Monday, April 15, 2019

Odds and Ends

So, I had a refrigerator full of partially eaten random things this weekend. Normally, I don't mind having a good selection of bits and pieces to choose from for snacking but the collection of random things was getting a bit out of control. I thought about it and came up with a way to use up about 75% of the stuff in one dish. Perfect. Not only did this recipe work. It was really freaking good. Not too spicy and HUGE quantities!

I used the remains of a whole chicken that I had roasted earlier in the week but you could skip the roasting part and just cook down a whole chicken and pick the meat or even buy a rotisserie chicken at the store and use that.

Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese

1 whole chicken, roasted then simmered and picked clean (reserve simmering liquid)
1 Cup prepared Blue Cheese dressing (we used Wish Bone)
4 oz bleu cheese crumbles
1, 5 oz bottle Franks Red Hot
1 cup bread crumbs
2 TB olive oil

1 1/2 lb (dried) pasta - cooked (I cooked pasta in the reserved chicken cooking liquid)
4 oz smoked sharp cheddar, shredded
4 oz Gruyere Cheese, shredded
4 oz Gouda Cheese, shredded
16 oz velveeta cheese, cubed
1 pint half and half
S & P to taste

Preheat oven to 375F
In a large mixing bowl combine chicken, salad dressing, hot sauce and blue cheese. Stir to combine, set aside
In a zip lock bag, combine bread crumbs and oil. Shake until oil is distributed and bread crumbs are coasted, set aside.
Cook pasta until done and drain is a colander
While pasta is draining return pot to stove and combine half and half and cheeses over low heat, Stir until completely melted. Add cooked pasta and stir to combine.
Once combine pour pasta mixture into a baking dish, top with chicken mixture, and then top with breadcrumbs
Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Broil for a couple minutes to brown up crumbs, if desired.

Monday, April 8, 2019

The Path of Least Resistance

I am not a new year resolution type of person because, quite frankly, I break resolutions almost as soon as I am done making them. Such a pointless waste of time. However, this year I did make a promise to myself to take more time for me, to put myself first for a change and, most importantly, to NOT apologize or feel guilty about it. And while I do love my time in front of the stove cooking up delicious things, I am doing it for ME now and nobody else. If the hubs wants baked goods to take to work, he can stop and pick some up on the way in unless I already made myself something, in which case the leftovers are fair game.

This recipe came about at the perfect time for me because it is a game changer where pizza is involved. I HATE making pizza at home because it is a lot of work and never comes out as good as take out. Even if you buy pre-made dough. Stretching that shit out is a total pain in the ass. Then regular home ovens aren't hot enough to give you that crust so what is the damn point? Yeah, you saved a few bucks but now your tired and cranky with a messy kitchen and a shitty pizza. Just stop. Please.

Try this instead. It is NOT, I repeat, NOT a traditional pizza recipe. What it IS, is a fantastic alternative to traditional pizza using a batter based crust that takes only a few minutes to make and won't trash your kitchen in the process. The batter has no leaveners but is not cakey or doughy. It is more like a soft bread dough. I personally prefer this cooled to room temperature because the crust firms up a bit and is more reminiscent of traditional pizza but is good either way. With this recipe in your arsenal, you will be able to crank out a decent pizza-esque dish at any time YOU have a hankering for pizza without trashing your kitchen!

Batter Crust Pizza (adapted from PlainChicken)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
Meat toppings of choice
Pre-cooked vegetable toppings of choice
1-1/2 cups pizza sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Spray a 15x10-inch rimmed, foil-lined, baking sheet with cooking spray. Set aside.
Whisk together flour, salt, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, pepper, eggs and milk.
Pour into prepared baking sheet. Top with your meat and vegetable toppings of choice.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven. Spread pizza sauce evenly over pizza and top with mozzarella cheese.
Return to oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.

NOTE: Even with cooking spray, this pizza can be tough to get out of the pan. We recommend using foil to make things a tad easier

NOTE: if using vegetable toppings, saute or roast first to remove excess moisture and top pizza along with the meat toppings.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Oh, Deer!

So, my neighbor gifted me with 5 lbs of ground venison this Christmas. SCORE! I love game meats. Elk and caribou are my favorites followed by bison, moose, venison and antelope. I have tried alligator, bear, and kangaroo - wasn't too keen on those. Anyway, with the onset of colder weather, I decided to make some venison chopped steak for dinner. It was divine! Hubs is not big on game meat so I am happy to say the remaining 4 pounds are all MINE!

