Monday, November 24, 2008

Turkey Day...In a Restaurant

Given all the nonsense that has gone on this year with the family cancer, hubby and I decided we really didn't want the stress of trying to do a dinner at our home. So, my dear sweet sister-in-law proposed that she and her husband drive the 2 1/2 hours our direction and meet up at a restaurant that does a T-Day buffet. Hurray!! No cooking. Of course, that means no leftovers. But, never fear. I still loaded up on turkeys. I hit a couple of the local super markets and grabbed a couple. I would like one more, but I don't think my freezer can handle another one.

My wonderful children are totally understanding of this decision and have made other plans. Their dad came home Saturday from a week stay in the hospital, and we celebrated by having the kids over and chowing down on Thanksgiving pizza! Awesome.

Needless to say, I am not posting any Thanksgiving day recipes. I am saving them for Christmas. We are going to do the big dinner then. Until then, here is a previous post I did using leftover turkey for some absolutely delish soup.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and don't forget to be thankful for all the blessings you do have. Remember, it's the little things that count, like truly incredible family all around. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Black Bean Chicken Soup with Rice


In November's gusty gale
I will flop my flippy tail

And spout hot soup-I'll be a whale!
Spouting once, spouting twice
Spouting chicken soup with rice

Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak

I loved reading this poem to my kids when they were little. A fabulous way to teach children the months of the year. And since today was such a blustery day, I thought of chicken soup with rice, but, of course, with a twist. Maurice, I hope I did you proud.

Black Bean Chicken Soup with Rice

oil olive or canola
1 lb. large dice raw chicken (I used 1 package of boneless skinless chicken breasts from Costco.)
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup chopped green or red pepper
3 cloves minced, grated or pressed garlic
4 cups chicken broth
2 cans black beans
1 cup whole kernel corn canned or frozen
1 cup brown rice
1 16 0z. jar salsa or 2 cups homemade salsa
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. oregano
2 TBS. white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup sour cream

Heat about 3 TBS. oil in a large soup pot. Brown the chunks of chicken. Remove from pot. Add the onion, garlic and peppers and cook until very tender. If needed add some more oil. Using about a quarter cup of the broth, deglaze the pot. Then dump back in the chicken, beans, corn, salsa, rice, the rest of the broth, the cumin, oregano, vinegar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, turn the heat to low and cook for about an hour. Add in the sour cream before serving. Top with some grated cheese and serve with either cornbread or fresh fried tortilla chips. This really is yummy on a cold blustery day.

I told you once, I told you twice
All seasons of the year are nice
For eating chicken soup with rice.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008


This time of year is perfect for a multitude of squash recipes. Unfortunately, I'm not much of a squash eater, other than pumpkin and spaghetti squash. I tried my hand at butternut squash soup. If you noticed, there is no recipe for it on the blog. I didn't like, and, although my hubby ate some of it, he wasn't wild about it either.

But spaghetti squash is a whole 'nother story. This is really a versatile gourd. Is it a gourd? Anyway, for people who are watching their carb intake, this is a great low calorie, low carb substitute for pasta. Now, you have to be aware that it doesn't really taste like pasta, and is a bit more crunchy...but it does get the job done.

I found a great way to prepare the squash on Recipezaar. Thanks Bent Slightly for the recipe.

Spaghetti Squash

1 spaghetti squash
1 bulb garlic
olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 350. With a sharp sturdy knife, cut the squash in
half lengthwise. I find it easier to do if I poke holes in the squash with a fork and then microwave it for about 5 minutes. It makes it a bit more tender. After you have cut the squash in half, scoop out the guts and discard. Place the halves in an oven proof dish or baking sheet. After separating and peeling the cloves of garlic, thinly slice the cloves. Layer the slices around the bowl of the squash.

Generously cover the halves with olive oil, salt (Kosher works nicely for this) and fresh ground pepper.

Place on middle rack of oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the meat separates easily with the tines of a fork. When done, let cool for at least 20 minutes. It's much easier on the hands this way. Use a fork to scoop and separate the strands. Depending how devoted you are to garlic you can either remove the slices or leave them night, take them out.

And, Voila, spaghetti!

