Thursday, February 28, 2013

So Long, February (recapping delicious eats!)

Can you believe tomorrow is March?! It seems like the month flew past! This month we finally got some snow here in Charlotte so my winter 2013 is complete and can now go away :)

I wanted to try something new and post a monthly recap post, along with a list of "things I'm pinning" - these posts are some of my favorites on other blogs so I thought you might enjoy it too!

This month I shared:

I've been pinning some delicious looking dishes, including these ~
Baked Quinoa Chicken Parmesan from Tracey's Culinary Adventures
Green Chile Chowder from Apple a Day
Copycat Panda Express Chow Mein from Eat Cake For Dinner
Pimento Cheese Spread from The Texan New Yorker 
BBQ Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
Happy Almost-March, Y'all!  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Toasted Sesame Ginger Salmon

I recently reworked the recipe index. It was driving me nuts, trying to find recipes I knew existed, so I can't imagine it was helpful for anyone else.

When you rework your recipe index you also get a clear picture of what foods you eat the most. And what you don't.

7 sausage dishes
36 pasta dishes
58 (!!!) chicken dishes
31 seafood dishes

Okay, so 31 doesn't sound as pitiful as the poor sausage category until you realize how many types of seafood there are. Then it's pretty pitiful. Especially since we both LOVE seafood.

So why aren't we eating more?

For one, it's pricey. And, fresh seafood usually needs to be on the menu the same day you bring it home which is difficult for a flaky cook (aka, me!).

I resolved to try eating more, even if it means we're chowing down on the frozen stuff. Costco had a coupon for frozen salmon recently so we picked up a bag and threw it in the freezer. It may not be fresh but it's darn tasty, good quality, and packaged individually so you can pull out however many filets you need at the time.

This particular salmon dish is sitting pretty in the win column. It not only cooks up fast, but also uses stuff already in your pantry. It has loads of flavor thanks to the marinade + glaze. Add a side dish or two and you've got dinner!

Toasted Sesame Ginger Salmon
4 salmon fillets
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Sesame Ginger Honey Glaze (recipe follows)

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack over top. Spray the rack with nonstick spray.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Whisk until well combined. Put the salmon in a gallon size ziplock bag and pour marinade over top. Place in refrigerator and let marinate for 30 minutes.

Preheat your broiler.

Remove salmon with kitchen tongs and place directly on the wire rack. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper then place directly under the broiler. Cook for 10-12 minutes, depending on the salmon’s thickness, until opaque and easily flakable with a fork.

Before serving, spoon glaze over top and sprinkle green onions and sesame seeds.

Sesame Ginger Honey Glaze
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Combine all ingredients and whisk until smooth. Set aside until salmon is cooked through.

Source: How Sweet It Is

Linking up to Kitchen Meets Girl, Lil Luna, What's Cooking, Love, Housewives How To, This Silly Girl's Life, and Stonegable

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day Trip to Asheville, NC!

I've been a bit quiet over the weekend but for good reason! We had our first guests from Texas come to visit - my dad and brother. They both wanted to do stuff in this part of the country so I packed our schedule with things we've wanted to do, too, so it was our staycation + their vacation.

First up was a day trip to Asheville. I've only been once before (for work) but the others hadn't been at all. And of course it was FREEZING cold and rainy all day but that didn't stop us from having a great time.

We got to the Biltmore (aka, America's largest privately owned house) around 10:30 a.m. Even on a yucky winter morning, it's still gorgeous. The house is a stunning 178,926 square feet and sits on 8,000 acres. It was originally to be George Vanderbilt's "little mountain getaway" before he got carried away a little...

We toured the house, which was surprisingly busy for a cold dreary Friday morning (I think the spring/summer crowds are probably huge!!). Because we went during the low season, the audio tour was free and that turned out to be a definite plus.
Of course, no pictures are allowed inside but you can imagine it was impressive, to say the least. To see the house, it took us 1.5 hours or so - which meant a LOT of walking and stairs. I'm still recovering from a broken leg so I was pretty wiped out at the end.
When we finished the house, we headed for the nearby stable that now houses a few shops, bakery, ice cream shop, restaurant, etc. We wanted to eat someplace downtown for our meal but had worked up an appetite so we stopped in at the bakery and split sandwiches. They were tasty and "just enough" to stretch us until an early dinner.
Psst - there is no indoor seating at the bakery, just tables/chairs outside. Thanks to the 40 degree weather (and winds) that was the fastest I think we've ever eaten!  

