Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Virtual Reality


So we recently switched cell phone carriers and all got new phones.  The promotion for the new phones also gave us three virtual reality headsets.  What is that, you ask?  Well, it's a goggle looking thing that you put your phone in and you can view pictures, videos, movies, and even play games in what seems like, well, virtual reality.  You put this thing on and you can look at things all around you, above you, behind you, and below you.  It's actually really cool.  Our kids love it. I like it too, but there's one problem.  It really messes with my eyes.  The kids were fine, but I have astigmatism in my left eye so my right eye had to focus harder to see things.  I woke up with a burning eye and a headache.  Oh, well.  I'm not a kid anymore and probably wouldn't spend much time using it.

So we made this Tuscan Chicken Pasta last night.  All of it except for the pasta cooked in one skillet.  My husband absolutely adored it!  My suddenly not so picky son loved it too.  It has fresh tomatoes and spinach, pancetta, and cheese.  It comes together relatively quickly, and it's darn tasty!  

TUSCAN CHICKEN PASTA
1 lb spaghetti (or your favorite pasta)
1/2 C chopped red onion
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 T butter
Olive oil
1/4 lb pancetta, diced
3 C baby spinach
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 C heavy cream
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
Red chili flakes, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet and drizzle in a little olive oil.  Cook the pancetta until it's crispy.  Drain it on a paper towel.  Add the onion to the same skillet and cook 4-5 minutes or until they are soft.  Add the chicken to the same skillet and cook it until it's done through, about 6-7 minutes. Add the tomatoes, spinach, and garlic to the skillet.  Season the mixture with salt and pepper and red chili flakes to taste. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the tomatoes start to soften and the spinach wilts.  Add in the cream and the pancetta and bring the sauce to a boil.  Remove it from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Drain the pasta well and toss it with the sauce.  You can garnish it with fresh basil, if desired.

Monday, April 25, 2016

No More Picky Eaters


So I made these Spicy Crawfish Puffs the other night.  I love crawfish, and my husband will eat it but it's not his favorite. And I really expected the kids not to eat it at all.  But I did it anyway, hoping they would love this recipe as much as I do.
Surprisingly, they all loved it!  My husband asked for it again but on pasta.  Our daughter, who isn't picky but has weird hangups about certain foods, loved it.  Our son not only ate it when I cooked it, but he also ate all of the leftovers.

Now, don't go running off when you see the word crawish. You could certainly switch out the crawfish for shrimp, scallops, any seafood really, or even chicken.  It's a really easy recipe too.  And the fancy puff pastry?  Don't worry.  I've included a step-by-step picture.  It's really not hard at all.  All in all, this was a successful recipe and our kids have finally stopped being picky!  Enjoy!

SPICY CRAWFISH PUFFS
Two sheets puff pastry, thawed
1 egg plus a splash of water
12 ounces crawfish tail meat
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 T butter
Olive oil
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 C heavy cream
Hot sauce, to taste (I recommend Crystal's or Louisiana brand)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Stack one puff pastry sheet on top of the other on a large floured cutting board. Roll the puff pastry out to about a 13 x 12 rectangle.  Cut the pastry into four equal squares.  Whisk the egg together with a splash of water.  Fold each square into a triangle.  Next you will cut the open sides 1/4 inch in all the way through.  Open the triangles back up into squares.  Brush the edges with egg wash.  Fold the cut ends back over the opposite way to create a border.  Here's an illustration.


Put the puff pastry diamonds on a greased cookie sheet and cook them for about 20-25 minutes or until they are well browned and done under the folds.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the shallots and garlic on medium heat for a couple of minutes and until the shallots are soft.  Add in the crawfish, Cajun seasoning, and remaining ingredients except the cheese and the green onions, being careful with the salt. Bring it to a boil and let it thicken.  Remove it from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and green onions.  Serve the crawfish sauce in the puff pastry diamonds and serve with additional hot sauce, if desired.

Adapted from Emeril's Delmonico

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Crispy Potato Tacos


When I came across these Crispy Potato Tacos, I just knew I had to make them.  They are fantastic!  They have a mashed potato mixture inside and cheese.  I wasn't sure how a potato taco would work, but we loved them!  Just imagine what you could add to it...bacon, chicken, sausage, jalapenos, you name it!  Enjoy!

CRISPY POTATO TACOS
2 large russet potatoes
3/4 C sour cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 T chopped fresh cilantro
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 C shredded cheese, any flavor
About 16 corn tortillas
Peanut oil, for frying
Salsa, for serving
Sour cream, for serving

Peel and chop the potatoes.  Boil the potatoes in water until they are fork tender.  Drain them well.  Put the potatoes in a bowl and mash them.  Stir in the sour cream, garlic, cumin, cilantro, and salt & pepper.  

Spread a heaping tablespoon of the potato mixture onto half of a tortilla.  Sprinkle some cheese on top of the potato mixture.  Carefully fold the tortilla over the potato mixture so that you don't break the tortilla.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Preheat some peanut oil in a skillet to high heat.  Fry the tacos for a few minutes on each side until they are golden brown and crispy.  (You can keep the tacos warm in a 200 degree oven while frying the remaining tacos.)  Serve the tacos with salsa and sour cream.  

Adapted from Buzzfeed

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Writer's Block


Most of the time, I try to think of a funny or interesting story to tell before I post a recipe.  But some days I just can't think of anything to say.  Today is one of those days, so I'll just talk about the food!

