Sunday, March 30, 2008

Breast of Chicken Orleans

My husband, A.J., is a really easy going man. He doesn't get upset if I don't feel like cooking; in fact he likes to experiment in the kitchen from time to time himself. He's actually pretty good. A.J. likes everything I cook, but he doesn't get excited about too many meals I prepare. Last night he wanted chicken and I came up with this. In the 16 years we've been married, this is the first time he really went crazy over a meal I cooked. In fact, when I was cleaning the kitchen, he was taking bread an wiping down the pot with it while I was trying to wrestle the pot from him to wash it. Guess what, I didn't even need to wash the pot once I wrestled it away - just kidding, I washed it!
Breast of Chicken Orleans - In a large glass bowl, marinate 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts for 30 minutes at room temperature in 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 red wine vinegar, 1 small onion diced, 1 stalk celery diced, 1 carrot diced, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

In a large heavy pot, melt 1 stick of butter over medium high heat and cook chicken 3 minutes each side, remove from pot and set aside under a foil tent to keep warm. Add to the pot 1 small onion diced, 1 stalk of celery diced, 1/2 red bell pepper diced, 4 cloves of garlic diced and 1 cup of sliced baby bella mushrooms. Cook veggies over medium-high heat for about 5 to 7 minutes or until wilted. Add 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour and 1/2 lb. of peeled shrimp stir together to make a roux. Stir constantly until roux starts to turn a light brown. Add 2 oz. of sherry and stir for another minute to let the alcohol cook off, then add 2 cups of chicken broth, 2 tablespoons of Lea & Perrins and one cup of heavy whipping cream. Stir continuously until the sauce comes to a low boil and reduce heat to simmer and stir for another 5 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Add chicken back to the pot and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Serve over fluffy white rice.

Make this for someone special tonight!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Smoky Mountain Biscuits and Sawmill Gravy

I guess you know by now this isn't a gourmet cooking blog or a "cooking light" blog. If you're into healthy cooking light recipes, stop reading, turn around and run far, far away. The only redeeming feature of this recipe is that it "shore is good"!

I've learned very quickly since our arrival in East Tennessee almost two years ago, that people take their biscuits and gravy very seriously in these here parts. In fact it's staple, in fact McDonald's and Hardee's serve biscuits in gravy, in fact my husband has become a fan of biscuits and gravy. I don't remember fast food places back in the Big Easy serving biscuits and gravy for breakfast and I don't remember my husband requesting this delicacy in the 20 years that I've known him. When we first moved up here I thought is was pretty gross, but then we eat crawfish and the people here think that's gross (boiled crawfish are NOT gross, they are better than biscuits and gravy). I made biscuits and gravy for the first time 2 weeks ago, now on Saturday mornings I hear from the love of my life, "sigh, I sure go could for some biscuits and gravy for breakfast.". Meanwhile I'm thinking to myself, "A.J. please take a Crestor (for cholesterol) and have a bowl of oatmeal." He works so hard and asks for so little so this morning I am going to surprise him and make him biscuits and gravy.

There's one thing you need know before we get started in case the food snob police read this post. I am using canned refrigerated biscuits because that's what my husband prefers. Since this is for him, and they are way easier to prepare, I'm using canned biscuits. Ok, let's get breakfast going!
Smoky Mountain Biscuits and Sawmill Gravy -
Bake 1 package of Pillsbury Butter Tastin' Biscuits per package directions.
While the oven is heating and the biscuits are baking, brown about 6 breakfast sausage patties.
Remove thoroughly cooked sausage patties from pan and set aside and drain on a paper towel.
Drain the rendered fat from the frying pan, reserving 2 tablespoons. Heat the reserved 2 tablespoons of fat over medium - medium high heat. Once the fat is heated add 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Stir flour into grease to form a "roux" taking care to get out all of the flour lumps.
Stir continuously until the flour cooks off and the roux starts to brown to a caramel color, about 4 minutes.
Whisk in 1 cup of milk to get the proper thick consistency and keep stirring. If the gravy is too thick add 1 more cup of milk. Add 1/4 cup at a time and stir to blend it in evenly. As an option, you can crumble one of your sausage patties into the the gravy. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper to your gravy.

