Thursday, May 29, 2014

Onion Ring Brick

I'm not sure if they still have these Onion Ring Bricks at Tony Roma's, but now you don't need to go there to get it.  This is a fun way to serve onion rings to a crowd.  Serve with ranch or ketchup or however you like to eat your onion rings.

1 large red onion or 2-3 large yellow onions
2 1/2 C flour
1 T garlic powder (plus extra for soaking)
1 T onion powder (plus extra for soaking)
1 teaspoon paprika (plus extra for soaking)
1 T seasoned salt (like Lawry's) (plus extra for soaking)
Buttermilk (buy a quart, but you might not use it all)
Peanut oil, for frying

Slice the onions into rings as thin as you can get them.  Put them in a 9 x 13 casserole pan.  Pour in enough buttermilk to cover the onions.  Sprinkle in some (all the extras) garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and seasoned salt.  Stir to combine.  Put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Mix together the flour, the measured garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and seasoned salt.  Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or deep pot to 350 degrees.  Dredge the onions in the flour, back into the buttermilk, and back into the flour.  Fry them in batches until they are golden brown, probably less than 5 minutes.  Drain on a paper towel and then press them into a loaf pan.  When they are all cooked and pressed into the pan, turn them out onto a plate to serve.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tall Tales

Have you ever seen the movie "Big Fish"?  It's pretty old, but for me it's a classic.  It's about a dying man and his grown son.  The father has told the son tall tales all of his life, but as the son grew up he stopped believing in them.  As it turned out, the tall tales were true in a sense.  I won't ruin the movie for you, but it's a great story.

This Cuban stew is called Ropa Vieja, which means old clothes, and there is a tall tale about that as well.  One day, a very poor man came home to his hungry family.  They had nothing to eat.  Looking for a solution, he went to his closet and got some old clothes to cook into a stew.  He put so much love into his dish that the old clothes turned into a wonderful beef stew that fed his family.  Tall tale, yes.  But it kinda makes you feel all warm inside thinking that a man could love his family so much that magic could happen! 

Now, about this stew...this is a very inexpensive dish that tastes very expensive and rich.  The heartiness of it makes you feel the love of that poor man.  The shredded meat here is the reason they call it "old clothes."  Kind of looks like torn shreds of clothes.  You can use either flank steak or skirt steak for this.  It calls for something called Sazon, which is a type of seasoned salt with a little turmeric to give it color. I cooked this stew in the crockpot, so it's easy and quick to throw together.  And the taste?  It's fabulous!  I've made it twice in the last month.  That's how good it is.  Enjoy!

One 2 1/2 lb flank steak (that size more or less)
Olive oil
2 serrano peppers (or jalapenos), chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 packet Sazon (or seasoned salt, to taste)
1 T beef bouillon paste (or powder will work too)
Black pepper, to taste
1 C green olives, sliced
Fresh chopped cilantro (for garnish)
3 C water
Cooked white rice, for serving
A crockpot, for cooking

Drizzle a little olive oil into the crockpot and put all of the ingredients into a crockpot except for the cilantro and the rice. Cook for 6-8 hours or until the meat can be shredded with a fork.  You can shred the meat with two forks directly in the crockpot (creates longer pieces of shredded meat) or you can remove it to a cutting board and shred (creates smaller pieces of shredded meat).  Serve the stew over the rice and garnish with the cilantro.

Monday, May 26, 2014

That's a Wrap

I love the smell of fresh basil.  It smells so fresh and herbilicious.  And I've kind of had a sandwich obsession lately and have posted several sandwiches.  There's nothing better than portable food, right?  Basil was on sale the other day, so I bought a big container of it.  And made these...Grilled Pesto Chicken Wraps.  The kitchen smelled so good.  And the cream cheese pesto was divine.  I think you'll like these.

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
Garlic powder
Black pepper

One 2.5 ounce package fresh basil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 C pine nuts
1/4 C olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 large wraps or tortillas (I used spinach wraps)
Leaf lettuce, if desired
Sliced tomatoes
Sliced avocados
1 C shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Sprinkle some garlic powder, seasoned salt, and black pepper on the chicken breasts.  Lay them on a sheet pan.  Cook for about 16 minutes and then turn them over.  Cook another 14-16 minutes or until they are done all the way through.  Let them rest about 10 minutes and then slice thin.

For the pesto, pull the leaves of the basil off of the stems and place the leaves in a food processor or blender.  Add in the garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, and a little salt and pepper. Pulse to combine.  While the machine is running, stream in the olive oil.  When that mixture is well blended, add in the cream cheese and process until smooth.

