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Campfire Nachos

Back in the day, pre-kiddos, my husband and I actually went out on dates.  Like I real-deal left the house and even wore heels! …memories… That being said, one of our favorite places to go was the Yard House for extra-large beers and appetizers, my fave being their chicken nachos.  Given my current, complete “mom life” and flip flops, I still crave those crunchy, cheesy chips, but it’s not as easy to get.

Sooooo, I made my own version!  All I have to say, is that Yard House has best watch-out, because mine are just as legit.  Ok, the multi-million dollar restaurant is probably safe, they’ll just be losing my $13.95. 😉

*Absolutely buy your favorite tortilla chip, BUT for the best experience, I buy mine from our bakery.  They’re 100% fresh, crunchy, salty and thick.  Yes, normally I’d like thin chips for my salsa, but with heavy piled nachos you do NOT want your chip to break, right??  Eating nachos with utensils defeats the entire purpose, so please listen to me folks! 🙂

 

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 bag of corn tortilla chips 
  • 2 cups shredded chicken (i.e. rotisserie); you can also use ground beef or brisket
  • 1 can Borracho beans, drained
  • 1 cup enchilada sauce red, green or both (1/2+1/2 cup…which I love to do!)
  • 2+ cups cheese, shredded (fresh melts best, i.e. cheddar or jack)
  • Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, sour cream

Using a cast-iron skillet, Dutch oven or disposable foil pan, layer in 1/2 of the tortilla chips, followed by 1/2 each of the shredded chicken (or beef), beans, enchilada sauce and cheese.  Repeat the same process with another layer.

Warm the prepared nachos, until the cheese is melted and bubbly, either over your campfire, on your grill or in the oven (350 degrees).  Once the nachos are heated through, remove and top with a scoop each of the guacamole, Pico de Gallo and sour cream.  Serve warm.

**If preparing on the campfire or grill, you can loosely cover with foil to speed up the cooking time.

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CampfireNachos3

Balsamic Strawberry Chicken Quesadilla

I’m quite the advocate of a great balsamic reduction.  No, not the vinegar (though good where it is needed), but the rich, slightly sweet glaze.  Now, while I mainly consume it over pillow-like soft slices of mozzarella sprinkled with coarse salt, I felt I needed to broaden both the sauce’s and my horizon.  With that being said, I have concocted the easiest hand-held, Springtime delight!

Likely from my raising in Arizona, I am quite partial to the quesadilla, so I decided what better than to “stuff” a few of my favorite light and fresh ingredients into a tortilla and grill up!

Man oh man, when I tell ya that the popular Mexican favorite doesn’t have to contain south-of-the-border ingredients after all!  It was everything sweet, tangy, crunchy and fresh with the addition of fruit and herbs, vegetables, goat cheese and pecans…last but not least, the balsamic reduction to bring it all together!

*If you like it extra, ooey-gooey cheesy, please feel free to add mozzarella as well! 🙂

The Starting Lineup

  • 2 large chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • 6 flour tortillas (regular, spinach, low-carb, whole wheat, etc)
  • 1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
  • 4oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 (8oz) bottle Balsamic Reduction (not to be confused with vinegar)
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

In a Ziploc bag, combine the extra virgin olive oil, a hefty pinch of salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of the balsamic reduction with the chicken.  Zip up, massage to coat and set aside for 20-30 minutes to marinate.

Grill the chicken, until cooked through and the juices run clear; thinly slice.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat with the butter.  On each tortilla, layer an even amount of the cooked chicken, strawberries, spinach leaves, pecans and goat cheese crumbles.  Fold in half and cook each side of the quesadilla until golden brown in color.

To serve:  Slice into wedges with a pizza cutter, sprinkle with a bit more fresh basil and drizzle the remaining balsamic reduction overtop, enjoy!

quesadillaStrawBasilChx

 

Bacon Egg & Pimento Cheese Biscuit

It’s a beautiful day in Texas.  Well, perhaps just beautiful to me, but it’s unseasonably warm, a bit humid, overcast and I think we’re fixin’ to have a storm.  Please, please bring on the rain!!

