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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kung Pao Chicken

Velveting.  Does it really make a difference?  This cook says, Yes, I believe it does!

Let me back up just a minute...Velveting is a technique in Chinese cuisine for preserving the moisture of meat while cooking.  Additionally, it provides soft or "velvety" texture to the meat of any entree.

When I first saw this technique showcased on Andrea The Kitchen Witch's site, I was skeptic.  I mean, what does this technique really do to make such a difference in a simple stir fry?  Andrea raved about how tender the chicken is..how velvety it truly was.  I trust Andrea's judgment, so it was time to find out for myself.  Am I sold?  Yes I am!  The chicken was so smooth and tender and melt in your mouth good.  It was just as velvety as Andrea claimed!  I loved it.  I hate to say it, but I will not be doing stir fry another way from here on out.  Oh, and let's not forget the completed product.....it was delicious! I loved the simplicity of the sauce.. I might add just a touch of hoisin next time, but otherwise: simple, delicious, a must try!

Kung Pao Chicken
Adapted from Andrea the Kitchen Witch
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
1 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1-2 Tablespoons oil (I used vegetable oil)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup cashews
Velveting Marinade -
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon chicken stock
1 egg white
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon oil (I used vegetable oil)
The sauce - 
4 teaspoons Sriracha
6 Tablespoons chicken stock
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon sugar
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

Directions:
Placed the cut up meat in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and add chicken stock, stirring to combine.  Add the egg white and gently mix to coat each piece of chicken making sure not to froth the egg.  Sprinkle in the cornstarch and toss to coat.  Add the oil and stir one last time.  Let the meat marinate for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the other ingredients and the sauce.  You want to have everything ready, once the stuff goes in the skillet/wok, things are going to move fast.  In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.

When chicken is done marinating; bring a pot of water with one tablespoon of oil to a boil.  Once it starts to boil, lower the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer.  Scatter in the marinated chicken, stir to separate and keep stirring gently until the coating turns white.  Remove the chicken pieces quickly with a slotted spoon or strainer.  Set chicken aside.

Heat a skillet or wok over medium high heat.  Once it is hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil.  Add the onions and stir fry for about 3 minutes, or until just starting to brown.  Add the red pepper and continue cooking another 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and the red pepper flakes and stir fry 1 minute.  Add the chicken and stir fry 1-2 minutes, or until chicken is done.  Add the sauce and let simmer about 1 minute or until the sauce thickens.  Add the green onions and the cashews; stirring to combine.  Serve over rice and enjoy!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Mac & Texas Cheese with Chicken and Roasted Chiles

Well, Thanksgiving at my house with my parents and Chris was a success!  I loved having my parents here to enjoy the holiday with....and it's nice to know that in 4 weeks I will see them again!! YAY!  I had a great time with them...it was just nice to sit and chat and not have to worry about being somewhere or doing something.  Thanksgiving dinner turned out to be fantastic!  I smoked the turkey this year and despite all the hesitation and fear I had, it turned out PERFECTLY!!  I mean it was "everyone sitting at the table mmmmm-ing and yum-ing" good!  I was so happy and actually quite proud of the outcome.  Though I'm not sharing it with you today, I will share it with you... I mean it's just to pretty not to!!

Now that Thanksgiving is actually behind us, I'm ready to start creating different things in the kitchen again...so I'm going to hit the ground running and start the week off right with a recipe as far away from thanksgiving as I can get.  Well, actually, that's not true, some people do have mac and cheese with their thanksgiving dinner....but I'm thinking few people have something like this!  This was a creamy and flavorful mac and cheese and it will definitely find it's way to our table again soon!

Mac & Texas Cheese with Chicken and Roasted Chiles
Adapted from Southern Living
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
2 poblano peppers
1 box (14.5oz) Barilla Plus elbow macaroni (or other elbow macaroni)
3 Tablespoons butter, unsalted
3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup whipping cream (or heavy cream)
1 cup milk
2 1/2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
4 oz crumbled goat cheese
salt and pepper
2 small chicken breasts, cooked and cut into small bite size pieces

Directions:
Roast pepper on the grill or under the broiler in the oven until blistered and blackened.  Place in Ziploc bag and seal.  Let rest for 5-10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.  Peel blackened skin off, remove stem and seeds, and dice; set a side.

