Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Wow Factor


I was looking for a quick and tasty chicken dinner last week, and one thing I saw over and over was a recipe called Chicken Lazone.  It is rumored to have come from Brennan's Restaurant in New Orleans, although it's not on any Brennan's menu that I could find.  There are many recipes out there for this, so I thought I'd try it.      

This chicken was so ridiculously easy.  Like seriously stupid easy.  And the flavor...WOW!  That's all I could say.  I can't believe such a simple dish could be so amazing!  My son loved it so much he ate two huge chicken breasts.  I served mine with some pasta that I tossed with butter and Parmesan cheese.  You will be wowed too!  I did not give measurements for the seasoning since I'm very heavy handed with salt and seasonings.  Just sprinkle some on each piece of chicken and use as much or as little as you like.  Enjoy!

CHICKEN LAZONE
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
Chili powder
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
1/4 C butter
2 C heavy cream
2 T Italian parsley, chopped

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle the seasoned salt, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper all over both sides of the chicken breasts.  Cook them in the butter until well browned on both sides, about 6-8 minutes each side (could be longer if they are thick).  Remove them from the pan and keep them warm in a 200 degree oven.  Turn the heat down to medium and pour the heavy cream into the same pan and whisk. Cook and whisk until the cream starts to thicken and bubble. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.  Serve the sauce over the chicken.  Serve with pasta, if desired.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Renovation Realities


Have you ever watched the show Renovation Realities?  It's a non-hosted show with a narrator, and the episodes follow homeowners who try to renovate a room in their house. There are usually a lot of mistakes made by the homeowner, and they are usually on a time crunch.  The narrator always says, "If they had gone to diynetwork.com, they could have learned how to properly install that door," or whatever project they were working on.  It's a great show.

We are currently doing some renovations in our house.  We have boxes of wood flooring stacked in the living room, as well as a bathroom sink in a box, towel rods, two exterior doors, and a tile saw.  We have two sinks in our bedroom and none in our bathroom.  We have travertine tile laid out where our bathroom counter is supposed to be.  We have been back and forth to the hardware store a lot.  We have been brushing our teeth in the shower, which is a strange thing for me.  I usually brush my teeth after my shower.  Now, when I get out of the shower, I can't figure out what I'm supposed to do next in my routine.  It's quite comical, and we are taking it all in stride since the improvements will make a big difference in our house.

So, while I've had various amounts of time with the water main shut off, I've had to find quick dinners.  Like this Bacon Parm Chicken.  The chicken is coated in Parmesan cheese and then browned in butter.  Then it gets finished off in the oven with a topping of bacon and Pepper Jack cheese.  It's delicious!  And it's easy and quick too.  I hope you love it!

BACON PARM CHICKEN
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 C grated Parmesan cheese (the powdered kind in a jar)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
1 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 egg + 2 T water
1/2 stick butter

NOTE:  The first time I tried this recipe, I used shredded Parmesan cheese, the kind that comes in a bag.  While it tasted good, a good majority of the cheese melted off of the chicken and stuck in the pan.  I highly suggest buying the powdered Parmesan cheese.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, parsley, black pepper, and seasoned salt together.  Mix the egg and the 2 T water together.  

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Dip the chicken into the egg wash and then press it into the cheese mixture.  Fry the chicken on both sides until well browned.  Put the chicken onto a sheet pan and into the oven.  Cook the chicken for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is done through.  Sprinkle some bacon on each piece of chicken and 1/4 C of the cheese on each piece of chicken.  Place the chicken under the broiler for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese.

Adapted from O Taste and See

Crispy Butter Potatoes


We loved these potatoes so much that I made them three times in a week!  They are crispy on the outside and very flavorful!  You are going to love Crispy Butter Potatoes!

