Friday, October 29, 2010

Awwww Nuts! - Sugared Pecans

I have not always loved nuts. In fact, I still don't care for nuts when they are baked in things like cookies, brownies, cakes, etc since I am a purist. But one thing I do love are sugared nuts, especially in fun salads. I love making salad and try to have that on my menu for most dinner parties. I have a house dressing (which I might share at a later date but today is not that day) that is great with every topping under the sun, especially sugared nuts. I usually have peanuts, some sliced almonds and smoked almonds on hand at any given time and I try to keep some pecans in the freezer for a last minute party to make some nuts. So, when you are needing to impress your guests, whether it is your mother in law (although her life motto is "absence of vegetation") or your boss (thank goodness mine is easily impressed) throw together a spinach salad topped with these babies and you will be set. But first, lets review the nut rules.
1. Only use FRESH nuts. I think this is the reason I have been so scared is because I grew up on old gross Texas pecans that were way past their prime because they had become lost in the bottom of the freezer at my moms house. You know when you have a bad nut, and no amount of butter or sugar will make it taste good!
2. You can freeze nuts, I will buy a bag and stick them straight into the freezer (only nuts you will eventually bake with, not snacking nuts). Nuts will stay fresh in your freezer for up to 4 months if they are in an air tight container. This will allow you to pull out the amount you need and save the rest for later.
3. I prefer walnuts, almonds (slivered or sliced)  or pecans with making a salad because they have a great texture. I really prefer sliced almonds the best because they get crispy crunchy and don't have the buttery after taste that walnuts do.
4. Once you have cooked these sugared nuts you can refreeze them and save them for the next use.
5. Make sure the nuts have totally cooled before adding to the salad or it will make the lettuce wilty. YUCK!!!

3/4 Cup nuts of choice
1 Tbs butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tsp brown sugar
dash of salt

In a sauce pan place all ingredients and stir and place on med-low heat. Too hot and you will burn the nuts!! Let the nuts cook for approx 12 minutes and continue to stir every few minutes to make sure the nuts are thoroughly coated and that they don't burn. Once you get a toasty nut smell you are know they are done. Spread cooked nuts on parchment, wax or foil and allow to cool. Break up and enjoy!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Blessed - Pumpkin Bars

For the past two years a group of moms from church has been meeting together religiously every Thursday night at a local Panera. We started as a book club/bible study group but over time we have become a counseling/support system for each other. We have a designated table at the restaurant that we claim weekly and throughout the night we will see many come and go as we sip on our lattes and share our latest life story. We usually sound like a group of hens clucking at the top of their lungs as we sit and discuss life, marriage, children, love, heart break pain, any and every topic. Many of us have had our first, second, or third child since this group began and it has been amazing to watch these babies grow up week by week and share stories of them taking their first steps, first real food, sleeping through the night, etc.
Tonight I hosted the girls here for a night of soup and salad and coffee. Every once in a while I will speak up and voice my concern for how much money we are dumping into Paneras pocket and how I can't handle another Greek salad with extra olives and a bowl of chicken soup so I decided to just have everyone here instead. What a blessing. To know that if it were not for the Father that our lives would not be woven together like a patch work quilt. I love sitting back and watching everyone and listening to the bustle of conversations knowing that we all need each other, depend on each other and are here for one another and that if I am ever in a crisis I can call on any of these girls and I know that they will come and help whatever it takes.
Tonight for the menu I prepared a broccoli cheese soup, spinach salad with apples, bacon, blue cheese and my house dressing and for dessert we had some gooey pumpkin bars with coffee. I love, love gooey butter bars. They are one of my most favorite desserts.I have always had a long time love affair with chess pie and gooey butter bars help fill that gap in my life. My local Kroger use to carry their own version of the bars and it was T-R-O-U-B-L-E. Well, tonight I decided to try out Paula De ens recipe for gooey pumpkin bars and add my own touch and they were the perfect end to a perfect night. Thank you God fort the blessing of friends. Enjoy!

1 Butter Cake Boxed Mix
1 Stick of butter melted
1 Egg
Combine all of the above and pat into a 9x13 pan.

1 8oz cream cheese at room temp
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick of butter melted
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 15 oz can pumpkin
1 dash salt
1/.4 tsp ginger

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Next add in pumpkin, eggs then the rest of the ingredients. Spread over the cake mixture. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes, the center should still be a bit gooey. Allow to cool then top with glaze.

1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbs half and half or milk
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Stir until combined. Drizzle over cooled bars. If glaze is not coming together all the way add a splash more half and half.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Canned or Not Canned....there is no question! - Roasted Chicken