Prepare the pasta according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in flour until smooth.  Cook 1 minutes, whisking constantly.  Slowly whisk in the cream and milk.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly; about 5 minutes.  Slowly stir in both cheese and stir until smooth (this may take a little time, so be patient).  Do not allow the mixture to boil.  Add the chicken and roasted peppers.  Add the pasta and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Enjoy!
P.S.  You can bake this mac & cheese too if you want.  Just add the mixture to a baking dish, cover with bread crumbs and additional shredded cheese and bake at 375 degrees until top is golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Just wanted to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving!  I am so thankful for so many things.  I'm thankful my parents are here to celebrate the holiday with me.  I'm thankful that there are so many of you out there that truly enjoy my blog.  I'm thankful that I have Chris in my life.  I'm thankful that I will be spending Christmas with my family.  I'm thankful that I'm about ready to smoke a turkey.  Heck, I'm thankful that I have the ability to cook an entire thanksgiving dinner for my family!!  The list could go on and on.  On this day, I'd like to say thank you to all of you....for your support, for your encouragement, and for the fact that you all keep coming back day after day.

I'm taking the next couple days off to relax and enjoy my time with my family....and Chris of course....but I'll be back, you know I can't stay away too long!  Ciao!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Butterscotch Chip Pan Cookies

When I was a kid, my mom used to make chocolate chip pan cookies.  I loved them.  It was such a different treat from the standard cookie.....sort of a cross between a brownie and cookie...at least that's what I thought at the time.  I actually have not had a pan cookie since I was a kid...strange...must not be an "in" thing anymore :)  Anyway, other then the fact that I over baked these just a tad bit...they were wonderful....they really brought back great memories of my childhood.  It was the perfect little treat!

Butterscotch Chip Pan Cookies
Adapted from Nestle®
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
2 cups (1 12oz bag) butterscotch chips

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.  In a large mixer bowl (I used my stand mixer), beat the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in morsels.  Spread into prepared pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool in pan on wire rack.  Cut into bars....and enjoy!!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Grilled Chicken with Bacon Balsamic Glaze

Oh bacon....how I love you so.  You make everything taste so wonderfully good.  Even mixed with balsamic vinegar, you can still steal the show!

This glaze is amazingly simple and of course, since I'm posting it, you know it's amazingly good too.  You can use this glaze on chicken, beef, or pork.  Hell, if you are feeling really adventurous, you could even put it on fish or shrimp :)  A little goes a long way though, so even though you may look and say, "oh, that's just not enough sauce" (which I did), believe me, it is the perfect amount for four pieces of chicken.

And, as always, there's no need to grill the chicken, you can either pan fry it or bake it.  You might even want to try pouring a little of the glaze over the chicken about 5 minutes before taking out of the oven, if you go that route....I'm betting it would be DEEEE-licious!!


Grilled Chicken with Bacon Balsamic Glaze
Adapted from Robin Miller, Food Network
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
garlic salt
pepper
olive oil
4 slices of bacon, diced
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup beef stock or broth
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions:
Preheat grill to 400 degrees F.  Rub both sides of the chicken with olive oil, then season with garlic salt and pepper.  Place directly over the fire and grill for 5-8 minutes per side or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle.

Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until browned and crisp.  (I drained the majority of the grease that was in the pan, but Robin does not tell you to do so in her recipe)  Add the balsamic and bring to a simmer for five minutes, or until the liquid reduces.  In a small bowl add the broth and cornstarch, whisking until the cornstarch is completely dissolved, and add to skillet.  Simmer 2 minutes bringing to a bowl, until sauce thickens.  Remove from heat and spoon sauce over chicken.  Enjoy!


***By the way...if you want more ways to cook with bacon then you could ever imagine....check out this 100 recipes for the ultimate bacon lover post, you will not be disappointed!!  YUM***

Monday, November 22, 2010

Baked Tilapia with Creamy Lemon Dill Sauce

I know that Thanksgiving is this week, and I apologize for not posting anything relating to the holiday.  It's just that, well, I don't make Thanksgiving dinner until Thanksgiving, so I don't have any recipes or pictures to share with you until after the fact.  (At least I'll have material for you next year!!)  So if you are looking for ideas for your Thanksgiving meal, you may have come to the wrong blog...BUT...if you are just looking for tasty recipes to help you get through the rest of the year...then welcome...and, oh boy, do I have a recipe for you today!

The sauce girl is back!!!  Did you miss me while I was away?  Well, never fear, I am back and I am sharing one of the simplest sauce recipes ever.  Not only is it simple, but it is delicious...what more could you ask for in a sauce, right???  AND not only is the sauce simple, but the fish is too.  Honestly, this meal is ready, from start to finish, in 20 minutes or less...the perfect week night meal for sure!  And, for those of you that are not fish eaters, this would work well with chicken too :)  Enjoy!