Slice your biscuits in half and spoon the gravy over the biscuits open faced while thinking how your going to work off these extra calories today.
Serve with a slice of sausage and you have a breakfast fit for a king or Elvis.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Twiced Baked Potatoes

Potatoes, the all time greatest comfort food, the icing on the cake of any meal. Baking them twice, well they are twice as good! Let's get started.

One note here before we begin, normally when I make this dish, after the potatoes are baked, the potato is removed from the shell, dressed up a bit and then stuffed back into the shell. This particular time, I made it more of a twice baked casserole because the potatoes I found at the grocery store were very small in size. This dish came out just as wonderful. When you make this dish, stuff the shells or put it in a casserole dish...the choice is yours because it will knock your socks off any way you bake it.

Twice Baked Potatoes - Wash 4 large russet potatoes and bake in a 400 degree oven for 1 hour. Remove potatoes from oven, slice in half to coll a bit. In the meantime, cook 4 slices of bacon, remove bacon from pan and set aside. Lower heat of pan to medium - medium low and slowly saute 3 thinly sliced shallots for about 3 minutes. Remove potato from shell and add to pan and mash potatoes with the back of a spoon or with a potato masher and mix thoroughly with shallots. Remove pan from heat and blend in crumbled bacon, 1/2 cup sour cream, 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. At this point either spoon potato mixture into the potato shells or into a medium size greased casserole dish. Top off with shredded cheddar cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Let the potatoes cool for about 5 minutes, serve and all that left to do is say, "Come to mama!".

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chicken Dijon and Gemelli Pasta

Ah chicken, the blank palette. This recipe is very easy and I ensure you will enjoy widespread bliss and acceptance to all those you serve it to by following these simple instructions. Let's make some Chicken Dijon!

Chicken Dijon - Rinse 4 skinless chicken thighs and season with salt and pepper. In a small dish whisk together 2 round tablespoons of dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Coat the chicken thighs on both sides with the dijon sauce. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Once skillet is heated add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil then place the chicken in the skillet meat side down. Loosely place a sheet of aluminum foil over the chicken and place a plate on top of the foil and place a heavy can on top of the plate to add some weight to press the chicken down. Cook the chicken for about 15 to 18 minutes then remove the plate (be careful - plate will be hot!) and foil, turn the chicken and replace the weight on the chicken and cook for another 7 minutes and lower heat to medium. Now remove the foil and plate and drizzle 2 tablespoons of jalapeno juice (jar) and sprinkle a handful a freshly chopped flat leaf parsley and add 1/4 cup of chicken broth to skillet and continue to simmer for a few minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, boil 1/2 pound of gemelli pasta in salted water and drain. Add drained pasta back into the pot and drizzle a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over pasta along with 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 teaspoons minces garlic and 1 tablespoon chopped basil and blend.
Enjoy this dish tonight-thank you!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pan Seared Crusted Sirloin

Today I want you to embrace the sirloin. There are many cuts of beef out there, but I happened upon these sirloins when I was shopping at the food club the other day. The color and the marbling looked good so I picked them up. Now you have to remember, I am married to the love of my life, but he doesn't eat too much that's fun. Our two beautiful daughters would prefer to live off of pizza and tacos. I've had to learn how adapt.

Pan Seared Crusted Sirloin - First, make a dry rub by mixing together n a small bowl 1 tablespoon of Lawry's Season Salt and 3 tablespoons of Lemon Pepper. I know, mixing "prepared" seasonings will offend the food snobs (I used to be one too). What's wrong with using prepared ingredients and getting a little help from the grocery store if it makes the end product delicious and my husband happy? Liberally spread the rub over the top of your beef and spread it out evenly with your hands. Don't be shy, put the rub on very generously. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Once skillet is heated, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Using tongs, place the sirloins in the skillet, seasoned side down and cook for 4 minutes. Be careful not to crowd the pan, These cook quick so you can cook them in batches. While the sirloin is cooking, liberally season the unseasoned side of the meat and turn using the tongs and cook for another 4 minutes. Remove to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm and for the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Serve with your favorite style potato and a salad.

Cook these sirloins this week. Serve them to your family, your grandma, your uncle, your friends or yourself. Then pat yourself on the back, because you have embraced one of the most basic dishes - you’ve embraced THE SIRLOIN!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ground Meat Casserole

I am so sorry I haven't posted in a while. I probably have about 995 reasons why I haven't posted and none of them are facts, like work has been busy, like the two homegirlz that need to be taxied everywhere; oh they like to eat too and to top it off they demand to wear clean clothes. On those crazy afternoons when they have worn me out and I don't feel like cooking is a great "go to" meal.

