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Thursday, May 12, 2011

BBQ Time!

Hi Everyone, Yes, I know, it has been a while. Do not fret though, I have been cooking away and have a couple quick and delicious ideas for you this BBQ season. I cook out a lot in the spring/summer time and there is almost always one of these side dishes available at my cookout. Additionally, if you are going to someones house for a BBQ, you could make and bring one of these great ideas!
First, My famous TACO SALAD. How many of you have a "taco salad" recipe. Many many do. But for me, something about mine makes everyone happy. It's completely delicious and extra, extra simple!




What you'll need:
1 head of lettuce
1 container or grape tomatoes
1 block of SHARP cheddar cheese
1 lb of ground beef
Couple hand fulls of tortilla chips
Vegetable Oil
Vinegar
1 packet of good seasons salad dressing (dry)

Ok, the good seasons is the important part. This is one of the things that makes this salad so delicious. Look in your grocery store on the salad dressing aisle. Usually on the top shelf you will see packet or even a box like this.



this is the good stuff so GET IT!!!

Now, to put this salad together. You simply cook  and cool the ground beef. Season with salt and pepper please, this is a BBQ, not a convent. Let's make this taste good!  Then get your lettuce cut up and in a large bowl. Cut your grape tomatoes in half as to keep them from being too big and add them to your lettuce. Add cooled ground beef and grate your block of sharp cheddar cheese and add it as well. Mix Mix Mix to distribute the ingreedients.
IMPORTANT, the last two items do not add until you are ready to serve. Make the salad dressing according to the package directions using the oil and vinegar. When ready to serve crunch up a few hand fulls of tortilla chips into your salad bowl. Then add ALL of the dressing and toss that salad until everything is mixed well.
All your left with is to enjoy. It is very delicious and I think I will be making one this weekend for a BBQ myself!

The next easy and delicious one I wanted to share is Potato salad. Ok, Fancy smancy potato salads are everywhere and I usually end up not liking them with a bunch of added ingredients.
Though unconventional, my potato salad recipe is easy and definitely delicious.

Ok, my first recommendation would be Yukon Gold Potatoes. Grab a bag of these next time your in the store and use them to make your potato dish, whether it's mashed potatoes or potato salad, it really does add better flavor.
The only other ingreedients you will need are going to be :
Bacon
Scallions
mayo
salt and pepper

That's it. Simply peel and cut up your potatoes and boil them. Drain them and let them cool. While they are cooling, you can cool up your bacon. 6 to 8 pieces is usually enough. I use my microwave bacon cooker to keep it from getting any "burnt" on them.
Crumble up or cut up the bacon and set aside. Slice up some of the green onions (scallions) and set them aside (about half a cup)
When the potatoes have almost cooled all the way throw your bacon and scallions in there with them and add mayo until it is well incorporated. Add some salt and pepper to taste and set it in the fridge to cool. It's simple and completely delicious.


It looks like your ready for the BBQ season and have some ideas for what you can bring to your next cook out. Word to the wise, if the cookout is at my house, you will probably already see one of these dishes! Good luck and happy cooking!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Warning - May Cause Comfort

Comfort food, who doesn't love it. I live for those comforting yummy foods that fill my belly and my heart. My favorites are Mashed potatoes, Turkey dinner, and today's topic, Chicken pot pie!

The Delicious creamy, yet chunky, filling bubbling away underneath the flaky and warm crust. OH Yeah! It's good!
But how does one get such a yummy dish in a short amount of time. Look, making something that delicious does not have to be hard and taking some short cuts will give you that comfort food you crave without the hours of work you cant afford to sacrifice.

Now I am the first to promote making home made stock and doing things the more difficult way because it will taste better, which it usually does, but we dont always have time for that.
Additionally, I didn't happen to have a turkey dinner's worth of left overs to put together into a pot pie either, so I went for my Quick, Easy, and Tasty chicken pot pie with great short cuts and great taste.

Ok, What do you need for this tasty meal? Some super easy ingredients.

4 boneless chicken breasts (or bone in if you want to spend time taking the chicken off the bone etc)
1 can of cut green beans
1 can of sliced carrots
1 can of diced potatoes
1 can of corn
1 1/2 boxes of chicken stock
1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
3 tbsp of butter or margarine
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp of onion powder
1 tsp of season salt
2 boxes of Pillsbury pie crust. (the kind that is rolled up and when you roll it out it forms a circle)
corn starch slury


Ok, did you see all that easy stuff. The canned veggies? Yes, super easy and here's what you do.

