Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Panic Mode


So today I went into full panic mode.  We have kennel trained all three of our dogs.  Only one stays in a kennel now.  He's a 1-year-old Boxer.  I know some people don't like using kennels.  But it's our way of making sure the puppy doesn't destroy the house.  Our dogs are part of the family, but I don't want to come home to a disaster.  I was sure I had put Roscoe in his kennel, but at work I started doubting myself.  I thought, what if he knocked the Christmas tree over.  What if he tore up all the presents.  What if he ate the couch.  Or the coffee table.  I imagined coming home to a terrible situation. But my daughter went by the house before work and everything was okay.  Thank goodness.

Last night I made a really good dish.  It's a quick stir fry dish called Shaking Beef.  It's a Korean dish.  The real name is Bo Luc Lac which means "shaking beef."  You're supposed to shake the skillet back and forth while cooking it.  I didn't shake it, and it was just fine.  But my husband, son, and I thought this dish was fantastic!  It's a quick dish with a really good marinade and tender beef and shallots and green onions.  I meant to take the small amount leftover to work today, but I forgot it.  And then my son found it after school. It's all gone.  I guess if you snooze you lose.  This is a dish that I will definitely be making again and again.  Enjoy!

SHAKING BEEF
FOR THE MARINADE:
1/4 C soy sauce
1/4 C fish sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Juice of 1 lime
2 T sugar
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black pepper

FOR THE STIR FRY:
1 lb boneless ribeye, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 T butter
1 T vegetable or olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, sliced
4 green onions, sliced into 2-inch pieces

Whisk the marinade ingredients together.  Add in the beef and stir to coat.  Put it in the fridge and let it marinade for at least 1 hour.

Heat a large skillet to high heat and add in the butter and vegetable or olive oil.  Remove the beef from the marinade and save the marinade.  Add the beef to the skillet and brown on all sides, about 1 minute per side.  Add the onions, garlic and shallots and cook about 1-2 minutes to soften them.

While the meat is cooking, put the marinade into a small pot. Bring it to a boil and continue boiling until it's thick and bubbly.  Pour the cooked marinade over the beef and veggies and serve.  

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Busy Days


I have been so busy lately that I haven't had much chance to blog.  Today we spent half the day looking for the right smoker for my husband.  We bought a brisket and some sausages and a pork butt to smoke, but we never found the right smoker.  So we're going with fajitas instead.

It's been so cold the last week, and we want hearty warm food for dinner.  Like the Bacon & Crab Chowder.  This really hit the spot.  It's so chunky and has such great flavor.  We used peppered bacon, but regular will do.  It was easy to put together and really didn't take too long.  Enjoy!

BACON & CRAB CHOWDER
1/2 lb bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 red or orange bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T flour
4 C chicken stock
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 1/2 lbs baby red potatoes, chopped
1 lb jumbo lump crab meat
2 C frozen corn kernels
1 pint heavy cream
Chopped fresh parsley, if desired
Oyster crackers, for serving

Cook the bacon in a large pot or dutch oven until it's crispy. Drain the bacon on paper towels and set it aside.  Add the celery, onion, and bell pepper to the pot with the bacon grease.  Cook the veggies until they are tender.  Add in the flour and stir.  Add in the garlic, chicken stock and the potatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Add in the cream, corn, and crab meat.  Cook an additional 5 minutes or so to heat it through. Stir in the bacon and serve with oyster crackers and parsley.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Southern Cornmeal Hoecakes


These Southern Cornmeal Hoecakes have a funny name, but they sure don't taste funny.  Supposedly workers in the fields would cook these on the backs of their gardening hoes.  I don't know if it's true, but that's what we call them in the South.  Up North they're called Johnny Cakes.  They're kind of like a savory pancake.  They are great by themselves with butter or as a soup topper or with chili.  Enjoy!

