Wednesday, September 30, 2015

German Cucumber Salad


This German Cucumber Salad, or Gurkensalat, has a very interesting flavor journey.  First you get sweet, then salty, then tangy.  I saw recipes where they peeled the cucumbers. I saw it with and without tomatoes.  I saw where they let it sit in the fridge for 8 hours.  I didn't peel my cucumbers, I used tomatoes, and we ate it right away!  If you love cucumbers, you'll love this!

GERMAN CUCUMBER SALAD
2 large cucumbers, very thinly sliced
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 C very thinly sliced red onion
1/2 C sour cream
1 T sugar
3 T vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 T fresh dill weed, chopped
1 T dried parsley
1 C grape tomatoes, quartered

NOTES:  It is best to slice the cucumbers and onions on a mandolin if you can.  Also, I saw recipes where they used up to 3 T sugar.  I don't care for sweet stuff all that much, so I used less.  It's up to you.  Also, I used apple cider vinegar, but you could use regular white vinegar or champagne vinegar or whichever is your favorite.

Spread the cucumber slices out on a sheet pan and salt them.  Let them sit for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the sour cream, sugar, vinegar, dill weed, parsley, Dijon, and garlic.  Taste for seasoning and adjust the sugar and salt and add pepper, if desired.

Squeeze the cucumbers dry in a towel.  Stir the onion slices, cucumber slices, and tomatoes into the dressing.  Serve cold.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Lucky Girl


I truly feel like I am a very blessed person.  I have great, smart (almost grown!!  Woo-hoo!) teenagers.  I have a great job.  I have a roof over my head and a nice car and food to eat.  But, most of all, I have an amazing husband.  We are just as much crazy in love with each other as we were in the beginning.  I wish that on all of you, to know a love where the flame doesn't burn out.  Okay, that was kinda corny.

My husband and I generally try to play Texas Hold'Em on Saturday and Sunday nights and have a few cocktails.  We have started playing this game where we take turns picking songs to play on the surround sound and we try to outdo each other by picking a better, more romantic song or "tug at the heart strings" song as he would call it.  It's great fun.  We really have a good time together no matter what we're doing. We cook together, run errands together, and just love, well, being together!  We are each other's biggest fans!

Obviously I love to cook and I love to feed people.  In fact, I cook sometimes like I have ten kids.  My most recent concoction is this Spinach & Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken. If you haven't had goat cheese, it's a soft and tangy cheese that melts well.  This recipe is pretty easy to put together and it cooks relatively quickly.  And it's darn tasty!  Enjoy!

SPINACH & GOAT CHEESE STUFFED CHICKEN
FOR THE FILLING:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
One 10-ounce box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 C mayonnaise
6 ounces soft goat cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (like Lawry's)

TOPPING:
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
Black pepper
Garlic powder
1 C Italian bread crumbs
1/4 C mayonnaise
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Mix together the spinach, Parmesan cheese, mayo, goat cheese, garlic powder and seasoned salt until well combined.  Cut pockets into the chicken breasts, being sure not to cut all of the way through the chicken.  Stuff the chicken with the spinach mixture and place the stuffed chicken on a sheet pan.  Season the outsides of the chicken breasts with a little seasoned salt, garlic powder and black pepper.  

Spread the mayo on the tops of each chicken breast. Carefully top the mayo with the breadcrumbs on each chicken breast and pat it down. Drizzle the breadcrumbs with a little olive oil.  Bake the chicken for 25-30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the middle reaches 165 degrees.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pesto Party


So lately I've been kind of hooked on pesto.  I found a store-bought brand that is so good that I got caught in the kitchen eating out of the jar with a spoon.  Seriously, my daughter walked in and saw me.  Then she took the spoon and tasted it too.  She said, "wow, I see why you're sneaking around with this stuff."  Sure, I've made homemade pesto before and it was good.  But, since I got promoted at work, I work an extra hour every day.  Also, my son stays at school unti 5:30 every other day for cross country.  So I'm still on my quest for easy weeknight dinners.