First, take your chicken, put it in a pot and cover it with water. Boil the chicken until cooked through. I like to add seasonings to my water to help flavor the chicken.
Once it's cooked I strain it and get out my Salad Chopper. I chopped up the chicken into bite sized pieces.
Ok, that was the hard part, here comes the easy part.
Put the chicken in a large pot, open and drain your canned vegetables then add them to the pot as well.
Use your chicken stock to add liquid to your chicken and veggi's and then add some salt and pepper.
Turn on your burner on the stove and get that goodness cooking. Add your cream and spices and then add butter/margarine as well and cook until it boils.
Once your yummy pot pie filling mixture starts boiling, you can shut it off and then add your corn starch slury until it's nice and thick. Dont know what a slurry is? Go back and read my other blogs,..LOL. It's simply several tablespoons of corn starch mixed with some cold water until is makes a very thick white liquid, then you slowly add it to your pot and stir until you get the desired thickness. If you need more to make it thicker, simply mix more and do it. Dont be afraid of it!

Ok, so now you have your filling, all you have left to do is to make it a "pie".
I use those pillsbury pie crusts that are already made and rolled into a nice circle for me. In this house, we make individual pies for each person in a little oven safe round bowl, but you can do whatever you want on this part. Make a big one, little ones, square ones, you name it, its up to you. Then simply do a light egg wash on your crust and pop it in the oven according to the pie crust directions. I believe it told me 450 degrees. When it comes out, deliciousness. YUM

Want some variations? You could saute up some diced onions and celery to add to your flavors or for those whom love mushrooms, add them to the mix! All in all, it's a very easy and very quick way to bring home cooking to your faced paced life.
Enjoy and Share!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Flavor = Goodness! Fried Chicken Flavors!

Yep, flavor equals goodness and I don't believe in cooking without flavor, even if it is simply salt and pepper. The simplest thing can be "The best _____ I have ever had" I'm telling you, the trick to my wonderful dishes is ample flavor. Don't be afraid to pile it on and taste as you go.

So one of the big winners in my house is Fried chicken. Who doesn't love fried chicken right? Well, I would say my big secret for my flavorful chicken is lots of delicious spices. There are multiple ways you can coat your chicken, flour, bread crumbs, and even those panko thinks everyone loves so much. I havent used them yet (I am sure I will) but I use good ole Flour and egg with my chicken coating and I spend a little time preparing the flour.
 Ok, so what do I do to this flour right? Get to the point already? LOL Ok Ok
I take a couple cups of regular flour and I put it in a bowl.
To this, I add ample amounts of the following flavors
Garlic Salt
Season Salt
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Pepper
Usually it's a good few heaping spoonfuls of each spice and mix it all through that flour.
Then, when it's time to coat the chicken, I first dust it in this flour mixture, then I dunk it in the egg mixture, then back into this flavorful four mixture.
Yum Yum, it turns out so flavorful.

Do not beware of the spices, they are your friend when cooking! Want to add a kick to your chicken, add a couple teaspoons of cayenne pepper to your flour and feel the kick!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spicy Meat-a-ball!

I know I know, it's been a few days but it's pretty hard to blog about cooking when your husband is pulling through the drive thru at Sonic to grab some dinner. But last night it was back to basics and time for me to jump back on my menu plan and make some delicious spaghetti. Only difference is, my spaghetti doesn't contain spaghetti, only some whole wheat penne pasta. :/ Oh wait! There's more. Yep, you guessed it!! Some Spicy meatballs that are to die for!! MmmMm! Ok, My meatballs, are made with two types of meat. 
#1 - Ground turkey. Easy! Have you seen the roll's of ground turkey in the frozen section next to the turkeys? In an orange wrapper? Well, if not, get which ever kind you want, but this is what I use.
#2 - Hot ground, Italian Sausage. I usually find this by the Kielbasa and bratwurst. 
With this combination, they are de-flipping-lishish. Or fan-tabulous (I just heard that one on Paula Deen..lol) Knee knocken, back slapping delicious (also heard just now on Paula Deen.. haha)

Ok Ok, what's in these meat balls. Super simple. I first dice an onion and brown it with some olive oil in a pan. Once soft (cause John hates onions) I add it to my meat combination (a pound of each). 
I also add
1/4 cup Worcestershire  sauce
1 Egg
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp A-1 steak sauce
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
and about 1 cup of Italian flavored bread crumbs. 
Mix this all together. You may want to add less or more of the bread crumbs. Add a little at a time and mix everything together. 
Once mixed and at a still moist consistency, it's time to roll them You can make them as big or as small as you want, that part is up to you. But I do pop them back in the pan that we saute'd the onions in and brown them on all sides as I am making them. Once browned they go on a cookie sheet and in the oven at 350.


