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.