CRISPY BUTTER POTATOES
3 lbs potatoes, sliced in 1/2 inch slices
1 stick butter, melted
1 T dried mixed herb blend (your choice)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 C chicken stock
6 cloves garlic, minced

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Mix together the butter, herbs and salt and pepper.  Toss the potatoes around in the butter mixture.  Lay the potatoes out in a single layer on a large sheet pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Turn all of the potatoes over and bake another 15 minutes.  Flip the potatoes over.  If your potatoes are starting to get brown, skip to the next step in the paragraph below.  If your potatoes still need to brown some, Cook another 15 minutes.

Mix the chicken stock and garlic together and pour it all over the potatoes.  Cook for another 15 minutes.  Remove them from the oven and serve.

Adapted from Cook's Country

Monday, February 23, 2015

It's All About the Chicken


So apparently in South Carolina popular treats are these Southern Bird Dogs.  It's not a hot dog though.  It's a fried chicken strip in a hot dog bun with bacon, cheese, and honey mustard.  When I saw these, I just knew I had to try them.

I have been on a quest to make a perfect copy of Chick fil A's fried chicken strips, so I decided to make these Bird Dogs with my latest attempt.  I've tried various recipes from the internet, but none of them were quite there.  So I did something a little different that I thought would work.  You are going to be shocked when I tell you what it was.  I know that Chick fil A serves pickle slices on their sandwiches and that a lot of copycat recipes put a little pickle juice in the milk or egg wash before coating the chicken.  But what if I soaked the chicken strips in pickle juice??  By golly that was the trick! My husband was really really worried that it would taste like pickles.  But it didn't.  What it did was tenderize the chicken and made it so juicy.  The breading combination I put together was right on the money.  For us, we thought it tasted EXACTLY like the real deal.

So back to the Bird Dogs.  With my spot on chicken strips, homemade honey mustard, bacon and cheese, these sandwiches disappeared on the fly!  And don't be afraid of the pickle juice.  It works!  Enjoy!

SOUTHERN BIRD DOGS
FOR THE CHICKEN:
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into long strips
1/2 C pickle juice
1 egg
1 C milk
1 T powdered sugar
1 T paprika
3/4 C flour
3/4 C whole wheat flour
2 T malted milk powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 T mustard powder
1 T garlic powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
Salt, to taste
Peanut oil for frying

FOR THE HONEY MUSTARD:
1/2 C honey
1/2 C yellow mustard
1/4 C mayonnaise

FOR THE SANDWICH:
1/2 lb bacon
1 C shredded cheese (any flavor)
Hot dog buns

NOTE:  I highly recommend not using any other oil but peanut oil to fry your chicken.  That's what Chick fil A uses, and it definitely contributes to the flavor of the chicken.  Also, I used about 1 T of salt in the dredge mixture.  The chicken was not too salty for us.  However, it is a lot of salt, and I tend to be heavy handed with salt so you may want to start smaller and add.  If you can stand it, taste your flour mixture to make sure the salt is where you like it.

Put the chicken strips into a bowl and pour in the pickle juice. Mix it around and put it in the fridge while you prepare the remaining ingredients.  Mix the honey mustard ingredients together and chill. 

Cook and crumble your bacon and set it aside.  Preheat about 1 inch of peanut oil in a large skillet over high heat. Mix together the egg and milk in one bowl.  Mix together the powdered sugar, paprika, salt & pepper, flours, malted milk powder, baking soda, mustard powder and garlic powder. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  Dredge the chicken in the milk mixture and then into the flour mixture.  Fry the chicken strips in batches until they are golden brown and cooked through.  Drain the chicken on a paper towel and keep them warm on a sheet tray in the oven.  Wrap the buns in foil and warm them in the oven.

To assemble your sandwiches, place a couple of chicken strips into a bun and add some bacon, cheese, and honey mustard.  If you'd like, put the buns with chicken, bacon, and cheese under the broiler for a minute or two to melt the cheese and then add the honey mustard to them after they come out of the oven.

