Monday, October 27, 2014

Traditional Fare

In the restaurant where I work, we have a lunch service every day until closing time at 4:00.  From October to the end of March, our lunch service includes a hot entree, which I am in charge of making.  We often serve Beef Goulash, which is popular with the customers.  Our goulash is a traditional American version of goulash which includes macaroni noodles and ground beef.  While I like our version, I also like to research dishes and their origins.  I found that traditional Hungarian goulash is more of a stew than the American version.  

So I did some recipe searching and comparisons, and I came up with this Sausage & Potato Goulash.  Even though we loved it a lot, I picked the wrong night to make it since it was rather warm that evening.  Although I despise snow, I think this recipe would be perfect for those bone-chilling nights when there is snow outside and a fire in the fireplace.  I added kale to this goulash, but you could easily substitute spinach or even leave it out.  Even my picky son loved this goulash.  The longer you cook it, the thicker it gets.  It's a pretty easy one-pot dish, and it's darn tasty!

1 lb smoked sausage, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 T butter
Pinch of sugar
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 T tomato paste
Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch kale, stems discarded and leaves chopped
3 C red potatoes, cubed
1 T paprika
4 C beef stock
Salt & pepper, to taste

In a large pot or dutch oven, melt the butter and drizzle in some olive oil over medium high heat.  Brown the sausage in the pot and remove to a plate.  Add the onion and the pinch of sugar to the pot and reduce the heat to medium.  Cook the onion until browned and tender.  Add in the beef stock, canned tomatoes, garlic, paprika, tomato paste, potatoes, and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a rapid boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat very slightly so that it continues to boil.  Cook for 15 to 20 minutes (stir frequently) or until the potatoes are done and the stew is thick.  You can continue to cook it longer if you'd like it thicker.  Add the sausage back in and the kale in during the last five minutes to wilt the kale. This goes great with some warm cornbread!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Spinach Sausage Balls

Okay.  So pretty much everyone has the recipe for Jimmy Dean's Sausage Balls, right?  Well, here's my version. Except there no Bisquick.  And there is spinach and green chilies.  These are my Spinach Sausage Balls.  And they are fantastic!

1 C flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 C fresh spinach, torn into small pieces
2 T finely chopped red onion
2 T finely chopped celery
1 C shredded Cheddar cheese
One 4-ounce can green chilies
1 lb breakfast sausage (I prefer Jimmy Dean)
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder.  Add in the remaining ingredients and mix by hand.  Roll the mixture into about 1 1/2 inch balls.  Place the balls in a 9 x 13 pan.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until they are browned and done through.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Heavenly Country

So a lot of you have probably been to a Chinese restaurant and seen the word "szechuan" on the menu, and it usually denotes a spicy dish.  I'm not sure how the spelling became "szechuan," since the Province of Sichuan is where those spicy dishes originated.  Apparently Sichuan is called "heavenly country" because of their abundance of food and natural resources.  And apparently people in that province eat a lot of spicy food.

We really enjoy spicy food at our house.  My husband more so than the rest of us.  He also really loves Asian food and pasta, so I came up with the trifecta for him.  These are my Sichuan Pork Noodles.  This dish is really pretty easy, and you can control the heat level yourself and get it as spicy as you want or not so spicy.  This is a quick weeknight meal that is super delicious!  Enjoy!

1 lb linguine
1 lb ground pork
1 head broccoli, cut into florets (roughly 1 1/2 C)
2 T rice wine vinegar
Red chili flakes, to taste
2-3 C chicken stock
3 T oyster sauce
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Chinese leek, sliced (or a plain old onion, chopped)
3 T soy sauce
1/4 C brown sugar
A few drops sesame oil
Olive oil
Sriracha or chili paste

Cook the linguine according to package directions.  

Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil and a few drops of sesame oil into a large skillet.  Cook the leek (or onion) over medium high heat until almost tender.  Add in the ground pork and garlic and cook until the pork is cooked through.  Add in the rice wine vinegar, red chili flakes, 2 C chicken stock, oyster sauce, ginger, soy sauce, and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and cook covered for about 10 minutes or until thickened.  During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add in the broccoli and continue cooking covered for another 5 minutes or until the broccoli is the desired consistency.  If you want more sauce, add in the extra cup of chicken stock when you add in the broccoli.  