You can add just about anything you want to this. Just be sure that if you are adding a loose tomato based sauce don't mix them together prior to serving. The squash will get mushy and fall apart. Just let people add there own sauce to the top of the squash. I served it with a bolognese sauce and it turned out really well. I've used it in a hot chicken salad recipe that is yummy. I am going to try it in spaghetti pie. I will let you know how that turns out. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chicken Salad on Croissants and Pasta Salad....Elegant

Yesterday two of my sisters-in-law came to visit, and I wanted to serve them a nice lunch. After all, they made the three hour trip to see us, the least I could do was to feed them well. And chicken salad is one of my favorites! When dressed up it makes an elegant lunch dish. Both of the ladies loved it. Before anyone was allowed to eat though, I had to photograph it for the blog. If it is a loved dish, it has to have its picture taken.

I served the sandwiches with homemade pasta salad, which really added to the menu. My hubby and I were at the store looking for sides to go with the sammies, and he suggested checking out the deli section for salads. I saw the pasta salad and realized I had everything but artichoke hearts to make it myself. So grabbed a couple of small bottles of the marinated hearts (and low and behold! they were on sale...score!) and headed home to finish up the lunch. Here are the two recipes. Now keep in mind...I didn't measure much of anything. I tend to dump. So I will try to guesstimate the proportions.

Chicken Salad on Croissants

2 cans white chicken breast meat I used the 12.5 oz. size from Costco. You could totally use leftover cooked chicken. I just like the texture of the canned for the salad
1/3 to 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/4 t0 1/ cup craisins chopped
1 stalk of celery finely diced
mayo...I don't even know how to you how much. I just add until I like the consistency
2 TBS. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Just mix it all together and spread on sliced croissants. Top with lettuce. This makes about 5 good size sandwiches or 6 smaller ones. You can adjust the proportions to fit your tastes.

Pasta Salad

12 oz. rotini pasta cooked to package directions and rinsed with cold water.
2 6.5 oz. jars marinated artichoke hearts drained....I cut them half lengthwise
1/2 regular size can of black olives can munch on the rest while you make the salad
1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup finely diced red pepper
Newman's Own Balsamic Vinagrett dressing (or any brand you like)
salt and pepper to taste
lots of fresh grated Parmesan cheese The stuff in the green can works fine for some things...not this

Mix all the ingredients together. Just add the dressing until everything is moist. Don't drown it. Let chill for several hours. You made need to add more dressing when you serve it as the pasta will absorb the dressing.

I served the sandwiches and the salad with chips and a deli pickle. A
nd we were stuffed! This really is a great guest lunch. Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hot German Potato Salad, Brats and Sauerkraut! YUM!

My family will attest to the fact that I LOVE hot dogs. They tend to give me a bad time about this fetish of mine. "EEWWW! How can you eat those things? Do you know what are in those?" Yep, and don't care. Now, I have to say that I am not indiscrimanet in the ones I eat. My favorite are Hebrew National, and I find the Ballpark Black Angus quite delightful. And I really felt vindicated when Martha Stewart dedicated an entire show to the lowly hotdog. So there!

So, for someone with such a deep fondness for the dog (you do realize that dog spelled backwards is "god"....think about it), it is only natural that I should feel
the same about the brat. Johnsonville are my favorite. And if you're going to go brat might as well do a theme. So last night we did the full on German dinner. If I do say so myself, it was mighty tasty. One thing to keep in mind, my hubby doesn't much care for sauerkraut, but he loved the way I fixed it last night for the brats.

We'll tackle the brats and kraut first. I know that many people like to grill the brats, but I find that they dry out and are in danger of getting too charred. I follow the directions on the package. And I will get into that after the ingredients.

Brats and Sauerkraut

1 package Johnsonville brats...the package contains 5 brats
16 oz. bottle sauerkraut...I like Steinfelds

2 TBS. brown sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp. caraway seeds
hot dog buns and condiments

Cook the brats according to package directions. I cook them in the skillet for this recipe. Heat 1/2 cup water on medium in a skillet. Add the brats and cover. Turn once. Cook for 10 minutes, remove cover, and cook about another 10 minutes turning often to brown. Remove from skillet to plate. See how pretty they turn out.

