Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Poppalo Dip


What the heck is Poppalo Dip, you ask?  Let me tell you, it's the best dang dip I've come up with so far.  It's a combination of jalapeno poppers and buffalo chicken.  I originally wanted to cook it as a dinner, but it was so creamy and such ooey gooey, spicy awesomeness that I decided it was really a dip! You're welcome!

POPPALO DIP
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
1/2 lb bacon, diced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapenos (2 chopped, 1 sliced)
12 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1/4 C mayonnaise
1/4 to 1/2 C buffalo wing sauce
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese
Black pepper, to taste
1 green onion, sliced, for garnish
Baguette slices, crackers, or tortilla chips, for serving

NOTES:  I probably put in closer to 3/4 C buffalo wing sauce since I like things spicy.  Start small and taste it to see if you want more.  Also, you could sub cooked, shredded chicken and skip the step for cooking the chicken.  Lastly, I didn't put any salt in this dish since the cheeses are salty as well as the wing sauce.  Chips or crackers will also have some salt too, so taste it before you add any.

Cook the bacon in a large ovenproof skillet until it's crispy. Drain the bacon and set it aside.  Drain off all but about 2 T of the bacon grease.  Cook the chicken in the remaining bacon grease until it's cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the chicken and set it aside.

Next add the onion and the chopped jalapenos to the same skillet.  Cook the veggies until they are tender.  Add the chicken, bacon, garlic, cream cheese, Parmesan, mayo, wing sauce, and black pepper to the skillet.  Preheat the broiler. Cook and stir the chicken mixture until it's smooth and all melted.  Add in more wing sauce, if needed.  Spread the Pepper Jack cheese all over the top and top it with the jalapeno slices.  Put the skillet under the broiler to melt and brown the cheese.  Garnish it with the green onions and serve with baguette slices, crackers, or tortilla chips. 


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Teenagers


It's kind of a strange thing to have teenagers.  They can be wonderful at times or horrible at times.  Sometimes they are full of drama and other times they are beautiful things.  But, amidst all the drama or backtalking, we still love them.  I have recently come to the realization that they won't be with us much longer.  They are close to being adults and on their way out the door.  Our daughter is 17, and we rarely see her. Our son is almost 15, and we rarely see him either.  He stays in his room trying to conquer the world via internet.  We get a rare sighting of him every now and then when he comes out for food.  Sometimes he even says a word or too!  It seems like just yesterday I had to hold their hands everywhere we went so we wouldn't get separated.  

I feel like I haven't seen my daughter practically all summer. I'm gone all day, and she works the evening shift and closes at a restaurant.  I have to go to bed early and she's home late.  My husband waits up for her, and apparently they have great talks when she gets home.  I'm missing out.  She has grown to be such a beautiful young woman.  She came by the restaurant I work at the other day to visit me and eat lunch.  It was very sweet.  While I do look forward to it just being me and my husband, I know I will miss them.

I had the rare pleasure of having my daughter home last night, and it was just the two of us for dinner.  I made her one of her favorites...Crab, Avocado & Grapefruit Salad.  If you've never tried those flavors together, trust me, it's good.  And we both raved and raved over the dressing I threw together.  If you have a teenage daughter, have dinner with her.  She won't be home much longer.

CRAB, AVOCADO & GRAPEFRUIT SALAD
Mixed baby greens
8 ounces lumb crabmeat
2 avocados, sliced
1 pink grapefruit, peeled and cut into supremes *see note
Sliced green onions

FOR THE DRESSING:
2 1/2 T champagne vinegar
Juice of 1 pink grapefruit
2 T spicy brown mustard
1-2 T honey (more if you want it sweeter)
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 T dried parsley
1 shallot, minced
2 teaspoons garlic powder

FOR THE BAGUETTE CROUTONS:
One long baguette, sliced thin
1 stick butter, melted
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried parsley
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's), to taste
Black pepper, to taste

NOTE:  The art of cutting grapefruits or other citrus fruits into "supremes" is to peel the fruit, segment it, and remove the membrane around each segment.  If you need a demonstration, click this link to Saveur Magazine for details.  

