Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Crockpot Mediterranean Chicken Ragu with Orecchiette

I saw this recipe over at Reeni's blog, at Cinnamon Girl Recipes     When I find a gorgeous looking Crockpot recipe such as this, I can't wait to try it.  As an added bonus, my husband, A.J., told me with almost every spoonful, "Honey, this is REALLY good.".

When I first started blogging, Reeni along with 6 other bloggers were the first to comment and encourage me to continue.   

If you haven't visited Reeni before, what are you waiting for?  She has the best, original, good home cooking recipes around.  Plus her photography is gorgeous!  This isn't the first recipe of Reeni's I've tried and as always, was another winner.

I did have to make one substitution, the fennel stalks.  I forgot to get fennel at the grocery and after just getting back from the store to get the chicken (which I forgot to get the day before), I didn't feel like getting out again.  I used 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, slightly crushed.

1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 can (14 ounce) petite diced tomatoes
8 artichoke hearts, cut in half
1 roasted red pepper, diced
3 fennel stalks, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons capers
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1- 1/2 pounds chicken breasts or cutlets, boneless, skinless
8-12 ounces Orecchiette pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

In you slow cooker, combine broth, tomatoes, artichokes, red pepper, fennel (seeds), onion, capers and garlic. Stir in Italian seasoning, parsley, salt and pepper. Then, nestle in the chicken breasts. Cook on high 4 hours or low 6-8. Remove chicken and shred with two forks, stir back in.

Cook pasta to al dente, drain and stir into sauce, turn crockpot down to warm and allow to set for 10 minutes so the pasta can soak in some of the sauce.

Serve garnished with grated Parmesan cheese.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Creamy Champagne and Tarragon Chicken

Face it, we're all special.  You're probably thinking to yourself that you're especially special and I bet you are especially special.  You deserve the best, you deserve to be spoiled rotten.

So tonight, spoil your special self with a luxurious meal layered with deep rich flavor and infused with champagne.  The best part - it's not expensive at all.

As you sit down to enjoy this decadent, creamy sauce, you will feel as if you are dining in the lap of luxury and baby, you deserve it!

2 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp butter
4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounce container of slice baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup minced onion
3 average size garlic cloves thinly sliced or slivered
1/2 cup champagne
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp tarragon
1 scallion, thinly sliced on an angle
8 ounces linguine, cooked al dente and drained

Rinse the chicken breast under cool water and pat dry with paper towels.  Place the chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound thin.

In a pie plate, mix together the flour, Parmesan cheese 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Dredge the chicken through the seasoned flour.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees F.  If your oven doesn't go that low, heat it to 200 degrees F.

Heat olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and beginning to bubble, place the coated chicken breasts in the skillet.  Do not overcrowd the skillet.  You will probably have to cook them in batches.

Brown well on each side, approximately 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Remove the chicken from the pan to a rack placed over a baking sheet.  Cover very loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm.  Once all of the chicken is cooked, place the chicken on the rack, loosely with foil in the warm oven to stay warm and crisp until the creamy champagne sauce is ready! 

Return the same skillet to the stove, medium heat, and remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil (if there is even that much left.  Make sure to leave the brown bits!  Add the mushrooms to the skillet and spread them out in a single layer and don't touch them for abut 4 minutes, then give them a stir.  Just as they are beginning to turn golden brown, add in the onions, stir to combine and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.

Then blend in the slivered garlic and cook another 2 minutes.

Add the champagne!  Give the skillet a good stir to get up any of the good and flavorful brown bits.  Reduce by 1/2, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Just a little side note here...I wouldn't open a bottle of champagne to use less than a cup for cooking.  Isn't that alcohol abuse?   I found this cute little bottle at my liquor store for $3.00.

Whisk in cream, the red pepper flakes and the tarragon.  Reduce heat a notch or two and allow sauce to thicken.   Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.    Serve the chicken with the linguine, generously ladled with the champagne and tarragon sauce.  Garnish with the sliced scallions.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

BLD Cheesy Potatoes

I really had a lot of trepidation about posting this recipe.  The main reason, it isn't photogenic, but man-oh-man, it's so dang good!

One our neighbors told me her children were over the moon about this dish.  We all like finding new really good recipes, so I have to pass this on to all of you, but maybe you already know.

How can you go wrong with bacon, cheese potatoes, and Ranch seasoning?  You can't.

