Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New Favorite Pimento Cheese

This recipe is adapted from one I found on Southern Living's recipe site after perusing Pinterest.

1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (7-oz.) jar diced pimiento, drained
1/2 cup chopped jarred sweet-hot pickled jalapeno pepper slices
1 tablespoon liquid from sweet-hot pickled jalapeno pepper slices, chopped
4 cups freshly grated mild Cheddar cheese (1 lb.)
*My modification: half mild cheddar, half smoked cheddar...wowzers.
*And: Grate your own cheese...bagged kind is too dry for this recipe.


Toast nuts by putting them in a dry pan (meaning no oil or butter) over medium heat until they become fragrant. Note: Nuts can burn quickly so tune into your nose. When you can smell 'em, they're toasted. Cool for a bit (otherwise they'll melt the cheese).

Stir together mayonnaise, diced pimiento, chopped pickled jalapeño peppers, liquid from sweet-hot pickled jalapeño pepper slices, and toasted pecans. Stir in cheese until well blended.

Serve with red bell pepper strips, cucumbers, carrots, zucchini strips-whatever you love!

Tonight's Dinner

I typically buy the same vegetables at the grocery store every Sunday and figure out what protein or leftover I'll serve them with later. Running in the store for some ground turkey after work is easier than strict meal planning for me.

Tonight's dinner was particularly satisfying (and I remembered to photograph it)!

Burgers with Havarti cheese, caramelized onions, avocado, roasted mushrooms/broccoli

I had everything but the burger meat and cheese, so I grabbed that on the way home from work.

Indoor skillet burgers:
Medium high heat, 7 minutes first side, flip, 4 minutes, top with cheese to melt for a minute.

Caramelized onions and roasted veggies in another post.

Other additions you'll see in the picture. Grain mustard and BBQ sauce (my favorite burger condiment combo), and my new obsession: hot and sweet jalapeños. These are found with all of the other pickled items and I think they're technically a "deli sandwich" topping...amazing!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Things to do with Frozen Chicken: Buffalo It

Frozen chicken breasts kind of ick me out. But, did you know that if you stumble upon a crockpot recipe that calls for chicken breasts, you can use frozen ones? Benefits: you can keep them on hand for a long time and they are often cheaper than fresh. I'm sure many of you have had buffalo chicken dip (a new tailgating craze dish). This is similar. But a meal, not a dip.

4 chicken breasts (frozen or fresh)
1 jar Frank's Red Hot sauce (the recipe I am adapting from said to buy a 17 oz jar...no such thing at my grocery store...I bought a 24 ouncer...)
1 packet dry ranch dressing

Shredded lettuce or romaine lettuce to make cups, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, avocado, blue cheese crumbles, corn, black beans, chopped celery...the possibilities are endless.

Throw chicken, about half of the jar of hot sauce, and the ranch packet in the Crock-Pot and let it do it's thing for 6ish hours. Then shred the chicken with 2 forks, give it a taste-er-oo, and perhaps add a bit more sauce. I find that chicken soaks up sauces in a slow cooker super well, which sometimes means you need to add more at the end to keep everything scrumptious and moist (I hate that word. Please, someone come up with a synonym that still conveys the same meaning!). If you add more sauce, turn the pot to "warm" and let it sit for a little longer to allow the chicken to soak up Frank's goodness.

Enjoy a scoop of chicken on top of lettuce and topped with whatever your heart desires.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Parmesan Spaghetti Squash: Fall Has Arrived

I don't like being lied to. I've read several blog posts where people claim "spaghetti squash tastes exactly like pasta." Well, it doesn't. In fact, the only thing the two do have in common, is the spaghetti-like consistency of the squash after cooking...but it's still delicious and a great side-dish for fall! This recipe is a modified version of Emeril's dish I found on foodnetwork.com.

1 small spaghetti squash
2 1/2 tbsp butter
Grated parmesan cheese (green can stuff)...actually works better than freshly grated in this application
Salt/pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a sharp knife, cut squash in half lengthwise (don't feel bad if this is really difficult...because it is...just kind of shove your knife into the middle and try to cut it in half from the middle on both sides...). Put squash in a baking dish, cut-side down. Fill dish with water so that is comes about 1/2 inch up the side of the dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes, until squash is easily pierced with knife (though the skin). Turn squash over and cover/cook again for 15 minutes, until it's tender. Remove from oven, uncover, and let it cool until you can handle it (but don't wait too long or butter won't melt as nicely). Use a spoon and scrape out seeds and stringy stuff. Then use a fork to pull the flesh (gross word) away from peel. It should peel off and look like spaghetti (hence the name:)).

Put sqush into a mixing bowl, and add your butter. Mix so that the butter melts and coats squash. Then shake parmesan cheese all over and mix again. Taste and add some salt and pepper to taste. You will L-O-V-E this!

Variations: Add your favorite pasta sauce to make it even more pasta-like. Or try skipping the cheese and add fresh chopped hebs (this is how Emeril does it): basil, chives, sage, parsley.

Serve alongside your favorite protein for a fab fall meal!

Things to do with a Rotisserie Chicken: Greek

I love Greek food...but I never make it. I'm not sure why, other than that it intimidates me like Asian cuisine does...weird. Anyway, I love Tzatziki sauce (pronounced za-ZEE-kee), so I wanted a rotisserie chicken recipe where I could make some! Don't ya just love a recipe that is focused on how to get some fabulous sauce or condiment into your mouth and the rest of it is of second-hand importance? Listen, if making your own Tzatziki seems like too much, just buy some. Let's be honest, this blog is a place for my idea sharing and a housing for near carb-free recipes. If you leave this post with a "Greek" inspiration for dinner one night, I've done my job...