After a few last pictures, we headed back to the car to drive through the property. Everything was pretty dead thanks to the winter but I can imagine it comes to life once spring comes!

Also on the property is Antler Hill Village, a small shopping and dining area that includes the Inn on Biltmore Estate. It was very quiet but we checked out a couple of things, including George Vanderbilt's 1913 Stevens-Duryea C-Sixthey have tucked away on the property.

Visiting the Biltmore isn't cheap but I know that much of the cost goes to help with the care and restoration of the property, which I think is important. I'd love to return when the weather is warmer and take advantage of some of the outdoor activities they have on property, plus see the gardens while in bloom.

When we finished, we went downtown to check things out. Downtown Asheville is a really cool place to spend an afternoon. Interesting shops, unique dining spots, and a hippy vibe that I LOVE. It was cold but not raining so we just ducked in and out of (heated!) stores and galleries.

After navigating a couple of the streets, we stopped for an early dinner at Early Girl Eatery. I chose it because it was 1) moderately priced 2) nationally featured 3) the menu looked amazing and a taste of the southern food I wanted our guests to experience.

Thankfully, it did not disappoint!

The interior decor is sorta like a hipsters dining room. It's simple, uncluttered, and featuring local art (all for sale) on the walls.

Breakfast is served all day and the offerings are plentiful. They also serve salads, sandwiches, and a handful of more dinner-like options. We were evidently all feeling breakfasty!

After much debate, I chose the Early Girl Benny: grit cakes topped with tomato, spinach, poached eggs, tomato gravy, and avocado.

It was so tasty it was ridiculous. I don't even like tomatoes and I wanted to drink gravy, from a glass, on it's own. Thankfully, Early Girl shares the recipe for it on their website!

Tomato Gravy
3 tablespoons olive Oil
4  cups tomatoes (chopped)
1  cup onion (finely diced)
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 tablespoon basil
1/4 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon sugar

In heavy bottom pot or saucepan saute the onions in olive oil until translucent. Stir in flour to form roux. Add tomatoes (stir in a little water or stock if needed to prevent sticking). Add basil, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for 30 minutes until tomatoes are broken down.

Jason chose the Black Bean and Cheddar Omelet, which is topped with sour cream and salsa and served with homefries. He was a happy camper (and there wasn't even an ounce of meat on his plate!).

My dad ordered (and loved) the special of the day - Spinach Potato Cakes. I couldn't figure out how exactly they made it but found a blurb on their website from the owner that says they run cooked potatoes through a ricer then add local cheese, eggs, fresh spinach, and lemon zest. Why didn't I think of that?

My brother went for a dish that both Jason and my dad lingered on - the Local Sausage and Sweet Potato Scramble: eggs scrambled with local sausage, shitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes, bacon, and green onion. Again, so tasty it was ridiculous.

The service was great, the food was quick, fresh, and delicious, and the menu was priced right. I also love that Early Girl strives to support the local farmers and is a true "farm to table" eatery.

If you're in Asheville, stop by for a meal!

We'll definitely be making more trips to that area of the state for short getaways. There is plenty to do and is such a fun place to visit. If you've been to Asheville, what things did you enjoy doing?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cheesy Broccoli Orzo

Making side dishes each and every night sounds pretty exhausting to me. There are few things I adore more than a one pot meal. Less dishes, less recipes, less steps. But sometimes, you just have to branch out of the one pot meals and make a side dish or two.

(but still make it super easy, of course)

This definitely fits the bill.

Cheesy, creamy, slightly nutritious thanks to the broccoli, FAST. Even my broccoli hatin' husband ate this up.

Cheesy Broccoli Orzo
1 cup orzo
1-1/2 cups chopped broccoli florets (smaller is better!)
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4-1/2 cup 2% milk

Add orzo to a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook for 3 minutes then add chopped broccoli and cook for 2 more minutes, or until orzo is tender. Drain well then return to the pot. Add cheeses, butter, and 1/4 cup milk then stir well and add more milk if needed. Season with salt to taste.

Source: Iowa Girl Eats

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Warm Black Eyed Pea & Artichoke Dip

Are you the person who hangs near the chip and dip table, sneaking dunks into the various bowls hoping no one has noticed you haven't moved in 30 minutes?

