Friday, May 29

fettuccine with light white sauce

This could be called fettuccine alfredo. Except that a real alfredo sauce, I think, based upon minimal online research, is made mostly with cream and much more Parmesan. I made a sauce base, similar to my Mac & Cheese and my
Pot Pie, used 2 % milk then added some cheese and a little bit of lemon. It was a bit lighter than alfredo sauce.

I think the lemon and fresh parsley really set this sauce apart. I was honestly surprised at how good it was, and I was amazed at how easy the sauce was to whip up with basic kitchen ingredients. It was even be better the second day, after all the flavors became better acquainted. I imagine that baking it is not a necessity but I think it helps the noodles soak up some of the sauce flavor....I'm not sure. Try it both ways!
image belongs to chowdownphoenix

fettuccine with light white sauce
inspired by PioneerWoman
8- 10 oz wheat fettuccine pasta (3-4 cups cooked)
2 cups grilled or roasted chicken, diced

1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
generous dash of nutmeg
2 t. cracked pepper
1 t. salt
3/4 to 1 c. milk (room temperature recommended)
3/4 c. low sodium chicken broth
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese divided
3 t. lemon juice
3 t. chopped, fresh parsley

Heat oven to 375. Cook fettuccine according to package directions, drain and place in oven safe dish. In small pot, warm chicken broth. Melt butter in saucepan on medium heat, add garlic and lemon juice and whisk occasionally until butter is bubbly, about 3 minutes. Add flour slowly with pepper, salt and nutmeg and whisk until combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and slowly whisk in broth and milk, alternating. Add more milk if it seems too thick. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup cheese. Pour over noodles. Add chicken. Bake, covered, for 15 minutes. Then remove foil and bake for an additional 7 to 10 minutes. (Don’t bake too long or the pasta will dry out.) Top with remaining cheese and parsley. Yield: 4 servings.

Wednesday, May 27

chex mix

This is another family tradition, straight from the side of a cereal box. The original recipe can be found at Never satisfied with the amount of seasoning, I've upped the seasoning mixture a bit, in proportion to the cereal. I suggest being generous with the seasonings, especially the Worcestershire sauce, but that's your prerogative. In my pictures you can see I omitted the bagel chips and nuts, the former was purposeful, the latter was accidental. I think it's good with nuts but found I didnt have the stash I thought I had when I bought the ingredients. I don't like the bagel chips so much and think it's a hassle to make them bite size or find some that are.

Chex Mix, also known as "Trash"
3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
3 cups Rice Chex® cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1/2 cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips or regular-size bagel chips, broken into 1-inch pieces
8 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Heat oven to 250°F In large bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated. Pour mixture into roasting pan or large casserole dish. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container.

I've almost always made the doubled version of this recipe, and you almost have to triple it in order to use up all the cereal you've purchased for the purpose. Or you can make Muddy Buddies!

Monday, May 25

chicken pot pie

Thanks for letting me take about a week hiatus. With school wrapping up, graduations, Memorial Day weekend, there was just not enough time in the day to keep you updated on my culinary adventures. Or perhaps I was just too lazy to upload my pictures. may never know...While this dish may not seem summer appropriate, allow me to posit that it can be spring appropriate. We had some drizzly, dreary spring weather early last week and I thought it would be perfectly apt to attempt homemade pot pie. Now I did not make the pie crust. So, to be candid and true to you loyal readers, I made homemade pot and store bought pie.

I had fun making them individually, the smaller one was taken out about ten minutes early. The big one is in about a 16 oz dish and the small one, about 10 oz. Here you can see the filling station.

My sloppy pie crust job resulted in some excess dough that inspired my artistic sensibilities, but you'll have to glaze over the recipe to reach the finale. I think the next time I make this, I'm going to grate about a 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese into the filling. You know, for the added calcium.

Chicken Pot Pie
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1.5 whole chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on (I used 2 cups diced rotisserie chicken meat)

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teasp nutmeg
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk (room temperature recommended)