SOUTHERN CORNMEAL HOECAKES
1 C self-rising flour
1 C cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 C buttermilk
1/4 C water
Butter, for frying and serving

Whisk all of the ingredients together except the butter.  Heat up a skillet to medium high heat and melt in some butter. Using a 1/8 inch measuring cup, pour circles of the batter into the skillet.  Let them brown on the bottom side before flipping them, like cooking pancakes.  Serve hot with additional butter, if desired.  You can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven on a sheet pan while frying the remaining circles.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Crunch Time


I just realized a few days ago that Thanksgiving is next week! How did it sneak up on me!  I've got some big planning to do in a short time.  This is also crunch time for me at work. Since I work in a cafe & bakery, we are very busy for the holidays. We do full catered dinners for Thanksgiving, about 300 pies just for one day, and a multitude of other things. We work hard and late, but we try to have fun while we do.

In times like these, I struggle to cook because I'm too tired or it's too late.  If I do cook, I try to make really easy stuff.  I made these Oven "Fried" Chicken Tenders the other night.  It was pretty quick to do and the cleanup was way better than getting the fryer out.  No, these aren't healthy, just easy.  The ingredients for the coating give it a good crunch and a great flavor.  These are great with Ranch or Buffalo sauce.  It was quick, easy, and darn tasty!  Enjoy!

OVEN "FRIED" CHICKEN TENDERS
FOR THE MARINADE:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 C buttermilk
Seasoned salt, to taste (like Lawry's)
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
4 T butter

FOR THE DREDGE:
1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 C panko breadcrumbs
1/2 C cornmeal
Salt, to taste
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder

Slice the chicken into tenders and put them into a casserole pan or something to marinade the chicken in.  Mix the buttermilk, seasoned salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika together.  Pour the mixture over the chicken and marinade at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix the dredging ingredients together.  Melt the butter in the oven on a large sheet pan.  Press the chicken into the flour mixture, back into the buttermilk, and then back into the flour.  Place the chicken fingers on the sheet pan in the butter.  Bake the chicken for about 15 minutes.  Turn it over and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes or until the chicken is browned and done through.

Adapted from Carlsbad Cravings

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bacon, Corn & Jalapeno Dip


Here's a great baked dip that's super easy, super cheesy, and darn tasty!  This Bacon, Corn & Jalapeno Dip is great with crackers or tortilla chips.  Enjoy!

BACON, CORN & JALAPENO DIP
1/2 lb bacon, cooked & crumbled
2 green onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 C frozen corn kernels
1-2 jalapenos, sliced
2 C shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the green onions, jalapeno slices, cream cheese, corn, salt & pepper, garlic powder and onion powder into a small ovenproof skillet.  Stir and melt the cream cheese over medium high heat.  When it's all combined, stir in the Mozzarella cheese and the bacon. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top.  Put the skillet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Serve with crackers or tortilla chips.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fish in Foil


My husband is a huge halibut fan.  When he was in the Army, he was stationed in New York.  He says they eat it like crazy there, almost like chicken fried steak in Texas.  I've really only eaten it once or twice, so I can't say that I've been a fan.  My daughter works in a health food grocery store, and they send her home with extras sometimes.  She happened to bring home four halibut fillets.  So I decided I'd use them.

Last night we made this Foil Baked Halibut with Black Beans and Corn.  It has a surprisingly great combination of spice, citrus, and sweetness from the corn.  It really is a pretty healthy meal too.  Yes, it has a little butter.  But that's really the only fattening part of this dish.  It was so easy to put together and cooks in about 20 minutes.  My poor daughter just had her wisdom teeth removed, so she couldn't eat it. But my son ate his packet and hers.  I was shocked to see him eat it.  He's really gotten over his pickiness in the last year and will eat anything now.  My husband was ecstatic over this dish and absolutely loved it.  If you are a halibut fan, you're going to love this too.  Enjoy!