There are some thing that I will NEVER give you permission to do as a cook. You may not like to cook, you may not think that you are great at cooking but I will NEVER give you permission, NEVER EVER to use canned chicken. Oh my. Just typing out those words made me throw up in my mouth a bit. The thought of taking something like chicken, removing everything about it that is good, throwing it in some metal tasting brine, sealing it up and calling it a day...there are no words. I had a discussion with some friends of mine a few weeks ago about canned meat. They were trying to give me all kinds of good excuses for when they had used canned chicken and I finally had to walk away. It hurt me so. So a few days after I was in Trader Joes and decided I would once again, try canned chicken because I figured if it was going to be good by anyone Trader Joes would be the one. I can smell it a mile away in any casserole or salad but I though that TJ's would be the one to break my stone cold heart. So I made some chicken salad with the canned product the next day. Just the smell was about enough to put me over the edge. It smelled like TUNA! What the heck? So I mixed in a little of this and that and it tasted like cat food. It was terrible. I took one bite and threw the rest away wishing I had not bothered.
When a recipe calls for chicken, whether it be shredded, diced, cubed, whatever, you can always know that roasted chicken will do the trick. Not canned, Not boiled, ROASTED! Roasted chicken is SO easy and so good and will allow you easy access to every recipe. It is always best to roast chicken that is bone in, I know this may freak some of you out but the bones are what allow the meat to have such great flavor. We as a society prefer the shrink wrapped perfectly trimmed breast because they are ready to go but the bones are what make the chicken really shine. Why do you think baby back ribs and chicken wings are so good? Those bones are in there for a reason! When you roast a chicken breast with the bones (I will allow you to opt out of the skin on if that makes you happy) once it is cooked you can easily pull the breast meat right off of the bone, throw the bones away and forget you ever saw them. Promise. If you can't do the bones yet, I will allow you to use boneless skinless but the thought of what could have been will be in the back of your mind with every bite you take.
So remember:
1. No canned chicken. It is from the devil. There is nothing good or real about it. Tis the season for food drives so get your pantry cleaned out!
2. Never boil boneless skinless breasts in non flavored water. Yuck, yuck, yuck!
3. Roasted chicken is best and BONE IN roasted chicken is the very best. If bones gross you out, suck it up, put on your big girl panties and just do it.

Simple Roasted Chicken - to be used for casseroles, soups, whatever. Adjust recipe to however many chicken breasts you have.
1 Bone-in split chicken breast with skin removed or 1 boneless skinless chicken breast (still looking for a wimpy font!)
2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 shakes of salt (preferably sea salt)
3-4 grinds of fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a foil lined baking sheet place chicken. Drizzle breast with olive oil and sprinkle on salt and pepper.  For BONE IN cook for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden brown on top and firm to the touch. For boneless cook for 15-18 minutes until lightly browned and firm to the touch. Allow to cool and remove from the meat from the bone (or not) and shred, dice or cube. You can freeze the chicken in baggies and pull it out as needed for soups and casseroles so that you can easily have dinner in a flash. Enjoy!

Out with the old - Homemade Meatballs

So I am a product of the 80s. I loved Punky Brewster and Muppet Babies and ate sixlets and was jealous of swatch watch owners. A food that I always associate with the 80s is ground beef, don't ask why. We ate it a lot growing up. It is cheap and since we lived on a budget it was the centerpiece of many meals. We ate tacos, lasagna, burgers, spaghetti...anything mom could think up to use up the glorious ground round. One meat product we didn't eat much and never had homemade, that I can remember are meatballs. I remember being terrified of them for years thinking that the inside would come alive once it entered my body, sort of like a watermelon seed would start to sprout if accidentally swallowed. The few meatballs I do remember were dry, tasteless and would have been great golf ball substitutes if needed. When the salesman and I got married we decided to throw our first real dinner party and invite all of our friends to show off our tiny apartment. We were so proud of our non ventilated bathroom and creepy dropped ceiling floor in one room and the fact that there were five other apartments in this one house didn't bother us a bit at the time. Since we were dirt poor we decided to make a huge bowl of spaghetti and meatballs thinking it would stretch as much as we needed it to if we had anyone show up unannounced. It was my first attempt at making meatballs. I knew I didn't have the courage yet to stick my hands in the raw meat and mix it all together so I decided I would add all of the ingredients, let the salesman mix and roll and I would take the credit for everything. And I did. And they were awesome. And that dinner party was one of the most memorable nights of our married life. Since then I have rolled hundreds of meatballs and that dish remains one of my favorite meals to cook for any guest.

Meatballs for Spaghetti - Serves 6-8 hungry hippos

1.5 lbs ground beef (I like to mix ground round for the fat and sirloin for the taste. You can also do sirloin and half Italian sausage if you like)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup dry Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
3 Tbs fresh chopped herbs (Combo if possible of Rosemary, Basil and flat leaf Italian Parsley) if you don't have fresh you can throw in 2 tsp dried but fresh is always best
1/2 of a med. onion grated (yes, with a cheese grater- and make sure all of the juice gets in the bowl)
2 garlic cloves finely diced
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
 Yummy Huh? This is all of the wet ingredients prior to the meat being added.
 Toss all of the ingredients into a bowl. Take any jewelry off, wash your hands then shove them into the bowl and start mixing the meat together. This is the best way to make meatballs!! You want to mix it as little as possible so that the meat will stay moist.
 Roll out the meatballs into golf balls size balls. We like them on the bigger side but you can do as big/small as you want.
 In a large heavy bottom saucepan on medium heat drizzle in 2-3 Tbsp olive oil. Once the oil gets warmed up (don't let it burn) start setting your meatballs into the hot oil. You don't want to crowd them so do this in two batches if your pan will not hold them all at one time. At this point DO NOT MESS WITH THEM!! You want them to sit in that hot oil and get crispy before you start moving them around so just hold on. They will need to sit still and cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Check one meatball,  and if it easily comes up from the bottom and looks dark brown you are good, if it remotely sticks to the pan leave it alone for a few more minutes.
 Turn all of the meatballs around, you will do this approx 4 times to ensure that the entire outside gets crispy. If you have a lid or a cookie sheet you can place it on your pan and allow the steam to help cook the meatballs to ensure that they will be moist. If you are cooking the meatballs in batches, once the first batch is done you can remove those, set them on a plate and continue filling up your pan with raw meatballs until they are all cooked.

