Your kitchen's more afraid of you than you are of it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Easiest Vodka Sauce Ever.

Guess what? This was one of the very first recipes I ever made on my own! This was back in a time where I couldn't handle much more than boiling water for pasta or putting some chicken in the oven to bake, so the first time I made my own sauce was a pretty big deal.

I got a craving for vodka sauce one day and went recipe hunting. The one I found, on AllRecipes, was so amazingly simple I would be crazy NOT to do it! The only thing I was missing was the vodka. So, I took a drive to Bottle King and picked up the biggest, cheapest plastic bottle of vodka I could find.

Yeah, I know, vodka in a plastic bottle. That's what we call "klassy". I was young and naive, alright? All I knew was that it was only $9 and vodka doesn't expire, so what does it matter? It wasn't like we were ever going to drink it (Matt likes his scotch and do I really need to re-declare my love for Arbor Mist?).

Shut up.
Anyway...I got my cheap-ass vodka (which smells more like paint thinner than vodka, might I add) and proceeded to make the most delicious sauce we'd have ever tasted. Every time I make it, Matt declares, "I can't believe that you can take the worst vodka in the world and make it in to the most awesome sauce!"

I figured it was time to share this recipe, since I think vodka sauce is something that is just so easy to make and just so delicious. Fun fact - did you know? The reason why there are no other seasonings in this sauce other than onion is because the point of the vodka is to draw out flavors from the tomatoes that could not otherwise be accessed.

Cool, right?

EASY VODKA SAUCE, courtesy of 
Makes ~10 servings
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 onion, diced
1 cup vodka
2 (28oz) cans crushed tomatoes
1 pint heavy cream

You will also need a pot, like a Dutch oven, to cook your sauce in, as well as some pasta or tortellini or ravioli so that you have something to put this sauce on! But to be honest, it's so delicious, you might just want to eat it by itself with a piece of bread!

1. In a pot over medium heat, saute onion in butter until slightly brown and soft.

2. Pour in vodka; let cook for 10 minutes.

3. Mix in crushed tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes.

4. Pour in heavy cream and cook for another 30 minutes (if you are making any sort of pasta, you might want to start it at this time as well).

5. Spoon over your choice of pasta and enjoy!

I made pipette pasta with sauteed sausage to enjoy with the vodka sauce. I always like to add a little bit of meat or veggies whenever I'm making pasta. That way I don't feel so bad about eating so much pasta.

I'm labeling this as "lots of leftovers" and "pot luck". Because this sauce makes a big batch, it's perfect when you're feeding a lot of people! Plus this sauce freezes really well, so don't be hesitant about making the whole batch, even if you're not feeding a crowd!

Until next time: eat, drink and be merry!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

White Bean and Chicken Chili

The first time I made this recipe was the night of the Great Halloween Blizzard of 2011. I will never forget that night! All week, the weatherdudes on the news are like, "GUYS, THERE IS SNOW COMING THIS WEEKEND I'M NOT KIDDING THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN." Meanwhile, everyone else was like:

And then ... for once ... the weatherpeople were RIGHT!!!! Matt was at work on Saturday, October 29, when it started snowing. It was pretty light at first, no one really made too much of it. "This will pass," we said. "A dusting, a flurry. No big deal." But the snow. Did not. Stop. It was madness!  My sweet next door neighbor advised me not to go out unless I had to. I said, "I'm sure I'll be fine!" But it wasn't fine. I didn't even make it out of my complex because the roads were all slushy and slick. The roads weren't plowed or salted because no one planned on having plows at the ready two days before Halloween. And then everyone was all:

We were supposed to go to a Halloween party that night, and the host sent out a mass text message that pretty much told us that the weather was not pretty and the party would take place next week. Later, Matt called me and said that his coworker Dan's car was stuck in the snow and they couldn't dig him out. Could Dan come spend the night at our place? Sure, no problem! Dan came over, then Colleen came over, we were all hanging out, having a good time, making fun of the snow, I made white bean & chicken chili, we were about 20 minutes into Clerks when....the power went out. And it stayed out. For the next 9 hours. Bummer.