I know! OK, but you're not done. Dump the kraut into the skillet, using the juice to somewhat deglaze the pan. After the skillet is fairly deglazed and a bit reduced add the brown sugar and caraway seeds. Heat for about 5 minutes. Return the brats to the pan and keep it all warm until ready to serve. When ready place brat in bun, add stone ground mustard, top with kraut. You can also add sweet relish and grated cheese, or anything else that will make your heart sing.

Now for the potato salad. These two dishes really compliment each other well.

Hot German Potato Salad

5 medium red potatoes
6-8 slices bacon
1/2 medium onion chopped
2 TBS. flour
2 TBS. white sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/8 tsp. fresh ground pepper
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

In a pot of boiling salted water add the potatoes and cook about 30 minutes until fork tender. I don't peel the potatoes. It adds a nice level of texture to the salad. And I find the red potatoes hold up better than russets. When done drain and let cool and slice. They will fall apart a bit.

Fry the bacon. Remove to paper towel to drain. Cook the onion in the bacon drippings until caramelized. If your bacon is fairly lean you may need to add more fat. I always have a cup of drippings in the fridge, but you could also use some butter. Mix together the flour, sugar, celery seeds, salt and pepper. When the onion is done and the fat is bubbly, whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the water and cider. When thickened, carefully stir in the potatoes and crumbled bacon coating everything. Definitely serve warm. This is great the next day. You can microwave it to heat up. This really was a nice meal on a cool fall evening. And it is fairly easy to do, although clean up is a bit much. But my hubby says it's the price he pays for good food. We have a great deal where I cook and he cleans up. What could be better?! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

And I'm back. Hubby's surgery basically didn't work out and so now he will start treatment for the cancer. And life goes on. Cooking and working on this blog is good therapy for me so I'm going to get back to work here.

I've decided to change things around a little. Nothing huge. I have just decided I should give the recipes names. Looking for specific recipes should not be a treasure hunt (although I think these are treasures). Through the coming weeks I will go back and edit my posts to reflect the names of the dishes I am posting. Sound like a plan?

Today's dish is a twist on one of my family's favorites. I have been making Green Chicken Enchiladas for about 35 years, slowly improving on it over the years. The one thing I find really time consuming is rolling the enchiladas. When one considers how my hubby dishes them up it is really an exercise in futility. So I have begun layering them instead. Much easier to dish up and just as tasty. And another one of those great budget stretching comfort dishes.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cups salsa verde, either purchased or homemade
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder

Mix the above ingredients together in a saucepan and heat through.

2 TBS. olive oil
2 TBS. butter
1 small diced onion
1 4 oz. can diced green chilies
4 cups cooked chopped chicken
1 tsp. cumin
1-2 tsp. dried cilantro
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
16-18 corn tortillas
3-4 cups shredded cheese...cheddar, monterey jack, or combination of the two
sour cream

In a large skillet melt the butter and oil together. Add the onions and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until onion is fairly caramelized. Add the can of chilies and cook for another 2 minutes or so. Add the chicken and spices and heat through...about 5 minutes. On the subject of the chicken...I like to use leftover chicken. I will freeze leftovers until I have enough to make a casserole. The night before I made the casserole I had made a rotisserie chicken in the crockpot and used the meat from that for this dish. I also freeze the carcass after I strip it to make chicken stock at a later date. In light of the current economic situation I feel obligated to make use of everything.

Back to the casserole.

In a small skillet heat a small amount of oil and quickly heat each tortilla in the oil...just a few seconds on each side. You want the tortillas to stay flexible. Drain on paper towels.

In the bottom of a 9x13 inch casserole dish spread about 1/2 cup of the sauce. Lay out 6 of the tortillas in the dish. Top with half the chicken mixture, then 1/3 of the sauce and 1/3 of the cheese. Layer 6 more tortillas, the other half of the chicken, 1/3 of the sauce and 1/3 of the cheese. Top with remaining sauce and then cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes until the casserole is all melty and bubbly. Top each serving with a dollop of sour cream. This is really Mmm! Mmm! Good! Enjoy!