17 December 2012

Cheesecake Bark

Ya know the best thing about barks? They take like no time, and almost no ingredients, but everyone always goes nuts for them, so they make awesome gifts. This one is stupid simple because I made it with leftover cookie ingredients (haha), but like all barks, you can dress it up however you want, really.

This one is super simple as I just did a white layer, but you could TOTALLY do a chocolate layer if that floats your boat, too.

What you need:

1 bag white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped toasted nuts (whatever you have...I had some walnuts and almonds, so I used those)
1/2 cup broken graham crackers (not crumbs, but little broken pieces...Golden Grahams would be good, too...)
2-3 TBSP Cheesecake flavored dry instant pudding mix
1-2 TBSP oil

That's it, really. You can add whatever filling you want, but try to limit it to about a cup per bag of chocolate chips--and that will be a *LOT* of stuff, so if you like less stuff and more candy, then use maybe half a cup total.

Toast the nuts, melt the chocolate, yadda yadda. Mix the chocolate with a bit of oil to make it smooth, and then mix in the pudding mix. You're best bet is to mix in the "stuff" in the bowl and then spread the whole thing out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet as thin as you can get it (use a second piece of parchment on top and smoosh it around with your hands). Let cool until hard--about 10-20 minutes in the freezer if you're in a hurry.

Variation: Want a second layer? I would melt a bag of milk or dark chocolate chips and mix the nuts in with that and then spread it out, and then put the graham crackers in the white layer with the pudding mix and immediately spread that out on top of the dark chocolate layer.

06 November 2012

Drunken Carrots

With Apple Juice

So, here's the thing: I really really REALLY hate cooked carrots. Like, I pick them out of canned soup, hate them. There is only one way I have ever truly liked them--and that is smothered in butter and nutmeg and cinnamon like my grandmother used to make them....and I've never been able to duplicate them. So yeah, I don't like cooked carrots....But these are absolutely DIVINE. Like, I made 2 full pounds of them for 2 people and there are no leftovers for tomorrow's lunch. LOL!

So...what you need:

2 pounds of baby carrots
1/2 cup (thawed) frozen orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/8 cup rum--whatever, really, I used Bicardi Gold because I'm not a rum drinker and it was super cheap. LOL!

That's it, really. You could totally garnish with some fresh rosemary at the end, but really, no need.

Roast your carrots in a single layer on a baking tray at 400-425* for about 20 minutes, turning half way through. While your carrots are in the oven, mix together the orange juice, sugar and rum in a big bowl. Pull the carrots out and toss them with the other ingredients in the bowl to coat, and then put them back on the tray and back into the oven, tossing around to coat again every 5 minutes until the sauce is gooey and not runny.

And just to show you how good these carrots were....I saved some in the bowl to plate and snap a photo of after we ate....and my husband ate them....straight out of the bowl. *sigh*

Don't believe me?

You'll just have to trust me that they are awesome, and they look as amazing as they taste. Make them.


Tonight I made these carrots again, but substituted apple juice concentrate, and added a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon. Again, pure bliss. I added a photo of the finished carrots from tonight's dinner. :)

02 September 2012

My Absolute Least Favorite Thing to Do in the Kitchen....

....next to dishes, anyway....


I *LOATHE* sorting and packaging meat to freeze!!! Hate it hate it hate it!!!! I hate it enough that I snapped this pic and called for volunteers on Facebook today....and then proceeded to tear apart my refrigerator's freezer and scrub it all down first. Wouldn't ya know the pile was still there waiting for me when I finished? *sigh*

What is your least favorite kitchen chore?

11 August 2012

So, I haven't been blogging...

....but I have a good excuse! Well, ok, not really. It's summertime, and our meals aren't all that complicated or spectacularly worthy of sharing these days. A lot of salads, grilled meat, fruit, etc. And when I do actually make something more substantial, I forget to take photos, or my process is a lot like this:

Hmmm....I'm hungry....but I need to go shopping. Ugh. Ummmm...Ohhh!! Let's make some of Mom's drop biscuits! Yes, that's it!

*scoops some flour into a bowl.
*pours some sugar on top
*adds a good spoonful of baking powder
*adds a heavy pinch of salt
*scoops in some Country Crock (yes, I use this crap. Sue me.)

At this point, I remember I have blueberries in the freezer from before our vacation because I found them on a killer sale three days before we left and never used them...(lol)...and in a fit of brilliance, decide to add blueberries and some vanilla.

*pour a good splash of the vanilla extract into the coffee mug of milk waiting to go into the batter and add it to the batter.

Hrm....a little on the thin side, crap.

*adds more flour

Still thin. ugh.

*adds more flour

Ugh now it's too thick. Hrm. OHHHHH Yes, I have lemons in the fridge for my water and iced tea. Yes. I will sacrifice one to the baking gods.

*zests a lemon and adds it to the batter
*cuts lemon in half and squeezes the juice into the batter.