Adapted from She Wears Many Hats

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jalapeno Popper Dip Skillet Bread


This dip is WOW!  The bread and the dip bake together and looks so pretty!  The dip makes more than will fit in the center of the bread, but you will absolutely want to bake the rest of the dip in another small casserole pan.  You can make the bread from scratch with my recipe, or you can use frozen bread roll dough for a quicker version.  Just thaw and rise according to the package directions.  My bread recipe has cheese in it and on top of it.  So darn tasty!

JALAPENO POPPER DIP SKILLET BREAD
FOR THE BREAD:
1 packet highly active yeast
1 1/4 C warm water, 110-115 degrees
2 T olive oil
3 C flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 C shredded Mozzarella

FOR THE DIP:
Two 8-ounces packages cream cheese, softened
1 C mayonnaise
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
3/4 C shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1-3 T chopped jalapeno slices (the kind from a jar)
1 packet Ranch dip mix
2 teaspoons garlic powder

NOTE:  As I said above, you can use frozen bread roll dough (like Bridgeford).  Use 16 dough balls and let it rise in the skillet according to the package directions.

If you are making the bread homemade, put the yeast, warm water, and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes to get frothy.  Add in the flour, olive oil, salt and the Mozzarella cheese.  Knead until the mixture all comes together in a ball.  It will be sticky.  Scrape the dough out into a large greased bowl and cover.  Let the dough rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.

When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a well floured board.  Knead a little more flour into the dough with your hands until it is no longer sticky.  Divide the dough into 16 equal portions and shape into balls.  Place the dough balls around the edges of a cast iron skillet (or other ovenproof skillet) and let rise another 30 minutes.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the cream cheese, mayo, Ranch dip mix, and garlic powder together in a food processor.  Stir in the bacon, jalapenos, the Parmesan and 1/2 C of the Cheddar cheese.  

Push the dough back a little in the center to make room for the dip.  Put as much dip as you can in the center.  Put the remaining dip into another small casserole dish.  Sprinkle the remaining Cheddar cheese over the bread.  Bake the skillet bread and dip for 20-25 minutes or until the rolls are done. Bake the smaller casserole for about 15 minutes to heat through.

Inspired by Seasons and Suppers

Buffalo Party Mix


This is a crazy version of homemade Chex Mix.  This Buffalo Party Mix has a whole lot of stuff going on.  And you can mix and match or add to this.  Enjoy!

BUFFALO PARTY MIX
1 1/2 C Corn Chex
1 1/2 C Rice Chex
1 1/2 C pretzel sticks
1 1/2 C Bugles
1 1/2 C Cheez-Its
1 1/2 C mixed nuts
1 1/2 C Goldfish crackers (any flavor)
1 1/2 C pretzel thins or bagel chips
1 1/2 C potato sticks
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
1 packet Ranch dip mix
1/2 to 1 C Buffalo wing sauce, to taste
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder

NOTE:  There are a lot of salted components to this.  If you aren't a salt fan, you may want to use less of the Ranch dip mix or leave it out altogether.  I didn't find this to be too salty, but I'm kind of a salt addict.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Mix all of the chips, cereal, nuts, etc., together in a large bowl.  Whisk together the butter, Ranch dip mix, wing sauce, garlic powder and onion powder.  Pour this mixture over the dry mixture and toss to combine.  Spread this mixture out over a large sheet pan. Put the mixture in the oven and cook in 15-minute increments, stirring after every 15 minutes, until the mixture is dry. Depending on how much Buffalo sauce you use, it could take 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

S'Mores Cookie Bars


It's not every day that I do desserts - wait.  I make desserts every day at work.  Okay, so it's not every day that I make desserts at home.  In fact, it's pretty rare.  But, when I do, the kids are so excited and sometimes actually fight over it.  Like these S'Mores Cookie Bars.  They loved them.  Yours will too.  You're welcome.

S'MORES COOKIE BARS
2/3 C butter, softened
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 C chopped pecans
2 1/2 C flour
1 C milk chocolate chips
1 C mini marshmallows
3 regular sized Hershey bars, separated at the rectangles
2 sleeves graham crackers, separated into halves (see note)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Break the graham crackers into halves where you will have squares containing two rectangles.  Place them on a sheet pan(s) where they are touching (no gaps in between).