1/2 (10-ounce) package frozen peas (or approx 1 cup)
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced potato
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1 egg beaten
1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. white wine
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1 egg beaten
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 2 to 3 cups of cubed chicken. (Can be done in advance)
Heat large non-stick saucepan with lid on medium. Add potatoes, 1/2 c. chicken broth, wine, lemon juice and garlic. Bring to boil and cook covered 5 minutes, add carrots and cook 5 min more, stir uncovered for 3 minutes to allow liquids to reduce. {see note}
Add any remaining liquid from vegetables to small pot. Add the rest of the broth to the small pot and heat on low. In large saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper. Slowly stir in milk and warmed chicken broth Simmer over medium-low heat until thick, stirring often. Add the cubed chicken, potatoes, carrots, peas and parsley. Mix well.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Sprinkle bottom of deep pie plate lightly with flour, spread into a thin layer with your fingers. Press crust into bottom of dish and repeat with flour. Pour the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Bake 45 min. Allow to cool for 5 - 10 minutes before serving.
I did not have carrots. Also, an alternative to cooking the vegetables is to just blanch them: Add diced potatoes to 2 quarts water and boil for about 10 minutes. Add diced carrots to boiling water for about 2 minutes. Remove together and submerge in ice water. Drain and set aside. This is the truly British (though arguably less inspiring) way of cooking the vegetables.
Ah yes, and there's what I did with the excess dough. Who doesn't want a personalized pot pie? Now you're certainly realizing that is what your soul has been missing.
That's a cursive T. In case you're having trouble.

Tuesday, May 19

tex mex summer salad

Wondering what to do with that avocado now, since you only used 1/6th of it for your sandwich on Saturday? Make a scrumptious little salad! Depending on how generous you feel like being with that avocado, and whether or not you want to add black beans, this could even be a meal.
Cast of characters, minus a few of the flavorings.

tex mex summer salad
1 large avocado
2 roma tomatoes
juice from one lime
1 1/2 cup corn kernels (I used canned)
1 1/2 cup cooked black beans (I'd use canned...but had none)
2 tsp. yellow mustard
1/4 to 1/3 c. finely chopped cilantro
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
3 tsp salt or seasoning salt
2 tsp chili powder
Dice avocado and tomatoes and add to medium sized bowl with corn and black beans. Add lime juice, cilantro and spices and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes to a hour before serving.

Perhaps you can tell that my avocado was quite ripe. Great for below sandwich, still tasty but a little mushy for this salad. Chilling this before serving not only enhances the refreshing aspect of the salad but also allows the flavors to blend. Obviously this is quite flexible and I suggest you taste it as you add spices... diced peppers like red or jalapenos would be another great addition. Squeezing a bit of orange into it would probably be really good as well. This could also be a yummy topping for fajitas or grilled shrimp tacos or even salmon. So easy, so versatile, what's not to love?

Saturday, May 16

the simple but scrumptious saturday sandwich

Yes. I'm devoting an entire post to a sandwich. Will you write this off? Or will you open your mind to all that this sandwich holds for you? For you, loyal readers, I am divulging my secrets.

The key here, the ticket to greatness, the road straight to the heart of your eagerly awaiting recipient, is an overripe avocado.

Cut that avocado in half, twist the halves apart, stab the seed, yank it out and throw it away. Whew. Using one of the halves, cut a few thin slices lengthwise. I recommend four slices. You want these four slices to be about a half inch wide at their widest part. Since your avocado is just slightly overripe, the skin will peel right off. Place one slice at a time onto your favorite, toasted bread and cut into it, spreading the thin slivers onto the bread as you move the sliver of avocado across the bread.

Repeat with remaining slices, spreading gently and generously.Now avocado is the key, but this, dear readers, is your secret ingredient....
Now that you're intrigued by that bottle and lusting after that avocado, let's just cut to the chase...

the simple but scrumptious saturday sandwich

1/2 boneless grilled chicken breast, cut thinly lengthwise (or meat of choice)
2 slices good bread
2 thin slices provolone cheese
4 thin roma tomato slices
1 leaf Romaine lettuce or spinach
1/4 to 1/6 overripe avocado
1 - 2 tbs. Newman's Family Recipe Italian dressing
yellow mustard
Heat broiler to low. Place bread slices on baking sheet and toast one side to desired crispness, perhaps about 2 minutes. Remove and flip to non-toasted side. Drizzle slices (slowly!) with dressing and spread with knife. Return slices, dressing side up, and continue toasting, but remove one slice after about a minute, once you can barely see it's starting to toast. Allow the second slice to finish toasting and remove.

Spread avocado onto the dressing side of both slices of bread, as demonstrated in above tutorial. Onto fully toasted slice, spread yellow mustard. Avocado and mustard? Yes. Trust me. Onto partially toasted slice, place chicken and top with provolone cheese. Return to broiler until cheese gets sweaty and droopy, about 2 minutes. Top with tomatoes, leafy greens and pickles. Top with the other slice of bread.
This picture shows the sandwich done with turkey lunch meat and uninspiring bread. I have plans to make a wheat bread soon, so stay tuned.

This is a technicality but nevertheless: If you like your sandwiches cut in half, so you can bite into the non-crust side, I've found it's easier to cut the bread in half before beginning with the broiler et cetera and deal with four halves, rather than trying to cut it in half later. But that wasn't worth explaining in the directions. It probably wasn't worth explaining at all....except that then I would be withholding an element of this Simple but Scrumptious Saturday Sandwich, and I promised to divulge my secrets.