To assemble the wraps, spread about 1/4 C Monterey Jack cheese down the center of the wraps.  Add some chicken, tomatoes, avocados, and leaf lettuce.  You can spread on some of the cream cheese pesto now or serve it as a sauce/dip with the wrap after cooking.  Wrap them up tight making sure to tuck the ends in first.  Put them on a hot skillet or grill pan seam side down first.  Cook for a couple of minutes on each side to brown and melt the cheese.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Now, That's a Salad!

My husband loves limes and cilantro.  Anything I cook for him that has those flavors makes him very happy.  Since it's been hot, I decided I wanted to make a salad.  And what a salad. This Southwestern Shrimp Salad had such amazing complementary flavors.  The Cilantro, Avocado & Lime Dressing was a smash hit.  All the flavors here were a cohesive blend, almost like a perfect marriage.  The shrimp, corn, and even avocado are grilled on a grill pan.  You can grill it outside, too, especially if you are an avid griller (or live with one).

I ate way too much of this salad and wish I could have more right now!  And my husband would have probably drank the dressing by itself if he thought no one was looking.  This salad has several spicy components, so feel free to leave out the heat if you'd like.  Look how pretty the colors of this salad are.  Makes you hungry, right?

As adapted from Closet Cooking
(This makes 4 big salads)
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1-3 chipotles in adobo, chopped
1/4 C olive oil
2 T fresh chopped cilantro
2 limes
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste
Grill skewers

About 1 C fresh cilantro (more or less)
1 C vegetable oil
2 avocados
2 limes
1 serrano pepper, coarse chopped (jalapeno will work too)
2 cloves garlic
Salt & pepper, to taste

4 ears corn
One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
2 avocados
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch leaf lettuce, chopped or torn
Shredded cheese (I used Colby Jack)
Red onion slices
6 corn tortillas
Peanut oil
chipotle powder

For the shrimp, place the chipotles in adobo, olive oil, cilantro, juice of the two limes, garlic, cumin, onion powder and salt & pepper in a large zipper bag and kind of squeeze it around to combine.  Add in the shrimp.  Marinate in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.  If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for about 20 minutes so they won't burn.

For the dressing, put all of the ingredients except the oil into a blender and blend to combine.  Leaving the blender on, stream in the oil through the top of the blender.  Blend until completely smooth.  Chill until ready to use.

For the tortillas, cut the six corn tortillas into strips.  Heat some peanut oil in a small pot.  Fry them for a few minutes until they are crisp.  Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with some chipotle powder and salt.

Preheat a grill pan to medium high heat.  Brush the corn with a little olive oil and grill, turning occasionally, for 7-10 minutes until charred on all sides and tender.  When they are cool enough to handle, cut the corn kernels from the cobs.  Slice the avocado and put the avocado slices on the grill pan for about 30 seconds per side.  Set them aside.  Next skewer the shrimp and place them on the grill pan.  Cook them about 3-4 minutes on both sides or until done.

Now it's time to eat!  Put some leaf lettuce in a bowl and top with the corn, tomatoes, black beans, red onion, cheese, tortilla strips, avocados and dressing.  

Spinach Artichoke Dip

Okay, so I know everyone probably has a recipe for Spinach Artichoke Dip.  But I was craving it the other day, so I made it and decided, what the heck, I'll share the recipe too.  Enjoy!

One 18-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
One 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 C mayonnaise
1/2 C sour cream
1 T dried minced onion
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
Black pepper
1 C shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Tortilla chips

A quick way to soften the cream cheese is to put it in a bowl and microwave it for about a minute.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together the cream cheese, mayo, sour cream, minced onion, seasoned salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.  Stir in the artichokes, spinach, Parmesan cheese, and half of the Monterey Jack cheese.  Spread the mixture into a small casserole pan and sprinkle the remaining Monterey Jack cheese over the top. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until warmed through and the cheese on top is browned.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Get out the Grill

When I ask my husband to go to the store for me, he is notorious for bringing back extra stuff.  For instance, when I asked him to go get oysters for po' boys, he came back with not only the oysters, but also some giant prawns and some scallops (we saved the scallops for later).  So we decided to get out the grill and cook up some prawns.

