Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chicken gyros with tzatiki sauce

Chicken gyros with Tzatiki sauce

16 oz plain greek yogurt
1 medium cucumber - seeded, chopped finely and squeezed of liquid
pinch of salt
4 cloves garlic - minced 
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp red wine vinegar
6-8 mint leaves - minced
4 pita flatbreads - cut in half
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
Shredded lettuce
Slices of cucumber, tomatoes and red onion

Mix together yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, oil, vinegar and mint in a bowl - refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using.

Stuff each pita half with 1/4 cup shredded chicken and desired vegetables.  Top with sauce.

I like to serve these with frozen french fries for a simple dinner.


Carbonara pasta bake

Carbonara Pasta Bake

This is a great meal to prep in the morning, chill it in the fridge then pop in the oven when you get home from work.

8 slices of thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound spaghetti - cooked according to package directions
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Heat oven to 375 degrees and coat a 2 quart baking dish with non-stick spray

Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, drain on paper towels

In a large bowl whisk together eggs, yolks, cheese, milk, half-and-half, parsley, salt and pepper.

Toss pasta with sauce and pour into prepared dish

Bake for 40 minutes and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Be sure to use a good cheese in this dish, the flavor will be better with a nuttier parmesan!  Try adding some chopped chicken for a more filling meal.


Chicken cordon bleu casserole

I found this recipe in the Columbus Dispatch and thought it would be worth a try.  Boy it is good!!!!  I adapted it a bit for our tastes and that is the version I will be posting.  The original can be found in the Dispatch from May 9, 2012.

1 egg
1 1/2 cups of milk
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast- cut into chunks
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
4 Tbsp canola oil
8 ounces swiss cheese - shredded
6 ounces ham - diced
1 can (10.75 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Coat a 10x14 baking dish with non-stick spray

Whisk egg with 1/2 cup of milk in a shallow dish.  Dip chicken in egg mixture and then roll in breadcrumbs to coat.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat, cook chicken until golden brown and transfer to the baking dish (don't worry if chicken is not fully cooked, it will finish in the oven)
Sprinkle ham and cheese over top of the chicken.  Mix the soup with the remaining 1 cup of milk and pour over top .
Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly.

Serve with rice pilaf and a simple green salad.

When I first tried this recipe I thought that quick frying and then baking the chicken seemed like too much work but it was worth it.  The panko breadcrumbs give such a nice texture to the dish.   Definitely don't skip this step!  Also don't go cheap on the ham, in a dish like this were there aren't many ingredients each one is important.  Go to the deli and ask for a thick slice of a good quality ham, then dice it up fine.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Tomato salad

Beautiful heirloom tomatoes really need no help to taste delicious.  Paired with an avocado and dressed with only lemon juice this salad is light, and refreshing.

Simply slice the tomatoes and the avocado squeeze the lemon over top sprinkle with salt and eat away.

Heirloom tomatoes can be expensive at the grocery store, try to find a local farmer to buy them from.  You will get a better tomato at a better price and you are helping your community.  Give it a try I think you are going to be pleased.


Tortellini soup

This recipe was given to me by my dear friend Heather, I changed it only a little to include more vegetables.  Not only do the veggies add nutritional value but it stretches the recipe as well.  By all means fell free to omit them but I think they are a great addition.

1 pound bulk italian sausage (or links with casing removed)
2 garlic cloves - minced
1 large onion - diced
1 zucchini - chopped
1 yellow squash - chopped
2 carrots - diced
2 - 15oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 - 15oz can of tomato sauce
2 Tbsp fresh oregano (or 1 Tbsp dried)
2 cups of chicken or beef stock
2 cups water
salt and pepper
Package of fresh tortellini
Parmesan cheese

In a large heavy bottomed stock pot or french oven brown sausage in 2 tsp olive oil breaking it up as it cooks.  When it is half browned add in the garlic, onion, zucchini, squash and carrots.  Continue cooking over medium heat until sausage is fully brown and vegetables have softened a bit.
Add tomatoes, oregano stock and water.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add tortellini and cook until tender.
Serve pipping hot with parmesan cheese to top

With just some garlic bread this is a wonderfully hearty meal that tastes much like a pot of pizza!


Need a french oven?  These from Le Creuset are my favorite!

Creamy chicken and noodles

Creamy chicken and noodles is chocked full of vegetables and comes together quickly for an easy weeknight supper.  If you pre-chop your veggies this skillet meal can be table ready in 25 minutes!