Serve with Zapps and fruit and a chocolate chip cookie.

Wednesday, May 13

beef empanadas

Cooking for two, I inevitably have leftovers. Instead of incorporating all three chicken breasts in that package or the entire pound of ground beef into the same dish, I try to cook the meats separately so that I can set 2/3 of them aside to freeze for two additional dishes. Otherwise, if I use the entire defrosted package, Tay would be eating the same meal out of the same 4 quart Coringware for an entire month.

I know you were dying to know the background about why I was so excited to find another new entree to try that incorporated ground beef! Furthermore, this involved making a pastry, biscuitish dough, and since I'm trying to bake more breads then I knew I had to try this.
There they are, people. Be sure that you fold and pinch the edges really well. All but one of them popped open and commenced oozing.

And there's the ground beef, mixed with the canned tomatoes and a few bits of cilantro. I wasn't brave enough to add a significant amount of cilantro so I don't think we could taste it. Consequently, I didn't include it as an ingredient in the recipe, but feel free to throw it in. Also, to be honest, I don't remember how much I threw in there so I have no accurate measurement to provide you with. Just Rachel Ray it.More cheese wouldn't have hurt. My hubby doesn't like strong cheeses, but, if I'd had my way, I would have put goat cheese in this. Someone on Smitten Kitchen's site suggested blue cheese which also sounds great to me but not really authentic, not really true to the regional category in which this dish resides. But who cares, really. Try it and invite me over. Really.

I halved this recipe and ended up having almost enough dough for five. Since it should have made six, I must have rolled the dough too thick. Giving measurements is hard, really how can you measure these type of things? 1/8th to 1/6th of an inch? Slightly thicker than a tortilla? Look at my picture above and make it thinner.

Beef Empanadas
adapted from SmittenKitchen
Makes a dozen 6-inch empanadas
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
salt and pepper
3/4 pound ground beef chuck (though I used lean)
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes in juice, drained, reserving 2 tablespoons juice
1/2 to 1 cup cheese such as monterrey jack or goat cheese
1 package frozen empanada pastry disks, thawed (or homemade, recipe follows)
1 egg beaten with 2 teaspoons water
Cook onion in olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened. Add garlic and spices and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in beef and cook, breaking up lumps with a fork, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.

Add about 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and tomatoes with reserved juice, then cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced but mixture is still moist, about 5 minutes. Spread on a plate to cool.

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap on a dampened work surface (to help keep plastic in place), then roll out an empanada disk on plastic wrap to measure about 6 inches. Place 3 tablespoons meat mixture on disk. Sprinkle with cheese. Moisten edges of disk with water and fold over to form a semicircle, then crimp edges together well. Make more empanadas in same manner.

Lightly brush empanadas with egg wash and bake in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer empanadas to a rack to cool at least 5 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Empanada Dough
4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (when I halved this recipe, I used 1 1/4 c white and 1 cup whole wheat)
3 teaspoons salt
2 sticks (1 cup or 8 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large eggs
2/3 cup ice water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.) Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into two flat rectangles and chill them, each wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour. Dough can be chilled up to 6 hours total.

This dough was really good!

Tuesday, May 12


Oh my gosh 1500 visitors! How exciting! What a milestone! What a fun number, easily divisible by both three and five!

Let's review our number sense...

1500 = (15 x 100)
1500 = (3 x 500)
1500 = (5 x 300)
1500 = (3 x 5 x 100)
1500 = (3 x 5 x 10 x 10)
1500 = (5 x 5 x 5 x 3 x 2 x 2)

Coming Soon:

Whatever Taylor gets for dinner tomorrow night.

Friday, May 8

pizza dough (with yeast!)

Yeast makes me nervous. It's this freaky alive substance that eats and grows. Kneading makes me nervous too. Releasing the gluten...gummy...silky...stringy...chewy. I feel that these are severely subjective adjectives. Don't underdo it and don't overdo it. Then there arises (heh) the issue of all these whilly nilly bread making peoples that just whip this stuff out without overmixing or overgrowing or "killing" things. Its just that this exact chemistry with specific water temperatures, hungry fungi and strange consistency specifications makes me nervous...
We are baking! This is chemistry, people! I need times! Specific times! Measurements! Specific measurements! I'm a rule follower! I can't handle whilly nilly!
The reason there is often a specified water temperature in bread making recipes is to proof the dough to ensure it's not dead. My heroine over at Smitten Kitchen skips this step for her pizza dough and saves me the uncertainty of water temperature measuring. We'll just assume my yeast is still alive and kickin...