Now, prawns, sometimes called tiger prawns, are really ginormous shrimp.  They have a texture, when cooked, similar to lobster.  And they are darn tasty.  They really soak up a lot of flavor in a relatively short time, so a marinade is the way to go when grilling.  We like spicy food, so I decided to make a honey and chile marinade and then a roasted garlic butter sauce to brush on them when they were done. This marinade is spicy, so leave out some or all of the chiles if you like.  And, as you can tell by the picture, we also grilled up some squash and zucchini along side it. I just brushed olive oil on those and salt and pepper.

Don't panic when you head off to the store for these prawns. Sometimes they come with the head on, depending on where you live.  It's okay.  I'm sure the fish counter workers will take them off for you if you ask and say "pretty please."  They will probably even peel them for you if you want.

Put your shorts on.  It's time to cook out!

1 lb prawns, deveined, peeled and butterflied
4 serrano peppers, finely diced
2 fresno peppers, finely diced
1 T dijon mustard
1/4 C honey
1/4 to 1/2 C lemon juice (to taste)
1/4 C olive oil
1 1/2 C water
Salt & pepper (to taste)

1 bulb Roasted Garlic
1 stick butter
1 T dried parsley
1 T lemon juice
Fresh cracked black pepper

Mix the peppers, mustard, honey, lemon juice, water and olive oil together and season with salt and pepper.  Put the prawns in a large zipper bag and pour in the marinade. Marinate in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

You can either put your prawns in a grill basket or put them on skewers.

Get your grill ready.  After the flames subside, when you can only hold your hand 4 inches above the grate for 4 seconds, you know the grill is ready.  Grill the prawns no more than 2-3 minutes on each side.

For the butter sauce, melt the butter and whisk in the remaining ingredients.  Brush this on the prawns after they are done grilling.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Summer Sandwiches

I am apparently addicted to sandwiches lately, since this is the third one I've done in a row.  But it's summertime, and nothing beats a sandwich in the summer.  This is my Italian Sausage Sandwich.  It's sort of a spin on sausage, peppers and onions.  Isn't it colorful?  Almost like a rainbow.

Anywho, this sandwich is so flavorful and really easy to put together, despite the long list of ingredients.  You can, of course, switch out the peppers for other peppers.  You don't have to put two sausages on one sandwich if that's too much. You can leave off the cheese.  I can't leave off the cheese. Cheese belongs on everything, in my opinion.  I hope you enjoy this sandwich as much as we did.

8 Italian sausages (I used hot)
8 Hoagie rolls or sub buns
1 orange bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 large red onion, sliced
1/4 C sliced pepperoncini peppers
3 T of the juice from the pepperoncini jar
2 T tomato paste
1/4 C red wine
1 T butter 
Olive oil
Red chili flakes, to taste
1/2 C water
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
Salt & pepper, to taste
8 slices Mozzarella or Provolone cheese

For the sausages, put them in a large skillet and cover with 1 inch of water.  Add in the red wine and cover.  Bring to a boil. Continue cooking until most of the water has cooked out. Remove the lid and drizzle in some olive oil.  Continue cooking, turning occasionally, until they are browned on all sides.  (This makes a mess in your pan.  Once you remove the sausages, put some dish soap and hot water in the pan and soak.  This will make cleanup easy.)

Meanwhile, melt the butter in another large skillet and drizzle in some olive oil.  Add the bell peppers and onions and cook until almost tender.  Add in the Roma tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, 1/2 C water, pepperoncini peppers, the pepperoncini juice, basil, oregano, and red chili flakes. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the sauce is thickened.  Remove from heat.  

Preheat the broiler.  Split the Hoagie buns and lay a slice of cheese over each bun.  Melt the cheese under the broiler. Lay two sausages on each bun and top with the pepper mixture.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Homemade Jalapeno Kettle Chips

The Lay's Jalapeno Kettle Chips are my husband's and my most favoritest chips.  I've been thinking for a few years on how I could recreate these chips. Thanks to some creative thinking on my part and a few tips from on boiling potatoes in vinegar water to remove the starch and keep the chips from turning too brown, I finally have created a chip masterpiece!  I have yet to master the folded chip, but give me time.  I'll get there.

6 russet potatoes, sliced very thin (use a food processor or mandolin if you have one)
2-5 T jarred jalapeno slices, chopped (depends on how spicy you want it)
1/2 T salt
1/2 C vinegar
Peanut oil, for frying

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  To dry out the jalapenos to make jalapeno salt, lay the chopped jalapenos on a sheet pan in a single layer. Cook the jalapenos, moving them around occasionally, for about an hour or until dried out. Process them in a coffee grinder or food processor with the salt and grind to a fine grind.

