Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Top Ten Recipes



Here are pictures and links to my most popular recipes for all of 2013.  Enjoy!


With 1,812 pageviews, this dish combines spicy and pasta, which are two of my husband's favorite things to eat. Number 10 is Blackened Chicken with Cajun Fettuccine Alfredo.



Number 9 on the list is a newcomer.  This post is only 13 days old and has already received 2,155 pageviews.  Baked Italian Chicken is sure to impress anyone who comes to dinner.



This recipe uses all the "New Four Food Groups," bacon, butter, cheese and garlic.  These tasty Bacon, Butter, Cheese & Garlic Mushrooms that come in at number 8 have received a total of 3,764 pageviews.



Looking for a comforting casserole?  Confetti Chicken Casserole is a great way to enjoy comforting foods.  At number 7 on my list, this recipe has received 4,511 pageviews.



Number 6 on the list is Panko Cheddar Chicken.  It's a delightful crusted, baked chicken that has received 6,118 pageviews so far.


Number 5 on the list is a recipe that has a lot of ingredients, but it's super easy to make since you just throw it all in the crockpot.  Touchdown Dip has been pretty popular with 6,603 pageviews.



Number 4 on the list is my spin of one of my favorite restaurant dishes, Ziti al Forno.  Ziti al Forno may become one of your favorites too since 8,810 people have looked at this recipe.



Not knowing this dish would become so popular, my number 3 recipe, Corn Casserole, was something I just threw together.  Must have been good since a whopping 44,634 people have viewed this recipe.  



Number 2 on the list is worth looking at even if you only make the sauce.  Tortilla Chip & Pepper Jack Crusted Chicken with Avocado & Jalapeno Ranch Sauce.  103,502 people have made this recipe a hit.



The star of my show and the reason I keep blogging is this recipe.  With an impressive 907,410 pageviews, my number 1 recipe, Smothered Chicken, is a recipe close to my heart. Created for my husband on Valentine's Day, this dish is sure to bring out the romance in whomever you cook it for.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Time to Impress


So I made this baked chicken last night.  And I was impressed.  It was one of those wow moments you get when something turns out really good.  My son wouldn't touch it because it has spinach, artichokes and mushrooms, but my daughter loved it.  Seriously raved on and on about it.  And it was relatively easy.  The only extra step besides chopping is cooking the onions and mushrooms before putting it all in a casserole pan and baking it.  You could probably skip that step if you don't mind onions being crunchy.  I'm calling this Baked Italian Chicken.  The sauce is so darn tasty and it makes enough to serve it over pasta if you'd like.  Enjoy!

BAKED ITALIAN CHICKEN
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained very well (squeeze them) and quartered
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 T butter
1 onion, chopped
One package Zesty Italian dressing mix (Good Seasons brand)
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 C chicken stock
8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
5 ounces fresh spinach
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Black pepper
8 ounces shredded Mozzarella

NOTE:  I have updated this recipe and reduced the amount of chicken stock as well as included seeding the tomatoes and squeezing the artichokes since a few people are having trouble with the sauce.  Also, I strongly urge you to use a meat thermometer to test the doneness of the chicken. Chicken should be at 165 degrees internally.  Some of the comments left are that the chicken is taking very much longer to cook, and I'm not sure how they tested the doneness of the chicken.  A meat thermometer is your best measure to ensure that it's done. 

Cook the onions and the mushrooms in the 2 T butter and a drizzle of olive oil until tender.  Remove from the heat. Spoon the mushrooms and onions out of the butter and discard the butter.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the chicken stock and cream cheese in a bowl and microwave a minute or two to melt the cream cheese.  Whisk the dressing mix, garlic powder, and black pepper into the cream cheese mixture until smooth.  Stir in the tomatoes, artichokes, mushrooms, onions, and spinach.  

Place the chicken breasts into a casserole pan.  Pour the cream cheese and veggie mixture over the chicken.  Bake for around 30-35 minutes OR until the chicken is done.  Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top and stick it under the broiler a few minutes to melt the cheese.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Stuffed Hatch Chile Peppers


I happened to get a bunch of Hatch chile peppers in my last Bountiful Baskets participation, so why not make Chiles Rellenos with them!  This filling is a twist on my Chicken Flautas filling which is my husband's absolute favorite appetizer! (Okay, Cadillac Queso is his favorite, but flautas are a close second!)

