Monday, July 28, 2014

Nannie's Mac and Cheese

Every Sunday at my Nannie's, we always have fried chicken and lots of veggies. Some change from week to week but we ALWAYS have macaroni and cheese..its everyone's favorite. The first time I made it was one of my greatest accomplishments in the kitchen.
Nannie has always had these blue stirring spoons that her sister would bring back from where she lived in Mexico, and I always loved them when I was a kid. Nannie cooks everything with them. When I got my own kitchen, she gave me three of my own! My copy of this recipe had the flour measured in "blue spoon" increments, so I had to figure out how "blue spoons" convert to cups:)

1/3 cup of all purpose flour
3-4 tbsp butter
1 cup macaroni
1 1/2 cups of Velveeta (cut up into small cubes)
2 cups milk (you probably won't need that entire amount, add slowly)

First, cook the cup of macaroni. While it is boiling, melt butter in the pot. Then stir in flour with a fork or a whisk until its combined. It will kind of look like a paste. I couldn't believe that little amount of butter could hold all that flour but it does. Kitchen science magic that I don't need to understand. Wait about 30 seconds, then add the Velveeta (its about 1/3 of the block if you don't want to measure) and milk. Whisk together until lumps are gone, over medium low heat. Let stand for two minutes to thicken (it will thicken even more in the oven). Then add pasta and stir.
Put in an oven safe dish and bake on 375 for 7-9 minutes or until the top gets a little golden brown, whichever you want. Mine never seems to get brown, but you can tell it that it's starting to thicken up a lot on the top. That's when it's done!

What do have you successfully replicated of your mom or grandmother that makes you feel like you've just won a James Beard award?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Flashback Friday: 5 Minute Pizza

*This is from way back in the early blog days, on the old blog. March 2011. I don't even think they make this cooking cream anymore. Ignore how blah my writing is (this will just make you appreciate me more now) and just use soft cream cheese I guess. The result will be worth the boring instructions.

For the second week in a row I got that new Philadelphia Cooking Creme for 50 cents. BUT they were out of the original that I wanted. So I decided to try the Italian Herb and Cheese. Fast forward to a Saturday night where I've spent the whole day doing chores, and I'm way to tired to cook a big elaborate meal. I have a a pizza crust sitting on the counter, pizza sauce and mozzarella in the freezer and I thought, yep that's all I need. But of course, once I got in the kitchen..the urge to experiment hit. Here are the results!

One pre made pizza crust (I'm pretty sure I used Boboli)
Pizza Sauce (Think I use Ragu, but any will work)
Shredded Mozzarella
Philadelphia Italian Herb and Cheese Cooking Creme
Sliced Provolone
Store Bought Pesto
Few Slices of Yellow Onion

First I spread a thin layer of the cooking creme on the pizza crust with a spatula. Then I spread pizza sauce on top of that layer with the back of a big spoon, being careful not to press too hard and pull the creme through.

Next I put handfuls of mozzarella cheese all over. I had some sliced provolone in the fridge leftover from another recipe and I really wanted to use it, so I chopped up the slices and put them all over the pizza. Now you non veggie people, this is where the recipe ends.

But not for my half! I sliced up a little yellow onion and spread the pieces over my half. Not very much at all, just enough to give it a little flavor. Then I got a spoonful of pesto and let little drops fall off the spoon over my half. Then I just followed the baking instructions on my pizza crust! It literally took 5 minutes to prepare! And there was none leftover so I'd say it was well received!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Vodka Cream Sauce

Sauce. I can never get enough. Any meal that comes with sauce I usually order extra. When I make new recipes that have a sauce, I generally double the sauce the first time I ever cook it. Salad dressing, gravy, dipping sauce, pasta sauce..I want more. I don't really care how much is already there, I still probably need a little more. This is one of my easiest sauces. It's a crowd pleaser, doesn't take too long, and you don't have to worry if you didn't plan ahead, nothing to lay out or thaw. No odd ingredients to find.