Ground Meat Casserole - Brown one pound of ground sirloin or lean ground beef. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder as the meat browns. Drain the accumulated grease from the meat and place cooked, drained meat in a size appropriate baking dish (spray dish with non-stick cooking spray). The one shown is 9x9. While the meat is browning, cook 8 oz. to 10 oz of your favorite pasta in salted water until al dente (about 8 to 9 minutes). Add cooked and drained pasta to the baking dish with the meat. Pour in 16 oz. of marinara sauce and 1/2 cup of freshly graded Parmesan cheese. Blend meat, pasta, sauce and cheese and spread out evenly in dish. Top with a combination of shredded mozzarella and sharp cheddar cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Now close your eyes and be thankful for quick, easy and yummy meals like this!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fried Catfish, Tarter Sauce and Fritters

This is a good down-home Southern meal. I have been looking forward to cooking this all week. I am somewhat cooking the fritters as a covert operation. My husband does not like black-eyed peas. I know, can you believe anyone from the South not liking black-eyed peas? I don't think the homegirlz will go for them either. I am going to try to get rid of them while I'm cooking and with my fingers crossed I'm hoping they will like the fritters and I will be very vague about what's in them. Also, anything they can put ketchup on is always a winner in their book!

Fried Catfish - Pat dry four catfish fillets with paper towels and salt and pepper both sides. In a bowl large enough to accommodate the fillets, make a wet dipping mixture using one large egg beaten, 1/4 cup milk and one teaspoon yellow mustard. In another bowl pour in 1-1/2 cup of all-purpose flour. Season flour with salt and pepper and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Heat vegetable oil in large frying pan (oil should come halfway up side of frying pan) to 350 degrees. Dip fillet in wet mixture and dust with dry mixture until golden brown.

Tarter Sauce - In a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons sour cream, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne and a pinch sugar and mix well. Fold in 2 tablespoons grated onions, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (or 1/2 teaspoon dry dill) and 1 tablespoon pickle relish. Serve chilled.

Fritters - In a medium bowl mash two cans of drained black-eyed peas with a fork. Once the peas are mashed add in 1/2 cup cooked, chopped bacon, 1/3 cup chopped roasted red peppers, salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, to bind patties. Form pea mixture in to patties. In a frying pan over medium heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Before placing patties in skillet, lightly dust with flour seasoned with salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Brown on both sides until crispy

Monday, March 17, 2008

Three Cheese Tasso Pasta

This has to be one of my absolute favorite dishes to eat and to prepare. I don't get to make this often since I live in the mountains and tasso isn't that easy to get here. It is fun to go into the stores, especially they "specialty" and "gourmet" stores and ask for it knowing good and well that they have no clue what tasso is much less carry it in their stores. Tasso is available at online Cajun grocery stores. If you don't know what tasso is, I will tell you. Tasso is a lean piece of pork that is highly seasoned (not highly spicy seasoned, but seasoned for flavor) and smoked. I used it to add flavor to a variety of dishes instead of using sausage. Around Lafayette and the surrounding areas in Louisiana, tasso is widely used. I hope you enjoy this figure friendly meal with you family and friends!

Three Cheese Tasso Pasta - Soften and 8 oz. package of cream cheese in a medium sauce pan over low heat. When cream cheese is softened add 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/2 cup each freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano and pecorino romano and blend. Keep heat low so it doesn't scorch. Now add 1-1/2 tablespoons Crystal Hot Sauce or Frank's Hot Sauce, 1 tablespoon of Lea & Perrins, 1 teaspoon dried sweet basil and lower heat to lowest setting and cover. Using 1/2 lb. to 3/4 lb. piece of tasso, slice into thin slices and cut slices into bite size pieces. Preheat a large, heavy pot over medium heat and add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil until oil ripples and add tasso and stir frequently for about 10 minutes. Add 1 medium onion chopped, 4 cloves of garlic minced. Cook another 5 to 7 minutes stirring frequently. Pour cheese sauce mixture into pot with tasso and blend. Lower heat to lowest setting and cover and let simmer while you cook your pasta to al-dente.

