Friday, May 28, 2010

Taking a Break!

Taking a nice long weekend to myself! No recipe monday. Sorry guys but the coffee killed my keyboard and I'm taking the holiday off! Just go ahead and check out the cooking channel while I'm away!

Tex-Mex Chicken Salad with Cliantro Lime Dressing

It's hot here.... really hot here, and when it's hot, I don't cook. We eat a lot of salads, sammies and things that are quick, require little effort and most importantly, doesn't involve turning the oven on. Oh and to answer your question, No, I do not have air conditioning. A few days ago I started looking for salad recipes to help get through the next few weeks until my son is born. I found a lot of great idea's on the Food Network website and this one is a take on a salad that Sunny Anderson does. While the only thing my salad and hers have in common is the romaine lettuce and shredded cheese, the dressing is almost completely her recipe. I added in more garlic and a ton more cilantro to my dressing and I'm glad I did. The taste was wonderful and I think next time, I'm going to make the cornbread croutons that she used in her salad! This is easily made into a meatless dish with the removal of the chicken. Make it completely animal free by using a soy based cheese.

What You Need:
A package of Romaine Hearts (comes 3 to a pack)
Rotisserie Chicken
1 can Garbanzo beans (chick peas)
1 tsp cumin
2 large tomatoes
1/2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c shredded Monterey jack cheese

1 big handful of Cilantro leaves
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1/4 c lime juice
1/2 c sour cream
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

What To Do:

Slice the Romaine hearts into bite sizes pieces and spread in the bottom of a salad dish.
Remove the breast from the chicken, and save the rest for another dish.
Remove the skin from the chicken and dice into bite sized chunks.
Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans and mix them together with the chicken and cumin. Spread over the lettuce.
Chop the tomatoes and add over the salad, followed by the cheeses.

To make the dressing, combine all of the ingredients, except for the olive oil into a blender. Turn the blender on and let it rip. While the blender is running, slow drizzle in the oil. The dressing I made wasn't very thick, but I didn't exactly measure the ingredient either so yours might end up thicker then mine did. Serve along side the salad.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

BBQ Chicken Sammies

One night, after being bored of the same old chicken, I remembered this sandwich I saw either on some restaurant menu or on on the food network. They grilled up a chicken breast, covered in BBQ sauce and served it on a bun. How simple was that? So I thought, Why not? It's easy enough, hubby loves chicken and I get something to suit my taste buds too. Plus, after all, it was grilling season. So I butterflied a chicken breast, seasoned them, grilled them up and added my own twist to it. Serve it with some grilled potatoes and veggies for a great all grilled up meal!

What You Need:

1 chicken breast, butterflied and cut into 2 pieces
2 hard rolls
2 thick slices of cheddar cheese
1 tbs mayo
salt and pepper or your favorite grill seasoning
BBQ Sauce, your favorite will do

What To Do:

Preheat your grill and season both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper or grill seasoning. Place chicken breast onto grill. After 3 minutes, flip the breast over and brush on as much or as little BBQ sauce as you want. Finish cooking the breast until they're cooked through. Flip them once more, brush the other side with BBQ sauce and place a slice of cheddar cheese on top of each breast. Turn the grill off, close the lid the grill for about 60 seconds so that the cheese has a chance to melt a bit. Serve on hard rolls with a bit of mayo and some lettuce.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Funnel Cakes

It's that time of year again. The time of year where carnivals and fairs start popping up all over the place. The best thing about it is the food. Sausage and Peppers, Candy Apples, Fried Oreo's, Gyro's and of course Funnel Cakes. Not much beats the crispy sweet taste of a funnel cake. I have spent years looking for the perfect funnel cake recipe. Nothing I had in my books ever came close to what they produced at the fair. They weren't sweet enough, or they were too doughy or even to greasy. Finally this weekend I had a break through. I figured it all out. It just suddenly came in my brain. I tweaked my recipe, actually checked the temperature of my frying oil and guess what, I didn't use a funnel. Yep, no funnel in site to make these funnel cakes and they came out perfect! I've been told that there are a handful of you out there that have never had a funnel cake before. That you stay safe and get an elephant ear. Well to those very few I suggest that you get a funnel cake at your next carnival or fair and then try these!