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

Preheat the peanut oil to 350 degrees.  Fry the potatoes in batches for about 3-5 minutes or until very crispy.  Drain on paper towels.  When they are all fried, put the potatoes in a large zipper bag.  Add in the jalapeno salt and seal the bag, leaving air in the bag.  Shake the chips around until evenly coated.

Dressing Up a Classic

Don't you just love a classic BLT sandwich?  Crisp lettuce, toasted bread, crispy bacon, juicy tomato.  Yum.  But I have a problem following the rules and a tendency to be daring and brave in the kitchen.  So I just had to mess with this one a bit. What if a grilled cheese sandwich met a BLT?  What if I used a fancy pants bread and made a special garlic mayo?  What if I put Pepper Jack cheese on it?  And avocados?  What if...okay, that's all the what ifs. was FANTASTIC!  I could eat this three times a week.  And it's quick and easy too, so not too much work in the kitchen makes Cindyland a happy place.  I think you'll find your happy place too with this sandwich.

One 1 lb loaf of bread, sliced into 8 slices (I used a roasted garlic bread)
1 lb bacon (you need 12 slices)
8 slices Pepper Jack cheese
12 slices Roma tomatoes
1 C mayonnaise
3 teaspoons garlic powder
Avocado slices
Leaf lettuce

Cook the bacon until crisp and drain.  Set aside.  Mix the garlic powder and mayo together and chill until ready to use.  
Butter one side of two pieces of the bread.  Put the two pieces of bread, butter side down, on a skillet or flat cast-iron pan.  Lay a slice of cheese on each piece of bread.  Lay the tomatoes and avocados on one side and the bacon on the other.  You will cook it like this.

Cooking it this way helps the cheese melt faster.  When the cheese is melted and bread is toasted, add some of the garlic mayo and a piece of leaf lettuce to the sandwich before closing it.  Repeat for the remaining three sandwiches.  

*NOTE:  It's also very yummy if you throw your tomato slices on that skillet and grill them first before starting the sandwich.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Turkey Talk

Recently, while looking at Kentucky Derby foods, I came across a recipe for a sandwich called a Hot Brown.  It is a sandwich that was created by a chef at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.  It's an open-faced turkey sandwich with tomatoes, bacon, and a Mornay sauce, which is a fancy word for cheesy gravy.  Sounds good to me.

Last night, we made these sandwiches.  I followed the hotel's recipe to the T except for the cheese.  The recipe calls for Pecorino Romano, but I couldn't find any.  I used Parmesan cheese in its place.  Now, here's the thing about this sandwich.  The sauce is amazing.  The combination of the ingredients was tasty.  But the minor issue I had with it was the turkey I used.  The recipe calls for 14 ounces of thick sliced roasted turkey.  I'm sure the hotel roasts a lot of whole turkeys for this.  Well, I didn't want to buy a whole turkey and roast it, so I just bought the tenderloins.  I was worried about it being dry, so I cooked them in a lot of butter and kept the dish covered in the oven.  And what did I end up with? Turkey that was a little dry.  But, once we assembled the sandwich and put the sauce on, it turned out okay.  

After discussing the sandwich later with my husband, we both kind of had a wow moment that would make this sandwich better without having to roast a whole turkey.  We decided that some really good thin sliced turkey from the deli would have made this sandwich a lot better.  And faster.  So I have adapted the recipe and changed that, and I also doubled it.

I hope you'll give the deli meat a shot, and I'd love to hear how it turns out for you!

Adapted from the Brown Hotel
1/4 C butter
1/4 C flour
3 C heavy cream
5 ounces shredded Parmesan (or Pecorino Romano)
A pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried parsley
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 lb thin sliced deli turkey
4 slices Texas toast
8 slices bacon
8 slices Roma tomatoes

Cook the bacon until crisp and drain.  Toast the Texas toast in a toaster.  

For the sauce, melt the butter in a sauce pot.  Whisk in the flour and cook about two minutes.  Add in the cream, nutmeg, a dash of paprika, and the parsley and whisk.  When the sauce starts to get thick and bubbly, remove the pot from the heat and whisk in 1/2 C of the Parmesan.  Continue whisking until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.  Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper, if desired.

