the towels hanging over the shower rod were on the floor.  Sure, they could have fallen by themselves.  Lately, when we turn on the living room light/fan, it buzzes in sequence for a couple of minutes and blinks.  My husband says it sounds like we are in a horror movie.

By far the strangest thing that has ever happened here was last summer.  My husband was out of town all week on business.  I decided the back patio needed washing off.  I put on my flip-flops and headed out.  I walked over to the hose and washed the patio off.  I went in and let it dry.  Later I went back out there to let the dogs out, and I saw some muddy footprints on the concrete.  It was still daylight out.  I just thought maybe I walked through the mud next to the patio.  The next morning, when I went out there again, I noticed they were bare feet prints, not flip-flops.  I also examined the mud, and there were no footprints there.  I asked the kids if they had been out there, and neither one had.  Here are some pictures.


This one is a little hard to tell, but it shows a path.  It's not a path that I ever took.  I never went into the part of the yard where these seem to originate from.


This is a little clearer.  It's a 9-inch footprint.  You can see the ball of the foot and the heel.


Again, ball of the foot and the heel.


Lastly, this is where the footprints end.  Oddly enough, they end under a chair where I sometimes sit when we are outside.  There is no exit point off of the patio.  They just stop!

So do you believe in ghosts?

Now here's a pasta dish!  LOL...this is Chicken & Spinach Pasta.  It's simple to make, and it's darn tasty!

CHICKEN & SPINACH PASTA
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
2 T butter
Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 C heavy cream
1 lemon
1 lb bowtie pasta
One 6-ounce bag fresh spinach
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
One 2-ounce bag pine nuts
1/2 C white wine
Salt & pepper, to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  When it's done, reserve about 1 C of the pasta water.

Put the pine nuts in a small skillet and turn the heat to medium.  Cook, stirring constantly, until they start to brown. Remove from the heat.  NOTE:  These will burn very quickly. You have to continuously stir and don't walk away from them. It only takes a couple of minutes to brown them.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet or dutch oven. Drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the chicken on medium high heat until it's done, about 5-6 minutes.  Add in the wine and the garlic and deglaze the pan.  Cook until most of the wine has cooked out.  Add in the cream, 1 C of pasta water, the juice of the lemon, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook a few minutes or until the cream becomes thick and starts bubbling.  Add in the Parmesan cheese and stir to melt. Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach and pine nuts. Mix with the pasta and enjoy!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Start the Year with a Gyro!


One time, many years ago, I had to travel to Georgia for work.  The hotel I stayed in was attached to an upscale mall. I was in my early 20s, and I wasn't quite the "foodie" I consider myself now.  I was eager to try new foods, though, so I wandered down to the food court to find some dinner.  I came across a Greek takeout place in the food court, and I was intrigued by what they called a Gyro.  I had never eaten lamb, but this delicious looking thing wrapped up in soft bread was so appealing to me.  I bought it and went back to my hotel room.  As I took a bite, I thought to myself, what is this delightful meat?  What is this tangy yet fresh tasting sauce?  Can I get these in Texas?  I loved it!

Since that day, I have eaten quite a lot of Greek food.  I love it, actually.  Stuffed grape leaves, feta cheese, olives, baklava, lemons, olive oil.  I love it!  Now, I have made homemade beef gyros (hard to get lamb where I live), but I saw something recently that sounded interesting to me...Chicken Gyros.  And homemade pita bread.  First, let me tell you about the bread.  Yes, it's a yeast bread and I know a lot of you are afraid of yeast.  I have made this bread twice, and it has turned out perfect both times.  It even remains soft in the fridge for a few days.  Very impressive. I'd say it's the most successful and easiest bread I've ever made.

Now on to the chicken.  I marinated the chicken in Greek yogurt, olive oil, and herbs and baked it.  It is seriously the moistest, most tender chicken I think I've ever done.  I ate all of the leftovers of this chicken over two nights and wouldn't let my family near it!  Stingy, I know.  But it's that good!  If you're a fan of Greek, this recipe is for you!

CHICKEN GYROS
FOR THE PITAS:
1 1/4 C warm water, about 110 to 115 degrees
1 packet highly active yeast
2 1/2 to 3 C flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 T olive oil

FOR THE CHICKEN:
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 C olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1/4 C Greek plain yogurt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
14 C red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper, to taste
Red chili flakes, to taste

FOR THE TZATZIKI SAUCE:
1/2 C plain Greek yogurt
1 C mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cumin
2 T dried parsley
1/2 of a large cucumber, rough chopped
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR THE SANDWICH:
Chopped Roma tomatoes
Sliced black olives
Chopped romaine lettuce
Crumbled feta cheese
Sliced red onion
Cubed cucumber

Place the chicken in a large zipper bag.  Whisk the remaining chicken ingredients together and pour it into the bag with the chicken.  Mix it around and refrigerate at least two hours.

For the tzatziki sauce, place all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth.  Refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

For the pitas, put the yeast, warm water and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Let it sit about five minutes to get frothy.  Add in the remaining ingredients and knead with the dough hook until it forms a ball, adding in the extra 1/2 C of flour if the dough is sticky.  Put the dough into a large greased bowl, cover it, and let it rise for about an hour. 

After the dough has risen 30 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Dump the chicken and the marinade out on a sheet pan.  Bake the chicken for about 16 minutes and then turn it over.  Bake the chicken an additional 14-16 minutes or until it's 165 degrees internally.  Let it rest 10 minutes before slicing it.  Keep the chicken warm.

When the dough has risen, divide the dough into 8 equal balls.  Roll each ball out to about an 8-inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick.  Preheat a cast iron skillet (or other skillet) to medium high heat.  Cook them about 30 seconds on one side until they begin to puff up a lot.  Flip them over and cook another 30-45 seconds on the other side or until you get browned spots.  Flip them back over and cook about 30 more seconds to brown the first side.  Stack them in a tortilla warmer or in a covered dish to keep warm.

To serve the gyros, place some sliced chicken down the center of a pita.  Top with red onion slices, black olive slices, feta, romaine, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce.  Roll them up and enjoy!