A couple of special steps were necessary for this recipe due to the natural leanness of venison. The first was to make a pomade to add fat to the meat. The second was using a good red wine to mellow out any gaminess in the meat. To accomplish this I mixed bread, wine, and a good amount of bacon fat into a paste and mixed that into the meat and let it sit overnight. I didn't originally intend to let it sit but life got in the way and I had to wait a day to cook this meal.

Chopped Venison Steak

1 lb ground venison
1-2 slices stale white bread (I used and old hot dog bun)
2-3 T good red wine (I used a cabernet)
3 T rendered bacon fat, softened to room temp
1 Tbs Penzey's Chicago Steak Seasoning
2-3 shakes worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp gravy master or kitchen bouquet
1 tsp dried shallots

1 - Mix bread, wine, and bacon fat into a paste (e.g. pomade)
2 - add pomade and remaining seasonings to meat mixture and incorporate into the ground venison thoroughly.
3 - Set aside or refrigerate overnight

4 - Oil and heat a cast iron skillet until hot
5 - Shape meat mixture into at least 4 hamburger steaks
6 - Add steaks to hot skillet and brown on each side
7 - Remove steaks from pan and set aside.
8 - Add 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic to pan and quickly saute
9 - Deglaze pan with a splash of red wine
10 - Return steaks to skillet and add 1-2 cups beef broth (or water + bouillon cube)
11 - add the following seasoning to the skillet:

1 bay leaf
2 juniper berries
1 pinch of thyme

12 - reduce heat, cover and simmer until cooked through.
Thicken sauce with a slurry of cornstarch and water to make a gravy. Enjoy

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Day Late, Dollar Short

Atkins, South Beach, Keto all mean the same thing in my book - LOW CARB! I did the Atkins thing back when it was cool and I lost a TON of weight. Even managed to keep it off for a while BUT old habits die hard and eventually I gained it all back and then some. Now KETO is all the rage and to me it's all the same damn thing. I have been restricting my carb intake because I would like to lose weight but I am not killing myself over it. Pizza has always been the Achilles heel of these diets for me,,,, well that and pasta, and potatoes, and rice. OK I am the Carbo Queen! Anyway, I have been messing with low carb bread substitutes to try and make sticking to the low carb thing a little easier and I finally found something I think I like. I just made a pizza crust and I would not guess that is has cauliflower in it for one minute. The texture is bready and the flavor is not eggy!. It is a melding of cauliflower pizza crust recipe and fat head dough.Even my husband has proclaimed that it was something he could eat. That is really saying something, lol.

Low Carb Pizza Crust

1 1/2 C mozzarella Cheese, shredded
2T cream cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp ground psyllium husks and chia seeds
2 tsp prepared pesto
1 1/2C almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
2 Cups chopped cauliflower (cauliflower rice), steamed and dried

preheat over to 425F

Place mozzarella and cream cheese in a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until melted and combined
While cheeses are melting, beat eggs with psyllium/chia seeds and pesto
In the bowl of a stand mixer place almond flour, baking soda, salt and prepared cauliflower.
When cheeses are melted add to stand mixer bowl and mix on medium speed
Add eggs
Continue mixing until fully combined. Add more almond flour if mixture seems to wet.

Oil a foil lined baking sheet. Turn out mixture onto baking sheet and press out to desired thickness for pizza or shape into buns. Bake until golden (approx 12-15 minutes)

For pizza, allow to cool after first bake then top with desired pizza topping and bake again at 425F for 10-15 minutes

NOTE: I had bought the psyllium husks in an attempt at another low carb bread recipe that I did not like at all. I believe the brand was NOW and I got it on amazon. It wasn't cheap so I am glad to have found a use for the leftovers. I simply add equal parts whole chia seeds and the ground psyllium husks in a coffee grinder and spin them to make a fine powder.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Holiday Overload

I never thought that these words would EVER cross my lips, but......I am so sick of food right now! I am thinking salad for the next three weeks, at least!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Purge

No, I am not talking horror flicks. I am talking the periodic refrigerator purges where you reach way to the back of the refrigerator to find all sorts of things that need to get used up or thrown away. This purge contained all sorts on things from the last couple CSA shares that were relatively foreign to me. Kohlrabi and Celeriac were at the top of the list. I had NO idea what to do with this stuff and most of the online recipes were either roast or mash. I really didn't want to do either since I wasn't sure if I even liked these things. I started with the kohlrabi - I peeled it and gave it a taste - it tasted similar to raw white potato. I could work with that. I peeled the celeriac - whoa - very strong scent of celery. So, with the potato taste and celery smell I naturally thought I would make soup out of this stuff. I had all sorts of other odds and ends laying around that would lend themselves well to soup. What I ended up with was a banging vegetable chowder that I am hoping will freeze well (fingers crossed) so I can enjoy it through the coming winter months. The stuff was seriously delicious and now I am much less intimidated by those strange vegetables. In addition, this soup is easy to make as a vegetarian or even vegan soup with a few simple swaps and omissions. To make more hearty you could add leftover ham, chicken, bacon or any combination of the three!