Cream the butter and the sugars with a mixer until fluffy.  Add in the eggs, vanilla, baking soda, salt, and flour.  Mix until combined.  Stir the marshmallows, chocolate chips, and pecans into the cookie dough.  Drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the graham crackers (it doesn't have to be touching other dough).  Be careful not to get too close to the edge because it will run off slightly.  Bake for 5 minutes.  

Remove the pan from the oven and press the Hershey bar rectangles into the dough (see picture above for example). Bake another 8-12 minutes (depends on how thick your dough is) or until the cookie layer is done and golden brown. Let the bars cool completely before cutting.  

Adapted from Always with Butter

Monday, February 16, 2015

Home Improvement


So my husband and I are doing some renovations to our house.  One major and a lot of minor projects are going on. The major project is installing hardwood flooring in our entryway, living room, and hallway.  This is a task neither one of us has done before, mind you, so it should be interesting. So we bought some bamboo flooring and have it sitting in stacks in our living room acclimating.  I knew this before, but acclimating hardwoods means you let it sit in the room it will be installed in and let it adjust to the humidity levels in your house for two weeks so it can swell or shrink or whatever it needs to do.  And let me tell you, 23 boxes weighing 67 pounds apiece is no easy task to move around.  You wake up stiff and sore the next day for sure.

Another project (among many) was replacing our kitchen sink.  Our old (and really ugly) sink was porcelain.  This by far was the worst task we had to undertake (I'll let you know if that changes after we install the floor).  Porcelain sinks are cast iron with porcelain molded into it, so they weigh a ton. My husband couldn't get to the screws to remove it, so we had to do plan B.  He pulled up the metal trim on the counter top side.  He and our son took a sledgehammer to parts of the sink to loosen it.  Then came the moment of truth.  The sink was free, but we had to drop it down and turn it before we could get it out of the hole.  I was in another room and didn't realize he was trying to pull the sink out.  I came in just about the moment he dropped it.  And guess what's under the sink...the plumbing.  

So, with another trip to the hardware store, my husband with several hours on his back, and all brand new plumbing underneath, we now have a new sink!  All this took place the day after my husband spent about 7 hours chipping tile in the entryway.  Poor man was tired!

So I decided to cook his favorite thing to eat...pasta!  I decided on a Chicken Marsala Pasta since we love mushrooms.  There are a few steps in this dish, but it's well worth the effort.  This pasta is full of mushrooms, chicken, pancetta, and cheese.  And it's scrumptious!  A great reward for a hard day's work!

CHICKEN MARSALA PASTA
1 lb pasta, any shape
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Garlic powder
Seasoned salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Olive oil
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
11/4 lb pancetta, diced
1 C shredded Parmesan cheese
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C heavy cream
1 C Marsala wine
1 C chicken stock
2 T flour
2 T Italian parsley, chopped
1 C shredded Mozzarella cheese

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Season the chicken on both sides with some garlic powder, seasoned salt, and black pepper.  Bake the chicken on a sheet pan for 16 minutes.  Turn the chicken over and cook an additional 14-20 minutes or until the chicken is done through.  Remove it from the oven and cover it with foil.

Meanwhile, drizzle a little olive oil into a large skillet.  Cook the pancetta over medium high heat until it's crispy.  Drain on a paper towel.  In the same skillet, add in the mushrooms and the shallots and cook until the mushrooms are tender, adding in additional olive oil if necessary.  Add in the Marsala wine and deglaze the pan.  Cook until most of the liquid has cooked out.  Sprinkle the flour over the mushroom mixture and stir.  Whisk in the chicken stock and garlic.  Preheat the broiler.

After the chicken stock and flour mixture is smooth, add in the heavy cream.  Cook and stir until the mixture is thick and bubbly.  Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.  Dice the chicken and stir the chicken, parsley, and the pasta together with the mushroom mixture.  Spread the pasta into a 9 x 13 casserole pan and sprinkle the Mozzarella all over the top.  Place the pan under the broiler and broil until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.