What You Need:

1 egg
3/4 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs agave syrup (see note below)
1 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Oil for frying
Powdered Sugar for dusting
1 gallon zip top plastic bag

What To Do:

Note: You can replace agave syrup with honey or sugar with equal amounts. I have found that the agave syrup works best. It sweetens the dough without adding a flavor to it. Corn syrup would work well too.
In a cast iron skillet, heat enough oil to come about half way up, or about 2 inches worth to 360F degrees.
In a small bowl, whisk together the first 4 ingredients. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the wet into the dry, whisking until smooth. If needed add in more milk to make a flow-able batter. Place the batter into a zip top plastic bag and seal, leaving the air in the bag.
Once the oil reaches the correct temp, just barely cut the corner off the bag and starting in the middle of the pan, squeeze the batter in circular motions till you reach the outer edge of the pan. Let fry in the hot oil until golden brown before carefully flipping. There are a couple different ways to flip a funnel cake without it falling apart in the process. The best way I found was to use both a spider and a set of tongs. The spider supports most of the funnel cake while the tongs to the work of flipping. Make sure to flip away from you to prevent burning yourself in case it splashes. Cook another couple minutes or until that side is golden brown as well. It won't take as long as the first side. Remove from the oil onto lots of paper towels to drain as they can hold onto a good amount of oil. Cover in powdered sugar while still hot and serve.
Repeat steps above until all the batter is used up. This made two dinner plate sized funnel cakes, but you can easily make four smaller ones.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Easy Chicken with Rice

Recently I bought this bag of wild rice mix. It had a few types of rice, long and short grained and it had the black long skinny grains which I always thought of as wild rice. Wanting to try it for a long time, I finally got the nerve to cook some up. Originally I was going to serve the rice along side some BBQ Chicken Sammies and a salad, but decided firing up the grill wasn't worth the effort. So I diced up the chicken and just threw a couple things into the pan. It's not only colorful, but healthy and easy. The hardest part was waiting the incredibly long time it takes to cook wild rice!

What You Need:

2 tsp oil
1 chicken breast, diced
1 c wild rice blend
2 c water
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper diced
1/2 c frozen peas
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper
Parmesan Cheese (optional)

What To Do:

In a sauce pan, combine the water and rice over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer covered, for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat a skillet over high heat, add the oil and the chicken in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper. Don't touch the chicken until it's nicely browned, once that happens add in the onion and garlic and give a stir. Stir occasionally until the chicken is fully cooked through and the onion is soft. Turn off the heat and add in the red bell pepper and the thyme.
Once the rice is cooked, stir in the chicken and veggie mixture, along with the frozen peas. Cover again and let cook about 5 minutes or until the peas are done and everything is hot. Serve in bowls with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

S'more Granola Bars

Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion, these wonderfully delicious cookie bars really are just like eating a s'more. There is no graham crackers to be found in the recipe, instead of mixture of oats and Rice Krispies cereal are combined together with a mixture of hot sugar and butter. They're sturdy enough to survive the day in the bottom of a backpack, which makes them perfect for kids. The recipe makes about four dozen bars and is so quick and easy that it's perfect for a bake sale too. My husband devoured them within the week!!

What You Need:

4 cups rolled oats
4 cups Rice Krispies cereal
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tsp salt
4 cups mini marshmallows
1cup chocolate chips

What To Do:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. On a half sheet pan, (or two 13x9 pans) spread the oats out and toast them in the preheated oven for about 6 minutes. They should smell toasty but not brown. You might need to stir them to keep the outer edges from burning. Remove from oven and place into a large bowl. Stir in the rice cereal.

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, water, corn syrup and salt over high heat. Bring to a rolling boil and let boil for 5 minutes or until a candy thermometer reaches 250 degrees. If you don't have a candy thermometer, don't worry. The 5 minute boil time is pretty accurate and won't effect your bars if you only reach 240.

Remove the syrup from the heat and pour it over the oats and cereal, stirring to combined. Add in 2 cups of marshmallows and stir well until they're incorporated into the mix. Press into the bottom of a lightly greased half sheet pan (or two 13x9 pans), patting it flat. Using another pan to press the mixture works really well.

Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 cups of marshmallows and the chocolate chips. Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the marshmallows are puffy and slightly browned. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan and cut into squares while still warm. I found the easiest way was to take my pastry scraper and cut them into long strips, then cut each strip into squares.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Product Review: Proud Piggy BBQ Sauce

Shorty after doing my very first review for POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice, I was contacted by a real southern gentleman. Seth, from Southern Staple Foods wanted me to try out his Proud Piggy BBQ Sauce. How could I resist??? I love me some BBQ and I'm a firm believer that if it comes from the south it has to be good! So he sent me a bottle and I have to admit I was a little confused. Where was the thick dark red that you slathered on ribs, that I loved so much? Then of course, I slapped my fore head! This is Carolina style BBQ sauce, meaning it's a heavy vinegar based, very liquid sauce. I gave it a wiff and the smell of vinegar and spices filled my senses. So out to the store I went, to grab some ribs. Baby back ribs are by far my favorite thing to BBQ in the world! Normally I cook them in the oven with honey, mustard and various spices before grilling them and slathering on the thick dark red BBQ sauce of choice, but this time I let them cook in the Proud Piggy sauce and then grilled them just long enough for the flavor to soak in. The ribs were nice a juicy. They sucked up the vinegary sauce and had the nice tang you'd expect from such a sauce. There was also a subtle sweetness to them which I enjoyed very much. All in all it was a very good sauce, plus I have plenty left to do some pulled pork sandwiches with. Ya know the kind where you pile hot juicy pork on a bun and top it off with the cold vinegary crunch of coleslaw.... My mouth is watering just thinking about it! Oh and I bet I could use the Proud Piggy sauce in my coleslaw too!