Butter or olive oil 
I onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced 
1 cup of vodka
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream 
2 tbsp dried parsley 
2 tbsp dried basil
Salt and pepper 
I've substituted everything you can think of for heavy cream out of desperation to make this sauce and not go to the store. Cream cheese, canned milk, regular milk, sour cream..combinations of's never been bad.
In a large non stick skillet or sauce pan, melt butter on medium high heat. Add onions and cook until they are tender and translucent. Then add garlic. Make sure you have plenty of oil or butter still before you out the garlic in, stirring often it often to keep it from burning.
Believe me when I tell you that if you burn garlic, your dish can not be saved. No matter what you're making. You have to throw it all away and wash the skillet. Don't think you can still use that skillet. The taste of burnt garlic permeates everything. It's like the glitter of flavors. Won't go away ever. 

After the garlic has cooked for 2-3 minutes, add in the vodka and turn your heat up a little, letting the vodka simmer until it has reduced down a little. This will probably take about 5 minutes. Next add tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper, and herbs. Let those simmer on low for anywhere from 5-30 minutes, depending on when you want to eat. About 5 minutes before you want to eat, add the heavy cream and stir until your sauce turns a nice pink color. Add in a handful of Parmesan cheese and stir until melted.

Serve over your favorite pasta. Have I told y'all how much long cut pasta annoys me? I mean there are a handful of things I use it for but in general I abhor it. It's hard to eat, it sticks together, it makes you slap your own self in the face with sauce. You can have your angel hair and fettuccine. Give me a penne, rigatoni, ziti- basically anything that is bite sized.

AAAAANYway, pasta rant over. I hope you make this for yourself and then tell yourself how talented you are, which I do every time I make it. What makes you feel like a rockstar in the kitchen?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sesame Ginger Chicken

This is a recipe I concocted way back in 2008. I was in a cooking rut and looking for ways to make chicken interesting. The first 5 times I made it I only used the chicken and the salad dressing, it wasn't until later that I dug around in the spice cabinet and started adding ingredients. The point is it can be as simple or elaborate as you like! Oh and the low fat dressing tastes the exact same as the regular dressing. Just a little FYI :)

1 pound of chicken breasts or tenderloins
1/2 bottle of Newman's Own Sesame Ginger salad dressing
Ginger, ground
Sesame Seeds
Lime Juice

To start, chop the chicken breasts into strips or cubes. Put in a nonstick skillet or wok over medium high and cook for ten minutes or so. Flip chicken pieces halfway through.

While that is cooking, prepare rice according to the directions on the bag or box.

After the chicken is cooked through, turn down to medium. Add liberal amounts of lime juice to the chicken. Pour in dressing, enough to fill the bottom of your pan. Sprinkle ginger and sesame seeds in and let simmer for 10-15 more minutes. You can add more dressing if it cooks down too much.

I like to serve this over rice or alongside rice with some kind of sauce. I normally buy a great teriyaki glaze that I'm pretty sure is intended for basting meat with but I just like it on my rice. This meal is about $1.50 per serving, and you don't even have to go pick it up from your favorite takeout place!

What have you thrown in a skillet with chicken that blew your mind?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Accidental Enchiladas

Today I may have stumbled upon a great recipe. The problem is, it was one of those things where you just start throwing things in the skillet that sound good and you aren't all that worried about it. Like the lowest of pressure cooking situations. Therefore, there was no measuring of any kind (which is not uncommon in my kitchen at all and frustrates my non cooking friends to no end). BUT normally I at least pay attention enough to write a recipe with good enough estimates for my dearly devoted 20 readers. Tonight..not so much. So bear with me, this may be frustrating, but it will definitely be delicious. I just don't htink you can mess up these flavors. If you try and it's disgusting I'll buy you Taco Bell or something. Not really. It's just a nice thought don't get crazy.