Baked Tilapia with Creamy Lemon Dill Sauce
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
4 Tilapia fillets
lemon pepper seasoning
2 Tablespoons cream cheese
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried dill weed

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.  Rinse the fish and pat dry.  Season both sides with lemon pepper seasoning.  Place in the prepared baking dish and place in the oven.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating dish half way through, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

While the fish is baking, place the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  Microwave on low for about 20 seconds.  Stir until smooth.  If the cream cheese is not melted enough, keep putting it back in the microwave for 5 -10 seconds at a time, until the cheese blends smoothly with the other ingredients.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Serve over fish or on the side.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Mom's Braciole

I think this might be the first time I've actually featured one of my mom's recipes.  Well, actually, this recipe was handed down to her from my dad's mom.  What strikes me as funny about that is I grew up thinking her mom gave her this recipe.  I mean they were the Italian family...my dad is German...my German grandma made this wonderful Italian dish?  Well...I guess you really do learn something new every day!!

ANYWAY...the Braciole....yes.... I love braciole.  Now mine was lacking in the parsley department.  I got distracted and started doing three things at once in the kitchen...which is never a good thing...and before I knew it, I was layering the stuffing part on the meat and rolling them up thinking, wow, there really isn't enough parsley in here....but besides that little flaw in our meal, I will say that I think I would have made my mom proud!  Chris loved it... I loved it... that equals success in my book!!  Now, My mom let's her braciole simmer for 2 hours, I only let mine simmer for just over an hour....I didn't see any damage in removing them before the 2 hour mark....they still had time to soak up the flavor from the sauce and become nice and tender.

If you have never had braciole before, let me let you in on the secret - Braciole (American Italian style at least) are simply thin slices of beef rolled with a filling of parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, and olive oil.  They are quickly pan fried and then left to simmer in sauce.  You can serve them by themselves, over pasta, along side meatballs.  There truly is no wrong way to eat them!  (I wish I had taken a picture of them whole...I was so worried about getting a picture of the "inside" of the braciole, I never did get a pre-cut picture...sorry about that!)

Special thanks to my mom for allowing me to share this delicious recipe from my childhood with you!

My Mom's Braciole
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
1 lb flank steak, pounded to 1/4-inch thick or less
1/2 cup dried Italian bread crumbs
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 cup (or more) freshly chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1/4-1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
olive oil
cotton string or toothpicks (DO NOT USE NYLON STRING!!!)
tomato/marinara sauce (about 2-3 cups)

Directions:
In a pot or large sauce pan, over medium to medium-high heat, add the sauce and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer.

Meanwhile, cut the flank steak into strips about 3-4 inches wide.  Lay the strips flat on the counter.  In a bowl, mix the bread crumbs, garlic, parsley and cheese together.  Add enough oil to make into a paste.  Spread the filling evenly over the meat.  Roll the meat as tightly as you can and tie it with the cotton string or secure with toothpick.

In a skillet over medium high heat, with 1 tablespoon olive oil, brown all sides of the braciole.  Add the meat to the sauce and allow to simmer for 1 1/2 to 3 hours.

***My mom also wanted me to include Giada De Laurentiis way of baking this in the oven too:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Follow same instructions as above but brown the meat in an ovenproof skillet.  Add the tomato sauce to the pan (no need to heat up the sauce before this either) and bring to a boil.  Cover partially with foil and bake until the meat is almost tender, turning the braciole and basting with the sauce every 30 minutes.  After 1 hour, uncover and continue baking until the meat is tender, about 30 minutes longer.  The total cooking time should be about 1 1/2 hours.  Enjoy! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

What could make sugar cookies better???  Well, that's easy:  Chocolate, of course!!

These cookies were not nearly as soft and moist as the easiest sugar cookies ever that I made back in September, but that's ok, they were still incredibly good!  They should look a little darker too, but alas, I did not have the full amount of cocoa that the recipe called for (silly me didn't look to see if I had all the ingredient amounts before I started baking....bad little baker that I am), so I used what I had and didn't think twice about it!

Now these are not for the faint of heart...not only do they call for butter, but they also call for melted vegetable shortening.  I know right?  You can feel the pounds adding themselves to your hips just by reading that, right?  Well, it's ok, these are worth it for sure.  The shortening actually gives these cookies a wonderful texture.  How do I know that?  Because I have made them once and substituted butter for the shortening....and there was just something missing....I'm going to go out on a ledge and say what was missing was that shortening........ but either way you choose to make them; shortening and butter, these cookies are simple and oh so yummy... what else needs to be said???