FOIL BAKED HALIBUT WITH BLACK BEANS & CORN
Four 6-8 ounce halibut fillets
Half a stick of butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 chipotles in adobo, chopped
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 C frozen corn kernels
Juice and zest from 1 large lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T chopped cilantro
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Get four large pieces of foil ready and a sheet pan.  Stir together the black beans, corn, one of the chopped chipotles, the cilantro, the lime juice, the minced garlic, and some salt and pepper.  Divide that mixture onto the four pieces of foil.  Lay the four halibut fillets on top of the black bean mixture and season the fish with salt and pepper.  

Stir together the butter, the other chopped chipotle, the garlic powder, the zest of the lime, and a little salt and pepper. Brush the butter mixture over the tops of the halibut.  Close them up and put them on the sheet pan.  Bake the packets about 15 to 20 minutes or until the fish is done.

Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Preparing for Winter


So we are preparing for the inevitable...winter.  My absolute least favorite season.  I love the holidays, but I can't stand cold weather and snow.  I'm a flip-flops kinda girl.  Texas weather is really weird.  It can be 10 degrees one day and 80 the next.  Sometimes it's in the 30s in the morning and 80s the same afternoon.  It's hard to figure out how to dress for the day.  It gets hot in the restaurant I work at, so I like to wear shorts if I can.

We've been doing a lot of work around the house to prepare for winter also.  We are finishing up installing a new fence. We had to have a very massive tree removed from our front yard.  It was sick and we didn't think it could take the weight of ice on the branches or strong winds and were worried it would come down on the cars or the house.  And we still need to winterize the pool.  Yuck.

Life can be crazy and hectic, so it's good to have easy meals to prepare.  We made this Chicken & Broccoli Stir Fry last night.  It was so good!  Only three of us ate it and my son ate the most.  There was none leftover for my daughter.  You could add more veggies to this too.  My husband said he wished it had those little baby corns in it.  I would have liked to add green onions to it, but we didn't have any.  I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs here, but boneless, skinless breasts would work too.  It's easy and darn tasty! Enjoy!

CHICKEN & BROCCOLI STIR FRY
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
3 T butter
1 T sesame oil
1 T hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon dried ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C oyster sauce
1/4 C chicken stock
1/4 C soy sauce
3 T brown sugar
1 T cornstarch
3 C broccoli florets
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
One 5-ounce can cashews

Melt the butter in a large skillet and add in the chicken. Season the chicken with a bit of salt & pepper.  Cook and stir until the chicken is mostly done, about 5-6 minutes. While the chicken is cooking, whisk together the sesame oil, hoisin, ginger, garlic, oyster sauce, chicken stock, soy sauce, brown sugar and cornstarch.  Set that aside.

Once the chicken is mostly done, add in the broccoli and mushrooms.  Stir it and cover it with a lid.  Cook and steam the veggies for about 5-6 minutes or until the broccoli is tender.  Add in the sauce.  Bring the sauce to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened.  Stir in the cashews and serve.  This would be great over rice.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Taco Love



I've said before how much I love tacos.  Tacos for breakfast, tacos for lunch, tacos for dinner.  I haven't met a taco I didn't like.  But now...this happened.  My husband's favorite thing I cook is my Chicken Flautas.  They are pretty darn tasty.  So I thought, why can't I put the same filling in a taco shell and bake it.  There's no frying involved so it will be easier than making the flautas.  

And let me tell you, these Oven Baked Chicken Tacos are my all time favorite now.  They are fantastic!  I even took the leftovers to work and heated them up on a sheet tray in the oven and they were fantastic left over too!  Now I think other tacos are ruined for me.  Except Carne Guisada.  That's my favorite too.  And Carne Asada.  Okay, maybe I should say my favorite chicken taco.  These were a huge hit at my house, and I know your family will love them too!  Enjoy!