1 rotisserie chicken, removed from bone and sliced or shredded
1 white onion, sliced using your new mandolin that I told you to buy in my "Pimento Cheese and Cucumbers" post

Sauce Ingredients:
3 cups Greek yogurt
1 lemon (just need 3 tbsp of juice)
1 garlic clove
2 medium cucumbers, seeded (which actually means "remove the seeds"...seems backwards to me, but whatever...), and diced (direction below)
Salt (for cucumbers)
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill (no, you can't use dried here...sorry)

Peel cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise, use a spoon to scrape out the seeds, and chop them up. Put the chopped cucumber in a bowl and sprinkle with salt which will draw out some of the water (an important step so your sauce isn't too watery). Go put a load of laundry in, or paint your nails, and return in 30 minutes to finish the dish. After 30 minutes, dump cucumbers onto a dish or paper towel and pat dry.

In a food processor, blend cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, dill, and some pepper. Stir mixture into yogurt, and voila! (If you don't have a food processor, just get a whisk out and whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, dill, and pepper until well combined, and then add cucumbers.)

Serve atop chicken and thinly-sliced white onions. This would go well with some roasted vegetables, perhaps green beans with lemon and almonds...?

Things to do with a Rotisserie Chicken: Italian

I believe I'm addicted to pesto...I find ways to put it in anything that makes sense...try this warm pesto chicken salad. It won't disappoint.

1 rotisserie chicken
1 tub store-bought pesto
1/2 c mayonnaise
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained (I like to chop the water chestnuts up as well but you can leave them in slices)
1 jar sliced sundried tomatoes in oil (the dried kind in a bag aren't as tasty)
1 block or ball mozzarella cheese, cut into bite-sized chunks

Take sundried tomatoes out of jar and put them on a few paper towels to drain off oil. Pat with another paper towel as well. They don't need to be completely oil-free, but if you remove excess oil, you will end up with a less oily chicken salad...

Remove chicken from bone and shred or chop. Combine chicken, mayo, and pesto in a bowl. Add water chestnuts, sundried tomatoes, and mozzerella.

Serve this with a salad, or to continue the Italian theme, see my "Parmesan Speghetti Squash" post.

Things to do with a Rotisserie Chicken: Mexican

With the school year starting back up, things have been super busy for me at home. Rotisserie chickens from the store have provided me a much needed time-saver for weeknight dinners. I have a few recipes to share. Leave me a comment if you are wanting a recipe in another genre, and I'll experiment!

Mexican: Chicken Tinga
*This recipe comes from my mom, I know right?! She doesn't love to cook, which I've mentioned before, but the few dishes she does make, she makes well :) I believe she first tried Chicken Tinga when a lady brought it to work...(right mom?)

1 rotisserie chicken
1 yellow onion, sliced or chopped (depending on whether you like the taste of onions, or more of an essence)
1 clove garlic
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 lb can crushed tomatoes
1 (7oz) can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (look in the Mexican section at store); you will use 1-2 peppers and the juices; pre-chop your peppers
1 small can (4oz I believe) tomato sauce (Mom likes the roasted garlic one...)
1 tbsp chicken bouillon granules
   *Ok, it is important that you buy the granules...and you can't find them everywhere. Look in the spice section of your grocery store. The bouillon cubes like you're used to won't work...tried them the first time and major fail. The granules look like yellowish powder, not wrapped in foil...

Toppings/additions you like: shredded lettuce, sour cream, black beans, shredded cheese, avocado, etc. (if you eat things like tortillas, this can be served on a tostada or in a tortilla, but it's great without!)

Take meat off chicken and shred it up with your fingers or a fork. Heat oil on medium. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are transparent. Add crushed tomatoes,  chopped peppers, sauce from can of peppers, tomato sauce, chicken bouillon granules, and shredded chicken. Heat until mixture thickens.

**Note: My original recipe says to put the crushed tomatoes, peppers, sauce, tomato sauce and bouillon in a blender or food processor and process until smooth, but I don't really see a need for that step. Just makes sure you give your mixture enough heat time so everything cooks together, and you'll be fine!

Serve Tinga atop shredded lettuce and top with your fixin's. M-m-m-m.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pimento Cheese and Cucumbers

This is seriously the best snack ever. Now listen...I'm usually all for buying things like cheese already shredded, and for most situations, pre-shredded works great. But not here. Buy the block and shred your own-it will make all the difference. I've read and tried about a dozen pimento cheese recipes. I also take a look-see every time I see pimento cheese on menus. There are variations (I've listed a couple of ideas to try below).

1 block sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 4-ounce jar diced pimentos
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon of cayenne powder (I actually add a bit more than this when serving on cucumbers...it can be a bit spicier when you have the cucumber to cool it down)

1 large cucumber

Shred cheese (fine grate), and mix everything together (except cucumber). Most recipes say to drain the pimentos, but I don't. I usually just go a little light on the mayo and pour the juices right on in.

Now, if you don't own a mandolin, GO BUY ONE. Not only will it actually make you like vegetables more (okay, I can't be sure about that, but it's just part of my sales pitch), but it is a huge time-saver, AND, it slices your veggies in perfectly standard widths. Who doesn't want that? Salads, sandwhich toppings, whatever. Consistent slices are always bettter!

Use your newly aquired mandolin to slice up your cucumber. Top each slice with a bit of your pimento cheese, and voila! Amazing, carb-friendly, snack.

"Fancy" Pimento Cheese: experiment with your cheeses. Try gouda, white cheddar, colby, smoked cheddar (oooooh!); anything creamy that you like.

Try halving the mayo and using some cream cheese. It makes the cheese thicker, which, if it's going to be sitting at room temperature for a while, say, at a shower or something, the cream cheese helps it all stand up a little better. BUT, if you plan on refrigerating it before eating, the cream cheese makes it too thick...just play around with it a bit.