*stirs in blueberries

I suppose these are no longer drop biscuits...they're really more like scones at this point. Oh well. We'll just call them Lemon Blueberry Scones and all will be ok. Except...there's no way I'm taking the effort to roll them out and cut them into pretty triangles. In the spirit of the drop-biscuits they were originally supposed to be...I shall just scoop and drop them into the pan.

So yes...this is how my cooking processes have been lately. Not exactly blog-worthy, and even if I wanted to blog it, I couldn't, really, because I didn't measure anything OR take photos, or even use a recipe I could share. LMAO!

I do so very hope that everyone has been having a great summer, though!!! :) I will resume cooking again after school starts up in a few weeks, I'm sure. :)

15 July 2012

Beer Battered Fish

In a word, YUM!

Very very simple--you can use any kind of fish you like. I had some swai the night I did this, but you can use tilapia, catfish, cod, trout, red snapper...anything you like.

I didn't take any photos until the end because it was an afterthought since this is really that simple.

Start by filling a heavy-bottomed pot with about 2 inches of frying oil--vegetable oil is fine, peanut oil works well, too. Heat this to about 375-400. While your oil is heating up, put a little more than a cup of flour on a plate, and a little more than a cup of flour into a vessel that'll hold liquid. Season it with salt, pepper, and Old Bay. To one, add a whole 12 ounce beer and whisk it together. Prepare your fish--pat it dry, slice it into pieces that'll suit your purpose--making fish and chips? Slice it into strips. Making sandwiches? Sandwich sized portions. :)

When your oil is hot, take the fish, dredge lightly in the flour, then dunk it into the beer batter, and then back into the flour for a good coating before slipping it into the oil. (Do not overcrowd your pan--it will lead to greasy fish! Blech.) Cook for a few minutes on each side until it is perfectly golden brown, pull it out and drain it on a tea towel or paper towels or newspaper or a paper bag or or or, well, whatever. Serve. :)

This was my husband's sandwich....I may or may not have eaten mine while I was cooking....

14 July 2012

Yet Another Tip

I slack, I know.

I have a few quick recipes to put up, but in the meantime, here's another tip....

I've always shredded cheese on top of a paper towel or directly onto my counter top or into a bowl or onto a plate, etc. But then I discovered pan lining paper....and this stuff is awesome. It doesn't tear under my box grater like foil or plastic wrap....and you can wrap up and store the leftovers right in the sheet you shredded the cheese onto, and there's literally *NO* mess to clean up. :) I cannot express enough love for pan lining paper. :)

30 June 2012

Basic Shredded Chicken

I have another "recipe" in the works for a post in the next few days using this, but since I haven't posted lately, I thought I'd give you a quick method for shredded chicken that is more versatile than my taco chicken. Sorry no photos...I'll probably edit this post at some point with a photo, though. :)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (honestly even plain water will do if you don't have stock)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
30? grinds of black pepper
1 tbsp Old Bay
heavy pinch of salt if you use water

Bring everything but the chicken to a boil on your stove top. Add the chicken and cover the pot. Let the chicken poach in the simmering liquid for an hour or so, moving it around every so often. Pluck it out with tongs and shred it up.

Awesome for EVERYTHING from chicken salad to chicken in gravy to chicken burritos to salads to...well...everything.

23 June 2012

Another Tip...

I promise I'll have a recipe up in the next few days (maybe tonight if we don't eat out?), but in the mean time, here's another little tip.

You remember my post about my kitchen sponge, right? As awesome as that tip is...and I do still use that for the sponges for my dishes....this one is a little more useful. :)

I love this. If your kitchen is anything like mine, you are constantly gathering miscellaneous sponges and scrubbies and whatnot behind your faucet. I know I am. That's just where they seem to collect and multiply. SOS pads, Magic Eraser bits, bottle brushes, old dried up sponges, etc. They all land behind my kitchen faucet never to be used again. This is up there with my biggest pet peeves, actually. This grody mess drives me absolutely out of my mind and I am forever cleaning that catch-all spot out.

A couple months ago, my husband brought me some gorgeous flowers, and I pulled a vase out from under my sink to stick them in. When they died, I washed the vase and put it on the back of my sink to dry since I didn't put it in the dishwasher with the rest of the dishes from that load. Well, it took me a couple days to get around to putting it away, and when I went to put it away a few days later, my husband had conveniently (lazily? inconsiderately?) tossed my bottle brush and an SOS pad into it.

At first, I have to admit, I was irritated. That was a CLEAN vase, and now I would have to wash it again before I put it away. But then I thought about it.....I kind of like the idea of a "pretty" spot to stick all of this kitchen sink clutter. So instead of whining about it (haha!) I just tossed the rest of my clutter into it.

Ever since, I have no clutter behind my kitchen faucet. And even better? All those little bits of leftover Magic Eraser and SOS pads and whatnot? They actually get tossed into the trash because I don't want them in my vase! haha!

I figure sacrificing one of my favorite vases to use as a pretty clutter catcher is better than the grody mess behind my sink, right? :)

So...this tip totally goes to my husband for not thinking and dirtying my clean vase. LOL!