For the croutons, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Whisk together the butter, garlic powder, dried parsley, seasoned salt and pepper.  Toss the baguette slices in the butter. Spread the slices out in a single layer on a sheet pan.  Bake for 13 minutes.  Turn them over and then continue baking them in 5 minute increments until the croutons are browned and crispy.

For the dressing, whisk all of the dressing ingredients together.  Serve each salad on a bed of mixed baby greens with some crabmeat, grapefruit segments, avocado slices, and green onion slices and garnish with the dressing and croutons.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Improvising


Clumsy me, I managed to pull a muscle in my neck recently, and it's taking a little longer for it to heal than I have time for. I mean, really, how does this dumb neck think I'm going to stand up and work all day, 48 hours a week, or cook dinner so that I can bring you pretty pictures and yummy recipes.  I just don't have time for that, and my neck isn't cooperating. Luckily, I have a great husband who jumps in and helps, and he cooked dinner last night.

I wrote this recipe to be a pasta that cooks separately from the sauce, but I changed it last minute to a One Pot Wonder so that my husband could throw it together easily.  We are calling this Italian Flag Pasta.  It has red sundried tomatoes, white from the cheese and the chicken, and green from the spinach.  He did a fabulous job!  He even took the pictures! Here's a before shot:


Now, doesn't that look pretty!  This tasted so good.  The sauce was cheesy and the pasta cooked just right.  And, yes, the chicken cooks right along with everything else so it's truly a One Pot Wonder.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

ITALIAN FLAG PASTA
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 C fresh spinach leaves
One 8.5 ounce jar sundried tomatoes, drained
1 lb pasta, any shape
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 C shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 C grated Parmesan
2 C half & half
3-4 C chicken stock
Olive oil
Red chili flakes, to taste

Drizzle some olive oil into a large pot or dutch oven.  Place all of the remaining ingredients into the pot, starting with 2 C chicken stock.  Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce to medium heat.  Keep the pot covered, but stir it frequently.  If the sauce starts to cook out before the pasta is done, add more stock 1 C at a time.  I only had to add 1 C.  It took my shells about 30 minutes to simmer long enough to get the pasta soft and thicken up the sauce.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bacon & Cream Cheese Crescents



This is one of my all time favorite appetizers.  These Bacon & Cream Cheese Crescents always disappear fast and taste amazing!  I have made these for many parties, and people love them!  Enjoy!

BACON & CREAM CHEESE CRESCENTS
2 packages refrigerated crescent rolls
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 ounces cream cheese, very soft
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 T finely chopped onion
1 T milk
2 T chopped Italian parsley
1 egg
Poppy seeds, if desired

NOTE:  I used whole crescent triangles and made larger crescents.  You can cut the triangles into half triangles and get smaller crescents if you want bite-sized pieces.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Stir together the bacon, cream cheese, Parmesan chese, garlic powder, onion, milk, and parsley.  Separate the crescent rolls into triangles. Put about a 1 1/2 T dollop of the filling onto the center of each triangle.  Roll the triangles up the way you would normally roll crescent rolls up.  Put them on a baking sheet.  Beat the egg with a splash of water and brush the tops of the crescents with the egg mixture.  Sprinkle poppy seeds on top, if desired.  Bake the crescents for 12-15 minutes or until the tops are well browned and the crescent rolls are done in the center.

Source:  Great American Favorite Brand Name Cookbook

Potato Skins


I have been making these Baked (not fried) Potato Skins as long as I have been cooking.  I prefer the softer skins with a little potato left inside.  Since this will make just a few or enough for a crowd, I will only give you what you need for them and not amounts.  Enjoy!