Creamy Vegetable Chowder

2 TBS bacon fat (can sub veg oil to make vegetarian/vegan)
1 leek sliced
3 cloves garlic peeled
1 medium red onion peeled and cubed
3 small russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 small kohlrabi peeled and cubed
2 small celeriac (celery root) peeled and cubed
1 can chicken stock (can sub vegetable stock to make vegetarian/vegan)
1 can water
1-2 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 C half and half (omit to make vegan)
4 oz marscapone cheese (omit to make vegan)
3 ears fresh corn kernels or 1 can corn
3-4 small carrots sliced thin
1 generous cup fresh spinach chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

A bacon fat/vegetable oil to a stock pot over medium heat until hot.
Add garlic, leeks, and red onion and saute until soft.
Add potatoes, kohlrabi, celeriac, water and chicken/vegetable stock, bouillon cubes
Place lid on pot and simmer until vegetables are soft
Once vegetables are soft use an immersion blender to puree until smooth.
Add half and half and marscapone cheese and stir to incorporate fully
Add corn, carrots, and spinach and cook until carrots are soft.
Add salt and pepper to taste
Serve hot.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Holy Sh*t, It Worked!!!

Have you ever had that feeling after cooking up an experiment? This is exactly what happened to me last night. With the onslaught of raw, wet weather that we have been having, I have been cooking some pretty rich dishes; beef stroganoff, Sunday gravy, etc. Hubs declared he wanted something a little lighter and we agreed on a grilled chicken salad of some sort. Then the rains came, and by rain I mean a fucking monsoon! Thunder, lighting, torrential downpours, local flooding; it was horrible. Needless to say, there was no way I was grilling in that. So, I started thinking....what do I have on hand that he likes and will be easy for me to prepare???? hmmmm???? I remembered I had a bunch of homemade pesto in the freezer. Hubs goes gaga for pesto. I also had some plum tomatoes that were starting to shrink so those came in to play. Tomato and pesto go together like bullets and guns. Then, I decided on a casserole to make things easy for me. I started looking at online recipes and discovered that most of the chicken and rice casseroles used quick cooking rice. I only have regular rice so those recipes were out. We had pasta with that Sunday gravy I mentioned so, subbing the rice for pasta wasn't even a consideration. After reviewing a few more recipes I hatched up a plan and I have to tell you, even I was surprised by how well it turned out. I liked it even better a few hours later when it was room temperature (I was nibbling on the rice after my dance class). Here is what I did:

Pesto Chicken and Rice Casserole

2 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, filleted in half lengthwise (you should have 4 pieces)
1-2 Cups pesto sauce
2 Tbs chicken base
2 1/4 C water
1 1/2 Cups white rice
1 C half and half
3-4 plum tomatoes sliced 1/4 in thick
2 Cups shredded mozzarella cheese

To begin add water, chicken base and about 2 Tbs of pesto to a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and add rice. Give a quick stir, put on the lid and turn off the heat. Let stand until water is absorbed. Rice will not be completely cooked through, that is what you want.

While the rice is steeping, marinade the chicken breasts in the remaining pesto sauce. I just throw everything into a ziploc bag and mush it all around to ensure everything is well coated.

At this point, you can let the chicken and the rice hang out as long as you want until it's ready to get cooking. I left mine for a couple hours.

When ready to assemble, preheat your over to 350F. Spray the inside of a casserole dish with oil. You want your dish to be large enough to lay the breasts out flat. It is ok if they are squished together as long as they are not layered on top of each other.

Give your partially cooked rice a stir and spread on the bottom of the casserole dish. Pour half and half over rice. Next top the rice with your marinated chicken breast pieces. Top those with a layer of sliced tomatoes. Place the lid on the casserole dish and bake for about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Remove the casserole from the oven and remove the lid. Cover the surface of the casserole with mozzarella cheese and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until cheese is all melted. If you want to brown the cheese you can hit it with the broiler after it melts but it is not necessary. Let stand a few minutes before serving.

For the record, I did contemplate taking a picture of this for the blog, but it was a white casserole dish covered with white cheese. Not much to look at. Once it was on my plate, I was too busy shoving it into my face hole to take any pictures. Again, it's a casserole and not very photogenic anyway. Just trust me when I say it was yummy even if it wasn't super pretty.