Note: You can add salt and black pepper to taste but make sure you taste it first. The tasso is seasoned with salt and the Parmesan cheese is salty so you don't want to over do it. Taste the sauce before you add it to the tasso - if you want a little more punch in your sauce, add 3/4 teaspoon of dried red pepper flakes at this point.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

You Have to Make These Apple Dumplings

I've said it before, I'm not a baker. I would like to be able to bake, but I guess I have myself psyched out. I am pretty decent if most of the ingredients are "store bought"; meaning I don't have to make the dough and utilize my measuring spoons. Somehow I manage to overfill those little guys and cause disaster. I've tried a few different ways to make apple turnovers and/or apple dumplings, but I found this was the simplest way and they are really good!

Apple Dumplings - Melt 2 sticks of salted butter in a medium sauce pan. When butter is melted add 1-1/2 cups of granulated sugar and just barely blend sugar into butter, then add 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract and slightly stir. Peel and core 2 Granny Smith apples and cut each one into 8 slices. Unroll 2 cans of crescent roil dough and roll a slice of apple into a section of dough and place each dumpling in a greased 9x13 glass baking pan seam side down. Pour butter/sugar mixture over dumplings. Pour 4 oz. of Sprite around the sides of the baking pan. Sprinkle top with cinnamon and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wednesday Night Calazones

The homegirlz could live off of pizza. They snack on pizza rolls, they buy pizza flavored chips (yuck!), I think they secretly eat pizza for lunch at school almost everyday. When I ask what they ate for lunch, they usually hedge and tell me what was served and skirt around what they ate. When I let the cat out of the bag and tell them I am making calazones for dinner; believe me, the table is set, laundry is folded, their bedrooms are straightened and the dog is walked without me threatening to take away every fun thing they possess.

Calazones - Lighting sprinkle your work surface and rolling pin with flour and roll out 2 cans of refrigerated pizza dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Place a salad plate on top of the dough at one end and use a pizza cutter and cut around the plate. You want to a circle cut out approximately 6 inches in diameter. Put the cut out on a greased baking sheet and continue cutting out your circles. You should be able to get two circles from each roll of dough. After your circles are cut out spread your favorite pizza sauce on half of the circle within a 1/2 inch of the edge. Place your favorite pizza toppings on the half with the sauce. Be careful not to overfill! Top with mozzarella cheese. Make an egg wash using one egg beaten with a splash of water and take a pastry brush and brush the edge of the dough circle. Pick up the untopped side of the dough and fold over. The egg wash will help the dough adhere to itself and stay closed during baking. Brush the top of your calazone with extra virgin olive oil so it will brown evenly. For a little added flavor you can also sprinkle the top of your calazone with parmesean cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A.J.'s Grilled Shrimp

I have been battling a cold and I REALLY have not felt like cooking the past few days. My husband had a wonderful treat Friday evening, he grilled shrimp. You can use them as an appetizer, main dish or top off a salad.

A.J.'s Grilled Shrimp - Peel and butterfly 1 lb. shrimp to leaving the tail and last shell section at the tail. Place shrimp in medium bowl season with lemon pepper, cayenne and season salt. Heat up outdoor grill and place an outdoor grill pan on grill to pre-heat for about 5 minutes. Place shrimp in grill pan and grill until pink. At this point brush shrimp with extra virgin olive oil and continue cooking until done.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Chocolate Cheescake Bars

Kaitlin, my youngest daughter is started to get interested in what goes on in the kitchen. She was bored yesterday and asked if we could go make "something" that has cheesecake in it. We found this recipe and it was a lot of fun to bake with my daughter.

Chocolate Cheesecake Bars - In a food processor, grind 24 chocolate creme filled cookies to fine crumbs and place in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter to the crumbs and blend well. Place the crumb mixture in a 13 x 9 baking pan and spread out evenly to form a bottom crust to the bars. In a large mixing bowl beat on medium speed, three 8 oz. soften creme cheese bars until fluffy, gradually add one 14 oz. can of condensed milk while continuing to beat. When the condensed milk is thoroughly blended in with the cream cheese, add 3 eggs and blend into mixture then add 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract. Pour creme cheese mixture on top of cookie crust. Now melt two 1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate squares and drizzle over creme cheese mixture. Take a butter knife and pull chocolate to form ""swirls". Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 45 minutes. Cool bars, then place in refrigerator for 2 hours and cut into squares. Store covered in refrigerator.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper Penne

