Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Domino Potatoes

I am always looking for a new way to cook potatoes.  I've never met a potato I didn't like, so it's no surprise that I loved these Domino Potatoes.  The crispy outer edges remind me of chips and the soft buttery centers remind me of lightly fried potatoes.  These were outstanding!

6 medium size russet potatoes
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 T dried mixed herbs
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Trim the ends off of the potatoes.  Then trim the sides off of the potatoes to form rectangular blocks.  Slice the potatoes very thin with a mandolin slicer (or knife if you have good knife skills) and keep the slices in nice stacks.  Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick spray.  Fan the stacks of potatoes out into neat stacks and overlap them, like a deck of cards, and keep them lined up on top and bottom (see picture).  Drizzle the melted butter over the stacks.  Sprinkle on the dried herbs and salt & pepper.  Bake the potatoes for about 40-45 minutes or until the outer potatoes are crispy and the inner potatoes are fork tender.

Adapted from Francis Mallmann

Still Learning

So I got a new camera for Christmas.  I've never owned a nice camera before, so I really didn't know how to use it.  I still am struggling a bit with understanding all the functions.  I was having trouble getting it to focus on the front of the plate, but my husband touched the screen and moved a little box to the front and fixed the issue.  Duh.  I even paid to take a class on using cameras, but I didn't really gain much information.  

My blogging escapades really do take a lot of effort.  I spend a lot of time researching recipes and planning menus.  We take the pictures in a light box with two lights on the sides and my husband always stands there and holds a third light over the top.   Then I have to try to find some creative and interesting thing to say in the post so you'll be interested.  So far, this post sounds really boring, huh.  

I guess I could tell you an interesting story about my daughter.  When she was little, I don't know, about 2 or so, I took her to the Fort Worth Zoo.  They had a big white tiger there and there was a huge floor to ceiling window on one side of his habitat.  She was standing there fascinated about this creature, and all the while the tiger was pacing back and forth, licking his chops, almost like he wanted to eat her. Thank goodness it wasn't glass like the video on the internet where the gorilla breaks the glass when he got mad at a little girl beating her chest.  

Or I could tell you that, when my son was a toddler, he would say "chuck-up" for "ketchup."  My daughter would correct him (she is older, so that's her job, right?).  But I would nicely tell her to let him say "chuck-up" because it's cute.  

Anywho, I was really excited about this recipe since it's so good.  But the picture doesn't really do it justice.  These Chicken & Broccoli Pockets turned out amazing.  I hope you'll try the recipe despite the bad picture.  It's a pretty easy recipe and darn tasty!

2 C cooked, shredded chicken
One 12-ounce bag frozen broccoli florets
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 C sour cream
1/2 C shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1 packet Ranch dip mix
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Black pepper, to taste
1 egg
1/2 C shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the broccoli in the microwave and microwave until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Cut off any stems and chop the florets.  In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, Monterrey Jack cheese, Ranch dip mix, garlic powder, and black pepper.  Stir the chicken, cream cheese mixture, and broccoli together.

On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to roughly an 18 x 14 rectangle.  Divide the pastry into four pieces.  Put 1/4 of the chicken mixture onto each puff pastry.  Fold the ends over, being sure to cover up all of the filling.  Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray and place the pockets seam-side down on the pan.  Lightly press them down and shape them into rectangles.  Cut four slits in the dough for venting.  Mix the egg with a splash of water.  Brush the tops of each pocket with the egg wash.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the top of each pocket.  Bake the pockets for 30-35 minutes or until the pastry is done, especially on the bottom.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cheesy Bread

We make cheese toast and garlic bread and cheesy garlic bread all the time at my house.  I even frequently use leftover hamburger and hot dog buns for it a lot.  Why throw that stuff away!  But this recipe produced the most awesome Cheesy Bread I've ever made.  I saw it somewhere on Pinterest, and I knew I had to create my own.  The secret to this bread is mayo.  No, it doesn't taste like mayo.  It taste like oh my goodness gracious out-of-this world Cheesy Bread.  You're welcome.

1 loaf Italian or French bread
1/4 C butter, softened
1/4 C mayonnaise
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1 C shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, divided
1-2  teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the bread in half longways.  Stir together the butter, mayo, Parmesan, 1/2 C Monterrey Jack, garlic powder, parsley and black pepper. Spread this mixture over the insides of both halves of the bread.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 C Monterrey Jack cheese over the bread.  Bake the bread for about 8-10 minutes.  You can then turn on the broiler if you want to slightly brown the cheese.