18 June 2012

"Produce Insurance"

So since I'm not cooking much beyond throwing something on the grill these days, I thought I'd offer up a few little "tips" I have up my sleeve.

The first tip I have is about produce, and "protecting your investment," so to speak. I don't know about everyone else, but I spend a *LOT* of money on produce--a good 30-40% of my grocery budget, if I had to venture a guess. However, I am forever throwing things out because I forget I have them! I have tried keeping a list of what I have on the fridge and crossing things off as I use them, etc....it works, for about 2 weeks and then I get lazy and tell myself that I *WILL* remember I bought xyz because I'm gonna make this one recipe with it....and wouldn't a know it, 2 weeks later I find $10 worth of xyz sitting in the bottom of my produce drawer, soggy and gross. :(

My solution to this started off easy enough. Do not refrigerate anything that doesn't *HAVE* to be refrigerated or if I do not intend to eat it cold. If it's not refrigerated in the store, I don't refrigerate it at home. I take it out of the bags from the store and arrange my produce in pretty bowls or just along my countertop. I find that the produce I leave on my kitchen counter gets USED. Imagine that! ;)

A couple months ago, I was cleaning out my refrigerator. I pulled the drawers out, scrubbed them down and scrubbed underneath it. As I oooooh'd and aaaahhhhhhh'd at my newly sparkling clean refrigerator, and all the space down there, I thought that it was a shame that I had to reassemble everything and hide it. So I didn't assemble it right away. I put it off till the next day, and just neatly stacked the groceries that needed to be put back there in the bottom of my fridge. Well, one day led to three, which led to a week. After a week of using the bottom half of my refrigerator "open"....I decided I didn't want to put the drawer assembly back. So I put them away in my garage (seeing as how this is a rental house, I couldn't very well just toss it...).

After a couple weeks, I decided to buy some plastic baskets that can easily be washed and a wire shelf to put down there to replace the drawers, and I'm using the baskets in my fridge the same way as I do the ones on my counter top--take the produce out of the plastic sacks from the grocery store and arrange them, "bare," in the fridge.

Guess what? Not only does my crappy little rental house fridge look AWESOME, but I am not throwing away *NEARLY* as much produce because I actually *SEE* it every time I open the fridge.

I'm calling this little experiment "Produce Insurance." It's awesome! :)

15 June 2012

My Favorite Salad

Just a simple grilled steak salad. Heavy on the steak. :) No real recipe because it's just a salad, but this is my favorite. You could just as easily serve the steak with a salad on the side, but what's the fun in that? ;)

Preface: My husband practically cremated my steak, but I still love him. Sorry for the chopped off photo up there....The other two I took were blurry for some reason. Random.

This is a total convenience meal for us. I didn't even make my own croutons or fry up the bacon. Done this way, it goes together, including grilling the steak, in less than 20 minutes (assuming your grill is hot, and allowing time for the meat to rest before you cut into it....).

I usually mix baby spring mix with baby spinach....but I went to not-my-usual grocery store and found something called "half and half mix"....which, as the label described it, is baby spring mix and spinach mixed together. haha! Awesome. So I used that this time around. :)

So....half and half mix, tomatoes, cucumbers, bacon, croutons, grapes (do you SEEEEEE those blueberry-sized grapes? How utterly adorable. If you find bigger ones, you might cut them in half...I normally do), cheese (which I could give or take, but the husband's gotta have it...LOL!). The only thing missing is sunflower seeds, but it's just as good without them if your husband munched all of yours and didn't tell you before you went to the store.

Just grill the steak to your liking (I prefer mine Medium....my husband totally cremated it....don't be like my husband. LOL!), and fix the salad how you want it...add dressing (blech), if you must, put the steak on top and eat it. :) I usually drizzle a very very small amount of olive oil on my salads just to make all of the smaller 'stuff' stick to everything else, because otherwise I wind up with a plate full of bacon and cheese and sunflower seeds after the salad is gone....not that those last few forkfuls aren't utterly amazing....but, it just feels wrong to miss out on all that yumminess throughout the rest of the salad.

So yeah. Quick, simple, no-brains-required dinner....one that we eat a few times a week, either with grilled chicken or grilled steak.

12 June 2012

Cake Pops

A friend of mine asked me for this method, and I told her I'd blog it for her, so here goes. This is *THE* most forgiving "recipe" EVER. I seriously cannot think of a single way to mess it up that cannot be fixed.

Oh, and this is TOTALLY Bakerella's thing, not my own. I just *do* it...I didn't come up with it and mine are in no way as cute as hers, even when I go to the effort to decorate them. haha!

