Friday, February 27, 2009

What I've Been Up To...

I've read many times throughout my life that confession is good for the soul...

When I posted the picture to the left last week, I received many comments complimenting my kitchen. I appreciate all of your comments and compliments. Thoughts ran through my mind...if only they knew...

The vase of flowers, the distance, hides so many sins.

The only time I turned this blog over to anyone else, my children, they let it out that I am a neat freak. My husband chides me and says I can spot a crumb at thirty yards.

The truth be told, when I cook many accidents and spills happen. When I spill for some reason, I splatter and spill up and not down.

Can you see the splats on the wall?

How about now?

This close and gross! Now you know...I splat A LOT!

Yeah, I couldn't take it any more. A.J. is planning to paint the family room, breakfast area and kitchen. I told him that painting wasn't the answer here.

We hid my skeletons. Even though it will not be grouted until tomorrow and won't be sealed until next week, ah, it feels so much better and cleaner in la cucina!

I REALLY do not like this stove, I was thinking chrome, gas, double oven...

I feel better...enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Chicken Bolognese

Around here grocery shopping is an adventure that I'm not too keen about being forced into participation. I used to have access to Whole Foods. We have a scaled down version of a Whole Foods wannabe here; but I'm not complaining because at least I am able to get ingredients that I want or need.

One of the grocery stores I frequent, had a special on boneless, skinless chicken breasts; buy one get one free. Why are boneless, skinless chicken breasts in packs of three? Since there are four people in my family that have the bad habit of eating dinner, I try to think of ways to make these go further.

I thought of chicken bolognese and looked at a few websites for a recipe but the recipes I found called for ground chicken. Since I did not have ground chicken, I did my own thing.

Chicken Bolognese -

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat. When the oil is hot, add 3 or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 to 1-1/2 lbs), seasoned with salt and pepper and cook until well browned, approximately4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove from skillet set aside to slightly cool. Cut the chicken into generous bite sized pieces.

Add 1 more tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, when heated add 2 shallots finely chopped (or 1/2 red onion), 4 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 cup finely chopped carrots, 1/2 cup finely chopped celery, 1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup dry white wine and scrape any bits from the bottom of the skillet. Reduce until the white wine is almost completely evaporated.

Add 2 cups of tomato sauce and 1/2 cup of tomato juice and simmer for about 20 minutes while the sauce thickens. Season sauce with 1/2 tablespoon oregano and 1 tablespoon basil. Also season with salt and pepper to taste.

While sauce is simmering, cook pasta until al dente. I used gemeli pasta because the twists help the sauce stick to the pasta and it was what I had in the pantry. You can use any short pasta that has twists or lines. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Slowly combine the pasta water into the sauce. Add the drained pasta to the sauce along with the 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and toss. Serve in a large bowl with more Parmesan and parsley leaves.

I don't know about you, but I could dive into this bowl and not come up for air!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

M & M Cookies and an Award

Remember the Valentine's dance at the high school I had to chaperone? The dance was actually a fund raiser for the high school girl's soccer team to help pay off their debt when they were travelling for the state play-offs. Not only were parent chaperone's needed, baked goods were needed. My oldest daughter loves anything with M & M's so I decided to try my hand at making M & M cookies. I got this recipe from their website.
1 cup butter or shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups M&M's
Heat oven to 375. Beat brown sugar and granulated sugar, butter (or shortening) until light and fluffy. Blend in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Stir in 1 3/4 cups M&M's. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. Press several additional M&M's into each cookie. Bake for 9-12 minutes or until golden brown.
I was totally surprised while surfing to find My Finds Online had me listed as one of their top 25. Thank you so much Amanda, I am honored to be listed with so many blogs that inspire me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nellie & Sal's Key Lime Pie

The Blonde Duck is celebrating Pie Week this week. Go pay her a visit, you will drool all over your keyboard looking at all of the pictures of pies!
I am submitting Nellie & Sal's Key Lime Pie for the Pie Week celebration. I like the subtle tartness of this pie. The taste is refreshing, the texture is light and just one bite will give you hope that Spring is just around the corner.
I don't know who Nellie & Sal are, I was told they are from Key West Florida or they were from Key West; I don't even know if they are real or fictional, dead or alive. This is the only way I know to make Key Lime Pie because I am a spaz and cannot bake.
Nellie and Sal's Key Lime Pie -
I used a store bought, reduced fat graham cracker pie crust. If you want to make your own graham cracker crust, mix together 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and 1.2 stick of melted butter in a bowl. Press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie dish and bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes until brown.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium sized bowl whisk together two 14oz. cans of condensed milk, 1 cup of key lime juice, and 2 eggs. Pour filling into prepared pie shell (if you made the pie shell, make sure it is COMPLETELY cooled before pouring filling). Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Cool pie on rack for 15 minutes then cover pie and move it to the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.

Once chilled, it's time to make the topping. Whipped cream? I don't think so. Meringue? How prosaic. No, this is what puts Nellie and Sal's Key Lime Pie over the top! Are you ready for this? Combine 1 cup of low fat sour cream and 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar. Spread over the top of the pie, sprinkle a teaspoon of lime zest as a garnish on top and serve chilled.

Happy Pie Week!!!
and Happy Mardi Gras!!!!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Shrimp and Scallop Scampi

Good Monday morning everyone! We woke up yesterday morning to go to church and found a beautiful layer of the white stuff all around. For once and I am not exaggerating when I say once, the weather people around got the forcast right.
Say hello to my husband's creation, Seymour de Snowman!

