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The Spice of Life….Part One

It’s the difference between “Meh” and “WOWZA”!  It can turn plain chicken into a masterpiece and a bowl of pasta into a treasured recipe.  It’s what separates us from the lower life forms and elevates us into to the culinary stratosphere.  It’s what keeps us foodies in the kitchen, tweaking and fine-tuning until our taste buds are satisfied.

Without spices, our food would be BORING.  Even the most takeout-happy bachelor has at least some salt and pepper laying around.  The right combinations can take a simple protein on an around-the-world journey, never repeating the same destination twice.  With a little creativity, you can create layers of flavor so intense and succulent that Julia Child herself would swoon.

This is the first installment of what will be several on my favorite spice mixes.  We all know the nasty stuff that comes in those packets of flavor you can conveniently find at any grocery store.  Hopefully this will inspire you to bypass the unnecessary additives and preservatives and create your own culinary masterpiece!

The artistry of adding spice to elevate your recipe!

Zesty Italian Dressing Mix

  • 1 tablespoon garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 2 teaspoon minced dried onion

Combine all ingredients, store in an air-tight container.  Makes about 1/2 cup.  Suggested Uses:  Mix 2 tablespoons with 1/3 cup red wine vinegar and 2/3 cup olive oil for salad dressing, or sprinkle 1 tablespoon per 1 pound meat to season.

Hidden Valley Dressing and Dip Mix

  • 1/2 cup dry buttermilk powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon minced dried onion
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried portabella mushrooms (I know…weird.  But this is the “secret” ingredient that makes the famous taste!)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Combine all the ingredients into a food processor, blend until powdered and mixed well.  Add the following to the mixture:

  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed

Store mixture in an air-tight container.  Makes about a cup.  Suggested Uses:  For Ranch Dressing add 3 tablespoons of spice mix to 1 cup buttermilk and 1 cup of mayonnaise, blending until smooth.  To season meat, add 2-3 tablespoons per 1 pound of meat.  As a dip, add 3 tablespoons to 1 cup sour cream, mix well.

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Posted by on January 16, 2014 in Foodie Hacks, Spice it Up!

 

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Chicken Enchiladas

Sorry I haven’t been posting lately.  I live in West Virginia, and although our house hasn’t been affected by the chemical leak, many of my friends and family have been.  We’ve been filling anything that will hold water to bring to those we can.  I’m probably not going to like my water bill for this month….

Dinner tonight was inspired by our trip to a Mexican restaurant early last week that fell short of appetizing.  I normally make my enchiladas with beef, but I wanted to change things up a bit this time.  We had some chicken breasts with which I was originally going to make Sweet & Sour Chicken (recipe coming soon), but the craving for GOOD Mexican took over!  Granted, this uses canned enchilada sauce instead of homemade (recipe ALSO coming soon), only because I didn’t have any homemade left in my pantry.  So here’s my recipe for my fail-proof Chicken Enchiladas!

 

Ingredients:

  • 3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (if you use the bagged frozen kind, use 4-5)
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1 large can (20 ounces) red enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups mexican blend shredded cheese
  • 1 cup shredded monteray jack cheese
  • 1 package flour tortillas (10 count)
  • chopped jalapenos & sour cream for serving

Fill a stockpot halfway with water, bring to a simmer.  Cut the chicken breasts into large chunks and add to the water.  Coursely chop jalapenos and add to the water with the chicken.  Continue to simmer for 30-40 minutes.

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the rice, water, paprika, cayenne and butter.  Cover with plastic wrap and place a plate underneath to catch any boilover.  Microwave for 15 minutes until rice is tender.

Combine the enchilada sauce and sour cream in a bowl, whisk until smooth.

When the chicken is cooked through, strain and removed the jalapenos.  Rinse the chicken in cool water, and once it’s cooled down enough to handle, shred and put into a large bowl.  Add half of the enchilada/sour cream sauce to the chicken and toss to coat.

Chicken Enchiladas 1

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 9×13 glass baking dish with your favorite butter/crisco/spray.  With each individual tortilla, put approximately 1/4 cup mexican cheese, 1/3 cup rice, and 1/2 cup chicken in the middle of the tortilla.  Fold over and roll tightly, placing each one into the baking dish.  

 

Chicken Enchiladas 2

 

Chicken Enchiladas 3

Once the dish is full, laddle over the remaining enchilada sauce, then top with the monteray jack cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.  Serve with chopped jalapenos and sour cream.

Chicken Enchiladas 4

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2014 in The Main Event

 

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Blueberry Cheesecake Streusel Muffins

There’s nothing like fresh snow on the ground to get me in the baking mood!  It’s been SUPER chilly today, and tonight’s going to hit record lows.  I wanted something to not only kill my sweet tooth cravings, but make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

This past summer, my hubs and I took a road trip with his folks down south to do some blueberry picking.  After CAREFULLY tasting each and every different row (a girl has to be sure she’s picking the best, right?), I finally found the holy grail of blueberries:  ROW 14.  After picking until my fingers were juicy and blue, we went gallivanting around the area sightseeing.  When we finally got home, I carefully washed and dried my treasures.  On each and every bag, I made sure to write the name of the farm and the row of berries I harvested these little gems.  Now just to keep one bag back until the season comes in this year!

Back to the sweet tooth….I riffled through my mental catalog of treats, finally settling on my semi-famous blueberry cheesecake muffins.  As I was sifting flour and creaming the butter and sugar, a light bulb went off in my head…..STREUSEL!!  I quickly whipped up a simple cinnamon concoction to top off these beauties, and my NEW favorite muffin was born!

BCSMuffins

Ingredients:

      Batter

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed

Filling

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

  Topping

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a quart sized freezer bag, combine all the filling ingredients, mashing together to mix thoroughly.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine all the topping ingredients, using a pastry cutter to cut butter into the dry ingredients until it forms a crumb-like texture.  Set aside.