So here goes. You'll need: Cake, frosting, chocolate of some kind, sticks. That's it, really. You can make your own cake, or use a boxed mix. You'll need about half a cup of frosting--I figure half a can per box when I use store bought, but you could totally make your own as long as it was a buttercream of some kind for consistency. For the chocolate, anything will work, really, and unless you're great at tempering chocolate, and you have all the patience in the world to do it, I recommend almond bark. I know it's not real chocolate, but no one will ever know. You cannot taste the difference once it's ON the cake pop, I promise. I'm a chocolate snob, but they taste just fine dipped in almond bark. Add to it that Almond bark runs about $4 for 24 ounces, where candy melts (which are the same darn thing, but in disc form) run about $2.50-$3 for 12 ounces.....just buy the Almond Bark. Sticks...well, Bakerella uses lollipop sticks, and that is WONDERFUL, really....assuming you plan ahead and order them online, because those little suckers are expensive at Walmart and the like when you're gonna make a ton of cake pops. I use short little popcicle sticks, and if I can't find those on the shelf, I get regular ones. They run about a penny a piece no matter which size I want. haha! So there ya go: cake, frosting, chocolate, sticks.

So, bake the cake per the directions on the box or recipe for a 13x9" cake. No one will care if it's a little dry or if it collapsed in the oven because your kid went stomping through the room or anything else, I promise. Let it cool completely, then break it into pieces and put it in a bowl and go to town shredding it into crumbs.

Throw a couple good spoons full of frosting into your crumbs, then just roll up your sleeves and dig in because nothing will mix this as well as your hands. Start with a little less frosting than you think you'll need, and add as you go. You want the "dough" to be Play-Doh consistency, if that helps. If you get it too wet, it'll be gloppy, and if it's too dry, it will not hold itself together. Just keep adding a bit, mixing it all in, adding more, etc. If you get too much frosting into it and it's sticky and gloppy, sprinkle on a few tablespoons of flour and work it in, repeating as necessary until the dough is the right consistency. No one will know, I promise.
Insurance. ;)
Here's the dough, "just right," in both my lemon and red velvet from last night:

It'll be a little springy, if that makes sense. You'll see.

Then just portion it out into balls and roll them up. I used a cookie scoop last night since these were for a pot luck and I wanted them all the same size, but you really don't have to go to that extreme. Just grab a bit, roll them into balls about the size of a walnut, and put a stick in them.

You can see the ones in the back that I haven't rolled smooth yet. Don't stress too much about the shape as long as they are reasonably round. The chocolate coating will 'fix' that for you. No one will notice. At this point, just throw a stick in the balls and put them in the freezer for a couple hours to firm up.

When you're ready to dunk them, melt your chocolate. You might want to add a little bit of vegetable oil to your candy coating to thin it out a bit. Don't add too much because then it won't set up, but it's better than zapping it in the microwave to remelt it every 15 dunks. haha! Dunk them and tap off the excess. If the stick falls out? Dunk it in the chocolate and put it back...can't find the spot it came out of? Poke it into a different spot, chocolate will fill the hole where it came out of. See? Forgiving.

Set them on a parchment lined tray (I put the ones for the pot luck in mini cupcake cups, but that is seriously not necessary). They'll set up in less than 5 mins if you used Almond Bark. :)

SEE? FORGIVING! Most forgiving recipe EVER.

04 June 2012

Chicken Tacos

One of many, many, many, MANY things I do with my crock pot Taco Chicken.

No big deal....fajita size flour tortillas piled high with my taco chicken, cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato and onion (and sour cream if you like that sorta thing).

28 May 2012

Memorial Day BBQ

Looks like I'm going all out for a BBQ tonight after all! Nothing like last minute planning! haha!

Here's tonight's menu:

Sirloin steaks on the grill--simple, just pat dry and sprinkle with Montreal Steak Seasoning and grill to your liking. If you haven't been properly introduced to Montreal Steak Seasoning....do so. I tend to avoid spice mixes in favor of making my own, but this stuff is awesome. :)

Grilled chicken breast--I just butterfly the chicken breast, season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder, and then grill it. Sometimes I baste it with BBQ sauce, but I probably won't do that tonight.

Mixed green salad

Potato salad w/ eggs (I really hate potato salad, but everyone around me loves it, so I oblige...)

Corn on the cob w/ chili lime butter a la Tyler Florence (I'm doing my corn on the grill, though)

Garlic French Bread--just your basic french bread....cut it in half length-wise, smear it with softened butter or margarine whipped with garlic paste. You could also just sprinkle it with garlic powder after smearing it with regular softened butter. Wrap it in foil and throw it on the grill while you cook everything else.

Pico de Gallo & tortilla chips

Strawberry Shortcake and a mixed fruit salad (watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, grapes) for dessert

Luscious Slush Punch (I have been making this forever....always makes my mouth hurt (I'm allergic to pineapple), but so worth it! LOL!...everyone always loves it, no exception)

I hope everyone has an amazing day surrounded by family and friends. Please take the time to give thanks and remembrance to a veteran or current military member and/or their family today.

27 May 2012

I haven't cooked much lately...

