Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hearty Winter Soup

My son asks for soup for dinner all the time.  Like daily.  He usually asks for my Loaded Baked Potato Soup with Roasted Garlic that I sometimes serve in bread bowls.  And, of course, I make it for him sometimes, but sometimes I want to try new things.

I've been seeing on Pinterest a lot of copycat recipes for Olive Garden's Pasta e Fagioli soup.  I've never eaten it, so I was intrigued.  Pasta e Fagioli means pasta with beans.  It was traditionally a peasant dish in Italy, a simple cheap meal that workers and farmers ate.  It also was a meatless meal. Mario Batali and Giada de Laurentiis make their stocks for this soup with pancetta or pork fatback, types of bacon. Olive Garden's version used ground beef.  Some versions I saw used tomatoes of some type, some versions didn't.

So into the kitchen I went to create my version of this very hearty soup.  I don't really use ground beef a whole lot, simply because it doesn't have that much flavor.  It's great for quick tacos and hamburgers, but sometimes I just find it a little boring.  So I used Italian sausage for the meat part of my supposed to be meatless soup.  I'm a carnivore, what can I say.  I like tomato-based soups, so I opted to use the tomatoes.  The soup is full of carrots, celery, onion, sausage, two kinds of beans, spinach, and pasta.  It cooks up quick and easy.  It was so darn tasty, easy, and my son loved it!  It was snowing the night I made it, so it was a perfect meal to keep us warm.  


1 lb Italian sausage links, removed from casings 
One 14-ounce can navy beans, drained
One 14-ounce can kidney beans, drained
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (save the can)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced or chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 C beef stock (not broth)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 C ditalini pasta (or other mini pasta)
One 5-ounce package fresh spinach
1 T bacon grease
1/4 C chopped Italian parsley
Salt & pepper, to taste
Shaved Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Cook the sausage in the tablespoon of bacon grease, crumbling as you go. Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or large pot, add in the celery, onions, carrots, garlic, canned tomatoes and beef stock.  Bring to a boil.  As the veggies start getting close to being tender, add in the pasta.  Reduce the heat slightly, but make sure it's still bubbling.  If your stock seems to be reducing slightly, take that tomato can and fill it with water and add it to the stock. When the pasta is done, stir in the beans, sausage and spinach.  Cook until the spinach is wilted.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.  Remove from heat and garnish with the parsley and shaved Parmesan cheese.

Red Italian House Salad

When I lived in Kennedale, Texas, a small town next to Fort Worth, there used to be a mom-and-pop restaurant called Tony's Pizza.  They had a sports bar feel to it and draught beer.  They had great big pizzas, wings, subs, and pasta dishes.  I loved their Baked Ziti with Meatballs.  But something I loved even more was this salad they made.  It was a simple salad with lettuce, pepperoncini peppers, tomatoes, and black olives.  But what made this salad so great was the dressing.  It was red, Italian, tangy and so delicious!

I have tried for several years to make this dressing, but it never came close.  I spent some time recently Googling red Italian dressings, and I came across something that seemed like it might work.  I ran across someone else's post looking for Italian dressing made with chili sauce.  If you don't know what that is, it's a tomato-based condiment that is slightly sweet, tangy, and savory.  It's kind of like a fancy version of ketchup.  

So I gave this another whirl and hoped for the best.  And guess what!  I got it right!  It tasted exactly the way I remembered Tony's dressing.  My daughter had never tried Tony's salad, but she tried mine and loved it.  We both couldn't get enough of it.  It's a simple salad, simple recipe, but lots of bang for your buck!  



1 package Zesty Italian dressing mix
1/4 C vinegar
1/2 C oil (I used vegetable)
1 C chili sauce
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese (the powdery stuff)
1 T garlic powder


1 bag American blend salad (or lettuce of your choice)
Sliced red onions
Pepperoncini peppers
Tomato slices
Black olives
Shaved Parmesan

NOTE:  You can use just plain Italian dressing mix for this if you can't find the zesty.  I just find that regular mixes have a bit too much sweetness for my taste.