Okay.  So I've seen a few recipes out there for "Drunken Pasta" where the pasta is cooked in red wine.  Heck, I've even watched Rachael Ray do that on her cooking show.  It looked intriguing, so I decided I wanted to try it.

So my husband and I went into the kitchen to start dinner. Yes, he's awesome and gets in the kitchen and helps me every night.  Anywho, I bought a bottle of Merlot to cook the pasta in.  We started chopping and prepping ingredients and then poured this bottle of wine into a pot, along with enough water to cover the pasta.  And then we immediately became skeptical.  The wine smelled so grape-y that we were worried that the pasta would taste like grape juice.  Or like grape jelly. But we plugged away anyway and kept going.  We cooked onions and Italian sausage and made a quick marinara sauce and had it simmering.  We stirred in some fresh kale and let it wilt down.  The sauce was yummy.  But then there was that almost dreaded pasta.

And then came the moment of truth.  We plated the pasta up and took our pictures.  We can never eat until I take a bunch of pictures of the food.  My poor family has to wait on me, even though dinner is ready.  And, as you can see, I got a little carried away with the Parmesan cheese.  And then...we ate.  And it was so good!  There was the hint of wine, but it didn't taste like it should go with peanut butter.  It was delicious!  If you're a red wine fan, then you're going to love this!  Enjoy!

1 lb pasta, any shape
One 750 ml bottle of red wine, your choice (I used Merlot)
Olive oil
1 lb Italian sausage, removed from the casings (or loose if you can find it)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch of kale, leaves chopped and stems discarded
One 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
Salt & pepper, to taste
Red chili flakes, to taste
Shredded Parmesan cheese, to sprinkle on top

Pour the entire bottle of wine into a large pot and add in enough water to cook the pasta in.  Bring it to a boil.  Add in a generous amount of salt and then the pasta.  Boil until the pasta is al dente.  (Don't throw out the wine/water mixture.)

Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil into a large skillet.  Cook the onion on medium high heat until tender.  Add in the sausage and garlic and cook, breaking up the sausage as you go.  When the sausage is done, add in the crushed tomatoes, kale, salt and pepper to taste, and chili flakes to taste.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat.  Cover and simmer while the pasta cooks.  If the sauce gets thick, add in a ladle or two of the wine/water mixture to the sauce.  

Drain the pasta and return it to the same pot.  Add the sauce to the pot and stir.  Serve the pasta with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I Cheated and I'm Not Sorry

I grew up in the TV dinner generation, the frozen pizza generation, beans & weanies heated on the stovetop generation.  If I wanted a can of green beans, I heated those up on the stovetop too.  I remember eating a lot of food out of cans.  I was so excited when we got our first microwave oven!  I could heat Spaghettios up in about 8 minutes!  Ha ha.  But that was really the way it was back then.  And I grew up okay and don't have any health problems as a result.

When my kids were small, it was convenient and easy to get them to eat things like Kid Cuisine TV dinners and Chef Boyardee Ravioli.  They generally wouldn't eat home-cooked food, unless it was plain and bland.  But, as they got older and I gained a whole lot more experience in the kitchen, I kind of stopped (for the most part) buying processed or frozen or canned food, with a few exceptions.  I will buy Velveeta and RoTel, and I like the convenience of crushed tomatoes in a can.  I buy various hot sauces and wing sauces and other condiments, only because I haven't perfected my own.  Occasionally I crave some Jalapeno Kettle Cooked Chips.  And, dang it, maybe once a year I want a hot dog.

It's just that my tastebuds started enjoying fresh and from-scratch food.  Sure, I will on occasion buy my towering 5'10" 14-year-old son some boxed mac & cheese or Hot Pockets, but he eats sometimes five times a day (he's hungry, darn it) and he needs something quick to microwave.  But we're not paleo or vegan (obviously since bacon is one of the Four Food Groups) or non-GMO or gluten free.  Don't get me wrong, I applaud those of you who have the strength and the fortitude to stay strong on your path of good health and wellness.  We are just not that dedicated.  I am mindful and wary of buying foods full of chemicals and, well, no real food, but I don't really follow a strict plan.  

But, every now and then, I remember a recipe from my past. I really enjoyed that recipe as is.  Sure, I tried replacing some of the ingredients with a homemade version before.  But maybe I was tired...or lazy...or I just waved my hands in the air and just didn't care.  I made King Ranch Chicken.  And, yes, I used the dreaded "cream of" soups.  And it was fantastic!  My husband looked at me in shock and wondered what my plan was for this elusive canned soup that hasn't touched our pantry in a few years.  Yes, I bought them.  Yes, I cheated.  And I have no regrets.  