STUFFED HATCH CHILE PEPPERS
FOR THE FILLING:
2 C cooked, shredded chicken
8-10 Hatch chiles
One 7 3/4 can of El Pato tomato sauce (or regular tomato sauce and some cayenne pepper)
8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
One 4-ounce can green chilies
1 C chicken stock
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1 T garlic powder
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR THE BATTER:
1 C flour
1 C cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 C milk
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons seasoned salt

Peanut oil (for frying)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Put the chiles on a sheet pan in a single layer.  Roast them, turning occasionally, until charred and blackened on all sides.  When they are cool enough to handle, peel the skins off. 

Meanwhile, put all of the filling ingredients into a skillet except the cream cheese.  Cook and stir occasionally until almost all of the liquid has cooked out.  Stir in the cream cheese to melt. Remove from heat.

Cut a slit down one side of each pepper, being careful not to cut all the way through the other side of the pepper.  You're trying to make a pocket of sorts.  Scrape out the seeds with a spoon.  Stuff the filling into each pepper and close the pepper around it.  Freeze them in a single layer until frozen.

Mix the batter ingredients together with a whisk.  Preheat the peanut oil in a skillet to 350 degrees.  Dip the chiles into the batter and fry in batches until golden all over.  Put them in a 200 degree oven to keep warm while frying other batches.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Spinach & Bacon Puffs


This recipe is a recipe that I adapted off of the back of a Pepperidge Farms puff pastry package.  Theirs was done in a spiral and had no cream cheese or bacon.  But why not have the bacon and cream cheese?  And why hassle with rolling things up?  Come on, we're in a hurry, right?  Just kidding.  I just will use any excuse I can to use cream cheese and bacon in everything.  So here you go.  Enjoy!

SPINACH &  BACON PUFFS
One 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 C shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1 egg, beaten
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 T butter, melted
One 17.3 ounce (or so) package puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the puff pastry into 12 equal squares.  Heat the cream cheese in the microwave for about a minute to soften.  Combine the spinach, cream cheese, egg, shredded cheese, bacon, salt and pepper, and garlic powder together in a bowl.  Tuck the puff pastry squares into a regular-sized muffin tin.  Spoon some of the spinach mixture into each puff pastry.  Tuck the corners down.  Brush the melted butter over the puff pastry.  Bake about 30-35 minutes or until the puff pastry is browned and done.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bring on the Brine


Ever heard of Spaghetti alla Puttanesca?  The story is that "ladies of the night" would throw together this quick dish and put it in or near windows to attract men with the fragrant smell.  I'm not sure if that's true or not, but it's a good story.

Pasta Puttanesca is something I heard about first from Rachael Ray.  She makes a simple version of this using canned tomatoes.  It is a pretty good version, but I wanted to step things up a bit.  I found some pretty grape tomatoes on sale, so I wanted to build my sauce around that.  This is a briny, spicy, fresh-tasting pasta dish that is truly easy to throw together and is so darn tasty!  And you don't have to be a "lady of the night" to make it.  

SPAGHETTI ALLA PUTTANESCA
1/2 lb spaghetti
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 C green olives
1 C black olives
12 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons red chili flakes (less if you're spicy challenged)
1/4 C capers
1/4 C Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/4 C brine from the green olives or capers
1 T anchovy paste
1 C chicken stock
1/2 C red wine
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Drizzle some olive oil into a skillet.  Add the onion and cook until tender.  Add in the tomatoes and the olives.  Using a wooden spoon, crush the tomatoes and olives.  Cook for a couple of minutes.  Add in the red wine and deglaze the pan. Add in the chicken stock, garlic, chili flakes, capers, anchovy paste, and brine.  Cook for a couple of minutes to thicken the sauce slightly.  Taste for salt and pepper, but you probably won't need salt since the olives and brine and capers are salty.  Add in the shrimp and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes or until shrimp is done.  Remove from heat and stir in the drained spaghetti, some Parmesan cheese, and chopped parsley.