Drain the linguine and stir the cilantro and linguine into the pork mixture.  Serve with Sriracha or chili paste, if desired.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Salt Blocker

When I was a kid, my mother and I used to always eat at Mexican restaurants.  I love the fact that they always bring tortilla chips and salsa to the table right when you get there. Being a salt addict from birth, I always went straight for the bottle of salt to salt the chips.  Since my mother wouldn't let me use a lot of salt on the basket of chips, I would salt my own individual chips.  One time the salt on my chip went straight up my nose as I bit into the chip.  I sneezed nearly 800 times.  It was painful.  Did that deter me from salting my individual chips?  Nope.  I still salted each chip, but I put my hand under my nose while I bit into the chips to block the salt storm.  I did that for at least two years.  I bet I looked pretty dumb sitting there with my hand under my nose eating chips.

Now, here's a recipe that the base is sort of a chip.  These are Chicken & Bean Tostadas.  The best part of this recipe is the fresh sauce I made to mix with the chicken.  It's spicy and flavorful.  Along with some quick refried beans and shredded cheese, this dish is darn tasty!

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 C pinto beans
1/4 C bacon grease (or shortening)
3-4 Roma tomatoes
1/4 C chopped onion
2 T cilantro
1 lime
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 serrano, stem removed and rough chopped
Shredded lettuce
Shredded Cheddar cheese
Sour cream

Put the chicken in a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil. Continue boiling until the chicken is done all the way through. I usually take a pair of tongs and break the chicken open in the center to see if it's done.  When it is cool enough to handle, shred the chicken.

While the chicken is cooking, put the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, juice of the lime, cumin, garlic, serrano, and salt and pepper into a blender.  Pulse until smooth.

For the beans, put the beans and the bacon grease into a small pot.  Using a potato masher or a whisk, cook and mash the bean until they are at your desired consistency and slightly thickened.  Warm the tostadas in the oven according to package directions.

Put the shredded chicken and sauce into a pot and cook just until heated.  Assemble your tostadas by spreading beans on the tostada, then chicken, and top with shredded lettuce, cheese and sour cream.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Good Times

In 2010, my husband was transferred and promoted to a position in West Texas.  I had been a court reporter for 14 years at that point, and I was a little burned out.  He told me that I should change things up and do whatever I wanted.  I took a job that is a little closer to my heart at a family-owned bakery and restaurant.  It's a pretty popular restaurant, and it has great hours.  The restaurant closes at 4:00, so I don't have to work late very often, except for catering events and during holidays.  And let me tell you, it was the best decision I've ever made.  Cooking is my passion, and I get to do it all day. While I don't bring home a large salary, I enjoy getting up and going to work every day.  That is something a lot of people can't say.

We have a blast at work too.  The owner is there every day, and it is really like we are all family.  We carry on and joke around on a daily basis.  There have been food fights and pranks.  One time, while working on the line, my boss threw a slice of turkey at me, kind of like a frisbee.  It smacked me on the cheek and stuck there.  It even made a sound.  We were laughing so hard we nearly peed our pants.  During Thanksgiving and Christmas, we make cases and cases of whipped cream.  You can only imagine the whipped cream wars that happen.  We had an employee once that was deathly afraid of bugs and spiders.  At least once a week she found the boss' plastic bugs in a box of bacon or somewhere on the line.  All in all, it truly is a great place to work and I love it.

Anywho, that really has nothing to do with the recipe I'm sharing today.  I just wanted to share a little bit of fun first. This recipe is Sausage & Asparagus Pasta.  It has leeks and tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.  And, instead of making a thick sauce, I used the pasta water to make a much lighter sauce.  And it was fabulous!  I hope you enjoy it.  And, if you have the opportunity to do something you love, go and do it. You won't regret it!

1 lb bulk Italian sausage
Olive oil
2 T butter
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 C water
3 cloves garlic, minced
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 lb linguine
1/2 to 3/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese, to taste
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 T Italian parsley, chopped
1 lemon

Cook the pasta according to directions.  Reserve about 4 C of the pasta water for the sauce.

Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil in a large skillet and melt in the butter. Cook the leek until mostly tender.  Add in the sausage and cook and brown until done.  Add in the asparagus, garlic, 1/2 C water, and season with salt, pepper, and the chili flakes. Cover, reduce the heat slightly, and simmer until the asparagus is tender.  Add in the tomatoes and cook a few minutes to soften the tomatoes.  Uncover and add in the Parmesan cheese, Italian parsley, and the juice of the lemon.  Add in ladle-fulls of the pasta water one at a time, stirring well between additions.  Add in enough of the pasta water to desired consistency of the sauce.  Stir the sauce and the pasta together.  Serve with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tex-Mex is Awesome!

It's no secret that I am a huge fan of Tex-Mex food.  If you have never had it or think you don't like it, I urge you to try it again.  But try real Tex-Mex.  Taco Bell doesn't count.  Real Tex-Mex food is rich in culture.  It is a blending of the food of the Mexican immigrants that came to Texas and introduced wonderful things to Texans.  And we introduced wonderful things to them too.  And the melding of the two cultures brought us some pretty amazing stuff.  Like carnitas.  And chili.  And tamales.  I could go on forever.  The Texans gave them things like cheese and sour cream and bacon. Tex-Mex food is its own style of cooking that you can't find anywhere else.

So here is something my husband and I concocted a few weeks ago.  These are Tex-Mex Hot Dogs.  They are sort of similar to New Mexico's Sonoran hot dog, but not exactly. These are bacon wrapped.  We made a cheese sauce and chipotle mayo and added guacamole and pico de gallo.  And they were fabulous!  I hope you give them a try!

8 hot dogs
8 bolillo rolls (or other soft sandwich roll)
16 slices bacon
Shredded Cheddar cheese, if desired
Jalapeno slices, if desired
About 2 T bacon grease or vegetable oil

1/4 C flour
1/4 C butter
2 C half and half
1 chipotle in adobo, chopped
1 1/2 C shredded Cheddar cheese

About 2 C chopped Roma tomatoes
1-2 serrano (or jalapeno) peppers, chopped (leave in the seeds if you like it hot)
1/2 C finely chopped red onion
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
Salt & pepper, to taste


2 Haas avacados
1-2 T red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of half to 1 whole lime
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 T cilantro, chopped
1 T jalapeno slices, chopped
Salt to taste

1 C mayonnaise
1 chipotle in adobo, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder

For the pico de gallo, mix all of the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper.  Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

For the guacamole, mash the avocados and mix in the remaining ingredients.  Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

For the chipotle mayo, mix all ingredients together and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

For the hot dogs, bring a pot of water to boil.  Put the hot dogs in the water and boil until they are plump.  Remove them from the water.  When you can handle them, wrap each hot dog with two slices of bacon, securing the ends with toothpicks.  Preheat the bacon grease or vegetable oil in a large skillet.  Cook the hot dogs in the grease until the bacon is done all over.  Drain on a paper towel.

While the hot dogs are cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a small pot and whisk in the flour.  Whisk in the half and half.  Cook for a few minutes until it starts bubbling.  Turn the heat off.  Add the cheese in handfuls and whisk until completely melted.  

Cut a pocket in the top of the bolillos.  Spread some chipotle mayo inside.  Add in a hot dog and top with pico de gallo, cheese sauce, guacamole, additional cheese and jalapeno slices, if desired.

Taco Potatoes

Here's a twist on roasted potatoes for you.  These are Taco Potatoes.  They are so easy and yet so darn tasty!  Enjoy!

2 lbs potatoes, cubed
1 packet taco seasoning
Olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3/4 C shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the cubed potatoes on a sheet pan.  Drizzle olive oil over the potatoes.  Sprinkle the taco seasoning and the garlic powder over the potatoes. Use your hands to mix them around and coat.  Spread them in a single layer.  Bake them for 30-40 minutes or until they are fork tender.  When you remove them from the oven, sprinkle the cheese all over and return to the oven for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Sauce Makes It!

Since I work on Saturdays (yes, it stinks), my husband is home with free time on his hands.  I often get text messages saying, "Puffy Tacos" or "Sonoran Hot Dogs," which is his way of telling me he watched an extreme food show showcasing crazy foods from different places.  Recently I got a text that said, "Chico's Tacos in El Paso."  It didn't take long for me to figure out what he was talking about.

