Thursday, March 29, 2012


Wow, I see it's been over a week since I've last posted.  Don't worry, I didn't go anywhere, and I've been cooking and eating delicious meals.  I guess life just got in the way of posting.  Since it's been a bit since I've been on here I hesitate to post a kitchen fail, but this blog obviously isn't about perfection, so I figured I'd share with you anyway.  

I got a fondue set as a wedding gift, and I was curious about it.  It seemed like a fun way to have an interactive dinner at home.  I considered a cheese fondue, but ultimately decided on a broth fondue where you stick raw meats and vegetables into a simmering broth and cook them.  I thinly sliced chicken, broccoli, and potatoes and awaited my interactive supper.  The chicken cooked fine.  It was moist and flavorful, and didn't cause a problem.  The vegetables where an entirely different story.  The potatoes would not stay on the fondue forks.  This is probably because I thought slicing them would be better than cutting the potatoes into cubes, but it was too late at this point.  As we waiting patiently (or not) for our food to cook, we kept fishing around for the potatoes and finally realized it was a lost cause.  The broccoli stayed on the fork, but took too long to cook.  

Our supper that night ended up being small strips of chicken, raw broccoli, and sliced potatoes that I slipped into a casserole dish with some of the broth, salt, and pepper and microwaved.  Next time I'll stick with the cheese sauce.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Weeknight Kitchen: Peasant Bowls

One of this weeks recipes from The Splendid Table's Weeknight Kitchen newsletter was Peasant Bowls.  This was a bowl layered with black beans, rice, spices, Monterey Jack cheese, tomatoes, and green onions.  I've had other layered bowls similar to this, but the small amount of cheese in this one really set this one apart. The flavors were excellent, and it was a filling and healthy supper.  This would be great packed up for lunch.  I forget how delicious a simple bowl of rice and beans can be when it is properly seasoned.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Stir-fry and a Rice Tip

This stir-fry almost didn't happen.  I had a recipe for it, but I didn't feel like following the steps.  I was sitting in class thinking about what I would do for supper instead, and I was thisclose to picking up something on the way home.  I eventually talked myself out of it, and decided I could make a stir-fry without using the recipe I had.  I knew my husband was thawing out some shrimp for the original recipe.  I had some veggies and chicken in the fridge already thinly sliced from the fondue fiasco of the night before (I will post on this later), and I could quickly whip together a sauce.  I don't have a recipe for this, but I cooked the shrimp and chicken in a hot pan, removed them, and added carrots and broccoli.  When the veggies were soft I added some frozen peas.  Back in the pan went the cooked shrimp and chicken, and I threw on a sauce that contained sesame oil, soy sauce, and agave nectar.  The sauce was then thickened with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch whisked with 1 tablespoon of water and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.  I served the stir-fry with rice.  

For those of you who don't know (and I just recently discovered this by accident), rice freezes really well.  Every time I need rice for something I cook extra.  I put the extra in a bag and freeze it.  The next time I need rice I just put some of the frozen rice in a covered bowl in the microwave and zap until warm.  It's much better than resorting to minute rice all the time, and it's even easier. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Enchilada Casserole Because I Live in the Midwest

I've mentioned it before, but I've heard that the common stereotype about Midwesterners is that we're nice and we make casseroles.  Once again I'm reinforcing the stereotype, and I've decided to turn my dinner plans into a casserole.  I had a post on cabbage rolls about a month ago when I decided that instead of taking the time and effort to actually roll the filling in the cabbage I would just layer everything and bake it.  I had the same thought while making enchiladas last night.  I always have a problem with the tortillas splitting on me when I try to roll up the filling, so I thought I would be so much easier and faster to just layer the ingredients like a casserole.  I was right, and I will make enchiladas this way from now on.  The recipe I have can be changed to suit your tastes and pantry.  If you don't want peppers and onions, don't use them.  If you don't eat meat, add more veggies and use veggie broth or water instead of chicken broth.  Use the following recipe more as a guideline than a strict rule.  Also, please don't be intimidated by what looks like a long list of ingredients and steps.  It's very easy and comes together quickly.