Caprese Bread


This yummy Caprese Bread with garlic butter, Roma tomatoes, Mozzarella, and reduced balsamic vinegar is so easy to make and tastes so fantastic!  

CAPRESE BREAD
1 loaf French bread (see note)
1 C shredded Mozzarella cheese
2 T fresh basil chiffonades (see note below)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 stick butter, softened
2-3 Roma tomatoes, sliced (8-9 slices total)
1/2 C balsamic vinegar
Black pepper, to taste

NOTE:  I sliced the French bread in half long ways and only used half of it for this recipe.  The other half I just made garlic bread for picky eaters.  To make basil chiffonades, which means ribbons, roll the basil leaves up from pointy end to stem end.  Slice the basil from the sides in thin slices.  Unroll the slices and you have ribbons.

Preheat the broiler.  Put the balsamic vinegar in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Boil for about 5 minutes or until it is thickened.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, mix the butter, garlic, and black pepper together. Spread this mixture over the one half of the French bread (use the other half of the bread for plain garlic bread or cheese toast).  Sprinkle the shredded Mozzarella cheese over the butter spread.  Lay the tomato slices around over the cheese.  Put the bread under the broiler and broil until the cheese is melted and the tomatoes are slightly charred. Remove the bread from the oven and drizzle the reduced balsamic vinegar all over the bread.  Sprinkle your basil chiffonades around on the bread and serve hot.  

Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Baked Layered Bean Dip


This baked cheesy yummy dip disappears fast!  It has a homemade bean dip layer that tastes like the Frito Lay bean dip, a cream cheese & sour cream layer, a hot sauce layer, and lots of cheese!

BAKED LAYERED BEAN DIP
2 C pinto beans, drained
1 T bacon grease
2-3 T jalapeno slices (the kind from a jar)
1 T jalapeno brine (the juice from the jar)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 t 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 packet taco seasoning
1/2 C hot sauce (I used jarred Taco Bell mild sauce)
1 C shredded cheese (I used Cheddar, but any will do)
Sliced green onions, for garnish
Chips, for serving (I used Fritos)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Blend together the beans, bacon grease, jalapenos, brine, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt & pepper, and cayenne in a food processor. Blend until smooth.  Spread the beans into a greased 8 x 8 casserole pan.  

Next mix together the cream cheese, sour cream, and taco seasoning and spread it over the beans.  Pour the hot sauce over the cream cheese layer and spread it to cover.  Sprinkle the cheese all over the top.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes to heat through and melt the cheese.  Garnish with the green onions and serve hot with chips.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Cheesy Egg Toasts


These Cheesy Egg Toasts are super easy to make and very tasty.  You can make as many or as few as you like.  It makes a great quick breakfast!  I especially like the crispy cheese that melts onto the pan and browns.  Yum!

CHEESY EGG TOASTS
Sliced bread
Shredded cheese (I used Colby Jack)
Eggs
Salt & pepper, to taste
Softened butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray.  Lay as many bread slices as you like on the pan.  With a small spoon, flatten the center of each piece of bread into a rectangle big enough to fit an egg.  Next butter the edges of the bread around the rectangle.  Carefully crack an egg into the center of each piece of bread.  Season the egg with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle shredded cheese all over the buttered part.  Bake the toasts about 10-15 minutes or until the yolk is how you like it.  You can turn the broiler and broil it a minute or two to brown the cheese.

As adapted from Great Day Farms

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bacon Corn Dip


This Bacon Corn Dip is so darn tasty that you just can't stop eating it!  I served mine with Chili Cheese Fritos, but you could use any chip you want or even crackers!

BACON CORN DIP
1 C mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
2 C frozen corn, thawed
1 C shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and diced
1/2 C red onion, diced
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
Chili Cheese Fritos

Whisk together the mayo, garlic powder, and seasoned salt. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the Fritos. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.  Dip it up with the Fritos!

