Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Comfort Food

So we just had the third largest snow in the history of our town.  It pretty much shut down everything, and the mayor even declared it a state of emergency.  While I know that a lot of places up North are used to way more snow, our little West Texas town isn't really equipped to deal with it.

So, as we're stuck at home and cold and bored, the only thing to do here is to cook some comfort food.  We all have our favorites.  It's usually something old fashioned, something handed down, something warm and hearty.  I happened to have some puff pastry on hand, so I decided to make this open-faced Puff Pastry Pot Pie.  I made the stock homemade, and it all came together really easy.  It may seem like a lot of work, but it really wasn't.  The family loved this and nearly ate it all!  Comfort at its best!

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, rough chopped
1 carrot, rough chopped
1 stalk celery, rough chopped
1 small onion, rough chopped
2 bay leaves
6 C chicken stock
Salt & pepper, to taste
4 cloves garlic, rough chopped

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
1/4 C flour
1/2 C chopped carrots
1 C diced potato
1/2 C frozen peas
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 C butter
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Salt & pepper, to taste

For the stock, put all of the stock ingredients in a large pot or dutch oven.  Bring it to a boil.  Turn down the heat slightly. Continue boiling until the chicken is done.  Remove the chicken from the stock.  Strain the stock and reserve the liquid.  You will need 4 C stock.  If you don't have enough reserved stock, add enough water to make 4 C.  Shred the chicken and set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roll the puff pastry out a bit.  Cover half of a 9 x 13 pan with one sheet of puff pastry, overlapping the edges of the pan.  Cover the other half of the pan with the other sheet of puff pastry, overlapping the edges of the pan.

In the same large pot or dutch oven, melt in the butter and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the celery, onion, potatoes, carrots and garlic until they are tender.  Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and stir.  Stir in the stock, salt and pepper to taste, and the poultry seasoning.  Bring it to a boil.  Continue cooking 5-7 minutes or until the sauce is thick.  Stir in the chicken and peas.  

Pour the mixture into the 9 x 13 pan.  Fold the edges of the puff pastry over the sides, partially covering the filling.  Brush the pastry with some melted butter.  Cook the pot pie in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until the puff pastry is browned and cooked through.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Southern Cornbread Dressing

This is my mother's recipe for Southern Cornbread Dressing. We actually call it stuffing, but we don't stuff it into the turkey. This is rich, moist and so flavorful!  Enjoy!

6 C crumbled cornbread (see note)
6 C crumbled stale bread (see note)
4 C chicken stock (or more if necessary)
5-6 eggs
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
Salt & pepper, to taste
1-2 teaspoons sage ( to taste)
1 T poultry seasoning (or to taste)
1 stick butter

NOTES:  The cornbread and the breadcrumbs needs to be very dry.  This ensures that the stock and eggs will be well absorbed and the dressing will be moist.  I would suggest making the cornbread a few days in advance, crumbling it, and drying it on a sheet pan along with the breadcrumbs.  I usually have stray hamburger buns or other leftover bread in the freezer that I thaw and dry out for this.  Also, if you prefer that the onions and celery are very soft, you can cook them in a skillet in butter or oil until tender before adding it to the dressing.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the cornbread crumbs, breadcrumbs, salt & pepper, sage, and poultry seasoning.  Taste it now before adding the eggs to see if you want more seasonings.  I usually add some sage and poultry seasoning at this point.  

When you get the seasonings right, add in the eggs and stock and stir well.  Stir in the celery and onions.  If the dressing doesn't seem wet enough, stir in another egg and possibly more stock.  You want it to be pretty wet.  Spray a 9 x 13 pan with nonstick spray.  Spread the dressing mixture into the pan.  Slice the butter into pats and top the dressing all over with the butter.  Cover it with foil.  Bake it for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Remove the foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes or until the dressing is done in the middle and it is well browned.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Good and Tangy

I am a huge fan of sour or vinegary foods.  I was so excited awhile back when I came across white barbecue sauce, which is found in Northern Alabama.  I made this Grilled White BBQ Chicken that was fantastic.  But I love sandwiches, so I thought, why not turn that chicken into a sandwich!  And it was fantastic!  The sauce makes a lot, so you can either cut it in half or serve it with the sandwiches for extra sauce.  If you are a fan of tangy foods, this is for you! Enjoy!