POTATO SKINS
Russet potatoes
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Cooked and crumbled bacon
Sliced green onions
Ranch dip

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and dry the potatoes.  Tear off one piece of foil for every potato.  Drizzle each potato with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  Rub the potatoes around to coat them in the oil and seasoning.  Wrap the potatoes up in the foil and bake on a sheet pan for 1 hour or until the potatoes are soft to the touch.  Remove them from the oven.  When you can handle them (or handle them in a potholder), cut them in half.  Scoop out most of the inside of the potatoes (I like to leave some in).  You can reserve what you scoop out for another use, like mashed potatoes or latkes.  Put each potato half onto a sheet pan.  Fill the potatoes with the cheese and bacon and return to the oven for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese. Garnish with the green onions and serve with the Ranch.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Great Man


I have the best husband.  He really treats me like a queen. He is so kind and thoughtful and really helps me out when I need it.  Since I took over as manager of the restaurant I work at, he helps me even more.  He takes the kids and dogs to appointments.  He does the grocery shopping for me (although he usually comes home with more than is on the list).  He helps me cook dinner.  He takes my car and gets it washed once a week.  He asks me every single day how my day was.  Yesterday he spent the day finishing up trim work on the bamboo flooring that he recently installed, mostly by himself.  He also did the yard work, cleaned the garage, did some fence work, and bought groceries.  All this, mind you, he does while he manages the West Texas district of a shipping company.  

Since my husband is so good to me, I try to create dishes with him in mind.  He's not a big fan of chewy beef, so I have to get creative sometimes.  I created this Crockpot Beef Stroganoff to give him a great dish with the most tender, fall apart beef ever.  It tasted great, and we didn't heat up the kitchen. Thank you, John, for all that you do for me and the kids.  You're a great man!

CROCKPOT BEEF STROGANOFF
One 3 lb beef roast, cut into cubes
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 C beef stock
2 T butter
2 C sour cream
1/2 C flour
1 large bag of egg noodles

Put the cubed roast, mushrooms, onion, garlic, beef stock, and butter into a crockpot and season with salt and pepper. Cook on low for about 6-8 hours.  One hour before serving, ladle as much of the liquid out of the crockpot as you can and put the liquid into a bowl.  Whisk the flour into the liquid until smooth.  Whisk the sour cream into the flour mixture.  Stir the sour cream mixture back into the crockpot.  Turn the crockpot on high and cook until thickened and bubbly.  

Cook the egg noodles according to package directions. Serve the Stroganoff over the egg noodles.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Salmon Eggs Benedict


Who says you can't have breakfast for dinner!  We did just last night.  We love Eggs Benedict, but how about a Salmon Eggs Benedict!  Some tasty smoked salmon made this a very delicious meal.  And the hollandaise sauce is very easy to whip up in the blender.  Enjoy!

SALMON EGGS BENEDICT
4 English muffins
Butter (to toast the muffins)
6 ounces smoked salmon
4 eggs
4 egg yolks
1 stick butter
3 T heavy cream
Salt & pepper, to taste
Juice of half a lemon (about 1-2 T)
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Split the English muffins in half and spread the insides with butter.  Place them on a sheet pan and put them under the broiler to toast them.  Meanwhile, poach the eggs in an egg poacher or in boiling water with a splash of vinegar.  Make the hollandaise sauce last.  Melt the butter and keep it hot. Put the 4 egg yolks, the cream, lemon juice, and salt and pepper into a blender.  Turn the blender on as high as it will go.  While the blender is running, stream in the butter very slowly.  The hot butter will slowly cook the sauce and thicken it at the same time.  Put some salmon, a poached egg, and some hollandaise sauce onto the bottom of each muffin. Garnish the eggs benedict with the chopped parsley, if desired.

Blooming Potatoes


These Blooming Potatoes are easier than you'd think, and this is a fun presentation for baked potatoes.  And you can garnish them with whatever you like.  Enjoy!

BLOOMING POTATOES
4 medium potatoes
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Shredded cheese
Cooked and crumbled bacon
Sliced green onions
Ranch dip or sour cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut slits in the potatoes longways and then across the short side, being careful not to cut all the way through the potato.  Put the potatoes on a sheet pan and carefully pull apart the sections without breaking pieces off of the potato.  Drizzle some olive oil over them and season them with salt and pepper, being sure to get some in the cracks.  Bake the potatoes uncovered for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.  Sprinkle the cheese over the potatoes during the last five minutes to melt the cheese.  Serve the potatoes garnished with bacon, green onions, and sour cream or Ranch dip.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Knight Rider & Chicken


So you've probably heard of Hasselback Potatoes (click for my recipe), but have you heard or Hasselback Chicken?  It's not like David Hasselhoff, you know, from the show Knight Rider.  I used to love that show.  It came on Friday nights. We would order a pizza from Domino's and watch Knight Rider and then Dallas.  It was a great show.  KITT was a smart aleck.  Did you know that Domino's (at least back then) wouldn't just put onions on a third of the pizza, but instead it had to be half?  My mom was the only one that liked onions back then (I've grown to love them, by the way), so we always had to pick them off of the half of the pizza that she didn't eat.  Good times.

