The culinary ramblings of a picky eater.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Southwest Chicken Casserole

Have I ever mentioned I'm from Texas? Oh, ok. Cause I am. Which means occasionally, I get a hankerin' for something Mexican-ish. Yes, I just said "hankerin'." I'm just that cool. Anyway...back to food. I like "Southwestern" flavors, but I'm not huge on tongue-on-fire spicy. I think this little number did pretty well, because it tasted "Southwestern" without making me want to drink a gallon of water. Victory is mine, friends. Victory is mine.

All joking aside...maybe...this did turn out better than I expected. It was another one of my "experiments" where I'm not quite sure if it will be successful or disgusting. In this case, successful. My hubby thought so too. That's always a plus. I used flour tortillas in mine, but you could use corn tortillas just as well. Whatever floats your boat. I'm not a huge corn tortilla fan, so flour did it for me.

What makes this meal for me is the tomatillos. They're my secret weapon. Do you know what a tomatillo is? They're these awesome little green tomato looking things. Except they don't taste like tomatoes. I don't like tomatoes. But I like tomatillos. They look like this, with they're cute little paper peel still on:
Then, once you peel them so you can cook them, they look like this:
Aren't they precious? Ok, now I'm losing it. Sorry folks. Back to the bigger picture. I make a sauce with these little things, chicken broth, and some spices. So good. If you like more spice in your food, it would be easy to add some green chiles to the tomatillo sauce in this casserole to kick up the heat factor substantially, so do what you will. I won't judge. And with that...I hope you enjoy this presentation of the Persnickety Picnic's Southwest Chicken Casserole. And...ACTION!

-2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
-1 can whole kernel corn, drained
-1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
-1 cup shredded cheese (I used colby jack)
-6 fajita sized tortillas (I used flour, but corn is fine too)
A homemade enchilada sauce made from: (if you can't make it from scratch, just buy green enchilada sauce)
-10 medium sized tomatillos, peeled and quartered
-3 cups chicken broth
-1.5 tablespoon garlic powder
-1.5 teaspoons onion powder
-1 teaspoon cumin

In a large bowl, mix together the shredded chicken, corn, and black beans.
Set aside.

In a large sauce pan, boil the chicken broth. Add the quartered tomatillos
and let them cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and set aside. Let cool completely, then blend everything in the pot in a blender until it's smooth. You can leave some chunks of tomatillos if you prefer. Add the spices and stir to combine well. Sauce is done!

In a 9 x 9 baking dish, lay half the tortillas to cover the bottom.
I ripped two tortillas in half and laid the "flat" edges against the straight sides of the pan, then placed a whole tortilla in the middle to cover anything the others didn't. Spoon in half of the chicken mixture and smooth into a thick layer.
Spoon about half of the tomatillo sauce evenly over the chicken mixture.
Sprinkle half the cheese evenly over the sauce.
Place down another layer of the tortillas, same as before. Add the rest of the chicken mixture, spreading evenly. Add the remaining sauce evenly over the chicken mixture. Finally, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes, until everything is hot and bubbly and the cheese is melted.
Serve hot and enjoy!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Meatloaf with potatoes and carrots

Ok, let's be honest. When you hear "meatloaf," you probably aren't jumping around in exquisite joy. In fact, I think I just saw a grimace cross your face. It's ok. I understand. I won't take offense. :) I, too, have had nightmarish meatloaf experiences. But fear not. This will not be one of those.

When my husband and I went to visit his family over Thanksgiving, his grandmother, Nana, made us meatloaf with carrots and potatoes one day. I thought it was pretty good, so I thought I would attempt to make something similar. I'm not a big fan of meatloaf smothered in a sugary ketchup-y type sauce. It's just not my thing. So this is kind of "plain" for meatloaf, but I think that works. :) I hope you enjoy.