If you are going to be making a marinara sauce you will want to get your base going first then you can add in the meatballs and some of the pan drippings (that is all of the toasty bits that stuck to the bottom of the pan, but not all of the grease) to the pan to give it a good flavor. If you are not making a scratch sauce you can drain some of the fatty oil from your pan, pour in a jarred sauce then add all of your meatballs and let it all simmer together for 30 minutes and it will taste homemade (although I do highly recommend a scratch sauce).
These meatballs are good with spaghetti, on a toasted roll with melted provolone, alone with a toothpick...any way you want to eat them.

Enjoy Y'all!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Home -Apple Cider

There are certain things that I think of when I think of home. When I was little it was the safe place to sleep and play and was where all of my stuff was. When I was in college it was the place to do laundry, sleep in and stock up on home cooked meals. Now when I think of home I think of my babies and giggles and feet stomping through the hard wood floors. There are also smells that remind me of home such as the smell of a pot roast cooking or pumpkin candles, but one of my all time favorite smells is apple cider simmering on the stove top. It makes me think of fall and comfy chairs and warm fires and happy memories and I hope that when my boys grow up and are away from me that when they smell a cup of cider it will remind them that they are always loved and are beautifully made and will always be welcomed home.

1 Bottle of apple cider
2 oranges, one cut in half, once cut in thick slices
5 whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
3 whole black peppercorns

Pour apple juice in large stock pot. Squeeze the orange cut in half then throw in the other orange slices and toss in remaining ingredients. Turn on a medium heat, once it begins to boil turn to low and let it simmer as long as you want. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

For real? - Fish Almondine

Fish Almondine.
I know what you are thinking. Just the sight of that word makes me think of waiting in line like a heard of cattle at a Luby's cafeteria to get my tray and silverware before proceeding to view the insanely thick non-wiggly green jello on down to the huge medium rare roast beast beaming under the red heat lamps to the fluffy warm rolls dripping with hot butter. Oh yeah, those were the days. I was first introduced to fish almondine at Luby's because that was always the special on Wednesdays when we would go to Luby's with my granny before church. I have not had too many experiences with fish almondine outside of the cafeteria world but I decided to revise what I remembered of the dish to bring it to life a bit more, and I think that goal was accomplished. So go ahead and push all of your fears and anxieties behind and welcome in the new classic. Enjoy!

4 tilapia fillets
salt and pepper
dried dill (about 1 tsp)
1 cup crushed butter crackers (Ritz works great)
1/2 c crushed blanched sliced almonds
1 Tbsp flour
salt and pepper
1/2 stick butter melted
1 lemon sliced in wedges

In a baking dish sprayed with cooking spray lay your tilapia fillets, generously season with salt and pepper and dried dill.
In a separate bowl mix together crackers, almonds, flour and another dash of salt and pepper (just to be safe) Pour melted butter over mixture and mix thoroughly. Once the crackers have soaked in the butter pat the cracker mixter atop of each fish fillet then lightly spray with a cooking spray (Pam) place in 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes until crust is golden brown and fish is opaque.  Serve with sliced lemon wedges.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spooky Halloween - Spooky Dogs

Okay, so I know this next recipe is not rocket science but it is the mom within be doing something fun with food for the sake of my kids. Too bad it was like pulling teeth to get my oldest to finish his meal knowing that it was something that on a good day would be gone in a flash but for what it is worth...I bring you Mummy Dogs. Enjoy!

6-8 Hot Dogs (I prefer Nathan's or Hebrew National)
6-8 American cheese slices
1 container pizza crust dough in tub form

Open up the pizza dough on a clean surface and stretch it out gently to a rectangle shape. With a pizza roller cut 6-8 strips of dough (depending on how many hot dogs you have). Take the slice of American cheese, break it in half and snug it around the hot dog leaving the top inch plain. Next take your dough strip, starting from one end and tightly wrap it around the cheese covered hot dog, and pinch all seals as tightly together as possible leaving the top inch of the hot dog exposed.  Place all your dogs on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 15 minutes until dough is golden brown. Once the mummies have cooked and cooled dot with mustard for eyeballs.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Most Wonderful TIme of the Year - Jalapeno Cranberry Meatballs

I love the holidays! Besides my birthday, Christmas and anniversary falling within two weeks I love the parties, the presents, and the food. Who doesn't love the long lingering appetizer parities where you walk and graze and talk and graze and graze and graze until you realize that you have eaten your entire weight in pig in a blankets and sausage balls! I made this recipe up last year when I was asked to cater a party and I thought it was the perfect party holiday meatball because lets face it, a holiday party without meatballs is like a movie without popcorn. They are one in the same. So this year when you are asked to bring a dish, don't fret, I've got your back! This recipe can be multiplied many many times to feed any crowd. Happy Ho Hos.