1 1/2 C mayonnaise
1/3 C apple cider vinegar
1/4 C lemon juice
1 T minced garlic
1 T prepared horseradish
1 T black pepper (less if you want)
1 T spicy brown mustard
Salt, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

4 C cooked, shredded chicken
6 sandwich rolls
Pickle slices
Shredded coleslaw mix (not the one with the dressing)

Whisk together the sauce ingredients and refrigerate it until you're ready to use it.  

Mix half of the sauce with the chicken and heat it in the microwave or in a small pot.  Toast the sandwich rolls. Assemble the sandwiches by putting some of the coleslaw mix on the bottom bun, then some chicken and some pickle slices.  Serve with the extra sauce.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Chick Food

When my husband is out of town, which is frequent, I get to cook things that he normally wouldn't like.  He calls these things "chick food."  He'll eat whatever I cook, but I know when he thinks it's not manly food.  He definitely considers salad chick food, unless, of course, there's steak in it.  

I told you all the other day that I peruse menus for inspiration. Well, here's another menu-inspired recipe.  Johnny Carino's has a Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad on their menu.  I didn't follow the description 100 %, but most of it is here.  This salad was so yummy!  It has spinach, tomatoes, gorgonzola, bacon, crispy onion straws and honey mustard dressing. This chick right here (me) loved it!  Enjoy!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 1/2 C panko breadcrumbs 
1 1/2 C finely chopped pecans
1 C mayonnaise
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's), to taste
Black pepper, to taste

1/2 C mayonnaise
1/4 C honey
2 T dijon mustard
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1 T apple cider vinegar
Pinch garlic powder

1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 C buttermilk
1/2 C flour
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Peanut oil, for frying

10 ounces fresh spinach
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
5 ounces gorgonzola
2 Roma tomatoes, diced

For the chicken, put the pecans, panko, garlic powder, onion powder, seasoned salt, and black pepper into a bowl and mix it.  Put the mayo in another bowl.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Dip the chicken strips in the mayo and then into the panko mixture, pressing down to coat.  Put the strips on a sheet pan and bake 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is done.

Meanwhile, put the honey mustard ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.  Put it in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

Put the buttermilk into a bowl and put the flour into another bowl.  Put the onion slices into the buttermilk.  Preheat some peanut oil in a skillet.  Dip the onion slices into the flour mixture and shake off any excess.  Fry the onion straws in batches until they are browned.  Be careful because they will burn fast.  Drain them on a paper towel. 

To assemble the salads, put some spinach on a plate.  Top with the cooked bacon, gorgonzola, diced tomatoes, onion straws, and the chicken.  Serve with the honey mustard.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Italian Nachos

These Italian Nachos are a fun way to mix things up.  The "chips" are pasta chips.  There is homemade alfredo sauce here along with pesto and a bunch of other yummy stuff.  But you could customize these and use grilled chicken, Italian sausage, you name it!  Enjoy!

1 package wonton wrappers
Vegetable oil
2 C heavy cream
1 stick butter
1 clove garlic, minced
5 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 1/2 to 2 C shredded Mozzarella cheese
Sliced black olives
Sliced pepperoncini peppers
Pepperoni slices
Red onion slices
1/4 C prepared pesto
2 Roma tomatoes, diced

For the pasta chips, heat some vegetable oil in a skillet to medium high heat.  Cut the wontons in half diagonally. Carefully and quickly fry them in batches for about 15 seconds per side or until they are lightly browned on both sides.  Drain them on a paper towel.

For the alfredo sauce, melt the butter in a small pot.  Add in the cream and garlic and bring it to a boil.  Turn the heat off and leave the pot on the burner.  Whisk in the Parmesan cheese in small handfuls and continue to whisk until it's smooth.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Preheat the broiler.  Put the pasta chips on a sheet pan. Drizzle the pesto over the chips.  Drizzle the alfredo sauce over the chips (you may have some sauce leftover).  Sprinkle on the Mozzarella cheese and the black olives and red onion. Lay the pepperoni slices over the top.  Put the sheet pan under the broiler to melt the Mozzarella and heat through. Garnish with the pepperoncini peppers and tomatoes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Menu Inspiration

I have an obsession with menus.  I read them all the time for inspiration.  I have even been known to take pictures of menus in restaurants to recreate things that sound good.  My husband doesn't like that I have to read the ENTIRE menu before deciding what to order at restaurants.  He is rewarded though by great food.