(I call that the quality control position, which I'll gladly assume at any party with a tasty spread)

Or, are you the person who could easily pass on something sweet if it meant another bowl of something salty and savory?

Jason is a sugar fanatic so while he reaches for the box of Nerds or a scoop of ice cream, I throw a bag of popcorn in the microwave. Or leftover dip and chips. Or grab some salted sunflower seeds (my current obsession). Truly, there are few things better than a big bowl of dip and some salty chips to load it up on. Which is why I was really diggin' this recipe.

This is sorta a twist on a traditional spinach and artichoke dip... but not really. I mean, there are artichokes in it but it tastes different. Not so gooey cheesy.

(now I'm craving spinach and artichoke dip)

Take a can of blackeyed peas and a can of artichokes, mix it all up with some sauteed onion, mayo, sour cream, ranch dressing mix, and cheese then bake. I mean hello?!

Now I will say that we found the ranch dressing to be the overpowering flavor so I'd suggest you aim for more like half the packet. Unless you really really love ranch dressing flavor and if so, throw the whole packet in.

The best part about this recipe is that it takes one mixing bowl and one cast iron skillet. I have some baby cast iron skillets that I have been DYING to use so since this was just for the two of us, I made one baby skillet worth and put the rest of the dip in the fridge to bake another time. If you're serving it to a crowd, use your big cast iron and it'll be the perfect size.

Warm Black Eyed Pea & Artichoke Dip
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of butter
1 (16oz) can of black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 (14oz) can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 envelope buttermilk ranch dry seasoning mix (or less - see my note above)
1 cup of shredded cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, whatever you have on hand)
Preheat oven to 350.
In a cast iron skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted, saute the onion until golden brown.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the sour cream, mayo, and ranch mix.  Add the rest of the ingredients - including the sauteed onion - and mix well. 
Pour the mixture back into the cast iron skillet and bake for 20 minutes.
Serve warm.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Beef Chow Fun

Beef Chow Fun is a staple at just about every Chinese restaurant here in America - and why the heck not? It's salty and sweet with a heaping pile of noodles (and very few veggies)! In restaurants, it's often pretty oily and I usually find issue with the quality of beef. Though I admit my tolerance for meat served outside of my kitchen is becoming an issue... but when you cook it at home? No excess oil, beef that meets your picky expectations, and super quick to throw together.

I didn't easily find dried rice noodles so I picked up lo mein noodles instead. Still delicious, you just have to actually boil them instead of soaking like rice noodles. Because this dish cooks up fast, you'll want to make sure all your items are cut and ready to go. I'm the cook who chops while she cooks and that method just won't work with this. Outside of the noodle prep, you seriously can cook this in 15 minutes. Ridiculous, right?

So, grab your wok and put it to work! Your family will be thrilled that you did :)

Beef Chow Fun

1/2 lb. dried wide rice noodles
3 Tbsps. dark soy sauce
2 tsps. dry sherry or Chinese rice wine
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 lb. flank steak, thinly sliced across the grain
1/2 cup beef broth
2 tsps. oyster sauce
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups sliced onions
3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

Soak the noodles in warm water until softened, about 30 minutes; drain.

Combine 1 tablespoon of the dark soy sauce, the rice wine, and cornstarch in a small bowl; add the beef and stir to coat. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Combine the beef broth, oyster-flavored sauce and the remaining 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce in a bowl. Set the sauce aside.

Heat wok over medium-high heat. Add the oil, swirling to coat the sides. Add the onions and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the flank steak and the green onions; stir-fry until the beef is no longer pink, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the noodles to the wok and toss gently. Add the sauce toss to coat evenly. Continue to cook for about 2 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Source: Martin Yan {Yan Can Cook} via Small Wallet Big Appetite

Friday, February 15, 2013

Crispy Chicken with Mustard-Maple Sauce

I'm the first to admit that my photography skills are lacking in many ways... but when I go back and look at my photos in the beginning of this humble blog, it's a difference of night and day! Unfortunately, there are some really good recipes that we enjoyed several years ago that come across completely unappealing in the photo I took at the time. So, I'm going back and digging through the archives to find recipes we should have again - not only because they were delicious, but also to give me another shot at taking a decent photo.

This recipe was originally shared in April 2010 - almost three years ago! We haven't had it since, which is sorta silly because it tastes delicious and is the perfect weeknight meal to throw on the table with little effort.