-1 lb ground beef
-2 eggs
-1.5 tablespoons garlic powder
-2 teaspoons onion powder
-1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
-3/4 cup breadcrumbs
-2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
-1 cup baby carrots (or sliced regular carrots)

In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, eggs,
garlic powder, onion powder,
Worcestershire sauce,
and breadcrumbs.
I use my hands to mix it all together, it's just easier.
Form the meat into a loaf and place in the center of a baking dish.
Pour the potatoes and carrots around the meat.
Pour in about 1/4-1/2 cup of water. Cover with the baking dish lid or some foil. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the meat is cooked through and the veggies are tender, about 30 minutes to an hour.
Cut the meatloaf into slices and serve with the potatoes and carrots.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pasta in Tomato Basil Cream Sauce

When I make pasta, I like to vary to sauces, in case you couldn't tell. Haha. This time around, I decided to make a tomato cream sauce with basil. Super easy, super yummy, and pretty too. :)

I used tricolor rotini pasta. It made the plating look pretty, and it's a good way to add a tiny bit of veggie-ness to a pasta dish. You know me...sneaking in veggies is my M.O. Hehe. So this was good. I think it turned out pretty well. Yum.

-1 can plain tomato sauce
-2 tablespoons garlic powder
-1 tablespoon onion powder
-2 teaspoons dried basil
-3/4 cup heavy cream
-shredded mozzarella for garnish

Boil a large pot of water. Cook the pasta until tender. Drain and set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, combine the tomato sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, and basil.
Stir to combine well. Let the sauce heat up over medium/low heat. Stir occasionally. When the sauce is warm, add the cream and stir to incorporate.
Continue letting the sauce cook over medium/low until the sauce is hot. Stir occasionally. Pour the sauce over the drained pasta and stir until the pasta is well coated.
Serve hot with a little shredded mozzarella on top. Yum!
See, easy cheesy. :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Update: Chicken Tetrazzini

So I made this chicken tetrazzini again(the first go-round is here), and I changed it a bit. Not a whole lot. Same general concept. Just slightly different. I really like how it turned out, so I'm posting the updated version. Hooray. Haha.

The first time I made this, I had no clue what I was doing. I just threw some stuff together and hoped for the best. It turned out to be yummy, so no worries there. When I went to make it this time...I didn't even look at the recipe, really. I just decided to kinda re-make it up as I went. That's pretty much how I roll. I'm not sure I ever really make anything exactly the same way twice, partially cause I don't really measure things out much. I give you my estimated amounts, so...sorry. haha. But I think what I post is pretty accurate. I've gotten better about writing it down as I'm cooking so I'm closer to the actual amounts. ;) Haha. I also made a small-ish pan of this, since it's just the two of us, so I'm sharing my smaller recipe. Double it for family meals. :) So anyway...enough of my blabbing. Here we go.

-2 chicken breasts, cubed and cooked
-2 tablespoons butter
-1.5 tablespoons flour
-3/4 cup heavy cream
-1/3 cup milk (I used 2%)
-2/3 cup chicken broth
-1 teaspoon onion powder
-2 teaspoons garlic powder
-1/2 lb pasta (I used spaghetti)
-1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used colby jack)
-1/4 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium sauce pan or skillet, melt the butter over medium/high heat. Add the chicken and cook until just under done. Remove the chicken from the pan/pot, but LEAVE THE BUTTER. It's ok if there's some chicken-y stuff in there too, just take the big chunks out.

Whisk the flour into the remaining butter and reduce heat to medium. When the roux is well incorporated, let it cook just another couple minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cream and whisk to combine. Keep stirring relatively frequently. You don't want lumpy bumpies, but you do want the sauce to thicken. When the mixture gets pretty thick, add the milk and do the same thing-stir it to incorporate, and let it thicken a bit, stirring frequently.
When that mixture gets pretty thick, add the broth and stir to combine. Let that sit just a minute, and then stir occasionally so it can thicken. You don't really want it to boil, so if you see bubbles, stir! Then reduce the heat slightly. You want it to thicken a bit, but it won't be THICK. Add the onion and garlic powder and mix it in well. Reduce the heat to low and keep stirring it every once in a while.