While I've never eaten this dish from Johnny Carrino's, I thought it sounded good so I made my own version.  This is Chicken Milano.  It's chicken smothered with sauteed mushrooms, proscuitto ham, and Provolone cheese.  And it's served with fettuccine with really easy homemade alfredo sauce.  And it's darn tasty!  Enjoy!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
One 3-ounce package sliced proscuitto ham (or regular deli ham)
8 slices Provolone cheese
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
Olive oil
2 T butter
Garlic powder
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
Black pepper

1 lb fettuccine
1 stick butter
3 C heavy cream
5 ounces plus 1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese (not the powder stuff)
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Season the chicken breasts on both sides with some garlic powder, seasoned salt, and black pepper.  Bake the chicken on a sheet pan for 15 minutes.  Turn the chicken over and bake an additional 12-16 minutes OR until a thermometer registers at 165 degrees in the center.

Meanwhile, cook the fettuccine according to package directions.  Melt the butter in a skillet and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the mushrooms in the skillet until tender. Season them with salt and pepper.  Set them aside.

For the alfredo sauce, melt the stick of butter in a sauce pot. Add in the cream and garlic and bring it to a boil.  Turn the heat off.  Whisk in the Parmesan cheese in small handfuls and continue whisking until it's smooth.  Continue whisking in the Parmesan until it's all melted and smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

During the last 5-7 minutes of the chicken cooking, pull the sheet pan out of the oven.  Top each chicken breast with 1/4 of the mushrooms.  Top each chicken breast with 1/4 of the proscuitto.  Lay two slices of Provolone cheese over the top of each chicken breast.  Return the pan to the oven and continue cooking until the chicken is done and the cheese is slightly browned.  Mix the alfredo sauce with the drained fettuccine and serve it with the chicken.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Lessons Learned

So we've already had our first winter storm here in West Texas.  It's been rather cold, so what better thing to have for dinner than a nice hearty soup.  This is Spicy Tex-Mex Bean & Ham Soup.  I used up leftover ham from Thanksgiving, and I cooked this soup in the crockpot.  I love coming home after work and dinner is ready!  Makes life so easy.

There's only one way to learn some things, and that's just to jump right in and try it.  I have never cooked a dish with rice in the crockpot, so I thought I'd give it a shot.  When I do crockpot recipes, I usually prep all the ingredients the day before so I can just throw it all in the crockpot before work. Well, I went ahead and threw the rice in there.  Sure, sounds like a great idea.  But it didn't work out so well.  The soup tasted fantastic, but it was thicker than I wanted and the rice seemed to have dissolved.  Ha ha.  My husband raved on and on about how much he loved this soup.  We made a pan of cornbread and we were warmed up and our bellies were full.  Enjoy!

1 lb bag 15-bean mix
3-4 C cooked ham, cubed (a ham steak will work)
9-11 C chicken stock
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic minced
4-6 jalapenos, chopped
1 red (or orange) bell pepper, chopped
1/4 C lime juice
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
2 Goya ham seasoning packets
1/4 C apple cider vinegar
3 bay leaves
2 T cumin
2 T chili powder

1/2 C cilantro
2 C cooked rice
Salt & pepper, to taste
Diced tomatoes, for serving
Sour cream, for serving
Sliced avocados, for serving

NOTES:  If you want a thicker stew-like soup like my picture above, go ahead and put the rice in with everything else. Otherwise you may want to stir cooked rice in at the end or later in the cook time.  The Goya ham seasoning packets are typically found on the international aisle of the grocery store. The Walmart near my house has a section with Goya products near the bulk section.  If you can't find it, it's okay. Just make sure you add enough salt.  I used 4 jalapenos in my soup and we found that it wasn't spicy enough.  But it's your soup, so use as many or as little as you like.  Lastly, I started my soup with 8 C chicken stock.  When I got home at 4:15, I found that I needed 3 C more chicken stock.  I'm not sure if it's because of the rice or if the beans absorbed too much stock.  Check it at 6 hours and decide if you need more liquid in it.