Anywho...this chicken.  I'm calling it Roma Pesto Chicken.  I slathered some pesto on chicken breasts, covered it with Roma tomato slices and Mozzarella cheese, and baked it. OH MY WORD!  Was this stuff good!  It literally was ready for the oven in about 5 minutes and cooked relatively quickly.  It was divine!  Happy dinner!

ROMA PESTO CHICKEN
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Garlic powder
Black pepper
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
One 8-ounce jar traditional basil pesto
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
8 ounces Mozzarella cheese, sliced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Sprinkle the chicken breasts on both sides with garlic powder, seasoned salt (lightly), and black pepper.  Put the chicken in a glass casserole pan.  Spread the pesto all over the tops of the chicken.  Lay the tomato slices down the tops of the chicken. Sprinkle the cheese all over the tops of the chicken.  Bake covered for 40 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center of the chicken registers at 165 degrees.  **Be sure and watch the chicken during the last 10 to 15 minutes or so to make sure the cheese isn't burning.  If it is getting brown too quickly, cover it with foil during the remaining cook time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Crazy Combo


I stumbled upon this recipe on the internet, and I found that a bunch of sites had this listed.  The combination of ingredients for this is just so weird that I had to try it.  Seriously, who would put teriyaki sauce and Ranch together?  And Cheddar cheese?  Are you kidding me?

But I'm game to try most anything and the weirder the better. I was uber skeptical about how this would turn out, but what the heck.  We only live once.  Mix that Ranch and teriyaki! But...guess what.  IT WAS FANTASTIC!  Crazy, I know.  I didn't have Cheddar because my ginormous almost 15 year old 5'11" son is like a Hoover vacuum and eats everything in his path.  And he's skinny as a rail.  Go figure.  

Anywho, this dish is so simple to make and really is darn tasty!  Enjoy!

ANNIVERSARY CHICKEN
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 C prepared teriyaki sauce
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 C Ranch dressing
1 C shredded Cheddar cheese (I used Pepper Jack)
3 green onions, sliced
Garlic powder
Onion powder
2 T butter
Olive oil

NOTES:  I read reviews on several sites that this combination can tend to be salty.  If you don't like a lot of salt or can't have it, find the lowest sodium teriyaki sauce you can.  I'm not sure if there's low sodium cheese, but if there is that's a good place to cut back too.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Season the chicken on all sides with a little garlic powder and onion powder.  Melt the butter in a large skillet and drizzle in some olive oil.  Brown the chicken over medium high heat in the skillet on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.  

Transfer the chicken to a casserole dish.  Spread the Ranch dressing on top of all four pieces of chicken.  Brush the teriyaki sauce on top of all four pieces of chicken.  Sprinkle the bacon and cheese over the tops of each piece of chicken. Cook the chicken for about 25 minutes or until a thermometer registers at 165 degrees internally.  Garnish with the green onions.

Cheesy Bacon-Wrapped Tater Tots


My Facebook friend, Diane, sent me a video about these Cheesy Bacon-Wrapped Tater Tots.  This is right up my alley, so I just had to do it!  I served them with Ranch dressing and buffalo wing sauce.  Yum!

CHEESY BACON-WRAPPED TATER TOTS
About 30 frozen tater tots
8 slices bacon
1 C cubed cheese (I used Colby Jack)
Sliced green onions, if desired
Ranch dressing, if desired
Buffalo wing sauce (or hot sauce), if desired

NOTE:  My bacon was thick slices, so I had to cook it longer than the suggested cooking time.  Also, I think the cooking temperature should be higher, so I adjusted for that.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Lay a strip of bacon out flat.  Put a tater tot on the end and roll it up in the bacon, cutting it off after the bacon is entirely around the tater tot. Continue with the remaining tater tots.  Lay the tater tots bacon seam side down on a sheet pan.  Bake the tots for 25 minutes OR until the bacon is fully cooked.  Remove the tots to an ovenproof plate.  Scatter the cheese cubes around over the top of the tots and return them to the oven for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese.  Serve the tots with green onions, Ranch dressing, and buffalo wing sauce, if desired.