Preheat the broiler.  Put the toast on a sheet pan.  Divide the turkey into four portions and place on the toast.  Add two slices of tomatoes to each toast.  Pour the cream sauce over each piece of toast and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over each toast.  Put the sheet pan under the broiler and broil a couple of minutes to brown the cheese.  Remove from the oven and place 2 slices of bacon over each sandwich.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Going Green

I'm going green!  With my sauce, that is.  (Sorry if I got you excited.  I'll bring my own bag to the grocery store, I promise.) Chile verde is known in New Mexico as a stew consisting of a pork roast, like pork butt (no, it's not really from the back end) or shoulder (they are from the same part of the leg), that is stewed with green peppers, tomatillos, and garlic.  It is eaten alone or with rice or sopped up with corn tortillas.  In Texas, chile verde is known as green salsa and commonly adds cilantro and lime.  I took the best of both worlds and made a very delicious meal.'s the best part...I made it in the crockpot.  The meat was seriously the most tender meat I've ever cooked in a crockpot.  Sure, I've done plenty of roasts, beef and pork, in a crockpot.  But I've never struggled so much to take a roast out of the crockpot.  It was pretty much shredded all by itself. And the green sauce was to die for!  Okay, maybe not die, but go slap your neighbor good.  I did a little of the prep work on Sunday so that I could throw it all in on Monday morning. But the prep was quick and very worth it.

You should go green too.  Grab some poblanos and let's start cooking!

One 6-8 lb pork butt or shoulder (bone in or out, your choice)
8 tomatillos, papery skins removed and rinsed, halved
4 poblanos
3-5 jalapenos
8 cloves garlic, skins left on
1 onion, quartered
1 T cumin
1-2 T lime juice
2-3 C chicken stock (depends on how much juice you want...the more juice, the more tender)
Salt & pepper to taste

On prep day (if doing ahead), preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the tomatillos (cut side down), poblanos, jalapenos, garlic, and onions on a large sheet pan.  Cook them about 20-25 minutes, rotating the peppers occasionally, until the poblanos are charred on all sides and the rest of the veggies are tender.  Let it cool.  When you can handle them, peel the skins off of the poblanos and remove the stems and seeds.  Cut the stems off of the jalapenos and, if desired, remove the seeds.  Peel the garlic (it will be mushy and hard to handle).  Chop all of the vegetables at this point.

When ready to cook in the crockpot, drizzle some olive oil into the bottom of the crockpot.  Place the veggies in next, the pork, the chicken stock, cumin, lime juice and some salt and pepper.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the pork is falling apart.  Remove the roast and shred the meat.  Put the meat back into the juice.  You can either serve this over rice as a stew or strain the juice and serve in corn tortillas.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Family Favorite

There is nothing better than dumping out a big pot of seafood, red potatoes, corn on the cob, and sausage onto newspaper and dipping that and a big hunk of bread into butter sauce.  Yum!  My family absolutely loves when I say it's Shrimp Boil night.  If I splurge and add crab legs to this, there is almost a fight between us and a mad dash to get the crab legs first.  We cooked our shrimp boil outside on the turkey fryer since there is a lot of food and we didn't want to heat the house up.  But you can do it on the stove if you have a pot big enough or even cook it in two pots.

I remember the first time we took our daughter to a seafood restaurant when she was young, about 4 or 5.  I had ordered one of those buckets with similar items to a crab boil, and I spent the entire meal cracking the legs and giving her the meat.  Our son is pretty much the same way and will ask everyone at the table if he can have their crab legs.  The kid won't drink sodas, but he'll eat crab legs. 

I hope your family loves this too, and I hope no one steals your crab legs.

1 lb shrimp, deveined (peeled if you like)
8 mini corn on the cob, cut in half
3 lbs red potatoes, halved
1 lb Andouille sausage, sliced
4 lemons, halved
1 whole head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 large onion, sliced
1 lb crab legs
One shrimp boil seasoning pouch (I used Zatarain's Shrimp Boil)
A really big pot
A big loaf of fresh bread, like Italian

1 stick butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt & pepper, to taste

Put the potatoes, lemons, garlic, onion, and seasoning pouch in your really big pot and fill the pot about 3/4 of the way full. Bring it to a boil.  After 15 minutes of boiling, add the corn to the pot.  10 minutes after the corn goes in, add in the sausage and crab legs.  After about 8 minutes, add the shrimp.  Cook the shrimp about 3-5 minutes or until the shrimp are done.

Meanwhile, melt the butter with the garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.