Now bake time will depend on how large you make these meatballs. I usually make them pretty small and only cook them for 20 or 30 mins. 
Then, I put them back in that famous saute pan or actually I think it would be a covered skillet that I use. 
Then I would add the spaghetti sauce of your choice to the skillet, and season the sauce as you like. I just use some jar ragu, then amp it up with lots of the usual Italian seasonings like basil and oregano as well as lots of garlic salt and powder. 
I just simmer the sauce with the meatballs while I cook my pasta. After that, it's a delicious dinner. My meatballs are always a hit and I really think the meat combination has a lot to do with it!



A twist to my day was the dinner I made at breakfast time! Today, the MSAP, Marine Spouse group that I belong to, made lunch for the people staying at the Ronald McDonald House. I decided to make my yummy Chicken Enchiladas. As I think now, I really wish I had made extra. Although tonight's dinner will be delicious, the Chicken Enchilada's is one of those 'Darlene Famous" meals that people always want me to make. Right up there with my Taco's  and now the new Curry dishes I have been making. 


I will be sure to share all of these recipes with you soon, IF you want them.. LOL Until then, Happy cooking!! 




 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What? Sweet Meat?

I know right? What the heck is with this "sweet meat" title. Well, I have the most wonderful thing I want to share with you all. One of my favorite all time meals at home has to do with pork chops. Cinnamon apple pork chops to be exact. Now that, is sweet meat! The delicious combo of a seasoned pork chop with a sweet cinnamon apple glaze on top. Super easy and Super delicious!. To add to it, I cubed up some wonderful rich butternut squash and covered it with olive oil, rosemary, garlic salt, pepper and then baked it in the oven on a cookie sheet. Delish! 

Ok how to sweeten up that piggy meat? Easy! All I had was a few boneless pork chops. I sprinkled some cinnamon on them as well as some salt and pepper and in the oven they went to bake up. While they, and that yummy squash, baked, I put about a cup or two of apple juice in a saucepan. Added half a cup of sugar and a tbsp of cinnamon and turned up the heat, letting it boil then simmer for about 15 mins.

Next it was time for the slury again. What did you say? You dont know what a slury is..... again... Well too bad, should go back and read a few posts ago!! :/ haha. Ok, to repeat, a slury is a few tbsps of corn startch, add a little cold water while stirring the mixture. Trying to keep it as thick as you can. Once mixed, take your boiling apple juice mixture off the heat and slowly add the slurry while stirring. When it reaches a very thick consistency, like a thick gravy, you have been successful! That's the sweet, now back to the meat!!

When your chops are done, simple spoon a little of this yummy apple glaze over the chop and you have a completely different outlook on pork chop! it's the other, white AND sweet meat! LOL. 

Tomorrow will be challenging. It's the season of lent and I live in a house full of carnivores. I can't, even though I want to, cook some delicious fish meal or seafood. Pasta, it's what we did last Friday, what I am left with is an oldie but goodie. It's almost like the Old Faithful of my menu, Tuna Casserole. For me, it does not get an simpler than that, but I'm sitting here wishing for a chance to make some great new Salmon dish or some Mai Mai. Mmmm Who dreams of fish? I guess during Lent, I do! Until next time folks, Happy Eating!  

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sweet Success.

So I know you all are wondering about the wonderful red velvet, cheesecake, white chocolate pops I tackled yesterday. How did they turn out? Well, let me first say this is not for the casual cook. They were indeed a bit of work to put together, but the end result was definitely sweet success! Delicious sweet red velvet cake, topped with tangy cheese cake, a sweet layer of graham cracker crumbs along with a final swim into the pool of white chocolate love! I know I know, where's the recipe, Well folks, here it is. Pretty simple, recipe, just a bit of work when it comes to the cheesecake part. 