2 bags frozen meatballs (plain and not Italian if possible but if not, no worries)
1 large bottle your favorite bbq sauce (mine is Sweet Baby Rays) After you empty the bottle add 1/2 cup of water to the bottle, shake it around then dump that into your pot as well.
1 can whole cranberry sauce (the whole weird roll thing, not the kind with berries)
2 T steak sauce (A1)
1 Tsp mustard (yellow or Dijon)
1-2 whole jalapenos (depending on how you like your heat

Bring bbq, jelly, steak sauce and mustard to a simmer in a large stock pot. Once jelly has melted gently pour in meatballs and jalapeno. Stir, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. This will allow the heat from the jalapeno to come out but not be overpowering. If you need more liquid add a splash of water. I also like to cook these in the oven, I cook them for a good 1 to 1 1/2 hours and stir every 20 minutes. They get a nice carmalization that way are really soak up the sauce. You can also do these in your crock pot for 6 hours on low. Transport in a dish that can be reheated at your location.

Enjoy Y'all!

Pappasito's - The Best Chicken Tortilla Soup Ever

For any of you that are from Texas just looking at this title is making your mouth water. For those of you that are not from Texas be glad that have not had the best Tex-Mex food on earth because you don't sit down at every gross local wanna be Tex-Mex restaurant and long for a bowl of warm salsa and crispy freshly fried salty tortilla chips or garlic butter topped steak fajitas. Seriously, I can't even think about it now. It makes me so sad that I can't eat there for every meal, morning noon and night or even once a month for that matter. I guess my Blue Bell prayers did come true so I can't complain too much. When I was young we use to drive 90 miles to Conroe Texas to go to Sams and eat at either Pappasito's or a local Chinese restaurant. Because my dad is a minister we lived on a tight budget so no cokes or dessert and we split meals quite often. About the only thing I could order and get all by myself at Pappasito's was a bowl of their house soup. It is to die for. It is the perfect balance of sweet and heat and makes me smile just thinking about it. This recipe is the perfect comfort food in the crisp air and will forever change your standards for good tortilla soup. This recipe is not Pappasito's but it is pretty close. For those of you that live near Pappasito's, don't even talk to me right now, I need a moment to regroup. For the rest of you, enjoy!

2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 bunch cilantro STEMS diced
1 chipotle in adobo sauce diced plus 1 tsp sauce
1 pablano pepper seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes drained
1 can great northern (or black) beans drained and rinsed
2 cups shredded chicken
1 cup frozen corn (or 3 ears of corn cut in disks)
6 cups chicken stock
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 bunch cilantro  leaves chopped
juice of two limes

In a large stock pot drizzle in 1 Tb olive oil and saute onions and carrots until they become translucent, approx 10 min(add a sprinkle of salt). Next add in cilantro stems, chipotle in adobo and sauce, pepper and garlic and saute 2 min(add in another sprinkle of salt).  Add in tomatoes, beans, chicken corn stock, cumin and chili powder and a heavy sprinkle of salt. Allow to come to a boil then turn to med low and simmer for 45 min. 2-3 min before serving add in fresh cilantro leafs and lime juice.

To serve: In the bottom of your serving bowls place a hand full of crushed tortilla chips and ladle soup over. Top with fresh avocado, sharp cheddar or queso fresco, dollop of sour cream and lime wedge.

This soup is so beautiful, my pictures did not begin to do it justice. Sorry! Someone feel free to make and take a pict and send to me!

Thanksgiving - Pumpkin Cobbler

There are some moments and some meals that you will remember for always. I remember the first time I had a Starbucks coffee and I knew my life would never be the same as well as my first experience eating a good expensive steak and knowing that I had found the promise land. This recipe is one of those meals that was shared in a moment that I will never forget.
Last year around this time we had just had our second baby, we were homeless living with family waiting for our house closing to go through and living out of suitcases. Enough said. We were crazy. Thanksgiving morning we awoke to the sound of the phone ringing with the arrival of a new cousin being born (6 weeks early and out of town) and the day after Thanksgiving we were called late that night and received word that one of my dear mom friends from church had taken her life. It was an overwhelming feeling. I remember gasping for breath and asking over and over if it was real. I replayed my last moments with her just days earlier over and over in my head and one of those memories was sitting with her at her beautiful dining room table enjoying this dish she had made as she and I talked about babies and life and the reservoir of Halloween candy leftovers as we listened to our children running through the house playing and giggling together. It was a beautiful moment and had I known it would be my last with her I would have told her how blessed I was to call her a friend and how thankful God had put her in my path and would have hugged her neck a bit tighter that night when I left. I was not ready to say goodbye but I am so happy she is dancing with the Father and I look forward to sitting around her dining room table again on the other side.