This started with 2 chicken breasts and a pretty serious energy deficit. As usual, cooking started to activate every creative brain cell I have so what was supposed to be 3 ingredients (still would've been great that way) turned in to..well more than 3. Like I said, DON'T FREAK OUT ABOUT THIS ONE. If you don't have/like everything, don't put it in there. I'm pretty sure chicken and tortillas plain would be good if you covered it in cheese.


2 chicken breasts
Fajita seasoning (or ANY combo of good things like S&P, onion and garlic powders, cumin, chili powder, etc.. I like to mix my own fajita seasoning so I can control how salty it is..I have a weird palette. We'll discuss it another day)
About 2 cups bell peppers-diced
About 1 cup red onions-diced
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 small can of Mexicorn
2 cups of Mexican blend cheese
8-10 large flour tortillas
2 cans of enchilada sauce with green chiles
1 jar of Taco Sauce
Sour cream

PEOPLE. I can hear you freaking out already. What color bell peppers? I don't have mexicorn! I hate black beans! CALM YOURSELF. I used tricolor bell peppers because that's what I had. Anything will do. Don't have a red onion but DO have a yellow one? Use that. Don't go to the store to make this exactly. This is NOT science, as we've clearly already established my aptitude for science.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cut the chicken up into small bites. Put a small amount of oil in a non stick skillet, set the heat on high. Once it gets hot, put your chicken in and spread it out. Then don't touch it for a few. Sprinkle your seasoning on top. I used quite a bit. They looked very coated. After about 4 minutes, stir/flip the pieces. Let them cook another 3-4 minutes. This is when my brain started shooting out ideas one right after another. I realized the enchiladas might be kind of empty so I started looking for filler. I added about hte same amount of bell peppers as chicken, and just a little less onion that than amount. Stirred that around for a few, still on high. I wanted the bell peppers to get softer. After about 5 minutes I dumped in a can of black beans and corn, and let all of that get heated through. Done with the filling!

I then scooped one large serving spoon of filling, or about 1/10th of the filling I made into a tortilla. Sprinkle some cheese on top of the filling like you are making a taco. I find it's easiest to lay wax paper on the counter, put the tortilla on it, scoop on the stuffing, then roll. Place the rolled enchilada seam side down in a 9x13 or larger glass dish (I sprayed mine with Pam first). Repeat this process, smushing the tortillas in to each other until you use all the filling or run out of space. I ran out of space. Gonna eat that leftover mixture tomorrow on a salad.

Pour the enchilada sauce on top, strategically so it will run down to the bottom. If I had been smarter I would've poured one can in the bottom of the dish. You should probably do that first. Then just pour the second can on top. Then I added about a cup of taco sauce, and the remaining cheese. Bake for 30 minutes uncovered.

Top each serving with a dollop or two or 5 of sour cream and more taco sauce as desired.

Good luck getting the first enchilada out if your pan was as full as mine. I put a cookie sheet under my dish to catch any spills in the oven which of course ensured no spills. The whole family gobbled it up. And by whole family I mean three people ate half of the pan.

What is the most fun thing you've accidentally made? How anxious are you about my measurements in this recipe on a scale from 1 to breathing in a bag?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Guest Post Friday: Salsa Debacle of 2014

Sooo my friend Robin may be the funniest human I know in real life. I'm thinking about just letting her take over my blog because not only is she so funny, she's so talented in the kitchen (although, this post doesn't really highlight that). She just moved away and I'm so sad, but reading/hearing all over her new food adventures is making me anxious to get to Columbus! Enjoy!

Let me preface this story by saying this - we all have kitchen failures from time to time. We aren’t all perfect Pinterest cooks who make picture-perfect meals every single time we step into the kitchen. Every now and then, we encounter an epic failure. I am here to tell you about one of my most recent ones. I will call this “The Salsa Debacle of 2014” (mainly because “debacle” is a fun word, but also because it’s an accurate description of actual events).