Red Velvet, Cheesecake Pops

Ingredients

1 box red velvet cake mix (Only using half of this, so it's good to cook in two round pans)

3/4 cup of cream cheese frosting ( I just got betty crocker)
1 or two cheesecakes. I used one, and only got half my pops covered
1 pack graham crackers (use food processor to ground up into dust!)
1 lg pack Melt-able white chocolate. ( you know, the kind you get at the craft store in little round discs. Pick the color you want!)
1/4 cup of vegetable oil
lollypop sticks


Ok, here's how it goes. Make your red velvet cake according to the box directions. Your using only half of the cake so I suggest making two rounds and using one of them. Cook cakes on a Cooling Rack and once cooled, break cake up either using a fork or a food processor until you have very find crumbs. 


Next add the frosting to the cake and mix together until it makes a red paste. Using a melon ball gadget or a teaspoon measuring spoon, form balls with your hands of this red mixture and place them on a cookie sheet with some parchment paper on it. Once finished rolling the balls, place the cookie sheet in the fridge to cool. 


Next comes the hard part, the cheesecake. Gulp. Ok, this sounded a lot easier than it actually was. Perhaps a more dry cheesecake would be best for this part of the recipe, but I just had a new york cheesecake I bought at the commissary. Take up some of the cheesecake in your hand and try to pat it into a flat pancake. If you can, this will work great and you can wrap it over half the ball and do it again to cover the other half. But, for me, this didn't work, the more I touched the cheesecake, the more it melted in my hot touch! 

I worked the cheesecake as best I could and they ended up looking like those spickey tree gum balls that are all over my back yard right now, only white. But none the less, I popped them right in the fridge to cool while I handled the next couple steps. Please do the same. Get them suckers in the fridge to cool. 


I then started the ground up graham crackers as well as got my sticks and chocolate ready to melt. I used a double broiler instead of the microwave to melt the chocolate because I feel like i have more control. 


Take the balls of joy out of the fridge and roll them in the graham cracker stuff. You can use your hands now to smooth out the edges of the spikey yummy ball thing and it now looks round again. 


Once your white chocolate is melted, you want to first dip your stick end into it and then insert it into the ball. Once all of them have a stick, put them in the fridge for a few to harden the chocolate. 


Next it's time to put them in the white chocolate jacuzzi of love! Dip and swirl each one around until it's coated and then place it, stick side straight up, on a cookie sheet with wax paper. Refrigerate when finished and then you can serve and enjoy these delicious treats!


Now that my teeth are hurting just thining about it, it's almost time to get started on our dinner. What will I make, a delicious, full flavor chicken breast with fresh basil, sun dried tomatoes, and a disc of goat cheese on top! MmmMmm. I had something like this at Carrabba's recently and just knew I was capable of making the same thing, and I did just that. The goat cheese is so wonderful, rich and tangy my mouth is already watering! 



Stay tuned for more adventures in cooking!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cooking Made Simple!

Look, just because I love to cook, doesn't mean I always have TIME to cook. Those of you who know me, know what kind of schedule I have, those of you that don't, let's just say I'm always moving! Yesterday was one of those extra busy day's. A huge History paper due as well as my Monthly The Pampered Chef Meeting last night. So not having any time in the kitchen didn't mean we had a crappy dinner. We didn't even have fast food. Just simple food! Last nights creation had one key ingredient, ... my Crock Pot! Ok Ok, some of you are saying, "I still dont have time to get everything prepared for this crock pot meal" But for this meal, that is just not the case! Super Easy, Super fast, and then set it and forget it? Im probably stealing but lets get to the good stuff. 
What did I cook? White bean chicken chili with some corn bread muffins. YUM. Number of ingredients for the chili... 3. Here you have it, super easy, super good, a bit spicy. 
Check out your grocery store's Spice Aisle. You know that section right next to the spices that has all the easy packets of seasonings you can buy for stew, chili, gravy, you name it? Find this packet. White Bean chicken Chili, or White Bean Chili.




I bought two of these packets, about two pounds of chicken breasts, and two to three cans of white beans. 
Here's how long it took me to put it together. 10 minutes.  