Pumpkin Cobbler
3 eggs beaten
1 15 oz can pumpkin
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 c sugar
1/8 t salt
1 t ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 T vanilla extract
1 pkg yellow cake mix
1/2 c butter melted
1 c chopped nuts (optional)
Mix the first 8 ingredients together, pour into an ungreased 9x13 (must be this size) pan. Sprinkle cake mix over the top, drizzle with butter. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Top with nuts (or not) and Bake for an additional 20 minutes (will have a slight wiggle in the center like a pumpkin pie but will set up once removed from the oven and cooked) Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream.
This is the perfect end to a beautiful fall day! Enjoy

Great to be in Dixie - Squash Casserole

I have never met a squash casserole that I didn't like. I think that is the church pot-luck lover coming out in me and for that matter I love deviled eggs too! This recipe that I am about to share is a sad excuse for a "veggie" but I am in the south so as long as there is something remotely veggie about it, even garlic powder, we can call is a side dish and no one will disagree. I know this recipe will sound a bit strange, but trust me, it will change your squash life forever.

5 Med yellow squash sliced (about 2-2.5 lbs)
1 small onion diced
1 cup carrots diced
Boil the above in salted water until nice and soft. Drain, mash with potato masher and set aside.
In a separate bowl combine:
2 cups herb stovetop stuffing
1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken
2 eggs
1 stick melted butter
1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
salt and pepper
add in squash mash
Pour all into 9x13 and bake for 35-40 min until set at 350 degrees. Try not to eat the entire pan!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Meant for each other - Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza. What a match. As if breakfast selections couldn't get any better we go and add this one to the mix. My in-laws come to visit the muffins usually twice a month and I try to be a good daughter-in-law by making sure there is plenty of coffee to drink and something to have for breakfast on Saturdays, although I am perfectly willing to go to the Pancake Pantry if my arm is twisted. On their last visit I decided to make breakfast pizza. I did a bit of research on a few recipes and decided to make up my own...and it was good. It would have only been better had it been made for me and brought to me in bed, but that has never happened so why start dreaming now?

1 pizza dough ball (I like Trader Joes since it is .99 and we make our own)
1/2 lb cooked crumbled Sausage (could also use bacon or ham and could add veggies like mushrooms or peppers but we are purists)
1 1/2 c cheese grated (I like sharp cheddar)
4 Eggs
1/2 cup milk or 1/2 and 1/2
1 tsp mustard
pinch of dried thyme
pinch of garlic powder
Salt and pepper

On a large pizza stone (if you have one) roll out your pizza crust. Place this in the oven on 425 and bake for 6-7 minutes remembering to poke some holes in the crust with a fork to prevent too many giant bubbles. Pre-baking this crust will allow it to remain crispy once the toppings are added. Once the pizza is out lower the oven to 350. Layer on cooked sausage and cheeses. In a bowl combine milk, eggs, mustard and salt and pepper and thyme and whisk. Gently pour this mixture over the sausage and cheese. Bake for 18-20 minutes until eggs are set in the middle. Slice and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Doctors orders - Toffee Apple Dip

So you know the old saying "an apple a day", well friends I have made that totally doable for you because once you dip your apple into this heath bar apple dip you will be eating 4-5 apples a day. They didn't say it could ONLY be an apple, just get the apple into your body whatever it takes. So really, you could look at this next recipe as being beneficial for your health. This is not an original of mine but it must be shared. Try not to eat the whole bowl.

1 8oz cream cheese softened
1/4 white sugar
1/2 brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 pkg (yes, the whole thing) heath bar toffee pieces (with our without the chocolate, I like without)

Beat sugars and vanilla with cream cheese. Stir in toffee chips. Serve with sliced apples, strawberries, pretzels, a giant spoon :)
*You can combine all the night before except for the toffee pieces as they sort of break up and don't stay crunchy. I like the crunchy bite so stir those in before serving to maintain that if desired,

sorry, no picts. i ate up my recipe too fast :)

Where's the beef? - French Dip Sandwiches

Sorry it's been a while, not that anyone has gone hungry but we have been a bit crazed. This past weekend the salesman and I spent a weekend with the youth group from our church at a retreat in the beautiful Hylake campgrounds in eastern TN. I had asked if I could cook a meal so we arrived the night before everyone got there so we could get things rolling and have lunch ready for when everyone arrived. I had a hard time trying to figure out what would be the perfect meal for hungry teenage boys and I finally decided on french dip sandwiches. These are a favorite at our house, they are meaty, cheesy and packed into a soft carbfull bun that soaks up all of the gravy. I stuck 50 pounds of meat in the oven at 10:30 that night and awoke to the delicious aroma filling the entire three story building. The boys...and everyone else loved it. It was the perfect meal to start a perfect weekend!

1 3-4lb roast (rump is great!)
1 pkg lipton onion soup packet
1 can beef consume, once poured refill with water and dump in.
1 12 oz.bottle cheap beer
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

In a large dutch oven or crockpot place all ingredients and generously salt and pepper that baby up.  Place in oven at 350 for 4-6 hours or in crock pot for 8 hours. Take meat out and shred. Take the drippings, pour in pan on med heat and allow gravy to reduce.  To serve slice a chicago style deli roll in half, place two sliced of provolone cheese and fill with meat. Serve with a side of the gravy or ladle it in. Enjoy~

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Nasty Lasty Chicken Fingers

You know what these are. If you have ever moved and think you have packed everything and you go into the bathroom, open a drawer only to realize there is still more...these my friends are the nasty lasties. These are all of the things you want to walk away and forget about. The same phrase can also apply to the bottom of the bag of chips that are all crushed up. Don't act like you don't get annoyed. You always wonder, do I tip up the entire bag and pray they all gracefully make it into my mouth or do I just pitch the bag and move on with life? Well, when life hands you the nasty lasty chips, make potato chip chicken strips. Oh my! Your chicken tender world is about to be rocked so get ready to get your hands dirty and enjoy the nasty lasties!