Breakfast, lunch or dinner (BLD) you have a hearty crown pleasing side.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

1  - 30 oz. package frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed
2  - envelopes Ranch Dip Mix (powder)
2 - 16 oz. containers sour cream
2  - cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 - 6 oz. jar Hormel Real Bacon Bits

In a very large bowl, combine the sour cream and the Ranch Dip Mix and the bacon bits until completely blended.  Fold in the thawed hash brown potatoes.  Spread the mixture into a 9x13 baking dish and bake  for approximately 45 to 50 minutes.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

French Toast with Praline Sauce

We love breakfast at our house.  During the week with work and school, it's usually a quick bowl of cereal or grits for the girls, a breakfast bar for me and A.J. usually heats up leftovers from the night before or the night before that.  Don't make a face, he works night and gets home during the day so even though it's morning, it really his dinner time...I think.  Anyway on Saturdays either the girls have to be at work early or they slept at a friends the night before so they aren't looking for breakfast and A.J., ok make faces now, A.J. is either eating some hot pickles he made or eating chips and salsa.  Sundays are much like during the week, something quick and then out the door to church.

Honestly, maybe once every month or two, we're all together on a Saturday or holiday I get to make a nice family breakfast.  In between, we Waffle House it for late night cravings.

I have been wanting to try this recipe for such a long time.  It's a combination of a Paula Deen recipe, one on Steen's Cane Syrup website and the method I've used on the past for breakfast bakes.

NOTE:  Start the night before

1 loaf French bread

8 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash salt

Butter a 9x 13 baking dish. Slice the whole loaf of French bread into 1-inch thick slices. Arrange slices, in the dish by overlapping them and in 2 rows.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, then whisk in the half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Whisk until thoroughly blended.

Pour mixture evenly over the bread.  Make sure each slice is coated with the egg and milk mixture.  Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the Praline Sauce:

2 sticks of butter, melted 
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Whisk all of the ingredients, except the pecans together.  Once thoroughly combined, fold in the pecans with a spatula.

Remove the baking dish from the refrigerator and pour sauce over the the bread.  the sauce will be somewhat thick, so you may have to get a spoon and gently spoon the sauce to make sure it covers each slice of bread. 


Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.  The bread will puff slightly and turn a pale golden color.

I added a little sprinkle of powdered sugar but if you're a French toast die-hard, pour on the Steen's Cane Syrup or maple syrup.
Demand more holidays so we can all have breakfast with our family!


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Southern Tuscan Grits

The Italians and the French like to add butter and grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese to their grits right before serving to make them even more tasty and extra creamy.  This is a great side dish for pork, I served it along side Grilled Pork Chops with Garlic Relish It's too quick and easy not to try.

1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup quick cooking grits, uncooked
3/4 cup grated Romano cheese
3/4 cup grated Asiago cheese
1 teaspoon fresh basil, finely chopped or 1-1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons butter + butter for serving
1 tablespoons salt + Salt and Pepper to taste

In a small bowl or condiment bowl, blend together the basil garlic powder and onion power and set aside.

In a medium size pot, bring the chicken broth, milk to a boil.  Once the liquid begins to boil add the tablespoon of salt and gradually whisk in the grits.  Lower heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until thickened.

Remove the pot from the heat and . Stir in Romano and Asiago cheese, the seasoning blend, butter, and parsley.  Stir until well blended and don't be afraid to put some muscle into your stirring.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with a pat of butter on top.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nacho Mama's Skillet Nachos

Sometimes you just need something fun and easy for dinner.  These skillet nachos ran the whole gamut for us - fun, easy to prepare, a breeze to clean-up, not to mention the whole family was excited and anxious for dinner to be ready.

I kept this real simple since I have some very picky eaters.  If left to my own devices, I definitely would have added sour cream and homemade guacamole or maybe even a chimichurri sauce.  

1lb. lean ground beef
1 bag restaurant size lime flavored tortilla chips
1 packet taco seasoning
3/4 cup water
1 jar medium salsa
2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons sliced scallions
2 tablespoons sliced black olives
1 tablespoon taco sauce

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F

This is best done in a cast-iron skillet.

Brown ground meat over medium heat and drain off excess fat.  Return skillet to burner and sprinkle taco seasoning over meat, add water and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes.  Place meat in a bowl and reserve.

Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel and line the bottom and sides of the skillet with the tortilla chips.  Spoon the reserved meat into the skillet over the tortilla chips lining the bottom of the pan.  Spread meat out evenly.  Spoon the salsa over the meat and then place a layer of the Monterrey Jack cheese on top.

Place the skillet in the oven and bake for approximately 7 minutes, until cheese is almost completely melted.  Sprinkle the scallions and olives over the cheese and then drizzle the taco sauce over the scallions and olives.  Bake for another 3 to 4 minutes until the cheese is completely melted. 

Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Spoon out a serving or just place the skillet on the table and devour.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Rolls

Please forgive the blurry pictures.  My camera battery died  and I tried using A.J.'s camera which I don't know how to work or set.  I know how to charge the battery and that's about it.  Don't let the shoddy photography fool you, wait until you see how to make these; you will adore them!