Pizza Pleaser


My family loves pizza, but then again, most families probably do too.  While takeout pizza is good, it gets pretty expensive to feed a family of four that includes two teenagers.  It's a lot cheaper to make it yourself and you know what goes into it.

So I made something that I saw on Pinterest...a lot.  I tried to find where this recipe came from, and it seems to be a Pampered Chef recipe.  It's being called "Bubble Up Pizza," but I'm just going to call it Biscuit Pizza because that's what it is.  

I always have some homemade marinara sauce on hand. Here's my recipe for Basic Marinara.  You can use the jarred stuff or even that pizza quick stuff for convenience.  But, if you can make your own, it's always much better.  

You can really do what you want as far as toppings go here. I found some little mini pepperonis that I used and I also used some Italian sausage.  My family really loved this.  Pay attention to the cooking temperature.  I tried it the first time at a lower setting, and we had pasty dough instead of a crust.  I think your family will enjoy this, especially if you have kids.

BISCUIT PIZZA
One can Grands biscuits, 8 count
2-3 C Basic Marinara (depends on how saucy you want it)
Red chili flakes, to taste
5 ounces pepperoni
1/2 lb Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled
8 ounces shredded Mozzarella
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
Chopped Italian parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cut each biscuit into fours. In a large bowl, toss the biscuits around with the marinara sauce, red chili flakes, the pepperoni, and the sausage. Put the biscuit mixture into a casserole pan (you can use a cas iron skillet or even a bundt pan) where they can slightly touch but aren't crowded together tightly.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until the biscuits have puffed up well and are done through.  Sprinkle the cheeses on top and broil for a couple of minutes to melt.  Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Let's Get Cheesy


Okay, so I haven't gotten around to making homemade gnocchi yet.  I'm not making excuses, but it is a busy time of year.  But my husband loves gnocchi, and, when he asks for something, he gets it.  So here's my latest version.  Cheesy Chicken & Gnocchi.  This was so tasty.  Our daughter got upset with me because I took the leftovers to work to share. But the people I work with were very happy that I brought it. The picture here doesn't do it justice, but the accolades you'll get will more than make up for that.

CHEESY CHICKEN & GNOCCHI
2 lbs gnocchi
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
Olive oil
1/2 stick butter
1 onion, chopped
2 C heavy cream
2 C shredded Muenster cheese, divided
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
5 ounces fresh spinach
1/2 C chicken stock
1/2 C white wine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C flour
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook the gnocchi according to package directions.  

In a large oven-safe pot or dutch oven, melt the butter and drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the chicken for about 3-4 minutes or until done.  Remove to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the onions and mushrooms to the same pot and cook until tender.  Add in the wine and deglaze the pan.  Sprinkle the flour over the onions and mushrooms and stir.  Add in the chicken stock and whisk.  Add in the cream and garlic.  Cook and whisk until thickened and bubbly.  Return the chicken to the pot and stir in half of the Muenster cheese, the Parmesan cheese, and the spinach.  Cook and stir until cheese is melted and spinach is wilted.  Stir in the cooked gnocchi. Sprinkle the remaining Muenster cheese over the top and stick it under the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown slightly.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Stuffed Mashed Potato Balls (Papas Rellenas)


Papas Rellenas are a Peruvian dish consisting of mashed potatoes stuffed with ground meat, onions, peppers, olives, and hard-boiled eggs, then deep fried to golden goodness.  I loved the idea of this, so I put my Tex-Mex spin on it, minus the eggs and olives.  The filling is more like a Picadillo filling and of course I added cheese!  These were so good!  My daughter loved them the most.  I hope you enjoy them too!

STUFFED MASHED POTATO BALLS
FOR THE FILLING:
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 C shredded Pepper Jack cheese
Salt & pepper, to taste

FOR THE POTATOES:
2-3 lbs potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 eggs
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons garlic powder

FOR THE DREDGE:
1 1/2 C breadcrumbs
1 1/2 C flour
2 teaspoons Lawry's seasoned salt
3 eggs

Peanut oil, for frying

Boil the potatoes until tender.  Drain and let cool slightly.

Cook the onions, bell pepper, and jalapeno in some olive oil in a skillet until tender.  Add in the ground beef, tomatoes, and seasonings and cook until the beef is done, crumbling the beef and tomatoes along the way.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese to melt.