Mix the dressing ingredients together with a whisk.  Serve over salad with your choice of the listed ingredients above.

Can't Get Enough Pasta

I feel like I've been bombarding y'all with pasta recipes.  But pasta is a favorite around my house, and it gets requested a lot.  So here I go again with another one.

One of my favorite veggies to eat are mushrooms.  I love mushrooms, raw, sauteed, fried, stuffed.  My husband wouldn't touch a mushroom until he met me.  The first time we grilled steaks together, I made Sauteed Mushrooms and Steak Butter and  Creamed Spinach (I know, that's a lot of links).  And he loved it!  He wouldn't eat spinach before then either.  But now he's a changed man and asks for mushrooms and spinach with steaks every time.  He'll even eat mushrooms raw when I cut them up to cook.  

He also loves pasta, especially thin pasta.  So I created this one with those things in mind.  Now, I'm going to call this Angel Pasta.  Why, you ask? Well, Pasta with Chicken, Spinach, Mushrooms, Asiago, Parmesan and Mozzarella is just too long of a title.  And it has angel hair pasta, so why not. My husband says to me all the time, "you're an angel."  So it just fits together.

Do you eat 'shrooms?

2-3 C cooked, shredded chicken
8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 C red onion, chopped
5 ounces fresh spinach
2 C half & half
1/4 C butter
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C chicken stock
1/4 C flour
1/4 C shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 C shredded Asiago cheese
Salt & pepper
1 lb angel hair pasta

Cook the pasta according to directions.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the onion and mushrooms until tender.  If you're going to salt the mushrooms, wait until they are well browned.  Otherwise, you will have gray mushrooms instead of brown ones.  Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and onions and stir to coat.  Add in the chicken stock and whisk.  Add in the half and half and garlic.  Whisk well.  Cook until thickened and bubbly.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses and spinach.  Continue stirring until the cheese is melted and the spinach is wilted.  Stir in the chicken and taste the sauce for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Toss the chicken and sauce with the pasta.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chile Lime Kettle Chips

6 russet potatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thick (use a mandolin if you have one)
1 T chili powder
1 T salt
1 C lime juice
Peanut oil, for frying

Put the potato slices in a large pot and cover with water.  Add in the lime juice.  Boil for about 8-10 minutes or until somewhat tender.  Drain them and lay them on a towel to completely dry.  Mix the chili powder and salt together.

Preheat the peanut oil to 350 degrees.  Fry the potatoes in batches for about 5-7 minutes or until very crispy.  Drain on paper towels.  Immediately upon removing them from the oil, sprinkle the salt and chili powder mixture on them while hot.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's a New Habit

I'm really stuck on these all-in-one-pot dishes lately.  I just can't help myself! A little chopping, throw it all in one pot, and let it go.  Easy as pie!  Well, I shouldn't say that.  I bake a lot of pies for a living, and sometimes it's not so easy.  Anyway, this time it's Buffalo Chicken One-Pot Pasta.  And it's tasty. It may very well be my favorite in my series of one-pot pastas.  If you haven't seen the others, there is Tex-Mex One-Pot Pasta and Greek Chicken Pasta.  I also plan to do an Asian version.  Like I said, it's becoming a habit.

This one has all the things you would find with Buffalo chicken wings: Carrots, celery, blue cheese, chicken, onions, wing sauce, and Ranch.  I think you're going to love it!  And no messy wings, just a fork or spoon!  

Get ready to dig in!  Dinner's in 20 (okay, maybe 25)!

2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
7 cups chicken stock
1 lb pasta, any shape
1 packet Ranch Dip mix
8 ounces shredded Pepper Jack cheese
Blue cheese crumbles
Wing sauce (I used Frank's), to taste (I used half the bottle)
Ranch dressing
Sliced green onions

Put all of the ingredients except the Pepper Jack and blue cheese into a large pot or dutch oven.  Bring to a boil.  Stir and reduce the heat slightly, but make sure it is still bubbling.  Cook until most, but not all, of the liquid is reduced, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the Pepper Jack cheese until it is all melted.  Garnish with the blue cheese crumbles, Ranch dressing, and green onions...and more wing sauce if you like it really spicy!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Breakfast in Bread

This is a fun way to eat breakfast, for sure.  I will give you the ingredients I used in mine, but change it up and put anything you like in it.  I also made homemade sourdough bread, but any kind of bread large enough will work just fine.  And, of course, you don't have to make two.  You can cut the ingredients down and just make one.  Enjoy!