3 Large chicken breast  cut into strips (this recipe fed 2 adults and 2 kids with a couple left over so adjust as needed- we got 12 strips total)By the way, I prefer to cut my own tenderloins from a breast, the meat is better and you don't get any gross fatty weird pieces)
3/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp paprika
pinch cayenne or dash of Tabasco sauce
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 c crushed potato chips
1/3c honey
Kosher or sea salt

Set up a dredging station. In one bowl mix flour, spices and Tabasco. In second bowl, whisk eggs and water. In third bowl place potato chips. Be prepared to get your fingers messy.

In third bowl place potato chips. Be prepared to get your fingers messy.
Line a cookie sheet with foil (you don't have to but it makes clean up so much easier). Place a cooling wrack on the foil and spray with non-stick spray.(If you don't have a cooling wrack, it is not the end of the world but it allows for the chips to get crunchy on all sides while cooking)
Take chicken tenders one at a time and dip in flour, then in eggs, then in potato chips and place on cooling wrack on the cookie sheet. Repeat until all tenders are done.
The babies have been baptized in flour and are ready for their egg and nasty lasty bath.
Place in 375 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes or until tenders are firm and crust is a light golden brown. Once they are out of the oven, do a heavy drizzle of honey across the tenders and a fairy dusting of kosher or sea salt.  And seriously, try not to eat the entire tray.
Enjoy Y'all!

Hunk of Burning Love

Yes, this post will have nothing to do with food (well, maybe) but it will explain why I have been away. My youngest muffin, Finley Knox celebrated his first birthday this past week. Because he quickly morphed from a small peanut into a big boy naturally I decided to go with a "Big Boy" theme for his party, as in the old school Shoney's restaurant. We had patty melts, french fries and cupcakes in diner flavors such as chocolate malt, banana split, caramel cream soda and my fav, the Elvis (banana cake, chocolate buttercream and a heavy drizzle of peanut butter, oh yeah) It was super fun. I am sharing with you a few of my favorite picts. Finley Muffin has stepped into the cupcake world and welcomed it with open arms. Enjoy!

Birthday Cake

Friday, September 17, 2010

Shake and Bake - Red Dirt Spice Mix

One of the things that has always puzzled me is that there is not a good spice blend for southwest style cooking. I mean, we have Cajun, bbq blends of all kinds, old bay, pretty much you name it and there is a spice blend. I finally decided to put together the typical spices that I use when making southwestern food and share with my cooking class and it was a hit. I will be famous for this blend one day, mark my word! :) But, I love you all so much I have decided to share it with you. Lucky dogs! This spice blend is great with beans, any kind of meat, sprinkled in a quesadilla, over popcorn, everything really. It is a great marinate, just rub this into the meat, squeeze a lime and a few drizzles of olive oil and let that all sit and soak up the love.

Red Dirt Spice Mix
1 palm full (approx 1 Tablespoon) Coriander
1 palm full (approx 1 Tablespoon) Cumin
1 palm full (approx 1 Tablespoon) Chili Powder
1/2 palm full garlic salt
1 heavy pinch Cayenne
Just mix this and put it in a small container, like a baby food jar and use as needed. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hot Pannini, Hot Pannini

I'm not gonna lie, the picture is terrible and doesn't do it justice. On that note, if any of you have a good camera you aren't using, feel free and pass along if you would like me to take better quality photos :) I don't know why but when it comes to dinner time I feel that we need a meat and three sides, that is the southern girl in me coming out. I know that breakfast for dinner is fun but I normally have a true dinner. But tonight I decided to spice things up a bit and made some Cuban sandwiches and they were good! These would really be great for a group as you can make them ahead and keep them warm in the oven. This was enough for two large sandwiches and one small so you can adjust as needed. Enjoy!

2-3 thinly sliced pork medalions per sandwhich (we had 6)
1/2 cup Alegro marinade
Juice of one lemon
Marinade the pork in this for at least 30 minutes then dump all into a pan and simmer for 25-30 minutes until pork becomes tender.

 For each sandwich you will need
2 Slices Sourdough bread (I love publix bread and slice it myself)
Spicy mustard spread on one side of bread
Mayo (I like Dukes!) spread on other side of bread
6-8 thin pickle slices
3 slices deli ham (I like Sweet Slice Ham by Boar's Head)
2 Cheese Slices (Swiss, Munster, Havarti)
2-3 Pork Medalions already cooked

Assemble sandwich. In heavy duty pan melt a bit of butter and get the pan pretty hot. Place sandwhich in hot butter and set a heavy pan on the top of your sandwich to help it cook evenly (Like a panini press, but I don't have one!) Cook 3-4 minutes on each side Slice in half and serve with plain potato chips.