OVEN BAKED CHICKEN TACOS
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
One 7-ounce can El Pato brand Mexican style hot tomato sauce or Herdez salsa casera (see note)
One 4-ounce can green chilies
1 C chicken stock
1 T cumin (see note)
1 T chili powder (see note)
1 T garlic powder (see note)
Salt & pepper, to taste
10 stand & stuff taco shells (the flat bottom shells)
1 1/2 C shredded cheese
Diced tomatoes, if desired
Chopped cilantro, if desired
Sour cream, if desired

NOTES:  If you can't find El Pato or Herdez sauce, you can use a 7-ounce can of regular tomato sauce.  You may want to add some red chili flakes or cayenne to give it some heat. Also, I am heavy handed on seasoning, but we like it that way.  Feel free to use less garlic powder, cumin, and chili powder.  Also, you could use about 3 C of already cooked and shredded chicken if you need this to be quicker.

Boil the 4 chicken breasts in water with a little salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and cumin.  When they are done (it should take about 20 minutes or so), let them cool enough so that you can shred the meat.  Shred the meat and set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lay the taco shells out on a sheet pan.  Bake them for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the chicken, stock, green chilies, tomato sauce, cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder in a skillet. Season it with salt and pepper.  Cook on medium high heat, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has cooked out.  

Fill each taco shell with the chicken mixture.  Put cheese into each taco.  Return the sheet pan to the oven and bake the tacos for 10-15 minutes or until the shells are cripsy and the cheese is melted.  Serve the tacos with the tomatoes, cilantro, and sour cream, if desired.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Crockpot Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole


I have been on a tater tot kick lately, but I just can't help it.  I love potatoes in any form.  We love breakfast at our house, but sometimes it just takes too long to get it going.  That's why I love this Crockpot Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole.  It's fantastic!  This makes a lot, so it's great for holidays when there's lots of company.  I made this the night before and just left the crockpot on warm all night.  But you could play it safe if that worries you and cook it on high for 2-3 hours or on low for about 4-6 hours.  And you can put just about whatever you like in it.  Enjoy!

CROCKPOT TATER TOT BREAKFAST CASSEROLE
One 32-ounce bag frozen tater tots
12 eggs
Salt & pepper
3/4 C milk
1/2 lb sausage (like Jimmy Dean), cooked and crumbled
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 C shredded cheese

Spray the crockpot with nonstick spray.  Layer half of the tater tots in the bottom of the crockpot.  Whisk together the eggs, milk and some salt & pepper.  Pour the egg mixture over the tater tots.  Next sprinkle in half of the cheese.  Layer in the cooked bacon and sausage.  Layer the rest of the tater tots over the top.  Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top.  Cover it and cook it on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-6 hours or until the eggs are set.  We did this the night before and left it on warm all night and it turned out fine.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Under Pressure


So my son is taking a culinary class in high school.  He has to cook a dish from scratch and provide directions and a list of ingredients.  Cool, right?  Well, maybe if you aren't a blogger.  I feel so pressured to make sure he gets this right. He picked my Blackened Chicken with Fettuccine Alfredo, since that's one of his favorites.  It's a pretty easy recipe, so hopefully he can do me justice.  After all, my reputation is at stake with his attempt to cook this!  Haha...okay, not really. He's actually pretty good at cooking, so I think he'll do just fine.

I'm still on my quest for quick dinners, and I especially love crockpot dinners.  This Crockpot Sausage, Potatoes & Green Beans is a cinch to throw together and it's ready by the time you get home from work.  Or shopping.  I want to spend the day shopping.  Sorry, I got off track.  There are very little ingredients here, and the end result is great.  It's hearty, filling, and darn tasty!

CROCKPOT SAUSAGE, POTATOES & GREEN BEANS
1 1/2 lbs red potatoes, cut into cubes
1 1/2 C fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 1/2 lbs smoked sausage, sliced
12 ounces cream cheese
One 10.5 ounce can cream of mushroom soup
One packet Ranch dip mix
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 C shredded cheese, any variety

Put the cream cheese in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave it for 1 minute.  Whisk the cream of mushroom soup and the Ranch dip mix into the cream cheese.  Put the cream cheese mixture and the remaining ingredients except the shredded cheese into a crockpot.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally, or until the potatoes are done.  During the last 10 minutes or so of cooking, stir in the shredded cheese and let it melt.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Halloween Monster Mix


I made this Halloween Monster Mix for my son who has been relentlessly reminding me that it's Halloween season.  I coated half of the Chex cereal with a chocolate, peanut butter and powdered sugar mix.  The other half of the Chex cereal was coated with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.  This can be so easily changed to include many other things, like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, Crispix, Cocoa Puffs, Bugles, caramel corn, M&Ms, you name it.  It makes a bunch too so you could put it in small bags to give out at Halloween.  And it's darn tasty!  Enjoy!