Enchilada Casserole

For the enchilada sauce
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (I used fire roasted adobo seasoned tomatoes)
  • 2 dried chilies (I used a medium chili, but use the hottest or mildest one you like)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt
For the enchilada filling (these are suggestions, use whatever you like.  I had these ingredients on hand)
  • 3 cups cooked chicken
  • 1 bell red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup cooked black beans with 1/4 cup cooking liquid
  • 1 oz white tequila
  • 4 cups shredded cheese (I used co-jack and Montery Jack)
You will also need:
  • 12 small corn tortillas
Optional toppings:
  • lettuce
  • diced tomato
  • diced green onion
  • diced black olives
  • sour cream
  • hot sauce
To make the sauce:
  1. Roast dried peppers in a dry skillet for a little less than a minute on each side.  Take out of skillet and cool to touch.  Meanwhile, heat chicken broth.  When peppers are cool, remove the seeds.  Place peppers in warm chicken broth, soak for about 5 minutes.  Place broth, softened peppers, tomatoes, and garlic in blender.  Puree until smooth.  Taste for salt and spice.  Add salt and chili powder/hot sauce if needed.  Set aside.  (This freezes really well, and you've made more than you need for the recipe.)
To make the filling:
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet.  Add chopped pepper and onion.  Cook over medium low heat for about 8 minutes.  You want the onions very soft and brown.  Add the tequila to deglaze the pan.  Add cooked chicken, beans, and broth and over medium heat until the chicken is warm and some of the liquid has reduced.  Set mixture aside.
To Assemble:
  1. Line large baking pan with corn tortillas.
 2. Top with chicken and veggie filling
 3. Top with cheese
 4. Add second layer of corn tortillas
5. Top with enchilada sauce.  It will look very soupy, but don't worry, the sauce with soak in when it bakes.
 Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes
 Cut and serve with toppings of your choice

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quesadillas: Better the second day

I've mentioned in previous posts that Mondays around here are referred to as Mexican Monday.  I always plan a Mexican themed dish on Monday nights because my husband could each tacos three times a week.  Last week we decided that chicken and chorizo quesadillas would be on the menu.  These were a very fast weeknight supper.  I already had some cooked, shredded chicken in the refrigerator, so all I had to cook was the chorizo.  I layered cheese, chorizo, and chicken in flour tortillas, and then I put them in the oven at 350F to bake while I cut olives, tomatoes, lettuce, and avocado to top the quesadillas.  I had never baked quesadillas before, but I will start doing this from now on because it's much easier to get all the other side dishes or accompaniments together.  I keep cooked black beans and refried beans in the freezer, so I pulled them out and stuck them in the microwave for a quick side dish.  I also made two extra quesadillas for lunch the next day, and I found out that the flavor of the chorizo was much better when we had these for lunch.  I will start making the quesadillas ahead and just reheat them for supper, which will make an even quicker supper.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

German Potato Salad

I don't have a recipe for this yet.  It's something we've always had in my house.  We serve it warm, and it's done by taste.  It contains potatoes, dill seed, bacon, vinegar, water, and eggs.  I will start measuring and tasting so I can get a recipe soon.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Slutty Brownies

If you read many other food blogs you'll know that I am behind the times with these brownies.  I first saw them here and was intrigued.  I don't often get very excited over dessert as I would normally rather just have an extra helping of mashed potatoes, but something about the idea of slutty brownies had me talking about them constantly for a week. They are a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough, a layer of whole Oreo cookies, and a layer of brownie batter.  I don't really have a recipe for these, but I made a batch of Nestle's Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie dough, and then used one box of Ghirardelli brownie mix.  For a 9x13 inch pan, I really should have used two boxes of brownie mix, but these are so rich, I thought one box actually worked better.  For a dark metal pan, bake at 375 for about 35 minutes.  If you bake this in a glass pan they take about 50 minutes.  Check for doneness often because you want to err on the side of underdone and gooey than overbaked and dry.  These really are amazing brownies, and they would be great for a carry-in or to share as they are really rich.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie

Once again, because I'm a MidWesterner I guess it's a necessary part of my identity that I make casseroles.  I love the idea of everything mixed together harmoniously, baked in one dish, and something that would feed a hungry crowd of pot-luck or carry-in (as I always say) goers.  This chicken pot pie was very easy, and I will put it into winter rotation.  The only problem was my "brilliant" idea to use the leftover cheese straws from the freezer instead of just making a crust.  The problem was that the puff pastry got soggy and never really crisped up like it was supposed to.  The picture below illustrates that.  I'll just make a regular crust next time.  