Source:  BuzzFeed

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sharing



My husband is a district manager for a shipping company. He has two problem stations in Oklahoma, and he's been going there every week for eight weeks.  He even had one stretch where he was gone 14 days!  It was terrible for the both of us.  We get along really well and hate spending time apart.

Anywho, I keep on cooking like we are all here.  Our daughter is gone to work in the evenings most of the time, and our son is still a little picky and doesn't eat a lot of what I cook.  So my lucky employees get a lot of leftovers.  I bring them to work, eat what I can for lunch, share with them, and then somebody gets to take the rest home.  Okay, so sometimes I kind of force it on them.  It's good food and I don't want it to go to waste.

On my never-ending quest for quick weeknight meals, I made this Sausage & Baby Broccoli Pasta.  It cooks up quick and tasted fantastic!  It's not a real saucy pasta, but I used some of the cooking liquid for the pasta to give it a light sauce and to help melt in the Parmesan cheese.  And the picky one liked it!  I hope you enjoy it too!

SAUSAGE & BABY BROCCOLI PASTA
1 lb fettuccine
1 lb Italian sausage (casings removed if not bulk)
5 garlic cloves, minced
Red chili flakes, to taste
1 bunch baby broccoli (florets only)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste
Olive oil

Cook fettuccine according to package directions.  Save about 3 ladles of the cooking liquid for the pasta.

Drizzle some olive oil into a large skillet.  Cook the onion over medium high heat until tender.  Add in the broccoli and cook 1 minute.  Add in the sausage and the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until sausage is cooked.  Add in the Parmesan cheese and chili flakes.  Stir in the fettuccine.  Stir in the pasta liquid, 1 ladle at a time, until the cheese melts and sticks to the pasta and there is a light sauce.  Garnish the pasta with more Parmesan cheese and chili flakes, if desired.

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bloody Wrighteous


So one of my Facebook friends, Michelle, sent me a picture of this insane drink from a restaurant called Sobelman's Pub. Apparently they are known for these ridiculous Bloody Marys that have a ton of food sticking out of the top.  They even have one with a whole fried chicken!  My husband saw the pictures, and he absolutely wanted to do it!  The jar here is 1 foot tall, and there's at least 6-7 inches of stuff sticking out of the top!  Here's the rundown of what we put on ours:

  • Fried cheese
  • Hamburger sliders (recipe to follow)
  • Cubed cheese
  • Mini BBQ smoked sausages
  • Celery stalks
  • Whole green onions
  • Grilled shrimp
  • Marinated veggie skewers (pickled okra, pickled baby corn, jalapeno stuffed olives, baby mushrooms, giardiniera, baby pickles)
  • Tomato & onion skewers
  • Deep fried grilled cheese wedges
  • Tater tots
  • Hot links
  • Pork Kabobs (click for my recipe)
  • Carne Asada (click for my recipe)
  • Bacon wrapped chicken (recipe to follow)
  • Chicken wings

We used two bottles of Bloody Mary mix.  If you like it spicy, check out Pain is Good Zesty Garlic Bloody Mary Mix.  We get it at Walmart.  It's pretty darn tasty.  (I wish they were paying me to endorse it, but, alas, they aren't.)




We're calling this the Bloody Wrighteous.  Yes, I know it's spelled without the W, but our last name is Wright, duh.  (Just kidding)  It's totally insane, I know.  For me, there are two standouts in this:  The Hamburger Sliders and the Bacon Wrapped Chicken.  Here are the recipes for both.  Enjoy!


BACON-WRAPPED CHICKEN
1 lb boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 C brown sugar
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
About 8 slices bacon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix the brown sugar, garlic and cayenne pepper together.  Cut each piece of bacon into thirds.  Wrap a piece of bacon around a chicken piece.  Roll it around in the brown sugar.  Secure them with a toothpick and bake on a sheet pan for about 30 minutes (more if the bacon is thick) or until the bacon is browned and the chicken is done.