Mix the potatoes, 2 eggs, salt and pepper, and garlic powder together and mash well, leaving no lumps.  Take about 2 T of the mashed potatoes and make a flat disk shape in your hand.  Drop about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the meat mixture into the center of the potatoes.  Seal up the potatoes around the filling, making balls.  Freeze in a single layer for at least 30 minutes.

Set up your dredging station.  Mix the flour and Lawry's together in one bowl.  Beat the three eggs together in another bowl.  Put the breadcrumbs into a third bowl.  

Preheat the peanut oil to 350 degrees.  Dredge the balls into the flour mixture, then the egg mixture, and then the breadcrumbs.  Fry in batches until golden brown and heated through.  (Keep batches warm in a 200 degree oven until they are all fried.)  Serve with Ranch dressing or cream gravy.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls


Don't be afraid of yeast!  It's your friend!  Seriously, this cinnamon roll recipe is so easy and it rises overnight in the fridge.  They turned out perfect, and I think you can do it!

OVERNIGHT CINNAMON ROLLS
2 packets highly active yeast
3/4 C warm water, 110 to 115 degrees
5 C flour
3/4 C brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 T baking powder
1 stick butter
2 C buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon

FOR THE FILLING:
1/4 C white sugar
Cinnamon
4 T butter, melted

GLAZE:
3 C powdered sugar
2-3 T milk

Put the yeast, brown sugar, and the warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer.  (A trick to get the temperature of the water right:  Hold your wrist under running water.  It should be almost too hot but not too hot.  You should be able to tolerate the heat, but it's still hot.)  Let it sit about five minutes.

Place butter, buttermilk and the 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a small pot.  Heat without boiling until butter melts.  Turn the burner off.  When this mixture has cooled enough to stick your finger in it, whisk in the eggs.  Add this mixture to the yeast mixture.  Add the flour, baking powder, and salt into the yeast mixture.  Using a dough hook, knead until the dough becomes a sticky ball.  Scrape this mixture into a greased bowl three times the size of the dough.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit about 20 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Turn the dough out onto a very well floured counter top.  Add some flour to the topside of the dough and start rolling it out.  You should get a rectangle about 24  by 18 inches and about 1/4 inch thick.  Spread the melted butter all over.  Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon all over the butter.  (You can add raisins here too if you'd like.)  Roll up the dough from the shorter side making sure not to roll too tight.  Cut into about 1 1/2 inch sections.  Place them on a greased sheet pan, leaving some space between each one for rising. Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with nonstick spray.  Let them rise about 20 minutes or until doubled in size.  Bake them for about 30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the middle reaches 190 degrees.

Mix the glaze ingredients together with a whisk.  Add more milk if it seems too thick.  Glaze the cinnamon rolls as soon as they come out of the oven.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Improvising


I had it in my head that I wanted to do a skillet lasagna.  So I marched off to the store (yes, I really drove) to gather up the ingredients.  I made the mistake of going to Walmart.  I don't have a problem with Walmart, per se. It's the people.  And the lines.  And the parking lot.  My goodness, have you experienced that?  If you pull into the parking lot across the front of the store, you have to wait for drones of people to cross.  You have to wait for cars to let people out so they don't have to walk through the parking lot.  You have to wait for people who want to turn left and are waiting for oncoming Walmart-goers.  It's kind of a beating.  Okay, rant over.

So they were out of ricotta cheese.  Not one single variety or tub to be found.  There was even another couple there looking for ricotta, and they asked an employee who disappeared off into the abyss that is the storage in the back.  So I improvised.  I grabbed a container of cottage cheese and I was off.  

When I got home and started cooking this "skillet lasagna," I realized that my cast iron skillet wasn't going to be big enough for what I wanted to put into it.  So improvisation prevailed here and I grabbed a dutch oven.  As the dish was almost finished, I realized that I needed to thicken the sauce up a bit.  I didn't have any tomato paste on hand, so I grabbed the closest thing I could find...ketchup.  And guess what!  It turned out pretty darn good.  So what was supposed to be a one-skillet dish turned into a one-pot dish.  I'll give you the option to use ricotta or cottage cheese and whether to use tomato paste or ketchup.  As a grownup, I think I would have liked the tomato paste better.  But the kids loved it, and it was overall a success.