I definitely suggest you head on over and visit Seth's site and try out some Proud Piggy BBQ Sauce for yourself!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Chilaquiles with Salsa Verde

Chilaquiles are mexican comfort food at it's finest! Tortilla chips cooked in some spicy salsa verde, topped with scallions, shredded cheese and either mexican crema or some sour cream. Words can not describe just how good this is!

What You Need:

Tortilla Chips
1 c salsa verde
3 scallions, diced
1/2 c shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese
Mexican Crema or Sour cream thinned with some lime juice

What To Do:

Make a small batch of home made tortilla chips by following the directions here.
In a sautee pan, gently heat the salsa verde. Toss in enough tortilla chips for 2 people or a good couple handfuls. Let the chips cook for a couple minutes. Remove to an oven safe dish and sprinkle with the scallions and cheese. Place in a preheated 350 oven just till the cheese is melted. Drizzle the top with the mexican crema or the thinned sour cream.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Beef and Bean Nachos

On a Mexican kick, yet again, I set out to find a good nacho recipe. I found some that used canned nacho cheese sauce, some that made their own cheese sauce, some that chips were on the bottom, some where you dipped the chips in and even some that had so many spices and jalapeños that I'm sure I'm mouth would be on fire for days. I was looking for something simple to make, not to many ingredients and most importantly, something that wouldn't kill my husbands taste buds. He's such a light weight when it comes to heat. Using just plain old taco seasoning, some fresh veggies and colby jack cheese, I made pub style nacho's that I could really sink my teeth into!

What You Need:

1lb ground beef
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 large ripe tomato, diced
1/2 bunch scallions, diced
1/4 c sliced black olives
1 or more jalapeños, sliced (optional)
2 c shredded colby jack cheese
Tortilla chips

What To Do:

Preheat your oven to 350.
In a skillet, brown the beef till no longer pink. Add in the taco seasoning and beans and stir well to combined.
In the bottom of a large pie plate, dump a bunch of chips. Cover with the meat and beans, followed by the tomato, scallions, olives and jalapeños if using. Top everything with the cheese and place in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and everything is warmed through. I have found that my homemade tortilla chips stand up better, then store bought ones.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How To Make: Tortilla Chips

Recently we were at a real Mexican restaurant, and by real I mean authentic Mexican food, not a bunch of people like myself who, while we enjoy cooking it, just can't compete with the real deal. There they had served nice warm tortilla chips and fresh salsa with every meal. The tortilla chips were dark in color, slightly thick and perfectly crunchy. The were of course, made right there at the restaurant, and me being me, decided I could do it myself at home. I bought a large stack of corn tortilla and let them sit out overnight to become stale and dry out a bit. Then I cut them into wedges and fried them up, but they weren't these nice dark, incredible crunchy chips. Instead they were kind of toothy and definitely need some salt. I found that if I threw them in the oven for a bit on low heat that they would loose the rest of the moisture and become dark, creating the perfect tortilla chip for  the nacho's and Chilaquiles that I was making that night.

What You Need:

A stack of corn tortilla chips
Veg Oil

What To Do:

Flip through the stack of corn tortilla's just to loosen them from each other. Then let sit overnight to help dry them out. When you're ready to cook them, heat a couple inches of veg oil in a large pot to about 375 degrees.
Cut each tortilla in half, then each half into thirds. When the oil is hot, add in some of the tortillas. Make sure you stir them for the first 30-60 seconds so that they don't all stick together. Then let them cook, stirring occasionally until they are no longer soft and floppy, about 2 minutes or so. Remove to paper towels to drain excess oil and give a sprinkle with some salt. Work in batches until all the tortillas are cooked. Place chips onto a baking pan and into a preheated 200 degree oven. Let them cook until they have become brown and crunchy. Try and eat them the same day as they go stale quickly. 

Here's another way to make them:

Not into frying? I don't blame you. Lots of fat and calories there. You're in luck though! Tortilla chips can easily be made in the oven as well. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. After cutting your corn tortillas into wedges, place them in a mostly single layer on a baking sheet. Give them a quick spritz with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. You can even sprinkle them with garlic or cayenne for a tasty difference. Then just bake them for 10-15 minute or until they've slightly browned and have become crisp. 
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