Sorry for the lack of posts over here. There has been so much going on that I just haven't cooked much lately. Thursday night, we went to a carnival, and had awesomely fattening carnival food for dinner. Friday we grabbed Subway and headed for a concert in the park. And yesterday (Saturday), we walked through the festival vendors in the park and hard by far the worst festival vendor food I have ever put in my mouth. Literally threw almost everything we purchased all day in the trash after 2 or 3 bites between us. So, after another concert in the park, we treated ourselves to a late lunch/early dinner out at one of the nicer places in our small town. We sat on the deck and I had an awesome salad and my husband had what looked like an amazing cheeseburger. We'd earned it after suffering through the overpriced crap from vendors in the park (We seriously should have just walked into the carnival and gotten food from the vendors there again). LOL!

My husband has to work today and tomorrow, so we are likely not going to do the huge BBQ we always do for Memorial Day this year. :( I may throw some steaks on the grill, but will probably just serve them with salad and garlic bread, so I'm not sure I'll post that.

I will be cooking again this week, though, I promise! I hope you are all having an amazing Memorial Day weekend!!!

24 May 2012

Hey...go follow...

my new music blog! :) I loved blogging what my son and I were listening to a few weeks ago and thought it'd make a great idea for a blog of its own! :)

21 May 2012

Packaged Dinners

I'm all for from scratch cooking with whole ingredients and all that....but ya know, every few weeks, you just NEED the sodium and preservative fix that comes with a packaged dinner, right? No? Just me, then? Well, whatever. ;) Here are two of my favorites, and how I "tweak" them to my family's tastes. :)

Bear Creek Country Kitchens--well, anything, really. Specifically, though, we like their Cheddar Broccoli soup and their Chicken Vegetable pasta.

For the soup (they also make a pasta w/ the same flavor that is just as good that I prepare the same way), I chop up and brown a couple chicken breasts and a full pound of frozen broccoli (or fresh, if I think to grab it), and then cook as directed on the package, making sure to scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan when I add the water.

For the pasta, I chop up and brown a couple chicken breasts, add about half a pound of whatever mixed veggies I happen to have in the freezer and cook as directed on the package. Sometimes I'll go as far as to mix up an egg and half a cup of plain yogurt or mayo and mix it into the sauce, and then pour the whole thing into a baking dish, top with cracker crumbs and bake like a casserole. Always awesome! :)

So there are two of my favorite "packaged dinners." Not much to them, but they are super simple and no one ever complains when I make them. :)

17 May 2012

Chicken Enchiladas

*Disclaimer* I am in NO WAY going to pretend that this is healthy, and no, it will not fit in your diet. And no, these are in no way "traditional." Like everything else on my blog, you'll have to look elsewhere if you want traditional.

This has been a long time favorite in my house. I don't make it very often *BECAUSE* it is not all that good for you, and it's just not the same if you omit the cheese, but it is worth it once in a while. You could easily substitute low fat cheese if you know of one that melts and browns well, though. :)

It was late last night when I was making this, so I spaced and forgot to take a big ingredient shot. I did, however, take photos as I chopped things up....that counts, right? NO? Dang. Oh well....what is that phrase my kids are chanting these days? Ah, yes...."You get what you get and you don't throw a fit!" ;)

You'll need: 1-2 bell peppers, whatever color you like (I used a whole green, half a yellow and half an orange since that's what I had on hand); one medium sized onion, white or yellow; 1 1/2 lbs of chicken breasts (you can use thighs if you prefer dark meat, which I do not); 1 can of sliced olives; approximately 12 small flour tortillas, give or take depending on the size of your pan, the size of the tortillas (I like 'fajita size' by Mission), and how full you stuff them; cheese--1 pound of monterey jack and half a pound of medium cheddar; 1 packet of Lawry's fajita seasoning and 1 packet of McCormick taco seasoning (I know, for SHAME....and I almost always use a home made mix for everything else....but I've been making these since I was about 15 or 16 and they just aren't the same without store bought sodium-laden sauce packets....you can use a homemade mix if you'd like since you have no emotional attachment to this recipe like I do....but you'll need 2-3 times as much as you'd normally use for tacos and the like); chicken broth (or chicken base and water...whatever); water. Optional: Sour cream.

Start by cutting up the peppers, onions and chicken. I like the chicken pieces to be about twice the size of the vegetables. Shred all the cheese (enlist your husband for this part....I always tell him if he WANTS lots of cheese he has to be the one to SHRED lots of cheese!).

(Note: I am *STILL* swooning over that vintage Corelle pattern. Those who know me on Facebook understand why. Maybe I should blog about it? Hrm....)

Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat w/ a tablespoon or so of whatever oil you like. Add the peppers and onions. Cook them until they are translucent, but not browned. Don't worry if you cook them a little too long...you really can't screw it up.

Remove the peppers and onions from the pan (or most of them...don't stress getting every last one), and add the chicken to the pan (feel free to season it liberally w/ black pepper and whatnot...don't use much salt if you're opting for packet seasonings later, though...). Now, I SUPPOSE you could cook all of it together, but quite frankly, this is how I've always done it and it's hard to undo almost 15 years of habit. Plus I like the peppers and onions to not be browned and the chicken to be browned, so this is my way of making sure it's just to my liking. Shoot me. ;)

When the chicken is done, remove it from the pan. Set up a "station"--tortillas, cheese, olives, vegetables, chicken, pan (oh, and you should totally line your pan with pan lining paper so you don't have to scrub the pan afterwards....).