King Ranch Chicken is a beloved Tex-Mex recipe that supposedly originated on King Ranch, one of the largest ranches in the world.  The ranch is over 800,000 acres and spans six counties.  Whether it comes from there or not, this casserole is good.  Ask any Texan if they've had it and I betcha the majority will say yes.  

2 C cooked, shredded chicken
One 10.75 ounce can cream of chicken soup
One 10.75 ounce can cream of mushroom soup
One 10-ounce can RoTel
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 T cumin
1-2 T chili powder, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 C shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 of the RoTel can of half and half, if necessary
8 corn tortillas
2 T butter
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the butter in a large skillet and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno over medium high heat until tender. Add in the chicken, RoTel, cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, cumin, chili powder, garlic and cilantro.  Cook until the mixture is thickened and bubbly.  If the sauce seems too thick, fill the RoTel can halfway with some half and half and whisk in.  Remove the sauce from the heat.

In a 9 x 13 casserole pan, pour in half of the sauce.  Layer the 8 corn tortillas over the sauce, overlapping if necessary. Pour on the rest of the sauce and spread it to cover the tortillas.  Sprinkle the cheese all over the top and bake the casserole for about 15 minutes to heat it through and melt the cheese.  For a twist, try substituting the corn tortillas with your favorite flavor of Doritos crushed up!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Frijoles Borrachos (Drunken Beans)

Being from Texas, we eat a lot of pinto beans at our house. I usually cook up a large batch and freeze them into smaller portions so that I have them on hand at all times.  We then can thaw one and eat it as is or make refried beans.  But this recipe is a little different.  These Frijoles Borrachos (Drunken Beans) turned out amazing.  They are pinto beans cooked with beer, preferably a Mexican beer like Corona or Dos Equis.  We liked them so much that I may just cook them this way all the time.  Enjoy!

2 lbs dry pinto beans
2 12-ounce bottles of beer, preferably Mexican imported beer
3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1 poblano pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 C cilantro, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb bacon, chopped
2 T lime juice
1 T cumin
Olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the poblano pepper on a sheet pan.  Roast the pepper, turning occasionally, until it is charred on all sides, about 15 minutes.  When it is cool enough to handle, peel as much of the skin off as you can. Remove the stem and seeds of the poblano and chop it.

Drizzle some olive oil into a crockpot.  Add in the remaining ingredients and chopped poblano and cover the beans with water.  Cook the beans on low for about 8 hours or until tender, adding additional water from time to time if necessary.  

Typical Me

Before my husband and I moved to West Texas for his job transfer/promotion, I was a court reporter in Fort Worth.  It was a rewarding job, but after 14 years of it I was burned out. My husband told me when we moved that I should do whatever I like for work.  So I went to work for a cafe and bakery, and I absolutely love it.  There are times when we are extremely busy and have to really hustle, but there are also times when we have a lot of fun.  My boss is really great to work for and is quite the character.  We all joke around and pick on each other, but all in good fun.

One time my boss and I were standing on the line talking when something crazy happened.  There is a soup warmer on a table on the line, and it shorted out and caught on fire. It made a terrible noise and smoke started coming out of it.  I was closest to it, and my reaction was to push my boss out of the way and run!  I guess I'm an "every man for himself" kind of person.  Anyway, the whole thing was so funny that we laughed so hard that we cried.  My boss, being a very animated story teller, loves to tell that story to this day.  

A woman named Deanna that used to work with us was terrified of bugs.  My boss would hide plastic bugs in the box of bacon to scare her when she would cook it.  He even chased her through the back of the restaurant with it.  Good times.

But this post is really about what we ate for dinner last night, not our work shenanigans.  If you are a follower of mine, then you'll know I love to stuff things and smother things.  I made a really great dish last night that I'm going to call Chicken Rellenos (pronounced ree-ain-yos).  My husband said it was fabulous and raved on and on about it.  Rellenos means stuffed in Spanish.  I stuffed my Chicken Rellenos with a jalapeno popper, coated it with a cornmeal mixture, and baked them.  And what stuffed chicken would be complete without my Cadillac Queso.  That link will take you to the full recipe of the queso, but I will include a half batch here. These were so good and easy to do and I actually baked them instead of frying.   And they're darn tasty!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 large fresh jalapenos
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 C shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 T shredded Parmesan cheese
2 C cornmeal
1 packet taco seasoning
2 eggs
12 toothpicks

One 1-lb block Velveeta, cubed
1 poblano
1/4 C shredded pepper Jack cheese
1 can Rotel
2 T C cilantro, chopped
1/4 C heavy cream
1 bulb roasted garlic, squeezed from the skins and chopped
1 serrano, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the stems off of the jalapenos and knock the seeds out.  Place the jalapenos and the poblano for the queso on a sheet pan.  Roast the peppers, turning occasionally, until they are black and charred all over.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel the skin off of the poblano and remove the stem and seeds inside.  Chop the poblano and set it aside.  Leave the jalapenos intact.