HAMBURGER SLIDERS
1 lb hamburger meat
Salt & pepper, to taste
6 slices American cheese slices
4 slider buns
1/4 C very finely minced onion

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sprinkle salt and pepper into the bottom of an 8 x 8 glass pan.  Press the hamburger meat down into the pan in an even layer.  Bake the meat for about 20 minutes or until done.  Cut the meat into 4 squares.  
Split the slider buns open.  Put half of a slice of cheese onto each bun bottom.  Place a hamburger patty on top of the cheese.  Top with a whole slice of cheese and some of the minced onion.  Put the top bun on top and put the sliders on a pan.  Put them in the oven for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese.  *A pickle slice or two would be great here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Game Day Crazy Bread


If you've been following me for a while, you probably have seen my recipe for Italian Deli Crazy Bread.  So I did it again. I took a loaf of bread, sliced it partially, and stuffed it with some good stuff and baked it.  This Game Day Crazy Bread is loaded with a filling of cream cheese, bacon, jalapenos, more cheese, and green onions.  And it's so darn tasty!  Just in time for football season!

GAME DAY CRAZY BREAD
1 loaf Italian bread
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 C mayonnaise
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 C shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
1-2 T chopped jalapeno slices (the kind from a jar)
1 green onion, sliced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon onion powder
Hot sauce, to taste
2 T butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the bread in about 1-inch intervals but don't cut all the way through the bottom of the bread so that the loaf stays together.  Brush the melted butter in between the slices (it won't completely coat it).  Mix the remaining ingredients together using only half of the Cheddar, reserving the other half for the top.  Stuff the filling down in the slices of the bread.  Wrap the bread in foil.  Put the loaf in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the filling is warm.  Unwrap the bread, sprinkle on the remaining cheese, and put it back in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fire Crackers



I'm really really sorry to do this to you.  It's really not fair of me to post something so ridiculously addicting.  These Fire Crackers are stupid easy to make and I promise you you will ask someone to take them away from you so that you'll stop eating them.  I took a batch to work, and my boss kept eating them and then said, "Cindy, put those in your purse or something so I can't see them anymore."  I made another batch and I actually came home yesterday and just ate that for dinner.  I know, shameful.  Oh, well.  I'll eat some lettuce or something tonight.  Enjoy!

FIRE CRACKERS
2 sleeves saltine crackers
1 packet Ranch dip mix
1/2 C vegetable oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1-2 T red chili flakes, to taste (this is the fire)
2 teaspoons dried parsley

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Whisk together the oil, Ranch, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, chili flakes, and parsley in a large bowl.  Dump the saltines into the bowl and mix them around with your hands, making sure to coat all of the crackers.  Spread the crackers out on a sheet pan.  Bake the crackers 15-20 minutes, until they are dry.  Let them cool completely before packaging them up. But you'll probably eat most of them before they ever see a Ziploc bag.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Basil Addict


I love basil.  I love it fresh, in pesto, in pastas, on pizzas, you name it.  My husband, on the other hand, doesn't love it so much.  I think it's the smell more than the taste of it.  I love the flowery smell of basil.  It smells so fresh and makes me think of the garden.  I can sneak small amounts in his food sometimes, but, if he sees me with it, he turns up his nose. So generally I try to save recipes with basil for when he's out of town.

I know I've told you, but I've been on a mission for quick weeknight meals.  Time is precious to me, and I don't have a lot to spare.  While I really don't use a lot of jarred or canned foods, I did find a pesto in a jar that I loved so much that I could have just sat down with a spoon and eaten it by itself. It's the Classico brand of traditional pesto.  (No, I'm not being reimbursed by them.  Just thought I'd share it with you.)  So I wanted to make a quick Chicken in Pesto Mushroom Cream Sauce.  I served it over angel hair pasta.  Boy oh boy, was this pasta good.  It came together quickly and tasted fabulous.

On a side note, awhile back I asked my husband to get me some Texas Toast while he was at the grocery store.  I was wanting the thick-sliced sandwich bread called Texas Toast, but what I got was Texas Toast frozen garlic bread.  I laughed and stuck it in the freezer.  I saw it when I was making this pasta and thought, what the heck.  No offense to Texas Toast, but that stuff was hard and crunchy when it came out of the oven.  Maybe I cooked it wrong.  Anywho, enjoy the pasta!