To serve the Shrimp Boil, strain the pot and dump it out onto some newspaper or spread out paper bags.  Serve small bowls of the butter sauce and hunks of the bread with the Shrimp Boil and dunk everything in the butter sauce.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Derby Food

The Kentucky Derby was a couple of weekends ago.  While I have never attended or watched the Derby, I did look to Kentucky to see what kind of food they have in Kentucky and during the Derby.  And I found this...Burgoo.  What the heck is that, you ask?  Well, I'm uncertain as to what the name means or why they call it that, but I am certain of one thing. This stuff is good!  And they say, if a spoon won't stand up in it, then it isn't Burgoo.

So this said Burgoo is a kind of a stew with three types of meat, lots of veggies, and lots of flavor.  This stew is traditionally cooked all day in a pot, and sometimes it's an event where people come over and all contribute something different to the pot.  I made mine in the crockpot and cooked it all day and it turned out fabulous.  There's a bit of chopping required, but that's it.  Served with cornbread, this meal is great for a crowd.

1 lb beef stew meat, cubed
1 lb boneless country style pork ribs, cubed
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 C dried lima beans
1 onion, chopped
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 C frozen corn kernels
1 C frozen green beans
2 small potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
12 ounces frozen sliced okra
Salt & pepper, to taste
Chicken stock (enough to cover)
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T apple cider vinegar
Hot sauce, to taste
Chili flake, to taste

Combine all of the ingredients except the okra in a large crockpot and cover with as much chicken stock as you can fit in it.  Cook on low for about 8-10 hours.  During the last two hours of cooking, add in the okra and test the lima beans and potatoes.  If the lima beans and potatoes aren't close to done, you can turn the crockpot to high for the remaining cook time. Serve with cornbread and extra hot sauce.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Easy Cheesy

I've made Dorito Chicken before, which is yummy, but I wanted to try a recipe with Doritos using ground beef.  So I came up with the Dorito Taco Casserole.  It was super yummy!  My family loved it.  As my son was dishing his out, I noticed he had a jalapeno in his bowl, thinking, what 13 year old eats jalapenos.  He stopped me in my tracks and said, "no, Mom, I want that."  I said, "you eat jalapenos?  I didn't know that."  He pretty much said, "duh, Mom."  Well, now I know.

While there seems to be a lot of ingredients in this dish, it really only took about 15 minutes to put together and about 10 minutes in the oven.  And my coworkers were very happy to get the leftovers.  One girl I work with, Liz, always asks me what I cooked the night before and did I bring any.  She cracks me up.  You may not want to share with coworkers. But that's okay.  They don't have to know.

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 T masa harina (corn flour)
2 teaspoons beef bouillon paste (or powder)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons cumin
3 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 C water
One 15-ounce can Ranch Style Beans, undrained
1 can Rotel
One 11-ounce bag Doritos (I used nacho cheese, but any flavor you like will do)
2 C shredded cheddar cheese

Jalapeno slices
Diced tomatoes
Sliced green onions
Sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Drizzle a little olive oil into a large skillet.  Cook the onion until tender.  Add in the ground beef and brown.  Add in all of the seasonings, spices, masa harina, beef bouillon and the water.  Cook and stir until well mixed and the water evaporates some.  Add the Rotel and Ranch Style Beans to the meat mixture and stir.  Remove from the heat.

Crush the Doritos and layer half of them in a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Spread half of the meat mixture over the chips.  Layer half of the cheese over the meat.  Repeat the layers and top with the remaining cheese.  Put the casserole in the oven for about 10 minutes to heat through.  Garnish with desired toppings.

Special Occasions

Sometimes I want to make a special meal, maybe for my husband or my mom or even the kids' birthdays.  I will sometimes spend hours making a special meal, but sometimes I don't want to work that hard.  My husband and daughter both love gnocchi, so I created this dish for them.  It wasn't really a special occasion, but it tasted like a meal that should be eaten on a special occasion.  And it wasn't too time consuming either.  While I have been planning on attempting to making homemade gnocchi, I just haven't gotten around to it yet.  But, even so, this Chicken Gnocchi Alfredo is so good you won't mind the store-bought version at all.  And the Alfredo sauce is easy to make.  You'll be surprised at how good it is.  Enjoy!

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 lb pancetta, diced
Olive oil
2 lbs gnocchi
2 C heavy cream
1 stick butter
1 clove garlic, minced
5 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 1/2 C shredded Mozzarella cheese

Boil the chicken breasts until they are cooked all the way through.  When they are cool enough to handle, shred the meat.  Cook the gnocchi according to package directions.