Reduce the heat of the oven to 350 degrees.  Butterfly the chicken most of the way through but not all of the way.  Blend the cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, Parmesan, garlic powder, and onion powder in a food processor.  Put the cream cheese mixture into a zipper bag and cut off one corner.  Squeeze as much of this mixture as you can into each jalapeno.  Reserve the remaining cream cheese mixture.  (If the cream cheese mixture is too stiff, put the bag in the microwave for about 15 seconds.)

Squeeze the remaining cream cheese mixture down the center of each chicken breast.  Lay one stuffed jalapeno in the center of each chicken breast.  Secure each chicken breast with three toothpicks to close them up.  Mix the cornmeal and the taco seasoning together.  Whisk the two eggs with a splash of water.  Dip each stuffed chicken in the egg wash and then into the cornmeal mixture, pressing down to coat and covering all sides of the chicken.  Spray a sheet pan with nonstick spray.  Also spray the tops of each stuffed chicken with nonstick spray and lay the chicken on the sheet pan.  Bake the chicken for about 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.

Meanwhile, put all of the queso ingredients in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Cook in three-minute increments, stirring in between, until the Velveeta and cheese are all melted.

When the chicken is done, serve the chicken with the queso and taco sauce and sour cream, if desired.  Remember to tell your eaters to watch out for the three toothpicks.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Gun Shows, Purses, Chickens & Cheese

Less than a month ago, we bought a new car.  My SUV was 13 years old and slowly dying.  The radio display went out first.  Then the power steering went out.  Then one of the passenger windows wouldn't stay up.  Then the driver window wouldn't go up.  When the air conditioner went out, that was pretty much the last straw.  So we bought a car.  I was surprised that I went to an actual car instead of an SUV since I've driven SUVs so long.  But we are really enjoying the car and have been taking some day trips on the weekends in it.  We are having a blast.  Now that the kids are teenagers, it's almost that time when it's just the two of us doing what we want.

Yesterday we took a road trip out of town to go to a gun show.  My husband's father is a collector of historical guns, and my husband is a mild enthusiast.  But it was something to do, and we had a nice day.  You would really be surprised at what you can find at a gun show.  I bought a purse and a wallet.  Can you believe they have those things at a gun show?  I also bought a metal chicken to go with my metal flying pig.  

I know, we are a bit quirky.  Another thing we bought was a block of smoked Gruyere cheese.  Yes, at a gun show!  It came from a small and local Texas cheese and sausage maker.  It's delicious too.  All in all, we had a fun road trip, even though I got a little carried away.

Anywho, when we got home, I made a delicious spin on a classic Chicken Parmesan dish.  I had some pork chops in the freezer, so I thought, why not.  The breading on the pork chops is so yummy that you could eat them as is without the sauce.  But then I couldn't call it Pork Chop Parmesan.  It would just be pork chops.  The sauce is a quick marinara but it tastes like it cooked all day.  They were mighty tasty and they disappeared quickly.  I hope you enjoy them too!

4 pork chops (I used bone in, but boneless will work too)
1 1/2 C panko breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1/4 C grated Parmesan (the powder stuff)
2 eggs
2 T butter
Olive oil
4 Mozzarella cheese slices
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese

One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon beef bouillon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C red wine
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 T chopped Italian parsley
Red chili flakes, to taste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 C finely chopped onion
Olive oil

1 lb spaghetti noodles
3 T butter
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1 T chopped Italian parsley

For the sauce, drizzle some olive oil into a pot and cook the onion until tender.  Put all of the remaining sauce ingredients into the pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and let it simmer about 15 minutes.  Cook the spaghetti noodles according to package directions.

For the pork chops, mix the panko, garlic powder, onion powder, seasoned salt, pepper, Parmesan, and dried parsley together in a bowl big enough to dip the pork chops in. Whisk the eggs and a splash of water together in another bowl. Melt the 2 T butter in a large skillet and drizzle in some olive oil. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Dip the pork chops into the egg wash and then into the panko mixture, pressing down to coat.  Cook the chops in the butter and olive oil mixture for about 4-5 minutes per side or until well browned. Drain the chops on a paper towel.  