Put all of the "for the soup" ingredients into a crockpot, including the seasoning packet from the beans (if it came with one).  (See note about the rice above.)  Cook on low for 8-10 hours or until the beans are soft.  Check your liquid at about 6 hours to see if you need more stock.  When it's done, stir in the cilantro and the cooked rice.  Serve the soup with the diced tomatoes, sour cream, and avocado slices.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fun Shapes

My husband loves pasta, so I'm always whipping up some type of pasta dish for him.  I like to find new shapes and mix it up.  Orecchiette isn't a new shape, but I don't often buy it. The word orecchiette means "little ears" in Italian, so that's why I'm naming this pasta Little Ears Pasta.  I could have named it by its ingredients, but I think pasta with Italian sausage, baby broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes and ricotta salata is a bit long.  So Little Ears Pasta it is!

What's ricotta salata, you ask?  It's an Italian crumbling cheese made from sheep's milk.  It's actually really tasty and a bit salty, which I love.  It's similar to the Mexican cheese cotija.  You could sub shaved Parmesan or feta cheese or really just whatever you want to do.  You're eating it, so make it yours.  This pasta is really easy and quick and (wait for it) darn tasty!

1 lb orecchiette (or other small pasta)
2 shallots, chopped
Olive oil
1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
1 lb baby broccoli, trimmed to just florets
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste
One 11-ounce jar sundried tomatoes in oil, well drained
3 T tomato paste
1/2 C heavy cream
1/4 C red wine
1/2 C chicken stock
1/2 C crumbled ricotta salata

NOTES: This isn't a real saucy pasta.  It's a light coating of sauce.  Also, as you can see from the picture, I didn't chop the sun-dried tomatoes which made it kind of a lot to bite into. I would suggest you at least cut them in half.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  

Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil into a large skillet and heat it to medium high.  Cook the shallots for about a minute. Watch them carefully and stir frequently because they will burn quickly.  Add in the Italian sausage and garlic.  Cook and break up the sausage until it's cooked through.  Add the wine to the pan and scrape up any browned bits.  Add the broccoli, chicken stock, tomato paste, cream, sun-dried tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper.  Reduce the heat to medium and cover the skillet.  Cook until the broccoli is soft and the sauce is slightly thickened.

Drain the pasta and return the pasta to the hot pot.  Add the sausage mixture to the pasta and stir in the ricotta salata and serve.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Hearty Cajun

Well, I wish I had a funny story for you today.  I got home from work late and still need to cook dinner.  Don't you hate those frazzled days where you feel like you're in a hurry? Well, here's a relatively quick and hearty meal.  This Jambalaya only takes about 10-15 minutes to prep and about 35 minutes to cook.  It's great for a cold night since it's so hearty.  And it's darn tasty!

1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 T Cajun seasoning
5 C chicken stock
One 12-ounce package shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped
2 Andouille sausage links, sliced
3 bay leaves
1-2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3/4 C uncooked rice
1 1/2 C frozen sliced okra
Hot sauce, to taste (like Crystal's or a Louisiana brand)

In a large pot or dutch oven, drizzle in some olive oil and turn the heat to medium high.  Cook the bell pepper, onion, and celery until they are tender.  Add in the garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, Cajun seasoning, rice, and chicken stock.  Turn the heat to medium.  Cook until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.  Add in the shrimp, chicken, sausage, okra, and hot sauce to taste.  Cook until the chicken and shrimp are done, about 10 minutes, and the soup is thick, like a stew.  Remember to remove the bay leaves before serving.  Serve with more hot sauce, if desired.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Top Chef

My husband and I are huge fans of the TV show Top Chef. Really, we are fans of a lot of cooking competition shows. Anyway, one of the contestants awhile back is a man from Italy named Fabio Viviani.  He started working in Italy at the age of 11 and became a sous chef by the time he was 16. Apparently he's a very ambitious person.  He moved to the United States and has opened several restaurants, to include a restaurant called Siena Tavern in Chicago.  Siena is a city in Tuscany, Italy, and he comes from Florence, Italy, which is also in the Tuscany region.

Anywho, one of the dishes at that restaurant is a gnocchi dish.  It's only called "Gnocchi" on the menu and the description is truffle cream, fried sage, and crispy pancetta.  I added Italian sausage to make this a little meatier.  And let's talk about truffles for a second.  If you know what they are, then you know they are extremely expensive.  I can't get them where I live, so I settled on second best.  I found a really small jar of truffle cream at a store called Spec's.  It's a 2.8 ounce bottle that I paid about $15 for.  But, if you've had truffles, you'll know that the flavor is so amazing and indescribable.