  
Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Recipe from Martha Stewart's Cookies
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (or 1/2 cup unsalted butter), melted and cooled
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.  Mix in melted shortening (or butter).  Add egg and vanilla; mix until creamy.  Reduce speed to low.  Gradually add the flour mixture; mix until just combined.

Shape dough into walnut size balls and place on baking sheets about 3 inches apart.  Bake until edges are firm, about 12-15 minutes.  Let cool on baking sheets and than transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.  Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicken Nacho Bake

This is something I made back before I started my blog and I have not made it since.  Now that I have had it again, I wonder why it took me so long to make it??  Ok, it MIGHT be the fact that it's not the healthiest meal I could make.  It COULD be the fact that I haven't wanted to actually run my oven until just about a month ago.  Then again, it's PROBABLY that there are so many recipes out there that I want to try that good dishes are actually forgotten.  Whatever the case, I'm glad I ran across this recipe and tried it out again.  It's simple to throw together and it's delicious.  The cheesy, crispy topping, just lends itself so well to the chicken.  It's comfort food in minutes....how bad can that be, right??

Chicken Nacho Bake
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons taco seasoning (click here for a homemade version)
1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips (I used Doritos)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.  Place the chicken in a single layer in the baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix together the taco seasoning and sour cream.  Spread the mixture evenly over each piece of chicken.  Top with tortilla chips and cheese.

Bake for 20-30 or until chicken is cooked through (165 degrees F).  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Creamy Taco Mac

Before I talk about this to die for dish, I want to say thank you to everyone for your comments on my brisket failure yesterday.  I so appreciate all the tips and ideas.  It's so wonderful to be able to post about something that didn't turn out as planned and not get laughed at!  Instead I got encouragement and some really good ideas.  So many that I'm even considering making this again...and that was not the case when I wrote out the post Sunday night!  So, thank you to all who piped up yesterday.. your help and ideas are greatly appreciated!

I have found heaven in a bowl...would you like to join me?  OMG this pasta was fantastic!  Another find from Annie's Eats...she's got some extremely decadent ideas over there, you gotta go check it out!

Honestly, I think the pictures sort of speak for themselves.  Look at that creamy texture...the beefy goodness...mmmmmm... this is just a good, comforting meal.  It's definitely not for the people who are watching their weight, but if you are looking for perfect comfort food for a cold fall/winter night that won't break the bank and will satisfy everyone in the family... you have got to try this.  Add a salad along side it if it makes you feel healthier.  Though, I believe a good piece (or two) of crusty warm bread is the better compliment to this meal....but that's just me!


Creamy Taco Mac
Adapted from Annie's Eats
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
1 lb. 90% lean ground beef
8oz elbow macaroni
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (14oz) can of diced tomatoes, partially drained
4 Tablespoons taco seasoning (find homemade recipe here)
3 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream
salt and pepper

Directions:
Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain; reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots and saute for 3 minutes.  Add the ground beef and cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium low heat for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the cream cheese and sour cream; mix until smooth.  Let simmer 1 minute.  Add the pasta and toss to coat.  If the sauce is too thick, thin it out with the reserved pasta water.  Season with salt and pepper.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Smoked Beef Brisket......A Failure??

You are NEVER going to guess what I found at the store the other day.....go ahead, you can still try....give up???  BRISKET!!  WOO HOO!  I have been wanting to smoke brisket, but I know I've told you of my dilemma with the amount and the cost.  Well, someone was watching out for me because I just happened upon this 2lbs beauty!!  I was actually on the hunt for some trout and could not find it, so I started scouring the meat section to see what I could smoke instead....and what do you know..  a wonderfully small and reasonably priced beef brisket! THANK YOU!!!

With all that said, I have some disappointing news... I don't know what went wrong actually, I don't know if it was the cut of meat I bought or if I just didn't let it smoke long enough.  What I do know is that it was tough as hell!  Now, don't get me wrong, the flavor was FAN-FRICKIN-TASTIC...but since it was almost too tough to chew, that flavor was sort of wasted.  At first I think I cut it the wrong way - with the grain and not against it - and once I figured that out, it was a little better..BUT... I have had brisket before, I know how melt in your mouth tender it can be.  Either way, I am still posting this recipe, because this is my journey, right?  Good, bad, or indifferent, it needs to be document.  I liked the rub and the mop so well that I might use it again, just on a different cut of meat... maybe I'll do the Tri-Tip again, now THAT turned out WAY better then the brisket...how was I supposed to know???