When you're ready to assemble....

3-4 pieces of chicken, a handful of veggies, a few olives...

Sprinkle with a handful of monterey jack cheese...

Roll them up tightly, and place it in the pan. Stuff as many as you can get into the pan. I probably could've put another 2-3 in this pan, but I ran out of tortillas because *SOMEONE-who-shall-remain-nameless* has been using the package I bought for this for breakfast burritos all week....

At this point....remember the pan you cooked everything in? Yeah, put that back on the burner and turn it up to medium high. Throw in your taco and fajita seasoning...add some garlic powder, some cayenne, whatever you like, really. Stir the seasonings all around a bit to toast them....then pour in 1 cup of chicken stock and 1/2-3/4-ish cup of cold water to deglaze the pan (remember...browned chicken=yummy pan drippings!). Use a whisk to scrape all the good bits off the bottom of the pan and mix the seasonings with the water. Let it boil a few minutes to reduce slightly...not real necessary, but again, I've always done it, so I still do it. At this point, if you wish, you can mix in a few tablespoons of sour cream...I do it sometimes, but I'm not a huge fan of sour cream, so I didn't this time. Mix together about a tablespoon of flour and 1/4 cup of cold water in a cup with a fork and then pour it directly into your sauce and mix it up--this will help thicken it in the oven. Turn the heat off and pour the sauce directly over the pan of rolled up tortillas. I use a small measuring cup and pour it a little bit at a time to make sure the tops are all evenly covered, and then pour the rest into the baking pan.

It's going to look soupy, don't worry. Most of that liquid will be absorbed by the tortillas when you bake it.

Top with cheese--now, I prefer just a little bit of cheese on top, but my husband likes lots, so since these were for my husband by request....well....avert your eyes....

Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. It won't kill it if it's a little over, and it won't kill YOU if it's a little under since everything inside is pre-cooked, but you want to give the cheese inside a chance to melt and the tortillas a chance to absorb the sauce. The last 3-5 minutes, turn the broiler on to thoroughly brown the top.

As you can see, it'll still be a little saucy when you take it out of the oven, but it's enchiladas...they're supposed to be saucy! ;) Plus, that sauce should have thickened up by now and not be super runny. It will thicken further upon standing as well. I cut them with a serrated knife and serve in squares like a casserole. If you want to, you could try to cut the individual enchiladas out of the pan....but that's more effort than I tend to want to take. :)

In a word, NOM!

15 May 2012

I'm not afraid to admit...

that I fail in the kitchen! I burned 2 full trays of frozen shoestring french fries tonight! Oh, plus I almost burned the tray of waffle fries I made to compensate for the burnt shoestring fries! My kids are totally ridiculing me. #mommyfail

12 May 2012

Reynolds Pan Lining Paper

Yes, this stuff, right here!

I just gotta say that I LOVE this stuff!!! I've always been the kind of cook who wraps the baking dishes in foil before baking stuff that is super messy, so I was seriously curious when I saw a commercial for this stuff.

Having just finished my second roll of it, I have to say....it rocks!

Line a pan, bake enchiladas on it...no clean up! Rip it into squares and wrap warm sandwiches to-go in it--Awesome! You could even bake on it if you wanted to, although it's a little spendy to use for that, in my opinion. Regular parchment will remain my go-to for that one. But any time I need to line a pan w/ sides from here on out, it'll be with this stuff!

Just an all around awesome product that works exactly as advertised!!!! In fact, the *ONLY* bad thing I can say about it is that you can't broil on it because it *IS* parchment, but really? I can't fault it for that...and I broiled on it, quickly to melt cheese, tonight w/ no ill effects.

Try it if you get the chance!

(Note: Reynolds doesn't know me. I was not in any way compensated for this post. I even buy my OWN Pan Lining Paper....they didn't even send me a sample to review. I just really love this product that much!)

11 May 2012

Grilled Fish Tacos

I don't know about your family, but it's a rare occasion when I can get mine to eat fish that doesn't come frozen out of a box, if ya know what I mean. And I don't know about YOU, but personally the words "taco" and "fried" do not go hand in hand in my head, so I just can't bring myself to use fried fish for fish tacos. Not saying it'll never ever happen, just that it hasn't sounded good enough to happen yet. So here is my grilled version. :)

What you'll need:

1 lb of whatever fish you like, really. I used catfish the night I made these, but anything from Tilapia to Red Snapper would be awesome. Just make sure it's as fresh as possible. If you live more than a couple hours from the ocean, buy your fish frozen. ;) Don't worry TOO much about it falling apart on the grill because, let's face it....fish does that, and you're going to shred it up at the end anyway.

red & green cabbage
lots of limes
flour tortillas

Start by heavily seasoning the fish--I used Old Bay, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt and fresh black pepper. It was a little spicy this time around. You might lay off the extra cayenne if you don't like spicy. Rub the seasonings into both sides of the fish and set aside.