That being said, it’s funny how weather can really affect what you crave to eat.  For me on rainy, muggy days all I can think about are biscuits!  Warm, fluffy, that special aroma filling the kitchen…give me all the biscuits!!  So since it’s morning, why not make my favorite into the ultimate southern style breakfast sandwich!  Really, what’s more south in your mouth than a biscuit and pimento cheese??  I certainly don’t know…

But, for those of you in the dark, pimento cheese was conceived in heaven.  Well, it tastes as such anyway!  It’s a creamy blend of bright, sharp cheddar cheese, cream cheese, sweet pimentos and I always like to add a bit of heat with a minced jalapeno.  Combine this with the crisp bacon on my biscuit and I’m in love…nap time anyone?

*Any leftover pimento cheese can be fabulously used as the cheese on a hamburger, a grilled cheese with tomatoes, a dip for celery, etc.

The Starting Lineup

  • 6 Biscuits, warm and halved (homemade or a quality frozen version prepared as directed)
  • 6 fried eggs, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 12 strips bacon, cooked crisp
  • Pimento cheese, homemade

Pimento Cheese

  • 1 1/2 cups extra sharp cheddar, hand grated
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 oz chopped pimientos, drained
  • 1 jalapeño, stem off – keep seeds in for the heat
  • Dash or two of hot sauce (prefer a Franks style flavor)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Kosher salt & Fresh ground pepper

In a food processor, you simply combine all of the Pimento Cheese ingredients and blend till smooth and creamy.  Easy right??  Set aside.

Now, while your biscuits are warm, perhaps even hot, halve and spoon a good amount of the pimento cheese onto the bottom (the heat from the biscuit will almost melt the cheese in a great way).  Next, top with 2 slices of crisp bacon, the seasoned fried egg and the warm biscuit topper!

Grab a couple of napkins, dig in and enjoy every southern bite! xoxo

BaconEggPimentoBiscuit

Crustless Loaded Quiche

This brunch time classic was inspired by one of my husbands favorite memories…His childhood babysitter, from infancy until he was about 9 years old, was a sweet lady named Sharon who often made him what she referred to as “Bacon Pie”.  When it was described to me, I envisioned a sort of quiche/frittata combo, but every time I made the classic versions of both (with bacon of course), he said it just “wasn’t Sharon’s”.  Stumped.

More years passed with more stories about the lady I never met and her famous bacon pie, till one day it was brought up around another family member who also recalled this family favorite.  BISQUICK!  Yep, she said nonchalantly “ohhhh, yeah, Sharon used the back-of-the-box Bisquick quiche recipe”…I was shocked.  All these years of quiches and frittatas and no’s and maybe’s and it was a simple as that?!

That being said, as I read the famed recipe to my dear husband, we both agreed that the original sounded quite bland and we also both agreed that this was likely why his toddler age palate loved it.  So he gave me the go-ahead to add a bit more flavor and texture to the recipe and see how it goes.

Well, I have to say, I FINALLY heard “mmmm…it’s just like Sharon’s.”

Mission Accomplished.

*What’s great about this recipe is you can basically add any, or none at all, breakfast meats, leftover vegetables, etc. to the mix and create your own favorite “quiche”!

*Serve for brunch with mimosas or even as a light lunch or dinner alongside a salad.  Also, holds up well for great leftovers.

The Starting Lineup

  • 1 package bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
  • 4oz cooked ham or Canadian bacon (about 4 slices), chopped
  • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/3 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 cup swiss cheese, shredded
  • 1 (4oz) container feta cheese
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup Bisquick
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chives or scallions for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly coat a 10″ pie dish with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, add and toss to combine the cooked bacon, ham, fresh vegetables and cup of Swiss cheese.  Season with a hefty pinch of salt and pepper.   Add to the prepared pie dish.