CHICKEN IN PESTO MUSHROOM CREAM SAUCE
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 T butter
Olive oil
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 C heavy cream
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 C chicken stock
1/4 C traditional basil pesto
1 T lemon juice
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 T chopped Italian parsley
1/2 lb angel hair pasta

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, over medium high heat, melt the butter in a skillet and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the onions for 3-4 minutes.  Add in the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add in the garlic and chicken and cook another 3-4 minutes.  Add in the cream, chicken stock, pesto and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes to thicken the sauce.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese in small handfuls and stir until smooth.  Serve the chicken over the pasta and garnish with the parsley.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fresh Fast


I have a really tight schedule now, and I have to scramble to get all of the things done that I need to.  I work six days a week as a manager of a cafe & bakery.  I have two teenagers, one of which isn't old enough to drive yet and stays late at school every other day for cross country. Obviously I cook a lot and blog too, so I really have to be organized.  I have really been focused on quick weeknight meals so I can have a little bit of downtime.

We love steaks around here, and my husband is a huge fan of fresh tomatoes.  I saw a recipe somewhere that someone made a quick sauce out of cherry tomatoes, and the lightbulb came on.  How about Strip Steaks with a Burst Tomato Sauce!  My absolute best kitchen tool is my cast iron skillet. Sure, I have several pieces, but this big one in the picture is the one we use the most.  It spreads the heat well, is virtually a nonstick surface, and works great for steaks.  They really aren't that huge of an investment, so if you can buy one, you should.

These steaks turned out so great.  It was quick and easy. I used grape tomatoes and fresh lemon juice and parsley.  It was fantastic!  Quick, easy, and darn tasty!

STRIP STEAKS WITH BURST TOMATO SAUCE
1 lb strip steaks
2 T butter
Olive oil
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 C water
Red chili flakes, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T chopped Italian parsley
1 lemon

NOTES:  You can really use any steaks you like here.  I used strip steaks because they cook quickly and are very tender. The sugar added to the tomatoes is to help caramelize the tomatoes and sweeten them slightly and it helps balance the acidity of the lemon.  If your tomatoes are already sweet, you can omit the sugar. 

Melt the butter on medium high heat in a large skillet (cast iron is preferable) and drizzle in some olive oil.  Generously season the steaks with salt and pepper.  Sear the steaks until well browned on one side, about 3-4 minutes.  Flip the steaks and sear the other side until they reach your desired doneness, 3-5 minutes.  Remove the steaks to a plate and cover them with foil to keep them warm.  

Add the tomatoes to the skillet and add in the water, sugar and chili flakes, to taste.  Cook and stir the tomatoes, crushing them slightly, until they are soft and they create a sauce in the pan, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic to the skillet and cook and stir for about 1 minute.  Remove the skillet from the heat.  Zest the lemon into the tomato sauce and then squeeze the juice from the lemon into the pan.  Stir in the parsley.  Slice the steaks and serve the sauce over the steaks.

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Dinner Can Be Exciting!


Do you ever feel like you're in a cooking rut?  I have felt that some lately.  My dishes usually turn out good, but there's no wow factor.  My pictures haven't been all that great lately either.  I don't know if I've been tired or boring or what it is. 

But I think I've overcome that hurdle.  I wanted to do an Asian salmon dish that was easy to make but with some wow factor.  I made this last night, and I was worried that it would fall flat.  I mixed up the sweet Asian glaze for the veggies and tasted it.  Man, was that stuff good.  I almost drank it!  Not really, but it was seriously good.  Then I made a wasabi and sriracha mayo to go with it.  Perfect amount of heat.  Dang, that stuff was good too.  Then I chopped a few veggies, threw it all on a sheet pan, and put it in the oven.  

My daughter came home from her friend's house about the time I got it out of the oven.  She came running into the kitchen excited about the smell.  She thought it was teriyaki sauce by the smell.  We cooked up a little ramen to serve it over.  This stuff was FANTASTIC!  This is by far the best dish I've made in a long time!  We raved and raved about it.  This Asian Roasted Salmon & Veggies was super easy to make and very impressive.  This would be great for date night or impressing in-laws.  It's that good.  I promise.  Enjoy!