Two 1-lb sourdough loaves (or any flavor bread)
2 C cooked shredded hashbrowns
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
10 eggs, beaten with a whisk
1 C shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 C ham, chopped
Green onions, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Hollow out the bread to make a bowl. Save the tops for snacking.  Layer in the hashbrowns, bacon, ham, and cheese into each bread bowl.  Pour the beaten eggs into each bread bowl. Bake 25-30 minutes or until the eggs are completely set.  You can melt some extra cheese on at the end.  Garnish with green onions.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Spinach, Bacon & Artichoke Bars

These savory bars are so darn tasty!  Loaded with bacon, artichokes, cheese and spinach, they will be a hit at any potluck or gathering!


One 9-ounce package frozen spinach, defrosted and water squeezed out
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 C flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
1 C half & half
1/4 C finely chopped onion
1 C shredded Mozzarella cheese
One 14-ounce can artichokes, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk the flour, eggs, baking powder, half and half, and garlic powder together until smooth.  Stir in the remaining ingredients.  Spray a 7 x 11 baking dish with pan spray.  (8 x 8 should work too.  It may need to cook longer.)  Spread the mixture evenly into the pan. Cook for about 30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cut into bars.

Not Just For Weddings

Have you ever had Italian Wedding Soup?  Until a few nights ago, I have never tasted it.  I've seen it a lot on the internet and Food Network, but I've never made it.  I can't believe how much I loved this soup.  The broth was amazing.  The meatballs were perfect.  The pasta cooked in the soup, so it was easy.  The spinach wilted in it beautifully.  And the shaved Parmesan cheese on top?  To die for.  Okay, I wouldn't really die for it, but you catch my drift.  I did do a ridiculous happy dance after trying it.  It's a good thing the rest of my family are as crazy as I am.  Otherwise, that would just be weird.

The key to this soup's success is the stock.  Homemade stock is the best, but I don't always have time for that.  So I always buy a good chicken stock in the box.  Not chicken broth, stock.  If you can't find stock that way, then buy the little jars of chicken stock base, the paste-type stuff.  The flavor is so much better this way than bland, pale chicken broth.  Trust me.  You'll never want to use broth again.  

And, for the pasta, I used ditalini which are small little tubes.  If you can't find that, don't worry.  Any other small pasta will do, small shells or the mini farfalle (bowties) or even spaghetti or angel hair broken into small pieces will work.  Also, I cooked my meatballs in the oven so that my pictures wouldn't have grease droplets in it.  However, if you don't mind that, by all means, cook your meatballs right in the soup.  Whatever floats your boat.

What does your happy dance look like?

1 lb ground pork
1/2 C Italian breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper
Chili flake, to taste
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 C finely chopped onion

2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 C ditalini or other small pasta
8 C good chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 C water (may or may not be needed)
One 5-ounce package fresh spinach
Shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish

If you are cooking your meatballs separate, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  For the meatballs, mix all of the meatball ingredients together by hand.  Roll the meatballs into mini meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter. Bake the meatballs about 20 to 25 minutes or until well browned and done.

For the soup, put the stock, celery, onions, and garlic (and meatballs if cooking in the soup) into a large pot or dutch oven.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat slightly, making sure it is still boiling.  Cook the veggies about 5 minutes.  Add in the pasta and bring it back to a boil.  Once at a full boil again, reduce the heat again slightly but keep it still bubbling.  Cook and stir until the pasta (and meatballs) are done.  If necessary, add in the 2 cups of water if it seems your stock is cooking out too much.  Once it's done, turn the heat off and stir in the meatballs if you cooked them separately.  Stir in the spinach until it is wilted.  Serve with the shaved Parmesan, if desired.