Loosely adapted from food.com

Buffalo Chicken Bread Ring


This pull-apart bread is so ridiculously easy to make and it hearty enough for a meal or great snacking for a crowd.  

BUFFALO CHICKEN BREAD RING
1 can large biscuits (like Grands)
1 1/2 C cooked, shredded chicken
1 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese (or Monterrey Jack)
1 to 1 1/2 C Buffalo wing sauce, to taste
1 green onion, sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut each biscuit into four pieces and put them into a bowl.  Add in the remaining ingredients and mix together well.  Grease a bundt pan and spread the bread around in the pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the biscuits in the center are cooked through.  Turn it out onto a platter and serve by pulling pieces off.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Twice Baked Potato Casserole


This recipe is easy to put together and tastes so good!

TWICE BAKED POTATO CASSEROLE
4 potatoes
Olive oil (see note)
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 C shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 C sour cream
8 slices bacon
3 sliced green onions, divided
3 T butter
3/4 C heavy cream
Salt & pepper, to taste

NOTE:  I baked my potatoes first for this recipe, which takes roughly an hour to do.  If you want the process to go a little faster, you can cube and boil the potatoes and drain well and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Rub the potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Wrap them in foil and place them on a sheet pan.  Bake them for about an hour or until they are soft.  

Meanwhile, cook the bacon until crisp and drain.  Divide the bacon in half and set aside.  When the potatoes come out of the oven and are cool enough to handle, rough chop the potatoes.  Turn the oven down to 375 degrees.  Add the butter, half of the Cheddar cheese, the sour cream, and the heavy cream to the potatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Mash this mixture well.  Stir in half of the bacon and half of the green onions.  Place this mixture in a greased 8 x 8 casserole pan.  Top with the remaining cheese, bacon and green onions.  Bake the casserole for about 20-25 minutes or until it is heated through and the cheese on top is slightly browned.

Eat Your Spinach


Remember when Popeye would open that can of spinach and pour it down his throat and instantly his arms and chest would puff up into big muscles?  That would be really weird if a real person could do that.  And a little freaky.  And I certainly wouldn't want to eat canned spinach.  I will eat frozen spinach, though, and of course fresh.

Awhile back someone asked me if I had a recipe for Spanikopita, which is kind of like a Greek turnover with spinach and feta that is wrapped up in phyllo dough.  I haven't attempted that yet, mostly because working with phyllo dough is time consuming and it's very delicate.  But I loved the idea of the filling.  I looked in my freezer the other day, and I had one sheet of puff pastry.  So I decided I would do a play on Spanikopita and make some homemade hot pockets with the spinach and feta.  But I didn't really stick to a traditional recipe.  I wanted to add more cheese and shredded chicken.  And they turned out great!  I really loved these Cheesy Chicken "Spanikopita" Pockets.  They were easy to make, and they reheat really well in the oven.  And, no, I didn't get any instant muscles.

CHEESY CHICKEN "SPANIKOPITA"  POCKETS
2 C cooked, shredded chicken
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed (see note below)
One 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
One 4-ounce container of crumbled feta cheese
Olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
1 C shredded Mozzarella cheese
2 T Italian parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 egg plus a splash of water (for the egg wash)

NOTE:  Since I only had one sheet of puff pastry, I made four rather large pockets that I could only eat half of at a time. The filling is enough to easily make eight smaller pockets, so you can decide how many you want to make.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a small skillet, cook the shallots for a couple of minutes in some olive oil until they are tender.  Add in the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.  Put the spinach in a towel and squeeze out as much of the water as you can.  Put the spinach in a bowl.  Add in the chicken, shallots/garlic, feta, Mozzarella, the 2 eggs, oregano, parsley, and season with salt and pepper and mix the filling all together.  