I made Shrimp and Scallop Scampi the other night. I added scallops because I had never eaten a scallop before. Scallops are not in big demand in South Louisiana. Neither are clams or mussels.
The scallops weren't too bad. I don't think they added anything to the dish. My husband did not care for them at all.
Shrimp scampi is so quick and easy to prepare and the combination of lemon, garlic and shrimp...your taste buds will dance!
These beautiful scallops were seasoned with salt and pepper.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the scallops and sear.
Sear 3 minutes each side, remove from skillet and set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to skillet and 1 tablespoon of butter. Saute one shallot, finely chopped for two minutes, then add 3 cloves of minced garlic and saute for one minute. At this point, add 1-1/2 lbs. of peeled shrimp. Coat the shrimp with the shallots, garlic, butter and oil.
When the shrimp begin to turn pink or opaque, add 1/2 cup of dry white wine and 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Stir to blend. Season with 2 teaspoons of Emeril's Essence (Recipe below).
Once shrimp are cooked, add scallops back to skillet along with 1/2 lb. of linguine cooked all dented. (Be careful not to over cook shrimp or they will get a rubbery texture.) Stir to combine, then add 1 teaspoon of capers drained. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley.
Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning:
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.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Spinach Amore and an Award!

I've been on a spinach kick and I love this recipe so why not call it "Spinach Amore' " ? It's savory, it's creamy, it is simple amore on a fork!

1 package of frozen chopped spinach

2 tablespoons grated onion

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

2 eggs

1/2 cup low fat sour cream

1 cup grated Parmigiana-Reggiano

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook frozen spinach in a small amount of chicken or vegetable stock with onion until thawed. Turn into a greased casserole. Beat eggs in a small bowl turn into casserole with spinach and add rest of ingredients. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

Her fabulousness, Blonde Duck , gave me the Sisterhood award. The Blonde Duck is a marvelous writer who creates the most edge of your seat stories and also whimsical tales about her life being married to her best friend and the antics of "the babies" and various other characters that have taken up residence in her abode. Check her out!!!!!

The rules of this award are:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 10 blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.
I’d like to pass this onto several Invisible Friends who stuck by me when I was first starting out. This is for you, my original Invisible Friends!

2. Gigi

Thanks for being faithful visitors!

Have a glorious weekend!
P.S. I am so aggravated with blogger - why does line spacing go so haywire and unfixable?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cajun Corn Muffins

My Dad was the real baker in our family. He made his own sour dough starter, the most luscious pecan pies and he made very savory cornbread from scratch. Being a Southern girl, I love my cornbread and over the span of my life, I've had my share.

Don't hate me, but I don't make my cornbread from scratch. I use Jiffy cornbread mix. I don't work for Jiffy, they don't even know who I am, but I do love their cornbread mix. It's very economical, very easy to make and it tastes really good and it allows me to make these spicy corn muffins!

First, infuse 1/2 stick of butter with garlic. Melt butter over low heat and once butter is melted, add a teaspoon of minced garlic and let them hang out on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes.

Prepare the cornbread mix per package directions and add one teaspoon of chopped jalapeno peppers. One box of mix makes 8 muffins.

Blend with a fork and then let batter "rest" for about 5 minutes.

Spoon batter into paper muffin cups and add a teaspoon of melted garlic butter on the top of each muffin.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove muffins from oven and add another teaspoon of garlic butter on top of each muffin.

How can you resist something so gorgeous?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chicken Nuggets and Cheesy Potatoes

Sometimes one of the homegirlz will come to me and request a particular meal that I haven't made in a while. Kaitlin was whining about chicken nuggets that I hadn't made in forever.
I started making these for the girlz when they were little because let's face it, the pre-packaged chicken nuggets in the grocery store were just flat out gross. I tried to avoid the fastfood variety also. Once your children try these, they won't want any other chicken nuggets but yours. These are so crunchy, tasty and a bit more on the healthier side, but they don't need to know that. Also, you can "grow" this up a bit so Mom and Dad can enjoy a kids meal too. This is a quick and easy weeknight meal that will make the whole family happy!

For Mom and Dad and older children, we need a dipping sauce. Something with a little more punch than ketchup. Mix together 2 tablespoons of mayo, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon horseradish, a splash of white wine, and 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce.

In a re-sealable plastic bag, mix together 1 cup of all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons of Emeril's Essence. OR just season the flour any way you like it.
In another re-sealable bag, add about 3 cups of Corn Flakes.

Take your rolling pin and gently crush the cereal to a semi-fine powder. The crushing will greatly reduce the volume, you can always add more cereal and crush.
Slightly beat one egg and mix with 1/2 cup of butter milk in a shallow bowl.
Take 1 lb. of chicken breast tenders and cut into healthy bite size pieces. Place them in the egg/buttermilk mixture. Heat up about 1/2 cup of canola or vegetable oil in a skillet to 325 degrees.
Shake up the chicken in the flour, then dip in the egg mixture again, then shake them up in the crushed Corn Flakes and carefully place the chicken in the hot oil to fry.
Don't they just brown up so beautifully? They are screaming to be dipped in the sauce I have chilling in the fridge!
While the chicken is beginning to fry, empty one package of frozen tater tots onto a foil line baking sheet, sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes remove potatoes from oven, season with salt and pepper to taste and liberally sprinkle with grated sharp cheddar cheese. Return pan to oven for 10 more minutes.
Look at all that melted cheesy goodness!
You can garnish your tater tots with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of crispy bacon and green onions. This kind of reminds the girlz of the Outback fires at Outback Steakhouse. Serve with a tossed green salad or a side of green beans.
I bet your children will pledge their undying gratitude to you!