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
18 oz white mushrooms - sliced
2 Tbsp fresh thyme - chopped
2 leeks - thinly sliced white and light green parts
2 carrots - chopped
2 celery stalks - chopped
3 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup cream
3 cups cooked chicken (Rotisserie or poached) - pulled or chopped
1 bag extra wide Amish style egg noodles
3-4 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add mushrooms and cook 10-12 minutes to lightly brown.
Add in the thyme, leeks, carrots, and celery.  Partially cover the pot and cook until the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes.
Sprinkle in the flour and mix well - pour in wine and stock and bring to a bubble.
Lower heat to low and stir in cream and chicken
Cook noodles according to package directions.
Add Dijon mustard and dill sauce
Once noodles are cooked add them to the sauce and serve immediately
Pairs well with a simple green salad and a crusty bread.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Stuffed shells with hidden or not so hidden veggies

Finished shells

 Just before baking

Stuffed shells make a great vehicle for some hidden veggies.  Some people in our family wont eat spinach and some of us love it so I did both with and without.  But I could not just leave those other ones with no veggies.  Cauliflower to the rescue!  I chopped it up fine and cooked slightly at the end of the sausage cooking and it just disappeared!  Even the pickiest of my eaters didn't notice anything.  Give it a try.  No cauliflower?  Try shredded zucchini or squash. 
I am going to post the base recipe and you can add veggies to hide or find as you like.

Ingredients -
20 jumbo shells - cooked to package directions
1 small container skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound Italian sausage - casing removed
2 clove garlic - chopped fine
1 tbsp butter - softened
1 jar marinara pasta sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350
Cook sausage in 1 Tbsp olive oil until fully browned.  (If you want to cook your veggies do it at the end of the cooking time in with the sausage.  Spinach will take about 2 minutes to wilt down, cauliflower needed about 3 minutes to cook.)  Once fully cooked remove from heat and allow to cool down a bit.
In a large bowl mix together ricotta, Parmesan, butter, garlic, and pepper.  Mix well and then fold in the cooled sausage and veggie mixture.  Mix well.  Stuff cooked shells evenly with mixture.
In a large baking dish pour enough sauce to cover the bottom of the pan.  Arrange shells around the pan.  Top each shell with another table spoon of sauce then sprinkle the mozzarella over the top.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
Pair with a green salad and garlic bread for a filling dinner.


Potato Asparagus and Artichoke salad

2 pounds baby red or blue potatoes - halved or quartered depending on size
1 pound asparagus - trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 can artichoke hears - drained and quartered
2 green onions - sliced
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot or salted water to a boil and boil potatoes for 10-15 minutes until just tender.  Add asparagus to cooking water for the last 2 minutes of potato cooking time.
Drain and allow to cool in the colander.
In a large bowl combine Dijon, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper, whisk well to combine.
Add artichokes, green onions and potato and asparagus to the dressing and toss well to coat.
Cover and refrigerate or serve immediately.


Greek pasta salad

1 pound elbow noodles
1 English cucumber - chopped
1 small red onion - cut in half and sliced into thin strips
3 Roma tomatoes - seeded and chopped
2 cups baby spinach leaves
8 oz feta cheese crumbled
3-4 Tbsp Greek vinaigrette dressing

Cook noodles to package directions - drain and rinse with cold water
Add vegetables and cheese to noodles and toss to combine
Pour dressing over top and toss
Serve immediately or refrigerate covered until ready to serve.

To make your own vinaigrette -
Whisk together in a bowl 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar add 2 tsp dried oregano or 3 Tbsp fresh oregano.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


Rosemary Orange Roasted Chicken

5-7 pound roasting chicken
Salt and pepper
4 sprigs of rosemary
4-6 sprigs of thyme
2 Tbsp Complete seasoning
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup Orange juice
1/4 - 1/2 cup flour
1-2 cups of chicken stock or broth
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
Remove giblets and place the chicken in the rack of a roasting pan.  Pat dry with a paper towel.  Season liberally inside and out with salt and pepper.  Stuff rosemary and thyme inside the chicken.