Simply cut up your chicken into bite size pieces, throw them in a large covered skillet and brown them up. Keep the cover on and they will cook faster. Once cooked you can simply throw them into the crock pot with the cans of beans, season packet and then a little bit of water and let it cook. Super easy, super fast, I was then free to finish working on the super fun task of my history paper. :/

If any of you are wondering how my husband took having zucchini in his stir fry the other night, it was no problemo! Another great way to get kids, and even husbands, to eat their veggies is to cover them in yummy sauces. ;)

As far as today's adventures, I have quite a full plate,.. haha.. plate. That was a good one. More like my kitchen duties are to the max. In the kitchen now are two red velvet cakes cooling. I am about to make a new recipe and hope to share it with my friends soon, assuming everything turns out ok. Time for something sweet since I am not much of a baker and I found the perfect item for me to tackle, Red Velvet Cheesecake Pops. 
I heard someone say "Do what?" I know I did!  haha. 
Yeppers, Red Velvet cheesecake pops. Red Velvet cake, ground up and mixed with cream cheese frosting, then formed into balls and cools. The covered in a layer of cheesecake, then dusted with graham crackers or nuts, then dipped in white chocolate. Yes, Layer upon Layer of deliciousness. Not to mention, tonight is yet again curry night. Beef curry on the menu for dinner and the husband already has a couple work buddies coming to eat dinner. Busy me, but I love it. If the recipe for these pops turn out, I will definitley post it to you all. Wish me luck and happy cooking!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Let's get started.

Well, here it is! The adventure begins. Many of you may not think cooking is an adventure, but to me, it is! Welcome to my Adventures in cooking blog and here I plan to share not only cooking ideas, recipe's, great shortcuts, but also my thoughts and perhaps even reviews on certain food items.

To start this off I want to bring you to my hectic day yesterday. It was my very first The Pampered Chef party, my Launch party, and the house was booming. All my gals were having a good time eating, drinking and joking around. It was a huge success and I am hoping to earn the new Manual Food Processor. For Free!! Exhausted and feeling a bit stressed from all the hustle and bustle, we went out to eat. This is not something that I would normally do, but being the craziness of the day, I was eager for a strong drink and for someone else to serve ME. ;)
I tried a new dish yesterday and fell in love with the concept. How many have tried a pecan crusted item? OMG, really? It made my taste buds dance! I thought of a hundred ideas for this delicious coating and couldn't wait to make something of my own like this. Try it and tell me what you think! I will post my recipe when I try it and give you family reviews. 
As for tonight's Adventure in cooking? Chicken stir fry. YUM. I am going to sneak in some Zucchini and see if my husband will still eat it. He is definitely the vegetable challenged! The recipe is simple, as goes as such.

Chicken Stir Fry:
Ingreedients
2 to 3 boneless chicken breasts(cut into small bite sized pieces)
6 large carrots(peeled and cut into disks with a Mandolin)
1 sm head of broccoli (cut into pieces)
1 zucchini (also cut into disks with the Mandolin)
(other veggie's as you so desire)
Low sodium Soy Sauce
Corn Starch
2 to 3 tbsp of oil 
Cooked White Rice
Sriracha Hot chili Sauce (Asian hot sauce)

Directions:
Heat large skillet (with lid) or a Wok (I don't have one :( ..)  on high and add oil. 
Put chicken in skillet and brown well. Turn heat down to simmer.
Add carrots and zucchini to pan.
Splash 1/4 cup of soy sauce into pan and cover letting ingredients simmer and steam. Stir occasionally.
After 10 minutes, add broccoli and cover again. 
When broccoli has steamed to your liking, Combine 1/2 cup of soy sauce with 1 tbsp of the Hot sauce and stir. Add to skillet and stir. 

Make a slurry with your corn starch. What?? You don't know how?? OK OK, easy stuff. Simply spoon about 3 heaping spoonfuls of corn starch into a small prep bowl. Add in a little water and stir, making sure to do a little at a time because you want the slurry thick. 


Now back to the dish! 
Once your juices are boiling, .. no.. I dont mean once you are good and mad! I mean once the soy sauce mixture is bubbling in your pan, shut it off and remove it from the heat. Quickly take the cover off and add your slurry. Stir Stir Stir! You should watch before your eyes your mixture thicken up and coat your veggies and chicken. 
Ta Daaaaa You have a delicious meal that is super tasty. Serve this stir fry over some white rice and you have a filling meal! (I usually cheat with the boil in a bag rice! lol)


ENJOY!!