Musical Fruit - Navy Beans

It is rather humorous that I am posting about beans twice within one week. Anyone that knows my family knows that they are not adventurous eaters, especially my husband. When I make beans I usually enjoy them...alone. No one else will even try them. My youngest muffin has even learned to say "ah oh" when he drops them one by one on the floor. Nice. But, with the cooler weather coming in I couldn't help myself but make some yummy navy beans. Typically navy beans are served in the form of soup, which you could alter this recipe a bit to do, but I decided to just go with a yummy side. And, just because I like you so much I will also include my recipe for cinnamon apples, don't mention it. In the picture you will notice it was a yummy southern meal of sharp cheddar bread, slow simmered ham, cinnamon apples and navy beans. Yum. A meal I will happily enjoy alone anytime!

Navy Beans (can easily be doubled)
1/2 bag of dry navy beans
4 cups water
Soak the above for 3-4 hours, overnight if possible.
Discard water then pout in 4 fresh cups of water
1 ham bone (for this, I like to buy the big ham steak. I cut away the bone which leaves me with three good size ham servings, enough for our family)
1/2 onion chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp better then bullion(chicken, ham, veggie, whatever you have)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 heavy pinch cayenne
2 tbsp olive oil
Let the above gently simmer for 3.5 hours on med low heat until beans become tender.
Makes 4 side servings

Cinnamon Apples- 4 side servings
4 large apples peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 c apple cider (I always have this on hand in the fall/winter months)
3 tbsp butter
pinch salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
heavy pinch of nutmeg
heavy pinch of ground ginger
Let this gently simmer on med/low heat for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. We love this with ham and hashbrown casserole...or navy beans :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Last Supper - Chicken Enchiladas

One of the questions I was asked when applying for the FN show was what are my three favorite meals to make and one of the items on my list was my sour cream chicken enchiladas. I LOVE THEM! Oh, they make me so happy! I like to eat leftovers for breakfast the next day, they are THAT good. Oh my. If I had to pick the last meal that I could eat I would have to say this. They are the perfect blend of creamy, cheesy, spicy love that you can get in one pan. So alas, I will share this with you. If anyone needs me to come and do a taste testing to see if your flavors balance out alright let me know and I will be there. Your life will never be the same after you make these, I promise.

6 Chicken thighs- bone in, skin on (I promise, they give the best flavor and are cheap!) FYI each chicken thigh should yield enough chicken filling for 2-3 enchiladas
1 onion thinly sliced
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp coriander
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
2 tsp better then bullion (can substitute 2 cup chicken stock in place of this and water, I never have that on hand!)
2 cups water
Place chicken heavy duty pan with tight fitting lid. Place chicken in pan and throw in remaining ingredients an let simmer, covered, for 25=30 minutes. Remove chicken from pan (DO NOT GET RID OF BROTH!), shred and place in a separate bowl.

3 Cups sour cream
2 cans WHOLE green chilies (open, thinly slice and chop yourself. Don't be lazy, just do it. pre-chopped chilies have parts of stem and nasty in it so buy them whole!!)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
heavy sprinkle of salt and pepper
1/2 c strained broth from cooked chicken
Combine all in separate bowl and set aside

3 cups pepper jack cheese shredded (or you can do a combo of white cheddar and pepper jack)- set aside 1/2 c for top
12-14 small flour tortillas

In the bottom of an 11x13 spread 3/4 c of sour cream mixture and be prepared to get dirty! In your left hand place one open tortilla and with your right hand sprinkle in some shredded chicken (about 1/ 4 c) and a big heavy pinch of cheese (about 2-3 Tbsp) Roll up tightly and place stem side down in pan on top of sour cream mixture. Repeat with remaining tortillas until you run out of goods. Once they are all lined up like a pretty chorus line slather the sour cream sauce on top and sprinkle on remaining cheese (you can always shred more if you are running low, cheese never hurt anything!) Place in 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes until cheese is melted and it is lightly browned on top. Try to let it cool before digging in. This pairs great with my black bean mixture. Heaven. It's Heaven!

Hey Dumplin - Chicken and Dumplins

Last week was the first time the temperature felt remotely cool all summer. Last summer I was way pregnant and the we had a mild summer but this summer is a different story! For those of you that know me you know that I am so hot natured. If I could afford to I would set my thermostat at 60 and call it a day! But luckily we are getting closer to fall and some cool weather. Thank goodness! So, I decided to put on a big pot of chicken and dumplins to celebrate the weather. I grew up in a house that didn't have traditional dumplins because 1)my dad hate them and 2) we lived in Texas so in place of dumplins my mom would throw in thinly sliced tortillas at the last minute to puff up and serve as the dumplins. But, me being a new found southern girl, I LOVE dumplins!!! This makes enough for about 4-6 large bowls. This is the perfect ending to a long cool day!

4 large chicken thighs- bone in skin on (I promise, this is the best!)
6 cups chicken stock
1 large onion chopped
3 large carrots chopped
2 stalks of celery chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper (freshly ground makes ALL of the difference!)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 stick butter

In a large stock pot add 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil on med heat. Salt and pepper the chicken and place skin side down to sear 5-6 minutes then turn and sear on back side 5-6 minutes. Once chicken has seared, add all remaining ingredients and let simmer 45 minutes on med/low heat. After 45 minutes remove chicken, shred off of the bone and throw back in the pot.