Sprinkle complete seasoning over top of the chicken, pour oil over breast and rub oil and seasoning over the entire chicken.
Tuck wings under so the tips don't burn and tie up legs if desired.  I didn't have any twine so I just let them hang and it came out fine.
Pour the orange juice and 1/2 cup of water into the bottom of the roasting pan.
Roast chicken for 25-40 minutes depending on the size of your chicken.  You want an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Remove roast to a cutting board and cover tightly with foil.
Scrape up bits in the bottom of the pan and pour all the pan drippings into a saute pan.  Add flour to form a paste with the drippings.   You want about the same amount of flour as fat in the pan, so depending on how much drippings you have you may need more or less flour.  I usually start with 2 heaping tablespoons and work up from there.  (If you don't have enough drippings in your roasting pan you can start the gravy with 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp orange juice and get a similar flavor.  )
Once you have a paste like consistency slowly add chicken stock and thin to desired consistency.  Again depending on how much fat you started with will affect how much stock you need in the end.  (You can also use plain water in place of the stock.)

Carve chicken and serve with gravy along side.

Do not toss out the bones!!!!!  These will make a great broth, simply add enough water to cover the chicken and place over low heat.  Simmer low for 2-3 hours for a delicious broth!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Egg Salad

6 hard boiled eggs
1/4 cup Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp mustard
2 Tbsp pickle relish
1-2 tsp vinegar or pickle juice
salt and pepper

Slice eggs and remove yolks to a bowl, mash yolks and mix well with mayo, mustard, relish and vinegar.  Chop up whites (I like them chunky) and fold into yolk mixture.  Season with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate or eat immediately.

Makes a great sandwich or cracker topping.

Deviled Eggs

Now that you have perfect hard boiled eggs these Deviled Eggs are just a few steps away. 

12 hard boiled eggs
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp mustard
1 - 2 tsp vinegar (or olive brine)
Salt and pepper
Sliced green olives or pimentos to garnish

Slice eggs in half lengthwise and remove yolks into a bowl.  Set whites aside.  Mash yolks with a fork and add mayo, mustard, 1 tsp vinegar and salt and pepper.  Depending on your eggs you may need to add the other teaspoon of vinegar, check your consistency before adding it though.  Mix well until smooth.
To stuff the whites you can just spoon in but I like to "pipe" it in by placing the filling in a baggie, clipping a corner off and squeezing the filling out into the center of the white.  I think this is the easiest way and yields a nicer looking result.
Top each egg with garnish
Refrigerate until ready to serve - if it will be more than an hour you will want to cover them with plastic wrap so they don't dry out.

Next?  Egg salad of course!

Fool Proof Hard Boiled Eggs

Something as simple as hard boiled eggs can go horribly wrong.  I can stand that ring that comes around the yolk of an overcooked egg!  However with a few simple steps you can get perfect eggs every time.

1 - Start with fresh eggs - old eggs will be harder to peel in the end
2 - Place eggs in a pot - you don't want them to have much wiggle room so choose a pot that is the right size for however many eggs you are cooking.
3 - Cover the eggs with cold water
4 - Put the pot over high heat - let water come to a full boil
5 - Turn off the heat and place a cover on the pan and let sit for 15 minutes
6 - Place the pot in the sink and run cold water over eggs until all the water in the pot is cold
7 - Let the eggs sit in the cold water for 15 minutes
8 - Crack shells and peel - run under cold water if needed.

Next post... Devil eggs followed by egg salad

Baked Ziti with Zucchini

 Can you see the vegetables in this casserole?  Neither will your kids (or my husband)!  This casserole will freeze well if you leave the cheese off the top until baking just assemble, cover with foil and pop in the freezer.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage - with casings removed
3 medium size zucchini - shredded on a box grater
2 1/2 cups prepared spaghetti sauce
1 pound ziti noodles - cooked according to package directions for al dente (don't overcook since they will soften a bit more in the oven)
15 oz container ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp butter - softened
1 clove garlic - finely minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat - brown sausage in oil breaking up into chunks as it cooks.  Once it is completely cooked add in zucchini and cook for 2 minutes. 
Remove from heat and add in spaghetti sauce, and cooked noodles stir to combine well.
In a bowl combine ricotta, softened butter, garlic and Parmesan cheese.
To assemble -
In a 12 by 8 inch casserole dish layer half of the pasta mixture then half of the ricotta mixture (I find the easiest way to do this is dropping small spoonfuls rather than trying to spread it) repeat layer again and sprinkle mozzarella over the top.
Bake in pre-heated oven for 30-45 minutes until bubbly and golden brown on top.
Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Garlic knots

These are a favorite at our house.  They are easy to make with store bought or homemade dough.