So this is my Smothered Chicken Burritos.  It incorporates my favorite shredded chicken taco meat with flour tortillas and a green chili sour cream sauce.  They are so yummy! The chicken cooks in the crockpot.  The sauce is quick in a skillet, and then a quick bake finishes it off.  We had a little of the chicken taco meat leftover, but it's great in a corn tortilla! Enjoy!

SMOTHERED CHICKEN BURRITOS
FOR THE CHICKEN:
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, rough chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 can RoTel
3 T chopped cilantro
1 packet Ranch dip mix
1 packet Fajita seasoning
1 C water
2-3 chopped jalapenos, if desired

FOR THE SAUCE:
1/4 C butter
1/4 C flour
2 C chicken stock
1 teaspoon cumin
1-2 teaspoons garlic powder
Salt & pepper, to taste
One 7-ounce can green chilies
1/2 C sour cream

FOR THE BURRITOS:
8 flour tortillas
8 ounces shredded Pepper Jack cheese (or Monterrey Jack)
Diced tomatoes, if desired
Sour cream, if desired
Chopped cilantro, if desired
Sliced avocados, if desired

Put all of the chicken ingredients into a crockpot.  Cook the chicken on low for about 8 hours.   Shred the chicken in the juice.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put some of the chicken mixture into the 8 tortillas and roll them up like a burrito.  Put them in a casserole pan.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat.  Whisk in the flour until smooth.  Pour in the chicken stock and add in the cumin, garlic powder, and salt and pepper.   Whisk the sauce until it's thick and bubbly.  Turn the heat off and whisk in the sour cream and green chilies.  Pour the sauce over the top of the burritos and sprinkle all the cheese on top.  Bake it for 20-25 minutes or until the tortillas are soft and the burritos are hot all the way through.  Garnish the burritos with the chopped tomatoes, sour cream, cilantro, and avocados, if desired.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Quick Dinner


Want a really tasty and easy weeknight meal with very few ingredients?  How about this Ham, Broccoli & Cheese Puff. You can use whatever cheese you like.  You could switch the ham out for turkey or chicken or even bacon.  It was a huge hit at my house, and hopefully it will be at yours too.  Enjoy!

HAM, BROCCOLI & CHEESE PUFF
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
One 14-ounce bag frozen broccoli
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
2 C chopped ham
8 ounces shredded cheese (your favorite)
Black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Defrost the broccoli in the microwave.  Roll each puff pastry sheet into a 9 x 13 rectangle.  Stir together the broccoli, garlic powder, minced onion, ham, cheese, and black pepper.  

Place the first puff pastry sheet onto a sheet pan.  Spread the filling out and all the way to the edges of the pastry.  Place the other puff pastry sheet on top.  Bake the puff for about 30-40 minutes or until the puff pastry is browned and done all the way through. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Flavor Town


So I've only been using smoked paprika for a couple of years, and I adore it!  I've always used paprika, but the smoked paprika has such a wonderful flavor that I tend to use it way more now.  

I came across a recipe for "chicken paprika," which is the American version of a Hungarian dish called Chicken Paprikash.  Big chunks of chicken get browned in the skillet and then they finish cooking in this incredible sauce made with paprika.  Then it gets served over little dumplings called Nokedli, which is a lot like its German cousin, Spaetzle.  This really turned out fantastic!  We all raved over how good it is. Traditional Hungarian Chicken Paprikash uses sweet paprika, but the smoked paprika was really the star here. And they also don't use bell peppers, but I used one for a little sweet flavor.  I think boneless, skinless chicken thighs would be great here, but I had some breasts that I needed to use up.  This is definitely going to be a frequent meal at my house.  Enjoy!

CHICKEN PAPRIKASH WITH DUMPLINGS
FOR THE CHICKEN:
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 T butter
Olive oil
2 C chicken stock
2 packets gelatin
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 T smoked paprika
2 bay leaves
1 C sour cream
1 orange or red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Fresh chopped parsley, if desired

FOR THE DUMPLINGS:
2 eggs
Salt to taste
2 C flour
1 C water

For the chicken, cut the chicken into roughly 2-inch chunks. Sprinkle the gelatin over the top of the chicken stock and let it sit while you cook the chicken.

Melt the butter in a large skillet and drizzle in some olive oil. Brown the chicken pieces over high heat on all sides.  You won't be cooking the chicken all the way through, just getting some color on it.  Remove the chicken to a plate and keep it warm.  Turn the heat down to medium high.  Cook the bell pepper and onion in the same skillet until they are tender, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Stir the chicken stock.  Add the chicken stock, bay leaves, paprika, and garlic to the skillet and whisk it.  Let it come to a boil.  Return the chicken to the skillet and turn the heat down to medium low.  Cover the skillet and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is done and the sauce is thickened.  

While the chicken is cooking, whisk together the dumpling ingredients and let it sit for 10 minutes.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  When the water is ready, whisk the dumpling mixture again.  Using a collander with large holes or a box cheese grater, push the dumpling mixture through the holes into the boiling water.  (Wear gloves.  It will be hot.)  The dumplings are ready when they float to the top.  Drain them. If desired, you can brown them slightly in a skillet with butter and salt and pepper.

Remove the bay leaves from the sauce.  Stir the sour cream, lemon juice, and fresh parsley into the chicken sauce.  Serve the chicken over the dumplings.