And that's pretty much it.

So, I really hoped the next time I planned on making this, it didn't snow, otherwise I'd never be able to make this dish again unless it was in the dead of summer.

Anyway, this is a great chili recipe with a lot of spicy kick to it and a great flavor! And, because it too comes from "Desperation Dinners", it only takes 20 minutes to make! This is another great cold-weather stew to make when you don't feel like putting too much effort into a filling meal!

WHITE BEAN & CHICKEN CHILI, courtesy of "Desperation Dinners"
Makes 4 servings
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (for about 1 pound total), fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion (for 1 cup chopped)
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
1 (15 oz) can Great Northen white beans
1 (19 oz) can cannellini beans
1 (4.5 oz) can chopped green chilies
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon pepper, preferably white
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can fat-free chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup already-shredded Monterey Jack cheese (optional)
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream (optional)

You will also need a Dutch oven or soup pot (at least 5 quarts). This is a great one-pot meal!

I had extra-large skinless/boneless chicken breasts at my disposal, so I only needed two as opposed to three. I even weighed them on my food scale to make sure I had about 1 pound. I did not have any white pepper, as the recipe suggests, but there is no reason at all why you can't make it with regular black pepper. The only difference is that black pepper is made from the unripe fruits of a pepper plant, and white pepper is made from the seeds of the pepper plant itself. Also, white pepper is more commonly used in dishes like potatoes, light sauces and salads, where the black pepper would stand out. With this recipe, I really don't see the difference between the black and the white, so use whichever!

1. Defrost the chicken if it is still frozen. Meanwhile heat the oil on medium heat in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Peel or coarsely chop the onion, adding it to the pot as you chop. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

2. Cut the chicken (fresh or partially defrosted) into bite-sized chunks, add them to the pot and stir occasionally. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring occasionally.

3. While the chicken cooks, drain and rinse both of the cans of beans, and drain the chilies. Add the chilies to the pot, along with the cumin, pepper and cayenne pepper. Raise the heat to high and add the chicken broth and the drained  beans. Cover the pot and bring the chili to a boil.

4. Meanwhile, combine the cornstarch and the water in a small container that has a lid. Shake well to remove any lumps. (Alternatively, you can do what I did, and combine them in a container and whisk them together)

5. When the chili boils, the chicken should be cooked through (even if you began with partially defrosted). Add the cornstarch mixture a little at a time, stirring constantly. Continue to boil until the chili reaches desired thickness.

6. Remove from the heat and serve, or let the chili rest until you're ready to eat. Garnish with cheese and sour cream if desired.

What's great about this chili is that you can clearly see every single ingredient that's in there - the onions, the beans, the chilies, and, of course, the chicken! It's really spicy, spicier than you'd think it would be, thanks in part to the green chilies and the pepper and the cayenne pepper. But if you add a dollop of sour cream when you serve it, it sort of helps "cool the burn", so to speak!

That's it for this entry! I think I'm much better at this blogging thing when I'm not pressuring myself to do it every night or even 3 times a night. I'm much happier blogging and posting at a slower pace, it seems like. As long as the readers keep reading, I will keep blogging.

I'm going to actually start cooking tonight's dinner soon, that I fully intend on blogging - but you'll have to wait to find out what it is!

Eat, drink and be merry, folks!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sizzled Chicken Schnitzel

A few days ago, Matt's friend Abe came over for dinner. OK, so it wasn't actually "for dinner", but he came to hang out and it kind of spilled into dinnertime. This was totally fine with me, but I hadn't planned on feeding a third person for dinner that night, but as it so happens, I had defrosted a 4-pack of skinless, boneless chicken breasts the night before. I could easily feed three tonight instead of two. 