Preheat oven to 425
Start with pizza dough - either homemade or the tube kind.  My local pizzeria also sells dough balls that are frozen.
Roll or press the dough out into a large rectangle about 12x8.
Spread 2 Tbsp softened butter or margarine over the center third of the dough
Sprinkle over the butter
 - 1 Tsp dried parsley
 - 1 Tsp garlic salt
 - 1/2 Tsp dried dill
Fold dough in thirds - Top down the the middle then bottom to the middle to meat the top.
Using a pizza cutter slice into 10 strips
Tie each strip into a knot and place on a baking sheet
Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown

Teriyaki beef - Crock pot meal

What could be easier than 3 ingredients in your crock pot?  I'm not sure, this is pretty much as easy as it gets.  Turn the crock pot on and at the end of the day you have dinner waiting for you.

Ingredients -
3 pound beef roast - rump or chuck work great
Bottle of teriyaki sauce
1 cup beef broth or stock

Cut roast into large chunks and trim excess fat.  Place meat in the bottom of the crock pot.  Pour teriyaki sauce and stock over the beef.  Cover and turn on low for 8 hours.
If sauce is too thin you can thicken it up with a cornstarch slurry.  Mix 1 Tbsp corn starch with 1 Tsbp cold water, mix well and stir into sauce and meat mixture.

Serve with jasmine rice.

Broccoli is a great add in here if you have a little extra time.  Just give it a light steam and add it to beef before serving.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dads Chili

My Dad makes amazing chili!  Unfortunately he lives in Miami and I am in Virginia so I have to make my own.  This recipe comes very close to his I tend to make it mild so the kids will eat it then spice it up at the table with some hot sauce for the grown ups.  Chili freezes great so make an extra batch for another night.

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 pounds Ground Beef
1 pound Hot Italian Sausage with casings removed
2 small Green Peppers - chopped
1 large Onion - chopped
3 cloves Garlic - minced
1 14oz can of Tomato Sauce
1 28oz can of Diced Tomatoes
2 cans Kidney beans - drained and rinsed
3 Tbsp Chili Powder
Salt and pepper

In a large stock pot heat oil over medium high heat.  Add beef and sausage and brown well 5-8 minutes breaking up the sausage as it is cooking.  Add green peppers, onions and garlic and continue to cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes.  Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes with their liquid and beans.  Bring to a simmer.  Stir in chili powder, salt and pepper.  Turn down the heat and let simmer for 1 hour.  If it gets too thick just add some water.
Serve hot with assorted toppings.

Toppings -
Hot sauce
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped raw onions
Sliced jalapenos
Crushed corn chips
Crushed tortilla chips
Sour cream


Chicken soup with lemon

A dash of lemon juice can really bring chicken soup to a new level.  By giving the vegetables and chicken a little pre-cook and using pre-made stock or broth this delicious and hearty soup comes together in just under 30 minutes.

1 Boneless skinless chicken breast - cut into chunks
2 large carrots - sliced
2 medium celery stalks - chopped
1 small onion - chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
Quart of chicken stock
2 cups egg noodles
1 lemon - Juiced

In a stock pot heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add carrots, celery and onion and saute for 3-4 minutes.  Add chicken and continue to cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until chicken is about half way cooked.  Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Add in noodles and simmer about 8-10 minutes until noodles are done, vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through.
Remove from heat and add in the lemon juice.  Serve immediately with crusty bread.

This soup freezes well.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

March meal plan

Teriyaki beef - Crock pot and 2 for 1 dinner
Jasmin Rice
  - Using left over beef for dinner on the 5th

3/2 - All Friday meals are meatless in observance of Lent
Cheese ravioli with marinara
Garlic knots

Sirloin steak
Black beans

Roasted chicken and root vegetables
 - Freezing extra chicken for dinner on the 20th
 - Making stock from chicken bones

Stir fry with beef from the 1st

White bean and bacon soup

Spaghetti and meatballs
 - Double batch of meatballs to freeze for dinner on the 27
Garlic knots

Chicken Enchiladas - Crock pot and 2 for 1 dinner
 - Using extra chicken for dinner on the 12th