Anyway, back to the chicken.  Hasselback potatoes are potatoes that are sliced almost all the way through and then baked and sometimes stuffed with stuff.  They came from Sweden.  So why not treat chicken the same way!  This turned out amazing!  We put ham and Swiss cheese in ours and called it a healthier "Cordon Bleu Hasselback Chicken." Cordon bleu means blue ribbon, by the way.  You could stuff it with whatever cheese and meat you want and it will be good.  We ate ours with hot sauce (I chose Frank's and my hubby chose Crystal's) just because we like hot sauce.  But it would be good with Ranch dressing too.  It's easy to throw together and darn tasty!

CORDON BLEU HASSELBACK CHICKEN
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4-6 thin slices deli ham (or your favorite deli meat)
4-6 slices Swiss cheese (or your favorite cheese)
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
Black pepper
Garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut slits in the chicken but don't cut all the way through.  Season the chicken on both sides with seasoned salt, black pepper, and garlic powder, being sure to get some into the slits.  Tear the ham into smaller pieces and stick some in each slit.  Tear the cheese into smaller pieces and stick some into each slit.  Put the chicken on a sheet pan and bake it 35-40 minutes or until the chicken is at 165 degrees internally.  Serve with hot sauce, Ranch dressing, or even sour cream.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Tacos & Haboobs



I love tacos.  I'm sure I've told you that a gazillion times.  I like them in flour tortillas or corn tortillas or crunchy taco shells.  I could eat a taco every single day.  For breakfast, lunch and dinner.  There is quite an appeal about a little portable vessel that holds delectable fillings that just makes me squeal with joy.  

I also love my crockpot.  Here in West Texas, it gets hot.  I mean HOT!  And it's really dusty here.  Did you know we have dust storms here called haboobs?  They are crazy. Here's a picture I got from the National Weather Service of an actual haboob in my town. 



Crazy, huh.  You look outside and then this scary red thing is sweeping across the yard!  Good times.

Sorry, I got off track.  This post is about tacos.  If you've ever heard of a restaurant called Chipotle, then you know about their barbacoa.  It isn't quite a traditional barbacoa, since traditional barbacoa is the cheek meat of a cow.  Barbacoa translates to the word "barbecue" which is where barbecue was kind of born and transformed into what we know as barbecue today.  

Anyway, I made this copycat version of Chipotle's barbacoa. I used a pork shoulder in mine, which isn't traditional, but I just love pork.  This recipe is easy, tasty and a bit spicy.  I also made my homemade Pico de Gallo and a tasty Salsa Verde (recipe is at the end) to go with it.  You can use beef here if you'd like.  Heck, it's your taco.  Do what you want!  Enjoy!

COPYCAT CHIPOTLE BARBACOA
One 3 lb pork roast (shoulder or butt) (you can also use beef)
1 onion, chopped
1/4 C apple cider vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T cumin
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 T brown sugar
2-4 chipotles in adobo
Juice of 1 lime
1 T chili powder

Put all of the ingredients into a crockpot and cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or until the meat is tender.  Depending on your roast, you may need to drain off some of the liquid before shredding.  I drained off about half of the liquid and shredded the meat with the rest of the liquid.  You can serve this in flour or corn tortillas and garnish with cheese, Pico de Gallo, sour cream, and Salsa Verde.

SALSA VERDE
10 tomatillos
1-2 fresh jalapenos
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 C chopped onion
1/4 C chopped cilantro
1 T lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Peel the papery skins off of the tomatillos and rinse them.  Put the tomatillos, jalapenos, and garlic cloves on a sheet pan.  Roast the veggies for about 15 minutes or until the jalapenos are charred.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel as much skin off of the jalapenos as you can and remove the stems and seeds.  Put the tomatillos, jalapenos, garlic and the remaining ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Summer Vacation


We just got back from vacation in beautiful Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  It's a small town along the San Juan River.  We rented the cutest cabin that's right on the river.  Here's a link to Mac's Hideaway where we stayed, if you want to check out the pictures.