Roll out the puff pastry to stretch it out bigger.  Cut the sheet into 4 equal squares (or 8 if you're making smaller ones). Divide the filling into 4 (or 8 for smaller ones) and place equal portions on each puff pastry square.  Fold the puff pastry dough around the filling, stretching if necessary to seal.  Flip them over, seam-side down, and press them and shape them into a square or rectangle.  Place the pockets on a greased sheet pan.  Cut four little slits in the tops.  Mix the egg and the splash of water together and brush the tops of the pockets.  Bake them for about 30-35 minutes or until they are well browned and the dough is fully cooked.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

German Fare


I'm not sure if it's because I'm mostly German or if I just have the right tastebuds, but I love German food.  I love sauerkraut, sausages with mustard, horseradish, cabbage and vinegary foods.  So it's no surprise that I would love this creation of mine.  I didn't think of a fancy name for it (I usually don't), so I'll just call it Cabbage, Potatoes & Sausage.  

My mother, who is 100 % German, told me the other day she doesn't really care for German food.  She doesn't have the taste for sour foods and fried meats.  She was born in the US and has eaten American food her whole life and wasn't really raised on German food, so I can understand why she doesn't like it.  A lot of it really is acquired taste.

But...back to the recipe.  I prepped the ingredients for this the night before and put it in the crockpot the next morning.  As a side note, if you haven't boiled cabbage or cooked it in the crockpot before, be prepared for the smell.  I don't think it's a bad smell, just very strong.  When my son and I got home that day after I picked him up from school, he walked in the door and said, "what is that smell?"  I said, "it's cabbage."  He said, "it's so awful," and tried to go back out the front door. Ha ha.  He's a comedian.  

Anywho, this really turned out great.  If you love these kinds of flavors, a bit of vinegar, a little sweet, a little salty, then you are going to love this.  Enjoy!

CABBAGE, POTATOES & SAUSAGE
1/2 of a large green cabbage, chopped
1 1/2 lbs red potatoes, halved or quartered
1 lb sausage, (like bratwurst) sliced
2 T spicy brown mustard
1 onion, chopped
3 large carrots, sliced into 1-inch chunks
1/4 C white vinegar
1/2 C chicken stock
2 T brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
Salt & pepper, to taste
Olive oil

NOTE:  If you are going to prep this the night before, store your potatoes in the fridge covered in water.  This prevents them from turning brown.  Also, the cabbage will make a lot of juice, so don't add any more liquid than the recipe calls for.

Mix the cabbage, carrots, onion, and garlic together and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle a little olive oil in your crockpot.  Add the cabbage mixture to the crockpot.  Mix together the vinegar, chicken stock, brown sugar, and brown mustard.  Pour this over the cabbage mixture.  Next layer the potatoes over the cabbage and then layer the sausage over the potatoes.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Serve it in bowls with some of the juice. This goes great with a hunk of warm, buttered cornbread.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Enlightenment


I have spent 20 plus years thinking that I needed to add extra stuff to my hamburger meat to make it better.  Sure, I've heard all you need is salt and pepper.  But how could that be any good?  We all (well, a lot of us) have spent so much time adding in stuff and making almost meatloaf-like burger patties.  And have we been satisfied?  I haven't.  The burgers are usually too thick, dry, and dense.  

So I was on Facebook the other day, and I saw a link to Buzzfeed that was titled, "11 Burger Mistakes Everyone Makes."  I haven't made burgers in a long time because, frankly, I have been disappointed.  Some of the mistakes they cited I already knew and used.  But the one that really really got me thinking was the seasoning.  Only salt & pepper.  And only right before you cook it.  The reasoning made a lot of sense.  Salting the beef ahead of time draws out the moisture.  Big rounded patties can be alleviated by making an indention in the center of the patty.  Pressing a patty down with a spatula pushes the juices out. Overworking the meat makes it tough. Click here if you'd like to read the post.  (I'm not getting paid to plug them.  I just thought I'd share.)