HALLOWEEN MONSTER MIX
FOR THE CHOCOLATE/PEANUT BUTTER MIX:
3 C Chex cereal (any flavor)
1 1/2 C pecans
One 10-ounce bag milk chocolate chips
1/2 C smooth peanut butter
2-3 C powdered sugar

FOR THE BROWN SUGAR/CINNAMON MIX:
3 C Chex cereal (any flavor)
1 1/2 C pecans
6 T butter
1/4 C brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

FOR THE MONSTER MIX:
One 10-ounce bag mini marshmallows
12 ounces of candy corn
One 10.5-ounce bag Reeses Pieces
2 C pretzels

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.  Spread 3 C of the Chex cereal and 1 1/2 C of the pecans on a sheet pan.  Melt the butter in a microwave and stir in the brown sugar and the cinnamon.  Pour the mixture over the cereal.  Stir the mixture around to coat it and spread it out in a single layer.  Bake it, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until the cereal is not soggy anymore.  Let them cool completely.

Place the powdered sugar in a large zipper bag and set it aside.  Melt the chocolate chips and peanut butter together in the microwave in 30 second increments.  Spread 3 C of the Chex cereal and 1 /2 C pecans out on a sheet pan.  Pour the chocolate mixture over it.  Using your hands (this is messy) mix the cereal mixture around in the chocolate until it's coated.  Put the coated cereal into the bag with powdered sugar.  Shake it around to coat all of the pieces.  Shake the pieces off and put them in a large bowl.

Add the chocolate covered cereal mixture to the bowl and add in the pretzels, marshmallows, candy corn, and Reeses Pieces. Store in zipper bags.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

One Holiday at a Time


It's that time of year again where all the stores go out of their way to rush the holidays.  They start putting Christmas stuff out practically in February.  Even my son has been trying to rush the holidays.  For the last two weeks, he's been saying it's Halloween time.  No, Son, it's still September.  Well, now that today is October 1st, that's the first thing he hit me up with.  Mom, it's Halloween.  Okay, Son.  Fine.

But really...I just want to enjoy one holiday at a time.  For October, we can enjoy the Halloween season and decorations and cooking.  November is for Thanksgiving. We don't start thinking about Christmas decorating until the day after Thanksgiving.  And December is the best month of all where we enjoy the spirit of the Christmas season.  But for now, just Halloween.

So I made this Magic Crockpot Pot Roast the other day.  It is fantastic!  The magic here is you don't add any liquid at all, but it still makes its own gravy.  Trust me, NO LIQUID.  It is so easy to make and so hearty and filling.  And don't be scared of the fact that I used Dijon mustard and horseradish here.  It doesn't taste like either one.  My family usually won't eat many leftovers, but this one disappeared.  I even went to get it to take to work for lunch, but it was gone.  It's that good. Enjoy!

MAGIC CROCKPOT POT ROAST
One 3-4 lb roast, cubed
1/2 C flour
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs baby yellow potatoes
1 T prepared horseradish
1/3 C Dijon mustard
1 T beef bouillon paste
1 T fresh thyme leaves
Salt & pepper, to taste
Olive oil

Put the roast cubes and the flour in a zipper bag.  Close the bag and shake to coat the meat.  Drizzle some olive oil into the crockpot and add in all of the ingredients, including the roast/flour mixture.  Cook the roast on low for about 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally. 


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Buttered Pecan Cheesecake


This is a very rich but very tasty Buttered Pecan Cheesecake.  I always make cheesecake crusts the exact same way.  Yes, I know a whole stick of butter in the crust is a lot.  But it actually tastes almost like a candy on the bottom. This was a huge hit at my house.  The buttered pecans inside make you think of the ice cream, and the almost praline like topping is fantastic.  Cheesecake fans will love this one!