Tuna noodle casserole

Burgers and Bratwurst
Baked beans

Twice Baked Potatoes

Chicken and rice bake with chicken from the 8th

Pizza night

Chicken Alfredo Pasta

Tuscan chicken - Crock pot

Red beans and rice
Salmon cakes

3/17 - St Patricks Day
Potatoes and kale
Irish soda bread

Ziti with sausage and zucchini

Breakfast for dinner
Fireman's breakfast

Chicken Fajita burritos
Mexican rice
 - using precooked frozen chicken from the 4th

Baked Chicken
Mashed potatoes

Stuffed peppers

Lentil and rice soup

Baked spaghetti
Garlic bread

Split pea soup

Pork chops in mushroom gravy
Smashed potatoes

Meatballs - from the 7th - With Tangy Tomato sauce

Fried rice
Egg rolls

Chili - from the freezer

Vegetable Lasagna

Pot Roast - Crock pot


Just a quick note to say sorry for my recent absence, we had a death in the family and took some time.  I have next months meal plan ready and will be posting it next as well as 4-5 new recipes over the next day or two.  We should be current by the end of the week.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Smothered Chicken - Mock of "Alice Springs Chicken" from Outback Steakhouse

I love the Alice Springs chicken at Outback but we don't eat out much.  I played around with simple ingredients and found this combo tastes almost exactly the same.  Now I can have it anytime I want and for about 20% of the cost of eating out.

1 tbsp olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 tsp butter
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
Bacon bits or crumbled cooked bacon
1/2 cup shredded cheddar jack cheese blend

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat - Melt butter and add in sliced mushrooms.  Allow to brown fully then add in Worcestershire sauce.  Take mushrooms out of skillet into a bowl and return skillet to heat.

Butterfly chicken breasts and season with salt and pepper.

Add oil to skillet and cook chicken 4 - 5 minutes on each side until cooked through.

Move chicken onto a baking sheet (I line mine with foil to make clean-up easier).  Top each chicken breast with 1 Tbsp of Dijon mustard, half of the mushrooms, a sprinkle of bacon bits and half of the cheese.

Place under broiler for 2-3 minutes.  Watch carefully every broiler is different and the cheese could burn quick.

Serve with mashed potatoes or rice pilaf.


Congri - Black beans and rice

Congri is rice cooked with black beans and their liquid the result is a hearty side dish that you will make again and again.  It also freezes beautifully so make extra and store it away for a night you don't feel like cooking!

Traditionally congri would be started by soaking dried black beans and then cooking them as you would to serve over rice.  When the black bean "soup" is finished 2 cups of the beans and 1 cup of the cooking liquid would be taken out to make the congri.  We are going to skip this step and start using canned black beans.  This will take about 3 hours out of the prep time but if you have 3 hours to kill by all means start with dried beans.

4 slices of bacon - chopped
1 large onion- chopped
3 cloves of garlic - minced
2 cups parboiled rice
2 cans black beans and their liquid
1 cup of chicken or beef stock
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp white vinegar

In a large pot (that has a lid) brown chopped bacon over medium heat until it renders its fat.
Remove bacon and save for later.

Add onion and garlic to bacon fat and cook 3-4 minutes.  Add in rice and stir to coat rice with fat.  Carefully add the beans and their liquid, the chicken stock, oregano and cumin.  Skip salt for now depending on your bacon and beans you may not need any.  Bring to a simmer and put the lid on.
Simmer covered for 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat then stir with a fork to fluff the rice.  Add bacon back into rice and stir in vinegar.  Put the lid back on and allow to sit for 10 minutes (make sure the burner is off now).  Taste to see if it needs any salt.
Really this could be a meal on its own - we often eat it for lunch with a piece of fruit - but it makes a great side to a simple chicken breast or grilled steak.


Fried rice - Raid the pantry

Quick, easy and you probably have all the ingredients on hand already.  Fried rice is a go to meal here when I need to whip up something in a hurry.  I always have frozen stir fry mix in the freezer add rice and a few spices and your done.  Bonus is that my kids will try all kinds of new veggies when I mix it in the fried rice and I am not even hiding them!

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seed oil (I like the flavor this adds if you don't have any just use more olive oil)
2 cups cooked rice - leftover rice is great
1 bag frozen stir fry mix
2 eggs - beaten
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp butter - cut into 4 pieces

Heat oils in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat - add in frozen vegetables and cook 3-5 minutes until they start to soften.  Scoot the vegetables over to one side of the pan and add the eggs to the other side.  Allow to cook for 1 minute then mix with the vegetables.  Add garlic, ginger and rice.  Stir well to incorporate.  Drizzle soy sauce over the top and add butter.  Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stir to avoid sticking.