Chop up all of the veggies, cut the limes into wedges.

Now throw the fish on the amazingly hot grill. You could rub the grill down with some oil first, but I rarely do. Grill for a couple minutes on each side, depending on how thick your fillets are.

(Horrible cell phone pic, sorry!)

Take the fish back inside and shred it up with a fork.

Now just build your tacos...you could heat up or char your tortillas if you want, but I don't typically bother for fish tacos.

Now, if you want, you can go to the trouble of making cole slaw to put in your tacos, but quite frankly, I prefer the fresh veggies to cole slaw (but then, I don't eat much by way of condiments). If you want to do the cole slaw pictured (which, I admit that I just threw together because my husband asked me to), you'll also need:

1 whole carrot
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon white sugar
the juice of 2 limes
salt and pepper to taste

(Just shred the carrot with your box grater, add a handful of each of the other veggies, except for the tomato of course, and then mix the dressing on top of it. Adjust the amounts of everything for your needs and liking.)

(Don't be like my husband....put tomatoes on there, too! ;) )

That's all there is to it! NOM!!

09 May 2012

Crock Pot Baked Beans

These beans are always a crowd pleaser. I forgot to take photos the last time I made them, but I did take a quick photo of a plate of leftovers before they were inhaled.... ;)

How yummy does that look?? Seriously? Thick, gooey, just yummmmm!

Anyway....it's simple, really. You'll need good bar-be-cue sauce (I really love Longhorn BBQ sauce for stuff like this, and you can get it at most local grocery stores if you happen to live in the WA-OR-ID area), 1 large red onion, 1/2 a pound of bacon, approximately 1 cup dark brown sugar, 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, and 2-3 cans of plain old everyday baked beans. Not the "grilling" ones, just plain baked beans. Tip: The generic baked beans are better than the name brand for this, so don't waste your money. ;) You could really add whatever you like, but this is what I use.

Start by opening the beans and dumping them into the crock pot. Go ahead and turn the crock pot on to "High" now. 

Slice the onion super thin, and caramelize it in a heavy bottom pan over medium-low heat with about a tablespoon of vegetable oil. This will take a while, so be patient, and stir it now and then so it doesn't burn. Some onions have more natural sugars in them than others...if your onions don't start to brown after about 15 mins, turn the heat up slightly and add a spoon full of sugar. You could probably skip this step, but I like the extra flavor this provides. Add the caramelized onions to the beans.

Chop the bacon into small pieces and brown them until they are crispy in a skillet, and add it to the beans.

Finely chop the jalapenos, seeds and all. Add the jalapeno, sugar and BBQ sauce to the beans.

Cover the crock pot, and cook on high until everything is hot and bubbly. Adjust the lid so it is cocked a bit to let steam escape, and cook until the beans reach a thickness you like. All crock pots are different, but on high, it takes about 4 hours in mine to reach the consistency above. I like them to stay where I put them on the plate, not spread out all over the place.

Super simple & super yummy!! Great side dish for bar-be-ques and pot lucks! 

07 May 2012

Homemade Egg Noodles

Is there anything on this planet better than homemade pasta?? I'm such a carb head.

This is totally not my recipe or method, either. It belongs to Ryan Detzel, and I first saw this posted on The Pioneer Woman's blog.

This a simple method to make homemade noodles. All it takes is two ingredients--flour and eggs. Done. And it's simple to remember, too, so there's nothing to write down--1 cup of flour + 2 eggs = dinner for 2.  If you cut them a little on the "chubby" side, like I did below, they are almost dumpling like. So yummy.

I'll spare you the directions since you can just click on over to the Pioneer Woman's site and see much prettier photos than mine, along with all the directions and commentary ya need to make them.

But I will say this...seriously awesome go-to dish to have in your repertoire. Two ingredients. No fancy gadgets needed to make it. Versatile. The kids LOVE to help. Everyone loves to eat them!

05 May 2012

Chicken Taco Salad

In a word, NOM!

Everyone in my house loves green salad--even my super finicky 8 year old with severe feeding issues will eat salad, so we usually have some variation of a salad as a main course 3-4 nights a week. This is one of our favorites.

The chicken is very similar to my crock pot taco chicken. I basically do the same thing, but instead of salsa, I use a large can of diced tomatoes (you could totally use 2-3 cans of Rotel) and a bag of frozen Southwest mix veggies. I also use lime zest instead of a tangelo peel for this.

The salad is nothing special. Whatever greens that are on sale--romaine, cabbage, arugula, butter, green leaf, baby spinach, just whatever you like; tomato, onion, cucumber, etc. etc. etc. Just make a salad. ;) You could totally serve this on top of tortilla chips or even in a tortilla bowl if you're in the mood. I normally don't, though. Toss a handful of cheese on top and a spoonful of the chicken and you're good to go! My husband tops his with salsa and sour cream.