In a small skillet, brown the pancetta until crisp.  Drain.  In a large skillet, drizzle in some olive oil and cook the shallot until tender.  Add in the cooked gnocchi, pancetta, and shredded chicken. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the broiler.  For the Alfredo sauce, melt the butter in a small pot.  Add in the cream and heat until it just starts to bubble.  Season it with salt and pepper and add in the garlic. With the burner either off or very low, add in the Parmesan cheese a little at a time and whisk continuously until it is all melted.  Don't add too much at a time because it will either clump or turn grainy.  When all of the cheese is incorporated, add the sauce to the skillet with the chicken and gnocchi and stir.  Pour this mixture into a 9 x 13 pan.  Sprinkle the Mozzarella over the top.  Place the pan under the broiler to melt and brown the cheese.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cabbage Love

One of my Facebook friends, Cynthia, requested a Cabbage Rolls recipe from me.  The only one I had at the time was an Asian inspired cabbage roll, not a traditional one.  So I told her I would develop one for her.  And I'm so glad I did!  We loved them, especially my daughter.  And (drum roll please) they only took 15 minutes to assemble and I cooked them in the crockpot!  My kitchen heats up the house quick in warm weather, and it's been in the 90s here.  The crockpot is my best friend right now.  And I even did all the prep work and assembly for these the night before and put them in the crockpot in the morning.

As always, when I develop a recipe, I do a lot of research.  I read a lot of other recipes and usually combine my favorite parts of each one to suit our tastes.  I found that a majority of the recipes use a little sugar in their sauce, so I went ahead and did that.  And I took the leftovers to work to get a consensus on the sauce.  It was split 50/50 over whether people thought that the sauce should or shouldn't be sweet. They all loved them nonetheless.  I think I'd prefer it not sweet, but my kids and half of the people at work liked the sweetness.  So that's a decision for you to make.

Another point I'd like to make is about the salt.  Now, I am very heavy handed with salt, and that's why I never give salt measurements in my recipes except when baking.  I did find that, even with me salting the meat mixture and the sauce, that it still needed salt at the end.  Even my non-salter friend added salt to hers.  So that's something to take into consideration.  But it's nothing that the good old salt shaker couldn't fix.

But, in the end, it was delicious, moist, easy, and everyone had a full belly.  

1 lb ground beef
1 head green cabbage
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 C uncooked minute rice (the one with a five-minute cooking time)
1 egg
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon beef bouillon paste (powdered will work too)
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/8 to 1/4 C brown sugar (optional)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 T Worcestershire sauce

Separate about 10-12 leaves of cabbage off of the head.  (I got 11 cabbage rolls.)  Put the leaves into a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil.  When it boils, only boil the leaves for about 2 minutes.  Drain and cool.  Chop the remaining cabbage because that goes into the bottom of the crockpot.  Waste not, want not.

Meanwhile, mix together the ground beef, rice, egg, bell pepper, garlic, onion, and some salt and pepper.  For the sauce, whisk together the crushed tomatoes, sugar, lemon juice, beef bouillon, Worcestershire, and more salt & pepper, to taste. 

To assemble, take a cabbage leaf and place about 2-3 T of the meat mixture down the center.  Fold or roll the cabbage around the filling.  Put the chopped cabbage in the bottom of the crockpot.  Pour about half of the sauce over the chopped cabbage.  Place the rolls, seam side down, on top of that and top with remaining sauce.  Cook them for about 6-8 hours or until the meat is cooked through.  Serve with the sauce and the extra cabbage.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Meatball Love

If I had to choose which protein I like best, I'd probably say pork.  I LOVE bacon (it is one of the New Four Food Groups), pork chops, carnitas, anything made with pork.  And meatballs, who doesn't love meatballs (please don't answer that if you don't...rhetorical question).  

While this recipe certainly isn't all that traditional, it's kind of the way Swedish Meatballs are done here.  Traditionally they are a blend of ground beef and pork and are served with mashed potatoes and lingonberries, of all things.  I don't know anything about lingonberries, but I don't think it sounds like a flavor combination that I would enjoy.  So, lingonberries aside, the Swedish Meatballs I usually come across are served with a cream sauce over egg noodles.  

For my recipe, I used all pork, since that's what I had and I don't really enjoy last-minute trips to the store.  So pork is what we got.  And I have to tell you, my husband, John, said they were the best meatballs I had ever made and wanted to know what I did differently.  I'm telling you, it's the pork.  And it's darn tasty!  This makes a lot, so you can cut it in half if you're feeding less people...or not as hungry people.