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and pounded thin or 8 chicken cutlets pounded thin.
1 Five ounce jar sun-dried tomato pesto
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 slices prosciutto, cut in half
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning blend (salt, pepper, garlic powder, Asiago cheese, basil, and onion powder)
1 cup chicken broth
8 wooden toothpicks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Lay out the chicken cutlets and season both sides with salt and pepper.  One one side of the chicken, spread a generous but thin layer of the sun-dried tomato pesto within a 1/4" of the edge of the cutlet.  On top of the pesto, place one of the half slices of prosciutto and then a generous, but thin layer of the mozzarella cheese. 

Roll the cutlet beginning with the thin end or small end in a coil and secure with a toothpick or two.  Brush the chicken with the olive oil and place in an oven safe dish.  Sprinkle each chicken roll with the Italian seasoning blend.  Pour the chicken broth around the edge of the dish, not on top of the chicken roll (so you don't wash the seasoning off  the chicken).  Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Carefully uncover the dish and bake for 10 more minutes to brown the chicken.  Remove, baste with the liquid in the dish and allow to rest for about 5 minutes, then serve.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Philly Cheese Steak Sammich

It's amazing that little mundane things that a lot of us don't think about twice, will amaze and make the person you think you know the best so very happy.

Shortly before Christmas a new convenience store opened a couple of blocks from our house.  If you're in this area, it's a Weigels.  A.J. is thrilled and looks forward to stopping  there everyday and twice on Sundays.  Hey, I was happy because he was happy.  He called me one morning as I was leaving the house for work to tell me  I HAD to stop at Weigels and get one of their stuffed biscuits.  So I did, it was pretty good, a lot lighter and less breadier than biscuits from the fast food joints. 

Several days later he said, "You have to try their stuffed Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich, talk about on time."  I told him I've never eaten a Philly Cheese Steak before and he thought I was joking but seriously, it never appealed to as a "must try".  I tried and I REALLY liked!

Since I haven't had a Philly Cheese Steak before, especially from Philly, please don't hop on me because it's not authentic, but do try it because baby, it totally rocks!

2 lbs. lean sirloin sliced very thin
Olive oil
McCormick's Montreal Grill Seasoning
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-1/2 to 2 cups beef broth
6 Hoagie rolls
Creamy Cheesy Sauce, recipe follows
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 medium sweet yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
2 Poblano peppers, de-seeded and sliced into thin strips.  Cut about the same length as the onion
Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to skillet.

Place all of the steak slices in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with grill seasoning and drizzle with olive oil.  Toss the meat with your hands to evenly coast with olive oil and seasoning.  Once the skillet is heated cook steak slices about 45 seconds to 1 minute per side.  You will have to do this in batches, don't over crowd the skillet.  You just want to brown the meat.  Place the meat in another bowl and reserve.

Put the skillet back on the stove and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter.  Once the butter begins to foam, add the flour and stir constantly to cook off the flour for about five minutes.  Slowly add in the beef broth 1/2 cup at a time.  You want it a little bit thicker consistency than the broth, but not a real thick gravy.  Once you get the consistency you want, season with salt and pepper.  Add the reserved steak slices, along with all the juice that settle in the bottom of the bowl.  Move the steak slices around to get them covered with the gravy.  Cover, lower heat to simmer and toss them around about every 15 to 20 minutes until you're ready to assemble the sammiches.

In another skillet heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat.  Once the butter has melted add in the mushrooms.  Cook the mushrooms for about 4 or 5 minutes and try not to move them around too much.  Add another tablespoon of butter and add the onions and toss them around a bit with the mushrooms and cook another 4 or 5 minutes just until the onions begin to caramelize on the edges.  At this point add 1 tablespoon of olive oil (if needed) and the Poblano peppers.  Continue cooking until the mushrooms are golden brown and the onions are caramelized.  Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

While you're working the veggies you can get the creamy cheesy sauce going.  I saw Rachel Ray make a similar sauce for mac-n-cheese and thought it would work for this too.
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup milk and 1 cup half-n-half, heated
1 cup grated or sliced provolone cheese
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper or freshly ground black pepper

Pour the mil and half-n-half in a heat safe cup and warm in the microwave.  Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Vigorously stir or whisk in the flour and cook for 3 minutes. Slowly stir or whisk in the warm milk.  Cook, stirring constantly until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the cheeses until combined.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To assemble, place several slices of the meat on the bottom half of the roll, spoon some of the cheese sauce over the meat, and top with the mushrooms, onions, and peppers.

So now I have one more thing to scratch off the bucket list.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tropical New Orleans Bread Pudding with Rum Creme Anglaise

We finally went down to New Orleans the second week of November to move my mother to Knoxville to be closer to me.  That's all she wanted, time to spend with her only daughter and her only daughter to take care of her.  My mother has battled lung cancer more off than on over the last seven years. 