BUTTERED PECAN CHEESECAKE
FOR THE CRUST:
1 sleeve graham crackers
1 stick butter
1/4 C sugar

FOR THE CHEESECAKE:
24 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 C sour cream
1 C sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 C chopped pecans
3 T butter
A pinch of salt

FOR THE TOPPING:
3/4 C brown sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 C heavy cream
1 C pecans
2 T butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grind the graham crackers into a fine powder.  Melt the butter and stir the butter and the sugar into the graham cracker crumbs.  Press the graham mixture into a springform pan.  Place the springform pan on a sheet pan.  Bake the crust for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the 2 C pecans into a small skillet.  Over medium heat, constantly stir and toast the pecans for a couple of minutes.  Remove them from the heat and stir in the butter and a pinch of salt.

With a mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add in the sugar, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla.  Beat the mixture until smooth.  Stir in the buttered pecans.  Pour the mixture on top of the crust and smooth it out.  Place a foil tent over the top of the cheesecake.  Bake it for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until it's set in the middle.  Refrigerate the cheesecake until it's cold.

For the sauce, put all of the sauce ingredients except the pecans into a small pot.  Whisk it well to mix in the cornstarch.  Bring it to a boil.  Continue to cook it for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's thick and bubbly.  Stir in the pecans.  Pour it over the cold cheesecake and serve.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Stocking Up


So my husband and I did our annual "meat trip" to Sam's Club today.  We have a deep freezer, and usually once a year we fill it up with meat that generally lasts six months to a year.  I have a vacuum sealer, so I can buy in bulk and break things down and package it in smaller packages and freeze it.  It's a chore, but it's totally worth it in the end.  I think we bought somewhere around 130 pounds of beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, bacon, sausage and more.  It's a lot of fun and feels good to open the deep freezer and see all the stockpiling.

I've been a little lax on posting lately, mostly because of lack of time and job constraints.  We've had some turnover at work that has left me and the boss man a little strapped.  I'm not complaining at all.  The people that have left/been fired needed to go and I don't mind extra work to avoid stress and drama.

But I have been cooking, and I'm still trying to focus on quick and easy.  I have a lot of crockpot meals planned for this week.  This recipe is slightly indulgent, but it's easy and fills hungry bellies.  This is Bacon Cheeseburger Tater Tot Casserole.  It's about a 10 to 15 minute prep dinner and then about a 30-40 minute bake time.  But the quick prep can be done early so that you can get other weekly stuff done while it bakes.  This recipe really turned out great, and we all loved it.  In fact, there was really only enough left for me to take to work the next day for leftovers.  It's kid and husband friendly too, which makes the cook the star for the night.  It's darn tasty, and I hope you enjoy it!

BACON CHEESEBURGER TATER TOT CASSEROLE
1/2 lb bacon
1 lb ground beef
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons garlic powder
One 10.75 ounce can cheddar cheese soup
1 1/2 C sour cream
2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
About 48 tater tots

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Cook the bacon until crisp and drain and crumble it.  Meanwhile, drizzle a little olive oil into a skillet.  Cook the onion until mostly tender, about 5 minutes.  Add in the ground beef, salt & pepper, and garlic powder.  Cook and crumble the beef until it's done.  Drain if necessary.

Whisk together the soup and the sour cream.  Stir in the bacon and the ground beef.  Spread the meat mixture into a 2-quart casserole pan.  Spread the 2 C shredded Cheddar cheese over the meat mixture.  Lay out the tater tots over the top, trying to completely cover.  Bake the casserole uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until the tater tots are crisped up and warm through.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I'm Always Right


Okay, so maybe I'm not always right.  But, generally speaking, when I pick out recipes or meals to prepare, I'm right more times than not.  My husband is generally not picky, but sometimes he hears an ingredient and automatically thinks he won't like it.  Like artichokes.  He thinks he doesn't like them and prejudges the recipe before trying it.