In that same large bowl you had the veggies in, now beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Next, whisk in the milk and Bisquick until smooth.  Pour over the bacon and veggie mix in your pie dish.  Sprinkle the feta cheese evenly over the top and place your quiche into the preheated oven, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes or a toothpick comes out clean from the center of your quiche.  *For easy transfer, I place my pie dish on a baking sheet before I even pour in the egg mix to get in/out of the oven, as it will be full.

Allow to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes to set up, slice and serve.  Enjoy!

Quiche

Green Chile Albondigas Alfredo

MMmmm….meatballs!  Yes, for those of y’all that are not “in the know”, meatballs translated in Spanish is: albondigas.  The more you know.

These said albondigas just so happen to pair beautifully with green chiles and creamy alfredo sauce…they almost cancel each other out to flow beautifully together.  Not too spicy, not too bland.

I like to serve ours with a bit more cheese and chopped roasted peppers, but however you do it, you’ve made yourself a more elegant, Mexican-inspired meal.  Move over Taco Tuesday!

*You can make your own albondigas (your typical meatball recipe but combined with more Mexican spices: cumin, salsa, carrots, cilantro, Mexican oregano, etc) or you can use a bag of frozen Italian meatballs, both delicious.

*If gets too thick/not to the creaminess you prefer, you can add a splash of milk or heavy cream.

The Starting Lineup

  • 14oz meatballs (homemade or frozen)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 10.5oz can Cream of Jalapeno soup (can sub chicken broth or cream of chicken + seeded/diced jalapenos)
  • 8oz block cream cheese (1/3 fat-Neufchatel is fine), cubed
  • 1 cup water (or chicken broth)
  • 8oz penne pasta noodles
  • 4oz can of green chilies, hot
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • Kosher salt & pepper, to taste.

Garnish

  • Flat leaf parsley, rough chop
  • Roasted peppers (i.e.. jalapeno, poblano-seeded), finely chopped
  • Parmesan cheese

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1.  Begin by heating a 10″-12″ pan to medium high heat.  (I actually love my cast iron for this, a bit of scraping is needed, but it creates almost a ‘crust’ on the noodles.  Though a non-stick would leave you an equally delightful super creamy version).

2.  To that hot pan, pour in the oil and followed by the meatballs to sear all over, 5-10 minutes.  (I used straight from frozen/fully cooked and work just fine!).

3.  To the seared meatballs, add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes.

4.  Once the onions are just translucent in color, whisk in the cubed cream cheese and can of soup.  Whisk, whisk, whisk!

5.  Next pour in the water/or broth, your 8oz of noodles and can of hot green chiles with juices.  Bring to a quick boil, stir.  Cover and allow to simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

6.  Finally, uncover, and toss in the halved cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Simmer on low, uncovered, for 5 more minutes.

Serve:  either individually or family style, top with a bit more parmesan, roasted peppers and chopped flat-leaf parsley.  Enjoy!

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Texas Bowl o’ Red

True chili, by Texas standards, contains NO beans, which you probably already knew.  It ALSO means no tomatoes and generally no chili powder either…  The famous bowl of red actually gets its vibrant hue and deep smoky, sweet and spicy flavor from a homemade chili paste you can easily prepare.  *Find the dried chiles in your grocers Hispanic section, the spice aisle or the produce sectionThe best dried chiles are not crunchy hard, but still a bit pliable if possible.

Now more often than not, I strictly use just a quite large beef chuck roast…keep with traditions, ya know?  However, I did include the possibility of also adding a thicker ground beef/brisket to the mix.  I say this because it stretches the chili a bit further for large crowds and your beef loving friends.  Plus, using a thicker-grind on your meat, keeps with and plays off of the texture you already have from the cubed chuck roast.