What's your pet peeve about Walmart?

ONE-POT LASAGNA
1 onion, chopped
1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 lb ground beef
6 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces lasagna noodles, broken
2 C beef stock
2 C water
4 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/2 C red wine
1 T garlic powder
Red chili flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
One 6-ounce container cottage cheese (or one similar sized container ricotta)
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 C ketchup (or a small can of tomato paste)
Olive oil
Shredded Mozzarella cheese

Drizzle some olive oil into a large pot or a dutch oven.  Cook the onion until tender.  Add in the Italian sausage and ground beef and cook and crumble until well browned.   Drain if necessary.  Add in the tomatoes, garlic, beef stock, water, garlic powder, wine, broken lasagna noodles, and chili flakes, to taste.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to still bubbling but not a full boil.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has cooked down some, about 20 minutes.  Add in the ketchup or tomato paste and stir.  Cook until the sauce is thickened.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust accordingly. Remove from heat.

Preheat the broiler.  Put dollops of the cottage cheese or ricotta around the top of the lasagna.  Sprinkle on some Mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.  Cook under the broiler a few minutes or until the cheese is melted and the cottage cheese or ricotta is warmed through.  Garnish with fresh Italian parsley.

Please Copy Me!


As you may well know, I'm a huge Pinterest fan.  I am kind of obsessed and look at it every day.  There is just so much great stuff there, and collecting it into my own little "file box" is genius.  I wish I had thought of it.  And what's interesting about me and Pinterest is I almost always only look at the Food & Drink category.  I know, I'm missing out on a lot.  But much of my life revolves around food.  I work in a restaurant and am with food all day.  I cook nearly every night.  I blog about food as much as I can.  I research recipes on line almost every day.  I watch shows about food.  Wow, I need to get a life.

Anywho, I've seen a lot of pins about this copycat Outback recipe, Alice Springs Chicken.  Now, I have to confess that I have only eaten at Outback Steakhouse twice in my entire life.  And I've never had this Alice Springs Chicken.  But all the pins on Pinterest piqued my interest.  There are a few variations out there, so I decided to take a look at this.  Their menu says it's wood-fire grilled chicken topped with mushrooms, bacon, and cheese.  Now, I don't have a wood-fire grill, and it was too cold outside the night I made this to cook it on a regular grill.  I found someone's version on Pinterest (I can't remember which one, I'm sorry) where they browned the chicken in the bacon grease.  Now we're talking!  


So I created my own version of this and changed it up a little. I added onions and switched up the cheese.  But the star of this dish is the sauce.  Oh my, the sauce.  I added more sauce than most recipes I saw.  I poured the honey mustard goodness down over the chicken before I smothered it with bacon, mushrooms and cheese.  Then, when we ate it, we scooped up some of that sauce in the pan and poured it over the chicken.  It was touchdown tasty!   Sorry, the Cowboys play tonight, and I have football on the brain.


Get to the peak of my post and take a peek at what piqued my interest.


ALICE SPRINGS CHICKEN

1/2 C brown mustard
1 C honey
1/4 C mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons Lawry's seasoned salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Cayenne pepper, to taste
8 slices bacon
1/2 C chopped red onion
8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
8 slices Pepper Jack cheese

Cook and crumble the bacon and drain, reserving the bacon grease.  Quickly brown each side of the chicken breasts in the bacon grease and set aside.  You won't be cooking the chicken all the way through, just giving it some color.  Add the onions and mushrooms to the same skillet and cook until tender.  


Meanwhile, mix the mustard, mayo, honey, Lawry's, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper together with a whisk.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the chicken breasts into a glass casserole pan.  Pour the sauce over the chicken. Place a pile of the onions and mushrooms on top of each chicken breast.  Do the same with the bacon.  Lay two slices of Pepper Jack cheese over each chicken breast.  Cook for about 20 minutes or until chicken is done all the way through.

Muppets and Soup


It's been really cold here, like 7 degrees cold.  The high yesterday was 17.  I know, some of you may be in colder places, but I don't think I'll ever get used to it.  Have I told you how much I really dislike winter?  I do, however, like the things that come along with winter, the holidays, heartier meals, roaring fires in the fireplace.  All comforting things.