While all that's going on, boil a pot of water and cook your pasta until just under done. Drain and set aside.

When everything is done, return the pasta to it's pot (minus the water),
dump in the chicken and sauce,
and stir to coat everything well. Dump it a baking dish (the one I used was 9 x 9), and make sure it's evenly distributed in the dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top of the whole thing. Then sprinkle the cheese over that.
Bake for about 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and everything is hot and bubbly and delicious.
Yum. :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Poor Man's Beef Wellington

Ok, so...does anyone know what Beef Wellington is? Traditionally, it is a fillet of beef, coated in pate de fois gras (a.k.a. liver paste, gag me with a spoon), and then duxelles (a.k.a. finely minced mushrooms and such, no thank you), then baked in puff pastry. The meat is usually medium rare, which I don't care for. I'd like my beef to not be able to still moo when I cut into it, thankyouverymuch. But the idea of puff pastry covered beef did sound appetizing. So I made up my own version that wouldn't make me want to...well, we'll not go there.

I'm calling this Poor Man's Beef Wellington. Why, you ask? Well, for starters, I'm using ground beef instead of beef fillet. It's better for my budget. :) Secondly, I'm not using any fancy "fois gras" or "duxelles," partly because I can't imagine eating such things, and partly because I don't even think I would want to pay for them if I wanted to eat them. I'm not really sure what liver paste and tiny mushroom pieces run these days, but I'll pass. Instead, I'm using Swiss cheese and bacon crumbles. Oh yeah. Sounds SO much better. Haha. If this sounds interesting, then join the fun. :) I made two of these little pastries, so this recipe will be for that much. You can adjust as needed.

-1 sheet frozen puff pastry
-1/3-1/2 lb ground beef
-Swiss cheese, sliced (I used two slices per pastry)
-3 tablespoons bacon crumbles (you can use the stuff that comes in a jar to top salads and such. Just make sure it's the real bacon stuff, not the dry yucky stuff)
-1/3 cup water
-1/2 teaspoon onion powder
-2 teaspoons garlic powder
-1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Thaw the puff pastry according to the package directions. Cut the sheet in half once thawed. Use a rolling pin to roll the sheet a little thinner. Roll it so it will spread wider, not longer, if that makes sense. Roll from long side to long side, not short to short. Set aside.

In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook the beef until almost cooked through. Drain the grease and return the meat to the pan. Add the water, onion powder, garlic powder, and worchestershire sauce. Stir to combine well.
Let the meat finish cooking in this mixture, until the water has been mostly evaporated.
This will flavor the meat. Set aside.

Using a smallish bowl (I used my little Pyrex prep bowl. It's only about 2.5-3 inches wide), gently line the bowl with half of the pastry. Leave enough so that you can fold the remaining pastry over the bowl and seal it later.
Take one of your slices of cheese and rip it in half. Place the strips perpendicularly inside the bowl of pastry so it's pretty much lining the whole inside of the pastry.
Next, place about 1.5 tablespoons of bacon crumbles in the bottom of the pastry bowl.
Fill the rest of the way with the ground beef.
Take the second piece of cheese and tear it to fit over the op of the beef without overlapping the pastry bowl.
Moisten the pastry where it hits the rim of the bowl. Gently fold over the remaining pastry so it covers all the filling and can be sealed where the rim of the bowl is.
Gently press down to begin sealing the pastry together.

Next, gently flip the bowl upside down on top of a baking sheet.
Gently press on the bowl to seal the pastry, but don't let it cut all the way through. Lift the bowl so the pastry falls out of it.
You may need to gently shake it to loosen the pastry from the inside of the bowl. Once the pastry is free of the bowl, cut off the excess pastry with a sharp knife or pizza cutter.
Score the top with a sharp knife three times.
Don't cut all the way through the pastry, just barely score it.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and flaky and delicious.
Serve hot and enjoy!