Chicken Pot Pie

  • Meat from 1 whole chicken, reserve 2 cups cooking liquid (I cooked mine in the crock pot)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stocks, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 pie crust
1. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a heavy pan.  Add flour, whisking the entire time.  Cook for 2 minutes on medium heat.  Slowly add milk, whisking to prevent lumps.  Add broth. Whisk.  Add chicken and season.  You will need quite a bit of salt and pepper for this.  Flour, butter, and milk all have pretty bland flavors, so add some salt and pepper, taste, then add some more until it's where you want it to be.  You have just made creamed chicken.  You could serve this over mashed potatoes on its own.

2. Set creamed chicken aside.  Preheat oven to 400 F.  In a pan, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter.  Add chopped carrots, onions, and celery and cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes depending on how soft you want your veggies.  I wanted mine crisp, so I only cooked them for 5 minutes.  Add peas, parsley, and creamed chicken.  Stir everything together.

3. Place ingredients into a large baking pan.  Top with pie crust. (I'm thinking mashed potatoes might be a good topping for this too).  Bake for 40 minutes.  Enjoy!

Note: You could also put this in several small pie pans for individual serving.  You would want to bake those for around 20-25 minutes.  They would freeze well pre-baking.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Don Sol

In a previous post I talked about a restaurant in Mattoon, IL called Don Sol.  I mentioned their excellent Sunday buffet.  While grocery shopping last week, Jason and I decided to drop in for all you can eat Mexican fare.  We were disappointed when we discovered the buffet was no longer running, but we ordered off the menu and we were not disappointed.  Jason ordered the chicken torta.  It was huge; the size of two regular sandwiches and loaded with chicken, avocado, refried beans, lettuce and tomato.  They make their bread in house for this, and it makes a difference.  I had carnitas which were well seasoned and crispy on the edges, the way they should be.  We are sad the buffet is no more, but with so many delicious items on the menu, we will keep coming back.

Jason with his first bite of torta, I think I caught him off guard.

I kept saying "Hold it up to your face, so I can compare sizes."

The torta in all its glory (the fries were pretty good too)

My carnitas.  The sauteed, pickled jalapeno slices are a nice touch.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Louisville Part II

I discussed the first party of my Louisville trip yesterday, and I only featured food we ate at the Brown Hotel. Today I will discuss 2 other local places I ate on my trip.  The first was Moby Dick.  I was interested because I'm reading Moby Dick right now.  (If you've never read it you should.  It's actually really funny in some parts, and tragic in others) If you do a Google search for Moby Dick's in Louisville, you'll come up with a kabob menu, but the link is wrong.  This Moby Dick's is a fish restaurant.  Think a Long John Silver's but with Southern sides.  Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of my meal.  I had the Moby Dick sandwich, which contained 2 large pieces of cod on white bread.  The breading on the fish was excellent.  I also had the macaroni and cheese which was creamy and delicious.  They were out of the seasoned greens, so that was disappointing.  Overall, my experience was very good, and this no frills fried fish place made for a quick lunch.  I would go back again.

The outside of the restaurant.  I thought the ominous clouds were appropriate for the theme of the novel.