Two days after we moved her into her new condo, her shortness of breath was too much and I took her to the emergency room.  Long story short, she has spent most of her time in Knoxville in the hospital, mainly because her carbon dioxide level is high because she can't exhaust it due to her deteriorated lung condition. 

This is the reason for my absence over the holidays; I was devoting my time to my mother's care and well-being.  My mom is still hanging in there, her mind as sharp as ever and in her condo with hospice care.

So I'm trying for now, little by little to get back into a routine.  My wonderful husband and beautiful daughters have been a support and comfort system, way more than I ever could have imagined.  Thank goodness for family and thank goodness for my friends and for my blogging buddies and friends; you give me so much strength.

I pulled out this Emeril Lagasse recipe I have been wanting to try for so long and I finally made it.  A.J. who by the way is not a big fan of bread pudding, hurt himself on this dessert - he said it's the best rum sauce he's ever had.  So if you want a comforting down home dessert but also want to change things up a bit, go for it!  This is totally worth it!

6 slices white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 stick butter, melted
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum (I used Myer's Rum)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk, scalded
2 cups sliced canned peaches in heavy syrup, drained, liquid reserved
1 cup chopped or crushed canned pineapple in heavy syrup, drained, liquid reserved
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 8 thin slices
1 recipe Rum Creme Anglaise, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Toss the bread cubes with the melted butter in a large bowl, spread on a large baking sheet, and bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a 9 x 9 or 8 x 10 inch ovenproof baking and set aside.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the sugar, rum, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt and whisk to combine. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Add the syrup from both canned, drained fruits and whisk to combine.

Arrange the fruit over the toasted bread cubes. Pour the custard evenly over the mixture, dot with the sliced butter, and bake until the custard sets, about 35 minutes. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Spoon the pudding into bowls, ladle a couple of tablespoons of the rum sauce the pudding and serve.

Rum Creme Anglaise:

4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons cornstarch
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups milk, scalded
1/4 cup dark rum (recommended Myer's Rum)
Whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch, sugar, and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in the warm milk and cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl and stir in the rum. Serve room temperature or chilled.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Crawfish Pot Pie

Were you ever fed frozen pot pies?  I was, when I was a kid and I still get queasy at the thought them.  Once I peeled off the crust and stared down into the little foil pan, I couldn't decide if I going to hurl or if I already had.  So much for fond memories.  

So on my continuing quest to try and kick up the cuisine from back in the day, I wanted to cross this fear off my list and figured adding a little Cajun twist would make this pot pie a winner.

Chicken just wasn't doing it for me and I and thought crawfish would be sensational.  Sensational doesn't even begin to describe how good these were.  If you can't get crawfish tails, I think peeled shrimp would work just fine too.

To get this started, thaw out once sheet of puff pastry.  Once thawed, cut into 4 circles approximately 1/2 inch larger than the top of your oven-proof crock.  

Blanch 1/2 cup peeled and cubed carrots.  (Once water comes to a boil, add a liberal amount of kosher salt, boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from boiling water and place in an ice bath for 1 minute.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.)

Blanch 2 cups peeled and cubed potatoes. 

In a large high-sided pot, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter.

Add 8 ounces of baby bella mushrooms (oyster mushrooms will work too).  Saute for about 5 to 7 minutes, until they just begin to turn golden brown on the edges.

Add 6 ounces of cubed ham (or tasso if you have it), and render for about 2 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup minced shallots and 1 cup of minced celery and saute for about 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add 1/4 cup of brandy and cook for 1 minute and allow most of the brandy to evaporate.  We're building some serious flavor!

Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of flour, thoroughly mix with the ham and veggies.  Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly so the flour doesn't stick or burn on the bottom of the pot.

Add in 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 1 pound of crawfish tails and season with 1 tablespoon of Emeril's Essence (recipe below).  Stir to completely blend, allow to cook for 1 minute.

Stir in the reserved carrots and potatoes, sprinkle 1 more tablespoon of Essence, stir to combine.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Stir in 2-1/2 cups of heavy cream.  Once the mixture comes to a low boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley and 1 tablespoon of chopped scallions.

For easy clean-up cover a large baking sheet with foil then ladle this velvety mixture into 4 oven-proof crocks.

Place the pastry circle over the top oeach crock.  Whisk one egg in a small bowl and brush to top of each pastry circle.

Cut an "X" in the top of each pie to allow the steam to vent.  Place the pot pies in the preheated 400 degree oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the pastry if a beautiful golden brown.

Gorgeous!!! where have you been all my life???
Allow to set 5 minutes.  This will be the LONGEST 5 MINUTES OF YOU LIFE!

Are you feeling me?  Fear gone!

Emeril's Essence:
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.