Sunday, September 30, 2012

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

Do you know how you keep telling yourself over and over, "I've got to start eating more fish?" (And I'm not talking about deep frying, we do enough of that.) Well, here is a recipe that is delicious, easy, doesn't stink up the house and our pickiest eater loved it! Now you won't have any excuses to add a little healthy to your diet. I found this post months ago online at Cooking Bride and kept putting off preparing it. Bad call. I'm just happy I didn't lose it!

Andy found a bag of individually vacuum sealed frozen Tilapia filets at WMart. Ok, is this getting any easier for you now? You only have to prepare what you need!

INGREDIENTS:
  • 4 Tilapia fillets
  • ½ teaspoon each cumin, onion powder, salt, ground black pepper, and garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground oregano
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
PRE-COOKING STEPS:
Rinse fish under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Set on a large platter.

In a small bowl, (I use one of my tiny little dipping bowls) combine all the spices. Season fish with spice mixture on both sides.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Move oven rack to the top third of the oven and preheat broiler. I set mine on high.
    Add tilapia to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes per side. I had to fry these up in two batches in my largest cast iron skillet.

    Remove fish from skillet to a baking sheet. Add lemon juice and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese.

    Place pan under broiler and broil for about 2-3 minutes or until fish is firm and cheese is melted. Keep a close eye on the fish! It doesn't take long. Let the fish rest for two minutes before serving.

    I served our Tilapia with broccoli and cheese and wild rice on the side. This is absolutely delicious and will be fixed again soon!

    Adapted from: Cooking Bride

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

    Meatballs and Italian Sausage Spaghetti Sauce

    Any type of Italian food will rank the highest on my favorite comfort foods list. Spaghetti and meatballs is probably number one and lasagne is knocking on the door. The reason I like it so well is the versatility of the meatballs and sausage in the sauce. You can do spaghetti one night and a day later, meatball grinders when the pasta is gone. I have a few variations of how I prepare the meatballs and sauce. If I'm really short on time, I'll make a chopped beef meat sauce. The majority of the time, I will make this pork and beef version. However, if I'm hankering for some Italian sausage in the mix, this is how I throw it together. 

    My Mother always cooks whole Italian sausage in her sauce for the flavor. She's not crazy about the sausage, but my Daddy loved it so in it went. If you raise boys, you learn to not put whole sausages in a pot of sauce unless you want to hear a bunch of comments you don't want to hear around the table. I typically buy the mild sausage, but the hot is fine by me too. If you've got picky ones, stick with the mild and hope they don't bite into the fennel seeds.

    INGREDIENTS: (Makes about  24 meatballs)
    Meatballs
    • 2 lbs. ground beef
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup Italian Seasoned bread crumbs
    • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
    • 2 tbsp. minced onion
    • 1 tsp. Italian Seasoning (I like Sicilian)
    • Salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper)
       
    • 5 Italian Sausage links
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 3 oz. good quality white wine to deglaze the pot
    Sauce
    • 2-28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
    • Italian seasoning, salt  and pepper to taste 
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.

    In a large bowl mix all the meatball ingredients. Form them into golf ball sized balls.
    Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the meat starts to separate.
    While the meatballs are cooking, I start cooking the sausage and making the sauce.


    Remove casings from sausage links and cut into 1" pieces. In a large pot heat the olive oil on medium-high.

    Drop in the Italian sausage pieces in and stir constantly.


    When the outside is nicely browned, deglaze the pot with white wine. Use a good quality drinking wine. If it doesn't taste good enough to drink, your sauce won't taste good either!


    Add the two cans of crushed tomatoes to the pot  along with additional Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring it to a slow boil, stir frequently. Taste the sauce after 20 minutes or so to determine if it needs additional seasoning.

    Once the meatballs are cooked, add them to the pot. Slowly mix them into the sauce. Bring the sauce back to a slow boil; turn heat down to medium low; cover and let simmer for two hours. Check on the sauce several times and stir. If it's bubbling too much, turn it on low.




    Tuesday, September 25, 2012

    Southwest Crock Pot Chicken

    That chill in the air means one thing...time to break out the crock pot! Now that I'm arriving home a few minutes later than usual, I plan on letting my crock pot do the work while I'm working this fall and upcoming winter. When I'm gone all day long, I set the crock pot to low and out the door I go. If I'm making this on a Saturday, like a Tennessee football Saturday for instance, I stick to the directions below. Southwest Crock Pot Chicken is so easy to prepare and the ingredients should be sitting and waiting in your pantry. I let everyone spoon the amount of rice they want in the bottom of the bowl and then top it with the chicken mixture. In our household, we have some who like their bowls soupy and one who wants the "juice" to be kept to a minimum. Don't be shy with the optional toppings! A little crunch of tortilla strips and a little dollop of sour cream are my favorites.
     