So I Googled it and came across some copycat recipes and also a video of Aaron Sanchez on the Food Network show "The Best Thing I Ever Ate," and he was talking about these tacos.  Apparently this restaurant sells like 1,200 to 1,300 DOZEN of these tacos a day.  Can you believe that number? That's 15,600 tacos per day.  That's insane.  But what is even more insane is how these tacos look.  They are rolled tacos, not folded ones.  And, if you look at an order from Chico's Tacos, they are the ugliest tacos I've ever seen. They serve them in a cardboard boat and then pour this tomato soup looking stuff over it.  I was very skeptical.  VERY SKEPTICAL.  Why would a chef, restaurant owner, and Food Network personality endorse these ugly tacos?  Well, I had to find out.

I found some copycat recipes online for the sauce, and I took what I thought was the best of them.  Now, I can't attest to the authenticity of the tacos I made.  I can't even give you a copycat recipe for the meat, but I gave you a pretty good one.  But I can tell you this...these tacos were FREAKING AWESOME!  The sauce absolutely made this dish!  I think I could eat these twice a week if they weren't so fattening.  If you are a resident from El Paso and you try these, please just take this as my version.  But, if not, you are going to love these tacos!

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 T masa harina (corn flour)
2 teaspoons beef bouillon paste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
3 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 C water

Two 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 jalapeno, stems and seeds removed
2 cloves garlic
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder

2 poblanos
6 tomatillos
1 jalapeno
3 cloves garlic
1 lime
1/4 C chopped red onion
2 T chopped cilantro
Salt & pepper
1/2 to 1 C water

About 20 corn tortillas
8 ounces very finely shredded Cheddar cheese (or Colby Jack)
Peanut oil, for frying

For the meat filling, brown the ground beef in a skillet.  Add in the spices and seasonings, masa harina, and the water. Simmer until the liquid is mostly cooked out.  Soften the corn tortillas in a damp towel in the microwave.  Place about 1 1/2 T of the meat filling down the center of the tortillas.  Roll them up and place them seam-side down on a sheet pan.  Freeze for about 30 minutes to hold them in place.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  For the salsa verde, peel the tomatillos and rinse them.  Cut them in half and place them on a sheet pan.  Place the poblanos, garlic cloves and jalapeno on the sheet pan.  Roast the veggies, turning occasionally, until the peppers are soft and look charred. Remove from the oven.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel as much of the skin off of the poblanos as you can.  Remove the stem and the seeds from the poblanos and the jalapeno.  Remove the skins from the garlic.  Place the peppers, garlic, juice of the lime, cilantro, tomatillos, red onion, salt and pepper to taste, and 1/2 C water in a blender. Blend until smooth.  Add the additional water if you want a thinner consistency.  Chill until ready to use.

For the red sauce, place all of the ingredients into a blender. Add a can of water from the canned tomatoes.  Pulse until smooth.  Put the red sauce into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer about 15 minutes. Keep warm.

Preheat about an inch of the peanut oil in a large skillet to 350 degrees.  Turn the oven to about 200 degrees.  Fry the tacos (seam-side down first and then turn) for a few minutes on each side until they are browned and crispy.  Drain them and place them on a sheet pan.  Put the sheet pan in the oven to keep the tacos warm until they are all done.  Serve the tacos with a generous amount of sauce, a generous amount of the cheese, and some salsa verde.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Blast From the Past

I'm not afraid of my age.  I'm not even ashamed to admit that I grew up in the '70s and '80s.  I remember heating up Spaghettios and soup on the stove.  I remember our first microwave.  I remember the day that MTV debuted.  I remember 8 track players, the first Walkman, black and white TV, the invention of VCRs and CDs and cell phones.  

I also remember the food my mother cooked.  One dish she made was Green Beans Amandine, which is oftentimes misspelled as "almondine."  It's basically green beans with butter, salt and pepper, and slivered almonds.  I came across a picture of Chicken Amandine on the internet, and it took me back.  It's traditionally chicken cooked in an almond sauce. But, if you know me, I am a rebel in the kitchen and can't always stick to traditional.  Here I've breaded the chicken with the almonds and a few other things.  The crust was crispy. The chicken was juicy.  And the lemon sauce gave it a fresh, bright taste.  My family loved it, and I hope yours loves it too!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
A 4-ounce bag of sliced almonds
1 C Italian breadcrumbs
1 C flour
2 eggs
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
2 T butter
Olive oil

1 lemon
2 C chicken stock
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 T flour
2 T chopped Italian parsley
2 T butter
1 clove garlic, minced

For the chicken, mix the almonds, flour, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese together in a bowl.  Whisk the eggs with a splash of water in another bowl.  