Now, I've never been to that restaurant, nor have I been to Chicago.  But I thought I'd give my best shot at recreating this gnocchi.  I'm calling it Sienese Gnocchi for the region that he came from.  And you know what, it was really darn tasty! Enjoy! 

Two 9-ounces packages gnocchi
Olive oil
2 T butter
1/2 lb pancetta (or bacon), diced
1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
2 shallots, chopped
3/4 ounce package fresh sage leaves
1 1/2 C walnut halves
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C red wine
2 C heavy cream
1 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon truffle cream (optional)
1/4 C chopped Italian parsley
Red chili flakes, to taste (optional)

Fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil.

Pour about 1/4 C olive oil into a small skillet and heat it to medium high heat.  Separate the sage leaves from the stems and fry them in batches for a couple of minutes until they are crisp.  Don't walk away from them because they will burn quickly.  They will turn dark, almost black.  Drain them on a paper towel and set them aside.

Cook the pancetta (or bacon) in a skillet until it's crispy. Drain it on a paper towel.  Add in the butter and melt it.  Cook the shallots in the butter, stirring frequently, until they are soft. Add in the Italian sausage.  Break the sausage up with a wooden spoon.  I left mine in bigger chunks so it was almost like tiny meatballs.  Cook the sausage until it's done. Deglaze the pan with the wine and scrape up any browned bits.  Drop the gnocchi in the boiling water now and cook it according to package directions.

Add the garlic to the sausage and cook and stir abour 30 seconds.  Add the walnuts, cream, truffle cream, pancetta (or bacon), and chili flakes to the sausage.  Bring it to a slight bubble.  Add the Parmesan cheese to the sauce.  Crumble the sage leaves into the sauce.  Stir the sauce until the cheese is melted.  Remove it from the heat.  Drain the gnocchi and add it to the sauce along with the parsley.

Adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Beef Stew Secrets

Recently I came across some tips for perfect beef stew. Have you ever spent the day cooking a beef stew, either on the stove or in a crockpot, only to find that the meat is tough? That's very disappointing, I know.  I've had that happen a lot. Or maybe the stew part is too thick or too runny?  Or maybe that the beef lacks in flavor?  I've had all of those mistakes, but I've found the cure for all of those problems.

First off, the only meat to use here is a chuck roast.  Sure, you can try fancier cuts of meat, but they just don't break down the same way as a chuck roast.  You don't want dry, tough meat in this comfort food.  Trust me on this one.  I've tried all kinds of cuts of meat and failed miserably.

Next, the most important way to add flavor to your stew is by searing the meat first and then deglazing the pan with wine. Searing the meat gives it more flavor, and deglazing the pan gets up all the little good bits left in the pot.  But be sure to sear in batches or you won't get that caramelization since the heat of the pan will decrease too much if you put too much in.

Lastly, there's no need to make a roux or add flour to the stew.  By coating the meat with cornstarch before searing it, it helps get the right thickness.  Also, turning the heat up during the last hour of cooking and stirring frequently gets the starch out of the potatoes more and helps thicken up the stew too.  I made this Crockpot Beef Stew last night, and it was the best I've ever had.  Enjoy!

3 lb chuck roast, cubed
1/4 C cornstarch
1/2 C red wine
Salt & pepper
2 potatoes, cubed
1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 C baby carrots
1 1/2 C fresh green beans
1 stalk celery, sliced
3 bay leaves
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 C beef stock
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, left whole
2 T tomato paste

NOTES:  I prepped all of the ingredients and seared the meat the night before since I leave for work early.  The next morning, I just threw it all in and let it go.  I turned the crockpot on at 7:30 and let it go until about 6:30 at night, but it will probably cook in about 8-9 hours.  Since crockpots are sealed and don't allow any escape of liquid or evaporation, the 2 1/2 C beef stock is plenty, trust me.  Don't be worried that the stock doesn't fill up the pot or cover anything.  The meat will give off enough juice for this.  Don't salt the meat until it goes into the pan to sear.  Salting it early will draw out the moisture and make the meat dry.