Smoked Beef Brisket
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
2lbs beef brisket
For the marinade -
12oz beer (I used Bud Light as that is what we have in the fridge)
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the rub - 
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 3/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
For the mop - 
4 oz beer
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce (I used Frank's)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:
Mix all the marinating ingredients together in a small bowl.  Place the brisket in a resealable bag and pour the marinade over it.  Let marinate in refrigerator for 4 hours.

In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the rub.  When brisket is done marinating, remove from bag, discard marinade, and pat dry.  Rub the spices over all sides of the meat.  Wrap in plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 4-6 hours.

Preheat smoker to 220 degrees.  Remove brisket from fridge and allow to sit at room temperature while the smoker is preheating.  I used apple juice in my water pan and Texas roadhouse wood chips.  Mix together your ingredients for the mop and set aside.  Place the brisket on the top shelf of the smoker and allow to smoke for 4-6 hours (this is where I think I failed.. I read that it's standard to smoke for 1 1/2 hours for every pound of brisket, so that's what I did, but I think I should have done it a tiny bit lower heat and for much longer of a time), mopping with the sauce every 30 minutes.  Remove from smoker and allow to rest a few minutes before cutting into it.  Eat as is or make delicious sandwiches with them.....if yours is more tender then mine, that is :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Questions Answered

A few weeks back I got tagged on two different sites.  I promised them both I would get to it soon...soon turned into a little while longer...but now.. now I am ready to keep my promise to them and answer the interesting questions they have posed to me.

I am going to cheat though... yea, you probably knew that didn't you?  If you've read my blog long enough you will know that I never quite follow the rules when I am tagged or win an award... I'm a rebel like that!  What I am going to do is answer the first 4 questions from each blogger, that way I'll have answered their questions, but not written out a post that has 16 things you may not have even wanted to know about me :)

So on with the first 4 that Jennifurla at Indigo's Sugar Spectrum asked:

1. If you could eat anything without any health repercussions or guilt, what would your meal be?   Oh, that's an easy one....homemade southern deep fried chicken, mac & cheese, shoe string fries, coleslaw...and for dessert - deep fried cheesecake...mmmmmmm!!!

2. If you could meet anyone living or dead who would it be and why?     I would want to meet both my grandfathers (ok, maybe that's cheating by saying two people, but still, I couldn't want to meet one and not the other, that would just be wrong!).  Both men died before I was born...both man were amazing men that I would have loved to have spent time with....even if just for a day.

3. Why did you start blogging and what did you expect when you started?    I expected nothing...actually, I expected that within 6 months I would have given it up.  Honestly, I started blogging because I needed a project...you know when you just feel that need to do SOMETHING...well, blogging was my something.

4. What is the one book you could read over and over again?     That's just not fair! I love so many books and have re-read so many of them, it feels so wrong to just pick one.  How about I narrow it down to the one book I have read the most throughout my whole life....yes, that should do....that book is To Kill a Mockingbird.  The first time I read it was in 8th grade.  I have read it at least once to two times every 5 years since than.  Fantastic book!

 (That's me with my mom and dad)

Now for the first 4 questions from Spoon and Chopsticks:

1. Who do you like to cook with in your family?     My mom, though we rarely get to cook together as I live in AZ and she's in the good ol' Husker state..but when we've cooked together, it's always been fun.

2. What are your 5 favorite spices that you can't live without?     Salt, Pepper, Cayenne, garlic powder, paprika.

3. Which is the vegetable you can't live without?     Easy...Zucchini :)

4.  What is the most unusual food you have eaten?     I think that would have to be ostrich...I'm not all that adventurous when it comes to food...certain things scare me... I think ostrich is sort of an unusual thing... it's not usually on our table, that's for sure!!  lol

So that's 8 little tid bits about me....now the game is that you tag 8 more bloggers and ask them 8 more questions..BUT..rule breaker that I am, I'm not going to do it....instead, I'm going to ask you ALL just one little question...if you answer it, great, if not, that's great too! 

The question:  If you could go anywhere in the world and be trained in how to cook that regions cuisine by some of the top chefs and/or home cooks, where would it be?


Friday, November 12, 2010

Tilapia with Hash Browns

So when I first saw this recipe, I thought... hhhmmmm....that ... sounds... sorta... good.  The more I thought about it, the more I knew I needed to make it.  I mean, how many times do I come across such a different way to prepare my beloved Tilapia? 