    INGREDIENTS
    • 2 cans black beans, drained
    • 2 cans Mexicorn (corn and peppers)
    • 1 can green chilies
    • 2 cans chili ready diced tomatoes
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 3-4 thigh and leg quarters
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 4 cups Minute Rice
    • Optional: Top with tortilla strips and chopped green onions

      DIRECTIONS

      • 1
        In a slow cooker, place chicken on the bottom, top with beans, tomatoes, corn and peppers, green chilies, onion and seasonings. Cook on high for 5 hours.
      • 2
        Turn crock pot to warm.
      • 3
        Remove chicken. Let cool. Remove meat from bone. Put chicken back in slow cooker.
      • 4
        Prepare rice to serve with chicken.

      Sunday, September 23, 2012

      Creamy Shrimp Pasta

      By now you know my favorite way to cook is to just throw a bunch of stuff together. I love testing new recipes, but when I can't make up my mind about what I want to fix...watch out! When I start digging in the pantry, freezer or refrigerator, you never know what I'll come up with! This is so easy to do when you keep all the essentials on hand.

      The other day we couldn't decide what to fix. Andy was out working in the yard and I told him I'd just surprise him. This summer I dehydrated some Roma tomatoes and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to use them. I figured Blair would love this because it's very similar to Crawfish and Shrimp Denise, just not as spicy. But, she had made prior plans, so Andy and I got to enjoy this all by ourselves!! I believe he ate about 3 "test bowls" also known as "nibble plates" before he sat down to eat. I can't say much as I tested this recipe myself a few times too.

      INGREDIENTS:
      Sauce:
      • 1 stick butter
      • 1 tbsp. flour
      • 32 oz. cream
      • 1/2 cup Mozzeralla
      • 6 oz. grated Parmesan-Romano cheese (not the powdery kind)
      Remaining:
      • Spaghetti, cook as directed on package
      • 10 oz. bag fresh spinach
      • 6 (or more) green onions chopped
      • 2 lbs. medium-large raw, deveined, peeled, tail off shrimp, rinsed
      • 2 cups dehydrated tomatoes (or store-bought equivalent)
      • Garlic bread
      In a really large skillet, make your cream sauce. Melt a stick of butter. Once it's bubbly, set off the heat and whisk in the flour. Put back on the heat and slowly mix in the cream. Once it's blended really well, add in the cheeses. Stir, stir, stir! 

      Once the cheeses are melted, add the green onions and spinach. Once the spinach is wilted, add in the tomatoes and let them start to rehydrate (Mmmm! very delicious!)

      Add the raw shrimp and stir into cream sauce.

      Cook until shrimp turns nice and pink. Always remember to not overcook the shrimp! You don't want the texture to be "rubbery"!

      Serve up on a bed of spaghetti with garlic toast on the side.




      Baked Whole Greek Chicken and Veggies

       
      Here's an experimental dish I fixed one night. It turned out extremely tasty, but I have figured out what I will need to do the next go around. Every time Andy fixed Classic Greek Chicken, we commented that we would have to try the rub on a drunk chicken and see how it turned out. I had eyeballed the Bundt cake pan and got the idea to put the chicken on the center part of the pan and surround it with veggies. For the most part, it turned out great. This was a pretty big chicken (3.5 lbs.); next time I'll stick with a smaller one. The vegetables were painfully slow cooking, and when I checked the internal temp, the breast area after two hours, it measured 170 degrees but the bottom measured 140 degrees. I believe the vegetables insulated that area too much. Next time I will put the veggies in first and sit the chicken on top! I removed the chicken from the pan and placed it on a baking sheet. It took another 30 minutes for it to finish cooking. Unbelievably, this was still a very moist chicken when it was finally done!

      Speaking of the painfully slow cooking veggies, I dumped them in a pot, poured all the juices on top and added water until they were covered. They boiled for an additional 20 minutes. Oh, my gosh! The taste was incredible.