I was trying to think of a different tasting pasta dish to serve last night for dinner. My mind was blank. I started rummaging through the pantry and found a jar of roasted red peppers I had bought either just to have on hand or for something I had not made. I looked at the jar and started thinking and came up with this. I surprised at how fresh and light this tasted with the roasted red peppers. This is a keeper

Red Pepper Penne - Boil 1 lb. penne rigate pasta in salted water and drain. Place warm, drained pasta in a bowl and add 2 cloves garlic minced, 1/2 cup roasted pecans chopped fine, 1 jar roasted red peppers julienned, 1/2 cup Parmesan Reggiano, 1/2 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs and 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. Toss pasta to blend and serve as a side dish.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Easy Chocolate Sheet Cake

My dad was very patient and exact when he was baking. He used to make his own sour dough starter. When we were children, that container of starter would find its way out of the refrigerator almost every weekend. He would bake biscuits, pancakes and an assortment of breads from his pint-sized jug. We enjoyed everything that he made. I guess I don't have the patience and exacting nature my father had. Most cooking goofs can be fixed, but not baking goofs. The homegirlz for some reason are asking me every weekend to bake a cake or a pie. I made a chocolate sheet cake that was good enough to post.

Chocolate Sheet Cake - In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt two sticks of butter. When butter is melted stir in 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup cocoa mix, bring to a low boil and remove from heat. In a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1-1/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 large eggs and cocoa mixture from sauce pan. Mix at medium speed for about two minutes, then fold in 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and 1/3 cup of condensed milk (use a 14 oz. can and reserve the rest for the frosting). Pour into an ungreased 10x15 pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes (until middle of cake springs back to the touch). Remove from oven to cool for 20 minutes.

Frosting - In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, melt 1/2 stick of butter. When butter is melted, add 1/4 cup cocoa mix and remaining condensed milk, 1 cup powdered sugar. Whisk until smooth and pour over warm cake. Sprinkle 1 cup of coarsely chopped pecans and dust with powdered sugar.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Shrimp Creole

During Lent, Catholics are required to go "meat-free" as a sacrifice. I'm learning that in East Tennessee it is a sacrifice since seafood is not as plentiful or affordable as it is in New Orleans. Fridays at lunch are a real sacrifice because I'm not big on square, frozen fish from fast-food restaurants and I am completely grossed out by the imitation seafood salad at sub shops. Tuna fish is about the only option on a quick lunch hour on a Friday. My husband has made friends with a man from New Orleans who owns a seafood shop in Knoxville. His prices are a little on the high side, but my hubby is always looking for a bargain and has struck up a friendship with this gentleman and is able to get a little bit of a discount at this establishment. This past Friday my husband brought home some Louisiana shrimp in hopes I would make Shrimp Creole. I was delighted to fulfill his hope. One note, I only use Zatarain's Crab Boil for the stock you'll need for this recipe. You can order online at a reasonable price ($1.99 per bag) and I have found it at Big Lots ($1.50 per bag) or... if you have a friend in New Orleans they can ship it to you.

Shrimp Creole - Peel 2 lbs. of shrimp. Put the peeled shrimp in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reserve the shells for stock. Fill a large pot with 2 quarts of water add 2-1/2 tablespoons Zatarain's powdered crab boil, cut 1 lemon in half, squeeze the juice in the water then toss in the lemon halves. Bring to a boil and add shrimp shells and boil for 30 minutes then remove from heat and set aside. In another large non-stick pot or cast-iron Dutch Oven, heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil over med-high heat. When oil is heated add 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour and stir constantly until you have a brown roux (caramel color), then add one onion chopped, salt and black pepper to the roux and keep stirring (I can't describe how good this smells!) until onions are wilted. Then add 1 small can of tomato paste and half of a green bell pepper chopped and lower heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes stirring frequently so it won't stick to the pot. Add one cup of shrimp stock blending well, mixture will be thick, add another 1/2 cup of stock and one cup of tap water and blend. Cover pot lower heat to simmer and cook for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, add shrimp and cook another 20 minutes until the shrimp are pink and translucent. Serve over white fluffy rice.

Hint for leftover stock, it can be poured into ice cube trays and frozen. Then put the frozen stock in a re-sealable bag for future dishes or you can dump it.