The first time I suggested making these Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms, his response was, "I'm out."  But I pulled a sneaky on him and sent my daughter to the store for portabellos.  He came home from work, and I was already knee deep in the preparation.  He asked what was for dinner. When I told him, he let out an explitive.  I told him just give it a try.  He said he was game, and dinner was on.

Guess what.  I WAS RIGHT!  He loved it!  The kids loved it too.  This is a hearty and easy meal to put together.  I stuffed the mushrooms with Italian sausage and rice and topped it with a quick homemade marinara sauce and cheese.  It was fantastic!  It wasn't overly mushroomy or weird at all.  I guess he should know that I'm always right, duh.  Anywho, I hope you all enjoy this recipe!

STUFFED PORTABELLOS
6 large portabello mushrooms
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 lb Italian sausage (bulk or removed from casings)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C cooked rice
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
Red chili flakes, to taste
1/2 onion, chopped
1 C shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese

NOTES:  I used Minute rice to make this dish go faster, also because I am really bad at making rice.  Minute rice is practically foolproof.  Also, I used the Cento brand of crushed tomatoes since the only ingredient on the can is "tomatoes." But you can use any you like or even use store-bought marinara sauce.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Clean out the gills from the mushrooms and the stems and rinse them.  Pat them dry and drizzle olive oil all over them and season them with salt and pepper.  Place them hollow side down on a sheet pan. Cook the mushrooms in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the crushed tomatoes in a small saucepot and drizzle in some olive oil.  Season it with salt and pepper, the garlic powder, and chili flakes, to taste.  Bring the sauce to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium low, cover it, and cook it, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes to thicken it.

Drizzle some olive oil in a skillet.  Cook the onion over medium high heat until they are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add in the sausage and garlic.  Cook and break up the sausage until it's done through.  Remove it from the heat.  Stir in the rice, Parmesan cheese, basil and parsley.  Season it with salt and pepper, if desired.  

Take the mushrooms out of the oven and turn them over. Top each mushrooms with the sausage filling.  Spoon some sauce over each mushroom.  Top each mushroom with the Mozzarella.  Bake the mushrooms for about 10 minutes to heat through and melt the cheese.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Do Over


Ever have a day that just got off wrong from the get-go?  You know, the one where you wish you could go back to bed, start the day over, and get a do over?  Well, my day was like that.  I woke up 18 minutes late and had to rush to get ready. I got to work later than I wanted, and that just seemed to throw my whole day off.  Luckily, I'm home now and it's all over with.

Fortunately, this Cashew Jalepeno Chicken dinner isn't one that needs a do over.  In fact, it's pretty spectacular.  It was really fast and easy to make, and there were zero leftovers, which is great because sometimes I have way too many leftovers and have to pawn them off on my coworkers.  I used boneless skinless chicken thighs for this since the meat is juicier.  But you can use chicken breasts if you like.  I also used one large fresh jalapeno for this dish, which gave it exactly the right amount of heat.  You can add more if you like it hot or leave it out altogether.  All in all, this dish can make up for the worst of days.  Enjoy!

CASHEW JALAPENO CHICKEN
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
Peanut oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 C roasted cashews
1 jalapeno, sliced
1 green onion, sliced
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 C soy sauce
1/4 C rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 T cornstarch plus 1 T water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C honey
Juice of 1 lime
1 T sesame seeds
Cooked rice, if desired, for serving

Drizzle some peanut oil into a skillet.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook the chicken on medium high heat until it's done through, about 6-7 minutes. 


Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and the water. Whisk in the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, honey, and the juice of the lime.  Pour the sauce into the skillet with the chicken.  Add in the jalapeno slices and the cashews.  Bring it to a slight bubble.  Reduce the heat slightly and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Remove it from the heat and stir in the cilantro, sesame seeds, and the green onion.  Serve it over rice, if desired.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Quick Tomato Bisque


Want a Quick Tomato Bisque without the all day work?  This recipe delivers that slow cooked taste with minimal effort.  I would highly suggest using Cento brand crushed tomatoes. The ingredients only say "crushed tomatoes" and no added stuff.  And I wish they were paying me to tell you that, but they aren't.  I just believe in their product.  Throw this soup on and serve it with a grilled cheese sandwich for a hearty easy meal!