      Again, this was only a test, but here are my recommended do overs:
      1. Use a smaller chicken.
      2. Place veggies in the bottom of the pan so the chicken sits up on top of them and gets all the heat.
      3. Add 8-12 oz. water* to bottom of the pan to assist in veggie cooking time.
      INGREDIENTS:
      • 1 whole chicken
      • Potatoes peeled and cut into small chunks
      • 1 small bag of baby carrots
      • 1 large onion cut into thick slices
      • 5 tsps. olive oil
      • Juice of 2 lemons (about 4 tbsp.)
      • 1 tsp. Lawry's Garlic Salt
      • 1 tbsp. Oregano
      • 1 tsp. onion salt
      • 1 tsp. salt
      • 1 tsp. pepper 
      Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
      Place veggies in the bottom of a Bundt cake pan. Set chicken on top.
      Mix salt, pepper, onion salt and garlic salt together in a small dipping bowl.

      Add oregano and blend all spices well.

      Drizzle lemon juice over chicken and then drizzle olive oil. Rub chicken down with spices. Sprinkle a little over the veggies. Add one cup of water to the vegetables*

      Place in preheated oven. Check the internal temperature after one and a half hours. It should measure 165 degrees in the meatiest part. Depending on the size chicken you use, it can take a minimum of 1-1/2 hours to 2-1/2 hours.

      Even if the veggies are nice and tender, that quick boil I gave them in the juices and additional water really ramped up the flavor. I believe I will still keep that step for the next go around.


      Saturday, September 15, 2012

      THIS IS JUST TEMPORARY! 
      Just wanted to share I've got a lot of new and exciting changes going on in my life! Tomorrow I leave on a trip to Canada to begin training with the company I accepted a position with. I will be working pretty close to home once the training is over.

      The first thing Blair asked Andy when she found out I'd be gone for a week was, "will we starve while she's gone?". Absolutely not! But it is pretty funny! I told them they could eat all the fried salmon patties they could stand while I was away. 

      During the Spring and Summer Andy has so much going on outside so I pretty much am the head cook. Once it gets cold, he likes to jump in and throw his concoctions together, so get ready for more good stuff to come your way!

      I hope to get back on schedule soon. I've got so much to share, but not enough hours in the day to get it all done. This summer has been so hectic. We have had a "cabin" renovation project (which will be ongoing all Fall); I've been researching my Mother's side of the family; locating her birth certificate (and will be SURPRISING her with a certified copy of my Grandmother's naturalization papers tonight!); in addition to working full time and just living life in general.

      Thanks so much for the support you all have shown, your positive feedback and comments. See you soon!

      Blue Ox Jerky


      I recently won a Blue Ox Jerky sample pack through a promotion on FoodieBlogroll. All of their sales are on the web. If they sold it in the stores, it would go so quick they couldn't keep it on the shelf! If you're not the faint of heart and have a pretty good sense of humor, you've got to "like" and follow them on Facebook. 

      Andy and I packed our sample packs up and headed for the river. What better snack when you're working out in the "wild"?  I would show you the close ups of the Chorizo Hunter Sausage, but we had that GONE in no time. After enjoying every single flavor, here's mine and Andy's favorite top two picks...

      Denise
      Number 1: Cherry Maple Smoked Beef (Awesome flavor!)
      Number 2: Honey Barbecue Smoked Turkey (Perfect texture and taste!)

      Andy
      Number 1: Chorizo Hunter Sausage
      Number 2: Teriyaki Hunter Sausage

      They offer jerky made from: Buffalo, Turkey, Elk, Venison, Beef, and Pork.


      Easy Chicken Florentine

      My friend Stephanie had been telling me about how good Paula Deen's Chicken Florentine recipe was for ever. I just love Paula. And all that uproar after she told the whole world she was diabetic? Seriously? My mother is a diabetic and bless her heart, she clings to her chocolate like Paula clings to her sticks of butter and whatever decadent ingredient she delights in. You can't change people. I do my best to cook healthy, but I'm not a fanatic about it. My Grandmother Gaudette, who lived to be nearly 104 lived by the rule, "everything in moderation."

      That being said, the link to Paula's full-blown recipe is below. When I saw what it called for; I cut the recipe in half. This still made more than enough! Stephanie recommended using rotisserie chicken from the store to help speed this up.

      INGREDIENTS:
      • 1 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained)
      • 3 chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds), cooked, boned, and shredded
      • 1 (10 3/4-ounce) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
      • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
      • 1/2 cup sour cream
      • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar
      • 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
      • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
      • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
      • 1/4 cup dry white wine
      • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
      • 1/4 cup soft bread crumbs (I used Panko)
      • 2 tablespoons butter (probably used a little more!)

      Mix the soup, mayo, sour cream, cheese, lemon juice and spices in a medium bowl. Stir well.