I quickly flipped through my lovely new cookbook, "Desperation Dinners" to find something that would be easy, something that wouldn't be too complicated, and, most importantly, contained ingredients I had already in my cabinet. That is what lead me to Sizzled Chicken Schnitzel. 

Schnitzel is a simple dish that is popular all over the world! It is most known as a staple in German and Austrian cuisine and often made with pork or veal. In Vienna, when it is made of veal, it is referred to as Wienerschnitzel

Many different countries have their own version of schnitzel. For example, in Israel, their version is made with turkey and it is often referred to as their "national dish". In Italy, cotoletta alla milanese is very similar to Wienerschintzel. In Japan, the dish is made using Panko crumbs. The dish also became popular in Namibia thanks to its German colonial history, and they serve it with a fried egg on top. 

Chicken schnitzel is the most popular in Germany because it's lower in fat and cholesterol than veal or pork, and it is the basis of their own version of chicken Parmesan - they make the schnitzel and top it with tomato sauce and Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. 

Regardless of what meat it is made from, schnitzel is always made from a meat that is pounded flat, coated in flour and then breaded and subsequently pan-fried. This version from "Desperation Dinners" uses a small amount of olive oil to cut down the calories. 

SIZZLED CHICKEN SCHNITZEL, courtesy of "Desperation Dinners"
Makes 4 servings
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, defrosted if frozen
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
1 large egg

You will also need a large skillet or saute pan.

1. Combine the flour, basil, salt and pepper in a large zipper-top plastic bag. 

2. Place the chicken breasts, one at a time, between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. Pound the breasts with several whacks of a meat mallet or rolling pin to thin them evenly to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Peel off the paper and add the breasts to the bag of with the flour mixture. Shake evenly to coat.

3. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, spread the bread crumbs on a plate and beat the egg in a small bowl, using a fork or whisk. Dip the chicken breasts, one at a time, first into the egg and then into the bread crumbs to coat on both sides. Shake off excess crumbs. Add the breasts to the skillet as you coat them (I used a bowl to avoid breadcrumb messes!)

4. Cook the breasts until the chicken is cooked through with a golden brown crust, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. If the crumb coating begins to overbrown, reduce the heat to medium.

5. Place each breast on a serving plate and enjoy!

Yeah, I overbrowned just a little, but you know what? It tasted awesome just the same!

What's great about this dish is that you can pair it with anything and it will compliment it nicely! I served with pasta and peas, but you can go with mashed potatoes, rice or even a potato salad.  

Anyway...this was a quick and easy chicken recipe that pleased everyone! I totally did not plan on making this recipe at all, let alone blogging about it, but I decided to document the process anyway - just in case. Turns out, the reception was four big thumbs up! The crust of breadcrumbs made for a nice crunch. Abe said it was the moistest chicken he'd ever had, and Matt devoured his in seconds. It was so easy to make and I had everything to make it right in my cabinets - no special ingredients required! Flour, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, pepper and dried basil are all staples that I'm sure nearly everyone has already, and it's a quick dinner fix when you're in a rush or you're at a loss for what to do for dinner. This was an A-plus all the way!

Coming up in a few days, I have recipes for Cajun Rice & Beans and White Bean & Chicken Chili - two good recipes for cold winter nights!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sloppy Janes

My favorite place to find cookbooks is garage/rummage sales. There's a great one that happens twice a year (in the spring and fall) called the B.A.R.K.S. Garage Sale. It's HUGE, and all proceeds go towards B.A.R.K.S., which is a local animal rescue. 

People just kind of show up at this abandoned amusement park, dump the junk they want to get rid of, and then other people show up and pick through it. It's a mess. Everything is kind of jumbled together in a really vague sense of order (furniture is here, clothes/shoes are there, books are there, etc). There's like, NO supervision (except for the area where the really expensive stuff, like crystal and jewelry and collectibles) and people bring their dogs all the time, many of which are B.A.R.K.S. rescues. Anyway, the best part of going to the B.A.R.K.S. Garage Sale is that everything is dirt cheap. You show up with your own bags, go to town (with me, it's the books), and then at the exit, a little old lady peeks into your bag and says, "How about $5?" 