I started making this soup long before I knew it existed on the menu at Olive Garden.  I just called it Sausage and Potato Soup, but theirs is called Zuppa Toscana.  I do make mine a little different.  Theirs has Italian sausage and kale.  But I started making mine a long time ago with good ol' Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage.  I guess it's a Texan thing.  After all, Jimmy Dean sausage was started by a man named, you guessed it, Jimmy Dean.  He was from a small town named Plainview, which is about 45 minutes from where I live in Lubbock.  Mr. Dean was a country music singer and later had his own TV show, The Jimmy Dean Show, where he introduced the world to Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets.  Jimmy Dean also hosted a popular radio show, Town and Country Time, where supposedly Patsy Cline and Roy Clark got their starts in the country music industry.  Interesting facts. This certainly wasn't where I was going when I started writing this post.  But I have a tendency to wander in thoughts as I'm writing posts and start Googling other stuff when it comes to mind, such as what I just did here.  I Googled Jimmy Dean.

So back to the soup.  This soup is rich and hearty.  It is definitely a splurge meal, since it has lots of butter and sausage.  I did cut the fat a little by using half and half instead of heavy cream, but, by all means, use heavy cream if you aren't watching your waistline.  My son ate two large bowls of this soup and managed to scoot every single piece of spinach to the side.  

So, without any further rambling, I give you Sausage & Potato Soup.

SAUSAGE & POTATO SOUP
3 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
5 ounces fresh spinach
2 C chicken stock
1 onion, chopped
1 quart half and half
1 lb Jimmy Dean Hot breakfast sausage (in the tube)
1 stick butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 C flour
Red chili flakes, to taste

Boil the potatoes until tender.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pot or dutch oven.  Cook the onion in the butter until tender.  Add in the sausage and cook and crumble until done and browned.  Sprinkle the flour over the top of the sausage mixture and stir to coat.  Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and cook a couple of minutes to thicken.  Add in the garlic, half and half, and chili flakes.  Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.  Stir in the spinach leaves until they are wilted.  Taste for salt and pepper and adjust if necessary.  Remove from heat and stir in the potatoes.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Going Crazy


If you're on Pinterest, I'm sure you've seen a version of Crazy Bread out there.  We've tried a few, and this stuff is awesome.  One of my favorites things is Italian deli meats.  So I wanted to try to marry Crazy Bread with an Italian deli sandwich.  And a star was born.  It was crispy in places, chewy in places, soft in places, and good all over.  We devoured this like vultures. It was kinda embarrassing.  Maybe you should try using a knife and fork if you want to keep your dignity.

ITALIAN DELI CRAZY BREAD
1 loaf Italian bread (I used Everything flavored)
1 C mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried parsley
4-5 basil leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1 T pepperoncini brine from the jar
1/4 C red onion, sliced
1/4 C pepperoncini pepper slices
Assorted salamis
Sliced provolone
Sliced mozzarella
Sliced muenster cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the bread at 1-inch intervals, but don't slice all the way through the bottom.  Mix the mayo, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, and the pepperoncini brine together.  Spread this mixture down in between the sliced parts of the bread.  Alternating the cheese varieties, shove a slice of cheese into each cut.  Then alternating the salami varieties, shove about five slices into every other cut.  Shove the pepperoncini slices and red onion slices into the remaining cuts, meaning the cuts with no salami in it.  Wrap the whole thing tightly with foil and bake about 25-30 minutes or until the outsides are a little crispy and the cheese is all melted.

Homemade Bean Dip


Remember that bean dip that Frito-Lay sells in a can that we always bought at gas stations with a bag of Doritos?  I do.  I used to love that stuff when I was younger.  But these days I don't really buy a lot of stuff out of cans or junk food.  So why not have that same thing but homemade?  You can now! I started by making a big old pot of pinto beans in the crockpot.  I saved the beans I didn't use for this by freezing them in smaller portions.  (We always like to have pinto beans around for a side dish or for refried beans.)  And this whips up so easy in a food processor.  Great for game day!