The last place we went before our drive home was Lynn's Paradise Cafe.  As soon as I announced I was going to Louisville several friends told me I had to stop here.  Even though we went at an odd lunch time (3:30) the place was packed with a 30 minute wait.  There was a little shopping area with different odds and ends to keep us occupied while we waited.  The menu looked excellent, and I had a difficult time choosing what I wanted.  Even the drinks were a difficult choose.  It came down to a bourbon ball milkshake or a fried green tomato bloody Mary with bacon blended in.  I went with the bloody Mary and was glad I did.  It was spicy and smoky and came with a garnish of a fried green tomato, which was excellent.  Jason had a gigantic mimosa made with fresh squeezed orange juice.  I'm not a huge mimosa fan, but it was very good as well.  We both choose breakfast entrees.  I had the Popeye omelet filled with creamed spinach, bacon, and tomatoes.  Jason had the Matador omelet which had chorizo, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cheese.  Some of the side choices with omelets were sauteed apples, cheese grits, baked macaroni and cheese, lima beans, fried green tomatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, and fresh fruit.  I really enjoyed having all these choices, and I had a difficult time decided what I wanted, but ultimately I went with the cheese grits, and I'm glad I did.  I had a great time at Lynn's and I would visit again.  You can find their website here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Louisville Part I: The Brown Hotel

I went to Louisville, KY last weekend for a literary conference, and other than listen to people talk about literature, which was amazing, I of course, ate.  I'm splitting this into two posts (one today and one tomorrow) because of all the pictures.  For the first post, I'll be focusing on the meals I ate at the Brown Hotel.  When I'm visiting a new place I research the food and try to eat things unique to the area.  I think I did a good job on this trip.

It was around midnight when Jason and I finally checked into the hotel.  We were hungry, and I knew we were going to have a hot brown, which I'll describe when I get to the picture.  The lobby bar serves food until 2:00.  We started out with a few beers.  I had Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.  It was a mix between beer and bourbon.  I didn't expect such intense bourbon flavors, but I like bourbon, so I was okay with that.  I'm not sure if you can only buy this in Kentucky, and I hope not because I'll buy it if I see it around here.

Jason ordered a La Fin Du Monde.  I didn't really care for it, but he liked it.  It had an interesting spice blend that is desirable for some people.

Finally our food came.  Below you'll see the Derby Pie.  It's basically what we call a Toll-House pie around here.  Think chocolate cookies, but baked into a pie shell and loaded with walnuts.  This was very good.

Then we had a hot brown.  The hot brown is a Kentucky original.  It's basically thick-cut bread topped with turkey, tomatoes, mornay sauce loaded with cheese and bacon.  It was very rich, and I'm glad we split it.  It was delicious, but I think a horseshoe (local food from my area which is open faced hamburgers topped with fries and cheese sauce) has it beat.  The Brown Hotel was the inventor of the hot brown, so I'm glad we got one here.

We ate in the hotel again for breakfast before we left, and this was my favorite meal of the trip.  I had the breakfast Florentine hot brown.  It was amazing.  It had poached eggs, roasted potatoes, spinach, artichoke hearts, and Mornay sauce.  If I go to the conference again next year, I will order this.

Jason, who loves sweet breakfasts had the brioche French toast.  This was crazy, and even Jason couldn't finish it.  This was 3 thick slices of brioche bread coated in rice crispies.  It had a thick chocolate spread slathered between each piece.  It was then topped with a caramelized banana and served with housemade bourbon caramel sauce on the side.  It was excellent, but too sweet for me.  There were a lot of other great choices on the menu, but they only serve breakfast on Saturday and Sunday.  If you're staying in the hotel on a weekend I would definitely check it out.  Tomorrow, I will post 2 local spots we checked out during the trip.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Weeknight Kitchen: Kofta with Allspice and Almonds

It's been several weeks since I've made a Weeknight Kitchen recipe that I actually liked and would make again.  I wouldn't say I was leery when I looked at the recipe for Kofta.  Kofta is basically a Middle Eastern or South Eastern meatball or meatloaf.  When I looked at the ingredients there was ground beef, almonds, allspice, cumin, and onions listed.  I wasn't sure about the almonds.  I've made a lot of veggie burgers with nuts in them, but I'm wary of spicing up ground beef too much because I don't want to mask the flavor.  Instead of meatballs, I made my koftas into little patties.  They cooked up quickly and turned out very well.  I served them with a cucumber yogurt sauce and couscous with peppers and onions.  Next time I make these (and I will make them again because they are so quick and good) I will stuff them into pita.

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