Ummm, yes. Yes, that is quite fine. 
How I feel on the inside...
So, yup. This is where I find a treasure trove of used cookbooks. YAY! This fall, I came out with about three new cookbooks, one of which has become my New Favorite: 

This is "Desperation Dinners" by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross - two busy journalists and moms who were overworked and underfed and desperate for fast, easy recipes that would satisfy their picky kids and finicky husbands. Holy shit, this is the best recipe book I have EVER encountered. Every recipe in this book - every. Single. One. - takes TWENTY MINUTES or LESS!

Do I seem overly excited by this? Yes, I am. I have raved about this book for so long and so much that my boss actually ordered it from Amazon while I was sitting next to her. But seriously - when you come home from work and you've had a rough commute, the very last thing you want to do is think about what the heck you are going to do for dinner. 

I like this cookbook because they are true to their word - they are simple, nutritious meals and they have already done the "healthified" replacements so you don't have to worry about the taste being modified by fat-free or low-sodium substitutions. 

According to Ross and Mills: "Sloppy Joes were a favorite childhood treat for both of us, and since we thought they'd be an effortless meal, we started sampling the major brands of commercially prepared mixes. We were sadly disappointed. They're quick, but we're spoiled. The reality of those cans and packages just wasn't as wonderful as we remembered. So, we decided to create our own perfect sauce - just the right vinegar pucker; thick and rich with tomatoes, with a hint of garlic and onion. The result was so flavorful, we thought our sandwiches deserved something to set them apart. Hence the name: Sloppy Janes."

Matthew also loves Sloppy Joes, and the first time I attempted a similar recipe, it was done in the crock pot and took 6 hours. The result was great, but it just took too damn long to make again. When I saw this recipe, I knew that I had to try it. The first attempt was a success; and since it's such a popular, homey favorite, I am revisiting it  for blogging purposes. 

SLOPPY JANES, courtesy of Desperation Dinners
Makes 6 servings
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds of extra lean ground beef
1 teaspoon vegetable oil 
1 large onion (for 1 cup chopped)
1/2 medium green or red bell pepper (for 1/2 cup chopped)
1 tablespoon dark or light brown sugar, firmly packed 
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or cider vinegar 
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic 
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce 
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste 
Salt and black pepper, to taste 
12 slices of bread, preferably French bread

Miller and Ross suggest French bread because it "elevates these sandwiches to a slightly more sophisticated level", but assure us that any old bread or bun or roll will do. I used potato bread, because that's all I had.

Let's get sloppy! 

1. Turn on the broiler. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Peel and coarsely chop the onion, adding it to the skillet as you chop.

2. Add the beef (fresh or partially defrosted) to the skillet and raise the heat to high. Cook, turning and breaking up the meat occasionally, until it's crumbled and browned, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, seed and chop the bell pepper, and add it to the skillet. 

3. Add the brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire, and garlic, then stir in the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook 5 minutes more, stirring until all of the tomato sauce is incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. While the mixture simmers, place the bread slices on a large baking sheet and toast in the broiler on both sides until crisp, about 2 minutes per side. Place two pieces of toast on each serving plate, spoon the meat mixture on top, and serve.

....and enjoy! 

Now, of course, you can eat this on a bun and I gotta say, it tastes damn good spooned over mashed potatoes too! This is a really fast and easy way to remake an old classic. 

Hope you all enjoyed this quick and easy meal. I'm going to be featuring quite a few recipes from "Desperation Dinners", so if you liked this one, keep a lookout! 