If you want to add meat cook it first then remove it from the pan and add back in when you add the rice.  I also tend to toss in any left over vegetables I have in the fridge.

Cream Tuna on toast - Super Comfort Food!

Cream tuna over toast is the top of my comfort food list.  Plus my kids love tuna but tuna salad when its 20 degrees out, not so great.  Cream tuna is warm and yummy!  I know it sounds a little weird but just give it a try, you'll like it!

1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup of milk (Approximately)
1 can of tuna - water drained
Salt and pepper
2 Slices of toast

In a small sauce pan over medium heat melt butter then stir in the flour.
Slowly whisk in milk - start with 1/2 cup and add more to desired consistency.  Remember that sauce will not thicken totally until it comes to a low boil.
Once sauce is formed add the tuna and season with salt and pepper.
Serve hot over toast.


This method works good with canned chicken over biscuits or mashed potatoes too. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Fudge

Fudge.  Ugh.  My Grandmother used to make the most amazing fudge you have ever tasted.  It was smooth and creamy and always came out perfect.  As a child I figured that was because it was easy to make.  As an adult I realize it was because she knew exactly what to do and when to do it.  When my Grandmother passed away, her recipes skipped over my mother (who doesn't cook) and on to me.  Try as I may, I just could not make her fudge.  It would turn to grains or never set.  After 5 or 6 trys I just gave up.  My Mother is here visiting now and we somehow got on the subject of Grandma's Fudge again as I was flipping through the March issue of Food Network Magazine.  There is was... a recipe for Fudge!  I had all the ingredients on hand so I left Mom in charge of the kids and headed to the kitchen.
I started by reading through the recipe a few times first to make sure that I really knew what I was going to do and I suggest you do that as well.
Here is there recipe word for word.  My pictures and finished product are to follow.

Chocolate Fudge
Active time 1 hour - Total 3 hours - Makes 1 1/2 pounds
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened, plus more for brushing
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, very finely chopped
1 tsp. vanilla, mint or almond extract
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup half and half
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
Assorted toppings - Crushed sandwich cookies, crushed graham crackers, white chocolate chips, sprinkles, peanut butter drizzle, or mini marshmellows

1. Line a 9x5 inch loaf pan with foil, leaving a 2 inch overhang on all sides, lightly brush the foil with butter.

2. Lightly brush the bowl of a stand mixer or large metal bowl with butter.  Add 2 tablespoons cut up butter, the chocolate, extract and salt; set the bowl aside.

3. Heat the half-and-half in a medium pot over medium high heat until hot but not boiling.  Stir in the sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon; boil, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 3 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low; run a pastry brush dipped in water around the sides of the pan to disolve any sugar crystals clinging to the pan.
Clip a candy thermometer to the pan, simmer the mixture, undisturbed, until the thermometer registers 234-238 degrees 20-30 minutes, watching the temperature closely as cooking times may vary.  (This is the soft ball stage.  To test for doneness, drop some of the mixture into cold water; you should be able to form a soft ball.)

4. Quickly pour the sugar mixture over the chocolate butter mixture in the bowl (do not scrape the sides or bottom of the saucepan in case any sugar crystals formed.)  Clean the candy thermmemter then clip it to the bowl.  Let the chocolate mixture cool, undisturbed, until it registers 110-115 degrees, about 1 hour.  (For faster cooling, set the bowl in a larger bowl of cold water.)

5. Brush the paddle attachment or mixer beaters with butter.  Beat the mixture on medium speed until just incorporated, about 1 minute.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat until the fudge just begins to lose its sheen and holds its shape. 5-15 minutes.  Do not over mix or the fudge will become hard.  Use a buttered rubber spatula to scrape the fudge into the prepared pan and pat down into an even layer, smooth the top.

6. Press one or more toppings into the fudge, if desired (about 3/4 cup total.)  Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour then score the fudge into small squares with a knife.  For the best texture, let sit at least 1 more hour before slicing.  Wrap leftover fudge in plastic wrap and store in an air tight container for up to 1 week at room temperature or 2 weeks in the refrigerator.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

So to start I used parchment paper instead of foil.  I just like it better.  I gave a light spray of non-stick spray to the pan before setting the paper down inside.  The spray will help it stay in place.