You first get to take out the day's frustrations by beating the heck out of the chicken. Once that therapy session is over, you coat them in panko and quickly cook them on the stove. When they finish, you put the chicken aside and whip up a delicious and easy pan sauce - out of items you likely already have on hand. The mustard-maple combo is tangy and sweet at the same time and easily pairs well with whatever sides you choose.

Why did we wait 3 years to enjoy this dish again?

Crispy Chicken with Mustard-Maple Sauce
3-4 boneless/skinless chicken breast halves, each cut in half (crosswise)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 cup panko
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coarse-grained mustard
1 tablespoon chilled butter

Using a meat mallet or rolling pin, pound chicken in resealable plastic bag to 1/3- to 1/2-inch thickness.

Whisk the egg, parsley, and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard in large bowl. Place chicken in egg mixture; turn to coat.

Put the panko in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and coat each piece in the panko.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook until brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. As they finish, transfer pieces to a plate.

Meanwhile, whisk broth, syrup, coarse-grained mustard, and remaining 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard in glass measuring cup.

Once all the chicken is finished and set aside, add the broth mixture to skillet. Boil until thickened and reduced to 3/4 cup, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add butter; whisk until melted. Spoon sauce alongside chicken.

Source: Bon Appetit Magazine

I'm linking up to Whipperberry Friday Flair and The Country Cook Weekend Potluck

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Southwestern Egg Rolls (Baked)

Anytime we order an appetizer sampler at Chili's, Jason always chooses Southwestern Egg Rolls as one of the choices. They're crunchy, a tad spicy, and stuffed with southwestern flavor. Chili's includes chicken in theirs, which you could add to these, but we didn't think it needed it. The corn, beans, spinach, cheese, and spices pack a punch that won't leave you wishing for meat. And, since they're baked and use an egg roll wrapper over a tortilla, these won't completely throw off your calorie intake for the day.

Serve these up as an appetizer or make them a meal! They're especially delicious dunked in ranch dressing or salsa.


Southwestern Egg Rolls {Baked}
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups shredded cheese (I used Mexican blend)
1 4-ounce can diced green chiles, drained
4 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 package egg roll wrappers (about 24 total)

Combine all the ingredients, except the egg roll wrappers, in a large bowl and mix well.

Working one at a time, place an egg roll wrapper on a work surface with a pointed end toward you. Place about ¼ cup of filling in the bottom center of the wrapper. Fold the tip closest to you over the filling, then roll once. Fold the sides in over the filling and continue rolling until a small area of the last point is left. Dip a finger in water and use it to moisten the remaining point. Roll tightly to seal. Repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers.

Heat oven to 425º. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the egg rolls, seam side down, onto the baking sheet. Lightly mist the tops of the egg rolls with cooking spray. Bake for about 15 minutes, turning halfway through baking to brown both sides.

Serve warm with your choice of dipping sauce.

Source: Cook Like A Champion

I'm linking up to Whipperberry Friday Flair! and The Country Cook Weekend Potluck

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lemon Bliss Cake

Somehow, I've made it this far in life without a bundt pan. I kept marking (aka pinning) bundt cakes that looked amazing yet had no pan to make them in! I added it to my Christmas list and my sister in law gifted me with one (thanks, Laura!).

This was the first recipe I made it in and man, is it good. Jason is a lemon addict so I knew he'd love it when I scanned through the ingredients. Unlike some cakes, this one is very moist thanks to the glaze and is tangy and sweet. For this non-baker, this recipe was a cinch to throw together and came out perfect.

Psst ~ don't have a bundt cake? You can also use a 10" tube pan!

If you're on the hunt for a non-chocolate Valentine's dessert for your sweetie, this would be a great choice!

Lemon Bliss Cake
For the cake:
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt (decrease to 1/2 teaspoon if using salted butter)
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup milk
finely grated rind of 2 lemons
3/4 teaspoon lemon extract (optional, for extra lemon oomph!)

For the glaze:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 10" tube pan, or a 9" to 10", 9- to 10-cup capacity bundt-style pan.

Beat together the butter, sugar, and salt, first till combined, then till fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the baking powder, then add the flour alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until smooth. Stir in the grated lemon rind and lemon extract. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

Bake the cake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. 

While the cake is baking, make the glaze by stirring together the lemon juice and sugar. Set it aside.

Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack. After 5 minutes, run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen, and turn the cake out onto a rack. Place another rack on top, and flip it over, so it's right-side-up. 