Eat, drink and be merry! 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Classic Crock Pot Chili

I find myself on a quiet Saturday night, drinking Arbor Mist and watching a marathon of "Glee" reruns on the Oxygen channel, with little to do (other than keep my friend Tarra occupied at a boring party by being her texting/Words with Friends lifeline). I wandered into the kitchen to refresh my glass when I opened up the fridge and saw some leftovers staring me in the face. That's when I realized I totally forgot to blog this recipe. Well, looks like I'm migrating from the couch to the computer...

Even though it's January, it finally feels like winter is here. We went through November and December with the temperatures in the 40's, 50's and 60's. We got a huge dumping of snow a few days before Halloween, which melted days later, and then suddenly it was like early spring again. Weird. But now, all of a sudden, the temperature drops, the wind chill picks up and those cardboard boxes that have been sitting on my balcony for the past few weeks are now frozen to the wood. 

Oh hey, and look at that: it just started snowing! 


I have talked before about my favorite dinners for the winter: soups and stews! But there's something else that is added to that mix - chilis! YUM!!! When it's chilly, I like me some chili! 

I have actually TWO chili recipes I'm going to feature - one right now, and another coming up in a week or so. They are two opposite sides of the chili spectrum. This one is a classic beef chili that is made in the crock pot; the other one will be a chunky chicken chili that is done in 20 minutes on the stove. But more about that later. 

This chili recipe comes from my favorite Crock Pot Recipe Collection. I love it because it takes like, no time to make and it's a great set-it-and-forget-it type of deal. It fits into almost any time frame. You can either make it on high for 4 hours or low for up to 10 hours! 

I was also really excited about this recipe because I got to use my new deep dish 12" skillet. YAY I LOVE IT SO MUCH IT'S SO PRETTY!!! 

Thanks for the Hanukkah gift, Uncle Billy!!!

I really wanted to make a really simple run-of-the-mill chili and this recipe was EXACTLY what I wanted! Here's what you do to make a great hearty dinner on a cold wintery night:

CLASSIC CHILI, from the Crock Pot Recipe Collection
Makes 6 servings 
1.5lbs ground beef 
1 1/2 cups chopped onion 
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced 
3 (15 oz) cans dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained 
2 (15 oz) cans tomato sauce 
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained 
2 to 3 teaspoons chili powder 
1 to 2 teaspoons dry hot mustard 
3/4 teaspoon dried basil 
1/2 teaspoon black pepper 

1 to 2 dried hot chili peppers (optional)

I did not use the dried hot chili peppers. Nor did I have dry hot mustard. What I did have was ground mustard, which I mixed with chipotle chili powder, and I increased the amount of chili powder to make up for the heat the dry hot mustard might have provided. 

Damn, that's a lot of cans
My mise-en-place is amazing, guys. Oh, and a quick note - don't forget to rinse and drain your red beans! And when you do, rinse with COLD water. If you use hot, it will start to cook the beans. You want them to be firm before you throw them in the slow cooker! 

Here's another reason why I like this recipe: there are only THREE steps! So, here is what you do: 

1. Cook and stir the ground beef, onion, bell pepper and garlic in a large skillet until meat is browned and onion is tender. Drain fat and discard. Transfer mixture to slow cooker. 

2. Add beans, tomato sauce, tomatoes with juice, chili powder, mustasrd, basil, black pepper and dried chili peppers (if desired). Mix well. Cover; cook on LOW 8 to 10 HOURS or HIGH 4 to 5 HOURS

3. Remove chili peppers before serving. 


The chili came out PERFECT! The beans kept their firmness, the flavor of the chili was spot-on. It was spicy in a way that it left a slow burn on your tongue, but I didn't feel the urge to drink any more than usual and it didn't have that nasal cleaning power. It was just a really good kick.

I ate it spooned over a piece of toast, but I bet this is the perfect kind of chili to eat with mashed potatoes or even on a hot dog. It reheats really well so it is very leftover friendly. I have zero complaints about this recipe!

Huh. The snow looks like it is still coming down.

The next recipe will be a variation of sloppy joes called ... well, "sloppy janes", which doesn't sound right to me, but whatever. I'm also going to talk about my new favorite cookbook. 