First off, get a pan, preferably cast iron, screaming hot.  Mix the beef with the cornstarch.  When the pan is really really hot, drizzle in some olive oil.  Sear the meat in batches (mine took three batches) for several minutes on most sides to really brown the meat.  Don't turn it until it's browned.  Also, season the meat generously with salt and pepper only when it's in the pan.  Add in more olive oil if necessary between batches.

When all of the meat is seared, pour the red wine into the pan and whisk, scraping up any browned bits left behind. Remove the pan from the heat.  Put all of the ingredients (including whatever red wine is left in the pan) into a crockpot and turn it on low.  You can add salt and pepper in as well, if desired.  Cook the stew for about 8-9 hours. During the last hour, find the bay leaves and thyme springs and remove them.  Turn the crockpot up to high and stir frequently to break up the potatoes a bit and thicken the stew.  Serve the stew with a nice hunk of cornbread.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Hashbrown Nests

Recently one of my followers on Facebook requested that I make some Hashbrown Nests.  It's almost like mini quiches but with a hashbrown crust.  I went simple on the filling, but you could absolutely customize these and add things like onions, spinach, peppers, you name it.  They are easy and darn tasty!

One 26-ounce bag frozen hashbrowns, completely thawed
1/4 C vegetable oil
1/2 C shredded cheese, your choice
Salt & pepper

6 eggs
3 T heavy cream
Salt & pepper
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled (if desired)
1/4 C chopped ham (if desired)

Spinach leaves
Chopped green onions
Chopped peppers
Chopped tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Squeeze as much water out of the hashbrowns as you can in a towel.  By hand, mix the hashbrowns with the oil, 1/2 C cheese, and salt and pepper.  Spray a 12-cup muffin tin generously with nonstick spray.  Press the hashbrown filling into each tin firmly, being sure to come up over the top a bit since they will shrink. Bake the crusts for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare whatever filling ingredients you like. Whisk the eggs together with the cream and salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese, bacon, and ham (or other ingredients). Pour the filling into the cooked crusts.  Bake the nests for 20-25 minutes or until the eggs are completely set in the middle.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Pizza Bombs

These Pizza Bombs are very easy to make and taste fantastic!  You could eat them as appetizers or as a meal. And it's easy to double it or only do a half a batch.  Enjoy!

2 cans large biscuits (like Grands)
32 slices pepperoni
8 ounces Mozzarella cheese cut into 16 cubes
2 C marinara sauce
3 T butter
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Flatten each biscuit out with your hand and stretch it out.  Put about 1 teaspoon marinara sauce into the center of each biscuit.  Put one cube of cheese onto the marinara sauce.  Lay two slices of pepperoni on each biscuit.  Close the biscuits up and wrap the biscuits around the filling, being sure to pinch the seam closed and making sure no filling shows through.  Put them seam side down on a baking sheet. 

Melt the butter.  Stir the garlic powder and parsley into the butter.  Brush the tops of the biscuits with the butter mixture. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the tops of the biscuits. Bake for about 20 minutes (maybe longer) or until they are browned on top and the biscuits are cooked all the way. Serve them with the remaining marinara sauce (warm or cold).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Jam Out

Do you ever turn the radio up really loud in your car and jam? Sometimes I do.  I have a pretty decent stereo in my car, and I like to turn it up really loud sometimes.  The bass rattles the windows and the rear view mirror.  I know, I'm like a kid. Every now and then I may even dance.  I'm sure I look ridiculous.  My husband and I were at a stoplight on Sunday and the girl in the car next to us was really jamming out and dancing.  It was quite humorous.  

So this recipe is about jam.  I saw a burger with this bacon-onion jam on it somewhere, and I thought it would be great with chicken.  So I made Chicken with Bacon-Onion Jam. And what dish is complete without cheese.  Don't answer that.  I know some things can't have cheese.  But I like cheese, and it is one of the New Four Food Groups.  Not only is this recipe easy to make, it's darn tasty!  Enjoy!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Garlic powder
Seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
Black pepper
1/2 lb bacon, chopped
2 onions, thinly sliced
Pinch white sugar
Salt & pepper, to taste
3 T red wine vinegar
2 1/2 T brown sugar
1/2 C water
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 slices cheese (I used Pepper Jack)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Season the chicken on both sides with a little garlic powder, seasoned salt, and black pepper.  Bake the chicken on a sheet pan for about 16 minutes and then flip it over.  Bake it again for another 14-16 minutes or until it registers at 165 degrees internally with a thermometer.