Poke the hot cake all over with a cake tester or toothpick.

Stir the glaze to combine, and immediately brush it on the hot cake. Let it sink in, then brush on more glaze, continuing until all the glaze is used up.

Allow the cake to cool before slicing.

Source: King Arthur Flour

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"The Lorax" Themed Party

One of the awesome perks of my job is planning events that are kid friendly. I'm a big theme person; give me a theme and I will gladly run with it. Thanks to Pinterest, the possibilities are endless! I recently hosted a family movie night, and we watched The Lorax {my first time to see it and man, it's cute!}. Of course like any non-profit, my budget is limited so I tried to be creative yet cheap.

Anything Dr. Seuss is fun to work with as a theme since everything is so colorful and whimsical. Which is good, I guess, since Lorax themed partyware has not been produced so you're on your own.

I opted for basic yellow tablecloths with orange plates/napkins and decorated simply with orange balloons adorned with the Lorax face.

Eh, his face is a bit spread out... poor guy :)

Helium is at an all-time high but children dig balloons. And they do make a room more festive. I got the face cut-outs here for FREE:

I also did a photo wall with the trees and had mustaches to use. I downloaded the mustaches (from the link above) and just taped it to a yellow straw I ordered for the cotton candy. While most young children won't ham it up in a "photo booth" like adults, it still gives the opportunity for a fun family picture.

For food, I went with 1) inexpensive 2) kid friendly 3) easy for a crowd. You guessed it, pizza! For dessert, we had cupcakes. I ordered a mix of chocolate and vanilla and asked for all orange frosting. I made these cute cupcake toppers to put on each - just printed them on cardstock, cut, and taped to a toothpick. Also found at the link above!

No movie night is complete without popcorn. Our church has a popcorn popper so we not only had fresh buttery popcorn but the smell to go with it :) We usually use bags (they're cheaper!) but I wanted little boxes for the event. The bags are hard for small hands to use, plus they spill when set down. Boxes stand upright and are easier for children.

The trees in The Lorax look JUST like cotton candy to me.
So though we didn't need anything else, I had to add cotton candy to the line-up. I ordered yellow striped paper straws from Amazon to use as the tree trunks. To make the "trees" stand up, I covered a box with wrapping paper and punched holes in the top. Add a fluff of cotton candy to a straw and you're good to go!
There you have it! Relatively easy, inexpensive, yet festive Lorax themed movie night. Huge thanks to Nicole @ The Party Animal for the downloads!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Monte Cristo Poppers

I never had to look at the menu at Bennigans; my choice was always the Monte Cristo Sandwich. Slices of turkey, ham, cheddar, and swiss put between bread, deep fried, and served with a healthy sprinkling of powdered sugar and a side of raspberry preserves. It was like heaven on a plate. I think most Bennigan's went belly up but they seem to be expanding again through franchising (and I noticed that on their website, they now have quite the presence in South Korea and Mexico!). Unfortunately, none in my area yet.

The good news is that I don't really need them anymore. These poppers give the texture and flavor of the Bennigan's version, and they are so darn easy to make! This recipe will quickly whip up 32 poppers for you to snack on or feed to a crowd.

Now, though there is a "recipe" please know that this is a wing-it sorta dish. Your main objective is to squish as much meat/cheese inside the biscuit dough and it still completely close before frying. The method you use it up to you (though I included mine below). The original recipe calls for a full pound of each meat and cheese but I didn't come close to using all that so I think you're more realistic to aim for 1/2 pound of each. Unless you know your family will make sandwiches with whatever is left. :)

Monte Cristo Poppers
1 package (8 count) of flaky biscuits (like Pillsbury Grands)
1/2 lb thinly sliced deli ham
1/2 lb thinly sliced deli turkey
1/2 lb sliced swiss Cheese
1/2 lb sliced cheddar Cheese 
Powdered Sugar
Raspberry Preserves
Oil, for frying

With your hands or a rolling pin, flatten out a biscuit and then cut it into fourths. Take each fourth and flatten it until a small circle. Repeat until you've trimmed them all down (making 32 total small circles).

Stack up a slice of turkey, ham, cheddar, and swiss and tightly roll them together. Cut the roll into 3-4 pieces, or about 1/2 inch long.

Place a roll of meat/cheese in the center of a small biscuit circle and wrap the dough up around it until it's tightly closed. Repeat until all 32 are stuffed and rolled.