      In a large bowl, mix the chicken and spinach. Once it's blended well, stir in the soup mixture.

      Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour mixture in and spread out evenly. Sprinkle bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese on top and place pats of butter on top of that.

      Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes or until it's bubbly.



      Adapted from: Paula Deen

      Homemade Muscadine Wine

      After homemade cherry wine, muscadine and blackberry are a tie for second. On the heels of bottling the blackberry wine we started two months ago, it's time to start the muscadine. When Dale and Amanda were married last year, I fixed little gift bags of goodies for the rehearsal dinner that represented our side of the family to our soon to be new members. One of the items that went in the bag was the specially labeled bottles of sweet muscadine wine we prepared. Let's just say it went over VERY WELL!
      INGREDIENTS:
      • 1 quart of crushed fruit per gallon of wine 
      • 1 pack yeast
      • 3 lbs. sugar per gallon of wine
      • water
      ADDITIONAL ITEMS NEEDED:
      • Pillow case
      • 5 gallon bucket
      • 3 gallon wine jug
      • Airlock
      We use our food processor to "crush the fruit. We use a four cup measuring glass to put the batches in until we get a level quart. Line a 5 gallon bucket with a pillowcase. Pour 12 cups (3 quarts) of fruit inside the pillowcase to make 3 gallons of wine.
      Pour in 9 pounds of sugar into the bucket.
      Pour pack of yeast on top of sugar. With a wooden spoon, blend well. Fill the bucket half full with warm water. Stir again. Twist the pillow case closed. Cover the top of the bucket. Andy uses a wire to tighten the cloth over the top to keep ants out.

      Every day, for five days, uncover and stir with a wooden spoon. On the next day, squeeze the juice out of the pillowcase filled with the crushed fruit and remove. Using a funnel, pour the liquid into a 3 gallon jug. Fill up with water to three gallons. 

      Seal off with an airlock. 


      Let it ferment for 6-8 weeks. When it quits bubbling, it's ready to bottle.


      Monday, September 10, 2012

      How To Fix Spaghetti Squash

       
      Spaghetti squash is one of the most versatile vegetables I can think of. It can be the main course or prepared as a side. You can replace the pasta in just about  in any dish with this "much better for you" veggie. For years I'd see them in the produce section and walk right on by because I didn't know how to fix it. Thanks to my friend Claudia, all that changed. My favorite use is to stuff the shells with vegetables. The two I cooked up here were the last few from the garden for this season and I just opted for buttered with a little salt and pepper.
      Cut the squash in half with a heavy duty knife. Be really careful because the outside is TOUGH! Drop in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 15-20 minutes. **Now I scrape the seeds out before I cook. Updated 8-16-15 DGG**
      With a sturdy spoon, scoop out the seeds from the center.
      Take your fork and "twist" the squash out of the shell. Season however you would season any pasta for some variety. I have used spaghetti sauce and it's wonderful. The texture is meatier than pasta so if your kids are texture-picky, you may not be able to win them over. You could always tell them their "pasta" was cooked al dente!




      Thursday, September 6, 2012

      Macaroni and Cheese Gratin

      This is not your kiddie, blue box mac and cheese!! The kids will eat it and you will "hug my neck" when you taste how good this is! (Oh yes, that would be butter dripping onto the baking sheet.) I was really tempted to leave my ramekins in a little longer and crust up the cheese a little more, but it turned out awesome as is. When you dip your fork in and pull a nice stretch of yummy cheese and creamy goodness, you'll never settle for less.

      INGREDIENTS:
      • 4 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated
      • 2 cups Colby-Monterrey Jack blend, shredded 
      • 3 slices (or more) Applewood Thick Cut Bacon
      • 2 cups dry elbow macaroni
      • 1/2 stick butter
      • 2 cups milk
      • 1/4 cup flour
      •  Salt and pepper to taste
      Cook macaroni per instructions on box. While cooking, chop and fry bacon slices. Set on a paper towel lined dish and drain grease. Drain cooked pasta and set aside.
      In a large saucepan, melt butter until bubbly. Set off heat and quickly whisk in flour. Season with salt and pepper. Return to medium heat. Slowly mix in milk; stirring constantly until sauce slightly thickens.
      Set off heat again and stir in the Colby-Monterrey Jack cheese.
      Once cheese is melted, add in bacon.
      Stir in cooked macaroni.
      Ladle macaroni mixture into four ramekins. Top with grated Gruyere cheese. Place on a baking sheet in case any cheesy goodness bubbles over!
      Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until mixture is bubbly and the cheese has a nice golden brown "crust."