Put the chops in a 9 x 13 pan.  Spread some of the sauce over each chop.  Lay one piece of Mozzarella over each chop.  Sprinkle the 1/4 C Parmesan cheese over each chop. Put the pan in the oven and bake the chops about 15 minutes or until the chops are done through.

Meanwhile, drain the spaghetti and return it to the same hot pot.  Stir in the garlic, Parmesan, butter, and parsley.  Serve the chops over the spaghetti.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fried Chicken for the Master

I know I've told y'all this before, but I'm saying it again. Anytime I ask my husband what he'd like for dinner, I always without a doubt get, "Fried Chicken!"  I've learned not to ask that question too often because I already know the answer. Sometimes I give in and make it for him, but not too often.

While my husband is the master of the house and he is such a wonderful man that he deserves whatever he wants (unless it's bad for him which is why he doesn't get fried chicken very often), this time it was my idea.  I love fancy-ish sandwiches, and I was craving chicken.  Our son loves fried chicken too, so I knew this would be a hit.  These Chicken Club Sandwiches were so delicious!  Tasty fried chicken, bacon, melted cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and a creamy garlic Parmesan dressing hit the spot for the fried chicken cravings in my house.  And it really didn't take all that long to make either.  Enjoy!

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 C buttermilk
1 1/2 C flour
1 T garlic powder
1 T paprika
1 T onion powder
Seasoned salt, to taste (like Lawry's)
Black pepper, to taste
Peanut oil, for frying

1 C mayonnaise
1 T dried parsley
3 teaspoons garlic powder
1 T vinegar
1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese (the powdered stuff)
1/2 C sour cream
1 T lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper, to taste

Sliced tomatoes
1/2 lb bacon, slices cut in half and cooked
Romaine lettuce
4 cheese slices (I used Pepper Jack)
4 buns (I used onion hamburger buns)

Put all of the dressing ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth.  (You can mix it by hand, but the Parmesan cheese will make it grainy.)  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Mix together the flour, garlic powder, paprika, seasoned salt, pepper, and onion powder together in a bowl big enough to dip the chicken in.  Set it aside.  

Butterfly the chicken in half longways so that you have four pieces of chicken.  Place the buttermilk in a bowl big enough to fit the chicken in.  Preheat some peanut oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Dip the chicken in the buttermilk and then into the flour mixture, pressing down to coat.  Fry the chicken for about 5-6 minutes per side or until the coating is golden brown and the chicken is done through.  Drain on a paper towel.  

Preheat the broiler.  Place the fried chicken on a sheet pan. Place one slice of cheese over each piece of chicken.  Place the sheet pan under the broiler to melt the cheese.  Serve the chicken on the buns with some bacon strips, lettuce, tomato slices, and the garlic Parmesan dressing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Trade Days

Last Sunday, my husband and I took a short trip out of town to go to the Old Sorehead Trade Days in Stanton, Texas.  It's a big outdoor flea market kind of thing with lots of vendors and food trucks.  If you have a "First Monday" where you live, it's like that.  We recently bought a new car, and the trip down there was really nice.  We opened the sunroof and enjoyed the sunshine.  We had such a great day.  We spent several hours strolling around, shopping and looking at everything the vendors had to offer.  We bought a few things, even a metal flying pig.  Here it is:

Quirky, I know, but it totally fits us.  I ate fried pickles, and my husband got a pork kabob.  The pork was so tender and juicy.  As I asked my husband for a bite, a vendor nearby said, "hey, can I get the next bite."  We got a good laugh out of that.  My husband went back by the booth to ask what kind of meat the guy used, and it was pork butt (no, pork butt isn't the rear of the pig.  It's actually cut from the shoulder).  We decided we had to make pork kabobs that night for dinner. 

We also bought some dry rub called Swine Grind made by Big T Spice Company.  You can find their Facebook page here.  (I'm not being reimbursed to plug this product. We just liked it a lot.)  All in all, we had a great day and really enjoyed each other's company.  

When we got back into town, we headed out to the store to buy a pork butt and a few Texas made BBQ sauces to try out.  Then we headed home and started cooking.  We seasoned our cubed pork butt with the Swine Grind and off we went.  Let me tell you, not only was the rub fantastic, but the pork was so tender and flavorful.  It was really easy to do and enjoyed by all.  I think you'll be surprised at how easy and flavorful these are.  Enjoy!