HOMEMADE BEAN DIP

2 C heated pinto beans or refried beans (you can use canned if you must)
1 T bacon grease (don't use this if using already refried beans)
2-3 T jalapeno slices (the kind from a jar)
1 T of the brine from the jar of jalapenos
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor.  Chill well.  Serve with chips.

Savory Monkey Bread


Isn't this bread so pretty?  I saw a picture of this from Food Network, and I just had to try it.  Their recipe used premade refrigerated breadstick dough, but I did mine homemade. You could also use the frozen ready to cook yeast rolls.  I changed up the toppings to suit my tastes.  Wouldn't this be wonderful to grace your holiday table?  It just might be the star of the show!

SAVORY MONKEY BREAD
FOR THE DOUGH:
1 packet highly active yeast
1 1/4 C warm water, about 110 degrees
3 T olive oil
3 to 3 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

FOR THE TOPPINGS:

1 packet Ranch dip mix
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet Italian dressing mix
3 T mixed dried herbs (parsley, basil, tarragon, you choose)
1/2 C shredded cheese, your choice
1 stick butter, melted

NOTE:  If using the refrigerated breadsticks, you will need three cans.  Just cut them into about 2-inch pieces and roll. If using frozen yeast dough balls, thaw them and then let rise until they are double in size.

For the dough, put the yeast, water, and sugar in a stand mixer and let sit until a little frothy.  (If you don't have a stand mixer, it's okay.  Put it in a bowl and whisk.)  Add in the olive oil, salt, and 3 cups of flour.  Knead until it becomes a ball.  If it seems sticky or too wet, add in the rest of the flour.  Place the ball in a large bowl sprayed with pan spray and cover tightly.  Set it on the stove (all burners off, of course).  A trick to help it rise...Preheat your oven to 200 degrees, then turn it off.  Open the door.  When you can touch the racks without burning yourself, place the bowl of dough in the oven and close the door.  Your dough should be ready in about an hour.  

Grease a bundt pan generously.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Have your toppings ready in separate bowls. Separate the dough into about 1-inch balls.  Roll the balls around in the butter and then into a topping. Repeat with other toppings.  Put them around the bundt pan and let rise until the balls are puffed up over the top of the pan, about 15 minutes or so.  Bake about 30 minutes or until the dough is done all the way through. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hearty Winter Soup


My son asks for soup for dinner all the time.  Like daily.  He usually asks for my Loaded Baked Potato Soup with Roasted Garlic that I sometimes serve in bread bowls.  And, of course, I make it for him sometimes, but sometimes I want to try new things.

I've been seeing on Pinterest a lot of copycat recipes for Olive Garden's Pasta e Fagioli soup.  I've never eaten it, so I was intrigued.  Pasta e Fagioli means pasta with beans.  It was traditionally a peasant dish in Italy, a simple cheap meal that workers and farmers ate.  It also was a meatless meal. Mario Batali and Giada de Laurentiis make their stocks for this soup with pancetta or pork fatback, types of bacon. Olive Garden's version used ground beef.  Some versions I saw used tomatoes of some type, some versions didn't.


So into the kitchen I went to create my version of this very hearty soup.  I don't really use ground beef a whole lot, simply because it doesn't have that much flavor.  It's great for quick tacos and hamburgers, but sometimes I just find it a little boring.  So I used Italian sausage for the meat part of my supposed to be meatless soup.  I'm a carnivore, what can I say.  I like tomato-based soups, so I opted to use the tomatoes.  The soup is full of carrots, celery, onion, sausage, two kinds of beans, spinach, and pasta.  It cooks up quick and easy.  It was so darn tasty, easy, and my son loved it!  It was snowing the night I made it, so it was a perfect meal to keep us warm.  


PASTA E FAGIOLI

1 lb Italian sausage links, removed from casings 
One 14-ounce can navy beans, drained
One 14-ounce can kidney beans, drained
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (save the can)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced or chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 C beef stock (not broth)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 C ditalini pasta (or other mini pasta)
One 5-ounce package fresh spinach
1 T bacon grease
1/4 C chopped Italian parsley
Salt & pepper, to taste
Shaved Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Cook the sausage in the tablespoon of bacon grease, crumbling as you go. Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or large pot, add in the celery, onions, carrots, garlic, canned tomatoes and beef stock.  Bring to a boil.  As the veggies start getting close to being tender, add in the pasta.  Reduce the heat slightly, but make sure it's still bubbling.  If your stock seems to be reducing slightly, take that tomato can and fill it with water and add it to the stock. When the pasta is done, stir in the beans, sausage and spinach.  Cook until the spinach is wilted.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary.  Remove from heat and garnish with the parsley and shaved Parmesan cheese.