For the batter, use large mixing bowl to cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the egg, mixing thoroughly.  While the mixer is still running, alternate the flour, baking powder and milk in small batches into the batter.  Add the vanilla and mix for 1 minute at medium speed.  Using a large spoon, gently fold in the blueberries.

Spoon batter into greased muffin tins or muffin liners until 2/3 full.  Snip the corner of the freezer bag containing the filling and pipe into the batter until it rises to almost the top of the tin or liner.  Take the topping and distribute evenly over the batter, pressing the mixture gently.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Once an inserted toothpick comes out clean, remove your pans and quickly remove the muffins to cool on a wire rack.

 

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Crock-Pot Comfort Chowder

Happy New Year!!  Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to relax and unwind.  No one wants to slave away in the kitchen after weeks of rushed schedules and baking marathons, so what better way to get some R&R than a delicious, easy meal in the crock-pot?  This is something I threw together a few years ago to use up the mountains of leftover ham, and it’s been my “cop-out” meal ever since!  This is the perfect portion for a small family, but can be easily doubled to feed a larger crowd.  Just a few minutes of prep time and you have a hearty, soothing dish that will appeal to even the pickiest of taste buds!  I’ve included a few variations for you, because I have gastroparesis and certain foods can throw my stomach out of balance (and my hubbie really can’t stand celery for some reason…must be a texture thing!).  Hopefully this will make it into your recipe box for a rainy, lazy day!

Corny Ham and Potato Chowder

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of cubed ham
  • 3 russet potatoes, unpeeled and cubed into 1/2 chunks
  • 2 cans sweet kernel corn
  • 1 can cream corn
  • 1/2 cup sweet yellow onion, finely chopped (or substitute 1/2 tablespoon onion powder)
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely chopped (or substitute 1/2 tablespoon celery salt)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup half & half or heavy cream

Combine all the ingredients EXCEPT the cream into a large crock pot.  Stir to mix thoroughly.  Simmer on low for 8 hours, or high for 4.  20 minutes before serving, add the cream and stir.  Simmer on low until ready to serve.  Top with your favorite goodies, like crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar and green onions!

 

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Hummus – 6 Ways

With the New Year upon us, most of us are resolving to be healthier in 2014.  But with family gatherings to attend and Super Bowl right around the corner, most of us will fail…MISERABLY…within the first month alone.  One of the best things I’ve found to stave off the fattening munchie cravings is hummus.  This simple and healthy alternative to greasy dips or fried finger foods is so versatile!  You can create almost any flavor profile with just a few modifications.  Today I’m sharing some of my favs.  Although the ingredients differ, the preparation is the same:  Blend all ingredients in a food processor until your desired consistency, adding the oil and/or liquid last at a steady stream.  Each recipe gives you about between 1 and 2 cups of hummus, which you can serve with some healthy baked pita chips!  Pretty simple, huh?

Hummus

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

  • 2 red bell peppers, ribbed, seeded and chopped
  • 1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Rosemary Horseradish Hummus

  • 1 15 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

Edamame Hummus

  • 1 cup shelled, cooked edamame
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Chipolte Hummus

  • 2 15 ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh chipolte peppers, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 4 oz jar pimentos in oil, drained
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Roasted Garlic Hummus

  • 3 heads of garlic, roasted and minced
  • 2 15 ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1t teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup water

EVERYTHING Hummus

  • 2 15 ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 head of garlic, roasted and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

          THEN……sprinkle the following on top, right before serving:

  • 2 tablespoons dried minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
 
 

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THE Chick-Fi-A Sauce

Don’t you hate it when you go to a restaurant and you fall in love with something on their menu?  That happens to me all the time!!  Luckily, I was blessed with the motivation to duplicate some of my most favorite restaurant creations to perfection!  Now, you can be equally as blessed, because this sauce is DA BOMBDIGGITY!!  You can dip it, spread it, smother it or straight up drink it!  Yes.  It’s THAT good.

Chick-Fil-A Sauce

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup mayo (Hellman’s or Duke’s….it makes a difference!)
  • 2 tablespoons yellow prepared mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a sealable bowl, mixing thoroughly.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  You’re welcome.  😉

 

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Foodie Hacks

 

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Old-World Red Sauce

Every foodie has a prized family recipe (or two) in their arsenal.  Mine is my Old-World Red Sauce.  Granted, it’s not the same recipe that was handed down to me.  In fact, it’s not even close to the original recipe.  This is a sauce that I’ve crafted over a period of no less than 10 years, and I finally nailed it.  And when I say I nailed it, I mean that my husband literally DRINKS this sauce!

Although I’m listing the easy method using canned tomato sauce and puree, please feel free to add your own homemade versions like I normally do.  The recipe I’m sharing here is enough for a dinner for four, but I find myself making a tenfold batch and canning it every few months.  The flavors in this dish layer perfectly with any dish calling for marinara or red sauce!  This is bound to become YOUR go-to sauce!

Old World Red Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 24 oz. can tomato puree (you can add in diced tomatoes if you like it chunky)
  • 6 oz. water (omit if you’re using diced tomatoes)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried or 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (if canning)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a large stockpot, stirring to thoroughly mix everything.  Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.  Add 1 pound of your choice of ground meat and continue to simmer for 2 hours minimum, stirring occasionally.  Serve over pasta or incorporate into your favorite italian dish!

If you plan on canning this sauce, please remember to add the lemon juice!  Ladle the sauce into pint or quart jars, with 1/2 inch headspace.  Process in a waterbath for 15 minutes.  Remove jars carefully to a cloth-covered countertop, and remember to check the seals when they have cooled off!

 

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