My family has recently relocated to Columbus, MS after my husband was called to be a minister at a local church here. Ya’ll, this town. It is charming and historic and quaint and awesome. We live downtown, within walking distance to the Farmer’s Market (!!!!!!). I completely love it here. Here is one of my first observations of this town and our people here: everyone has a vegetable garden. It is one of our most favorite surprises when church members bring us fresh veggies from their gardens. We have gotten cucumbers, crook-neck squash, blueberries, okra, tomatoes, bell peppers, corn, jalapeƱos, and chili peppers - and OH THE HOME-COOKED MEALS PEOPLE HAVE BROUGHT US. I can’t even talk about the squash casseroles. But, I digress. The point is, people have brought us fresh veggies and I have been trying to figure out how to use them before they go to waste. 

So the other night, after receiving 2 garbage bags (you read that right) full of produce and examining the contents, I had this great idea to make my own salsa. I have actually made my own salsa before and it turned out really good, but unfortunately I didn’t keep the recipe and I couldn’t find it again. But, I am a pretty seasoned cook (no pun intended) and thought, “you know - I can pull this off without a recipe. HOW HARD CAN IT BE?” 

So, I began by chopping the tomatoes. Oh, they were glorious Roma tomatoes (and who doesn’t love a fresh tomato?). I put them into my pot and started it on medium heat to cook them down as the base for my salsa. I added some salt and olive oil (because why not?) and then started adding more ingredients. Ya’ll, I was like a mad scientist. I was literally looking through our pantry trying to find things that would work in this salsa. I was chopping things and throwing them in, imagining myself hosting my own cooking show and explaining to my audience how “anybody can make your own salsa, you just need a little bit of ‘know-how.’” I chopped onions, garlic, cilantro, and threw it all into the pot. It was beautiful, and fresh, and smelled terrific. And then, I got to the chili peppers. 

Now, before we got rid of our cable, I used to watch the Food Network non-stop. I know a surprising amount of information about cooking thanks to my friends at the Food Network. I vaguely remember a lesson from Bobby Flay when he reminded us that what makes chilies hot are the seeds. Anytime you are trying to cook with any sort of chili peppers, you need to 1) wear rubber gloves as you chop them (otherwise, you have the juice on your hands and you go to take your contacts out like 10 hours later and think you’re going blind. I mean….at least I heard that from a friend), and 2) take the seeds out of them before adding them to your dish. But ya’ll remember, I was in mad scientist/Food Network star mode and it didn’t even cross my mind to take the seeds out. I chopped those chili peppers up, and then the jalapeƱos, and threw them in the pot, seeds and all. 

As I leaned over the pot to take in the wonderful smells after a few minutes of my salsa cooking with the peppers, I felt like I had been sprayed with mace. My eyes immediately started to water from the intense burn and my nose started running. “No big deal,” I thought as I wiped away the tears. “I can fix this up real quick. No worries!” So, I went back to the garbage bag of fresh veggies and pulled out an ear of corn. I cut the corn off the cob and threw the fat juicy kernels into my pot, grabbed a tortilla chip and tasted to see if the corn would help turn my salsa back into salsa instead of a vat of bioterrorism. No luck. It was like I was eating the lava straight out of a volcano. I added another ear of corn. No luck. My husband came in and tasted it and immediately went to the fridge and drank milk straight out of the jug. This was a disaster. My beautiful fresh veggies were on the brink of ruin. I even GOOGLED what to do and the best answer I could find was “make another run of salsa without the chilies and mix the 2 together.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? 

So, here’s what I did: I found a block of cream cheese in my fridge and began cutting off chunks of it and melting it in the pot with my tear gas. Slowly but surely, my salsa became edible again - but now it is a weird pink color with a very unique taste. My overall assessment of this dip (because I’m not sure what to really call it anymore) is “good, not great.” I mean, at least I didn’t have to throw it away. It’s still sitting in my refrigerator in a container and I’m the only one who has eaten any of it - but I’m not willing to call it a total loss yet. Maybe I’m just that stubborn. 

See, it happens to all of us every now and then. So, what sort of kitchen debacles have YOU had recently?