Both Chris and I were pleasantly surprised with this meal.  It was flavorful, it was simple, and it was damn good!  I got my hash browns really crispy and brown and it helped add so much flavor to the dish.   If you are feeling adventurous, I highly recommend this dish.  And you can change things up too...use another fish, chop up cucumber instead of the olives, use black olives instead of the Spanish olives, shredded your own potatoes (I was just lazy so stuck with the pre-packaged stuff).  What I'm trying to say is, create create create!!


Tilapia with Hash Browns
Adapted from Food Network Magazine
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
10-12 oz packaged hash browns (a little more than half the bag)
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
Kosher salt and pepper
5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pitted Spanish green olives, roughly chopped
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered or halved
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, diced
2 green onions, chopped
1 Tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
4 tilapia fillets
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence or dried rosemary

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Toss the hash browns with the garlic and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Add the hash browns, flatten with a spatula and cook until the bottom is golden brown, 6-8 minutes.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then flip the potato cake over and pat it back into shape.  Cook until crisp and golden, another 6-8 minutes.


Meanwhile, mix the olives, tomatoes, peppers, green onion and parsley in a bowl.  Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper.

Place the fish directly on top of the hash browns then cover the fish with the olive mixture.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the fish is cooked through, about 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Potato and Chipotle Chowder...and a Thank You

First off, I would like to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to all the military men and women who have served and are still serving at this time.  Thank you for all that you do to protect our freedoms.  Thank you for the sacrifices you have made so that I have the freedom to express ALL of my thoughts and feelings right here on this blog.  Thank you to all the families of our military, also, as you too make extreme sacrifices for our freedoms.  Most of all, on this Veterans day, I want to thank my dad for the time that he served this country.  He is an amazing man....a man of few words....a man of great strength and courage...he is my hero.  So thank you - to all of you - I am proud to say that I am an American, and I owe so much of that to you!

As my tribute to Veterans on this day, I'm going to share an amazingly easy and delicious recipe with you.  I found this comforting soup on Andrea the Kitchen Witch's site.  Let me tell you, that witch can conjure up some amazing creations in her kitchen and this soup is no exception.  As Chris put it... "this is so good, I could drink it"  Honestly, that's how good it was, spooning it into your mouth just didn't get that deliciousness into your mouth fast enough!  Ok, ok, so I have a thing with chipotles, so you know I'm going to be an immediate fan of it....but still, I speak the truth:  This soup is a must try.  It's smokey, cheesy, creamy goodness will leave you satisfied and definitely wanting more!!!

And, if you think this recipe was a hit...stop by Andrea's site and see what else she's got cooking over there.  I know she had a post for Pot de Creme au chocolat the other day that I can't WAIT to try!!


Potato and Chipotle Chowder
Adapted from Andrea The Kitchen Witch
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
2 green chilies
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely minced
1 Tablespoon adobo sauce
1/2 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 small yellow potatoes or 2 large Russet potatoes, diced
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 chicken breast, cooked and diced (optional)
1/2 cup milk
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese (I used mild cheddar)
salt and pepper

Directions:
Roast the green chilies on a grill or in the oven under the broiler until they are blacked and blistered.  Place in plastic bag and let sit for 5 minutes.  Once the chilies have cooled off a bit, peel them, remove the stems and seeds, and finely dice.

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute.  Now add the flour and whisk well to incorporate.  It will be dry and that is ok.  SLOWLY (now this is very important...go slowly) whisk in the chicken stock about 1/2 cup at a time.  The first addition will make a thick paste, each addition will smooth it out, whisk constantly to avoid lumps.

Add the potatoes, chilies, and chipotles to the pot and stir to incorporate.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.  Once the potatoes are tender and cooked through, use a submersible blender and pulse a few times.  You are looking for it to be smooth and thicker, but you still want to leave a few potato chunks in there, so don't puree it. (if you want to skip this part, by all means go ahead)  Add the diced chicken and then slowly stir in the milk.  Now, add the cheese and stir until it has melted and is well combined.  Season again with salt and pepper, if needed......and Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Garlic & Thyme Grilled Pork Chops

The days are getting shorter (and cooler too, yesterday we only had a high of 69 degrees!!!)...and in Arizona that means that it's getting incredibly dark by 6pm.  Unfortunately, that makes me highly unmotivated.  Lately, I have been coming home and just staring at my computer.  The words don't flow and the ideas are blocked.  I even have a difficult time talking myself into stepping into the kitchen and making dinner.  I blame it on the dark because it seems to have been the only thing that has changed recently.  So why am I telling you this?  Well, since I have been so unmotivated lately, I created this very simple, very delicious grilled pork recipe for those nights when maybe YOU are feeling just as unmotivated in the kitchen.  (don't want or like pork...use chicken, it would work just as well)  As always, no need to grill if you don't want to...you can always bake and/or pan sear the pork.  I just love the flavor grill brings to meat....mmmmmmm....fire goodness!!