2 lbs ground pork
1 onion, chopped
1 C Panko breadcrumbs
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 T Italian parsley, chopped
Olive oil

1/4 C flour
2 T butter
2 C beef stock
2 C sour cream
2 C heavy cream
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 lb egg noodles
2 T butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Mix all of the meatball ingredients together except the olive oil.  Shape into about 1-inch meatballs.  Put the meatballs on a sheet pan or glass casserole pan.  Drizzle them with some olive oil.  Cook for about 30-35 minutes or until they are done.

Meanwhile, cook the egg noodles according to directions. Drain the noodles, return them to the same pot, and add in the butter.  Toss to coat.  

For the sauce, melt the butter in a large skillet or pot over medium high heat.  Whisk in the flour.  Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat slightly and continue cooking until the sauce is thickened. Mix the noodles, sauce, and meatballs together to serve.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hangups, Sushi Rice & Cilantro

So I've been craving crawfish lately.  No, I don't shuck 'em and suck 'em.  I only eat the tail meat.  I have never had Etouffee before, so why not try it now.  Etouffee is kind of like veggies and crawfish or shrimp in a sort of gravy that is eaten over rice.  My husband has had a slight hangup over crawfish though.  The tail meat usually comes in a little pouch and it is already cooked.  Then I add it to a dish and cook it some more, and then it gets chewy.  So I decided that I would only add the crawfish in at the end just to warm it up.  Easy.

So I went into the kitchen to start on the Crawfish Etouffee. My wonderful husband, John, gave me a pressure cooker for Christmas.  Since I have always had issues with cooking rice, this was the perfect gift.  I can make rice in 11 minutes in the pressure cooker!  WOW!  I can even make 2 lbs of pinto beans in less than an hour in it, but that's a different story. Well, I put my rice in and let her go.  I started chopping my veggies, and then I chopped some Italian parsley and green onions to garnish the top of the Etouffee.  Everything was going great!  John usually helps me in the kitchen, and he came in to check the rice.  He looked at it, and it was really sticky.  We tasted it, and it just wasn't right.  So we threw that batch out thinking I overcooked it.  

I grabbed the bag of rice out and measured it out into the pressure cooker again.  It was at that point that I realized that I had sushi rice, not long grain.  Duh.  So he took the insert out of the pressure cooker, unbeknownst to me, and I proceeded to measure the rice again.  I dumped it in...but there was no bowl insert.  We looked down into the pressure cooker, and the rice had disappeared into the abyss.  John had to take the bottom of the pressure cooker apart and remove said rice.  

Okay.  Pressure cooker reassembled, long grain rice cooking, back on track.  I cooked the Etouffee and served it up, garnishing it with the green onions and parsley.  As we were eating it, John said to me, "did you put cilantro in here?"  Of course I didn't put cilantro in here.  This is Cajun food, and cilantro is certainly not Cajun.  He tasted it again, and said, "this is cilantro.  This is amazing, and the cilantro is like a flavor punch.  I love it!"  Still not believing that he could detect a flavor better than I could, I went to the fridge and was cilantro.  Oops.  I don't know how I could have missed it.  But John raved on and on and was so happy to have cilantro in it.  

So, after what could have been several potential disasters, my kitchen escapades actually turned out to be a slam dunk! If you're brave, maybe you'll try the cilantro too.  Just don't use sushi rice.

1 C chopped bell pepper (I used orange and green)
1 onion, chopped
1 large stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick butter
1 C chopped fresh tomatoes
1/4 C flour
3 C seafood stock (or chicken stock)
1 T Worcestershire sauce
One 12-ounce pouch of crawfish tails, thawed
Cajun seasoning, to taste (I make Emeril's recipe for Creole seasoning)
4 green onions, sliced
2 T chopped Italian parsley (or cilantro if you're crazy like me)
Cooked white rice

In a large skillet or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium high heat.  Cook the bell peppers, onion, and celery until tender.  Sprinkle in the flour and cook for about 3-4 minutes, whisking constantly, to slightly brown the flour.  Add in the garlic, Cajun seasoning to taste, seafood (or chicken) stock, green onions, parsley (or cilantro), Worcestershire sauce, and tomatoes.  Cook, whisking occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and the tomatoes are soft.  Stir in the crawfish tails and cook about a minute to heat through.  Serve over rice.

*Here's a tip for making seafood stock.  The next time you peel shrimp or have clam shells or mussel shells, put them in a bag and into the freezer.  When you need the stock, boil them with a little onion, celery, and carrots and salt and pepper.  Strain and reserve the liquid for seafood stock.  You can store the stock in the freezer too.