Until next time - eat, drink and be merry! =D 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Greek Turkey Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce

I can't believe it's 2012! I hope everyone had a great holiday and a safe new year. I provided another 7 Layer Dip but due to lack of time and money, I did not prepare my own guacamole or make my own chips. I will say that over the past year, I discovered the ultimate time saver. While I do enjoy making my own guacamole, I can't think of a better store-bought brand than Wholly Guacamole! 

I was making a 7 Layer Dip to enjoy while we were holding a garage sale and absolutely none of the avocados were ripe, nor would they be ripe in time for me to make the dip, so I had to resort to buying it pre-made. I thought pre-made guacamole was going to be mushy and taste like plastic but on the contrary, it was creamy, rich, well-seasoned and had big chunks of avocado in it! I was so impressed by it that I now keep a couple of packages of it in my freezer for emergencies (you just never know when someone is going to drop by unannounced with an extra large bag of potato chips...or when Pringles are on sale).

OK, so let's get down to this awesome recipe I have for you. I found this recipe over the summer while I was looking for something really simple, and something to do with a pound of ground turkey that I had in the freezer, but also something really different. Burgers are a very "summer" type of meal and this is kind of a "summer" recipe, but that doesn't stop me from making it as much as I can. Matt absolutely LOVES this recipe and he gets super excited when I mention that this is going to be for dinner. 

I have to add that I looooooove Greek food. It's probably one of my favorites, tied for first with Italian and Mexican. I don't know what it is I love about it - the tangy tastes of feta, lemon and olives, strong herbs, hearty meats...just delectable! Taramosalata, pastitsio, gyros, souvlaki, spanakopita, the list goes on! Gyro night was a popular dinner night when I lived at home, and everyone loved my mom's homemade tzatziki sauce. Tzatziki sauce is a cucumber and yogurt sauce that is flavored with herbs, lemon juice, and/or olive oil. There are many different ways to make it, but I have never met a tzatziki I haven't liked. It is commonly served on gyros, or as an appetizer with some pita bread.

Now, this recipe isn't exactly the most Greek of Greek recipes; it's more Greek-inspired. But to be honest, this burger reminds me of eating a gyro - except on a bun instead of a pita.

Makes 4 burgers
1 (6 oz) container of Greek yogurt (I like Fage 2% the best!)
1/4 cup chopped cucumber 
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed 
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

for the BURGERS:
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 cup (approx. 4 oz) crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper 
1 clove garlic, finely chopped 
4 burger buns, split
1 medium tomato, sliced (optional)

I was stupid and totally forgot to buy red onion at the supermarket! All I had was yellow, but it didn't really make a difference in the way the burgers or the sauce tasted. As long as you have a sweet onion on hand, I don't think red or white really matters. 

Here is my mise-en-place! 

I love fresh dill. It is so delicious and tangy and when I buy a bunch, it doesn't go to waste because my rabbit loves to eat dill too. Whatever I don't use for cooking or nibble on myself, I chop up and give to the bunny.

For this recipe, you will also need some mixing bowls on hand, as well as a skillet to cook the burgers (unless you are using a grill). 

Here's what you do! 

1. In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup of the yogurt and all other sauce ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

2. Heat gas or charcoal grill. Alternatively, heat a large skillet on the stove over medium heat. In a medium bowl, mix all burger ingredients and remaining yogurt. Shape mixture into 4 patties, about 1/2 inch thick.

3. Place patties on grill over medium heat. Cover grill, if using. Cook 8 to 10 minutes turning after 5 minutes, until meat thermometer inserted in center of patties reads 160 degrees F.

4. Place burgers on buns; top with tzatziki sauce and tomato, if using. 

There's the glamour shot right there! What a good looking burger. I did not have any tomato, so I topped the burger with some sliced leftover onion and some cucumber slices, which enhanced the flavor of the burger and the sauce. 