One 4-lb pork butt, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
Your favorite dry rub
Wooden skewers
Your favorite BBQ sauce

Soak the wooden skewers in water for about 15 minutes. After they soak, skewer the pork cubes onto the skewers. Season the pork generously with the rub.  Cover them and let them sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  

Preheat the grill to medium high.  Cook the skewers on direct heat for 5 minutes, then turn.  Cook them another 5 minutes, then turn them again.  Generously brush on the BBQ sauce and cook another 5 minutes.  Turn them, brush the other side generously with sauce, and cook another 5 minutes or until the pork is done through, at least 145 degrees internally. Serve with more BBQ sauce, if desired.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Smoky Oven Fries

These Smoky Oven Fries are delightfully crispy and have a hint of smokiness from the smoked paprika.  Easy and delicious!

2 1/2 lb russet potatoes
Olive oil
Garlic powder,  to taste
Onion powder, to taste
Smoked paprika, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the potatoes into very thin matchsticks.  Spread them out on a sheet pan. Drizzle them generously with olive oil.  Sprinkle on the seasonings to taste.  Toss them around with your hands to coat and spread them back out in an even layer.  I probably used about 1 tablespoon of each seasoning and salt and pepper on mine. The more smoked paprika you use, the smokier the taste.  Bake the fries in 15 minute increments, turning them and spreading them out every 15 minutes, until they are as crispy as you want them, about 40-45 minutes.  

Thank You, Food Network!

When I was younger, I cooked, but it was nothing like the way I cook now.  I could follow a recipe, but I really didn't cook anything without strictly following directions.  I bought things like Hamburger Helper and frozen TV dinners sometimes.  I considered myself a good cook but not a great one.

About 10 or 12 years ago, I started really watching Food Network.  I would waste entire Saturdays watching every show that came on.  I was fascinated by all of the fresh veggies, fresh herbs, cooking from scratch.  I started trying more and more things.  I started cooking from scratch.  I still followed recipes pretty closely, but I was finally venturing out. I even started trying a few recipes that I made up and didn't use recipes.  Every day I became a better and better cook. My husband, children and friends started taking notice of my cooking, and I was starting to feel very confident in the kitchen.

In 2011, my husband encouraged me to start this blog.  He even got it all set up for me.  He spent many hours trying to learn HTML code to implement different things on my blog.  I started researching recipes and cooking things I've never tried before.  I was getting good at this.  I don't mean to toot my own horn, but it feels good to know that people love your food.  And the confidence I gained by that is irreplaceable.  I finally broke free from the cookbooks and following recipes exactly and started writing my own recipes.  I put them out there in the world, and YOU, my fans and followers, actually like my recipes!  Maybe I'm a great cook after all.  If it weren't for those days watching Food Network, I'd probably still be opening boxes for dinner.

This chicken dish is something that is based off of a Rachel Ray recipe for Everything Crusted Chicken Rolls that are stuffed with a cream cheese and green onion mixture.  I took it a few steps farther and added bacon to the filling, added a spicy element to the everything crust, and topped it with Pepper Jack cheese.  I had to name it Everything Chicken since, well, it has a little bit of everything.  And it was fantastic!  I hope you will use my recipes to venture out and try some new things and gain your confidence in the kitchen. Enjoy!

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 ounce cream cheese, softened
1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 green onions, chopped
2 T poppy seeds
2 T sesame seeds
2 T dried minced onion
2 T dried garlic flakes
1/2 T coarse salt
Red chili flakes, to taste
4 Pepper Jack slices
2 T butter
Olive oil

Mix together the poppy seeds, sesame seeds, minced onion, garlic flakes, salt, and red chili flakes.  Set the mixture aside until ready to use.

Butterfly the chicken longways but don't cut all the way through.  Stir together the softened cream cheese, bacon, and green onions.  In a large skillet, melt the butter and drizzle in some olive oil.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1/4 of the cream cheese mixture down the center of each chicken breast.  Close them up and use three toothpicks to secure and close up the chicken.  Dip the chicken on both sides in the poppy seed mixture.  

Cook the chicken and brown on both sides in the skillet until well browned.  Place the chicken on a sheet pan and put the pan in the oven.  Bake the chicken until it registers at 165 degrees in the center, about 15-20 more minutes.  During the last few minutes, place a slice of Pepper Jack cheese over each piece of chicken and melt the cheese and slightly brown it.  Remember to tell the people you're serving to remove the three toothpicks before eating.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fried Eggs for Dinner

We are big fans of fried eggs in our house.  Even the puppies like them.  No, we don't really feed them fried eggs, just a bite of what's left of ours.  While a fried egg seems simple, it took me years to really perfect it.  I've cooked a lot of stuck on, broken yolk fried eggs in my lifetime.  But I've mastered it now, thank goodness. 