Meanwhile, fry the bacon until crisp and drain it on a paper towel.  Pour off all but about 2 T of the grease.  Put the onions and a pinch of white sugar into the skillet.  Reduce the heat slightly and cook and stir the onions constantly until they are soft and caramelized, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Add in the red wine vinegar, bacon, garlic cloves, salt and pepper to taste, brown sugar, and water.  Cook and stir until almost all of the liquid is out.

When the chicken is almost done, remove it from the oven. Spread the bacon-onion jam all over the tops of the chicken. Top each piece of chicken with two cheese slices.  Return the pan to the oven to melt the cheese and slightly brown it. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Life Changing

If you follow me on Facebook, then you already know about my life-changing moment last night.  LIFE CHANGING! While I was grocery shopping last weekend, I saw something that caught my eye.  It's something that I've seen for years but haven't ever tried it.  On a whim, just because, I bought it. Last night I cooked it.  I can't believe I've been missing out on this for so long!  Are you ready for it?  Bacon Ends & Pieces. ENDS AND PIECES!!!  The ends are where the bacon gets most crispy.  There are big pieces of bacon in the bag.  I fried some up and it was fantastic!  Super crispy, meaty bacon. I'm in love!

I posted it on Facebook, and I got lots of ideas from my Facebook friends about what to do with it.  Some put it in pinto beans while they simmer.  Some put them in green beans while they cook.  BAKED BEANS!  Oh, my!  Soups, stews, the ideas are endless.  I want to make a big batch of Carnitas with it.  If you're a bacon fan, you're going to love this stuff!  It's awesome!

Okay, I know.  I need to calm down.  So the picture above is Swiss Chicken.  I coated chicken breasts with crushed up croutons and baked it.  Then I topped it with crumbled bacon and Swiss cheese.  It's pretty fantastic too.  And so easy! Enjoy!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 lb bacon
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1-2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 C mayonnaise
1 C crushed seasoned croutons
8 slices Swiss cheese

NOTES:  My cook times on the chicken may differ from yours.  Always use a meat thermometer and cook chicken to 165 degrees internally.  Mine took around 31 minutes to get done.  Also, I did use the bacon ends and pieces here, but you can use just regular bacon too.  I used croutons for the coating just because I had some that we weren't going to use.  Seasoned breadcrumbs would work just fine too.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix the mayo with the seasoned salt, black pepper, and garlic powder.  Spread the mayo on both sides of the chicken and then press both sides of the chicken into the crushed croutons.  Put the chicken on a sheet pan and bake for about 16 minutes.  Turn the chicken over and cook an additional 14-18 minutes or until it is at 165 degrees internally.  

While the chicken is cooking, cook and crumble the bacon and drain it on a paper towel.  During the last 5 minutes or so of cooking the chicken, pile the bacon up on the four breasts and top each with two slices of Swiss cheese.  Return to the oven to melt the cheese and brown it, if desired.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Udown with Udon

So last night I made this Sichuan Udon.  I have never had udon noodles before, so I wanted to try them.  They are big fat long noodles that are very white before cooking them. Sichuan is a province in China, but the word "Sichuan" on Chinese food menus usually means it's hot.  I'm not declaring this a Chinese dish because udon noodles are Japanese.  So let's just call this an Asian dish.

When my daughter got home from work, she said, "what's that smell?"  And I said, "Sichuan Udon.  Udown for Udon?" Ha ha.  I made a funny.  She tried to make a funny and say, "Medown for Udon," but it didn't work quite as well.  Asian food is really popular in my house and they all usually come running when they smell it.  

Anywho, this is a one-skillet meal and it's very easy to put together.  And you know what else?  It's darn tasty!