So…with the now cool to quite cold weather, football season still in full swing and wanting that pot of heartiness on your stovetop all afternoon, I suggest you give this a try.  Yes, feel free to tweak to your hearts content, aka tastes, but remember….NOOOO beans!!!..or tomatoes 😉

**Now I am one to add quite a bit more chiles than even my recipe calls for, but I’m a hot-head (not in personality, just tastes ;).  That being said, do your research on what dried chiles you’d prefer if you have a mild palate or just reach for the “smoky or sweeter” flavored peppers.  If you make quite a bit of chili paste, reserve, as you can always stir in more to the pot and/or drizzle over top your served bowl….or just make as instructed below!! 🙂

***Masa Harina: is basically finely ground corn flour used to make tortillas, tamales etc.  Now this ingredient is kind-of-optional, but not only does it help to thicken and tighten up your chili, it also provides an earthy flavor to the mix.  If you do not have any on hand or do not want to purchase a small bag, you can omit it.  You can also easily thicken with a flour or cornstarch paste as well.  It’s just a bit less Tejas that way, ok?

The Starting Lineup

  • 2-3 lbs beef chuck, boneless, cut in 1/2″-1″ chunks
  • 1 lb “chili-grind”, ground beef/brisket (it’s a much thicker texture grind), optional
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bottle Shiner Bock beer 
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tsp each ground pepper and kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp El Caldo de Pollo (low sodium chicken bouillon) 
  • 5 Tbsp vegetable oil, (or lard if on hand)
  • 2 Tbsp masa harina
  • 8-10+ whole dried chiles  – a mix from either Ancho, de Arbol, New Mexico, Guajillo, Pasilla, etc.  

Garnish

  • Sour Cream
  • Jalapenos
  • Shredded cheese
  • Lime wedges
  • Warmed tortillas
  • Cheese enchiladas….yes, I said that, two cheesy ones right on top baby!

Place the chiles in a large skillet over medium-low heat and gently toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes per side. Do NOT let them burn or they’ll turn bitter. Place the chiles in a bowl and cover them with almost boiling water.  Cover tightly with plastic-wrap and soak until soft, 15 to 30 minutes.

Remove the softened chiles from the water (reserve that “chile-water“), halve them and remove stems and seeds. Place the seeded chiles in a blender and add the chicken bouillon, cumin, mexican oregano, black pepper, salt and 1/4-1/2 cup of the chile water.  Purée, adding more water as needed (and occasionally scraping down the sides of the blender), until a smooth, slightly fluid paste forms.

Pour this now liquid chile mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and set aside, removing any skin from the peppers.  Feel free to taste for seasoning (salt)…careful as it MAY be spicy/wash hands thoroughly.  *Tip:  The soaked chiles and chile water are likely still hot in temperature when you begin to blend.  So place a kitchen towel over the lid on your blender, hand holding down, as the warmth will make it expand and want to pop that lid off…no one wants hot, spicy chiles all over them and their kitchen.

In a large heavy bottomed pot/dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the oil or lard. When it begins to slightly smoke, add in half of the cubed beef.  Brown, about 4 minutes per side, reducing the heat if the meat begins to burn. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with 2 more tablespoons of oil/lard and the remaining beef.  *Same with the large grind ground beef (cooked through), if using.

Now over medium-low heat add in the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil/lard in the skillet if necessary; add the onion and garlic and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Pour the Shiner Bock beer in, scraping up all of the brown bits at the bottom of your bot..flavor!!!

Next, add the beef stock plus 1 cup water and gradually whisk in the masa harina to avoid lumps. Stir in the reserved chile paste (again, taste for it’s spicy level prior) and then add the reserved, seared beef (and any and all juices in the bowl) and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to the barest possible simmer (just a few bubbles breaking the surface) and cover, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender but still somewhat firm and sauce has thickened a bit…can easily simmer for 2-3 hours.