My husband was recently out of town for work, and he ate at a Tex-Mex restaurant and had some Stacked Enchiladas with a fried egg on top.  I had never had Stacked Enchiladas, and I had certainly never had enchiladas with a fried egg on them.  So I absolutely had to try this myself.  I filled them with marinated baked chicken, cheese, and chili gravy.  What's chili gravy, you ask?  In Texas, it's the brown enchilada sauce that is common in a lot of restaurants.  And it's good stuff.  These enchiladas were so darn tasty, and I think it's the best thing I've cooked in the last six months.  (I'm pretty sure I say that about a lot of things I cook, kinda like saying a lot of songs are your favorite song).  And the fried egg on top?  Fantastic!

12 corn tortillas
3 C cooked, shredded chicken
1 1/2 C shredded cheese (I used Colby Jack)
4 eggs
1/4 C lard (or shortening)
1/4 C flour
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 C chicken stock
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
2 T chili powder

NOTE:  I marinated three boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a marinade consisting of a packet of McCormick's chipotle pepper marinade, crushed garlic cloves, cumin, olive oil, water, and lime juice.  Then I baked the chicken until done and shredded it.  You can use whatever marinade you like here or even use rotisserie chicken.  My trick for frying eggs is to melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  I crack in two eggs and season them with salt and pepper.  When the egg whites start to look white, I cover the skillet with the lid and cook until the top of the whites are done and the yolk is still runny.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

For the chili gravy, melt the lard or shortening in a skillet and whisk in the flour.  Whisk in the black pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin and oregano.  When the mixture is smooth, whisk in the chicken stock.  Cook until the sauce is thickened and bubbly.  Remove from the heat. 

Soften the tortillas in a damp towel in the microwave.  Spray a sheet pan with nonstick spray.  Lay four tortillas on the sheet pan.  Spread some sauce on each tortilla and some chicken and shredded cheese.  Lay another tortilla on top of each stack and repeat with the sauce, cheese, and remaining chicken.  Lay the last four tortillas on the stacks and spread the remaining sauce and remaining cheese on top.  Bake the stacks for about 15 to 20 minutes to heat through and melt the cheese.

Meanwhile, fry the four eggs to your desired doneness. Serve the stacks with a fried egg on top and with hot sauce, salsa, or pico de gallo, if desired.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Out of my Comfort Zone

If you read many of my posts, you'll know that I'm a huge fan of Tex-Mex food.  I live in Texas, so of course I am.  When I think of chorizo, I think of the Mexican version that is soft and has to be cooked and is served oftentimes with eggs.  My husband is a huge fan of Mexican chorizo and a lot of times we make him several chorizo breakfast tacos in advance for him to eat throughout the week.

But there is another kind of chorizo that comes from Spain. It's a hard cooked sausage.  It tastes nothing like the Mexican chorizo that we are familiar with.  The seasonings are different and the texture is firm and slightly chewy.  I found some in the grocery store, so I decided to give it a whirl.

I did a little research (not much, so don't quote me), and Spanish recipes include a lot of paprika and oregano and saffron.  I whipped up this Spanish Chorizo Spaghetti with things I had on hand.  It's nothing like Italian spaghetti, though.  I used black olives because that's what I had, but I definitely think using the Spanish green olives would be better suited here.  I used cotija cheese on the top, but that's a Mexican cheese.  You could use Manchego or even feta if you like.  All in all, though, it was a good dish and we all enjoyed it.  I hope you do too!

8 ounces Spanish chorizo, sliced
1 lb spaghetti
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Red chili flakes, to taste
1 onion, chopped
1/4 C red wine
One 4-ounce jar sliced green Spanish olives
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 T paprika (I used smoked paprika)
Salt & pepper, to taste
Shredded Manchego (or crumbled feta or cotija) for garnish

Cook the spaghetti noodles according to package directions.

Meanwhile, drizzle a little olive oil into a large skillet.  Brown the chorizo slightly and remove from the skillet.  Add more olive oil, if necessary, and cook the onion over medium high heat until tender.  Add in the garlic and the red wine and deglaze the pan.  Cook until most of the wine is cooked out. Add in the crushed tomatoes, red chili flakes, saffron, oregano, paprika, and the olives.  Cover the skillet and reduce the heat to medium.  Simmer the sauce until it's slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.  

Toss the spaghetti noodles with the sauce and garnish with the cheese.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Teenagers & Foosball

My husband is still a kid at heart.  He loves to play pranks, and he loves to blow stuff up.  Before we moved to West Texas, we lived a little bit out in the country on a half acre. We frequently had company consisting of our friends and their kids.  Everyone loved coming over since we had a foosball table, an air hockey table, a poker table, a pool, and lots of space to run around.  My husband and the kids would put fireworks inside hollowed out pumpkins and blow them up.  They would test out what things would explode in the fire pit, like plastic Dr. Pepper bottles and eggs.  There were many times that we would have to run and lock the gate to our property and go hide in the house in the dark because someone called the police (and we probably deserved it). But it was all in good fun, and nobody ever got hurt.