I love, love, love this recipe and I could make it every week and not get tired of it. The feta gives the burger texture, and the dill and onion cooked into the burger make for a great surprise "crunch". The tzatziki is delicious and cool, with a great flavor. With this meal, I made some roasted potatoes, and put some of the tzatziki sauce on those too. YUM!!! 

I'm really starting to get back into the swing of things with this cooking blog thing. I hope you guys keep checking in and letting me know your feedback! Here are some recipes that will be featured soon: 
Cajun Red Beans & Rice 
Chicken & White Bean Chili 
Sloppy Janes 
"Thunder Thighs", an original recipe by me!! 
Bayou Stroganoff

I'm still trying to decide what else, but those are definite future features. 

Until next time ... eat, drink and be merry!!! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

I'm Back!!! + Loaded Baked Potato Casserole

My God. This has been one of the most god-f*cking-awful years ever. I thought 2011 was going to mean big changes. Changes for the better. I got my changes alright, but it was not for the better. Without going into to9o much detail, let's just say that if life is an amusement park, this past year was the sketchiest, rickety-est wooden roller coaster at the back, the one where the line is really short because people would rather step on the active electrocuted floor of the bumper cars with bare feet than put their lives in the hands of an operator who's had one too many bong hits.

I'm on the job hunt hunt again. But this now leaves me with more time to return to the thing that kept me sane the last time around - blogging. I know that this will give me the motivation to keep my wits and my sanity. I'm going to tone it down from last time, with less expensive and more left over-friendly recipes.

I got this great magazine a few weeks ago that is just a bunch of recipes taken from a dozen other magazines. It's pretty awesome, and I've already cooked two recipes from it!

I've previously explained my dislike for the word casserole, but this time there is kind of no way around it. It truly is a casserole - but at least it sounds a hell of a lot better than any other casserole I've encountered. My friend Colleen suggested that instead of saying "casserole", I should start saying "pie". Which is a way, way, way better word. What the hell is better than pie?!

Makes 8 servings
1 (32 oz) bag southern-style hash browned potatoes, thawed (approx 7 1/2 cups)
1 (6 oz) can of French fried onions
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 (10 3/4 oz) cans of Campbell's regular or fat free cream of celery soup
1 cup milk

The return of mise-en-place
You will also need a 3-quart baking dish (about 9"x13").

Here's how you do it!

1. In a 3 quart shallow baking dish, combine potatoes, peas, cheese, bacon and 1 1/3 cup cups of the onions. In a medium bowl, combine soup and milk. Pour soup and mixture over potato mixture. Cover.

2. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until heated through. Stir.

3. Sprinkle with the remaining onions. Bake for 5 minutes more, or until the onions are golden brown.

Pretty simple!

Can I just say that I LOVE microwaved bacon!!! It's the easiest thing in the world - 25 seconds and you can make crunchy, tasty bacon in the microwave. I really dislike making bacon the old-fashioned way. I'm too impatient.

However, I have a few issues with this recipe. While the bacon and French fried onions provided plenty of salt, there's not much by way of seasonings. I suppose the cream of celery soup provides some, but you know, it's kind of a misplaced flavor. I don't really care of the taste of cream of celery soup. Also, I thought it didn't have enough cheese. I ended up sprinkling extra cheese on top of my portion. Matt and Colleen also agreed that it also could have used a dollop of sour cream. I thought it tasted pretty good with ketchup too, but I think everything tastes better with ketchup.

Anyway, I thought this would be a good recipe to come back with considering that there's not a whole lot of effort involved and there are only 3 steps. It was easy, but I don't think I'll make it again. It just wasn't as good as I thought it was going to be.

I've done so many recipes between this entry and the last, ones I'm going to do again and post on here. Over the summer, we fell upon some hard financial times and I really learned how to squeeze blood from a stone. I need to kind of ease myself back into this, not throw myself in headfirst, so the entries are going to be slow-going at first. Just be patient, folks. I'm coming back!