Crockpot Chili

I love my crockpot.  I use it as much as I can.  Living in Texas, it's sometimes necessary to use a crockpot to keep from heating up the house. But I use it in the wintertime too, just because things cooked in the crockpot just seem to turn out better.  Meats get really tender, broths develop full flavor.  

So I've been wanting to try a White Chicken Chili for a while now, and the weather has been cool enough lately to do it.  And it turned out so good that I think I could eat it any time of the year.  Chock full of chicken, jalapenos, corn, white beans, and cream cheese, this one is sure to please a crowd. And the thickener is a favorite of mine...masa harina.  Masa harina is corn flour and is used for making corn tortillas and tamale dough.  It's a great thickener and adds another depth of flavor.

Break out the crockpot.  It's going to be cold tonight!

6 C chicken stock
4 bonless, skinless chicken breasts
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 fresh jalapenos, chopped
Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, cubed
1 1/2 C frozen corn
Two 15-ounce cans navy beans, drained
1 T cumin
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 to 3/4 C masa harina

Put all of the ingredients except the masa harina into a crockpot.  Cook on low for about 6 hours, stirring occasionally so that the cream cheese will blend in.  During the last hour, remove the chicken breasts and shred them with forks.  Return them to the crockpot.  Take about 2 cups of the liquid out of the crockpot and put it in a bowl.  Whisk in 1/2 C masa until smooth.  Stir this back into the crockpot.  If you want it a little thicker, repeat that step with the remaining 1/4 C masa.  Finish cooking the last hour.  Garnish with cheese, jalapenos, and sour cream, if desired.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

For my Husband

My husband is a huge popover fan.  Like asks for them almost daily.  No, he doesn't get them daily.  But he tries.  Now, this wonderful man is the catalyst behind some of my more outrageous dishes.  He likes to watch the crazy food shows like Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, and inevitably he will say, "I want that!"  So I try to recreate and reinvent these crazy things he sees on TV.  

But sometimes he just comes up with a crazy suggestion and says things like, "I want stuffed popovers for breakfast."  So here you have it.  Some crazy big stuffed popovers.  I'm calling them John Boys.  My husband's name is John, and this is definitely food for the boys.  I stuffed them with bacon, sausage, tater tots, sauteed serranos and cilantro and green onion, cheese, and then made a jalapeno hollandaise sauce for the top.  I only gave measurements for the popovers and the hollandaise sauce.  You can mix and match what you put in yours.  It's just a concept.  Maybe ham, swiss and mushrooms would be good.  Any combination you like will work. I got about 8 large popovers with my popover pans.  If you use regular muffin tins, you will get a lot more, but you can't stuff as much into them which is good if you want smaller portions.


4 eggs
2 C flour
3 T butter
3 T vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 C milk

4 egg yolks
3 T heavy cream
1 stick butter, melted
Juice of half a lemon
2-3 T chopped jalapeno slices (the kind from a jar)
Salt & pepper

Cooked tater tots
Cooked bacon slices
Scrambled eggs
Sauteed peppers and onions (serranos, green onions, and cilantro cooked in olive oil)
Shredded cheese
Cooked breakfast sausage

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease your popover pan or muffin tins liberally.  Mix all of the ingredients together.  Fill the tins 1/2 of the way full. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden browned and they feel hard to the touch. They soften up quickly out of the oven and will fall in the center when cooled.

To make the hollandaise sauce, put the egg yolks, cream, jalapenos, lemon juice, and some salt and pepper into a blender.  Start the blender on high. Slowly drizzle in the hot melted butter while the blender is running. Continue blending until the sauce is thickened.

Cut the tops off of the popovers with a serrated knife.  Stuff in your desired ingredients and stick the top back on.  Drizzle the hollandaise over the top.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"Turkey" Cheeseball

So the holidays are coming up.  I wanted to try my hand at making "shaped" food.  So I created my Turkey Cheeseball for Thanksgiving.  It's chock full of bacon, Ranch, roasted red peppers, jalapenos, and cheese!  Yum yum!

Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 C roasted red pepper slices from a jar, well drained (reserve two slices for the head and waddle)
1 packet Ranch dip mix
1/4 C shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese
1 T garlic powder
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2-3 T chopped jalapeno slices (the kind from a jar)
Oval shaped crackers (like Townhouse)
10 ounces pecan halves

Blend the cream cheese, roasted red peppers (not the two reserved), Ranch, parmesan, cheddar, garlic powder, bacon, and jalapenos in a food processor.  Chop almost all of the pecan halves (reserve 6-10 for garnish). Using a piece of plastic wrap, spread the chopped pecans in a large circle. Spoon the cheese mixture on top of the pecans, making sure to coat all sides of the cheeseball with the pecans.  Wrap it up tightly and shape into a ball.  Stick it in the freezer if neccesary to firm it up so that you can shape it.

When it is mostly firm, stick the crackers in the back half of the cheeseball in a fan shape to create the tail feathers. Repeat, working your way to the back, to have about three rows (see the picture).  Place whole pecan halves in front of the front row of crackers.  Using toothpicks, stick the two reserved red bell pepper slices in the front to resemble the head and waddle (see the picture).  Serve with additional crackers. 

Full of Flavor

Y'all know I'm a huge fan of Pinterest.  I see many wonderful ideas there every day.  This recipe is one that I'm not quite sure of the source.  I've seen it on Stockpiling Moms.  I've seen it on Food on the Table.  I've seen it on Cook Lisa Cook.  Wherever it comes from, it's a great idea and a great meal.  Of course, you know me.  I say it all the time.  I have to put my spin on everything.  So I give to you Loaded Baked Potato & Buffalo Chicken Casserole.  And I used my Avocado & Jalapeno Ranch sauce here.  It's darn tasty!

3 lbs red potatoes, quartered
1/3 C olive oil
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T paprika
1 T dried parsley
1/2 C  Buffalo wing sauce (I like Frank's)
2 large boneless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 1/2 C shredded cheese (I used Colby Jack)
Sliced green onions (optional)

1 C mayo
1/2 C buttermilk
1 C sour cream
1 packet Ranch dip mix
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1-3 T diced jalapeno slices (from a jar)
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 avocados

Blend the Ranch ingredients together in a food processor or blender.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Mix the olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, parsley, and wing sauce together in a bowl.  Add in the potatoes and stir to coat.  Spoon the potatoes into a 9 x 13 casserole pan, reserving as much of the sauce in the bowl as you can.  Bake the potatoes for about 30 minutes.  

Put the chicken into the reserved sauce and let it marinate while the potatoes cook the first 30 minutes.  After the potatoes have cooked the first 30 minutes, add the chicken all over the top of the potatoes.  Cook an additional 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is done and potatoes are tender.

Turn the oven to broil.  Pour some of the Ranch sauce (as little or as much as you like) over the chicken and potatoes.  Sprinkle on the cheese.  Put the casserole under the broiler for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese. Garnish with the cooked bacon and green onions.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Another Wonder

Okay, so I know I just gave you a one-pot pasta recipe with my Greek Chicken Pasta.  But I just love this concept so much that I had to try another one.  And it was just as good as the first one.  This one is Tex-Mex One Pot Pasta.  It has everything:  Chicken, Rotel, salsa, jalapenos, Ranch Style beans, plus some.  I hope you love it as much as we did!

2 large boneless chicken breasts, diced
1 lb pasta, any shape
2-3 T jalapeno slices, fresh or jarred
1/2 C salsa
1 can Rotel
7 C chicken stock
1 T cumin
1 1 T chili powder
1/4 C chopped cilantro
One 15-ounce can Ranch Style Beans, drained
One 4-ounce can green chilies
1 C chopped onions
1 1/2 C shredded pepper jack cheese

Mix all of the ingredients together except the cheese in a large pot.  Bring to a full boil.  Reduce the heat slightly, but make sure it's still boiling. Cook about 15-20 minutes or until the pasta is done and most of the liquid is cooked out.  Don't cook all of the liquid out because it serves as the sauce.  Remove from the heat and stir in the shredded cheese.