Finally, you will thoroughly stir in the brown sugar and add more salt to taste; gently simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes.  Now, it may still look like there is excess sauce, so turn off the heat and let the chili stand for at least 30 minutes, during which time the meat will absorb about half of the remaining sauce in the skillet, leaving the meat bathed in a thick, somewhat fluid sauce. Stir in additional broth or water if the mixture seems too dry. If the mixture seems a bit loose and wet, allow it to simmer a bit more.  As always, it’s a must to taste as you go for salt and seasoning.

Serve by large ladle full into a bowl and top with your standard sour cream, cheese, onions, lime wedges, tortillas…or as I mentioned, make tray of super cheesy enchiladas and lay a couple bad boys right on top!  Enjoy with your remaining Shiner Bocks!!

TexasChili

 

 

 

French Onion Chicken Poutine

What kind of comfort-food-sort-of-blogger would I be without a plate full of hot salted fries, topped with a rich gravy and melty cheese chunks?  Not one that I would like to know…

Now here in the states, we fondly know of this dish as Disco Fries (main difference being the variety of cheese overtop), but it’s more commonly known everywhere as “Poutine” thanks to our friends north of the border, eh Canada?  That main difference, again, is the use of real cheese curds…and please choose the white variety for more authenticity.

Now myself, I find the cheese curds in the gourmet cheese/deli section, but if you just cannot track them down, you can substitute torn full-fat mozzarella chunks (NOT the fresh mozzarella you’d make a pizza with) as you actually do not want these cheese chunks to completely melt.

Now to add my weird twist on the forever popular dish, I made a classic French onion soup combined with chicken (my boys always HAVE to have their protein) and turned it into a poutine.  So whether you prefer to eat this with your hands or a fork, you will NOT be unsatisfied!  It’s also equally great as leftovers!!

 

The Starting Lineup

Chicken

  • 2-4 (about 1lb) chicken breast or thighs, skinless/boneless
  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced into rings
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup plus 4 tablespoons beef broth, divided
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 slices Swiss cheese
  • ¾ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • Cheese curds
  • Fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped, for topping (optional)

French Fries

  • Frozen bagged fries are fine or….
  • 4 very large russet potatoes, skin on, cut into 1″ wide fries
  • Vegetable/ or Canola oil, to fil a large skillet/pot 2″ (or deep fryer)
  • Kosher salt

Begin by cleaning and cutting your potatoes, if making homemade fries.  Add the cut potatoes to a large bowl of ice water and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  This helps to remove the starch, resulting in a crispier fry.  *Completely pat dry before frying.

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large oven-safe skillet, over low heat, melt butter. Add onions and 4 tablespoons of the beef broth; sauté onions till a buttery brown in shade and are rich and caramelized, about 20+ minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm.

While onions are cooking, prepare the chicken by drizzling with oil, then seasoning with salt & pepper and the Italian seasonings. Once onions have finished cooking and are removed from the pan, cook chicken for 4-5 minutes on each side over medium-high heat (don’t clean out the pan between the onions and chicken) until browned on both sides. (Chicken may not be fully cooked through yet, that is okay).  Remove from pan.

To the skillet, pour in the beef broth over medium-high heat to deglaze and stir while scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Next, turn down to medium-low heat and whisk in the flour thoroughly for 5-6 minutes until smooth; taste for seasoning.  Add the sautéed onions and browned chicken back in.  Cover the chicken with the Swiss cheese slices and transfer, uncovered, to the oven for 10 minutes, till cheese is melted and bubbly.

*Meanwhile, pat dry (between two towels) and fry up the sliced potatoes.  Salt and keep warm. **After you fry, transfer each batch to a paper towel/baking rack lined baking sheet and straight into a 225 degrees preheated oven.

Remove the skillet of your French Onion Chicken from the oven and either shred or slice the chicken in pan.  Ladle the rich gravy and chicken over your fries and top with the fresh, chopped parsley and cheese curds!  Enjoy!…because I so know you will!!

Poutine

 

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