ASIAN ROASTED SALMON & VEGGIES
FOR THE WASABI SRIRACHA MAYO:
1/2 C mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons wasabi paste, to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1-2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce, to taste

FOR THE GLAZE:
2 T olive oil
1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T rice wine vinegar
1 T toasted sesame seeds
1-2 teaspoons Chinese style hot mustard, to taste
A few drops of sesame oil
1-2 teaspoons Japanese seven spice

FOR THE SALMON:
1 small head bok choy
About 1 lb fresh salmon, cut into six equal portions
2 C chopped green cabbage
4 ounces shitake mushrooms (I used 16) stems removed and large ones chopped in half
One 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
4 green onions, root end discarded, onions cut in half

NOTES:  Japanese seven spice can usually only be found in Asian markets.  You can use Chinese five spice or leave it out altogether.  For the bok choy, cut most of the white parts off and separate the leaves.  For the green onions, cut the bulb end off and discard it.  Then just cut the long onion in half so that you have about 3-4 inch sections of whole onion.
Also, I left the skin on the salmon so that it would hold together and then we just removed it to eat it.  You can cut the skins off before cooking if you like.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  For the mayo, whisk all of the ingredients together and put it in the fridge until you're ready to eat.  

For the glaze, whisk the ingredients together and set it aside.

Put all of the veggies on a sheet pan and drizzle half of the glaze over the veggies.  Season the veggies with salt and pepper.  Mix them around with your hands and spread them out into a single layer (as much as you can).  Cook the veggies for 15 minutes.  Put the salmon on the sheet pan with the veggies and brush the remaining glaze all over the salmon.  Return the pan to the oven and cook an additional 15-18 minutes or until the salmon is done and the veggies are tender.  Serve the salmon and veggies with the mayo.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Casseroles & Potlucks



Don't you just love casseroles!  The ones I make are usually large and feed my family for more than one meal.  They are great for potlucks and get-togethers.  They are great to take to new mothers or sick people that can't cook or to funerals. They are just one of the greatest inventions.

I'm not sure if it's a Southern thing, but we serve a lot of broccoli and cheese casserole, also known as broccoli and rice casserole.  I came across a recipe for Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole, and I originally intended for my recipe to be a quick weeknight meal, although it didn't really turn out that quick.  I also had intended on using Monterrey Jack cheese too.  But I opened the pantry to get out the artichokes, and there it was, staring at me, begging me to use it.  The Velveeta.  Calling my name!  I really truly don't use a lot of processed foods when I cook, but Velveeta is something I can't give up.  I thought about that broccoli and rice casserole, which also has Velveeta.  I just had to do it!

Anywho, this casserole isn't a side dish.  It's a meal.  It's full of chicken, mushrooms, bell peppers, artichokes, wild rice and, of course, Velveeta.  Sure, you can use whatever cheese you like here.  It is, after all, your casserole.  This one was a big hit at my house, and nobody really noticed the artichokes, which my husband and son usually turn their noses up at.  Enjoy!

CHICKEN & WILD RICE CASSEROLE
2 C cooked shredded chicken
One 7-ounce package wild rice mix (I used Zatarain's)
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
3 green onions, sliced
One 12-ounce jar chicken gravy
1/2 C sour cream
2 teaspoons garlic powder
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 lb Velveeta, cubed
1/4 C water

Cook the rice according to the package directions.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Meanwhile, whisk together the gravy, sour cream, water, and garlic powder.  Stir in the rice and the remaining ingredients.  Spread the mixture in a 9 x 13 casserole.  Bake the casserole uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until it's heated through.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Car Washaphobia


My husband bought me a new car earlier this year, and I absolutely love it.  He also bought me unlimited premium car washes, so I could go every day if I wanted to.  But...I have a strange phobia of car washes.  Not the do-it-yourself car washes.  It's the kind where you drive up, a guy waves you in and tells you which way to adjust your wheels, and then you put it in neutral and ride through.  Seems harmless enough, right?  Not for me.