Garlic & Thyme Grilled Pork Chops
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
4 boneless pork loin chops
olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
salt and pepper

Directions:
Rub olive oil on both sides of each piece of pork.  Sprinkle both sides of pork with the minced garlic and dried thyme.  Gently rub into the meat.  Let rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat grill to medium (350-400 degrees).  Place the pork directly over the fire and cook for 4-6 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of each piece.  Remove from gril and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Chorizo and Eggs

When I was a kid, my dad used to make his "special" eggs.  What made them special?  Well, that my dad made them of course!!  Anyway, I can remember mornings when he'd start frying that bacon and then sauteing those potatoes... mmmmm, I LOVED those morning.  What's really neat is that when I go home to visit my parents even now, my dad will make those eggs for me!!  I've made them before...but there is something still so magical about my dad making them for me!!  But I digress... this post is NOT about my dad's eggs...it's just that any time I make eggs, I am reminded of that magical concoction my dad creates and I just couldn't help but share that thought with you!  Maybe someday I'll share that recipe with you, but for now, it's all about Chorizo and Eggs.

Sometimes I hesitate to post such simple recipes, but then I am reminded that just because I believe something to be simple, does not mean that it is considered simple by someone else.  And, even if you do see this as a "too simple" of a dish, let me remind you of those nights you are looking for something quick, something simple, yet something warm and filling.  Honestly, you don't need to wait for breakfast to have a plate of this chorizo and eggs...believe me, it makes a fantastic week night meal too!

One side note here:  I accidentally picked up beef chorizo instead of pork.  Honestly, I didn't even know they made beef chorizo (my bad).  I do not like it as much as the pork, so I'm going to recommend you use pork in yours, but if you really really want to do it with the beef, go ahead...but here's a bit of warning:  chorizo will ooze it's dark red color while it cooks, but the beef was three times as bad.  I had to drain a ton of "red grease" out of the pan and I was almost afraid to take a picture as it made the egg look so "dirty".  Anyway... I am recommending pork chorizo and that's that!

Chorizo and Eggs
-serves 2-
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
5-6 large eggs
2 Tablespoons buttermilk or cream (optional)
1/2 lb chorizo (not dry), if it's in casing, remove
1/2 bell pepper (any color), finely diced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, diced
fresh chopped basil or parsley (optional)

Directions:
In a non-stick skillet, cook the chorizo about 5-8 minute or until just cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, crack all the eggs.  Season with salt and pepper and add the buttermilk.  Whisk together until light and foamy.

Drain any access grease from the chorizo.  Pour the eggs directly into the middle of the pan.  Add the bell pepper.  Stir slowly with a rubber or silicone spatula.  As soon as curds (bit soft lumps) of eggs begin to form, drop the heat to low and shift from stirring to folding the curds over on themselves while gently shaking the pan with the other had.  As soon as there is no more liquidous egg running around the pan, add the tomatoes and kill the heat.  Continue to stir for about 30 seconds longer.  Let the eggs rest for 1 minute.  Sprinkle with basil and enjoy!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ranch Chicken Pizza (Grilled)

Ranch.... Chicken... Pizza....???  What's not to love here???  I got the basic idea for this pizza from a recipe I saw on Annie's Eats.  I love Annie's site.  She is an incredible baker, an amazing cookie designer, and an awesome cook!  I have not been disappointed of anything that I have made of hers.

So this was my test pizza night.  I wanted to finally use the dough ball I had in my freezer from the batch I made back in September.  I was a tiny bit frustrated because that it was not as easy to work with this time around.  I knew it wouldn't be the same, but it was still a bit disappointing...despite that, the crust still ended up being fantastic!  Just as good as the first part of the batch.  I may have stretched it a bit too thin so it made a thinner crust pizza this time, but the flavor was still there and I impressed that I could just pull it out of the freezer and in a while have homemade pizza...without all the work!!

Ranch Chicken Pizza (Grilled)
Inspired by Annie's Eats
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
salt and pepper
olive oil
1-2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (or however much you need to cover your pizza)
1 roasted pepper (any color), diced
2 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 Tablespoons ranch dressing
1/2 Tablespoon sour cream (or you can use more ranch)
1/4 - 1/2 cup pizza sauce (depends on how much sauce you like really)
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (depends on how cheesy you want it)
pizza dough ball

Directions:
Preheat grill to 400 degrees.  Rub a little olive oil on the chicken breast and then season with salt and pepper. Grill chicken for 5-8 minutes on each side or until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove and allow to cool.  Once cooled, dice or cube or cut into thin strips.  Place the cut chicken into a bowl and add the ranch dressing and sour cream.  Stir to coat chicken; set aside.