QUICK TOMATO BISQUE
3 T butter
1 onion, chopped
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (I recommend Cento brand)
2 T chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 pint heavy cream
1/4 C flour
1 C chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste
One small can tomato paste
Croutons, for serving

Melt the butter in a large pot.  Cook the onion and garlic until tender, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the flour.  Next whisk in the chicken stock.  Add in the tomatoes, heavy cream, mustard powder, salt & pepper, and tomato paste and whisk until smooth.  Bring it to a slight bubble and cook until it's thickened.  Stir in the fresh basil and serve with the croutons on top.  

Monday, August 22, 2016

Warm Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette


Here is a twist on traditional potato salad.  This is Warm Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette.  It can be eaten cold too.  It's a little savory, a little sweet, a little sour, and a lot good!  Enjoy!

WARM POTATO SALAD WITH MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE
1 1/2 lbs baby red potatoes, halved
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T apple cider vinegar
3 teaspoons honey
1/3 C olive oil
2 T spicy brown mustard
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 C chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 T coarsely choppped pickles (sweet, sour, or dill will all work)
1 large green onion, sliced

Put the potatoes in a pot and cover them with water.  Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender, about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, boil the eggs to your desired doneness.  I did about a 7-minute egg because I wanted semi-soft centers.

Whisk together the vinegar, garlic, mustard, honey, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Put the mustard seeds into a small skillet.  Heat the skillet over medium low.  Cook the seeds, shaking the skillet back and forth constantly, until the seeds start to pop, about 1-2 minutes.  Whisk the seeds into the dressing. 

Peel the eggs and halve them or quarter them.  Toss the potatoes, green onions, and the parsley with the vinaigrette. Gently stir in the eggs and serve.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Back to School


It's that time again.  Back to school.  The dreaded time when everyone has to hurry every morning to get up and get ready and when time is short in the evenings.  We've spent the day running errands for school, last minute clothing purchases, haircuts, car washing, paying lunch money, etc.  Everyone has to set their alarms and go to bed early.  I know a lot of moms look forward to back to school, but not me.  It means driving an extra 15 minutes twice a day and less time in the evening to get things done.  It means worrying about grades and filling out extra papers and paying extra fees.  It's a hassle, for sure.

It's this time of year that I struggle to find quick meals.  Sure, I try to find quick meals all the time, but especially during the school year.  I love shrimp, and I love the combination of spinach and tomatoes.  This Shrimp Florentine Linguine has both.  It's a brothy pasta, which is great for sopping up with a piece of French bread.  This dish is pretty easy and quick to put together.  It's filling, but you're not so stuffed you have to loosen your pants.  The boys were pleased with this dinner, and I think you will be too.  Enjoy!

SHRIMP FLORENTINE LINGUINE
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 T butter
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb linguine
1/2 C white wine
1 1/2 C chicken stock
1 lemon
2 T chopped fresh Italian parsley
Red chili flakes, to taste
One 6-ounce bag baby spinach, roughly torn
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 C shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste

Cook the linguine according to package directions.

Melt the butter in a large skillet and drizzle in a little olive oil. Cook the garlic for about a minute over medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Add in the wine to deglaze the pan.  Add in the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes start to soften, about 3-5 minutes.  Add in the chicken stock and the shrimp and cook the shrimp until it's done, about 5-7 minutes.  Add in the spinach, salt & pepper to taste, and the chili flakes to taste.  Turn the heat down slightly.  Cook and stir until the spinach is wilted.  Remove the skillet from the heat and squeeze the lemon juice over the top.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese and the parsley.  Mix the shrimp mixture with the drained linguine and serve.