We don't have the air hockey table anymore, but we still have the foosball table.  And we love to play it.  We hadn't played in almost two years until recently since I suffered for a while with tennis elbow.  But our daughter's boyfriend came over the other day to go out to eat with us, and we decided we'd spend the evening after that playing foosball with the two of them.  Us "old" folks beat the teenagers 10 to 8.  While that's not a huge margin, it proves that we've still got skills.

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, and her boyfriend came over to eat dinner.  We made these amazing Spicy Honey Garlic Pork Chops (which is what this post is really about).  They were fantastic!  And you can bet that we squeezed in a couple of rounds of foosball while dinner was cooking.  A lot of times teenagers are impossible, but sometimes they can be a lot of fun.  And everyone loved the pork chops.  Enjoy!

Four 1 1/2 inch thick center cut pork chops (bone in)
1 C ketchup
12 ounces honey
1/4 C soy sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste

Whisk together the ketchup, honey, soy sauce, garlic, and cayenne pepper to taste.  Pour half of the mixture into a large zipper bag.  Reserve the other half for basting.  Add the pork chops to the bag and seal it up.  Refrigerate it for at least two hours and up to overnight.

When you are ready to cook the chops, preheat a grill to medium high heat.  Grill the chops over direct heat, basting with your reserved marinade frequently, for about 8 minutes per side or until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. Cover the meat and let it rest 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fried Pickles

I absolutely adore a really sour pickle, and I also really adore spicy sour pickles.  But what I love even more are Fried Pickles.  We dip these very addicting little treats into Ranch dip.  And they're darn tasty!

One 24-ounce jar pickles (sliced or spears), drained
1 C buttermilk
1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 T Cajun seasoning (I like Emeril's recipe)
Peanut oil, for frying
Ranch dip, for dipping

NOTE:  The pickles I used were very fat spears, and I had very little flour left.  If you use skinnier spears or sliced pickles, you may have too much or too little flour.  But you can just add a little more flour to the bowl and a sprinkling of Cajun seasoning.

Put your pickles in a shallow dish and cover them with the buttermilk.  Mix the flour together with the Cajun seasoning. Pour about 1/2 inch of peanut oil into a large skillet and preheat it over medium high heat.  Dredge the pickles into the flour mixture.  Fry the pickles for about 3-4 minutes per side or until golden brown (sliced pickles will probably cook in a shorter amount of time).  Drain them on a paper towel.  If you need to fry them in batches, keep the fried ones warm on a sheet pan in a 200 degree oven.  Serve the pickles with Ranch dip.

Deviled Eggs Two Ways

Deviled Eggs are a favorite in my house.  I could probably make them once a week and that still wouldn't be enough.  I normally don't mess with the traditional recipe, but I decided to make an exception and try something different.  The eggs in the center are traditional Southern Deviled Eggs.  The eggs on the outer ring are Jalapeno Bacon Deviled Eggs. Both were fantastic!  I hope you enjoy them!

6 boiled eggs
1/2 to 3/4 C mayonnaise
2 to 3 teaspoons yellow mustard, to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste

NOTE:  A lot of people mix in pickle relish and sometimes vinegar to their deviled eggs.  Everyone in my house prefers them without relish, so I leave it out.  I prefer them with a little vinegar, but I'm alone on that preference so I leave that out too.

Peel the eggs and cut them in half longways.  Scoop the yolks into a bowl.  Mash the yolks with a fork.  Stir in the mayo, mustard to taste, and salt and pepper.  You can either pipe the filling or spoon the filling back into the egg whites. Sprinkle a little paprika over the yolks.  Chill until you are ready to use them.

6 boiled eggs
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 C mayonnaise
1 T chopped jalapeno slices (the kind from a jar)
Hot sauce, to taste (I used Crystal hot sauce, but any will do)
1/4 C shredded Cheddar cheese
Cayenne pepper
Fresh jalapeno slices for garnish, if desired

Peel the eggs and cut them in half longways.  Scoop the yolks out into a bowl and mash them with a fork.  Stir in the mayo, bacon, chopped jalapenos, hot sauce to taste, and cheese.  You can pipe the filling back into the egg whites or spoon it in.  Sprinkle a little cayenne pepper over each egg yolk and garnish with a jalapeno slice, if desired.