Preheat a skillet over medium high heat.  Melt the butter in the skillet and drizzle in a generous amount of olive oil. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  Dip the chicken in the egg wash and then into the breadcrumb mixture, pressing down the chicken to coat on all sides.  Cook the chicken in the skillet 5-6 minutes on each side or until well browned.  Drain the chicken and then place on a sheet pan.  Put them in the oven to finish cooking and keep warm.  The chicken should register 165 degrees internally.

For the sauce, melt the butter in a pot and whisk in the flour. Add in the chicken stock and garlic and whisk.  Cook and whisk until the sauce is thickened and bubbly.  Whisk in the juice of the lemon and the Italian parsley and season with salt and pepper.  Remove the sauce from the heat.  Serve the sauce over the chicken.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Creamy Bacon & Corn Dip

This dip is easy to throw together and tastes great with Fritos!  Great for game day!

8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
One 4-ounce can green chilies
4-5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's), to taste
1/2 C frozen corn kernels
1/2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
1 T chopped jalapeno slices (the kind from a jar)
1/4 C chopped green onions
Hot sauce, to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and chill.  Serve with Fritos, crackers or even tortilla or potato chips.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

I absolutely adore this dip.  I could eat this every day.  It's warm and cheesy and ranchy and buffaloey.  Enjoy!

Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1 package Ranch dip mix
1 1/2 C cooked, shredded chicken
Buffalo wing sauce, like Frank's
1 C shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Sliced green onions for garnish, if desired
Carrot & celery sticks for dipping, if desired

NOTE:  For the chicken, I just boiled a large chicken breast, cooled it and shredded it.  You could also use a rotisserie chicken and shred that.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together the softened cream cheese and Ranch dip mix (I usually put the cream cheese in a bowl and zap it in the microwave to soften). Spread the cream cheese mixture in an 8 x 8 baking dish. Mix the chicken with as much or as little buffalo sauce as you like.  I like a lot.  Spread the chicken mixture over the cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the buffalo sauce.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until warm through and the cheese on top is melted and slightly browned.  Garnish with green onions, if desired.  Serve with tortilla chips, carrot & celery sticks, or even crackers.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Time for Fall

While the calendar may say it's Fall now, it sure doesn't feel like it out here in good old West Texas.  It is in the upper '80s here, and we are still wearing shorts.  But I know some of you are enjoying cooler fall weather, so I thought I better give you a soup recipe.  Well, actually a chowder recipe.  

A week and a half ago, it rained for an entire week.  The temperature was cool enough in the mornings to actually wear jeans.  We even had a couple of nights where we had to put hoodies on!  Perfect time for soup.  My son adores soups.  He asks for Loaded Baked Potato Soup at least once a week during the winter.  But this time I gave him a Potato & Ham Chowder.  Don't let the name fool you.  It's much more than just potatoes and ham.  It is rich and hearty and sure to warm your bellies!  And it's darn tasty!

3 medium potatoes, cubed
1 stick celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 lb ham, cubed (I just bought a ham steak and cut it up)
1 leek, chopped
1 quart half & half
1 stick butter
1 C frozen corn kernels
1 C frozen peas
1 C shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 C flour
1 C chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, minced

NOTE:  If you've never cooked with leeks before, you need to know a few things.  Leeks are in the onion family.  First cut off the stem end and the dark green parts and discard.  Next slice them in half lengthwise and then cut into half moons. Place the slices in a bowl of water and let them soak for about 5 minutes.  They are grown in sandy soil, and the sand will sink to the bottom of the bowl of water.  Pull out the leeks by hand and drain well on paper towels.

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook until tender.  Drain.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pot or dutch oven. Brown the ham in the butter and then remove them from the pot and set aside.  Add the leeks, celery, and carrots to the pot and cook until tender.  Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and stir.  Add in the chicken stock and whisk.  Add in the cooked potatoes, ham, and remaining ingredients except the cheese.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat slightly. Cook until thickened and bubbly.  Remove from the heat. Stir in the cheese until melted and serve.