We have found that renting a house is the way to go when going on vacation.  We are more comfortable, can cook our own meals instead of eating out a lot, and it's cheaper to rent a house for a week than everyone getting hotel rooms.  Plus we had the river right in the back yard!  Our son manned his own kayak for the first time.  We built fires in the fire pit.  We visited a cute little town called Silverton.  My mom bought a pair of cowboy boots, which supposedly is my fault since I wore mine a lot there and she wanted a pair too.  

My mom also brought an abundance of lunch meat to pack lunches for hiking trips.  She is like me and buys too much when trying to feed six people.  So I came home with the majority of what was left, including a big tub of sliced salami. I wasn't sure what to do with it, other than make everyone eat sandwiches every day.  But I came up with these Chicken & Salami Rolls which turned out quite tasty.  They are easy to throw together and the combination of flavors is great!  Enjoy!

CHICKEN & SALAMI ROLLS
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
16 slices salami
4 Mozzarella cheese sticks
4 Mozzarella cheese slices
2 C marinara
12-16 fresh spinach leaves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butterfly the chicken breasts (don't cut all the way through) and pound them thin. Lay three to four spinach leaves down the center of the chicken.  Then lay four slices salami down the center of each chicken.  Add one cheese stick on top of the salami.  Close the chicken breasts up and secure with toothpicks.  I use three per piece so I know how many to remove.  Put the chicken breasts in a glass casserole pan.  Pour the marinara over the top.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center reaches 165 degrees.  During the last few minutes, lay a Mozzarella cheese slice over each piece to melt it.  Don't forget to remove the toothpicks before serving.

Adapted from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice

Four Cheese Fettuccine


This creamy, cheesy Four Cheese Fettuccine is rather indulgent but extremely tasty!

FOUR CHEESE FETTUCCINE
1 lb fettuccine
2 C heavy cream
Olive oil
2 T butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C shredded Parmesan
1/2 C grated Romano cheese
1/2 C shredded Provolone cheese
1/2 C Mozzarella
Chopped Italian parsley, if desired
Red chili flakes, if desired
Salt and pepper (taste it before salting)

Cook the fettuccine according to package directions and drain well.  

Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil in a medium pot and melt the butter over medium heat.  Cook the garlic, stirring constantly, for about a minute, being careful not to burn it. Add in the heavy cream and bring to a boil.  Next, either on low heat or over the burner in the off position, slowly whisk in handfuls of all the cheeses, whisking constantly, until all the cheese is incoporated and the sauce is smooth.  Stir the sauce into the noodles and add in parsley, chili flakes, and salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Another Easy Dinner


Don't you just love easy dinners?  More than that, don't you just love using the crockpot and not turning on the oven?  Me too!  

Recently I did a Mississippi Roast that's like magic.  You dump six ingredients into a crockpot and something magical comes out.  I wanted take the same concept but make the flavors different.  I made this Italian Roast the other day and served it over risotto.  Instead of the pepperoncini peppers, I used a jar of giardiniera, which is pickled veggies.  It was every bit as good as the Mississippi Roast and just as simple! And I didn't have to heat up the house.  You could serve this over pasta or rice or even mashed potatoes.  Enjoy!

ITALIAN ROAST
One 2-3 lb roast (I used a chuck roast)
1 packet au jus gravy mix
1 packet Italian dressing mix (I used Good Seasons Zesty Italian)
1 stick butter
One 16-ounce jar of giardiniera, drained
4 cloves garlic, minced

Put the drained giardiniera into the crockpot.  Next add the garlic and then the roast.  Sprinkle the packets of au jus mix and dressing mix over the roast.  Put the stick of butter on top.  Do not add any liquid to the pot.  Trust me, you don't need it.  Cook the roast on low for about 8 hours or until the meat is tender.  Shred the meat with the juice and serve over pasta, rice, or mashed potatoes.