1 1/2 c flour
6 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
heavy pinch of cayenne
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 1/3 c milk

In separate bowl whisk together first 6 ingredients to blend. Add milk stirring as you pour until. Drop small teaspoons of dumpling batter (they really puff up!) in boiling and lightly stir as to not break up the dumplin. Let this mixture cook for 15 minutes longer. Taste for seasoning, I like a LOT of black pepper so add salt and pepper as needed. Spoon up and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

No Bones about it - Saucy Spare Ribs

So, for years I have been wandering past the Boneless Countrystyle Beef Spare Ribs trying not to make eye contact with them for fear they would know that I would have no idea what to do when then when I got home. I mean, boneless ribs? I am a Texas girl. We like our meat, especially bbq ribs. I don't mind bones and getting sauced up to my elbows, that is part of the art of eating good food, right? Well, times are tight and while shopping the other day I decided to quickly throw in some country style ribs in my basket and flee before I changed my mind.
When I got home I pondered on what the heck to do when them. And then it came to me. And now life will never be the same. My first love will always be the real rib, but the boneless have now earned a place near and dear to my heart.

Saucy Spare Ribs
1 1/2 lb boneless countrystyle beef spare ribs
1 12oz can beer
1 1/2 cup chicken or beef stock
1 cup onion chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic salt
heavy sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup 1/2 and 1/2

Place all ingredients except 1/2 and 1/2 in large heavy duty skillet or dutch oven with lid and let it come to a boil. Once it comes to a boil turn temp down to med-low and let simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. 5-10 minutes before serving shred the meat with a fork and add in 1/2 and 1/2.
Serve over rice

Frijoles Negros - Black Beans

Oh black beans, let me count the ways I love you!
One of my favorite recipes that I shared with my cooking class is "Slow Cooked" Instant Black Beans. These beans taste like they have been simmering away all day when in reality I opened up a couple of cans, added some magic and ta-da!!

2 can black beans drained and rinsed
1 can mild Rotel drained
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 Tbsp Cumin
1/2 Tbsp Chili Powder
1/2 Tbsp Coriander
1/4 tsp Cayenne
1/2 cup diced onion
2 garlic cloves smashed
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar

Combine all in sauce pan and simmer 20 minutes. *Leftovers are good in quesadillas, on nachos, tostadas, etc.

Whoop Whoop - Red Velvet Whoppie Pies

Yesterday was a crazy day! Let me back track a bit. I few months ago I was asked to teach a cooking class for a fundraiser at church. I did it. I loved every minute of it. I can't wait to do it again! Before I taught that class I would have never been brave enough to do what I am about to tell you I did. The class was so fun for me and so soul satisfying for me that it made me realize that I have to continue to do what I love so that I can be with my babies because I know that is how I will continue to be blessed. I love feeding others. Whether it is a fancy shmancy cake or eggs and bacon I love feeding others. It makes me happy. It is what I was born to do.
So last week I noticed on craigslist that The Next Food Network Star was coming to Nashville and holding a casting call and I knew I had to be there, so I went. My dear friends at CMT have been telling me for about five years that I needed to try out and I always laughed about it. But, I finally decided to put on my big girl pants and go for it. It was the longest four hour wait! I was with them only three minutes. Three minutes?! Are you kidding me?!?! You can't even really notice what all someone is wearing in three minutes much less get a feeling of someones soul and passion. But, I did it. I am glad I did it. I will probably never hear another word about it but I did it.
So, I decided to reward myself last night with some Red Velvet Whoopie pies. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Whoopies
1 Box Red Velvet Cake Mix
2 Eggs
1/3 C. oil
Combine all in a bowl. Drop by spoonfuls(hopefully you have one of those handy cookie scoops that make cookie making a breeze. If not, shame on you! Go get one at Michael's for 2.99) and lightly press down so they are flat circles. You should get 24-26. Bake in 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes until tops are cracked and cookie is set. It will still feel soft and that is what you want. Let cool.

Cream Cheese Filling
4 oz. Cream Cheese at room temp
4 Tbp room temp butter
1/2 tsp good vanilla extract (I get mind in a big bottle from Mexico, don't be jealous!)
3-4 cups powdered sugar
In bowl of a standing mixer (or if you don't have one you can do this by hand) beat cream cheese and butter until combined. Add in Vanilla and add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until it becomes thick. Scoop this mixture into a large ziplock bag and squeeze to one corner. Cut the corner of the ziplock bag and you have a piping bag! Pipe a big glob of cream cheese filling onto half of the cookies and place remaining cookies on top of glob and lightly press down.
Sit down and enjoy!

Which course is this?

I have many dreams, I just have not figured out how to make them reality. Maybe you are the same. Life has been full and fun and not at all what I expected. I remember walking across the stage at graduation and knowing that I had the whole world at my fingertips and I knew exactly where I wanted to jump in and begin. Then I got my first job, then met my husband...and now two kids later I know that there is so much more I want to do but I don't know how to get past all of the realities of everyday life. And so I go to my kitchen and cook. And Cook. And Cook.
And this my friends, is where the Yellow Rose Cafe begins. Welcome y'all!