03 May 2012

The Best Pico de Gallo EVER

At least in my opinion...but then, I'm biased, so you'll just have to decide for yourself. I'm not one for condiments and sauces, but I will put this on pretty much anything. :)

What you'll need:

Cilantro, onion (I prefer white....), ripe tomatoes (romas are best, but I had others that needed to be used up that day...use what you have), jalapenos.

Chop everything super fine and mix it together. Don't bother measuring, but you want to aim for equal parts cilantro, onion and tomato. Add enough finely chopped jalapeno to make it as spicy as you like. That's all there is to it. You *COULD* add a squeeze of lemon or lime, and a pinch of salt, but consider if you'll be eating this with chips or not, because tortilla chips have a lot of salt on them already.

30 April 2012

Pollo Loco

*Update* I made this on the grill last night and it worked out so much better! Take 4 sheets of tin foil and fold them together so they are 2 wide and 2 thick. Fold up a lip all around, and put it straight on top of the grates on your grill--if you have wire grates with 1" or so spacing like on the top rack pictured below, you might want to make it 3 layers thick; my grates are cast iron with about 1/3-1/2" spacing and this worked perfectly. Spread your charcoal evenly across the whole thing and raise it up almost as high as the charcoal carrier will go. If you have a gas grill, just turn it on as high as it'll go. Add a little bit of oil to prevent sticking, and cook the same way on the grill as you would in the pan, but this way you have a huge surface to work on and you can just throw the mess away! :)

My family frequents this Mexican restaurant in our town, and they make a dish they call "Pollo Loco." It is basically just peppers, onions and chicken charred like for fajitas, and served over spicy rice with some shredded lettuce and a little bit of mozzarella (yes, mozzarella) cheese, tomato and green onions. They serve it with 3 flour tortillas. As simple as it is, it is one of my favorites and I always order it when we eat there. I've been meaning to make it at home for a few weeks now and finally got around to it last night.

Here's what it looked like in the restaurant the last time I ordered it....it came out a little underdone, and kinda greasy...I wasn't real pleased, but it was still pretty yummy. Horrible cell phone pic...sorry....

What you need to make it at home:

Pretend there's a bowl of rice and a can of Rotel in that photo for me, ok?
Shredded iceberg lettuce (I'd much prefer romaine, but who am I to argue?), mozzarella cheese (again, I'd think monterey jack would be more appropriate, but even their menu says they use mozzarella, so....), onion, green onion, tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, white chile, poblano pepper, (you could really use any variety of peppers you want or can get your hands on....this is what the Safeway near my house had....so I grabbed one of each), tortillas (flour!), chicken breasts--this is about 1 lb, and you can use thighs if you prefer them.

First things first, this is one of those recipes that you cannot prep as you cook, because if you're anything like me, something will burn before you have the next thing prepped, so wash and slice everything before you even heat up your pan. Snip the green onions with scissors and slice up the tomatoes--and set them aside because you want to add these fresh at the end. I wound up using only half of each of the bell peppers, and half of the onion, because it was a LOT once it was all sliced up, and I wanted to actually taste the chicken. haha! Slice the peppers into thin strips--I quartered the bell peppers and then sliced them across the short way into thin little strips. Fillet or butterfly the chicken and slice it into pieces about the same size as the pepper strips, maybe a bit bigger, but not much.

When everything is prepped and ready to go, season the chicken with salt and pepper, and then heat a couple tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a large heavy skillet (cast iron if you've got it...or even a good dutch oven if you don't have a huge skillet) over medium high heat. A griddle would be awesome if you've got one that goes directly onto the stove, too....but I like sides for stuff like this because I'm a messy cook!

Pour a cup of rice, a can of Rotel, and 1 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan (you could totally add taco seasoning or extra cayenne or hot sauce or whatever you like, but I think the rest of the dish adds more than enough flavor) and cook it like you would normally cook rice--bring it to a boil, throw the lid on, turn the heat down and let it simmer for a few mins. Set the rice aside.

While the rice cooks, toss the chicken into your pan first. Cook it a minute or two until it starts to brown, and then add the sliced onion and peppers. You may need a little more oil, add it as necessary. You want that sizzling sound. Stir and cook it all together until everything is slightly blackened--don't be like me and open a beer and walk away while chatting with your husband....because mine was more than slightly blackened (haha!), but it was still good because I was GOING for that charred taste anyway. No seriously, I was...not at all joking.


When everything is cooked to your liking, plate a spoonful of the rice and spread it out to cover half the plate, then take a handful of the lettuce and spread it on the other half. Toss the green onions and tomatoes with the veggie/chicken mix (yeah I just threw mine on top because I'm the only one in my house that will eat a fresh tomato...house full of weirdos, I tell ya!)--I added olives I found in the cabinet, too--and then spoon the veggie/chicken mix over the rice, along with a handful of cheese. Top with cilantro (that I totally forgot to buy...oops!) and serve with warmed tortillas.

mmmmmm....Leftovers for lunch the next day!!!! ;)

Verdict? Even slightly more charred than I wanted, my version was *WAY* better...and for what it costs to eat it at the restaurant, I made enough for 4 people to have for dinner AND lunch the next day. :D