Cheesy Potato Wedges

These are by far the best cheesy potato wedges I have ever made.  Why are they so special? I shall enlighten you.  These potatoes have been marinated.  Yep, you read that right.  I marinated the potatoes in chicken stock and Italian dressing mix.  Then I cooked them in that same marinade.  They are amazing.  Trust me.

6-8 small potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
4 C chicken stock
1 packet Zesty Italian dressing mix
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
Bacon, cooked and crumbled
Shredded cheese
Sliced green onions

Mix the chicken stock, dressing mix, onion powder, and garlic powder together with a whisk in a large bowl.  Add in the potato wedges and marinate for at least three hours.  Spread the potatoes out on a sheet pan with sides.  Pour as much of the marinade that will fit into the pan over the potatoes.  Set your oven to its highest setting.  Cook the potatoes for at least 45 minutes.  Start watching the marinade.  As the marinade cooks out, the potatoes will begin to get crispy and brown on the bottom.  Being careful not to burn them, cook until they are at your desired crunchiness on the bottom.  

Turn the oven to broil.  Sprinkle the cheese over the potatoes and broil a couple of minutes to melt.  Garnish with the cooked bacon and green onions.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Chicken & Rice and Everything Nice

I seem to be obsessed with one-pot and one-pan recipes.  I have made several lately.  I love chicken and rice, so why not bake it as a casserole! It's easier than the version made in a pot, although that's pretty easy too. This recipe is very easy and quick to throw together.  Sure, it takes awhile to cook, but it requires very little work.  Just roast a couple of poblanos, chop some onion, and shred some cheese.  Easy!  I think you'll enjoy this one.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 C rice, uncooked
4 C chicken stock
1 can Rotel, undrained
1 T garlic powder
1 T cumin
1 T chili powder
2 poblanos
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 C shredded Cheddar or Colby Jack cheese

To roast the poblanos, put them on a sheet pan.  Put them in the oven at 400 degrees.  Roast them, turning occasionally, until blackened and charred on all sides.  Remove from the oven.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel the skins off.  Remove the stem and seeds and chop them.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.  Mix the rice, chicken stock, garlic powder, cumin, Rotel, chili powder, chopped poblanos, and chopped onion together in a bowl.  Pour this into a 9 x 13 casserole pan.  Cover it and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove it from the oven and stir the rice.  *NOTE if the liquid is cooking out too quickly, you can add an additional cup of water or stock at this time.  Lay the chicken breasts over the rice.  Cover and return it to the oven for about 30 minutes or until the rice is done and chicken is cooked through.  Uncover and sprinkle the cheese on and cook an additional five minutes to melt the cheese.

It's a Wonder

If you've been on Pinterest lately, you've seen the Italian One-Pot Wonder. This is a recipe that is all over the internet and Pinterest, and, as far as I can tell, it seems to trace back to Martha Stewart.  Now, I'm going to rant a little bit.  I'm not a fan AT ALL of Martha Stewart, especially in light of her recent bashing of bloggers and saying we have no experience or expertise and basically trashing bloggers.  We do have experience.  Some of us are professional.  Some of us are home cooks.  Some of us, like me, have restaurant experience.  In my opinion, stay-at-home moms who cook for their families are experts.  I apologize if you are a Martha fan.  I just feel offended by her blatant criticism towards everyday people trying to share ideas and life experience with other people.  I embrace my fellow bloggers and appreciate how much effort they put into their blogs, as I do.  Okay.  Rant over.

So a one-pot meal including pasta and uncooked chicken?  Who'da thunk it!  My version is Greek Chicken Pasta.  I love things like olives and sundried tomatoes and artichokes and feta cheese.  The pasta cooks up perfectly and the chicken stays moist and tender. This recipe is so stinking easy and incredibly tasty.  My daughter and I made a ridiculous scene oohing and ahhing over this pasta while we slurped it up.  All the work involved is a little chopping and throwing it in the pot.  And it's done in about 15-20 minutes!  You are so going to LOVE this pasta!