Red Italian House Salad


When I lived in Kennedale, Texas, a small town next to Fort Worth, there used to be a mom-and-pop restaurant called Tony's Pizza.  They had a sports bar feel to it and draught beer.  They had great big pizzas, wings, subs, and pasta dishes.  I loved their Baked Ziti with Meatballs.  But something I loved even more was this salad they made.  It was a simple salad with lettuce, pepperoncini peppers, tomatoes, and black olives.  But what made this salad so great was the dressing.  It was red, Italian, tangy and so delicious!

I have tried for several years to make this dressing, but it never came close.  I spent some time recently Googling red Italian dressings, and I came across something that seemed like it might work.  I ran across someone else's post looking for Italian dressing made with chili sauce.  If you don't know what that is, it's a tomato-based condiment that is slightly sweet, tangy, and savory.  It's kind of like a fancy version of ketchup.  


So I gave this another whirl and hoped for the best.  And guess what!  I got it right!  It tasted exactly the way I remembered Tony's dressing.  My daughter had never tried Tony's salad, but she tried mine and loved it.  We both couldn't get enough of it.  It's a simple salad, simple recipe, but lots of bang for your buck!  


Enjoy!


RED ITALIAN HOUSE SALAD

1 package Zesty Italian dressing mix
1/4 C vinegar
1/2 C oil (I used vegetable)
1 C chili sauce
1/4 C grated Parmesan cheese (the powdery stuff)
1 T garlic powder

OPTIONAL SALAD INGREDIENTS:

1 bag American blend salad (or lettuce of your choice)
Sliced red onions
Croutons
Pepperoncini peppers
Tomato slices
Black olives
Shaved Parmesan

NOTE:  You can use just plain Italian dressing mix for this if you can't find the zesty.  I just find that regular mixes have a bit too much sweetness for my taste.

Mix the dressing ingredients together with a whisk.  Serve over salad with your choice of the listed ingredients above.

Can't Get Enough Pasta


I feel like I've been bombarding y'all with pasta recipes.  But pasta is a favorite around my house, and it gets requested a lot.  So here I go again with another one.

One of my favorite veggies to eat are mushrooms.  I love mushrooms, raw, sauteed, fried, stuffed.  My husband wouldn't touch a mushroom until he met me.  The first time we grilled steaks together, I made Sauteed Mushrooms and Steak Butter and  Creamed Spinach (I know, that's a lot of links).  And he loved it!  He wouldn't eat spinach before then either.  But now he's a changed man and asks for mushrooms and spinach with steaks every time.  He'll even eat mushrooms raw when I cut them up to cook.  

He also loves pasta, especially thin pasta.  So I created this one with those things in mind.  Now, I'm going to call this Angel Pasta.  Why, you ask? Well, Pasta with Chicken, Spinach, Mushrooms, Asiago, Parmesan and Mozzarella is just too long of a title.  And it has angel hair pasta, so why not. My husband says to me all the time, "you're an angel."  So it just fits together.

Do you eat 'shrooms?

ANGEL PASTA
2-3 C cooked, shredded chicken
8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 C red onion, chopped
5 ounces fresh spinach
2 C half & half
1/4 C butter
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C chicken stock
1/4 C flour
1/4 C shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 C shredded Asiago cheese
Salt & pepper
1 lb angel hair pasta

Cook the pasta according to directions.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Drizzle in some olive oil.  Cook the onion and mushrooms until tender.  If you're going to salt the mushrooms, wait until they are well browned.  Otherwise, you will have gray mushrooms instead of brown ones.  Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and onions and stir to coat.  Add in the chicken stock and whisk.  Add in the half and half and garlic.  Whisk well.  Cook until thickened and bubbly.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses and spinach.  Continue stirring until the cheese is melted and the spinach is wilted.  Stir in the chicken and taste the sauce for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Toss the chicken and sauce with the pasta.