Anywho, I thought we'd try it.  I cooked my burgers in a frying pan since it was very cold out, but the same principles apply for grilling.  The pan/grill needs to be very hot.  Only salt & pepper the side going down on the pan/grill first, which is supposed to be the non-indented side.  You only season the top side right before you flip it.  I was very skeptical.  I thought, this burger isn't going to have any flavor.  I WAS WRONG!  It was the best darn homemade burger I've ever had.  In fact, we are making burgers again tonight since they were so good.

So here is my Western Burger.  It's a bacon cheeseburger with BBQ mayo, crispy onion strings, avocado slices, and butter lettuce.  And no meatloaf patties.  If you have always mixed in a bunch of stuff, I hope you'll try this.  

WESTERN BURGERS
FOR THE BURGERS:
1 lb 80/20 ground beef
Salt & pepper, to taste
6 hamburger buns
Cooked bacon slices (as much or as little as you like)
Sliced cheese, any flavor (as much or as little as you like)
Butter lettuce
Crispy onion strings (recipe to follow)
BBQ Mayo (recipe to follow)

FOR THE CRISPY ONIONS:
1 onion, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 C buttermilk
1 1/2 C flour
3 teaspoons paprika
3 teaspoons onion powder
3 teaspoons garlic powder
Seasoned salt, to taste (like Lawry's)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Peanut oil, for frying

FOR THE BBQ MAYO:
1/2 C mayonnaise
1/2 C Chipotle BBQ Sauce (click for my recipe)

NOTE:  If you prefer to grill the burgers, you can follow the same method except over a grill.  Remember to salt & pepper only the side going down first and only salt & pepper the other side right before you flip it.  And remember not to press the patties down.  Grill to your desired doneness.  I would suggest 4 minutes per side and then an additional minute to melt the cheese.

If you are making my BBQ sauce recipe, cook it first and let it cool.  Then mix together the BBQ sauce and the mayo and chill it until you are ready to use it.

For the crispy onion strings, soak the onion slices in the buttermilk for about 5-10 minutes.  Mix together the flour, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, and Lawry's to taste.  Preheat some peanut oil in a skillet.  Dredge the onion strings in the flour and cook in batches for about 30 seconds to 1 minute or until lightly browned.  Drain them on a paper towel and set aside.

Divide the hamburger meat into six balls.  Flatten each ball out to about 1/4 inch patties, making sure they are wide enough to fit the bun.  Put an indention with your thumb into the center of each patty.  Preheat a large skillet to medium high heat.  Season the non-indented side of each patty generously with salt and pepper.  Place the seasoned side down in the pan.  Cook without disturbing them for 4 minutes. Season the top side generously with salt and pepper and flip them.  Cook an additional 4 minutes without disturbing them. They should be ready for cheese at this point.  If you are unsure if they are done to your liking, use a meat thermometer in the center to determine if they are done.  Add cheese slices to the patties and cover and cook for about 30 seconds to a minute to melt the cheese.

Assemble the burgers by placing some lettuce, burger patty, BBQ mayo, crispy onion strings, bacon, and avocado slices on the buns.

Adapted from Le Creme de la Crumb

Ultimate Mac & Cheese


Yes, I actually do, at times, have nine different kinds of cheese in my fridge.  I can't help myself.  But this Ultimate Mac & Cheese was pretty tasty with those nine different cheeses.  Enjoy!

ULTIMATE MAC & CHEESE
1 lb pasta, any shape
1/2 C Velveeta, cubed
1/4 C shredded Cheddar
1/4 C shredded Provolone
1/4 C shredded Colby
1/4 C shredded Muenster
1/4 C shredded Monterrey Jack
1/4 C shredded Gruyere
1/4 C shredded Pepper Jack
1/4 C shredded Mozzarella
4 T butter
1/2 to 3/4 C heavy cream
1/4 C breadcrumbs

Cook pasta according to package directions and then drain it. Put the pasta back into the hot pot and add the remaining ingredients except for the breadcrumbs.  Stir and cook over very low heat until all the cheese is melted, adding the extra 1/4 C heavy cream if it seems too dry.  Pour the mac & cheese into a 9 x 13 pan.  Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and broil a couple of minutes to brown.