Stop drooling.  It's going to be okay.

2 large boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
One 14-ounce can artichokes, drained
One 14-ounce can black olives, drained
1 lb pasta, any shape (I used campanelle which look like little bells or horns)
One 8.5-ounce jar of sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
1/4 C sliced pepperoncini peppers
1/2 C sliced red onion
1/4 C chopped Italian parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T red chili flakes
7 C chicken stock
One packet Zesty Italian dressing mix
4 ounces crumbled feta

Put all of the ingredients into a large pot except the feta cheese.  Stir it together and bring it to a boil.  When it is at a full boil, reduce the heat to medium high.  Continue boiling, stirring occasionally, until the chicken and pasta are done and most of the liquid has reduced out.  Don't completely cook the liquid out.  It gets thick and creates a sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the feta cheese.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bountiful Wings

I participate in a program called Bountiful Baskets.  Have you heard of it? It's a food co-op that is completely volunteer based.  They get produce from the growers at a much discounted price.  You "participate" twice a month by placing your order and payment on the Monday before the day you pick up your produce, which is Saturday.  You get a very full basket with roughly 50% veggies and 50% fruit.  My first basket had a head of romaine lettuce, a package of butter lettuce, a package of carrots, a ridiculously large yam, 9 bell peppers, a bunch of bananas, a carton of grape tomatoes, 5 oranges, a cantaloupe, two baseball size onions, a pomegranate, and 7 tomatoes!  All of that was only $15!  It's pretty remarkable.  You can't get produce at that price in the stores.  They also have add-on baskets that you can get, like tortilla wraps, multiple pounds of certain fruits, theme baskets like an Italian basket, and artisan breads.  I bought two add-on baskets this last time and got the conventional basket, a four-pack of four flavored ginormous tortilla wraps, and another veggie pack.  I ended up with a huge box of produce and I only paid $39.  It's so worth it to me.  What do I do with it all?  I try to incorporate all of it into my dishes that I've planned for the week.  We have used all of it and haven't wasted any or thrown it away.  If you are interested, go to Bountiful Baskets to see if they are in your area.

In my last basket, I received watercress, which is something I haven't cooked with before.  I Googled several recipes and uses.  You can use it raw in salads or cooked in things like soups and stews.  I came across a few versions of Asian watercress salad, and then the lightbulb went off.  I wanted Asian Wings with an Asian Watercress Salad.  My family loves wings, so it was a huge hit from the get-go.  Watercress has an interesting flavor journey.  It starts out tasting like lettuce.  Then it subtly changes to a slightly bitter flavor before ending in a quite peppery flavor.  Very interesting, indeed.  And I discovered that I love watercress.  If you love veggies, give this a try.

2 lbs chicken wings and drummettes
1 C honey
A few drops of oyster sauce
Asian chili paste, to taste
1/2 C water
A few drops sesame oil
1 C soy sauce
3 T cornstarch
1 T garlic powder
Peanut oil

1 bunch watercress, roots removed and stems and leaves washed and dried
1/4 C soy sauce
1/4 C rice wine vinegar
1-2 T brown sugar, to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Red onion slices
1 avocado, sliced

Mix all of the wing ingredients together (except the wings and the peanut oil) in a medium pot, making sure to whisk it well to combine the cornstarch.  Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to medium.  Cook and whisk for about 5-7 minutes until thick and bubbly.  Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Preheat the peanut oil in a large skillet on high.  Fry the wings in batches on both sides for a couple of minutes each side to crisp up the skin.  Drain.  Place the wings on a sheet pan with sides.  Pour the sauce over the wings and stir around to coat.  Bake the wings for about 15-20 minutes. Periodically spoon the sauce back over the wings.  The sauce thickens and sticks to the wings as it cooks.

For the salad, whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, and garlic powder.  Toss the watercress, avocado slices, and red onion together with the dressing.  Serve the wings over the salad.