You see, I kinda panic when I head in.  A few years ago, I tried it and I accidentally put the car in reverse instead of neutral.  They had to stop the conveyer and get my tires lined back up.  So now I freak out a little.  Is it time yet?  Neutral now?  Then there's a slight panic while I'm going through. What if my tires get off track?  What if the car in front of me did?  Am I going to hit that car that I can't see?  

Then comes the end and this is where I really panic.  There are two guys at the end of the conveyer with towels to dry the car off.  When they are done and it's time for you to put it in drive, they give you a thumbs up signal.  But they are behind you sort of and you have to watch in your side mirrors to see the signal.  Sounds easy enough.  But wait.  They put you in so close to the car in front of me that I panic that they aren't going to move fast enough and my car will hit theirs.  I have gone twice now by myself in my new car, and the last time I actually started waving my arms around like an idiot because I didn't think the car in front of me was going to move in time. The towel drier guys got a good laugh at that.  I wonder if I'm the only one that is afraid of car washes.

Anywho, this recipe is a lot less stressful than a car wash. This is a Florentine Chicken Ring.  It's full of spinach, shredded chicken, and cheese.  It's wrapped up in crescent rolls and baked.  Easy, right?  This is another one of my quick weeknight meals and everyone loved it!  Enjoy!

FLORENTINE CHICKEN RING
2 C cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 C diced red bell pepper
One 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
1 C shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
3/4 C mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt & pepper, to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 green onions, sliced
2 cans crescent rolls

NOTES:  For an even quicker meal, switch the bell pepper out for a small can of pimentos, drained.  You could buy a rotisserie chicken and shred that for the cooked chicken.  I boil a bunch of chicken breasts, let them cool, and then shred them and freeze them in about 2 C portions so that I'll have cooked chicken on hand ready to go.  Also, buying pre-shredded cheese is a good shortcut.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Put the spinach in a towel and squeeze out as much water as you can.  In a bowl, stir together the chicken, spinach, bell pepper, mayo, lemon juice, salt & pepper, cheese, garlic powder, nutmeg and green onion.  

Separate the crescent rolls.  In a pan large enough to fit the ring, lay out the crescent triangles in a circular pattern with the fat ends overlapping and the points sticking out.  Here's a picture:  


Spread the chicken filling around the overlapped parts of the crescents.  Take the pointed end of the crescents and fold them over the filling and tuck them under in the center.  The filling should show through.  Bake the ring for 25-30 minutes or until the ring is browned and the dough on the bottom is cooked.

Adapted from Pampered Chef

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Shortcuts


So I told you that I was looking for shortcut dinners since school is back in session, and, wow, was this one a winner! If you like potatoes au gratin and chicken, then you'll love this Chicken & Potatoes Au Gratin!  I saved time by using frozen hashbrowns instead of slicing potatoes.  You can really save time if you buy a rotisserie chicken and shredding it or sliced chicken from a salad bar, buy pre-shredded cheese, and buy precooked bacon or get the bacon from a salad bar.  Then all you'd have to do is mix it together and throw it in the oven! Enjoy!

CHICKEN & POTATOES AU GRATIN
2 1/2 C cooked, shredded chicken
1 1/2 lb bag frozen shredded hashbrowns, completely thawed
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 C heavy cream
1/4 C flour
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the hashbrowns in a towel and squeeze out as much of the water as you can.  Mix the hashbrowns with the shredded chicken and crumbled bacon, adding in a little salt and pepper to taste.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the cream, flour, garlic powder, and a little salt and pepper to taste.  

Layer half of the potato mixture in a 9 x 13 pan.  Pour half of the cream mixture all over the potato mixture.  Spread half of the Cheddar and the Parmesan over the top.  Repeat with the remaining potato mixture, cream mixture, and the rest of the cheeses over the top.  Cover the pan with foil.  Cook the casserole for about 40 minutes.  Uncover the pan and cook an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until it's bubbling and the cheese is slightly browned.