Add enough oil to heavy bottomed pot for it to be about 2 inches deep. Heat to about 350 degrees and then add poppers, a few of a time, and fry until they are browned all over. This only takes a few minutes.

Remove with slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm. Serve with raspberry preserves.

Source: Oh, Bite It

Linking up to Whipperberry Friday Flair Party and The Country Cook Weekend Potluck

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Chicken Tortilla Casserole

In Texas, there is a staple casserole that is often served to company, potlucks, and taken to grieving/celebrating families: King Ranch Casserole. Also known as, Chicken Sopa, Chicken Tortilla Casserole, Mexican Chicken, or Enchilada Casserole. To be honest, all the names cover about the same type of dish.

It usually looks something like this: shredded chicken, Rotel tomatoes, lots of cheese, tortillas, maybe some veggies, usually canned cream soup. Neither my husband or I can tolerate anything containing cream soup so this dish is skipped when we're served it and is definitely never found on our menu. And while it probably doesn't sound all that appetizing to those who've yet to try it, it really is. It's creamy, cheesy, a bit spicy, and loaded with chicken and tortillas. It's Texas comfort food and a crowd pleaser.

I knew there had to be better ways of making it, that didn't required canned cream soup, and thankfully The Homesick Texan figured it out. Well, actually a friend of hers did - and she calls this dish Racetrack Casserole. But I'm calling it Chicken Tortilla Casserole because it best represents what it tastes like to those who've never had it.

While I thought this would be just a cheap, easy, filler weeknight meal it became a quick favorite at our house. It tasted fresh, it had bright colors, but it still had that cheesy chicken-y kicked up taste we loved. The icing on the cake is how ridiculously easy it is to throw together.

Here it is, straight from the oven. The picture is taken in artificial light so it's not great but I wanted you to see how un-cream soup casserole it looks:

You totally want to grab a fork and dig in, right?

Unlike some of the more soup based casseroles, this doesn't run all over your plate or need to be scooped out. It actually slices up quite well. It's also very versatile; you can use toss in other veggies, use leftover turkey, throw in some hatch chiles, add black beans, or do what I did - add a layer of finely diced black olives because you found a can hiding in your pantry. I just added the olives while layering the dish. As written, this is not overly spicy so kick it up if you dig the spicy stuff.

Chicken Tortilla Casserole
For the chicken:
1 3-pound chicken
1 sprig cilantro
1 jalapeño, cut in half
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 3-pound rotisserie chicken, shredded
1/4 cup chicken broth

For the casserole:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and stemmed, diced
5 jalapeños, seeded and stemmed, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10-ounce) can tomatoes and green chiles, such as Ro-Tel
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnishing
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
10 corn tortillas, quartered
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar
Salsa, sour cream and guacamole, for serving

If making your own chicken: place the chicken in a large pot and cover with 1-inch of water. Add to the pot the cilantro, jalapeño, salt and peppercorns. Bring the pot to a boil and then turn the heat down to low. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken with tongs from the water and when cool enough to handle, remove the skin and shred the chicken. Toss the chicken with 1/4 cup of the cooking broth (reserving the rest of the broth for another use), then taste and add salt if needed.

If using rotissserie chicken meat, just add 1/4 cup of chicken broth to the shredded meat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish or a large cast iron skillet.

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil on medium-low heat. Add the onions, bell pepper, and jalapeños and while occasionally stirring cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Add to the skillet the shredded chicken with broth, tomatoes, cilantro, chili powder, cumin and thyme, and stir until well combined. Turn off the heat, taste and adjust seasonings. Add salt to taste.

To assemble the casserole, line half of the tortillas along the bottom of the baking dish or skillet. Evenly spread on top half of the chicken mixture, half of the Monterey Jack and half of the cheddar cheese. Repeat the layering with the tortillas and chicken, then topping with the rest of the cheese.

Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes or until brown and bubbling. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.

Source: The Homesick Texan

I'm linking up to Stone Gable Tutorial, Tips, and Tidbits!, Whipperberry Friday Flair Party, and The Country Cook Weekend Potluck

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cinnamon Roll Rice Crispy Treats

So, last week we went on a staff retreat and I brought snacks (this recipe, plus this and this).

We met for hours, breaking only for an a-ma-zing dinner in Asheville, and returning back to meet some more. We actually met until midnight ~ no lie. And it was pretty awesome. But this post isn't about our staff retreat, it's about these rice crispy treats.