Roll out dough and brush both sides with olive oil.  Place the dough directly on the grill or on a piece of aluminum foil on the grill.  Grill until one side is golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Remove from grill and flip over.  Top with pizza sauce.  Add the chicken, pepper, green onion, and cheese.  Place back on grill for another 5-8 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

To Bake:  Preheat oven to 450-500 degrees.  Shape your dough and then add the sauce, chicken, peppers, green onions, and cheese.  Bake 10-20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted.  If you have a pizza stone, this would be the perfect time to use it.  Let the stone heat in the oven for about 20 minutes, then place the pizza on it..bake about 10-12 minutes.



Saturday, November 6, 2010

Tequila Lime Chicken

What's not to love about this chicken?  It's simple...it's delicious...it's... it's.... well, it's TEQUILA LIME CHICKEN!!!  It's like a margarita but savory..and, well, chicken!  Anyway, I think you can see where I'm going with this... It's damn good and you gotta try it!

I was going through some of my older posts the other day and I ran across this one for Tequila Garlic Lime Steaks.  I was reminded at how good it was.  And THEN, I ran across this recipe for Garlic Lime Chicken.  And THEN an idea was born....an idea to mix the two and make a simple and delicious meal that would be ready in no time with very little preparation!!  It turned out just like I wanted it to.  It was wonderfully tangy and flavorful.  The tequila flavor was not overpowering at all and, of course, worked extremely well with the lime.  This is the perfect recipe to try on a week night.  I got home, put the marinade together in about 5 minutes.  I let the chicken marinate for 1 hour.  I heated up the grill, slapped those babies on, and voila....15 minutes later we were sitting down to eat.  Even if you didn't want to use your grill....baking at 425 degrees for about 15-20 minutes will still be a simple way to put a good tasty meal on the table!

Tequila Lime Chicken
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
1/4 cup Tequila
2 Tablespoons olive oil
juice of 3 limes
2 garlic cloves, crushed and than minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
salt and pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Directions:
In a small bowl, mix together the first 5 ingredients until well blended.  Place the chicken in a Ziploc bag and pour the marinade over it.  Seal bag and let marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat your grill to 400 degrees.  Rub oil on the grill grates.  Remove chicken from bag and discard marinade.  Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and place directly over the fire.  Grill 5-8 minutes on each side (depending on the thickness) or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle.  Enjoy!




Friday, November 5, 2010

Frosted Sour Cream and Chocolate Drops

For my birthday, my boss gave me the Better Homes and Gardens Ultimate Cookies & Bars magazine.  The stipulation was that I had to make those things within the pages of the this book and bring them to work for everyone to sample.  That seems fair to me...I get to hone in on my baking skills and other people get to enjoy the final product.  Everyone wins!

Though I thought that these cookies were very bland and not that great...until the frosting went on them that is...I got a lot of compliments on them.  People seemed to really like them. The frosting is a definite must on these cookies.  The cookies are wonderfully moist, but they lack in the flavor department...trust me, the frosting is a must...did I already say that? :)

Frosted Sour Cream and Chocolate Drops
Very slightly adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Ultimate Cookies and Bars
Printable Recipe 
Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 8oz. carton of reduced fat sour cream
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
For Chocolate Butter Frosting -
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
3 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Add the brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.  Beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.  Beat in the egg, one at a time.  Add the vanilla until combined.  Mix in the melted chocolate.  Beat in the sour cream.  Slowly add the flour; mix until just combined.

Drop dough by slightly rounded teaspoons about 2 inches apart onto an ungreased baking sheet. (I actually took those rounded teaspoons and rolled them into balls then sort of squished them with my thumb to just a tiny bit to make pretty looking disks)  Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

While cookies are cooling, make the frosting.  In a medium bowl, beat together the butter on medium to high speed until fluffy and light.  Gradually beat in the cocoa powder and 1 cup powdered sugar.  Slowly beat in milk and vanilla.  Slowly beat in additional powdered sugar.  Add more milk if the frosting becomes too thick.  Spread frosting on cooled cookies.

**To store cookies: Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover.  Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze unfrosted cookies for up to 3 months.  Thaw cookies and frost with chocolate butter frosting.**