1 lb ground pork
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 T rice wine vinegar
3 T soy sauce
Asian chili garlic paste, to taste
1 1/4 C chicken stock
Sesame oil
Vegetable oil
1/4 C peanut butter
3 T oyster sauce
1 teaspoon dried ginger
4.5 ounce jar of pickled baby corn, drained
1/4 C brown sugar
One 14.5 ounce package udon noodles (not dried noodles)
2-3 green onions, sliced
2 T chopped fresh cilantro

Drizzle a little sesame oil into a skillet and then drizzle some vegetable oil in.  Cook the red bell pepper until soft.  Add in the ground pork and brown and cook it until it's done.  Whisk the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, chili paste, chicken stock, peanut butter, oyster sauce, brown sugar, and ginger together in a bowl.  Pour the mixture over the pork.  Bring it to a boil.  Let it cook until the sauce is thickened, about 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in the udon noodles and the baby corn and cook for 2 more minutes.  Remove it from the heat and stir in the green onions and cilantro.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dance Moves

Have you heard the Whip and Nae Nae song?  It's kind of goofy, but it sticks in your head.  My husband, daughter, and I watched the video one day and we all tried to duplicate the dance moves.  We're dorky like that.  It's really funny to watch my husband try dance moves because he's not coordinated when it comes to dancing.  (Sorry, John.)  I've tried to teach him to two-step, but his feet ususally don't cooperate.  I remember us all trying to do a dance called the pin drop and the "stanky leg" and the Dougie, all of which are kind of goofy too.  But we have fun and get a lot of laughs out of watching each other.

So I made this recipe last night called Chicken Crescent Roll Casserole.  It's stuffed with chicken, cream cheese, Ranch, and some other good stuff.  It's another one on my quick dinner search.  It has a little bit of a sauce and lots of cheese. It was easy to throw together and tasted great!  You'll want to whip and nae nae too when you taste it.  Or you can Dougie. Whichever floats your boat.  Enjoy!

8 ounces cream cheese, very soft
2 T softened butter
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 packet Ranch dip mix
1 T dried minced onions
2 C cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 to 3/4 C shredded cheese (I used Cheddar, but use what you like)
3 T mayonnaise
2 packages refrigerated crescent rolls

1 can of cream of chicken soup
1/2 C whipping cream
1/2 C shredded cheese (again, I used Cheddar)

NOTES:  I put my rolls a little too close together, and some of the dough in the middle wasn't all the way cooked.  Try to wrap them up tight and leave some space between them if you can.  Also, the sauce that goes on the bottom and the top is a very small amount.  Don't be worried when you see that.  It really works out well and there is just enough.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all of the filling ingredients together (not the crescent rolls) and set it aside. Next whisk the cream of chicken soup and heavy cream together and set it aside.

Open the crescent rolls and roll them out.  Separate the dough into 8 rectangles and press together the perforated edge so that you don't have triangles anymore.  Divide the filling among each roll.  Fold the ends and the sides up and close the rolls tightly.  Spread half of the sauce into a 9 x 13 casserole pan.  Lay the rolls, seam side down, into the sauce, trying to leave a little space between them if you can. Spread the remaining sauce over the top.  Sprinkle the 1/2 C cheese over the top.  Bake the casserole for about 40 to 45 minutes or until the crescent rolls are done and the dough in the middle is done.

Adapted from Kittencal

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Breakfast Strata

This is a Breakfast Strata.  A strata is sort of like a savory bread pudding but with more stuff in it.  This one is loaded with ham, bacon, potatoes, cheese, and sourdough bread. You prep it the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  And it's darn tasty!

8 eggs
2 C heavy cream
1 C sour cream
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1-2 teaspoon garlic powder
1-2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 C chopped ham (I used one Cook's ham steaks)
About 4 C cubed sourdough bread (see note)
2 C frozen diced potatoes
3 C shredded Cheddar cheese (or your favorite)

NOTES:  I bought a 1-lb sourdough loaf and used about half of it.  You will need two layers of the cubed bread, but the bread will expand so it will need to be light layers and not crowded.  I didn't measure it and just eyeballed it to be about 4 cups.  You may or may not need more.

Whisk together the eggs, heavy cream, sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.  Set it aside.

In a deep greased 9 x 13 pan, loosely scatter half of the bread cubes.  Next layer on half of the potatoes and half of the cheese.  Then layer all of the bacon and all of the ham. Then add a second layer of bread, potatoes, and top with the remaining cheese.  Pour the egg mixture all over the top, and try to get all of it wet.  Cover it and put it in the fridge overnight. 

The next morning, take it out 30 minutes before cooking. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the strata for anywhere from 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and a half or until the eggs in the middle are completely done and not liquid.