I buttered my mixer bowl about 3/4 of the way up the side.

I chopped the chocolate and put it on top of the butter - added the vanilla and salt.

I didn't have any half-and-half so I used evaporated milk instead.  Next time I will use a bigger pan since I had some boiling up when things were getting hot.

I checked 3 times to make sure all the sugar was dissolved.  Normally on my stove a low simmer is a 2 but it got stuck around 200 for about 15 minutes.  Turning the heat up to 3 brought it up to 234 degrees.  It took about 45 minutes to get there.

I poured the hot sugar into the bowl and put the bowl in the sink with about 2 inches of cold water.  This helped bring the heat down in about 15 minutes.  It was hard to resist stiring but I did it!

I beat the chocolate until the sheen went away, its hard to see with the flash but was easy to tell when doing it.

I poured into the pan and let it sit on the counter for 2 hours.  It was still a bit soft but firmed up perfectly overnight.

Soft and creamy!
I totally recommend giving this recipe a try.  It took some hands on time and I hovered a bit since it was my first time but I think next time will be much easier.  I found my fudge confidence with this recipe!


Chicken and rice with avocado sour cream

Chicken and rice with avocado sour cream
Comes together in about 25 minutes
Serves 4 adults - but I usually make extra since it reheats great then next day!

2 chicken breasts - cut into chunks
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 cups rice
2 cups chicken stock/broth
1 cup tomato sauce
1 packet Sazon seasoning - found in the Spanish section of most grocery stores

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large lidded skillet over medium heat.  Add the chunked chicken and brown about 3 minutes.
 Add rice and mix well with chicken and left over oil.
Carefully add the stock, tomato sauce and sazon seasoning.  Mix together well, bring to a low boil and reduce heat to low and put the lid on.
 Allow to cook for 20 minutes.  Stir with a fork to fluff the rice.

Avocado sour cream makes a great topper for this rice.  It is also good as a dip or sandwich spread.
1 large Florida or 3 small Haas avocados - remove skins and seeds chunk flesh for a better fit in 
   food processor
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp lime or lemon juice
1 clove garlic

Place all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.  Cover and let chill in the fridge until you are ready to eat.


Chicken Divan in 10 minutes

Chicken Divan - or simply chicken in mustard sauce. 
Serves 4 adults

Olive oil
2 chicken breasts - cut into chunks
Salt and pepper
1 bag frozen broccoli (I like the steam in bag ones)
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 tbsp sour cream
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Cook broccoli in microwave
Preheat oven broiler
Heat oil in a large oven proof skillet over medium heat - add chicken and cook 5 minutes or until cooked through
Turn heat down to low
Scoot chicken pieces to one side of the pan
Add chicken stock, mustard and sour cream.  Stir together until a smooth sauce is formed
Add broccoli
Sprinkle with cheese
Place skillet under broiler just until cheese melts

Serve with couscous or just some bread to soak up the yummy sauce.

You can make this using whole breasts instead of chunks by cooking the chicken in the olive oil then removing from the pan into an oven safe dish.  Then build the sauce and pour on top of the chicken breasts and broil.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Crock pot beef brisket

I love a good brisket as much as anyone.  I have been hoarding the one from our last cow purchase since last April, since we are shopping around for another side of beef I figure it is time to let go of this one. 
3-5 pound beeef brisket
1 cup of ketchup
1 can sprite or ginger ale
1 package dry onion soup mix
2 pounds baby potatoes or baking potatoes cut into 1-2 inch cubes

Place brisket in crock pot.
Combine ketchup, soup mix and soda and pour over top of meat
Spread potatoes around
Put the lid on your crock pot and turn it to low and walk away for 8 hours


Not so crock pot beef brisket

So I was planning on making a crock pot beef brisket with potatoes and my crock pot decided to die.  So now what... I was not planning to fire up the grill in February in Virginia.  I turned to my trusty oven for help.

I used the same recipe that I would for the crock pot except I left the potatoes out, put the brisket in a large pan and covered it tightly with tin foil.  I baked it at 325 for 2 1/2 hours then took off the foil and gave it another 1 hour.

The results were perfect.  Tender, tasty and didn't take long at all.

I found some cutie baby potatoes in the produce clearance so I boiled them whole and tossed with a tablespoon of butter, some salt and parsley.

Brisket on a Tuesday night?  Sure why not!