Pizza with Homemade Dough
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 1/2 cups flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast*
1/2 cup warm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
*If using instant yeast, use a tiny bit less
Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water, honey and olive oil, stirring mixture. Dump all clumps and floury bits onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a ball.
SmittenKitchen recommends: "If you are finding this step difficult, one of the best tricks I picked up from my bread-making class is to simply pause. Leave the dough in a lightly-floured spot, put the empty bowl upside-down on top of it and come back in 2 to 5 minutes, at which point you will find the dough a lot more lovable."
Knead it for just a minute or two. {update: this maybe what s.k. said but I found it needs to be kneaded for about 5 minutes. Or more. Knead until a piece of it stretches in your hand without breaking. Lightly oil the same rinsed mixing bowl with shortening, butter or cooking spray. Dump in the dough, turn it over so all sides are coated, cover it in plastic wrap {update: a cotton dishtowel} and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size. It's ready when two fingers pressed firmly leave an indentation and the dough does not bounce back into shape.

Dump it back on the floured counter and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.
Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, toss on whatever topping and seasonings you like.

Bake it for about 10 minutes until "it’s lightly blistered and impossible to resist."
Then clean your kitchen.

I used instant yeast instead of dry active yeast. It made me nervous.

After the intensive google research I conducted to figure out the difference, I gathered that I was supposed to do a tiny bit less instant yeast. Something about 80%. Though the consensus among many random "authorities" on various bread loving message boards was that it "didn't matter." Those whilly nilly bread peoples!

All that I was really able to determine was that the instant yeast would make the dough rise faster. Naturally, the name is a give away. Thanks for nothing, whilly nilly bread people. Once I began making the dough, I read the package of instant yeast. The conversions were in grams and I didn't feel like troubling to convert grams to teaspoons. So I did a scant 3/4 t. instant yeast. My confusion began when the package said to double the water. Now that's a lot more water and a significant deviation from my original recipe. And that made me feel scared. And whilly nilly. I think I ended up adding about an additional 1/4 cup of water. It seemed "silky" and didn't break when I took a chuck and spread it out in my hands (windowpane test?). Smitten's one to two hours timeframe also was a little too whilly nilly for my taste and was merely fuel to the fire of my confusion about this whole instant yeast fiasco being faster.

I let it rise in my pantry for about an hour and 15 minutes.
I cooked it at 500 degrees.

It was good. Success!

Saturday, May 2

breakfast tacos made easy

The key to good breakfast tacos is a good tortilla. I'm sorry if you don't live in Texas (let me know if you want me to export these to you) but these HEB tortillas are my new favorite thing (thank you demographics). It's a package of uncooked tortilla dough. So I can take the bag out of the freezer, allow it to defrost for a few minutes then place the rounds on a skillet. Instant tortilla amazingness. I would not lead you astray. Please go find these right now. They can be found in the refrigerated section near the dairy and eggs.

The pictures are deceiving because what I most sincerely recommend is not documented here. I suggest using your favorite hot-as-hot, big and chunky hot sauce and whisking it in with the eggs before scrambling. For Taylor this morning, I mixed in some cheese and cooked ground taco meat with the egg. Or you could dice a potato, seasoning salt and pepper it and cook it in a skillet with butter or olive oil like you're making homefries. Then add that to the eggs before scrambling.
Look, three minutes to tortilla heaven. Hold me back. Add to skillet, flip when bubbly.
Breakfast Tacos
yield 2
3 eggs
1/4 c. grated Monterry Jack cheese
ground pepper
3 tablespoons milk (optional)
GOOD tortillas!
{suggested additions}
hot salsa
cooked ground beef or sausage meat
1 diced, cooked potato (with skin on recommended)
sauteed onions
sauteed green peppers
canned chopped jalapenos
(ok I'm getting carried away)
Cook HEB tortillas according to package directions. Or heat 1 tablespoon butter on medium heat and warm and toast prepared tortillas in skillet, about 2 minutes per side. Store under foil.

Whisk all desired taco ingredients together. Pour egg mixture onto nonstick skillet, or well greased stainless skillet, on medium to medium low heat. Allow to cook untouched about 1 minute then begin scrambling by mixing and flipping with large spatula. Remove to prepared tortillas as soon as they look done, about 3 minutes.

I don't recommend using larger than a 10 inch skillet as egg mixture will spread out too quickly. But I'm probably just weird.

Behold, tortillas.Don't forget to add salsa if you're like my husband and opposed to scrambling it with the eggs. You're missing out. But this has been a very opinionated and regionally limited post so I'll withhold further judgments and recommedations. Contact me with questions or taco addition assistance.

Just find those tortillas!