I brought the already shaped treats with me and a ziplock of the icing so I could pipe the icing on once we were there. I didn't want them to get smushed in transit and it lose the pretty swirly design. Priorities, you know.

We're talking... we're dreaming... we're working hard... and by mid-afternoon, I'm focused on these rice crispy treats, chilling on the table next to us.

They soon found themselves on the conference table and I realized I didn't bring a pair of scissors with me to snip off the corner of the bag. My former boy scout colleague saved the day with some fancy keychain contraption that had a teensy pair of scissors on it - just big enough to snip a corner!

So as we discussed the matter at hand, I sat and piped on cream cheese icing swirls on each person's rice crispy treat.

Thankfully, the recipe was a winner and as each colleague took a bite, there was a moment of silence in the room before we all discussed how tasty they were. And then went back to solving the world's problems.

The world's problems are way easier to solve when you're stuffing your face with one of these.

These taste remarkably just like a cinnamon roll, and the cream cheese icing takes it over the top. I came thisclose to leaving the icing at home and not messing with it but I'm so glad I didn't. This twist on the rice crispy treat is so good, it's knocking my previous favorite off the podium. Sorry, cake batter rice crispy treats. It was a good run.

Cinnamon Roll Rice Crispy Treats
For treats:
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
⅛ tsp salt
2 tsp molasses
2 tsp cinnamon
1 (10.5 oz) bag miniature marshmallows
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 cups rice crispies cereal
For icing:
¼ cup butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar

Butter a 9×13 baking dish and set aside.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in salt, molasses, and cinnamon. Add marshmallows to melted butter mixture and stir constantly until marshmallows have melted.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Fold in rice crispy cereal, a cup at a time, and stir until evenly coated.
Pour mixture into buttered baking dish.Spread mixture evenly into pan with a buttered spatula or buttered hands.
Allow to cool several minutes, then cut while still slightly warm. Use your hands to round the edges of the cut squares (to try and resemble a cinnamon roll).
Allow to cool completely in a single layer to avoid sticking to one another.
While they cools, make the frosting by whipping together the butter and cream cheese with a mixer until fluffy. Stir in vanilla and then add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and mix until smooth and fluffy.
Pipe icing onto rounded and cooled rice crispy treats. (I spooned all the icing into a ziplock, snipped the corner, and piped straight from the bag)
Source: Better in Bulk

Linking up to StoneGable: On the Menu Monday and

Friday, February 1, 2013

Smothered Chile Colorado Burritos ~ Crockpot

I'd never heard of a Chile Colorado Burrito before ~ it seems to be more a west coast dish than a tex mex dish. Regardless of it's roots, you can't help but love it. Chunks of slow cooked tender beef, enchilada sauce, cheese, beans, and a big flour tortilla. I mean, hello?!

There are a few different versions out there but after reading some reviews, I tweaked it by removing the beef bouillon cubes. Many said it was a bit too salty and since I was already reaching for canned (aka sodium city) enchilada sauce for this one, I didn't need any extra salt on my plate. Some of the reviews also implied that the sauce in the crockpot is not as flavorful after cooking all day so I opted to pick up a small can of enchilada sauce to use on the burritos once the meat was finished. It was flavorful, hearty, and a big dinnertime hit.

Since it's a crockpot meal, you can finish off dinner within a matter of minutes when you get home.

Feel free to make your own enchilada sauce for this!

Smothered Chile Colorado Burritos
1 1/2 to 2 pounds stew meat
1 19 ounce can red enchilada sauce (I used mild - you can easily kick up the heat)
1 10 ounce can of same enchilada sauce
1/2 can refried beans (optional)
5-7 burrito size flour tortillas
1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Place beef and 19 ounce can of enchilda sauce in the crockpot and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or until meat is very tender.

When beef is done (it should flake easily when touched with a fork), taste and add salt if needed.

Warm refried beans (microwave works fine) and turn broiler on high.

On each tortilla, add about 1/2 cup of meat from the crockpot (drain using slotted spoon) and a couple spoonfuls of beans. And some cheese, too, if you want. Roll into a burritos and place on a small baking sheet or baking dish. Pour enchilada sauce from the 10 ounce can over your burrito and sprinkle with cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly, about 3 minutes.


Source: Food Pusher

I'm linking up to The Country Cook Weekend Potluck and Addicted to Recipes

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