Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Another cold, snowy day...I am loving the time off from school, but it's kinda messing with my motivation!  

What is better than being cooped up inside on a cold day with a big pot of chili bubbling away on the stove?  Nothing!  Nothing at all!!  Go make yourself some chili NOW!!  (This snow is making me bossy...)

The Cast:
Green Pepper
Canned Tomatoes
Chili Powder
Ground Chicken (or any other meat you want!)

First, chop up your vegetables.  I used my Pampered Chef Food Chopper to cut them all up pretty fine, and it only took a few minutes to do them all!  I added a carrot to sweeten things up a little bit - and it never hurts to sneak in a few extra veggies! 

Brown your meat in a little bit of olive oil.  I used ground chicken because it was all we had in our freezer (we eat a LOT of  It doesn't get really brown, but once the chili was done, you couldn't even tell!

Remove the meat from the pot and drain it.  Throw in the vegetables and cook until they are nice and soft.

Add your meat back in, and a good handful of chili powder.  I like a lot - I usually end up using around 1/4 cup.  Use as much or as little as you want, depending on how strongly spicy you want it!

Give it a good stir...

...then add in your tomatoes, some water, and your beans.  I used dried beans which I had soaked overnight; if you use canned beans, don't add them until the end.  Dried beans will need a while to cook.

Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook for a couple of hours, or until the beans are tender.

Once the beans are tender, turn off the heat and let your chili sit until it is cool enough to go in the fridge.  Then just put the whole pot in the refrigerator and let it sit for at least a day or two.  Trust me on this step - it tastes SO much better when it has a few days to rest!

When you are ready to serve it, warm it up on lowish heat until it is nice and toasty warm.

Get your sour cream and shredded cheddar ready, and - of course - make a batch of delicious homemade corn bread.  

Serve your chili in a big ugly green bowl, topped with shredded cheddar and a dollop of sour cream.  Delicious, soul-warming heaven on a cold, snowy day!!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Leftover Remix - Chicken Cacciatore

I hate leftovers.  My family hates leftovers.   Leftovers are icky!

I have become very good at cooking just enough to feed my family with no leftovers - nothing to save, nothing to throw away. 

But sometimes, the dreaded leftovers just can't be avoided.  And one of my favorite exemptions to the 'icky leftover' rule is spaghetti sauce.  There is something so wonderful about a huge pot of sauce, simmering away on the stove.  It's a great weekend,  clean out the fridge kind of meal.  Make a big pot of sauce, open your fridge, and go on a hunt for meat.  Whatever you have leftover in the fridge, throw it in there.  Couple pieces of chicken here, a pork chop there...throw it in the pot and give it new life.  You never know what you might find in there!

When I make sauce, I always have a ton of leftovers.  One pot is good for 5 or 6 family meals.  Throw it in the freezer and it just keeps getting better!

One of my favorite ways to serve leftover sauce is by turning it into a quick, easy chicken cacciatore.  By using the leftover sauce, you get that wonderful slow-cooked flavor, boosted by fresh peppers and quick-cooking chicken breast.  If you have a little extra time, legs and thighs are fantastic for this too!

The Cast:
Leftover spaghetti sauce

I used boneless chicken breasts for this batch.  Three breasts, cut into bite-size pieces.

Chop up your peppers into bite-size pieces too.  I used one green pepper for this batch, but I actually prefer it with sweeter peppers, like red or yellow.

Put your leftover sauce into a pan.  It's ok if it's still a little frozen in the middle, I never wait for it to thaw completely!   If you look carefully, you can see that there were a couple pieces of sausage in my leftover sauce...surprise!  I had no idea they were in there!

Toss the chicken and peppers into the sauce, give it a stir, and cover.  Simmer it on mediumish speed while you cook your pasta.

By the time your pasta is cooked, your sauce should be nice & hot and the chicken should be cooked through.  If you use bone-in chicken, it will take longer to cook.  Just make sure it doesn't boil hard or else the bottom will burn and your chicken will be rubbery (not that I've ever done something like that...*whistles innocently*)

Serve over pasta - our favorite is penne because it really holds the sauce.  Just make sure you pick something hearty enough to stand up to the heavy sauce!


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year!

I know, I haven't posted in ages.  But I am now!  Woohoo!

Last semester ended great, with straight A's again.  I loved all of my cooking classes - they were a blast!  Classes start up again next week, and I am taking a whopping 18 credits.  Lots of cooking!
One of the best things to come out of last semester was a newfound love for corned beef, coutesy of my American Regional Cuisine class.  I had never tried it before preparing it in class, and it has become a new favorite.  AND it doesn't clash with my total hatred for leftovers...can you say corned beef hash??!
Corned beef hash has become my go-to breakfast.  I was craving it this morning,  but had no corned beef.  

What's a girl to do??!

I came up with a delicious solution...leftover beef tenderloin from Christmas dinner!  (No, I didn't have two week old beef sitting in the fridge...I was going to throw it away - it was mostly scraps, and we were going out of town for a week, but I just can't bear to throw food away, so I tossed it in the freezer!)  I gave it a quick thaw, tossed it with some pickling spices for a hint of corned beefiness, and I was ready to go!

The Cast:
Potatoes (boiled until tender, then cubed)
Leftover beef (tossed with pickling spice)
Bacon grease (you keep a jar of it in your fridge to fry eggs, right?)

Heat up your oil until it is nice and hot 'n shimmery in a big pan.  (Yeah, I used a wok...I got it for Christmas and want to use it for EVERYTHING!)

Once your pan is hot 'n ready, toss in the potatoes and onions and give them a stir to get them nice and coated with oil.  Make sure you have enough oil to really cover them - you don't want it to stick!!

Once your potatoes and onions are all mixed around, toss in the meat and give it a stir.  Press down to a nice, even level, then LEAVE IT ALONE!  You want it to get nice and crispy on the bottom, so don't stir it around.  I usually set the timer then walk away, because I just can't resist the temptation to stir.  Start with 5 minutes, then stir them around to see how they are - you want them to start to brown and get nice and crispy.

While you are resisting temptation to stir your hash, get your eggs ready to go.

Melt a bit of bacon grease in a nonstick skillet.  (I suppose you could use butter or nonstick spray, but...BACON!  Need I say more??!)

Toss in a couple of eggs (gently, of course) and fry those babies up however you like them.  My house goes for over easy or sunny side up, but I won't judge you if you want to cook them another way.  

Plate up your beautiful hash and top them with your eggs.  A bit of salt and peper, and maybe a little squirt of ketchup (if you're into that kind of thing), and you have pure breakfast perfection!!

Go make yourself a big old plate of hash...then enjoy your nap afterwards!!  Isn't that what Sunday is for??!!

Sweet dreams!!